Wednesday, April 30, 2008
On that note, Mr. Binky has been reduced to a monthly schedule due to less than stellar traffic, so if you read it and you enjoy it, pass the links on to others, or at least travel around town and read the column from many different computers.
Before leaving for my vacation I ordered the deluxe, remastered version of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American. Usually I'm not down with these types of reissues, but I absolutely love this album and the notion of an entire disc of live tracks and b-sides really appealed to me. It was delivered to me this past Saturday and did not disappoint.
First of all, they brought back the original title, which is a good thing. The album was released after 9-11 so they changed it from Bleed American to Jimmy Eat World. Given that the former is also a track on the record, and a damn good one at that, it makes sense that the original title be brought back. Plus, the band is a lot more popular now, so a self titled album isn't as necessary. The songs all sound great, as you'd expect and while I can't speak to the remasteredness of it all, I'm sure the engineers did a wonderful job.
This album holds a special place in my heart because it's the album that allowed me to discover the band, and I hold Jimmy Eat World as one of my absolute favorites. I tend to relate more to the songs on Futures but for balls to the wall, rocking out, it's hard to go wrong with Bleed American. Plus, these songs sound great live, so listening them brings me back to when I saw the band in Atlanta. The live tracks included as extras sound great, as do the b-sides, including their fantastic cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas". Usually I can only listen to that song during the month of December due to our strict policy of Christmas music only at Christmas, however with this set, I can listen to it whenever I want to and Linda won't know. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Bottom line is that it's a fantastic reissue of a seminal album from one of the best bands working today. The extras are well worth it, so for 24 bucks, it's hard to go wrong. What a dizzy dance indeed.
Monday, April 28, 2008
At least I have The World Ends With You to play on the DS. This game has gripped me like no game since Puzzle Quest which says a tremendous amount about the game and about how much my wife would like to break my DS into a million little pieces. I bring my DS with me everywhere now, not so that I can eke out a few minutes of pin driven psychic combat on the go, but because I fear for its safety while I'm at work. Had you seen the looks I got while playing God of War for the PSP, the staccato of button presses the ever present soundtrack to our evenings, you'd understand what I'm talking about.
At any rate, I have a lot to talk about including, but not limited to:
- The World Ends With You
- The recent two cd reissue of Bleed American
- My vacation
Perhaps a leather bound organizer is in order or at the very least, a Trapper Keeper.
At any rate, I'd say that it's good to be back, but I find that lying to my readers causes trust issues. Instead I'll say that I don't hate being back as much as I'd hate being punched in the kidneys.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Yesterday when speaking of Wii Fit, I mentioned that I don't ski and that there was a story there for another time. Well, lucky for you, that time is now.
When Linda and I were both in graduate school, we both worked in the university's health center. This was the doctor's offices that the students could go to when they had the flu, or needed to be tested for the venereal disease du jour. We worked there with Linda's mom, as well as some other students, including a guy named Brian. Brian was the quintessential all-American guy. He was good looking, could wear cowboy boots without looking like an idiot and had a slight drawl to his voice that made the ladies swoon. All of the women, and I mean all of the women, at the health center absolutely loved him, and on top of it all he was actually a very nice guy, so it was hard to not like him, even when every ounce of attention went his way once you entered the room with him. Brian gave Linda the nickname "Linda-Lou" which I use to this day.
Along with Brian, I had also struck up a friendship with one of the administrators at the health center and one day she offered to take Linda, Brian and I skiing along with her and her kids. I was a little hesitant, as I was the only person going who didn't know how to ski, having never been. Despite growing up in upstate NY, with several mountains within a couple of hours of me, skiing was something I never got into. For one, I wasn't one of the Ski Club kids in high school. I wasn't cool, as they all were, I didn't have the money to pay for the trips, and invariably I worked on Friday nights, so Ski Club wasn't really an option. As no one in my family skied either, save my sister who used the Ski Club trips as an opportunity to socialize so she really didn't count, the activity was one I was able to safely ignore up until my early 20's. Linda and Brian both had ski experience though, and they promised me that it would be easy to learn and that I'd have a great time.
Either they underestimated the difficulty of learning to ski or they overestimated my ability to coordinate myself with two boards strapped to my feet, but skiing was a far cry from being easy to learn. Simple movement was an issue, and even on the slightest of runs, I was unable to go more than five feet before my toes would point inwards and I'd tumble over, or simply stop with no way to get back going. Linda tried to teach me and between our mutual frustration with each other, things didn't go all that well. Eventually Brian stepped in and for whatever reason, be it him just explaining things differently, or me just finally learning how to coordinate my unresponsive muscles, I started to get the hang of things.
By "get the hang of things" I mean that I could go to the top of the run, ski down without hitting anything, and manage to turn myself so that I could stop. Usually before I slammed into the equipment rack, but not all of the time. Given how long it had taken me to get to this point, simply making it down the run at all, much less without serious injury, was enough to keep me happy, but Linda and Brian were no doubt tired of the same boring, beginner level skiing and wanted a chance to tackle something lengthier and more challenging.
Now, if ever I were to tell you this story while in the company of my wife, this is where the story would diverge. I would tell you Linda and Brian wanted to go on a longer run and told me that it wouldn't be hard for me to do, so I should come with them. Linda would tell you that it was my idea to take the longer run, which, given how the story has gone up to this point paints me as either incredibly adventurous or completely out of my mind. I am, and was, neither. I don't know why my wife remembers this story so incorrectly, no doubt an effort by her subconscious to assuage her guilt in instilling in me a life long fear of snow sports, but nevertheless, her memory of the events are wrong.
The first thing that tipped me off to the fact that this new, longer run would not be the piece of cake it was promised to be, was the fact that we had to ride the ski lift up to the beginning of the run. About half way up the mountain, I looked ahead of me and could not see more than ten chairs ahead of me, so tall was the mountain, so thick was the fog. I looked behind me and couldn't see more than ten chairs behind me. This was the second thing that led me to believe that things were not going to go well.
The top of the mountain was chaos. The snow machines were running at full tilt, and made a horrible, wailing dirge. Snow was blowing everywhere and between the snow, and the fog, it was hard to see much. I quickly got off of the chair, no doubt falling on my face in the process, and we moved away from the machine so that you didn't have to scream at the top of your lungs to be understood. Linda and Brian brought me over to the top of the run, and pointed down to where we'd be skiing.
I don't scare easily. I'm not particularly brave, I just don't scare easy, no doubt because I'm not smart enough to contemplate the level of danger ahead of me, but when I looked down this run, I got scared. Fellow skiers where streaking down the mountain so not only would I have to contend with my own lack of skills, but I'd also have to hope that they didn't run into me, or I into them, no doubt causing severe bodily harm to both of us.
Not having any other way to get down the mountain, I pushed off and was on my way. Immediately I headed sideways, towards the edge of the trail, rather than down the mountain. I don't know if it was the setting, or just my fear magnified or what, but the stopping I was able to do earlier in the day eluded me, and as I headed to the edge of the trail, I had no recourse but to hurl myself into the snow and hope for the best. I landed, stopped, and peered over the edge to see an almost sheer drop down into snow, trees and certain death. That, as they say, was that.
Even if had wanted to get back up and ski, my body simply would not listen to my brain. It knew better even if I didn't, and wanted nothing to do with continuing this farce. Linda and Brian came over to encourage me to get back up and I told them, probably rather impolitely, that I would have no further part in this hell spawned sport. I crab walked down the entire mountain, skiis on my feet. It was only when I realized that I had reached the entrance to the beginner's run I had skied on earlier that I got back up and skied down to the bottom. Upon reaching the end of the line, I promptly removed my skis, removed my boots, and went into the lodge, never to ski, never even wanting to ski again.
It might not seem like much, and I'm sure that I'm not retelling it in a way that conveys the full extent of noise, fear and confusion that was present when I pushed off of that larger run, but I can tell you, unequivocally, that in my 35 years on this planet, I have never been so scared, so utterly terrified as I was when I looked over that edge and realized that I could have plummeted over it. It's entirely possible that the totality of the experience magnifies in my memory just how big the drop was, and if I were to go see it now, I'd laugh at being scared over such a thing, but regardless, you'll never get me back up on a ski run. Not for nothing. I'd be happy to go in the lodge, sip warm beverages and play whatever handheld I bring with me, possibly both, as others carve and jump all the live long day, but these feet have worn their last pair of ski boots, and these hands have held their last pair of poles. From here on out, it's all SSX and balance boards.
It's odd to have something that I'm this afraid of, and even stranger that the thing is "skiing" and not "bears"or "death by immolation" but regardless, I'm afraid of skiing, and I don't see it changing any time soon. The very fact that I live in the south makes it that much more difficult, yet not impossible, for me to go skiing, and there's no interest on either of our parts to expose the kids to it, so I think I can safely tuck this phobia away, never to have to face it again. Should you be the type of person who enjoys skiing, and enjoys bringing new skiers with you, be sure to let them ski at their own pace, or at least get them good and drunk before taking them on the longer runs. Too, watch out for the flaming bears. Those fuckers can be terrifying.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I was originally interested when Wii Fit was first announced as the various mini games sounded like they could be fun, but mostly because I want to try my hand at yoga (don't laugh). My pathetic attempts at trying at home are always met with "am I doing this correct, because it sure doesn't feel that way". Now, I could go take a class some place, but that would require that I actually leave the house and that ain't gonna happen. That's not to say that the yoga I'll be doing with Wii Fit is anything like real yoga, but it's exercise, of which I am currently doing none. For the ten days after I get it, I'm guaranteed to do it every night, no doubt making my fat ass Mii very happy, but it's anyone's guess how much I'll do it after that. I'm going to try and do it at least every other day, if only for 30 minutes or so, but we'll see how it goes.
I don't exercise because I don't enjoy it, and because I enjoy doing other things more. If Wii Fit is fun there's a better chance I'll stick with it. Bottom line is that I need to lose weight as I've collected a fair amount around my middle section and various, recent medical studies have shown that belly fat is responsible for pretty much every bad thing in the world, from bad breath to impoverished nations and I'll be damned if my gut kills another kitten.
I'm more excited for We Ski the upcoming skiing game used with the balance board. It's only 30 bucks, and it has something like 70 runs and over 200 pieces of equipment you can get for your Mii. I am deathly afraid of skiing, a story for another time, so this game will allow me to hit the slopes, and get a little exercise out of it. That combination of gaming and activity is exactly what I need to try and get a little more exercise under my ever lengthening belt. If the upcoming Don King boxing game ends up using the balance board well, I'd consider it too despite the game sharing a name with one of the most odious men in professional sports.
I have a feeling that this thing is going to sell through the roof, which means that everyone and their mother will start getting fit, or there will be a whole slew of nice, white monitor stands out there. I hope to use mine to better effect and maybe lose a pound or ten. Granted, it's going to take more than just a fancy balance board and some games. I have to make a commitment as well, but knowing the type of lazy person that I am, anything that can blend exercise and gaming has a better change of holding my interest than just straight up exercise. Soon I'll be a svelte, sexy, gaming beast and then I can go back to my slothful ways. Baconators for all!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
So I play cards at a coworkers house on a semi-regular (roughly every month) basis. I am by no means a good card player and I consider any night where I make it to the buy back cut off without having to buy back in, a whopping success. I know just enough about cards to know when I'm not making a good move, yet be powerless to stop myself.
The last time I played, it was just myself, my host and another coworker as his other invitees decided to do something else with their time. Usually I'd balk at the idea of playing with just two other people, but I had taken the time to drive to his house, so why not do it? Plus, it's only ten bucks to buy in, so it's not like I stood to lose copious amounts of cash.
Now, here's the thing about me and cards. I have a tendency to only bet when I have good cards, because I'm afraid of losing my chips. I know that this is a bad thing, because anyone who plays with me knows that if I'm betting, I probably have something good. I decided this night to change things up and to spend a little in the hopes that a) I'd catch something on the board and b) not making myself so predictable. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of hands where I'd lay down without making a bet because I had utter shit, but it was a lot less than I usually do.
So the night progresses and I'm doing ok. I had caught some good cards, won some stacks, lost some stacks, the usual. All in all, I was doing about even. My looser style of play seemed to be doing well as I was having more fun because I was in more hands, and I hadn't lost in a big way that might scare me off, or cause me to be real conservative out of betting necessity. Still though, I didn't feel like I was in a position to win. I was playing to not lose, and eventually, I thought that wouldn't work.
As I was thinking about this, the next hand is dealt and I look at my cards, and staring back in my face is pocket twos. A pair of deuces. The worst hand you can have and still technically have a working combination of cards. I don't know why, but for some reason, I said to myself, "We are staying in this hand. No, fuck that. We are winning this hand with pocket twos." Not sure why I chose to listen to myself, but I did.
So the pre-flop betting commences, and there's nothing all that big being thrown about and I match whatever is out there. The flop comes and it's something like 7-J-9. After the flop, there was a little betting movement, but nothing substantial.
The turn comes and it's another 9. Now at this point, even with pocket twos, I could still be beaten very easily as every other card showing would beat my two pair, which said nothing if my opponents were holding on to one of the other 9's. I don't remember when my one co-worker folded, but I believe at this point it was just me and the host and he starts putting stacks into the pot. He's a big bluffer, so I wasn't sure if he was bluffing or not, but given the earlier conversation with myself, I knew that folding was not an option.
So I call, and the next card comes and son of a bitch, ain't it another two. At this point, I could have crapped myself. My opponent starts throwing more money into the pot, and I start calling him, despite his objection. He had this mind game thing he was doing where he'd say shit like "are you sure you want to do that" when you called him. Very annoying. So he's feeling all smug and shit when I dump my chip into the pot and he turns over his cards, revealing a pair of Jacks. Not bad, especially given what was on the board. I took one look at him, turned over my cards and exclaimed "Pocket two's bitches!" As exultations go, it was lame, I know, but I was pretty freaking happy.
I went on to win the entire match on pocket 8's, but that's another story for another time. After I won, my other co-workers said that the pocket two's was the turning point in the game for me, and I had to agree with him. At the end of the evening, I was 40 bucks richer and had drank two shots of my host's Patron, so all in all, not a bad night.
As I drove home, I started thinking about how stupid a play it was, but at the same time, sometimes you have to go with the stupid plays and just hope that you catch that last card. At the risk of turning this into a stupid "how life imitates cards" bullshit story, at the same time, I was thinking about how Linda and I started off together.
About three or four months before we got married, we decided to move to Seattle, WA. I had visited there on business and absolutely loved the place. Neither one of us were doing anything that was region specific and because of my business trip and the university I was working for, I had some contacts at Boeing that I could try and leverage for a job.
Now you have to remember that this was back in 1996. The internet wasn't as freely available as it is now, so planning something like this was a pretty big task, especially with no jobs and no idea of how to get a job. Nevertheless, we flew out to Seattle, found an apartment and I interviewed with Boeing. They told me at the interview that they'd like to offer me a job right there and that was that. Now, we had planned on moving anyway, and just assuming we could find a job, and truth be told, being told that someone would like to offer you a job, and actually getting a job offer are two entirely different things, so for us to quit our current jobs and move 3000 miles across the country on something not much more than a whim, was kind of silly.
There are about a hundred things that could have gone wrong there, the biggest being that we would be moving about two months after being married and that neither one of us had lived very far from our parents before. Oh sure, we didn't live at home during college, but when your mom is 15 minutes away, or you can stop at your parents' house on the weekend and grab dinner, it's a very different situation from living across the country from them.
In the end, everything worked out great and making the move, and having the first few years of our marriage being about nothing other than just being together, and learning about a new place as just the two of us, was probably the best thing we could have done. We bet the house on pocket twos, and came up big.
Now that we're older with kids and much better jobs and just a larger set of responsibilities in general, doing something like that again would be much, much harder. Not impossible, but a hell of a lot more effort than I'd be willing to spend at the moment. Thankfully, I don't have to, as I'm very happy where we are, as is Linda, but at the same time, it was such an exciting, exhilarating time that I do miss it. Not the moving, or the starting from scratch, but the ability to do so, the freedom that comes with you just being responsible for yourself and one other person. That being said, I wouldn't give up what I have now for anything, but I am glad that we were stupid enough to bet our hand so highly, confident in the fact that we'd catch just what we needed to win.
For now though, I'll stick to cards, and ten dollar card nights at that. As I've gotten older, winning 40 bucks in one night is probably all the excitement I can handle.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
of live music beckoned and I answered her willowy call. Tonight I am
taking in the gothic, folk wonder that is "Iron & Wine". Notice I
said "gothic" as in old, southern mansions and not "goth" as in boys
with eyeliner wearing black, entirely too tight jeans.
It seems like just a few weeks ago I was in this very place seeing
Jonathan Coulton. Oh wait, I was. Tonight should be a much different
affair with less comedy and fewer references to zombies but just as
much raw talent. The zombie thing is an assumption on my part. I&W's
earlier work may be entirerly based on the undead. I'll let you know
if that ends up being the case.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Today you can peruse my Top Ten list at GameShark.com. It's all about tough achievements, or something. I don't know. I just write what they pay me to.
In other news, Wingblade is en route to my house as we speak. Oh the times we'll have!
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Linda and I cleared out various sections of the backyard of leaves and weeds and put down landscape fabric and pine straw. The pine straw is so that things look nice, the lansdcape fabric is so that the weeds realize that their place is underground, where they can't pervert the sun's rays for their foul purposes. We got a lot more done than I expected so tomorrow is nothing but pine straw spreading fun, with just a smidge more fabric installation.
I was also able to make a most tasty brisket while we worked. When I first started smoking, I was pretty dang anal about making sure that the temperature of the smoker didn't get outside of a particular range. Since then I've learned to be far less anal as the taste ends up being the same, there's just a lot less work. Oh sure, if the smoker gets up to 300 degrees, you'll probably want to do something about it, as I had to today (the water pan was running dry) but other than that, I'm all for just letting it do it's thing and just make minor adjustments if things are getting too hot or too cold. The brisket is much spicier than I imagined so the kids won't want any part of it, but other than that, it's pretty damn tasty. Makes me long for the joy that is pulled pork. I just don't think I'm up for an overnight cook any time soon. Them shoulders take a hell of a long time to cook.
Soon Linda and I will be deep in the heart of Texas on our vacation and I can have some authentic Texas brisket. At that point, my joy will be unbridled.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
So far the only snag is that we were supposed to order pine straw to be spread upon our landscape beds and we kind of, well, forgot. Hopefully we can finagle some sort of same day delivery, or I'll be driving around in a van that reeks of the forest primeval. Thankfully there's plenty of work to do even without spreading the pine straw. Thank heavens for small miracles, and neglectful home owners.
Monday, April 07, 2008
If you've spent any appreciable amount of time at this site, you well know how much I love the rock. Not Dwayne Johnson, although he does seem like a fine fellow, but instead the raw, blistering, healing power of the rock and the roll. Folks, if you love rock as much as I do, then you really need to buy the new Muse live CD/DVD set, HAARP. I had heard Muse a bunch on XM and "Knights of Cydonia" is pretty much the only reason to buy Guitar Hero III so when I saw that they had a live CD/DVD set coming out, I was mildly interested. I'm a sucker for a good live show, even if it's from a band who's discography I own nothing from, and a quick perusal of the band's MySpace page further stoked my interest. I bought the set this weekend, and folks, I'm here to tell you that these dudes can kick some shit out. The concert is a total blast, and a real feast for the eyes and ears. These guys can fucking play, the crowd was totally into it, and the camera work is top notch. If you are finding yourself dangerously low on rock, get thee to a record store and pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.
On the movie side, I recently watched the French horror movie Frontière(s) and all I can say is "meh". Imagine that someone watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hostel and The Descent and then sat down to write a movie and this is what they'd come up with. Some thieves flee Paris after some elections, why this is important I have no idea, but they made a huge deal about it, only to come across a family of cannibalistic neo-Nazis. Poor decision making abounds, people die and the main character, Yasmin, becomes the "wife" of the family's new patriarch. Unfortunately, she took all of her acting cues from Saw and displayed some of the worst over acting I've ever seen. Granted, I can't begin to imagine what someone in her shoes would act like, but mute shaking probably isn't it. At least not shaking, while mute and staggering around bow legged and arms outstretched. If you came in on the film while watching her stumble around, you would think it was a zombie movie, and a bad one at that. I don't consider it a complete waste of time, as it gave me something to write about tonight, but at the same time, if you see it on your shelf, or in your online video store of choice, just know that you're not getting anything terribly imaginative. If you're ok with that and really just want to see some neo-Nazis chow down on some annoying twenty-somethings, I guess there's worse movies you could see. I can't imagine that many movies fit that particular description, but I am hopelessly out of touch with modern horror movies, so perhaps there are plenty.
Battlestar Galactica started back up and all I can say is "wheeeeee!" Now all I hope is that we get the final season as one nice package, and not spread out over several years as SciFi tries to figure out how to make another good show. Here's a hint, it doesn't have a Mansquito in it.
In rock gaming related news, I am continuing to enjoy the hell out of Rock Band. I'm about a third of the way through the vocals tour on Hard, and this is when the rubber hits the road people and you find that you're not nearly as good as you thought you were. Better here than on Expert where nothing but bitter shame and embarrassment await. I'd like to know how it is that I can get three stars on "Black Hole Sun", and just barely at that, and then drop five stars on "Dani California" without even thinking about it, as "Dani" seems to me to be the harder of the songs, but what do I know. I was also able to rock "Don't Look Back in Anger" to the tune of five stars on my very first try, so clearly I have no idea what's going on. "Dirty Little Secret" is also nothing but a thing as I can do five stars on it, to the tune of about 95% complete on Expert. There are many things I would consider myself, but possible front man of an All-American Rejects tribute band is not one of them. This game clearly thinks otherwise. I still say that for the money, no game gets me as pumped up and just overjoyed at being a part of gaming like this game. Kicking out a five star performance on any instrument, but particularly vocals is hugely satisfying. Add to this the face that they actually know how to support the game and offer new songs and you have a game that you could conceivably, play until the Gods of Rock call us home. All they needs are downloadable albums to make the experience complete and I'll be a happy man. That is until Rock Band 2, which better have the Band World Tour mode over Live or I'm going to smack someone. Possibly you. It's nothing personal.
That's it for today kiddies. Be good.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
The stylus only control is nice, however it's not as elegant as it was in Phantom Hourglass. That being said, it is cool as hell to make Ryu jump in the air and then just by drawing a few strokes, slash the crap out of your enemies. It's not as precise as I'd like it to be, and too many times, a sword stroke will be translated as a movement, causing me to leave a room I didn't want to leave. It's not that I don't want to be rude to whatever monsters were throwing me a tea party, more that if you leave before killing everyone and then reenter the room, you have to fight them all over again. Bummer.
Honestly, it kind of feels like a poor man's God of War: Chains of Olympus. Maybe it's because God of War looked so good and controlled so well to then play something that doesn't look as good (although admittedly, it looks pretty good for the DS) and doesn't control nearly as well, it's a bit of a let down. If I hadn't played God of War, my opinion might be different, but maybe not. With God of War, I didn't want to put the PSP down, with this game, I'm good for about an hour, and then I'm ready to do something else. We'll see if my opinions change as I progress. I need to be done with it by middle of next week, so you won't have to wait that long to find out. Try and find something to do to pass the time.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
True to form, once I received payment, I made a payment of 100 dollars to Child's Play. Hopefully they can use the cash to get some kids some cool ass toys.
This whole charity auction thing is a bunch of fun and I'm already thinking of what I can do for the next one. Depending on who comes to DragonCon, I may be able to score some good autographed stuff to put on sale. Don't worry, I also have non-DragonCon related ideas, I just need to get my ass in gear and get to work.
I wanted to give a big thanks to the following people for helping with the auction:
- Thanks to everyone on my XBLF gaming message board for getting the bidding started and for ensuring that at the minimum, I'd bring in 25 bucks.
- Thanks to CheapyD at CheapAssGamers.com for posting about the auction and for bidding on it.
- Thanks to Bry at the JonathanCoulton.com forums for being so supportive and for keeping the auction on everyone's minds.
- Thanks to Bill Harris and Bill Abner for posting about the auction on their personal sites.
- Thanks to Hodge who stood in line and bought JoCo merchandise for us while I got the coveted autograph.
- Finally, thanks to Jonathan Coulton for being so supportive and for taking the time to chat and provide the autograph.