Wednesday, December 5, 2007

2007 FWC Blog Awards

Welcome to the 2007 FWC Blog Awards, where the categories are arbitrary and the decisions even moreso.

Without any further ado, let's begin, shall we?

Category: TV Series Most Stuck Up Its Own Arse

The Winner: 24

I started watching this show a couple of weeks ago when my wife's maid of honour brought season one over on DVD. We managed an entire episode and a half before we switched it off, shortly after Jack Bauer cut off the finger of a dead guy.

In its favour, the idea of a real-time show is good. The idea of multiple things going on at once is also good. Unfortunately, the way they did it was not. I'll buy a Sutherland in the main role, but way too much stuff happened that kept me from getting into the story. The multiple boxes on the screen? Nice idea if you only do it maybe once an episode, but every 5 minutes? Come on, this show has way too big a budget not to be more creative with this.

In all, the show came off to me like a version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but with terrorism and US politics as the setting. The only really competent person in the entire show is the main character, and everyone else seems to be in constant danger because of their own stupid decisions and only Jack Bauer can save them all, but he can only do so much at once, even if you put him in all four boxes on the screen at the same time.

Please keep in mind that I'm not saying the show is without merit. If 24 didn't try so hard to be The Greatest Show Evar I think I'd have been able to get in on the ground floor. However, the flaws I mentioned plus a helping of self-importance and the constant adding of danger music when nothing ends up happening in a scene were just too off-putting for me.

Runner-up: Lost

Category: TV Series That I Didn't Expect To Like But Did

The Winner: Weeds

My wife and I started watching season one at around 7 or so in the evening a couple of months ago. 11 hours of episodes later that same night we went to bed.

It's hard to explain why in one sentence. It's not that Weeds is the most amazing show evar (see the efforts of 24 above). It's pretty straightforward about what it is, and that's nice. Weeds takes its time, but the story moves pretty quickly, if that makes sense. The characters are caricatures, but not to the point of distracting from the story. In all, it's entertaining because it's not too much of one thing. The actors, the story and even the theme song all grow on you, if that's not too close to a plant joke.

The show itself starts out about a widow (Mary-Louise Parker) in white Californian suburbia that starts selling marijuana to the rest of the nearby suburbanites. The idea is compelling enough to get you to start watching and then the good writing takes over. Watch 3 episodes (they're only a half hour each) and see if you don't find yourself watching through the rest of the season.

Category: Worst Fantasy Football League Owner, 2007

The "Winner": Me!

WARNING: This section is full of self-pitying rants. Feel free to skip to the next category if you don't want to see them, and you can't say you weren't warned otherwise.

To be honest, this wasn't even really close. I should have known better, but I decided that maybe the last 8 or so times I played fantasy football to all be coincidences.

My fantasy teams have two common themes, and those are underachievers and injuries. Well, I suppose finishing last is common as well, but I figured that kinda goes without sayign.

I have an impressive collection of careers I've ended during my fantasy football history, with highlights including (but not limited to):

Randall Cunningham: Drafted 1st overall, injured Q1 of game 1 (thanks, Bryce Paup)
Steve Young: Drafted Round 1 the year he started collecting concussions.

The list of underperformers is much longer if not more impressive, including Jerry Rice, Steve Smith, Ahman Green and so on.

2007 was special for me, as I managed injuries and near-suspensions and underperforming all at the same time, including the loss of the top 4 running backs I drafted to injury.

Here's the short list:Larry Johnson: Underperformed until he could manage an injury.Travis Henry: Did well for a few weeks, then injured a knee and failed a marijuana test. He won the appeal and is allowed to play, but can't because he's still injured.
Ronnie Brown: Did nothing until mid-season, then went on IR after two good games.
Marshawn Lynch: Injury after injury after injury.
LaMont Jordan: Played 2 good weeks, then a back injury ended his season.
Lee Evans: Played 2 good weeks, but only after I cut him and he was picked up by another team.
Drew Brees: Managed 3 good weeks this season, and wasn't starting on any of them.
Matt Schaub: Completing 75% of your passes and still being useless in a fantasy league takes genuine effort, I think. Then he separated his shoulder.
Matt Leinart: Underperformed AND went on IR.
Vince Young: Underperformed, traded, still underperformed.
Santonio Holmes: All the promise in the world, 2 good weeks on the field. The season is 14 weeks long.
Brandon Marshall: To see the guy break tackles in-game you'd think he's the next Jerry Rice. He still hasn't shown up on the stats sheet.

This also doesn't count the kickers and defenses that are enough reason on their own to make an alcoholic out of me.

In the true spirit of a Leafs fan, however, I'm sure I'll do better next year. (:

(head shake) Enough of the whining, however, and on to the next award.

Category: Cinematic surprise of 2007

The Winner: The Wife getting into horror flicks!

My wife is amazing at a great many things. Keeping her cool when watching a horror flick not among them. Not that she'd scream at the top of her lungs when something happened, but she seemed to shy away from them on principle, until this year, after she remembered that that she enjoyed really tense movies like Session 9 and decided that apart from the special-effects "gore because we can" kind of movies (your Saws and Hostels), she wanted to see if she had the stomach for some good classic horror movies. These included the original Friday the 13th, the original Exorcist, 1408 and a few others, and it turns out that she loved them. I'm very proud of her for this, because people tend to decide at an early age that they do or don't like horror movies and tend not to re-evaluate that stance afterward.

She jumps at the right moments and reacts the way people making these kind of movies hope you will. She also loves it, and I look forward to seeing some more classics with her soon.

Category: Crack of 2007

The Winner: Guitar Hero III

I've played a lot of games over the past year. I've played OCD tests like Rune Factory (which I finished without ever getting close to getting married in the game), Final Fantasy III (All the grinding you could ever want without learning how to weld) and Picross (still the best instant multiplayer game I've seen for the DS).

I'd played GHII at a friend's house enough to be able to beat YYZ on medium difficulty, and was pretty proud of that. Then GHIII showed up and I've made it to Hard difficulty.

To explain the jump from Medium to Hard difficulty, do you remember the scene in the movie Airplane where the sick kid starts convulsing and the nurse slaps him and then other people start joining in slapping him and the camera pans to the lineup up the aisle with people waiting their turn holding blunt objects and various weapons? If you start in on Hard difficulty immediately after the first time you beat the final boss fight in Medium you'll think that queue of people is lining up for you. It's that steep of a curve. Luckily I'm also a video game masochist in addition to susceptible to OCD-tests, so I've been in the Practice mode nearly as much as I've been playing the actual songs in order to get the the galloping triplets section in Knights of Cydonia or the brutal fingering in 3s and 7s.

It's also a game that just about everyone in our nerd circle of friends enjoys playing a lot. If it wasn't for the fact that staring at dots moving down the fret board makes your eyes tired after a while, there would probably be genuine fights over who gets to play next.

Releasing extra controllers for the Wii version so all the addicts can play multiplayer would also be nice, but I digress.

So, yeah, crack. If you pick it up, at least you can't say you haven't been warned.

Unmentioned Runners-Up: Lunar Knights, Brain Age 2

Category: Band I Like That Would Ruin My Credibility If I Recommended Them

The Winner: DragonForce

I have an inner 6-year-old.

This 6-year-old will laugh at every 3 Stooges Sketch. He has seriously considered buying a box set of Rocky movies (and has seen Rocky IV at least a half dozen times and had the final training montage music on cassette). He loved a very bad show that only ran for 2 seasons in the very early eighties called Automan. He cheered the Hoff in Knight Rider and wished he owned Kitt. He watched and cheered for Airwolf, he loved Beowulf and every Die Hard movie. He watched horrible shows like this one and this one and this one and loved every one of them. You get the picture.

By cheered, by the way, I mean literally stood up and cheered out loud.

In short, my inner 6-year-old is responsible for just about every embarrassing enjoyment in my life.

Dragonforce is a English rock band that wrote the song Through The Fire And Flames which is used as credit music after each difficulty level in Guitar Hero III.

The first time I heard this song my adult brain cringed and my inner 6-year-old exalted. This could not end well.

It is not good music. My adult brain gave some ground and hoped to stop where this was going by finding the discography and listening to it end-to-end.

First, the good. Dragonforce is a very high-energy band, and by that I don't mean they play faster than most, I mean they play ferret-on-a-double-espresso fast. The guitarist plays almost at the speed of Yngwie Malmsteen. Oh, just look him up.

They're an honest band. They're not going to make a dance remix of anything, they're not going anywhere near jazz that I can tell, and even both of their "slow" songs (they have 2 on 3 albums) are 150bpm. They play aggressive guitar rock and they're amazing musicians, talent-wise. How they'd play at the pace they do in a live concert for 3+ hours is beyond me. The thought of a Dragonforce mosh pit is enough of a deterrant that I am going to pass on going to their live shows to find out, even if they weren't all in Europe.

Finally, their sound is intentionally loud and for what it is, it sounds well balanced to my ear.

With all of that going for them, why are they in the Embarrassing category instead of Highly Recommended? Let's look at that now.

That song I told you about earlier? That's their sound, and it's their only one. If you listen to enough of their music, it all blurs into one song with arbitrary pauses to let the musicians go outside and set fire to things, I imagine. It's fine if you're using it as background music while you do work. On its own, however, if your band has as much variety as that of highland dancing arm movement, something is wrong.

Nearly every lyric is sung by all the vocalists at once, and they never vary the arrangement. It sounds stolen from Carry On My Wayward Son, now that I think about it. There may have been some solo singing in one song, but I might've been imagining it. Also, the drumming begins to sound more like galloping than drumming after a while.

Next, the song titles physically hurt me to read. It honestly sounds like a mix tape put together by the Crown Prince of EmoTown. Here's the track list for their latest album, just so you don't think I'm cherry-picking titles:

1 - Through The Fire and Flames
2 - Revolution Deathsquad
3 - Storming The Burning Fields
4 - Operation Ground and Pound
5 - Body Breakdown
6 - Cry For Eternity
7 - The Flame Of Youth
8 - Trail of Broken Hearts


Given their obvious skill at wordsmithery when it comes to song titles, I'm sure you can only imagine the quality of their lyric-writing. Even my inner 6-year-old doesn't get behind the lyrics, they're that bad. I won't risk my single-digit readership any further by actually typing out any of them, but please do take my word for it, they're....appropriate for the music and song titles.

And that's Dragonforce. If you like a balanced fast-paced guitar rock sound and can avoid reading the titles or paying attention to the lyrics or thinking about the lack of variety throughout, then my inner 6-year-old highly recommends them.

Well, there you have it, I'm officially out of rants for the time being. Shouldn't be out for long, though.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Adventures in Moviedom

NOTE: At the time of this writing, the author may be intoxicated. Maybe. A lot.

I just watched Live Free or Die Hard, the latest adventure in the otherwise boring life of character John McLane. It's a movie about how a group of eeeeeeevil computer hackers manage to take down the entirety of the eastern seaboard's power and utilities and almost steal all the financial data (and, evidently, the funds) of all businesses within the US, until John McLane, the King of the Luddites and a good-guy hacker that looks disturbingly like Keanu Reeves but with something better approaching acting talent stop them at every turn.

I love computers in movies. Not at first, mind you. Every computer in a movie can be hacked, reprogrammed, fixed, encrypted and made to do standing backflips by typing "asdf;lkjasdf;lkj" on the keyboard for an appropriate length of time. This makes my brain hurt, which makes me drink, which makes me not hate the movie so much.

The lead villain, played by Timothy Olyphant, is essentially a complete waste of space. I knew he had minimal acting depth when I saw Deadwood and saw approximately two different expressions on his face over the course of multiple seasons. In light of that, I think he should marry Sarah Brightman, and their collective acting depth might rival that of a dime. If nothing else, you wouldn't need more than one wedding photo, because they'd have the same expressions the entire time anyway.

You're welcome, Natalie.

But back to the movie.

This movie is action stem to stern, which is awesome, unless you are even remotely interested in anything approaching realistic physics. Example A: The truck vs. the F-35 that can hover, shoot M-60 rounds, navigate in ways that would impress Starbuck, and do anything until, oh, wait, something gets stuck in its blowhole and it has to esplode. Example B: A power grid hub that evidently controls major gas pipelines as well, until the bad guys decide to "re-route" all the gas to point at the station where the good guys are and make the whole thing blow up. So long as you don't imagine the prospects or time required to make gas pipeline pumps slow down, stop and then start going backward to re-route gas flow, it's a cool idea.

To recap: No knowledge of physics or computers? Great movie! Unfortunately for sober me, I have bachelors degrees in both mechanical engineering and computer science. To compensate for this, I've consumed enough vodka to make this entirely forgiveable. I may not live to morning, so I'm writing this blog entry now.

A highlight of the movie is the use of Kevin Smith as the holy grail of nerds living as a grown man in his mother's basement. He gets recruited against his will to help the good guys. A fantastic touch, and given the chance, I'd have taken a part in this series as well, even if it's the equivalent of Police Academy 16: Mahoney Needs Money.

All told, I did enjoy the movie, but I did have to relegate it to the same place that allows me to enjoy Rocky movies after Rocky II. I know it's going to be cheesy and unrealistic, but sometimes stuff's just gotsta blow up.

Okay, back to your normal lives.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Life is good.


This.......could certainly have gone better.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Catan tourney!

I had the privilege this week to take part in a 32-person Settlers of Catan tournament with my wife's maid of honour Tara. It was a great time, and rather than just give you the results, let's go to the replay!

Friday night: Shark Tank

On Tuesday I sent out an invitation to several of my fellow Catan-addicts living on the east coast, asking if they'd be willing to spar a few rounds online to help prep me for the tournament on Saturday. 6 people quickly replied, and we were set for gaming at 7 PM EST. I played 5 games of regular Catan, and in short, my boardgaming self-image took a few kicks in the junk, showing my lack of practice losing all 5 with some in ignominious fashion. They did me proud, using a fair number of the underhanded tactics I'd used on them in years prior. I did manage to pull out a win in the last game, a cut-throat game of Cities and Knights that helped me salvage some pride, but that was it for the Ed highlights. Here's hoping it was enough.

Saturday afternoon: Round I - Preliminaries

Tara and I came running in just as the tourney was starting, begged the moderator to let us in, and thankfully he did. This entry would be much shorter otherwise. I then pay my entry fee and take a seat at a table. Tara sits at another, and the games officially begin. I get to place third in my first game, and I hate placing third. Eww. It's also tournament rules, so that means we place a settlement and a road first, then a city and a road, and then another road third. I don't like tournament rules, but I'm not hosting the tourney, so ya gotsta suck it up.

My starting numbers are 3,4,5,6,8,11, heavy on ore wheat and sheep. Amazing numbers. I should steamroll this game. The dice proceed to show either 7 or 9 or 10 at least two thirds of the time, and darned if the other people don't make a game of it. I'm far enough behind that I'm genuinely worried about ending last, when a flurry of good rolls in a row comes my way (without 7s), and I'm able to place a settlement and turn over a VP for the win. I had the shakes from all the black tea I drank (over a half litre at that point), but I'm 5 tourney points to the good, no help from a first-time player who gets instructed to place her city on a coastal spot where I was hoping to build, and who was raped trading-wise by the more experienced players.

Tara was lucky enough to have a teenaged kid at her table that played dumb for the first 2/3 of the match and got some of the same treatment as our n00b, including all kinds of generous advice on what to do next and trades that shouldn't have happened. The kid won the game in about 25 minutes with a 4-point turn, and everyone else learned too late that they were being sharked. Tara finished in last because of it but was cooler with it than I'd have been.

Round II - Preliminaries (a.k.a. Ed Is An Idiot)

In the second round I got to play with all the other round 1 winners and Tara was at the last place table. As we were making placements I had a moment of complete stupidity, and placed on spots that while it gave me all 5 resources, my numbers were as follows: 5, 9, 10, 9, 10. That's right. I took a fantastic 5-9-10 with my first placement, but chose a 9-10 coast ore-wheat placement for my city, and that was pretty much the end of me. Specifically, the 9 rolling 3 times and the 10 rolling once did me in. For my part, I created a longest-road-stealing contest between the other players to buy me some time, and it did help me trade/steal my way to a 3-way tie for second place at the end. 7 Tournament Points total for me, and a guaranteed spot in the semi-finals.

Tara sat at a table with outright morons. She would prefer that I don't go into more detail, so I won't. She finished that game in a 3-way-tie for second, ending her day with 3 tournament points.

With four hours between the preliminaries and the semi-finals, we went home. It's a 15-minute drive and the atmosphere, while interesting, is not as good a draw as Natalie's cooking.

Saturday night: Round III - Semi-Finals

I drove back by myself about 20 minutes before the semi-finals were to begin and this time had a few minutes to get ready before the event actually started. I also laid off on the caffeine, which helped considerably.

The top 16 players were in the semi-finals (from the starting field of nearly 32), and I found myself at a table with people that were cool to game with, even if it looked like they were taking the game very casually. Choosing second I got a *much* better spread of numbers this time and ended up with just about everything good except for the 8s (my loss, the 8s were ore and wheat). Two people put their entire strategies around building on those 8s and I was cool with letting them. I learned my lesson from the 9-10 game. Problem is that the 8s rolled early and often, and they soon had a collective 4 cities on them when I was still looking to get my game underway. Luckily they didn't start carding, or the game would likely have been over very quickly. I bought four quick development cards, got one soldier and three VPs, which is great if you get them in the late game. This was the very early game. I needed robber control to keep the 8s from continuing to kill us, and it just didn't happen.

I found out right then that there was only one more round, and that only the winners of the four semi-final games went on to the final game. I assumed that with 16 people it was two rounds and most points. Oops.

About 2/3 of the way into the game, when I had 4 points I picked up a monopoly card and decided it was time for a gamble. I rolled a 7 and placed the robber off the 8s, which put the other guy not on the 8s into apoplexy. The other two knew better than to "help" at that point. The only things rolling heavy for me were wheat and brick, so I figured it was worth a shot to try getting back into the game. The other guy not on the 8s told me with every dice roll that I made a mistake and that the robber should be on the 8s. I just shrugged and waited for my turn. Luckily the 8 didn't roll for a little while, and on my turn, when I had another hand full of wheat and brick, I did roll an 8 to a chorus of "see why the robber should have been there?". I proceeded to play the mono for about 7 ore and used it to build a city and a settlement and buy a development card. The other guy not on the 8s got reeeeeal quiet at this point. I finished my turn, handed him the dice and he proceeded to roll a 7 and put the robber on the 8 ore.

The game came down to the final turn, and if the guy on my right hadn't rolled a 7 on himself to cost him half his hand, this entry would be done about here. As stories and blog posts like this go, he did roll a 7, didn't robber me (I was in last at 6 points), he didn't have enough cards left afterward to use his ports for what he needed and had to pass the dice. I had a settlement in hand, so I played that, flipped my three VPs down and announced my 10 points to looks of genuine shock on the other players faces. It's nice to play a game with people who don't know me now and again.

Round IV - Finals.

Mine was the third game to finish, and after about another 20 minutes or so I met all three of the other people playing in the final round. I talked with them a bit beforehand to see what they were like, and of the three, there was one guy named Neil that immediately stood out, I couldn't say for sure why (Furem fur cognoscit et lupum lupus, perhaps.) The other two looked just, well, happy to be there. If I can get their real names I'll add them later, but I remember the blonde woman was named Shannon or something close to it. There was the aforementioned Neil and another guy that I'm going to call John because his style of play turned out to be eerily similar to that of John S., a guy I used to play Catan with in Ontario.

I'll explain that.

John S. is a very nice and smart guy that would would say and do things in games of Catan that were so out of place that I am convinced they were part of a psychological experiment on boardgamers. But more on that later.

Before sitting down, one of the moderators brought out his personal Settlers of Catan 10th Anniversary Special Edition Chest Set, a $300 Catan set that contains pieces for Settlers and the Cities and Knights expansion. It's very pretty, and he offered it for us to play the finals with if we wanted. We'd all have to say yes, otherwise no deal. I was hesitant, because I've seen games played on it and I can never tell the colours apart or really get a feel for the board layout because unless you're standing over it you can't see all the roads and settlements and pieces played by other players. I said as much to the other players, but also that if they were all interested in using it that I'm cool with it too. They'd never seen this set before and were all eager to play on it, so that was the setting for the final game.

It took about a half hour to set up the board, but I will admit it was a pretty board once it was done. I rolled a 12 in the initial roll-off and took an 8-5-10 Ore-brick-wood spot, completely missing a 9-6-5 wheat-ore-wood spot in a different area. For my second placement I still needed wheat and sheep, but there was nothing good to be found unless I took a coastal spot. This was no time to be ultra-conservative about placements, though, and I was still scared of doubling up on any numbers after the 9-10 incident. I ended up doing something I don't know that I've ever done in Catan, going without both wheat and sheep and taking a 9-4-3 brick-wood-sheep spot to spread out my numbers. It helped a lot that it was near enough to an 8 wheat and a 6 sheep as well as the brick and wood ports that I decided to take my chances building to what I needed.

Brick and wood were the order of the day for me, and I quickly had all five settlements down, including building to the 8 wheat (and the wood port) and another spot at the 8 ore. The problem was that the 8 wasn't rolling, just the 4 was, which was getting me two wood per roll and driving the people on the 6s nuts (the 6s were really dead, too, for some reason), but wasn't enough to get me the cities and cards that I needed, so I sat at 5 for a while. Add to this the fact that John, sitting beside me to my right would get 3 wood on every 4 roll. I'd hand him his three cards, announce that I was taking two for myself and then with. out. fail. John would start asking everyone what they'd trade 2 for 1 for his wood and wouldn't let it go. Shannon and Neil didn't have many cards, certainly didn't need wood (they both got wood on a 5s which were also rolling heavy), and me sitting with almost as much wood as he had, on the same numbers he had. And yet, on every 4 roll (it rolled at least 25% of the time for the first half of the game) he'd ask for trades and couldn't be convinced that it hadn't suddenly become scarce.

My cell phone rang about halfway through the game, it was Natalie calling. Natalie's and our friend Neil's readings at the Multi-Arts Festival had finished and I invited them to come and check out the finals. I gave directions and about10-15 minutes later they arrived. In that time I'd managed to finally put together a city which I put on my 8-5-10 and made a failed attempt to take and keep longest road, which got the other three people to suddenly become amenable to John's trade offers for wood and brick so he could get LR back, which he did quickly. My attempt also earned me the majority of attention at the table, which brought my production to a halt for quite a while, sitting at 7 points with five settlements and a city. Also, Neil began, in his own words afterward, "to whine a bit" when his numbers weren't rolling and got a few head-shaking trades because of it. I couldn't believe it worked, especially in light of the 6s coming back to life, but it did. For a little while, anyway. Eventually I managed to convince the other players to put the robber back onto his 6 sheep, keeping Neil from running away with the game entirely.

Natalie described me out loud as "manic", and asked what I'd eaten. I hadn't had much to eat that day and she offered to get me something from the mini cafeteria nearby, and I was very very happy for that. In the next while the 6s continued to roll heavy, letting Neil (now getting 4 sheep and an ore on each 6, with the sheep port) back into the game in fine fashion.

I was still winning, courtesy of one 8 that got me what I needed for my second city and 8th point. It wasn't a big lead, though, and the dice certainly weren't helping my cause. It was at this point that a guy that Shannon knew approached her, asked how she was doing (6 points, tied for last, but with Largest Army), found out what the prize was, and was told I was in the lead. He proceeded to lean over and cuff me on the front of my hat with the back of his hand and say "Stop winning!".

I'm sure the guy was just socially awkward and thought he was being playful. I'm sure the caffeine I'd had didn't help matters, but you just don't do something like that to people you don't know and haven't met, and it really pissed me off. I stopped what I was doing, made firm eye contact and told him in a Don't-Fuck-With-Me voice not to do that again. The guy backed up, put both hands in the air and started apologizing, evidently afraid that I was going to come over the table at him. Everyone was staring at either him or me or both, and I said it's all good, that's just really not cool and let the matter drop. Natalie was sitting beside me at this point and didn't say a word. The guy left and the game resumed.

At this point I had 8 points, all on the board, Neil had 7 with a VP down, John locked up Longest Road and Shannon had Largest Army. I needed two points, and there was no way the game would last three turns for me to take Army away and John had locked up Longest Road, so my options were to either roll 8s (I put my second city on the wheat, so I'd now get the cards for an entire city on an 8 roll) or fish for VPs with very poor odds. The rolls that weren't 8s were 6s, it seemed, so either I was going to take this or Neil was. On my turn I managed an 8, put the city down and the other players did a quick count to see if I'd won. I noticed a small crowd had gathered now, watching the board and trying to decipher what was actually going on, much like we were.

Two of the next three rolls were 6s, and I saw that Neil would be able to take Longest Road and win, but luckily he didn't. I actually blame the 3-D board for that, he didn't have the best view of the area where all his pieces were, and on a regular board I'm sure he'd have seen how to take LR away. He ended up trading a metric tonne of sheep to build a city and didn't have the cards to create another point. This despite John making several offers for trades, which only stopped when I told him that if he trades with Neil, Neil wins the tournament right now. It either shamed him or convinced him to stop trading, I don't know which. Neil ended up having to fish for a VP in the development card deck and didn't get one. He passed the dice to John rolled a 6 and again started asking the two people with 9 VPs for trades. The three of us immediately said no and told him to please stop asking. He built more roads and passed the dice to me. I had three wood in hand, and the only things that could save me were a 5 (which would give me three brick and let me build three roads for the win) or an 8, giving me my fourth city. Anything else and Neil would have it for sure on his turn.

I rolled an 8.

Neil saw it, stood up, said a genuine Congratulations! and shook my hand. I placed the city, said that was 10 points and Shannon and John stood up and we all shook hands and said we had a lot of fun. Even if I hadn't won I certainly got my entry fee's worth of entertainment out of it, and despite my whining and nervousness in-game, I really wasn't terribly scared to lose or as crazy about winning as I used to be in Ontario. I was kinda sad that the games were all over, having finally had the chance to play some really competitive games in person.

I know that there are some in Ontario and New York that won't believe that, but to prove it, there's a Cities and Knights tournament scheduled for the Sunday that I'm skipping because of football season. Well, and because I figured that I couldn't possibly have enough good karma left to do any damage there after all the lucky bounces I got in the regular tournament. (:

The first-place prize was $100 in gift certificates to a nearby gaming shop, and they took my picture to display the following year with all the other tournament winners.

I got Natalie to take pictures of the mid-game and ending boards, and I'll post them when I can.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Gaming, Post-PAX

This post is really more of an addendum to my PAX entry than as a separate one, but some of this stuff does need 'splaining. It's just a list of games that I now want that I didn't before, games I'd heard of that I now want after trying or seeing more in-depth at PAX, and some that I'll be buying the second they're available.

Picross - DS - Already purchased.

We played several multiplayer games of this via DS download play while we were in line for the PAX opening. We were both addicted to the point where we asked a few locals for directions to the nearest EB games so we could pick this up immediately. It's a simple puzzle game that is really best played with at least two other people. If I described the game play you wouldn't believe anything else I'd written, so just find someone with it and play against them.

Rock Band - 360 - Now Interested.

Natalie and I waited in line for about half an hour to play Rock Band at PAX, and it was worth the wait. Fantastic game, but I don't know that it's going to be worth the cost, as it's the most fun when you have four people there with their own instruments, but I don't know that I'd be nearly as interested in the single-player version, Drum Hero, Bass Guitar Hero or Better-not-sing-with-vibrato Vocal Hero.

The way I see it, that means that Rock Band is really suited to be a Wii game, as Nintendo is the console intended for people who mostly play multiplayer games with friends in the same room.

Supreme Commander - PC - (sob)

I still have a 10-year-old copy of Total Annihilation. I have the Core Contingency expansion and the pseudo-sequel TA: Kingdoms. I consider the franchise better than the Command & Conquer series and, at the risk of my Korean readership, better than the Warcraft/Starcraft series. However, every time I mentioned Total Annihilation to friends I got the same blank unknowing stare, and I'd sigh and leave it on the shelf. Bad timing, poor marketing, whatever, it just never got the recognition I think it deserved. Skip ahead many years and we have Supreme Commander, the latest from Chris Taylor's RTS line, and the first in many years. I saw this game, drooled over the screenshots and just wanted the game the minute it was released in stores. I managed to avoid buying this game not by remembering how few people I knew that were interested in playing this, but by knowing that my system, once a fantastic gaming rig about 5 years ago, wouldn't be able to run it without dropping under 10 frames per second.

Then I spoke with the developers. They told me about several ways to make Supreme Commander run pretty smoothly even on my PC, and now I'm back to square one with it. I'll see if I can't post my own review of it when I break down sufficiently to get a copy...

MarioKart DS - Gonna hafta...

Okay, this is a game I'm listing because my gamer ego took a bit of a beating at the hands of teenage snakers in games of MarioKart DS while we waited in line to get into PAX each day. The game was released nearly two years ago but was one of the most popular titles played while waiting in line. As shallow as I will look to admit this, I might have to pick up a copy of this just to be more than 8th-place fodder in races next year... (:

Dr. Mario - NES
- Have already looked up its Virtual Console release date

I didn't play many 1980s console titles when I was a kid because I grew up with the Commodore Vic-20 and the C-64, which were a lot of fun all by themselves, but don't seem to have the same nostalgia as the NES/SNES/Atari 2600 consoles do.

At PAX, Natalie and I went to a console freeplay room and sat down to play Dr Mario, a game Natalie played a lot as a kid and really liked. I figured the least I could do was give it a shot and sure enough, we played for a half hour in what seemed like five minutes. If we didn't have a panel to attend or three other things to do right then I'm sure we'd have played all afternoon...

When we got back I looked it up on the Wii Virtual Console and it hasn't been released, and then found this link confirming that there isn't even a solid release date for it yet.

As a side note, Brain Age 2 actually contains Dr. Mario, and I suppose that'll have to suffice until we see Dr. Mario on the VC.

Halo 3 - 360 - Mayyyyybe....

Thank you PAX. After seeing the Omegathon final, Natalie is now that much closer to being interested in a 360. Her eyes lit up for the first first-person shooter game since Goldeneye. I asked her semi-seriously if she'd be interested in a 360 between Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Bioshock and now this, and she gave me a definite maybe. Maybe means that there's a chance that Natalie will play a first-person shooter with me that isn't Goldeneye.

As an aside and no offense intended to Goldeneye fans, I was an exclusive PC gamer for years before playing consoles seriously, and for all the hype of FPS games on consoles, there is no FPS game on consoles that compares to Half-Life 2 or large-scale multiplayer gaming played at 1600x1200 resolution. Having come into the console game years after Goldeneye, I respect how much people love their first FPS, they're welcome to it, I just don't share it.

All that being said, it would be very cool to play an action game with Natalie, and it'd be a way if I wanted to try Oblivion or other cool-looking titles that won't make it onto the Wii.

Besides, I'm finished the only Wii shooters I own (RE4 - 3:12 speed run! w00!) and Call of Duty 3...

Metroid Prime 3 - Wii - Yes. Eventually.

Saw this in the Nintendo display area, and it looked very cool. Never having finished a Metroid game before, I'm not going to get it immediately, but I'll look for a used copy over the next year or so.

Fire Emblem Wii - Purty.

I've played two Fire Emblem games on my DS and enjoyed them both a lot. This one was also in the display area at the PAX Nintendo area, and while I didn't get a chance to play it, I recognized the gameplay and I'd like to try it out.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - PC/XBLA - Nice! Me want!

I couldn't write this without mentioning the upcoming Penny Arcade game. It's turn-based strategy/action game, with Tycho and Gabe and a giant fruit fucker as major characters. Looks very cool, and yet another reason to get a 360. Eventually.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Post PAXum Depression

Okay, it's now time for my post-PAX wrap-up, summary and review.

Short version: It was awesome. We're bringing a group next year.

Long version:

For starters, I'm going to respond to my last post, mostly because I've just eaten a huge breakfast at The Galaxie and I have no creativity right now. But da-amn, what a breakfast.

Item #1: Claustrophobia.

Status: False!

Fully expected it to be wall-to-wall nerds elbowing and kicking and shoving, and this was nowhere near the actual truth. PAX took over four floors of a massive convention center, and had separate rooms for panels, console gaming, tabletop gaming, handheld gaming, a huge expo hall for companies to advertise new stuff and hand out swag, an equally massive PC area (separating the BYOC area from about 400 computers they had donated for public use), and with tonnes of room left over to throw about 1000 person-sized bean bag chairs for sleeping, handheld gaming, free wi-fi use for people bringing laptops, and very few people bumpings-into.

Item #2: Energy.

Status: True. Energy was directly proportional to proximity to Wil Wheaton, and inversely proportional to proximity to Uwe Boll.

This one wasn't really in question, but it was still cool to see people excited about what they were doing or where they were in pretty much every room. And that's a lotta rooms.

Item #3: Swag.

Status: True.

Yes, there was much swag. We had to make room in our closets because of the new shirts we acquired and Natalie's new Halo3 messenger bag.

Okay, the messenger bag and two of the shirts were merch, but let's not split hairs, here.

Item #4: Pictures.

As promised, I took lots of pictures. I also negotiated (read: whined) Natalie into letting me put them on my facebook profile, about 100 in total. Here are samples.

Consider me one of the latest big fans of Wil Wheaton. He gave an amazing keynote speech at the PAX 2007 opening, and was able to sit in the same chair for about half of the weekend, signing autographs, shaking hands and smiling long after I'd have run out of energy. We finally got into line about halfway through the last day of the event, and he was as happy to talk to each of us then as he was when he started. Very nice guy, approachable and personable. Here's hoping he can make it next year.

Here's a picture of a moment I don't think I'll ever forget. A while ago Tycho sang a song called My Belruel which someone posted the audio of on myspace. Natalie heard it days before we went to PAX and loved it. During the first PA Panel where they set up two mics for the gamers in the audience to ask questions, Natalie lined up and asked him to sing it again for the live crowd. He did just that, and there were links for video of it posted on YouTube the next day, like this one. When I heard Tycho start singing it felt like the perfect song to wave a lighter to. I don't have a lighter, so I did the next best thing, which was open my DS and start waving that over my head. Either I had a hand in starting that or the rest of the crowd had the same idea I did, because there was a sea of nerd lighters all waving by the end of the song, iPhones and regular phones and DSes and at least one laptop. Unsurprisingly, the crowd reaction when Tycho finished was really really cool. Fantastic moment, that, and my wife started it.

Item #5: Boobs as currency.

Status: False!

Surprisingly, there were a great deal more women at PAX than I anticipated based on photos of the 2006 event. I think it's cool to see that women are coming out in far greater numbers to events like this, to the point where I hope that it becomes a non-issue for me to see them at future events.

Item #6: B.O.

Status: False! (sic)

Yes, you heard right. There was a fantastic combination of enough room combined with a lobby from a group of people that all wore shirts that said "Real gamers shower." Not counting the concerts where everyone was shoulder to shoulder, it was a decidedly non-B.O.-smelling event. Here's hoping it's not unique to this year...

Item #7: Exhaustion

Status: True.

PAX is a massive event. I contend that at least three people could go, each attend different events every day and never once overlap. Probably 5 or 6. Trying to take in everything is just not do-able, which we learned to the detriment of our feet this year. Next year I plan on signing up for at least one tournament, spending more time in console free play, and just taking things slower in order to appreciate where we are at PAX rather than neurotically checking the schedule every half hour to see if there's something we're missing. It's going to be awesome either way, I'm sure.

For all those interested in attending PAX, here are some things not to miss:

• Cool keynote speeches

• Omegathon. Halo 3 played with $5k and a trip to the Tokyo Game Show at stake, thousands of people in the room watching on big screens, and speakers so loud every explosion was felt as much as heard. Awesome.

• PA Panels. Always good fun there, and the occasional kick in the junk.

• The beanbag chairs. Gotta get your lounge on.

• The swag. I got enough free clothing to pay for my 3-day pass twice over.

Things to bring next year:

• Console controllers and possibly games. People who brought controllers got preference in the console freeplay areas, and didn't have to borrow them from the desk.

• More people. The more people you know or meet, the more fun you have here. I expect a crowd next year. It's also cooler to share cool stuff with people than to gloat about it on a blog.

• DSes. We brought them this year, and it was easily the fastest way to meet other people, as there were always 5 or 6 multiplayer games of some kind going on that you could jump into at any time.

• Ear plugs. Those concerts are very loud.

That's all for now.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


The wife and I are less than a day from the start of PAX, I'm looking at a schedule designed to keep 30,000 nerds at bay for three days (it should do just fine), and I can't help but begin to anticipate what we'll see there.

And for the sake of brevity and convenience I will be lumping together the whole range of people attending PAX into the word "nerds" and our activities into the word "nerdity".

Without further ado and in no particular order, here is a list of the things I predict we'll encounter a lot of this coming weekend.

1) Claustrophobia.
I've never seen the convention hall designed to handle that many people. Come to think of it, I've never seen the shopping mall designed to handle that many people. Here's an overhead crowd shot from last year.

It's going to be like this, but with much more pushing and shoving.

2) Energy.
That many nerds all doing what they do, en masse, for a solid weekend can only result in a very high-energy event. I expect to see nerds very excited that they got to meet Gabe and Tycho, that they got to meet Wil Wheaton, that they managed to drink half a bottle of alcohol the night before, haven't slept and are still on their game when it comes to Guitar Hero, I expect a lot of hyper nerds for a lot of very nerdy reasons.

3) Swag.
Our first stop is likely going to be the exhibition hall, where we can wander about and get swag from companies that are happy to cater to and get feedback from this large a sample of nerdity.

4) Pictures.
I am going to get as many pictures as I can of the whole range from Cool to "uncool even among nerds." Natalie will be of great assistance in getting the attention of people that would otherwise not notice me and my camera in the sea of nerdery. In fact, I think this can be considered a separate point.

5) Boobs as currency.
If you didn't click on the photo above yet, do it now. If you have, go back to it and count how many women are in that crowd of over 150 people. I saw three people I was sure were women and a couple of maybes. This means that, like so many times before, women are rare among throngs of nerds, and will be treated accordingly. The wife understands this and also understands how to use this to her advantage. Simply by virtue of attending with a person with one small chromosomal difference I fully expect to get a lot of choice swag, meet many many more people than I would have otherwise, get into far better parties and all manner of other advantages. I'll be sure to report back on this.

6) B.O.
Every FAQ and "recommended" list I've ever seen for conventions and gatherings explicitly emphasizes deodorant. Every single one. That they go that far out of their way to do so is not to be taken lightly. Check out the following video at the 2:32 mark.

I'd like to apologize to my wife and her acute sense of smell in advance, because there is a chance that she will be suicidal/homicidal by the end of this expo for this reason alone. Also for one of the first times I'm glad that my own nose is nearly exclusively decorative. I hope to report back on this and say this is a myth. I really really really hope this.

7) Exhaustion
Natalie and I are bringing tea mugs and will scope out a convenient place for hot water early on, because caffeine will be our poor-sleeping lifeblood at this thing. Especially since day 1 begins at 6:30 or so. However, I don't expect it to be an issue until day 3, perhaps even when we're on the return flight home and there's nothing left to see or take pictures of or watch or play.

More points may come as I think of them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rant #2

The NFL preseason has started. For all the vein-tapping football addicts like myself, it's a very exciting time. We can finally stop using Arena Football and Canadian Football as surrogate NFL fixes. Don't get me wrong, I happen to enjoy the AFL and the CFL, but they're poor substitutes for the League.

There's no end of publicity for every team right now, and because they're all in training camp, where everybody's wearing shorts and not afraid of a hit from the safety/middle linebacker, everybody's a star. It's pure hype, the fans all know it's pure hype, but that hype sells a lot of tickets. Even the games themselves are just designed to get the good players back into "game shape", get them used to the contact and to help regain the reaction time needed on the field during the regular season. In light of that, the starters usually don't play for the entire first quarter. In the first game, they generally don't see more than 6-8 plays. No sense risking injury this early. We know this, and it's still exciting because it's finally back after 7 months off, because I'll take 6-8 plays over the nothing during the previous 7 months.

Anyway, my rant.

My team's preseason opening game was the first ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast for the 2007 season. I was happy for this because it meant that it'd probably be broadcast in Canada. This is good because preseason games aren't broadcast as part of NFL Sunday Ticket (which, as an aside, was half the reason we purchased a dish, the other half being The Food Network for the better half.)

I found the channel (TSN carrying the ESPN feed, naturally), set a timer to switch the channel at 6PM MST, and generally got ready to enjoy my team in action. When the coverage switched, however, they were in the middle of a broadcast of the 2007 Rogers Cup, which, for those interested, is a womens tennis event held in Canada. I figured no problem, they'll probably cut out in time for kickoff.

I proceeded to go from confused to incredulous to very unimpressed as a bad tennis match suddenly seemed to slow down time itself. The three-set tennis match turned into a two and a half hour display of some of the most lifeless play I've ever seen on a professional court.

All the while I couldn't believe that they weren't switching coverage. There's no way that TSN execs could think that the spike in viewership that came from people tuning in to see the ESPN broadcast were actually fans that suddenly saw the light and became interested in a Canadian womens tennis tournament. They decided not to bother switching to the second most popular televised sport in the world because Camille Pin of France might make a comeback against her bitter arch-rival Dinara Safina! I know, I hadn't heard of either of them either!

The match finally relented a little before 7:30 MST, and they switched coverage to the Denver -San Francisco game. There were less than two minutes remaining in the first half, and all of the players that are going to make both rosters were all done playing for the night. All of the players I'm considering for my fantasy league? They're all easy to spot, because they're all on the sidelines wearing ballcaps. Cutler? Gore? Walker? Champ? They all finished playing right around the same time that my eyes were glazing over during set 2 of trying to feign interest in Rogers Cup tennis.

What actually I got to see was an hour and a half of the downside of preseason football. That is, guys no one has heard of that aren't going to make either roster playing sloppy penalty-filled football while the announcers rack their brains trying to think of clever euphemisms for football of such poor quality that you should be paid to watch as a fan.

Dear TSN:

I understand that TSN is the biggest player when it comes to Canadian broadcasts of NFL games. I am willing to live with the fact that the commercials are bad on TSN and a lot worse on Global, the number two player. I'm cool with an awful lot of things that suck when it comes to getting my NFL fix. For the love of all that's decent to watch on a sports network, please show some sense when it comes to choosing what you air. Especially when the options are as straightforward as NFL football vs. insomnia-breaking first round Rogers Cup "action".


Another fan who knows better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A True First-World Crisis

Update 13-Aug-07:

Dear readers;

My apologies for the early onset of Alzheimer's that caused me to write and forget to post this. In the week since I wrote it, I actually chose to start RE4, which I've since finished on normal difficulty, as well as bonus material Assignment Ada and Separate Ways. I can't say enough about how much fun this game is, and despite playing it through 3 or 4 full times now, I still can't play it at night alone without getting seriously uptight. I could say that I'm just a wimp or that the game is that good. For reasons both obvious and shallow I'm going with the game is that good.

Also, Lunar Knights finally arrived in the mail today, so as soon as I manage to get the Chicago Typewriter in RE4 (one of the greatest weapons evar, IMO) in my second run-through, I'm going to start Lunar Knights.

Ah, the joy of seamless gaming addiction.

Original post, 7-Aug-07:

With my wife on vacation in Ontario I've found myself availed of a great deal of free time lately, and so I decided to finally play through some of the video game backlog that I've been accumulating over the past year or so.

Thus begins my First-World Crisis. Which game to choose? Empires have no doubt been built and ruined by such decisions.

In no particular order:

Title: Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition.
-The GC version was the best console game I'd ever played. Keep in mind that I've only been a console gamer for about 3-4 years now, so don't fill my comments with crap like "8-bit gaming should be worshiped and is better than anything these days and I need some prune juice and get off my lawn, you punks!".

I also love making comments berating my non-existent readership.

-I've actually only borrowed the game from a friend of mine, so politeness would dictate that I get around to playing it some time before the next console generation comes out.

Title: Wii Madden.
-I am a football addict. I watched the entire Hall of Fame Game this previous Sunday, and if you've ever seen one, you know how much of a vein-tapper you need to be to get past the first quarter of the broadcast. If you haven't seen one, let me describe the quality of play for you with a drinking game analogy. I invited a couple of people to play a Hall of Fame Game drinking game, where every time the announcers had to give some polite euphemism for how bad or disorganized a play was (without disparaging the sport, of course), you take a drink. They both declined and said that game would make them die of alcohol poisoning.
-I have no interest in playing sports games by myself, however, so I'm going to respectfully leave that one on the shelf until another gaming football fan comes along.

Title: Elebits (Wii)
-I have to confess, this game looked a lot cooler than it turned out to be, and I bought into the positive reviews that I read because I wanted it to be a really good new franchise. Unfortunately it's not.

In short, Elebits is the video game version of frantically looking for a your car keys when you're late for a job interview. Interesting idea, I think Nintendo was hoping it'd catch on in the same way that Katamari Damacy did for Sony.

Title: Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS)
-For some reason I have a hard time maintaining interest in this game for a sustained period. I think it's like the movie The Fugitive with Tommy Lee-Jones and Harrison Ford. It's a very good movie; if you start watching it you'll enjoy it, but nobody seems to want to watch it enough to plan to watch it ahead of time. I like MP:H, I think the interface is very well done for an FPS on the DS, but I never feel enthusiastic enough about it to make time to play it.

Title: Osu! Tatake! Ouendan! (DS)
-It's the game that Elite Beat Agents was based on, and EBA is the only DS game I've played start to finish more than once. I'm pretty sure I'd get into it, but I have circular burn marks in my touch screen from EBA, so I'm hesitant to start this one. The old-school police whistle that seems to be in every song is not something I am looking forward to, either. If I do give it a legit shot I'm likely get hooked and finish it (OCD is a terrible thing), but I wanna want to play a game.

Title: Clubhouse Games (DS)
-Every review I read said "I know that it's a bunch of simple games all shoehorned together, but it's still done really well on the DS!" They must have meant playing with friends, because playing the simple games I enjoyed as a kid loses its lustre quickly when it's just you and an occasionally benevolent AI. I think I'll leave it on the shelf until company is over.

Title: Lunar Knights (DS)
-It got very good ratings just about everywhere I looked, I'm a sucker for a halfway decent RPG, and I managed to get a copy for $24 US, shipped. I think this is the next DS obsession for me.

Title: Guitar Hero II (360)
-I don't own a 360, am not likely to get one any time soon, and yet if there was a game that would get me to buy one, this is it. Perhaps because it's the most like a Wii game with the non-standard controller and compelling gameplay without needing the very height of graphics. In order to spend my time playing this I'd need a key to the Blais residence. I'm not holding my breath for this to happen. Fun game, though, looking forward to GH3 when it comes out for the Wii.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rant #1

Rant Subject: Captaris, the company that makes RightFax.

The company I work at uses an outdated version of RightFax. It decided to start doing something recently that I haven't seen in the year and a half I've been charged with supporting it. None of the usual troubleshooting or correction methods used in the past seem to fix the problem, and I haven't for the life of me been able to see anything out of the ordinary either in fax delivery, any of the mail server queues, the Exchange connector, Event logs or anywhere else.

I tried a Google search to see if other people had this problem, and a funny thing happened. There's next to no information about RightFax troubleshooting available via a standard Google search. It all seems to come up with either problems specific to obscure systems and software we don't use or it's all marketing sites describing all the problems that you can prevent by purchasing their software.

I decided to try the direct approach next, perhaps there was a Captaris forum designed to save a poor wretch like me. Turns out they do have one, but you need a "Valid Support Contract Number" to see any of their knowledge base articles. As I said, we haven't needed features used in the later versions of RightFax, so they let the subscription lapse a couple years ago, and nothing unsolvable has come up until now. The site did point to a phone number that would let you speak with an actual person about your faxing problems.

I called the number, tried to reach support, but it asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. I called back and tried the option for renewing a support contract, and to get through it asked for, I swear to God, a Valid Support Contract Number. To renew an expired fucking support contract.

I called a third time and just pressed zero to speak to a person. An actual person should be able to help with this. Surely they'd understand that I have several dozen people outside my door with torches and pitchforks asking all kinds of pointed questions about why the ancient software they refuse to pay to upgrade doesn't work nicely with anything written in the past 7 years. Surely.

As an aside, I'd like to say that an actual part of my well-being hinges on the hope that sanity exists somewhere. Not in incredible amounts, or even enough to become politically viable, but I like to believe that it does exist. Call it my own adult fairy tale.

I told the woman who picked up the call about the issue I was having, hoping for sympathy, I guess, if not a solution. She asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. I said mine had expired, and that I tried all the phone system options for renewing it, but they all asked for a Valid Support Contract Number. She repeated that that's because I needed a Valid Support Contract Number. Getting a mite testy, I asked how someone goes about renewing a support contract over the phone without a Valid Support Contract Number up front, and she proceeded to repeat to me, louder and slower, that I need a Valid Support Contract Number before I can renew. I asked about getting into the knowledge base, to which she replied that I needed a Valid Support Contract Number for that.

I know that most companies that offer tech support will have a script to make sure that troubleshooting is thorough before elevating real problems to higher tiers of tech support. Either this phone call was a psychological experiment being performed on me or her script was two lines long.

Obviously, being direct wasn't working. I changed tack.

I asked if there were still knowledge base articles for older versions of RightFax, and she said yes. I asked why they bothered keeping a tight rein on knowledge base articles for outdated versions of their software that they don't support, and she said that Captaris saw too many things being quoted in other forums and decided to lock everything away on their own site. She also said that they were in progress of getting rid of the older knowledge base articles.

I suppose that if you're that paranoid about your revenues and you assume further that quick access to solutions problem-solving techniques that save time for everyone capable of reading is a bad thing, then it makes a desperate sort of sense from a business perspective. I guess.

I asked if there was a motivation for Captaris not only locking down but deleting knowledge base articles for prior versions of their software which wasn't pure spite, and she didn't know that either.

I asked about a price for buying a new support contract just for knowledge base access, my last-ditch attempt at getting a Valid Support Contract Number, and she said they wouldn't sell me one (or even give me a price) because they don't support the version we have. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

I then found a printer in the office with fax capability, carried it over to the fax area, plugged it in and went back to my office to count the days until Captaris gets bought out. I estimate it within a year or so if that business model is accurate.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Game Addictions, Part I

My video gaming began a long time ago. I am the youngest of 8, and as such was raised by television, video games, ON TV (the precursor to cable in my hometown), books and whatever trouble I could get into otherwise. Some of you late to last children of a brood can relate to this.

I was around the age of 6 or 7 when my parents picked up a new Commodore Vic-20. This union signaled the end of any work ethic I ever might have known in my life. In the subsequent 20+ years I've played a lot of games, some of which I'm ashamed to admit I played as much as I did.

Platform: PC
Title: Diablo II
Time: Over a year

I played it, I beat it, I bought the LoD expansion, I trolled The Arreat Summit site for updates and strategies, I read several forums, I downloaded mods, I was in guilds, and in general, my interest just went on far far longer than it should have for a game with this little depth. I even may have called in sick to work once so I could keep trying to get elite items, which I'm equally ashamed to report that I never managed in all that time. DIII has been announced, however, and that purchase will truly be the triumph of hope over experience...

Platform: C-64
Title: David's Midnight Magic
Time: At least 4 months straight.

This is a pinball game. No extra screens, no hidden extra anything, only one way to get a score multiplier, three flippers and you. And yet I think I played it for full-time job hours with overtime and weekends for an entire summer plus the majority of my free time otherwise for many more weeks. I picked up an emulator recently to see if I could explain why it was gaming crack for me for so long. I couldn't. It's probably connected to the reason that I thought Battle Of The Planets and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors were good shows, however.

Platform: C-64
Title: Zork I
Time: Months.

I didn't play Zork steadily because I never made it far into the basement of the house before I was either eaten by a grue or my lamp died and I was eaten by a grue. Total gameplay time before I died was never more than about 5-10 minutes. I would play until I got fed up with the fact that the grues were never full, then would leave it alone for days until I'd forgotten my frustration with it, then I'd play it for another hour, get homicidal, rinse, repeat.

Platform: PC
Title: Civilization I, II, III, Alpha Centauri
Time: Days at a time, many times over.
I start playing at a decent hour, say 10 AM on a Saturday. I get to a point where I think I should take a break and it's suddenly 6:30 PM. I decide to play just one more turn, because I've almost got that wonder. Then it's 10PM and my eyes hurt from not blinking for 12 straight hours. I haven't started another game since buying Alpha Centauri because this happens with every version, it turns out.

Platform: Coin-op
Title: Gauntlet I
Time: 6 hours on one quarter.
I discovered that the 7-11 in my neighborhood had a Gauntlet game that they had on a setting where you could play as long as you wanted if you played carefully. During the break in my first exam week in high school I spent a lot of hours playing Gauntlet, including one game I played for 6 hours straight before selling it to a neighborhood kid for $0.75. Don't think I've actually played it in the 18 or so years since then, come to think of it.

Experiments in Lunch, Part I

Date: June 22, 1:55 PM
Place: Work.
Lunch: Life Choices Chicken & Bean Burrito Melt
Cost: About $1.50 Cdn.
Expectations: Disturbingly low.

The package indicates that the burrito is made of 86% organic ingredients, and the 86% is in green, so I know I'm doing my part for the environment. I also can't help but wonder what manner of sawdust and coagulant comprises that other 14%...

The burrito came with me to work frozen, but had the opportunity over the 6 or so hours I've been here to thaw a bit. A collective 3 minutes in the microwave was enough to make a lunchroom-sized burrito smell that hopefully will clear out over the weekend. It looks exactly like the kind of thing you'd see for sale at a gas station or a 7-11, which isn't helping morale a great deal. However, hunger and morbid curiosity must be satisfied, and you're obviously enough of a masochist to have read this far, so let's keep going.

First bite: Surprisingly tasty, despite my having dried out the outer "tortilla" in the microwave. I used quotes there because I'm still kinda wondering what and where that 14% is. I'm tasting cheese, beans, what I'm hoping is rice and the tortilla. Maybe the chicken is in the middle.

Halfway through there's no frightening aftertaste, the burrito is still warm inside and I'm finding myself somewhat won over to the potential of this foodstuff. Who knows, maybe the 14% is the plastic wrap it came in. Except for the green lettering on it, of course, which we all know is made of material so biodegradable you can't expose it to direct sunlight.

I can't help but notice that I have yet to taste chicken in this burrito. I know my palate is somewhat less than refined, but when it's billed as "chicken and bean", you tend to expect to see some of the stuff that got first billing. Maybe it brushed up against a chicken in the organic burrito factory, who knows.

Overall, and keeping in mind that my standards for success here were very low, I must say that I find myself quite pleased with this burrito. It's obviously not going to be served at your finer steakhouses in the near future, I'd still like chicken flavour to have made an appearance, but easily worth the cost of your finer K-D-esque dining experiences.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Frist Post!

Okay, here's the deal:

I write about the stuff that's going on in my head, and some of it will be published. This includes, and is not limited to the following:

-General nerdery, computery and my fascination with electronic blinkery.
-Video games I'm playing or reminiscing about.
-Discussion about sports.
-Observations and connections to obscure references that run the risk of entertaining some.
-Puddle-depth analysis of current events. This analysis will be horribly biased, so be warned that if you end up learning anything, it was entirely unintentional and shouldn't be held against me.
-Rantings about Intarweb illiteracy. My grammar isn't perfect, my spelling less so, but this is my soap box. You wanna rant, you get your own soap box.

One final disclaimer: This blog and it's content is worth exactly what you're paying for it, and if you don't like it, I promise double your money back!

All of that being said, welcome.

Let the rantings begin.