February 2008 Archives

Evil Amazon

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Damn you, Amazon MP3, damn you! Way too easy. Way way way too easy. You make it far too easy to feed my addiction to buy music. My credit card is melting, my wife is mad, and my hard drive is filling up. 1-Click buying and the Amazon MP3 downloader give instant gratification. In the last week, I've picked up four "CDs":

"The Spectacular Johnny Horton" - When I was a mere tike, staying a my grandparents house, I used to listen to this classic country music album all the time. Horton was killed all too young in an automobile crash a few years before I even began listening to this, and I had always promised myself my own copy. Click, click, done. Wow, talk about flashback city! Just hearing those songs brings me back to the days of hanging out at Grammie's house and getting spoiled. AllMusic might not have liked the album, but it sure struck home for me!

American Recordings by Johnny Cash - A friend and I got to talking about The Man In Black and I remembered how this CD "revived" his career. So I finally grabbed a copy of it. Click click done. It is basically just Cash on his guitar singing a bunch of songs, both old and enw, simply recorded and honestly felt. I can't say as too many of them struck me, but I sure loved the Loudon Wainwright song!

Spring Rain
The Go Betweens

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express by The Go-Betweens - reading Sixbucksamonkey's last.fm weekly top artists reminded me that I wanted to get some of the older Go-Betweens CDs, so I grabbed this one. It doesn't have the power pop hooks that 16 Lovers Lane has, so it didn't floor me like that one did, but it's still a really good album. Perhaps I'll try Before Hollywood next.

Chumpy
The Clean

Anthology by The Clean - I'm just a huge Aussie/New Zealand power pop groupie, with artists like The Go-Betweens, The Chills, Goanna, Split Enz, etc among my all time favorite groups. Exploring these groups led me to The Clean, a pioneer in the New Zealand pop scene and this CD has been on my To Buy list for far too long. So Click Click done! Really nice slices of power pop heaven so far. Some really short, and some are long essays on power pop.

So it's way too easy for me to indulge myself with these high quality, carefully tagged, DRM-free MP3 downloads. And 1-Click buying give instant gratification. I burned the El Perro Del Mar CD I downloaded a couple of weeks ago and it runs great. By adding the text info, I even get a nice little display when I play it on my Sony SACD player, showing the song and artist.

So Damn You one last time!

PS: Oh, and I forgot about all the singles I bought too, including two versions of Hallelujah (one by Alison Crowe and one by Leonard Cohen), two versions of Tainted Love by Soft Cell (the Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go long version and the 12" Dub version), and Ankle Injuires by Fujiya and Miyagi! Ouch. Ouch.

Pastor in Chief?

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Can't really add much to this. And the pandering to theocrats only gets worse these days.


Game My Life Away

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My computer gaming has been pretty active lately. Neverwinter Nights, Fairway Solitaire and Armageddon Empires have sucked up plenty of time, something always in a very short supply. So just what I need to do - add a PS3 to the mix!

My weekly session of Neverwinter Nights, cooperatively played across the 'net with C, as been going along pretty nicely. The latest update made a huge difference with game play, which is a pretty strange thing to say about a game that has been out as long as NWN has. We just finished the first of four chapters and I've been enjoying the character tweaking and inventory management that goes along with a "hard core" RPG. C likes to view cheat sheets and walk throughs, which is not my style at all, so I let him do that while I blunder about.

I've also been wasting some serious time on a couple of strategy games that came highly recommended by Bill over at Dubious Quality (an excellent blog). First up is a card game called Fairway Solitaire. Yeah, I know what you're thinking - Yet Another Solitaire Game. But no, this game is a blast, as they are deceiving little solitaire boards laid out on a "golf hole", with funny little twists to each. You play 18 "holes". It is unbelievably addictive and fun to boot. Be very aware - the 60 minute demo flies by and before you know it, you're out a whole US$20 as you simply have to buy it.

Then comes the indie game of 2007. Heck, it may have been the game of 2007 period - Armageddon Empires. A turn based strategy games where you play cards and move units on a hex board, it hits the sweet spot for me between too simple and just overwhelming you with choices. Lots of nice chrome with a very easy play. My one nit to pick is that the differences between using a right click and a left click seem to be rather arbitrary and confusing. But man, does this make the time just fly. I wanted to sit down and play a few turns the other night (I've been feeling pretty sickly lately) and next thing I knew, it was midnight and I was exhausted! Probably not since X-COM: UFO Defense have I been so engrossed in a game.

Bill does a great job of explaining the game and giving a tutorial here. It even runs great on Linux under WINE, so I can play without rebooting (for better or for worse!).

It also looks like a PS3 is in my near future. I almost pulled the trigger on a system over the weekend, but looking over the games just didn't inspire me. The only RPG available is The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and I already have that for the PC. A couple of first person action games seem interesting (like Uncharted as recommended by Jay), but those aren't really my strong point. I don't see any cooperative games at all and even the strategy games are non-existent. And I was going to purchase the new 40gb system, which isn't even backwards compatible with PS2 games. I see that Target was advertising the PS2 for only US$99, so I figured I'd add one of those too later.

While I was at Costco yesterday, I noticed they have a $515 bundle that includes all the accessories I was going to buy (another game controller and the DVD remote), as well as a BluRay movie (Spiderman) and a game (Ratchet And Clank), so that's probably the route I'd go. I finally got a bite on a much sought after boardgame I own (Elfenroads) that I'd had up for sale on the Boardgamegeek site for a while, so that should get me 3/5 the way there. It breaks my heart to sell the game, as Elfenroads is an excellent game, but I think it is a fair trade.

Movie Review: Dark City

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Watched Dark City a couple of weeks ago, but just haven't been in the mood for posting on Trifle lately. One of those movies that made the jump to the top of my Netflix queue and I have no idea where it came from! No wonder I have over 150 titles in my queue; I just keep throwing them on there.

Anyway, Dark City was a pretty highly acclaimed sci-fi movie from 1998 with themes reminiscent of "playing with their reality" movies likeThe Truman Show with maybe a touch of Sin City. A little too over the top for me, and lacking the unique style of Sin City.

Dark City is a place used by "aliens" as a sort of playground to try and figure out the human race. Kiefer Sutherland (over)plays the part of a human co-conspirator, helping them out with their experiments (although I don't think it is explained why they need his help). William Hurt plays a police inspector, trying to track down a prostitute serial killer (now there's a new one, eh?), who he suspects is Rufus Sewell's John Murdoch.

Murdoch uncovers some strange things about the city (Why is it always dark? Why can't anyone tell him the way out?) and resolves to solve the problem using his newly discovered telekinetic powers. A huge and drawn out battle ensues, and some of the mysteries are cleared up, but not all of them. Isn't that deep?

I dunno if I was watching the same movie the IMDB commentators were, that's for sure. I didn't even think it was that particularly visually stunning, never mind the lazy storytelling and the ending which seemed to replace noise with resolution. It was okay, not entirely a waste, but I'm not even sure I'd go so far as the three out four stars the Leonard Maltin reviewer gave it.



Dawkins' Best

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Richard Dawkins' Five Favorite fiction books:


  • The Black Cloud: Fred Hoyle
  • Dark Universe: Daniel Galouye
  • Red Strangers: Elspeth Huxley
  • The Lion Children: Angus, Travers and Maisie McNeice
  • Sword of Honour: Evelyn Waugh
Great, more books to add to my To Read list. Heck, I haven't heard of any of them! At least I'm familiar with Huxley and Waugh as writers, and have even read a Waugh. I thought Brideshead Revisited was an excellent book, especially the audio book read by Jeremy Irons. And Amazon only has two of them:

Red Strangers
Elspeth Huxley




Hearse

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Hiassen on Creationism

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Carl Hiassen does his usual hilarious hatchet job, this time on the joke that is Florida "science" and the seemingly never ending stream of Creationist idjits.

The World of Acacia

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I just finished reading Acacia by David Anthony Durham, the first book in a fantasy trilogy. Durham also wrote the highly regarded Pride of Carthage, about Hannibal. Acacia has the subtitle "The war with the Mein" and describes the reign of the Akaran king Leodan, his four children and the attack by the Meins, a brutish tribe long ago banished to the frozen northlands.

After being betrayed by his adviser, Leodan sends his four children to different parts of the Known World, where each must find their way. Aliver (the heir), Corrin (the effete princess), Mena (the athletic younger sister) and Dariel, the youngest boy, try to find their own way in this world turned upside down by the treacherous Mein, who have their own axe to grind and history to overcome.

This epic fantasy novel, the first of a trilogy, is quite the sweeping introduction to this world of Acacia. Written much like GRR Martin's fantasy series, where each chapter is told from a different point of view, Durham's book manages to maintain its speed over much of its sprawl. Each of the four children has their own point of view show, as well as the leaders of the Mein and a few other from the crumbling Akaran dynasty.

It's not a bad book or a bad setting. The world is fully fleshed out, including the sordid secret of the Akaran empire - it is balanced on the backs of slave labor and "The Quota", whereby children of the empire are kidnapped and shipped off to an unkown race over the sea. This race also has overtones of GRR Martin's mysterious race from the north, where you are sure there will be a great conflict soon.

I enjoyed the book and will look for the second in the trilogy, which is, I think, due soon. It was a little derivative, and the 'hook' of slave labor and child kidnapping seems hardly new. And the characters were based too closely on fantasy archetypes and some of the plot twists at the end were a little hard to swallow. But the story basically rang true and I'm looking forward to revisiting the Known World.

Tor e-Books

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Tor has a new thing - a weekly free e-book download. This week, it is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Next week, it promises to be Old Man's War by John Scalzi. Seems like a good deal!

Song Lyrics Finder

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Your typical song lyrics page with a twist - you can put in your (or anyone else's) last.fm username and it will pull down a few charts, like last songs played and most played, and link these to the song lyrics. The song lyrics also show you a nice list of youtube videos for that song, with an excellent embedded viewer. Pretty nice!

El Perro del Mar - cool!

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W♥M just posted about El Perro del Mar, a Swedish singer with a cool voice, along with a couple of cuts from her upcoming album. I really liked their simplicity and wistfulness, so I naturally checked her out on AllMusic (here). There I read about the "charming animated video" for You Gotta Give To Get, so the next step was naturally to YouTube, where I found the video for it. Looks like I've found my next CD purchase! Thanks again, W♥M!


God Knows (You gotta give to get)

Web 2.0 - bubble... Pop!

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Netflix Deep Sixes me

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Ouch. Netflix is dropping HD-DVD:

You're receiving this email because you have asked to receive high-definition movies in the HD DVD format. As you may have heard, most of the major movie studios have recently decided to release their high-definition movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. In order to provide the best selection of high-definition titles for our members, we have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray as well.

While we will continue to make our current selection of HD DVD titles available to you for the next several months, we will not be adding additional HD DVD titles or reordering replacements.

Toward the end of February, HD DVDs in your Saved Queue will automatically be changed to standard definition DVDs. Then toward the end of this year, all HD DVDs in your Queue will be changed to standard definition DVDs. Don't worry, we will contact you before this happens.


Looks like maybe my birthday present to myself is going to be a PS3 player...

Move Re-Review : Pan's Labyrinth

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Watched Pan's Labyrinth again last night, using my hot-off-the-presses HD DVD. And once again, I was totally blown away. Even more so this second time around, especially the beginning, as I now know what to expect. Emotionally wrenching, visually astounding and brutally honest, it is definitely a great film. My friend didn't seem quite so taken with it; I think the violence, while perfectly integrated, was too brutal and bloody for him.

The HD DVD is done really well. Not the best I've seen, but still pretty incredible and makes for a great home theater experience. And the sound is tremendous as well. When the fairy insect flies around, flitting from speaker to speaker, you swear it is going to land on your shoulder at any moment. There are a ton of good looking extras that I hope to get to soon, including something that sounds very much like the picture-in-picture commentary found on the Bourne Supremacy disc.



Escape to Games

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Some video gaming notes from the past few weeks include finishing TimeSplitters: Future Perfect and playing Neverwinter Nights over the Internet. And, of course, there's always time for Day of Defeat, old-skool style. No time for any of my other, single player games, though.

My buddy M and I finished up TimeSplitters: Future Perfect last week and we had a good time. The graphics aren't top notch, and the game play isn't innovative, but the story is fun and the cooperative play works very well. There is no in-level save game, but the levels were mostly well conceived and we were able to do one or two a night. The game was good enough that when the DVD drive in my Xbox died, I went out and bought a used Xbox from Craigslist and we did a DVD-dectomy so that we could finish the game. We were within four levels or so of the end and, while it wasn't good enough to want to start from scratch, it was good enough to want to finish it. All in all, one of the better cooperative games we have played in quite some time. I might have to track down the earlier TimeSplitters 2 now.

Another friend of mine, C, who is more into "hardcore RPGs" (he used to be an EverQuest junky) said he was interested in playing Neverwinter Nights across the Internet, so we've started that game. He has the Diamond version, while I merely have the Platinum version, with the difference being the added Kingmaker adventure. M and I started playing NwN a few months ago, but ran into some probably not insurmountable technical problems, but it was enough for us to move on, as M isn't quite as into the 'tweak your stats' kind of RPG as I am.

But C is, and so we have played a couple of nights now. As I haven't figured out how to do port forwarding on my super secure router, he's running the server. Actually, he has installed the Stand-Alone Server, which I think makes things a little more stable, as we each connect to it. I just noticed the Linux Client available from the NWN web site - I'll have to check it out, although it seems to run pretty well under WINE. He's running a thief, while I'm a half-elf ranger who just multiclassed to a cleric. We're about half done the first chapter, and it has been fun. I run a Teamspeak server on my FreeBSD server box and so we talk over headphones. Very good setup and if it wasn't for Windows XP being so damned unstable, it would be well nigh perfect.

Finally, I can always be found on the 95th Rifles Clan server, playing Day of Defeat. I'm First Lt. Headwound Harry and I enjoy playing it, as you can just pop in, play a bit and then stop. No big commitment and we run a clean, fair, adult server. My daughter R has gotten into it, but I think just so she can talk over the Internet. It kind of freaks her mom out, but I keep a close watch on her, we have some strict rules (both here at home and on the server), and my clanmates are a solid group of grownups, many of whom have kids playing as well.



Super Ouch

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Ouch.

Super Bowl XLII was truly painful. My girls, especially the oldest, were crushed - welcome to being a sports fan. The late and ugly finished combine to make poor R truly distraught, but it also was perhaps the one thing that kept me from becoming catatonic - ya gotta stand tall for your kids. A few thoughts while the wound is still raw:

  • That wasn't the Patriots of 2007, especially the offense. Our mantra the entire game was "take what is given you", yet the Patriots seemed ill-prepared and inflexible. Sure, give the Giants credit, but the Pats just didn't seem right.
  • Given three straight years of failure at the highest levels, you have to wonder now about both Brady and Belichick. Sorry, it had to be said.
  • They had their chances on defense at the end to put the Giants away, but I still blame the strangely ineffectual offense.
  • R wants a Wes Welker jersey now


Oh well, on to the Beanpot...

Kountdown to Kickoff

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Super Bowl Anticipation

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Only a little more than two days before Super Bowl kick off. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to concentrate until then. I have been a season ticket holder since 1993, when Bledsoe and Parcells showed up. Lived through some bad times up until the 2001 season, as my wife recalled, as she sent the girls off dressed in their Troy Brown and Tedy Bruschi uniforms this morning for Patriots Spirit Day, when she said "I don't remember any Patriot Spirit Days when I was in grade school!". Here's my thoughts on the upcoming game:

  • It's going to be a blow out. Cold, Hard, Football Facts calls it the Mismatch of the Century. The weather is going to be good and the Patriots and Tom Brady don't miss when the wind isn't messing with the football.
  • Although, as a Patriot fan, I should know better than anyone that a 14 point underdog can win the Super Bowl, as the 2001 Pats team upset "The Greatest Show On Turf", the St. Louis Rams, in Super Bowl XXXVI. But I know Bill Belichick, and Tom Coughlin is no Bill Belichick! And Belichick is no Mike Martz.
  • The rout should be on if the Pats get the kickoff, as they scored on nearly every possession in the Giants "moral victory" in Week 17. And I don't see the Giants playing from behind very well.
  • The only way I could see the Giants winning is if they score on special teams (like they did during Week 17 on a short kickoff).
  • My favorite quote so far this media circus was Wes Welker's answer to the question "What's the difference between New England and Miami?" - "Weather, Women and Wins".
  • My second favorite quote was Tom Brady's response when told the Giant's Plaxico Burress predicted a Giants win, 24-17:
    • "We're only going to score 17 points?" Brady said with a smile. "Does Plaxico play defense? I wish he said 45-42, or something like that."
  • One reason why I don't think the Patriots will be overconfident is that they are very serious about the undefeated season. It brings an added focus to the game, one they might have missed had they been, say, 14-2. At this point in the season, I don't see them letting such a remarkable feat slip through their hands due to a lack of concentration.


I'm pumped and excited and I have my Super Bowl XLII sweatshirt already. I need to buy some more for the rest of the family. I think we'll let the girls stay up for the entire game this year. We made them go to bed at halftime during Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles.

It sure is a grand time to be a New England sports fanatic!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2008 is the previous archive.

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