Sunday, September 26, 2010

The coming zombie apocalypse

When we were visiting family in Utah after dropping of child number 2 at college, one of my brothers-in-law introduced us to the game Zombies!!! by Twilight Creations.

It’s the kind of game that you see played in obscure game shops where people who live in their mom’s basement sell pewter figures of elves and knights. Except – wait for it – it is both playable and fun for normal people who don’t even own a 20 sided die.

It is easy to learn, doesn’t take forever to play, you don’t have to look up anything in obscure tables of hit damage and it has this clever mechanic of building the game board through random draws that makes it different each time you play. To top it off, as you can see by the examples below, the art style is kind of Atomic Ranch retro-chic. 



If you get the chance, and don’t mind spending/blowing/investing $30 on a board game, pick up Zombies!!! I think you’ll enjoy it. There are also many add-ons available, as well as packs of additional plastic zombies.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

P.F. Changs wishes you “good fortune”

Speaking of my trophy wife, I had not been out on any kind of a date with her in awhile. It is pretty sad to leave our youngest daughter home alone with the dog while we go out. But, alas, it must be done.

We tried to find a movie, but, holy cow, are we in some sort of major climate change induced movie drought? Are Hollywood leftists so busy enjoying the new socialism that they don’t have time for work?

So, anyway, we went to P. F. Chang’s in Bellevue Square. I believe I am the last person on earth who had not yet eaten there, so it was fun.
The food was delicious. We had the lemon chicken, cashew-almond chicken, and orange peel chicken. Yes, yes. Somehow we ended up with all chicken dishes. But it was fab nonetheless.

At the end of the meal, we got our fortune cookies and this was mine:fortune I’ll let you know how that goes…

My Kindle

Sometimes, you just need to buy a gadget of some sort.

Recently, I slaked my gadget-lust by buying a new Kindle.

Then, before it came, I decided I didn’t want it, but I was too late to cancel it. No worries, the helpful Amazonian said, just refuse delivery when it shows up. I steadfastly determined to return the Kindle unopened.
Then it came and I was bored and wanted to check it out. “I’ll just open it,” I thought, “I can still send it back. I’ll just have to pay the shipping.” 
Then, after a few hours of playing with it, my wife helped me decide we were keeping it.

So now I have a Kindle.


Here's why it is cool...
1. Battery life. It has been a long time since I’ve had an electronic anything that could go weeks without recharging. That is very cool indeed.
2. Connectivity. Mine is the 3G+WiFi Kindle. Honestly, if I were advising someone, I’d probably say the WiFi alone is enough. On the one hand, it is only a $50 difference, but on the other that is 1/4 of the price of the thing. The idea of sitting in some place that doesn’t have WiFi somewhere and buying a book instantly is very cool. But seriously, how far is anyone from a WiFi hotspot these days?  
3. Size. This thing is super thin and light. The screen is clearly the limiting factor it making it any smaller now.
4. Screen. About that screen…it is GORGEOUS. Monochrome, but incredibly sharp and readable. More clear than actual ink on paper in the same lighting. After looking at LCD screens for so many years, this is truly a delight for the eyes.
5. Overall gadget factor. The “experimental” web browser is actually pretty good these days. There are some amusing games. Being able to browse books anywhere and read samples of them is very very cool.

Here's why it is lame...
1. Book price. Some books are actually more expensive on Kindle than on paper. Even the ones that aren’t are often quite expensive. For example, Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics is about $26 in hardback – and about $21 on Kindle. When you consider that the eBook doesn’t need costly transportation, warehousing, or actual printing. And that when you buy an eBook, you can never sell it to someone else or give it away or donate it to a library, that is just not cheap enough. And reading on a device, even one as great as a Kindle, is still a second-rate experience compared to the actual book. Amazon blames the publishers, and clearly Amazon can’t set the prices themselves, but I believe they could pressure the publishers to see the light on this in the same way that Apple did with music. Amazon is really the main player in consumer eBooks and I don’t see that changing much – even with Apple coming into it. (n.b. there are lots of free books available – classics and such, but you can only read so much of that.)
2. Screen. Yeah, about that screen…e-ink takes a moment to refresh so you get a brief flash when you turn the page. I think that is super annoying even though it is much improved from previous Kindle generations. It is also very slow and that makes any kind of reasonable gaming or truly good web browsing out of the question.
3. I keep trying to touch the screen. I’m not an idiot, it is just every device for the last decade has taught me to touch the screen. I am forever reaching up to touch the screen.
4. Community of Jerks. I went on to the Amazon discussion boards to talk about the Kindle with some owners. Turns out they are pretty much jerks. Very defensive about any questioning of the product’s superiority and of “Mr. Jeff Bezos” (who, I’m told, knows more about business than I possibly could so I shouldn’t be asking questions).

I considered an iPad, but they are a serious purchase, not a boredom purchase. Plus after seeing one in action, I'm not impressed. Big, slow, clunky would be my description. Like a phone that is too big and you can't talk on anyway.
I considered a netbook, but they are good small laptops, not good things to read on.

So a Kindle it is for now. It doesn’t suck. Just be prepared for the book prices … and that annoying screen refresh flash.


I'm not a Halo guy.
Halo-_Reach_box_art But this is the last Bungie Halo, so I thought I'd make an exception.
When Reach came out, I had to go to the Company Store to wait in line for 2 hours to get a Limited Edition for my nephews. Ironically, it was at the same time my free copy was being handed out at the office.
I decided to pick up the Limited Edition for myself. I'm not a Halo guy, but the production values of this Limited Edition - the journal really - piqued my interest.
I liked Halo Wars and that kind of introduced me to the universe. Then I downloaded the original Halo from Xbox Originals on Live and that was pretty enjoyable.
I'd briefly played Halo 2, Halo 3, and ODST, but the combination of in-game language and a story that didn't grab me failed to hook me.
I was blown away by Reach.
First of all, the graphics are much better - especially on the characters.
Second, it is very "open". You feel like you can wander anywhere and you can drive ANYTHING - Warthog? Of course. Mongoose? Sure. Forklift? Utility truck? YES! Hop on in. It may not be useful, but it is really fun.
Finally, the story was great. The ending and post credit ending were awesome. I actually felt some emotion for the story at the end.
It seemed a little brief for such a long awaited game, but the trend seems to be to focus on the quality of experience rather than the duration of it. I’ll now pause while you insert your own jokes here.

All in all, well played Bungie. Well played.

How I Spent My Mid-Life Crisis

When some men turn 40, they might buy a sports car, others change jobs in some dramatic way, and still others decide it is time for a trophy wife.
In my case, the Spyder is still OK (though not as OK as it used to be), I have a great job on Xbox, and I've had my trophy wife for 23 years what to do?

logo_imgHow about I join the Army?
It wasn't quite as spur of the moment as all that. I spent a year losing 80 pounds and getting into shape, then many more months of negotiation and being poked and prodded in various ways.toy_soldiers Now here I am, once again a sergeant, but this time in the Army Reserve. Specifically, Company A, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Lewis. Hoo-ah! <ahem>
My overall goal is a commission, but I was rejected (and yes, it was as painful as it sounds) in my first run through the Direct Commissioning process as a civilian, so I went back in at my prior rank and will try that again next year.
(As it turns out, there are a bunch of budgetary reasons about why it is bad to apply for a direct commission in the Spring phase rather than the Fall phase. Would have been good if someone had clued me into that.)
In the meantime, I'll be going to Warrior Transition Course (WTC) on October 4. This is where people from other services learn to be Army men. I was originally scheduled for December 28, then they canceled that class and were going to move me to November 3, finally settling on October 4 - with 2 week's notice!
So if you are looking for me in October, I’ll be somewhere around here…

Frankly, I'm both excited and nervous. Excited for the M16, M240, grenade and AT4 experience. Nervous because the key to doing well in these kinds of situations is to just do exactly what you're told without thinking about it - which is a lot harder when you are 42 than when you are 17. It's only 5 weeks - what could go wrong?
So I've been scrambling around making sure everything is arranged. I've put in my military leave of absence at work - so they will keep paying me (thanks Microsoft, couldn't do this without that) and that I've handed off important household affairs to my ever-patient and enduring spouse - like management of the Netflix queue.
No sooner did they spring the new date on me than I got these aches and pains - like you get in the first half mile of a run as your body tries to talk you out of running. Those have passed. I am afraid of getting sick before I go, so I'm pounding vitamins.

So off we go, again, into the wild blue yonder…(crap, I’ve messed up already)