Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sports: Part II

Home runs did happen, but only when I was in the bathroom. I am not kidding. Apparently, I would go to the bathroom and unicorns would appear on the field. Dragons would do fly-bys and aliens would land and give out free death rays. I missed all of this. It is possible that the baseball gods, knowing I would someday need to rant about this in a blog, arranged for this to happen. But I digress.

I have a couple of friends at work who are seriously into baseball. They are always talking about stats and RBIs and Earned Run Averages, and Seven Toed Rhinos, and whatnot. I have no idea what they are talking about.

I asked them once what a Designated Hitter was. They were incredulous that I did not know. Apparently it is the guy who only bats. I thought it was somebody who hit the players when the made Errors. I still like my interpretation better.

With my newly found knowledge of Designated Hitters, I sat down to watch a Mariners game. I managed about fifteen minutes. There were no homeruns, no fights, and no cheerleaders. I admit that pitching looked difficult. Throwing a ball at roughly 1000 mph (1.2 kilometers) with precision has to be tough. So props to the pitchers. I guess I am not a baseball kind-of-guy.



Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I do not watch sports. I guess I am missing that particular gene or something, as I have never been interested enough in a sport to actually spend time watching it. I will play sports (badly) if opportunity arises, but watching other people play them is sheer boredom. If I have to choose between watching sports and going to the dentist, the dentist wins. Granted I cry when I go to the dentist and therefore get candy, but there you go.

However, in a spirit of fairness and desperately needing something to blog about, I decided to give sports a try. Obviously, some of them are not on right now, but do not worry, I will make it up anyway.

First up: Baseball

When I was but a wee lad of eight or nine, my dad had a friend who had season tickets to the Giants. This friend, may his name forever be cursed, gave my dad a bunch of tickets for double headers. Therefore, on several sunny summer Saturdays, I was driven two hours to San Francisco to watch about four hours of baseball, and then be driven two hours back.

I was initially excited, as baseball had been described as something wonderful, sort of like if Santa were a hot blonde in a bikini. I sat down in my hard, plastic seat, clutching my mitt, and wondering what the smell was. And waited. Nothing happened. Ever. In the six pro baseball games I watched, I never saw a home-run. I am not kidding.

Next: More Baseball

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Evil 2: Good 0

It is my sad duty to announce that the world was plunged into millennia of darkness last Sunday. The forces of Good eventually ended up turning on themselves, which allowed Team Evil to come in from behind for the victory.

This last weekend we had a belated birthday party for my partner-in-crime Leigh. Do not ask how old he is (hint: very). We celebrated with a custom 1920s Cthulhu-esque RPG of my creation (yes, we are nerds). There were 7 players (4 Good Guys, 3 Bad Guys) and nobody knew who was who. The action took place aboard a small, exclusive cruise ship. For those who do not know what I am talking about, it is rather like a How to Host a Murder game, only with sacrifices and machine guns.

There was a brief period where the players introduced themselves to each other and then the action started with a murder in the kitchen. Zombies appeared, as did six-legged monkeys that leapt and bit. Throughout the action, the players were still trying to figure out who was who.

Leigh summed up the night quite well:

As far as I know, archeology has nothing to do with weird stuff like ticks that eat your brain, six-legged monkeys, and two-headed French chefs.

Eventually, the Good Guys turned on each other and two of them killed each other in a hail of bullets. This allowed Evil Team One (Sean and Devon) to take out the rest of the Good Guys with a well-timed strike.

So, congratulations to Evil Team One who ended up winning, as well as Evil Team Two (Stan) who was the runner-up.

If you are wondering about the title of this piece, this was the second in a series of custom horror-RPGs that I have run. Evil won the first time as well.

Happy Belated B-Day, Leigh. Sorry you died and allowed Evil to take over the world. Maybe next year :)



Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 10

Battlezone had tanks. This is reason enough to love it, but it also had flying saucers and a landscape littered with giant pyramids and cubes. There is no real explanation as to why you needed to drive your tank around and blow up stuff. I always assumed I just hopped in my tank for a quick drive to the store to pick up some Lucky Charms (substitute the foodstuff of your choice, if necessary) when I was suddenly attacked. I would certainly fight for my Lucky Charms, I assume you would as well.

Battlezone also had a city. I never saw the city, but my best friend, Chuck, assured me that his older brother had a buddy who had a cousin that saw it. If you played long enough, you would eventually reach the city and fight there. I have no reason to doubt this. After all, if you can not trust some cousin you never met, who can you trust?

Next time: Tempest!

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 9

Berserk was not really a videogame. I know some of you are insisting that yes, it was, seeing as how you played it, but you are wrong. Berserk was actually a Kafka-esque commentary on modern life. Think about it.

You are trapped in an endless maze full of lethal, but not particularly bright robots who are trying to shoot you. Evil Otto, an unstoppable killing machine, always eventually appears and chases you relentlessly, forever. Your only hope is to keep running, but eventually you will falter and fail. This is a not only a brilliant commentary on life, but also an amazing allegory for high school. Moving on.

Next: Tempest!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 8

Berserk, also introduced in 1980, was one of the first games to include an actual voice synthesizer. Stop the Humanoid! and Intruder Alert still make me smile, recalling the good-old-days, when I was trapped in a maze and robots were trying to kill me. Actually, it was school and jocks, but you get the picture.

In Berserk, you controlled a little humanoid with no neck. You ran around a simple maze, trying to escape while robots tried to kill you. Everything was lethal, from touching the walls, running into a robot, or being shot. The robots, it should be said, were not particularly bright (not unlike the jocks). They would often walk into the walls and shoot each other, sort of if Laurel and Hardy were controlling them. If you cleared all the robots or the timer ran out, Evil Otto, a smiling, bouncing ball would appear and attack you. Evil Otto would indiscriminately kill anything it touched, including the robots.

Next: More Berserk!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 7

And then, for no readily apparent reason, there was Missile Command. I readily admit that in 1980 when I first played the game, I assumed that you were defending the US from incoming Russian nuclear missiles. I realize this is an invalid, possibly offensive assumption, and I apologize. I now realize the missiles were obviously from Canada.

Missile Command also introduced the trackball, which was a ball set in the cabinet that you spun to move your aiming cursor around the screen. It worked well enough on the initial levels when the incoming missiles were slow and infrequent, possibly due to the cold Canadian winters. However, once they really started coming down, precise control was difficult and you ended up screaming while spastically slapping the trackball. At least I did, which, in hindsight, might be why they asked me to leave the arcade.

Tomorrow: Robots!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 6

The next great alien attack came in 1980 in the form of Defender, also known as Oh-My-God-Is-This-Game-Hard. The game had roughly 114 buttons, 3 joysticks, and a thing you put your foot in. No one knows why you had to put your foot there, you just did.

The object of the game was to kill alien ships before they could capture the helpless humans, transport them to the top of the screen, and then, presumably, eat them. Why they felt a need to do this was never explained. I always assumed it was because humans were tasty.

I took Defender personally. It was simply implied that the aliens in Space Invaders were going to wipe out the Earth. The aliens in Defender actually ate people, a certain percentage of which were probably cute girls. This could not be allowed. However, I was not the person to stop them, seeing as how I really, really stank at Defender.

I was pretty good at video games and with few exceptions, could get a decent amount of play out of a single quarter. Not Defender. I rarely got past the second level and basically died immediately on the third. Sinistar was probably the only game I was worse at. I played and played and played and played and after dropping probably twenty bucks, I gave up. All the cute girls were left to be snatched up and eaten by aliens. This mirrored my dating life in high school, save that instead of being eaten by aliens, the girls were dating jocks. Sigh.

Next: Missiles!

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 5

Asteroids appeared in 1979. In this game, you were a single small ship trapped in an asteroid field. You had to blast the big rocks into smaller and smaller pieces, until you killed the last piece and more asteroids appeared. Occasionally, a small alien ship would show up and shoot at you, but generally it just ran into me.

I never got Asteroids. Frankly, if you were dumb enough to fly around in an asteroid field, you probably deserved to get hit by one. Remember The Empire Strikes Back? Even the Empire does not fly into asteroid fields and they have a callous disregard for human life.

And who or what was this other alien ship? It was obviously alien, as it was a small oblong saucer (and humans never pilot those). Why was this alien also in the asteroid field? Why was it attacking you? Could you not work together to escape what was inevitable death? Could not a great friendship flourish which would result in the uniting of two disparate races in harmony? Apparently not, as the little bastard insisted on attacking you. Stupid alien.

Up next: More Aliens!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 4

The next big thing was Space Invaders. This was not an innocuous white square bouncing around an empty black space. These were aliens intent on destroying Earth. If they succeeded, there would be no more pizza, no more Youth Soccer, and not even the possibility of seeing a naked woman. Granted, at that age we had no idea what one did with a naked woman, we just really wanted to see one. It was, in short, personal.

Space Invaders ran on an Intel 8080 at a whopping 2 Mhz. I have no idea what those numbers mean, but it sounds really, really small. Regardless, I played the game relentlessly. I dreamt of Space Invaders. I dreamt of being awarded a medal for defeating the alien armada. I was 10, what can I say.

Up Next: Big Rocks in the Sky.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 3

We all lunged for the seats. There was shoving, pushing, and name-calling. If we had had knives, blood would have been spilled. I managed to get a seat, by virtue of being large and smelly. I do not recall who I played, but I did win, thus setting a precedent of video game dominance that continues well into the present day (all my friends rolled their eyes when they read that). In fact, I won three games in a row, before I ran out of quarters and had to give up my seat.

We played until we ran out of quarters. We then bugged the counter guy into changing our dollars for quarters. We then bugged the various moms in attendance for more money. Had we been allowed, we would have started pan handling outside the restaurant (with signs saying Need Quarters For Pong). Eventually, we were forced to leave, but many of us vowed to return with more quarters.

And that was over Pong. A game so simple I could play it on my watch (assuming they bothered to add such an archaic game to it). But Pong was just the beginning.

Next: Aliens Attack!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part 2

Imagine 20 grimy 8-year-old kids clustered around a cocktail Pong machine in complete silence, staring. Two paddles, a ball and a dotted line held us transfixed. The appearance of nothing less than an actual, naked woman could have broken our concentration. I do not recall how long we stood there, but I think a few of us actually hit puberty. At some point, the fateful words were spoken.

Anybody got a quarter?

We watched with trepidation as two brave souls, adventurers even, sat down and played Pong. The game started. We dared not breathe as a white square bounced across the screen, making funny bloop noises whenever it hit anything. The game ended quickly (we sucked at Pong even worse than we sucked at soccer). The two players stared at each other. We stared at them. Other people quite possibly were staring at us.

All hell broke loose.

Tomorrow, the story continues!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Brief History of Video Games: The Arcade Years: Part I

Once upon a time, there were no video games. I realize this comes as a great shock to many of you, but it is sadly true. Medieval peasants did not get phat lewt. Members of the court of Queen Elizabeth did not shout Ding! King Tut may have been cool, but he did not roxor.

So what did nerds do back then, in the proverbial (and literal) Dark Ages? I have no idea. It probably involved hard labor and dying from disease. But I digress.

There is debate over what was the first true video game. Some say it was OXO (or Noughts and Crosses), which was made in 1952. Some insist it was Tennis for Two, built in 1958. However, I have no knowledge of these games, so I we will leap ahead to 1972, when Pong was introduced.

The first time I saw a Pong game was in the mid-70s, when we went to a Round Table Pizza after a Youth Soccer Game. I am pretty sure we lost, as we sucked hard. However, the pain of our defeat was soon forgotten when somebody found a cocktail Pong machine in the back.

Tomorrow Part II: Revenge of Pong

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Me Vs. Chocolate

So there I was, preparing to break a five-pound bar of chocolate with my head. Why? you might ask. Huh? is also an appropriate response.

It is not a long story. My friend Laura got a five-pound Hershey bar for her birthday. If you have never seen one, they are roughly the size of a computer keyboard and about 2 inches thick. I train in martial arts and she though it would be cool if I broke it. We discussed various ways to do this and settled on me breaking it with my head. I positioned Leigh and the chocolate, Beth, another friend, got the camera ready. I prepared.

The thing is I had no idea if I could do this. I train in kung-fu and we do not break boards, bricks, or anything else. We especially do not break things with our heads. I have no clue how dense or tough a five-pound bar of chocolate is and yet I am preparing to break it in front of all my friends.

There were three possibilities. I could break it. This is the optimal outcome. Ideally, I would look cool doing so. The second option is that I would fail to break it. This would be embarrassing, but I figured I could blame Leigh for not holding it right. The third, least desirable outcome would be that not only would I not break it, but I would knock myself out doing so. This would be bad, not only because of the embarrassment, but because I would have to kill all of my friends upon regaining consciousness so they could not tease me about it for the rest of my natural life.

I did a three-count. On three, I lunged. Head met chocolate. Physics happened. The chocolate bar smashed in a truly amazing way.

I was victorious.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, at least by comparison. We chatted and ate chocolate. I did something cool and did not have to murder my friends. It was all good.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 7

Some among you (all three people that actually read my blog), may be upset that I paint snakes as evil, face-biting maniacs with the morals of a presidential candidate. Let me set the record straight. Snakes are our friends. They help control rodent and pest populations and are a vital part of the ecosystem. Do not kill snakes if you can help it. The vast majorities are not venomous and are harmless. Respect them, give them their space, and let them go about their business.

Besides, statistically speaking, some of the people bitten by snakes are lawyers. That, in and of itself, is reason to let them be.

Some among you (all three people that actually read my blog), may be upset that I paint lawyers as being worthy of being bitten by snakes. Tough.


Monday, May 14, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 6

Australia is a beautiful place. I have never been there, but the Travel Channel tells me it is. The Travel Channel never lies.

Australia is also the single most venomous place in the known universe. I am not kidding. Watch the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. They always run those Top Ten lists (Top Ten Things That Will Eat You, Top Ten Things That Attack in the Night, Top Ten Things That Crawl Up Your Nose When You Are Sleeping). On any of the Most Poisonous lists, Australia has at least half of the animals.

Case in point: The Duck Billed Platypus is venomous. I am not kidding. The males have a spur on their hind leg which can deliver a painful sting. They use this sting to escape from predators and extort money from tourists. They have to, otherwise they cannot afford smokes.

Up next: the Conclusion!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Forum is Up

Just a quick announcement to let you know that our forum is now up.

Just click on the button in the upper-right hand corner of the page to discuss Wayfarer's Moon to your heart's delight.

Have a pleasant Sunday.


Friday, May 11, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 5

As I am writing this, I am looking up snakes on the internet. I am having trouble finding a good snake site that lists snakes by location. For example, I wanted to find out about snakes in China. I did a search for venomous snakes of China. The third site listed is a transcription of a lecture about the venomous snakes of Australia. Ummm, cool, but not quite. Would somebody please make a site containing all the information I want? It is hard enough coming up with snake jokes without having to actually WORK to find information. Jeez.

Somebody should make a site called I would bookmark it and visit daily, just to ensure that I could avoid all the creatures they listed.

And next, possibly the most venomous place in the world: Australia!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 4

And then there is India. The first thing I think of when I think of India is COBRA. I do not mean the silly, amazingly ineffectual, yet possessing staggering wealth, manpower, and resources GI Joe villains, but real, honest-to-goodness, bite-you-in-the-kneecap, snakes.

I just do not get Cobra (the villains, not the snakes). How did they amass such wealth and power when they are continually defeated by three or four members (tops) of GI Joe? They have an army large enough to take on NATO, yet cannot use the restroom with out having to parachute out when it blows up. Seriously.

Anyway, cobras (the snakes, not the villains). The only thing I know about cobras comes from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, wherein the hero, a mongoose named Rikki-Tikki defeats the evil cobras Nag and Nagaina. I will admit this is a highly biased viewpoint and that not all cobras are evil. I am sure most cobras are perfectly nice once you get to know them and that Nag and Nagaina are not representative of their species. Nag and Nagaina are obviously the Manson family of the breed (Charles, not Marilyn).

Some cobras spit venom. I assume these are juveniles, who like to hang out in front of 7-11s and try to get older snakes to buy them beer. Maybe not. So, cobras. Big snakes. Hoods. Venomous. Spitting. Moving on.

Next: Snakes on the Internet!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 3

Africa also has the Black Mamba. Do not snicker. The Black Mamba is eight feet long (approx. 70,000.3 meters), dusty brown snake with amazingly potent venom. It is also the fastest snake in the world (12.5 mph, 40 mph if it has to go to the bathroom). It gets its name from the inside of its mouth, which is all black. Mambas are notoriously aggressive, sort of like the snake version of cell phone salesman.

Imagine you are walking through the scrubland (mall), minding your own business, perhaps checking out the gazelles (window shopping), when you inadvertently stray into Mamba (Cell Phone Salesman) territory. You freeze, hoping the cold-blooded predator has not noticed you (the salesman, though the snake also counts), but it is too late. The salesman lunges, shouting something about comparative rates. Your only hope is to grab the person next to you and throw them at the salesman, hoping to distract him, and then run.

In an ideal world, you would distract the salesman with an actual Black Mamba. The salesman would die from the snake venom, but the Mamba would end up with exorbitant cell phone rates. I do not know which is worse.

Up next, India!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 2

Africa is chock-full of deadly creatures with colorful names. The Boomslang is a snake that likes to sit in trees, presumably so it can bite you in the ear when you walk by. The one they showed was a bright, almost neon green. It was an amazingly beautiful reptile, which should be of some small consolation when it launches itself at your head, screaming. People at your funeral will comment on this.

It is a shame he died.

Yes, but what a lovely snake!

Indeed. Pity they could not remove it.

Frankly, if you have to die from a snake bite, it might as well be from an attractive snake. Would you rather get run over by a Ferrari or an AMC Gremlin? I thought so.

Next: More Africa!

Monday, May 7, 2007

All Things Venomous Part 1

I am glad I live in the US. This is not for the usual reasons, but simply because there is a marked lack of venomous things that will kill you. You see, I occasionally watch the Animal and Discovery Channels and have learned that the rest of the world is full of creatures that are amazingly, incredibly dangerous.

Vietnam, for example, has something like 31 species of snakes. 29 of which are poisonous. Do not quote me on this (actually, go ahead, I will never know), as I was busy checking under my sofa for cobras when this was mentioned. I did not find any cobras, though I did find a dust bunny. I beat it to death with a mace, just to be safe.

Yes, I own a mace.

Now, some of you may think that I do not like snakes. Let me say that I do not hate snakes. I do not particularly like them either. I have a live-and-please-do-not-bite-me attitude as far as they are concerned.

I have known a number of people that had pet snakes and I do not get that. Snakes do not have feelings and cannot love you. I do not care if you kiss it on the snout and call it Pookey-Bear. To the snake, you are simply a meal that is currently too large to eat. Think about it. What if you were the pet of a giant, 20-foot hamburger? You would not spend your days scampering around its feet. You would instead simply want to eat it. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, insert the appropriate 20-foot foodstuff to complete the metaphor.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 to learn about Africa and the various things there that will kill you.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Another Spider-Man 3 review! No spoilers!

So, my wife Laura and I went to see Spider-Man 3 last night, and since I now have a website with a blog, I figure I am obligated to tell the world my opinion. I kind of view this as a right of internet passage. I dont want to give out spoilers because it is still opening week, so I cant get into specifics on exactly how I felt about specific scenes or plot points but I will say that we very much enjoyed the ride. Laura and I go to fewer and fewer opening weeks nowadays because of crowded theaters, squirming kids, teens playing text tag with cell phones. You know the drill. Not to mention Netflicks has us spoiled at this point. Basically nowadays when I do go out to a movie I ask myself some simple questions.

Q: Did this film have things in it I didnt like so much?
A: Of course it did.
Q: Did it have stuff I did like?
A: Yup.
Q: Was the stuff I liked enough to make me forget or ignore the stuff I didnt like?
A: Yup.
Yay! That means I liked it!

Im a long time comics fan. If it werent for comics I never would have learned how to read. The first comic I ever bought and paid for by myself was Marvel Team-Up Starring Spider-Man issue 24 with Brother Voodoo back in 1974. Ive also been a fan of Sam Raimi since I first saw Evil Dead 2 (which I saw before the original). Ive learned over the years to make lots of allowances for theatrical releases not being quite what I remember in my comics, and I am a happier movie viewer as a result. Ive worked in computer games now for over 12 years, and although life in games isnt quite the same as in the movie industry Ive seen how hard it can be to deal with licensed titles, and how sacrifices get made for the sake of story and medium,.. yadda, yadda, yadda. Ive given up arguing about how easy or hard it is to capture a comic in movie or any other form. Now I just put on my +2 hat of “Its just a movie, not your childhood” and try to enjoy them each for what they are. I think Sam Raimi has done a fair job translating Spidey to the screen so far. Still I have to admit I was pretty scared going in that this film would suffer from too many villains and too many plot points, as (in my humble opinion) many other superhero franchises have in the past. I was somewhat relieved at how these things were handled in Spider-Man 3. Again, I wont tell folks how things were handled because the web is filled with enough spoilers already.

To me it was definitely worth the watching. Go see it.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Breaking Sheep

You may be among the 3 people in the world who do not play World of Warcraft and so do not get the reference. The Mage class has a spell called Sheep. This turns an enemy into, you guessed it, a sheep. This effectively keeps the critter out of combat and makes it easier to battle large groups. Sheep has a limited duration and can be broken if the Sheeped enemy takes damage. Breaking Sheep is obviously quite bad and can get everyone killed.

I have a regular Tuesday night WoW group and we run 5-man instances (encounters designed for a team of 5 people). We have a good group (Warrior, Mage, Cleric, Shaman, and Rogue (me)) and in general are pretty efficient. I Sap (stun) one enemy, the Warrior pulls the mobs, the Mage Sheeps and we kill the rest. However, a few games ago, whilst questing through Zul-Farrak there was a whole string of sheeps being broken.

Generally, we are a finely honed killing machine, plowing through dungeons without any real problems save for the occasional tough boss. We are rarely threatened, rarely really challenged. We are just too efficient. However, when the sheeps were broken, things got interesting. The Mage was running in circles, the Warrior was trying to get agro, the Cleric was keeping the Mage alive, the Shaman was trying to figure out who to hit and I was backstabbing anything that got near the Cleric. It was chaotic, confusing, and several other words beginning with C.

It was fun. It was really fun.

We were in danger. We were threatened. Foul language was used. We persevered. We summoned Gahz-Rillah and kicked his butt. We won.

Later, I was chatting with one of the other players about the game. We agreed that breaking sheep was bad. We discussed what when wrong. We considered. We pondered. We both admitted we had a lot of fun. Maybe breaking sheep every once in a while is not such a bad thing.