Month: February 2010

Reinvention

Every now and then you just have to do something different. Whether that be just driving to work a different way, listening to different music, or wearing socks on your hands, it’s important that you change it up every now and then. Today I set out to do just that, and I bought myself a handful of new shirts. You may be asking, “Why is it so different that you bought shirts?” To which I will reply, “They have stripes on them!”

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of solid colors. I wear pretty much navy blue, green, sometimes red, green, and orange. They are simple colors that are somewhat bright and easy to match with my khaki pants. However, I’ve decided that I really need to change up my style because I was getting pretty bored of picking out the same old shirts week after week. I went  out on a limb today while Steph and I were at Kohl’s registering, and I picked up some really looking shirts. She really picked out most of them, I just approved. I will definitely take the credit for the orange and blue one though, because I thought about Auburn University colors and HAD to have it. I’m very proud of myself.

I usually have a major anxiety problem when it comes to shopping for new clothes. I always freak out and I can’t even begin to explain why. I’m just not comfortable shopping for clothes. I never have been. I do better in department stores than I do in places like The Gap though, and I’m not really sure why. I’ve never identified myself with a brand and I feel like shopping at the store might very well do that to me. It really lingers on from my days as a staunch opponent to brand shopping. Just a kick-back to my punk rock days I suppose. I’ve never really have been able to get over it, for unexplained reasons, and I’m unsure that I ever will. I did feel pretty good after getting through a shopping session and actually buying something.

Maybe all of it really comes from a slight social anxiety disorder that I have. Which you wouldn’t think I would have seeing as I host a podcast weekly with dozens of listeners and occasional call-ins. I only really get nervous when I’m put in a situation that I don’t feel that I’m in control of. This is why I have problems calling people on the phone, or approaching people in a store. I really need to get over this soon.

Well, thanks for reading a blog post that turned from simple excitement over a few new shirts into a self-examination of my social issues. Blogging is incredibly therapeutic! By the way, the new Alkaline Trio cd “This Addiction” is FANTASTIC!

A Little Less Conversation

I just watched 80’s star Dolph Lundgren sing an Elvis song and smash a bunch of stuff on some crazy show. Where the hey has he been?!

So I started to neglect the blog again, but here I am to save this sinking ship and bring it back on course. Freaking Xbox is stealing my soul! So let me kick off this sucker. I love Jeopardy!

Steph and I are constantly being told that we are an old, married couple and I’m starting to wonder if it’s true. Now I’m not saying that we don’t go out and have a blast, but we do have some “old people tendencies.” One of the things that we constantly get harassed about is our love for the oldest block of television the world has ever known: Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Yes, we sit down on the couch, eat our dinner, and proceed to question answers with the rest of senior America. I don’t know what it is about that show that gets me, but I just LOVE trivia and you just don’t run into questions like these on a daily basis in your regular life. These answers can only be found at 7pm Eastern when all the 95 year old people are getting ready to fall asleep…or maybe it helps them fall asleep, I can’t really decide. Actually, I don’t think they need a whole lot of help O_o

I guess I honestly just feel smarter when I sit around and question the answers with my hero, Alex Trebek. I can go through an entire day without feeling an ounce of genius burst from my head, but when I look at those blue squares and I can keep up with the contestants, my ego is saved. Maybe that’s what I do this for. I do it just to make myself feel a little better. There’s nothing wrong with that is there? I’m 24 and I like to sit around and watch Jeopardy! I am not ashamed of how I spend my evening. I could be sitting around looking for the next place to score some hookers and blow, but that is NOT the case! I’m sitting with my amazing fiancee watching Jeopardy. I think that’s something to be proud of.

Wow, this post is a rambling mess. I think the best thing I can do now is just put the keyboard away and find something else to do for a bit. For tomorrow, I promise a post with substance!

Winter Can Bite Me

It’s been a long, hard, harsh Winter and I think I’m ready for it to die in a fire. Honestly, how much snow can one state get?! We had a mini-blizzard, then more snow on top of that, then maybe a day with light flurries, and today it was snowing like crazy on my way home from work. I would LOVE to be able to use the cruise control in my car again. That would be so very nice.

I think it hasn’t stopped snowing for the last two weeks, and that really is enough to drive somebody crazy. I miss the sun. I think I know how Superman feels when the clouds block the Sun all day. I bet he gets to feeling sluggish at work as “mild mannered Clark Kent.” This got me to thinking that maybe Superman would benefit from some Vitamin D supplements. Who knows? Maybe all he really needs is some good old fashioned Vitamin D, but he never put together the pieces. Maybe a supplement would make him even stronger than he is, or even manifest a new power that he didn’t even know he had. Now that would be an interesting turn of events. I guess DC could turn him into some kind of health nut, but then again that would be a really screwed up thing to do to the Man o’ Steel.

I’ve been taking some of those Vitamin D supplements for the last few days, and I think they are helping to cheer me up a bit. For those of you who aren’t exactly “in the know,” Vitamin D is what the sun delivers through its amazing rays that you absorb whenever you are out in it. It screws with your seratonin levels and can actually have a “cheering up” effect on you. I have no idea how much this stuff is helping, or if it’s helping at all, but I’m not against the placebo effect. If my brain thinks it’s working and therefore decides that I’m happier, then that works for me. I’m not that picky. I would really love to actually see the sun though. I miss it a lot. I think I remember it being yellow but I can’t be sure. The sky is still blue isn’t it?

So, yeah, I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that the Winter is bumming me out. I’ve had fairly stressful drives to work everyday due to the potential for ice, and it’s dark by the time I get home. Even if the sun did come out I wouldn’t get to see it because I work in an office with no windows. Crap, I’m making myself bummed again. I know the Winter is coming to an end soon, it’s just not soon enough.

Xbox, How I Missed Thee

This post is going to kind of work as a supplement to my “Broken Addiction” post from a few days ago. Among the things I mentioned that I have time to do now, considering I no longer have to think about WoW, is the ability to enjoy some other games. I’ve been playing the crap out of “Dragon Age: Origins,” but I decided that I should give some other stuff a try too. So I finally picked up “Assassin’s Creed II” and started digging into that. This is also from some pressure from Lando to play it because it’s his game and I’m sure he’ll want it back soon.

This game is so very awesome so far! The original “Assassin’s Creed” was a fantastic game but it also had a lot of shortcomings that I believe they fixed in this one. The old game got pretty repetitive pretty fast, which was really unfortunate because they put an awful lot of work into the style. The guys at Ubisoft, the company that developed the game, said that they just didn’t have as much time to flesh out the content as they really wanted. They spent tons of time working out the game engine, which explains the excellent combat and free-running system, but didn’t have time to really give you a whole lot to do with it. All of that changed with “Assassin’s Creed II.” They already had the framework done so they spent a few years really fleshing out content and adding some features. More missions, more climbing, SWIMMING, and plenty of other stuff has been added to make this game so very enjoyable. Loving it so far.

So I dug into Assassin’s Creed but I also downloaded a couple demos of some games that I’m interested in playing. One of those is “Dante’s Inferno.” There is a ton of controversy surrounding this game, and I totally understand why. Having played through the first couple scenes, you get a really good grasp on just what a “Mature” rating can mean in a game. There’s boobs within the first 10 minutes! BOOBS in a game! Who would have thought? It’s about time if you ask me. The ESRB, the ratings board for games, is way too hung up on nudity when they are willing to let somebody entrails me ripped out and spread across the floor without even a blink. This is a fundamental problem in America that I think needs fixed. I’d rather kids be shown a boob or two than some poor guys head getting ripped off, spit on, and then shoved up his rear. Anyway, I’m going way off topic. This game is so very gruesome. It’s got a quick, button mashing style of gameplay which I really dig. A lot of people have compared it to “God of War”, which I actually can’t do because I’ve never played that game. The closest thing I could think of to it is “Ninja Gaiden.” Yes, I have to go back that far in order to find a game in my memory with a combat system similar enough. Clearly I don’t play enough games.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a crazy romp through Hell where you slash the crap out of demons and have to deal with the sins you committed in your life all to save your wife who was struck down and taken straight to Hell so very unjustly. There, done! The guys who made it based it on “The Divine Comedy,” which I’ve never read because it’s all Old English and probably way over my head anyway. Kind of like reading the original “Beowulf.” It’s just not something I’m going to run out and do, although I’m sure the original story is fantastic. Somebody tell it to me someday.

So the next big adventure for my Xbox after I finish “Assassin’s Creed II” will hopefully be “Army of Two: The 40th Day.” Steph and I played the original together and have never had so much fun with a console game. I love marrying a girl who is into video games. She’s amazing, our future is going to be so very grand .

In Desperate Need of Vitamin D, But This Will Have To Do

There has been a significant lack of sunshine in the Northeast part of the US for the past MONTH, and I am definitely needing some valuable vitamin D. I think I know what Superman feels like when his powers have been sapped from being off planet too long. It’s been snowing here for the past 2 weeks and hasn’t really let up much at all. The sun has had about 5 minutes to poke through the never-ending overcast that continues to blanket the state, and it looks like there is no end in sight. Spring can’t get here soon enough.

Today IS Valentine’s Day though! It’s a day to spend with your loved ones, whether that be a significant other or not, and just appreciate who each other is. I celebrated Valentine’s Day yesterday with Steph up in Pittsburgh where we registered for some wedding gifts and had an awesome time at the Melting Pot stuffing our faces until they had to roll us out. It was snowy up there too, but we spent most of our time inside picking through all the kitchen stuff at Macy’s and choosing our china patterns and crystal. I’ve never had china before so I didn’t really know a whole lot about it, but Steph explained it all to me. I also got to use the little scanner thing they give you to pick out the stuff you want. Now THAT was fun. It was running Windows Mobile, which surprised me. I know, I’m a nerd.

Then, on top of all that Valentine’s Day awesomeness, Angels & Airwaves went off and released their new album for free for the masses! I know this has been done before, but this time it was a band that I’m actually really into. It’s amazing too! Tom Delonge and his crew have done it again. This one is called “Love” and it’s clear through the album that he firmly believes that love is the answer to everything. He’s right. I love that he released it on Valentine’s Day too. I donated a few bucks to them because everybody who makes something this awesome deserves some compensation, and I hope that a lot of other people donated too. These guys work hard to bring us the music we want, and at least this way we know that our money is going straight to them and not into the pockets of some crooked record producer at the top of a shiny tower. He’s probably petting a cat and laughing sinisterly too. Don’t give your money to that.

Anyway, I’m so freaking tired right now and I can’t figure out why. Maybe some Vitamin D supplements will help with my happy, but I still don’t think it’s a substitute for real live sunshine. That would be nice.

Touch Me

Okay, before you freak out over the title of this post, I’m talking about computers with touch surfaces. Got your attention though didn’t I?

I just read one of the coolest articles about computer and technology that I’ve read in a while. It was all about revolutionizing table-top gaming. That’s right, D&D with computers! This is all made possible by none other than Microsoft: the tech company that we all love to hate. A year or two ago, Microsoft announced a computer that looks a whole lot like a coffee table, and it was called Surface. We all thought it would be cool because they showed off how you could potentially split up a check at a restaurant, compare cell phone features, and various other things by doing nothing but sitting the objects on the table and letting Surface figure out what they are. Apply that to Dungeons and Dragons and you may very well have a sweet dynamic campaign map.

If you’ve never played D&D before then this may not be that interesting to you, but if you are a table top gamer, then this is going to be of great interest. Imagine that you sit down to play a game with your miniatures and your books, but you don’t have to draw out the maps by hand or guess whether somebody is in line of sight by looking at a bunch of squares. You can just put your pieces on Surface, let it show you the piece of the map that is visible from your characters point of view, and even choose an action or attack straight from the table! Now you can even roll dice simply by touch and throwing a virtual D20 (20-sided die for you non-nerds) across the table. I would definitely want my physical dice, but the option is totally there for people who may not have any.

This system has made so much possible for the world of table-top gaming. Imagine just having to click a button if you want to bring up a Monopoly board, or play a quick game of clue. You don’t have to go dig through your closet and attempt to find all the pieces; they will just be there when you need them. Everything is LITERALLY right at your fingertips.

There is no telling how much Surface is really going to cost for us casual consumers, but it may be very well worth it to have a fun, interactive coffee table for doing any number of things. This D&D scenario is most of the reason that I decided an iPad might not be a bad device to have. I just like the idea of having all of the D&D books right at my fingertips if I need it without having to lug around 10 pounds of books, if not more. Believe me, I understand the value of a printed book. I think it is SO very necessary that we have a physical record of everything. You never know when a massive EMP is going to come and blow out every hard drive on the planet. I don’t see it coming soon, but it very well may. Look at all the data we lost when the Library at Alexandria burned. Hundreds of years of human knowledge lost in a day. We need to avoid that. Copies, copies, and more copies need to be made of everything, and I don’t mean simply digital.

I’m excited about what touch computing can bring to the way we interact with technology. Do I think it is perfect for every application? Not at all. But I think that it will open some doors to some pretty awesome things that we wouldn’t be able to do with traditional interface systems. This is awesome stuff to think about, and I’m so glad to live in the time that we do. This next decade is going to be so cool.

Reading With My Ears

I don’t know about you guys, but in this culture where we have less and less time to do anything, one of the things I miss the most is having time to sit down and read a book. Between the podcasting, guitar playing, tv series watching, and social networking, I get may be 30 minutes to read before I go to bed at night. This is an awesome time to do it, but I barely have time to dig into a chapter and really zone out with the book. That’s where Audible.com comes in.

I picked up a subscription with Audible.com and it has changed the way that I “read” books. Ash, of H&H fame, was giving me crap tonight about listening to books because I’ve “forgotten how to read.” I totally remember how to read, but I’ve just found a way to enjoy books without having to completely focus. I just don’t have time to sit down and read books like  I used to, so listening to them is a perfect substitute. I’m still imagining everything in the book just like I would if I was reading it. I just get to read in the car…while I’m driving! It’s so awesome to actually enjoy a book while doing something would normally not be able to do while reading. Have you ever seen somebody reading while they drive? They are NOT good multi-taskers!

So if you are like me and just don’t have time to enjoy books on your couch with your eyes, give your ears a try. It’s just as fun, as long as the person reading doesn’t sound like Gilbert Gottfried. That could be a little much. If you want to try Audible, sign up here to pick up a free audiobook for yourself!

Broken Addiction

I am happy to say that for the last 3 months I have been completely World of Warcraft free! That’s right! I haven’t logged on a single time for anything, and I can’t be more happy about it. I know a lot of you are probably thinking, “Why is that such a big deal? Video games are dumb,” but I don’t think you understand this game. World of Warcraft has over 11 million people playing and is one of the most successful, long-running Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games of all time. There are so many people that are addicted to this game, it’s ridiculous. People in China have died in coffee shops from playing too much…well that and not drinking water.

I played on and off for about for 4 years or so, but finally got into it pretty hardcore last year. I was playing almost every night, and making time to play so that I could join my buds in slaying the evil beasts of Azeroth. This isn’t all bad, but when it costs 15 bucks a month and you know you could be doing other things, it can be an issue. I’m all for playing video games and having a blast. I mean, look at my last post about Dragon Age. But, since quitting WoW, I was able to get my Linux+ certification and I’m well on my way to Security+ as well. I’m all for earning fun virtual stuff, but earning real life stuff is so much more satisfying.

I finally deleted the game completely off my computer about a month ago in hopes that it would never return. I had a blast playing it, but now I don’t miss it at all. Even when I think about the upcoming expansion, it really doesn’t get me too excited for the game. I’m definitely going to pick up something new in the future but for now I’m just enjoying some extra time to blog and enjoy some of my other hobbies… at least until Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out.

Synergized!

I’m just going to come right out and say it:

The internet is getting freaking ridiculous!

I mean, honestly, how many different social networking, news commenting, bookmarking, content distribution web sites does one internet need?! I’m sure by now that most of you who use a Gmail account have noticed that Google has opted you into a new service it has called Buzz. This is not going to be a “Buzz hating” post, because I actually think the service is kind of neat. My problem is that Buzz is just another cog in this ridiculous machine that does the same thing as some other service and even interconnects with that same service. Do we really need another status updating service to keep track of?

I am one of the many highly connected people that live and work on the internet. I use Twitter, Blippy, gdgt, Google Wave, Facebook, and I was even a member of Pownce when it was still around. All of these different services can pretty much interconnect with each other in one way or another. The whole “what are you doing?” concept that Twitter came up with is now invading every facet of our internet lives. Some people update Facebook which updates Twitter. I like to update Twitter which updates Facebook. Now we’ve got Buzz which can update Twitter or receive updates from Twitter. This post is way too hard to write O_o.

I guess the main thing I’m getting to is, how much is too much? I really only bother with Twitter for the most part and I have it update every other connected service. I guess I do that because that is all Twitter is made for. It’s the purpose of the service. Whereas Facebook and Buzz have other things they can do. Why would you want to use another service to update Twitter? It just doesn’t make sense. I just don’t know if I can keep up with an additional service for updated what I’m doing or what I’m thinking about at the time. It’s a social stream overload. I want to participate in all of these new tools, but I don’t know if I can keep up with them all!

Morality Games

My big addiction for the past few days has been a wonderful little Xbox 360 game called “Dragon Age: Origins.” There is a good chance that if you are a gamer in any way shape or form that you’ve either played it or at least know someone who has. This game amazes me. I finally beat it the other day after about 40 hours of gameplay. To sum it up, it’s a game where you play a strapping young hero who gets pulled into an elite army of “Grey Wardens.” These guys are responsible for taking down an army of “Darkspawn.” These evil beasts descend from mages who tried to break into heaven and “The Maker” was all like, “heck no! Get out o’ my house!” So he cursed them and sent them back to earth distorted and monstrous, just like they were inside. Every so often there is a “Blight” where these Darkspawn come back and attempt to kill EVERYONE. In true RPG tradition, you are the only one who can save the world.

The real interesting thing about this game is the morality engine they use to gauge the choices you make as you interact with the team mates you find, and the world around you. Every one of your team mates has a different idea of what kind of hero you should be. Some think you should stand for all that is right, other’s want you to go for money, and some just want you to shrug off everyone and be as ruthless as possible. I played through my first time being as good as I could be. I helped out everyone who needed it and did it all with honor. I never asked for a thing in return. The fun thing about this is that it didn’t turn out as awesome as one would think. Believe it or not, sometimes making the right choice can really cause some poor consequences. By the end of the game, I’d lost two people I care about, and I’m pretty sure an entire nation of dwarves hates my guts. Keep in mind this all seemed well and fine while I was making these choices throughout the game.

What makes this game different is that there is no “black and white” morality. You make the best decisions you know how to, but you still have to deal with some great or sometimes really gnarly consequences. After beating the game trying to play the upright enforcer of law and order, I decided that I wanted to give it a go at being as utterly ruthless as I could possibly be. One of the first opportunities I had to be evil, and I mean REALLY evil, was when my bride to be, cousin, and her friend were all kidnapped by human diplomats who wanted to do HORRIBLE things to them. This is a very dark game by the way. So I wander into the castle to save them, because, hey, even evil heroes have standards. I was given the opportunity to walk away from the whole situation for 40 gold (very hard to come by at early levels), but I couldn’t save the women. The intense part of this is that my cousin was on the floor crying for help. How can you walk away from that?! What the heck kind of person do you have to be to leave a family member crying on the floor of some horny diplomat’s palace!? I realized then and there, that I could NOT be evil in this game. This game puts you in too many extreme situations to lean completely to the dark side. I found myself caring for these characters even though I know good and well that they aren’t real.

Bioware, the game’s developer, has done an amazing job at making you feel the weight of each and every decision you make. Sometimes no choice seems right, or you just don’t know which choice is the best. There are very few clear cut scenarios in this game where you can say this is right, or that is wrong. I LOVE IT! I’m going to attempt to be an evil dude, but thus far I’m failing pretty bad. I may have to settle for snarky A-hole with a tender, caring soul. Kind of like Dr. House.