Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I'm still full.
I'm finishing up Prince of Persia (PS3) this weekend in time for the embargo to lift on the review. The review will run Tuesday at noon.
In the meantime our 2008 Holiday Buyer Guide is up. Ad copy at its best. Check out the Cool Stuff section because I really do love those headphones. Great gift idea.
I'm working on a feature discussing the biggest surprise flops of 2008. Any games make your list? Alone in the Dark is mine. I really wanted that to be good.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
First: Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd just like say that I'm thankful for the 300 or so of you who take the time to read our blog. Truth be told I'd be shoving my inanity out into the ether either way, but the fact that you all surf in to read our schpeel really does mean a lot. So, uh, thanks and stuff.
Second: Unless I just can't help myself, I'll be away from the blog for a bit, along with all things electronical... well, except for my iPod. And my Kindle. Maybe my DS, if I can find the power cord.
You know what? Let's just play that no-electronics part by ear.
Anyway. Angie and I are heading away this evening to see family for Thanksgiving and then hopping on a plane on Friday for a week long East Caribbean cruise. I've never done the whole cruise thing before, so I'm looking forward to this. We're getting back a week from Saturday, so I'll probably resume posting here a few days after that.
In the meantime, eat well. If you have travel plans, be safe. Hell, even if you don't have travel plans, be safe.
Monday, November 24, 2008
This morning, while perusing my blogroll I came across a link to this civics quiz, which I then proceeded to take.
I got a 75%.
Ever the f#$%ing C-student. I am comforted to know, however, that most of the questions I got wrong I had the correct answer as part of my final two. Yay for mediocrity!
I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about myself. According to the text leading into the quiz, average citizens (2,508 in all) scored just 49% on the test and college educators 55%. Even more damning, according my source link, elected officials were also given the test and scored just 44%. Seriously, WTF?
Edit: Here's the source story at Yahoo News.
So yeah, the Michigan-Ohio St. game went about as I expected. Despite the score, the defense wasn't all bad. In the first half in particular they were very strong (two bad big plays aside). If the offense could've managed to do more than go three and out on nearly every single possession, it might've been a decent game. You just can't leave a vulnerable defense on the field the entire frigg'n game.
I think what I find the most concerning about the games lost this year is that Michigan consistently put up a good (or at least decent) fight in the first half, including the games against Penn St. and Ohio St. Then they just went out and were obliterated in the second half. I think if the coaching staff deserves flack for anything, it's probably that.
As for the rest, what can you do? When you lose your four year starter at QB, your all time leading rusher, a left tackle that went #1 overall in the draft, and your top two wide receivers, not to mention your heir apparent at QB (Ryan Mallett in this case) deciding to transfer and your starter at QB for half the season being a walk-on; well, adding a new coaching staff to the mix and instituting a completely new offensive scheme is kind of the perfect storm. In hindsight, my belief in this team having a .500 season or better wasn't just hopelessly naive, it was utterly insane.
So the Rodriguez era begins with the long hollow sound of gas being passed. I still have a hard time not being optimistic about the future. Not so much next year. I think the possibility of us starting another freshman QB next year is strong, unless a healthy sophomore Threet is a lot better than an oft-injured freshman Threet. That rarely works out all that well.
Still, the current non-conference schedule includes Notre Dame, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. Surely they can eek out two wins there (hey, it could happen) and you have to believe we'll get a patsy schedule for a fourth non-conference game. Throw in an extra Big-10 win or two and you're at .500. Not great, but if this year was spent crawling, expecting the program to do more than stand up and take a couple steps next year is being a bit unrealistic.
Ultimately, unless the team goes out and craps all over itself again next year, you have to give it time. That's not something Michigan fans are used to. Call us arrogant if you will, but I'm 34 years old and this is the first time in my lifetime the team hasn't at least gone to a bowl. It's the first time they haven't finished at least a couple of games north of .500. Despite the recent strike of suck against Ohio State and a lot of really poor bowl showings, it's still easy to take a run like this program has had for granted. There is an extent that you can understand fans wanting someone's head on a platter. Fortunately the people in charge of such things generally have cooler heads than those of us in the ranks of fandom.
The best thing fans can do, is to stop howling from the rooftops and recognize this is going to be a process and that to abort it now (as some idiots are calling for), is beyond counter-productive. It's absolutely stupid. We're in this for the long haul and we're not going to know if it's gonna work out or not for at least another two years.
In that spirit, I say bring on 2009!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Rivalries can be cyclical. And yes, OSU has owned Michigan since JT took over. OSU has won 5 straight over UoM -- something no team had ever done in this series. And yes, JT is 7-1 against UoM.
This has been the greatest stretch of Ohio State domination --- ever.
And as an OSU alum I continue to smile. When it was 42-7 mid way through the 4th and it was 'run out the clock' time it was a feeling of sheer satisfaction. Not because we had won another game over Michigan -- but because I still remember the emotional drain from my college days. That was back when the tables were turned and Michigan beat OSU like a drum despite OSU having FANTASTIC talent. NFL talent all over the field.
John Cooper would lose to Michigan when he shouldn't have; at least Dick Rod lost with a bad team. When I was younger, Michigan won 12 of 15 meetings. It SUCKED.
So suck it up Michigan faithful -- because the sun isn't coming out soon, either.
Payback hasn't been fully served just yet. To make that 15 year stretch Even Steven we need to play 7 more times.
And OSU needs to win 5 of those.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This may be the first Michigan-Ohio State rivalry week in memory in which there is absolutely zero suspense.
Did I mention that I miss the 90s?
Like a good little drone I will nevertheless make the effort to point my remote control at my TV on Saturday and press the numbers that will land me on ABC. I will watch the game, much like I've watched nearly every Lions game for like a decade now, expecting nothing, but clinging to every defensive stop or offensive play that goes for positive yardage as a sign of hope that we can do something remotely positive; maybe even stay in the game till halftime.
I haven't commented on Michigan football the past few weeks, even after they somehow managed to look like a competent football team in a sadly surprising win against Minnesota. This should not be interpreted as my having given up on the whole new direction thing. It's a much rougher transition than I would ever have feared possible, but hardly the first time I've voluntarily downed a gallon of Kool-Aid in the same amount of time it takes an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to mistake inane stupidity for humor. I really thought that after Wisconsin we were seeing the signs of turning a corner. Not so much for me with the whole analysis thing, I guess.
Anyway, the Kool-Aid ran out somewhere between the time Illinois's Juice Williams racked up over 400 yards and... well, Toledo. I'm not sure I'll ever be completely over Macho Grand; er, Toledo. I'll think that I am. I'll go weeks at a time without giving it a passing thought and then will come the waking in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and the crying; oh god, the crying.
So yeah, I'm looking forward to putting Saturday behind me, closing the book on 2008 and looking forward to a fresh batch of Kool-Aid to kick off 2009. Maybe, just maybe, we can look to a .500 season. I don't expect we'll see a return to real respectability until 2010 and probably year after that for hope of any kind of real national prominence. I do think this coaching staff will build anew, however and I look forward to it.
In the meantime, there's this:
Michigan hoops beating #4 UCLA? That kind of win may not happen a lot this year, but it's been a long, long time since it's happened at all. If the hoops team keeps this up, it just might keep me warm through the winter.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I'm also adding a Cool Stuff section to the Guide which is intended for off the wall game related trinkets.
Any thoughts? I have my own list but wanted to pick some brains.
I was sent this today -- a huge box of it actually. I tried some and it was like being turned up to 11. This stuff is...eye opening. I didn't crash though. I thought for sure I'd be Dead Man Walking afterwards.
Oh, a quick Rock Band 2 update: I nailed an 84% on Let There Be Rock on Hard. I'm getting there! I'm hovering around 85-90% on most songs so I can get through them unless they're just totally insane like some of the metal tunes, but I hate that shit anyway so I call it a wash.
Yes, it's been more than a week since my last post. I suck. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Usually when I slow down with the posting it coincides with me not gaming much, which has also been the case this time, although the fact that some kind of flu-type-thing has been making its way through the family has been a contributing factor. First it was my daughter, then son; Angie got a pretty good dose of it last week. I figured I had gotten through unscathed, even bragging to my dad on Monday (who came down for the weekend and then got hit with it on Monday) that I was simply much tougher than the rest of, "you weaklings." Bad move. It's like that video embed from The West Wing I posted on election night: I tempted the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing and then spent most of the next 24 hours bed-ridden, with the occasional mad dash to the great porcelain god to empty my stomach. Fun, fun, fun.
Fortunately, I'm feeling nearly three-dimensional today. Nearly.
On a side note, I've been plugging away at that John Adams biography I mentioned last week and it's fascinating stuff. (Still loving the Kindle, btw.) I really didn't know a thing about him going in, so learning about how he spent the bulk of the Revolutionary War in France and Holland and how critical that role was (OMG, the spoilerz!) was something of a surprise. I've just entered the post-war period in which he became a fledging America's first ambassador to Britain. The book doesn't specify, but I'm pretty sure the word "awkward" came into usage about the time Adams had his first audience with King George III.
George: Hey, aren't you one of those that wrote that I was a tyrant in your Declaration of Independence?
Adams: Who? Me? No, no, no. That was all Jefferson, I swear! He's a loose cannon, that guy. A bad seed.
Anyway, I'm only about half way through it, but if anyone's got some recommendations for some other biographies that are as good a read as this, please do let me know.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I'm now in the high 80% range on the 0 and 1 star difficulty Guitar tunes, which is a big improvement. I've even completed a few Diff lvl 3 songs. I got a 93% on PDA. Woo.
I had a hell of a time last night with Feel the Pain, but managed to finally get through it. So, it's coming along. After a couple of hours on Hard I went back to Medium and it's like the game is in slow motion. Amazing the difference in speed.
My fingers are numb this morning.
I may need to take a break...
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Don't ask me why it took so long to get on this train, but now that I'm on it -- I'm uh...yeah I'm basically addicted.
Rock Band 2 has ignited that inner music geek in me and I'm showing a side of myself that Ashley has never seen. Fun fact about me: I can sing. Not American Idol talent sing but I can carry a tune. I sang in a really bad garage band in high school. The kind that never actually gets OUT of the garage, had one guy with real talent, and the rest of us sorta just made a bunch of noise. This was in the mid-late 80s so while I wanted to sing Zeppelin, Stones, The Beatles and CCR -- everyone else wanted to do Dokken, Motley Crue... Or God forbid Fu***** Warrant.
I hated the 80s.
The point is that I don't make the dogs howl when I sing, but no one would ever pay anything for the pleasure.
So when I started belting out Behind Blue Eyes Ashley's eyes got real big. It was the literal "Dad?" moment.
But alas..I have no idea how you guys play on Hard or Expert. Granted I have only been playing for a little less than a week and I am 90%+ on every song on Medium Guitar. I tried Metallica's Battery last night and got a 91%. I can 5 star Peace Sells and nearly nail Let There Be Rock. But when I go to Hard the songs kill me.
When they throw the three notes at once -- I'm cooked. I'm having a helluva time learning to hit that Orange note.
So when you guys were learning the Guitar Hero ropes -- what did it? What was the technique that was needed in order to play on the higher levels?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I am not a fan of Oprah. I think she is given to do good things, but there's always this sense that at the center of it lies her own enormous ego pulling the strings. I once watched a prime time special in which she was the driving force for building a school in Africa. It was an incredibly magnanimous thing to do, but at the same time you would think from the presentation that she built the school brick-by-brick with her own hands. It was ridiculous.
Having once spent about ten months as the assistant manager of a Waldenbooks, I've never pretended to understand why the opinions of Oprah hold so much sway over so many. It's been more than ten years, but I still remember well what her endorsement can mean to a book's sales.
As truly bizarre as it is, there are times when her ability to hypnotize people en mass is useful. Such was the case a week ago when I drew my wife's attention after grunting in surprise -as I often do- while reading something interesting from my blogroll. I'm convinced there's some kind of irony in the notion that I grunt like a Neanderthal while using the kind of technology that my not-so-distant ancestors would regard as magical works of the devil or at least one of his high-ranking lieutenants.
"What is it?" my wife asked.
I didn't respond right away. I rarely do in these circumstances. I have found something online that I regard as cool. Angie, I'm sure, will not. It always takes a second for me to process just what tone is required to make clear that I am interested in this pricey piece of unnecessary technology, but have no intention of spending our money on it.
"Oh, it's just that there's a $50 coupon code for the Kindle-"
Angie, much to my surprise, is suddenly very interested and, before I can finish, asks if that's the thing the lets you read electronic books. She, of course, heard about it while watching Oprah. Now, I'm hesitant to portray Angie as one of Oprah's mindless army of automatons as she most definitely is not. She just enjoys watching the show from time to time and the fact that the Kindle got a ringing endorsement from the big O (so to speak), immediately transforms this gadget from a geeky indulgence to something worthy of closer scrutiny. I suddenly find myself treading unfamiliar terrain. I am cautious. I respond that it is, but even with the coupon it's still too pricey. I figure that's the end of it. But from her pitch selection Angie delivers a nasty 12-6 curveball: She asks if it's something we would both use.
My senses heighten. Surely, this is a trap. My wife has endured my purchases of some relatively pricey hardware over the years, but rarely with any enthusiasm. There's a sense that while she may not get it, she knows that she married someone who is compelled to own a 360, a PS3, and a relatively modern PC. That I cannot tolerate the presence of a TV in our home that doesn't support HD. My gadget lust, restrained though it usually is, is something she tolerates, but rarely -if ever- encourages.
"Yeah, I think so. But still, the money," I say.
She then asks if it's something we could take with us on a vacation we're taking after Thanksgiving, while also noting that Christmas is coming and maybe it would be a good gift to both of us.
Any time I want to spend a significant amount of money on something I require an excuse to justify it to myself; a reason that it's okay to throw money at something we don't really need. It doesn't have to be a good excuse, it just has to sound reasonable. When I lobbied for our projector we had a six-month old in the house and, with no family in the area, were unable to go out to the movies anymore. So, we had to bring the movies to us. It was, in the parlance of Val Kilmer in Real Genius, "a moral imperative."
Suddenly the prospect of blowing $300 on Kindle doesn't seem so extreme. It's a Christmas gift! And it's for both of us! Hell, that's just $150 a piece, not to mention that it relieves us both of the burden of finding a "big" gift later on! Given all that, how could we'd not get one? It'd be stupid not to!
This is the way my mind works. I admit such a thought process has costly pitfalls from time to time, but sometimes it works out well. As I hold this new, little technological wonder in my hands -a newly purchased John Adams biography by David McCullough printed on its screen- I'm reminded that this is one of those times; that sometimes a needless expense is still a worthwhile expense. I've only had it for a day, but I'm in love with this gadget. The old world of print and the new world of electrons have birthed a child and it's the best of both. Given the choice, I'm not sure I'll ever settle for the printed version of a book again.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
--We have a contest of sorts for the Mirror's Edge Xbox 360 demo at Gshark. The code unlocks the Time Trial mode. So if you want a code--knock yourself out.
--Terrelle Pryor is REALLY good. And should get nothing but better. Special, special player.
--Penn State losing to Iowa. W.T.F. College football makes absolutely no sense to me. At all.
--Either the Big12 has the best offensive teams in the history of college football or no one plays any defense whatsoever in that conference.
--That said, I really want Texas Tech to keep winning. If the Bucks can't get a title, I'd love to see some new blood get a championship. Texas Tech is about as new blood as it gets.
--My fingers are sore today.
I have finally discovered the joy that is Rock Band 2. I'm playing on medium level and I am 4-starring pretty much all of the songs (guitar) but good lord how you guys play that game on the hard levels...YIKES. You guys know how much I love my tunes. So I have no explanation for why this is my first time playing any of these games -- RB, GH, etc. But yeah...sorta ridiculously fun. Rocking out on Rebel Girl...too cool.
Ashley made the guitarist for the band. She's a Goth girl with black lipstick. I have no idea what that says for the future of my 8-year old daughter...but hey. She loves playing it, too. She can't quite control the whole thing right now so she strums while I fret. Bonding to Man in the Box. Good times.
Funny side bit: She named the band herself. I let her come up with what she wanted. She came up with "The Jesus Band."
I cocked an eyebrow at that one. We're not overly religious people so it took me by surprise. I smiled at her and said, "OK, The Jesus Band it is!" She replied with, "What? I love Jesus."
So we're the Jesus Band and then the game tells us, "Your band name is not very classy and will not appear on Xbox Live."
"What's wrong with Jesus?"
Indeed, Rock Band. What is wrong with Jesus?
Friday, November 7, 2008
For you political junkies, Newsweek has posted a must read series of articles under the overarching title, Secrets of the 2008 Campaign. It goes behind the scenes of the Obama, McCain and Clinton campaigns and has a lot of personal detail that you don't usually see or read about. It's absolutely fascinating stuff if you want to learn about the psychology of the candidates and just how disorganized and disjointed political campaigns really are.
You can find "Chapter 1" here.
Plus, Alaska...Stevens? Really? A felon? Even the nutcase from MN won. You know, the one who wanted an expose on Senators being anti-American? Mr. McCarthy, stage right. Pretty crazy.
Plus, Ashley is sick again. T
And I STILL have not found time to play Rock Band 2.
So, time for some tunes. This is possibly my favorite Floyd song. Maybe.
This one is from Bon Iver, who I found on eMusic the other day. The song is Flume. Turns out he's pretty popular. I have no clue. I like what I like. One of his songs was on NBC's Chuck a few weeks ago. I was watching it and heard the song and thought, "Hey, That's Bon Iver!"
It's the little things.
Anyway, still a pretty entertaining game.
We also have a Gears 2 review up today. 360 shooter? Pass.
Everyone see the game last night? See, the Browns problem is not QB be it Anderson or Touchdown Jesus.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
How vital is this to you? How important should it be to a reviewer? Well, to those that actually, you know, finish a game. (10% tops, although I have zero data to support that. )
I finished Dead Space (PC) last night after 14 hours of game time. Review runs tomorrow. Pretty fun game, rips off a LOT of games before it, but I thought it was time well spent for the most part.
The end "boss" battle was a cheap frustration filled fun killer, though. Makes you replay sequences over and over and you can't even skip the cut scene leading up to it after you reload. bad bad bad.
Should that matter?
If so, how much?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
First, great speeches last night from both Obama and McCain. I think if McCain had been as eloquent throughout the campaign as he was last night there's a chance he's the president elect today. Who knows?
Next, I can't believe Obama pulled out Indiana. I've hoped for awhile now that he could, but never really could make myself believe he would.
At any rate, for Obama the trials can now really begin. I've been watching the man since his 2004 convention speech, so I have a pretty healthy interest in what kind of president he turns out to be. I am cautious, but hopeful.
Mr. President-Elect I have only one piece of advice for you, sir. Know that when I say this, I say it from the heart. I say it as one who believes you have it in you to do great things on behalf of this country. It is with great admiration that I say:
Don't screw up.
If you're an NBA fan you already know that the Pistons recently dealt Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb to the Nuggets for one Allen Iverson.
My gut reaction to this trade was negative. Billups and McDyess are fixtures in the Pistons organization. It'll be particularly tough not seeing Billups at the helm of this team. As for McDyess, well, it sound like there's a good chance Denver buys him out and he returns to Detroit in 30 days. I hope that happens because the guy genuinely wants to win with the Pistons and he deserves to be here.
That said, I have to say the trade is growing on me. For all his flaws, Iverson has turned into a pretty stand up guy over the years and I think there's potential for him to change the way the team plays during playoff crunch time, which is definitely something the Pistons needed. And with the trade happening so early in the season, there's a lot of time to figure out how Iverson can gel with the current core and they with him. Plus, if it doesn't work out, Iverson's contract is up this year, which gives the Pistons loads of space under the cap with an emerging star in Rodney Stuckey ready to take over the helm.
Iverson was officially introduced to the press as Piston yesterday. The press conference was pretty typical, but it did feature one moment of hilarity:
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
There are two groups of people in this world: Fans of The Big Lebowski and morons. If you're in the latter, relax. I'm kidding (mostly). For the rest of us Brian at M Go Blog has put together a must-read re-imagining of the sequence where our hero, The Dude, is forced into the Big Lebowski's car.
Here's a snippet:
I—the royal we, you know, the fan we—he'll get the wins, exactly as specified—look, I've got certain information. Certain things have come to light, and, uh, has it ever occurred to you that instead of running around blaming Rich that this whole thing might just be, not, you know just such a simple, but uh—you know?
What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
I'll tell you what I'm blathering about! I got information—new shit has come to light—and, shit, man… we started a walk-on at quarterback!
Well, sure, look at it! Ridiculously young offense, gives turnovers all over town, including to known Domers—and that's cool, that's cool—but I'm saying, he needs time, and of course they're going to say he doesn't need any because they gotta feed the monkey—I mean, hasn't that ever occurred to you? Sir?
Hey, we just gave up 48 points to Purdue and lost on a fucking hook and ladder. (And thank goodness BrakkeCon saved me from watching that unfold.)At this point, what is left to do but try to get some laughs out of this disastrous season?
As Bill noted, "BrakkeCon" was a lot of fun this year. When I sent out the invite email in early October I wasn't expecting almost everyone invited to say yes. Hence the need to seat 8-10 people for a game at any given time on Saturday. I never have that kind of luck when trying to get people together for games during the rest of the year. Go figure.
Fortunately, a 6-hour session of Arkham Horror ended up being a good time for all (once we got going) and wrapping up the night with a 10-player session of Formula De was nice. Still, next year I think I need to manage it a bit better. When nearly everybody said, "yes," I thought it would be a simple matter of running a pair of concurrent games, but then you run into the issue of who ends up where, playing which game and everybody not at my table feeling ripped-off because they're unable to fully bask in my presence. Plus, it's just not nearly as much fun as getting everybody around one table. Next year I'll have to keep it in the 5-7 range like we did last year. That or we'll have to plan which games we're playing in advance to take advantage of the larger group. It was a turn of good fortune that Bill brought Arkham this year.
Speaking of which, Arkham Horror is a great game. I may have to pick that one up. I'm at a loss for how to describe it. Everyone plays on the same "team" (so to speak) and you end up battling the game itself in a sort of dark, gothic horror setting; it's a very different experience from more competitive fair like Railroad Tycoon or Mare Nostrum. Even with Fury of Dracula (which was the first game of the box on Saturday) there's a competitive element at the table since you're still trying to beat another physical player. Having a group of eight all trying to pull in the same direction was great; though, the gap between turns can be an issue since you end up doing a lot of waiting.
As for my dropping the ball with Touch of Evil. Bill's right. By the time I put the manual down and said we should move on to something else even I loathed me. I really need to make some time ahead of last weekend to just play through the game solo and get a feel for it. Had we tried to press on with it we might still be at the table. Live and learn.
Anyway, it was a great time and despite the complication of having so many crammed into my not-so-big house; it was kind of surreal (but in a good way) getting all these people from different corners of my life into the same room... and then not having them all want to kill each other by the end of the evening. Must've been the tasty "bad" food.
Monday, November 3, 2008
...And about 5 more people.
Playing boardgames with 7-10 people is a bit tricky because it can limit what you can do unless you break into 2 groups, which I think defeats the purpose. So this was a weekend of games that leaned to the "big" scale of things:
A 6 hour 8 player game of Arkham Horror, 2 games of Cutthroat Caverns, a Formula De race with 10 cars, etc. Games like Nexus Ops and Star Wars OT RISK, and Friedrich, never made it out nor did, oddly enough, Railroad Tycoon -- a usual Brakke staple.
We tried to break out a Touch of Evil but Todd learned a lesson in game hosting: someone MUST know the rules beforehand. Learning a new game out of the box with 7 people sitting around a table is a surefire way to get everyone to hate the game for eternity. As Todd started reading the rules after we had set the game up...our eyes glazed over and Todd became the enemy.
So next time we'll get to that one as well as StarCraft, which I brought, but did not dare bring out of the car. (I tried reading the rules in the car...didn't work.)
In all, a great weekend of games, bad food, and cat allergies. How often do we get to play a marathon session of Arkham? About once a year.
Well worth it.