Saturday, October 31, 2009

'Catan' for iPhone

Just a quick one - there's a truly great board game out there called 'Settlers of Catan', which was first published in 1995 in Germany. It's been called the killer app of board games.

If you have never played, you are doing yourself a great disservice - run right out and buy the board game now, it's available at most Barnes & Noble stores.

To me, the best part of Catan is the fact that even during other people's turns, you still get to play (after a fashion) as you may gain additional resources with each roll of the dice, on your turn or not - and you're constantly scrutinizing the board and the actions of the other players to fine tune your own strategy.

An iPhone app for Settlers of Catan was released recently - named simply 'Catan', it's $4.99 and I have to say - not worth it. It's perhaps worth 99 cents.

The gameplay in the iPhone version is clunky, the interface is dated and there are many times in the game when you have no access to the menu, there is no landscape view, there is no online multiplayer, you can save only one game at a time. The AI is not at all challenging, even when you manually select all of the most skilled bots as your opponents.

The 'fun' factor is very decidedly lacking. (I know I've said before that FUN is the hardest thing to write into code...) I can't recommend this game at all. I'm very disappointed, because I was very excited when the game was announced. I've played other digital versions, such as the one offered by MSN Games - for all its flaws, the MSN version is 1000 times better than the iPhone version.

Please check out the MSN version of Settlers of Catan here - it's a lot of fun. It's a demo version, but it takes about sixty seconds of Googling to find the registration key you'll need to convert it to the final version. I've spent at least thirty hours playing the MSN version and it's an enjoyable challenge.

Friday, October 30, 2009


NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday! I'm not mentally prepared for this! So many words, so badly written!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scary, and not in a Halloween Way

Check out this Wikipedia entry:

"The Los Maniceros massacre was the 2009 kidnapping in Venezuela of twelve members of a Colombian amateur association football team Los Maniceros (The Peanut Men), ten of whom were later murdered. The dead were aged between 17 and 38..."

Can you imagine something like this happening in the states? An entire amateur sports team gets kidnapped? Makes you second guess your decision to sign up for the local softball league, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm easily amused

If they were alive today, which modern musical genre would be the favorites for each of these famous folks?

Franz Mesmer

Sigmund Freud

Henry Ford

Leonidas of Sparta

John Pemberton

Software Programmers

Cave Men

Check out the popular music genres at Wikipedia!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Create Your Own Comic!

I made a lil comic strip!

You can create your own comic strip or comic book using a cutesy little Marvel toolkit.

Monday, October 26, 2009


"It's not even between me and my mom, it's between my mom and god."

Ugh! Yuck! Ick!

If I ever use the word "cerulean" in anything but a peevish jab at jerks who use the word "cerulean" in a serious tone, feel free to poke me in my one good eye with a sharp stick.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Giggling Like a Schoolgirl

It's hard to describe just how crazy-fun the Wii Fit Plus mini-game Obstacle Course is.

Check out this video, if you haven't seen it. Seems very basic, right? Seems very tame. Until you play it. The video only shows the beginner level, there's an advanced level as well - with ice!

Anyone who's spent much time gaming has encountered platformers - basically these are games that involve a lot of running and jumping, hopping on platforms, leaping over pits, dodging dangerous elements of the environment.

Some classic examples of platformers are: Pitfall, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Moon Patrol, Mega Man, the list is long. Hell, even 'Prince of Persia, Sands of Time' is a platformer.

These games were fun when I was a kid, and while I might play one of them for a few minutes today for nostalgia's sake, they're too simple to hold my attention for long.

Enter the Obstacle Courses in Wii Fit Plus. There's definitely a small element of immersion due to using your own customized character, but beyond that, YOU are the one doing the running a jumping, thanks to the Wii Balance Board, which draws me in big time - it's almost as if I'm inside the game.

You're not getting that great a workout, basically you're walking in place - but it's more of a workout than you would get sitting on the couch. Even the 'run' is just a faster walking in place. But you're burning calories. (It would be a simple thing to use ankle weights to increase the calories burned.)

And I can't explain why, but actually running and 'jumping' through obstacles, from platform to platform, and occasionally falling to my death is a real, child-like giddy fun. (Would this wear off if the mini-game were any longer? Perhaps.)

Sadly, the obstacle course is only a small part of the whole Wii Fit Plus experience - I would gladly pay $50 for a game that was nothing but hour after hour of assorted obstacle courses, if I could use the Wii Balance Board to play through the game.

I'd love an obstacle-course builder tool from Nintendo, especially something I could use to design my own maps, and then share online for/with other players.

I don't even notice the calories I'm burning as I run through the course again and again, tweaking my choices and trying to shave a few seconds off my time.

I'm not a modder, and there have been few things I've encountered in life that made my hands ache to reach for a soldering gun, my fingers itch to write some code - but this is a project I would love to work on.

There are so many great platformer games in the history of gaming that would be kick-ass adapted for the Wii Balance Board, including stuff like the great Futurama game that came out in 2003, or hey, why not Mirror's Edge?

The TV game show Wipeout would make for a great obstacle course game.

Wii Fit Plus is only $20, if you already have a Wii Balance Board.

It would be far simpler to mod for the PC than the Wii, since you can typically set custom control schemes in PC games.

Careful, specific adjustments would need to be made for each game, but playing any platformer with the Wii Balance Board would kick ass. You would still need a number of other controls - the ability to simply walk or run forward and jump would not be enough to control much more than Donkey Kong or Moon Patrol.

So you'd still need the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk to control things like directional control, inventory, weapons, aiming and attacking, etc - but all movement would have to come directly from the Wii Balance Board.

There's a lot of improvement that could be made, of course - a far more heavy duty balance board would be great, something you could actually run and actually jump on would improve the immersion. It could be larger, more square, and have a built-in LCD that would display the surface under your virtual feet. But now I'm just getting carried away.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Vote: Sex, Nap, Sex

I’m not usually very interested in news reports, but I’ve spotted a few over the past few days that have caught my eye.

I’ve been skimming Google News more often lately, which is probably why. I can’t stand to listen to broadcast news, since there’s just so much going on that I could care less about.

Such as: ‘Was the death of the local girl (insert name here for your locality) the fault of the parents?’ Let’s endlessly debate this from every conceivable angle until I might just confess myself to make it all stop.

So yeah, Google News, with the good and skimming along until you find something that attracts your interest (there are automated news alerts you can set up, for any key words you like – Google will email you links to the stories containing your keywords).

This story is about a plane that stopped responding to radio transmissions for 88 minutes, and flew 110 miles past the airport where they were to due to land.

Supposedly, the pilots were distracted by a discussion about airline policy. Sounds unlikely.

What could they have been doing for 88 minutes?

Let’s see:

Having sex with one another
(Men? Sex for 88 mins? Maybe 8 mins)

Having sex with ‘sexy stews’
(See above)

Dealing with a hijacker

Testing a remote-override control to deal with future hijackings

Dealing with a UFO
(An unidentified flying object, not an alien spacecraft)

Dealing with an alien spacecraft

Flew through a distortion field of some sort which rendered everone unconscious
(Unlikely - passengers were awake the whole time)

The story mentions that an airplane's black box only records for 30 minutes, after which it is written over - so this could mean that they were perhaps struggling with an issue for 58 minutes, and then the pilots felt the need to wait an additional 30 minutes for the recording to begin its overwrite.

Only 30 minutes on a black box, seriously? In a day & age where I can walk into my local electronics store and purchase terabytes of storage capacity, there's no excuse for this. New rule - every microsecond of every flight is going to be saved, stored forever, reviewed, and scored down to the tiniest detail. 30 minutes, good grief.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Name the Skyline/City

This pic was taken by my goodly sister, hopefully not while she was driving.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Invasion of Privacy? Or Lewd?

Back in 2006, I posted about household nudity, and how I feel it's perfectly acceptable to wander around one's own house in the buff, as long as you're not being purposefully suggestive about it. I'm no nudist, but I sleep sans clothes and there is a slight chance someone could glimpse me through a window.

I just read a news story from Virginia about just such a case.

The poor guy might do jail time and pay a fine! If you check out the news story, there's a informative video that actually shows the placement of the windows, shrubbery in front of the windows, etc.

I think the guy has a good case - I'll be interested to see what happens - I know how interested all of you are about nudity rights on the home front, so I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Help For My Writer Readers

Back in May, Aaron Diaz over at Dresden Codak posted a great writing aid:

42 Essential 3rd Act Twists

It's a pretty damn hilarious read - if nothing else, it reminds writerfolk not to take ourselves too seriously, which is good advice for anyone.

There's a lot of great stuff in the store, too - go spend some money to reward good art and good humor!

And hey - Aaron is from Portland, Oregon the land from which all good things come and a place I will live someday! How cool is that? No, we have no current plans to move, but a suffering 40ish never-was boy can dream, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Real Life Conversation #48

Yeah I've decided to do a anime/hentai story this year.

Cool. Sounds like a channel I couldn't watch while Cindy was home - interesting stuff, with the poultry bondage and all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dark Alley

Ally McBeal as a goth superhero? No.

Taking my pre-dawn walk this morning was a spooky thing - maybe it's all the Halloween decorations.

It was pretty cold for Florida - in the 40's - so I was surprised on several levels when I saw what seemed to be a frog the size of a bulldog about fifteen feet ahead of me on the path.

I imagined that as I drew near, the frog would speak in a voice like James Earl Jones burping the alphabet: "Do not fear me!" at which point I would run scared shitless in the other direction. The frog turned out to be a water stain on the cement.

The spaces between buildings each seemed like dark alleys. It seems that once you're freaked out, you stay freaked out, yes?

So I started thinking about dark alleys, and the reasons I might willingly walk down one.

1) To help someone being attacked
(I like to think I would)

2) If enticed by a pretty girl
(Who wouldn't fall for anything when EBAPG?)

3) Hearing "Darn it, I know I dropped that Ring of Teleportation around here somewhere".


Yeah, there is no 4. There are only three reasons.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Technology Quiz

From 'Technology Quiz':

"If you were to travel 2000 years into the past, how useful would you be in jump starting technological advancements?

This 10 question quiz will help you figure out your technological usefulness. If you do poorly on the quiz, as most people likely will, then just let that inspire you to study up more on how things work and where raw materials come from."

Take the quiz!

(I scored 6 out of 10 correct, how sad!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Holiday Inn Circa 1959

I found these Holiday Inn photo's in an old Life magazine - check 'em out:

The design and color scheme just blow me away - someone was paid a lot of money to design this, and it looks like a kid's nursery, not the Presidential Suite it actually is.

The funny thing; these pics are not from an old Life magazine - they're from the web site of a newly built Holiday Inn that just opened - perhaps a year ago. Was the fairly modern television on the dresser a giveaway?

Friday, October 16, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

Wow, another year has passed and it's time to gear up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) once again. This year I have a few writing buddies in town, which will be cool for the bonding, sharing, competition aspect of it all.

I'm thinking for this year to finish the book I started for last year's NaNoWriMo. Which means I'll have to read the 50,000 plus words I wrote last year (shudder) to prepare myself for where I left off.

Our first prep-meeting is Monday, woo!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's a trap!!

You might think this garbage can lid is an anti-critter device, but judging by the number of one-armed aluminum-can-collecting vagrants in Gainesville (Hi George!) I believe this device has a more sinister purpose: Limb Harvesting!

Limb Harvesting isn't as sexy, doesn't get the press that Kidney Harvesting does, but don't be fooled.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No, Thank You

I would not shop here.

Sadly, I'll bet the local restaurants we dine in...
Do shop here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blurred Buggy

You can't quite tell - but that's an orange hourglass on a big scary spider, a Brown Widow, which has made our kitchen window her home.

I'm sure my Australian readers, dealing as they do with a myriad of poisonous critters on a daily basis ("Oh dear. Poison scorpions in the breakfast cereal again - ah well, they are crunchy and full of protein, after all.") will chuckle at the idea, but Cindy is a bit rattled at the arrival of this uninvited guest, and has made several complaints to the office. They have politely ignored her.

I've offered to take care of the little critter, but she'll hear nothing of it. She's named her Fred(rica) and almost seems to enjoy keeping a daily eye on Fred - at least this way she knows where she is. Until of course, Fred has thousands of babies...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nooo! I've been Tagged!

Three names I've gone by:
1. Mike
2. Kirras
3. Toby

Three jobs I have had:
1. Grocery Bagger
2. Switchboard Operator
3. Video Game Tester

Three places I have lived:
1. Bad Kissingen, Germany
2. Grand Canyon, Arizona
3. Tacoma, Washington

Three favorite drinks:
1. Chai tea
2. Lemonade
3. Cran-Grape

Three TV Shows that I watch:
1. Big Bang Theory
2. Doctor Who
3. The Venture Brothers

Three places (trips) I have taken:
1. Honolulu, Hawaii
2. Niagara Falls: Ontario, Canada
3. Ciudad Juárez, Ch Mexico

Three of my favorite foods:
1. Anything breakfasty
2. Fish taco's
3. Blueberry muffins and milk

Three things I am looking forward to:
1. Starting my own business
2. Getting a book published
3. Moving the bleep out of Florida

Three wishes:
1. Health
2. Success
3. Contentment without stagnation

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Of Questionable Consistency

I was nibbling a Weight Watcher's String Cheese (and a very satisfying nibble it is too at only 50 calories).

I nibbled my way layer by layer until I came to a little bubble of not-quite-but-almost-cheese in the middle. I bravely teased out this less-evolved cheese, which was something like a salty curd.

Now there's a naughty little nook where this curd used to be - I look away. My tongue grumpily reports back 'Not so much with the good'.

Now the remains of the cheese lies on my monitor stand, and I don't know if I want to finish it. I've already had enough for breakfast today - I'm not hungry, just snacky.

My upbringing argues for zero waste, and my waist argues otherwise.

Upbringing wins.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Emailed Funnies

I was walking past the mental hospital the other day, and I heard a group of the patients outside in the yard shouting, "Thirteen! Thirteen! Thirteen!"

The fence was too high to see over, but I saw a little gap in the planks, so I looked through to see what was going on...

Some crazy bastard poked me in the eye with a stick!

Then they all started shouting 'Fourteen! Fourteen! Fourteen!"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Orkin Rolltop

Check out this kick-ass 'rolltop' from Orkin Design.

There's a video on the web site that does a good job of demonstrating how the concept works, and how the center column is useful.The designers did a great job on everything except the carry-strap, which is unfortunate. Not even a snazzy pattern to spice it up? C'mon! How about we embed the strap with OLED's and run a marquee of user-defined useful info as a personalized news ticker?

And there's one thing any portable PC needs: an extendible mast that allows you to pull the display up 10 or 12 inches above the keyboard, to discourage the need to hunch over the device to get anything done.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Freeway Snaps #14

Can you imaging the carnage if this cargo started bouncing around freely on the freeway?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Moon Shot!

Set your DVR for NASA TV on Friday, October 9, at 7:31AM Eastern/4:31AM Pacific.

NASA sez:

"Once within range, the Centaur upper stage doubles as the main 4,400 pound (2,000 kg) impactor spacecraft for LCROSS.

The smaller Shepherding Spacecraft will guide Centaur towards its target crater, before dropping back to watch—and later fly through—the plume of moon dust and debris kicked up by Centaur's impact.

The shepherding vehicle is packed with a light photometer, a visible light camera and four infrared cameras to study the Centaur's lunar plume before it turns itself into a second impactor and strikes a different crater about four minutes later."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Quote of the Week!

From a Gizmodo review:

"Seriously, there's nothing that kills a boner faster than the self-awareness that comes from being balls deep in a piece of furniture."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Repeatworthy: Melody Gardot

I was shocked, shocked I tell you when I realized I had not already posted a 'Repeatworthy' about Melody Gardot!

There aren't too many singer/songwriters I would gush about these days, but seriously, Melody is amazing.

I don't listen to a lot of Jazz, since most of it seems to be recycled covers of songs written decades ago. Melody uses a bare minimum of covers, which is refreshing.

There's not one forced or false moment in either of her albums - it all rings true and feels sincere. You should definitely check out her music, and her Wikipedia page is worth a read as well.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


I can't tell you how happy I am to have a wife who's passionate enough to choke me when I disagreed with her choice for 'Best Doctor Who Ever'.

She feels Eccleston is the best, while I'm a Tennant fan - David Tennant has the perfect blend of seriousness and fun. I adore Baker, but he's a bit goofy for me.

Of course, her exposure to the world of Doctor Who is limited to the last two incarnations, so she really can't make a fully informed decision.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fondleworthy: Meteor Blitz

Most of the iPhone apps I own are free downloads, but Meteor Blitz is worth the $1.99 price tag.

Gameplay is straightforward - it's Asteroids. You have two control sticks; the left stick steers and the right stick fires (I always think of this as 'Robotron Controls').

I'm still not completely sold on using the touchscreen as controller and display - it's frustrating that my hands block part of the action, and the friction of my thumbs against the screen seems to vary depending on the moisture of my skin at that moment. I'd welcome a hack that would allow me to use my Wii Remote to control the iPhone - I'm sure some ingenious hacker is at work on this.

It's challenging without being impossible, with a variety of weapons and upgrades along the way. It's the kind of game you can play for just a few minutes if you're killing time waiting in line or what have you.

If you enjoy a little mindless rock destruction, you'll enjoy the game.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Oral Sex leads to cancer?

I was browsing through WebMd when I came across this article, which indicates that it's possible to transmit HPV through oral sex, which can then lead to mouth and throat cancer.

I remember when the Gardasil vaccine was first announced, Cindy was irked by the fact that she was outside the 9-26 age range - she just turned 30. (Turns out, there's research under way to increase the age range to 27-45.)

In the little bit of research I've run in the last few minutes, there's a whole range of HPV varieties, which can eventually lead to everything from penile to anal cancer - who knew?