Today is a perfect example of how this can be a good thing. I was going to go for a ride on my road bike today, and was all set to repeat the same 43 mile route I did earlier in the month. However, I thought it would be cool to hit 20,000 feet of elevation gain for the month of March and the 43 mile route would have left me a few hundred feet short. So, because of my fondness for nice round numbers I decided to tackle the climb on Tolt Hill Road (about 470 feet in 1.1 miles) twice. I then added the Tokul to Mill Pond loop to get a little more climbing in so as to not leave any doubt about hitting the mark. Wound up riding 50.2 miles with a total of 2,550 feet of climbing. The extra climbing was good for my training and really didn't even hurt that much, and I hit my non-important nice round number.
Running - 53.1 miles
Mountain Biking - 124.2 miles
Road Biking - 159.0 miles
Total Time in Motion - 33 hours, 28 minutes
Total Elevation Gain - 20,070 feet
Worked Out 24 of 31 Days in March
Nearly all of the running was done on trails. Roughly 30 miles of the road bike mileage was done on a trainer on account of the weather. Time in Motion is exactly what it says and does not account for time spent milling around and waiting for people during group runs and rides.
In short, March went well. It was my first full month back in training (only worked out about 9 times in February) and it feels good to be easing back into things with a bit more seriousness. Also, what feels great, is that I'm down to 186 pounds. I've been hovering around 194 pounds for most of the past 3 years and want to get back to 178 ultimately. So far so good.
Heading out to Whidbey Island to go mountain biking and camping over the weekend. Hopefully this nice weather holds. Gotta keep this momentum going forward. Have a good weekend!
Want to know how great? Read this non-review, review at GamersWithJobs.com. It's actually worth reading even if you're not interested in the game because it's just a fine piece of writing and also will give you insight into how engrossing a single-player game can still be.
Costa Rica is a very Catholic nation and Easter is not just a big deal, but a HUGE deal. It's very common for Costa Rican families to take the entire week off and travel to many of the same National Parks that the foreign tourists come to see. So not only will I be competing with Spring Breakers and family vacationers for accomodations, but also the Ticos as well. I've already learned that the lodge/hostel near the summit of Mount Chirripo is booked solid through the end of the month and that there is little chance of me getting a permit to hike very high up on the mountain. I can hope, or I can bandit it, but it's tent camping isn't permitted in the park and it wouldn't be safe to get caught too high on the mountain late in the day with nowhere to find shelter.
I'm trying to stay excited by reminding myself that our previous trip there was during the week of Christmas and that the crush of tourists didn't feel that suffocating, but I'm losing my enthusiasm by the minute. There was a reason why Dan was getting married on the 19th -- so we wouldn't be competing with the Easter travellers.
I can't believe I forgot that.
But most importantly, I needed to come up with driving routes and check distances. Being that I'll be flying into Liberia (northwestern corner of the country), I decided to rule out visiting the southern Carribean coast. Instead, I'll head south along the Pacific coast towards the town of Quepos. This will let me visit the Carara Biological Reserve (world-renowned scarlet macaw nesting ground) and Maneul Antonio National Park (pristine beaches, jungle hikes, and tons of wildlife). This will give me time to confirm a reservation at the Summit Lodge on the shoulder of Mount Chirripo, the task that pushed the need for some sort of plans.
With some luck and cooperation from the weather Gods, I'll climb the 12,330 ft Mount Chirripo. This will be a nice way to do some fast hiking and climbing through a host of environments. It's a 12 mile climb, so I'll hopefully spend two nights in the Summit Lodge, thus allowing plenty of time to hike the side trails to the glacial lakes and to make the push to the true summit, the second highest point in Central America. Apparently, the climb is all about the weather and not technical in nature. But the chance to stand atop a mountain and view the width of the Central American continent from the Carribean to the Pacific in one spot is too much to pass up.
If all goes well, I'll return to Tamarindo on Sunday and just hang out on the beach relaxing. Maybe I'll pop in on the innkeepers we stayed with a couple years ago and see if they remember me. And before I know it, Monday will come and Kristin and my friends will arrive, and my body will be weary enough that the comforts of an all-inclusive resort will sound pretty alluring.
There are two reasons, actually. The first is that I never know how long it will be before I'm asked to get started on something. There have been times when I expected a two week break and woke to the sound of the UPS man ringing my doorbell. Another game to start on. This, of course, could be handled easily however by simply coming home early if I had to. The second reason why I haven't done any big trips like that during my time off is because of Kristin. There is the fact that Kristin has a career with a lot of responsibility and limited vacation time getting in the way. And there is also the fact that I wouldn't want to travel without her. With the risk of being overly sentimental, she truly is my best friend and I really don't have any interest in, say, travelling through New Zealand without her. I'd miss her like mad after two days.
So this presents a bit of a quandary for me. For starters, I really want to start laying some bricks for an eventual career as a travel writer later in life. And even if that doesn't come about, I don't want to be 40 years old, stuck behind some desk, kicking myself for not doing more when I had the opportunity. Most people do not encounter such periods of paid-vacation that I currently enjoy (I make up for it with 90-hour weeks throughout the fall months) and it really is a waste to not do more with it. Kristin fully understands this and thinks that while she'll be jealous if I go anywhere without her, it's just too good of a situation to not take advantage of.
So I'm going to.
Ten of us are travelling to Costa Rica the day after Easter for a friend's wedding, but after a long talk about this last night, I decided to change my airline ticket to depart on the 12th instead of the 17th. It's only an extra five days, but it will give me a taste of what it's like to travel solo in a foreign, non-English-speaking country. And although I will undoubtedly miss Kristin and wish she were with me, knowing that she'll be arriving alongside many of my best friends just a few days later will be comforting.
So, I'll arrive in Liberia, CR around noon on April 12th. I'm going to rent a small SUV -- hopefully the same Daihatsu truck I rented last time -- and I'm going to drive... someplace. I'm not making plans. I have a few ideas of places where I want to go, but I refuse to make an itinerary. The following week will be spent in an all-inclusive resort spot, the types of places I don't like to go anywhere near, so I have five days to camp on beaches, hike through the jungle, drive alongside some of the world's most notorious motorists, and just lie in a hammock and read a book. No plans. Little money. And no cell phone. The only must is that I'm back in Liberia by noon on the 17th.
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How you managed to correctly pick the Final Four in the Yahoo NCAA Tournament Pick 'Em challenge is beyond me. I can understand picking UCLA, LSU, and Florida. But George Mason? You actually predicted them to make their way out of the most difficult bracket in the tournament? An 11-seed? You want to know how many of the million-plus people doing Yahoo's contest actually picked George Mason to advance to the Final Four? Statistically, according to Yahoo's numbers, 0.0%. That's how many. Obviously a few did. And you were one of them. But nobody else as far as I can tell also picked the others correctly as well.
You are a March Madness God.
In case you're wondering, I'm currently ranked 866,509 and am only beating 33% of the people participating. I can't score any more points so I have nowhere to go but down.
With the game installed, I right away headed to the game's official website to see if there had been any patches released. There was one, a small 1.4 megabyte file that fixed a couple issues the game had at launch, but nothing serious. The site also had a "Tips and Tricks" link and being that I don't expect to have a lot of time to spend with the game I thought I'd check it out to see if I can learn some good pointers for starting out. Instead, I found this:
"As soon as Robin Hood - The Legend of Sherwood is out, you will find masses of tips and tricks on this page."
It's never a good sign when the game has been out for 4 years and the developers still hadn't found it necessary to update the website. Although I take comfort in knowing that I did enjoy the demo and that the game has an aggregate score of 80% on GameRankings.com, the fact that there was such little interest in the game that there was no call for this tips/tricks page to ever be updated is discouraging.
Then again, the game did only cost five bucks. What did I expect?
Our league has 12 players in it, 9 of which were in a condo in NJ, another guy online in Chicago, me in Washington, and yet another in Grenada. I don't know the dude, but I'm guessing he's military. My friends back in NJ take care of the dice rolling to see who goes first and, as luck would have it, my anonymous dice roller through me a 21 and I got the first pick in the draft. While taking A-Rod first overall was a no-brainer, and rather exciting, having to watch another 22 players come off the board before I can pick again really sucks. It's not so bad for my team, but it just gets boring having to wait so long.
Anyway, without further ado, here's my 22 picks. When applicable, I put the average round that player had been drafted in parentheses based on the tens of thousands of other Yahoo drafts that have already taken place.
- Alex Rodridguez, 3B (1.0)
- Andruw Jones, OF (2.4)
- Roy Oswalt, SP (2.4)
- Jeff Kent, 2B (3.2)
- Scott Podsednik, OF (5.7)
- Mark Buehrle, SP (6.3)
- Eddie Guardado, RP (8.6)
- Joe Mauer, C (5.5)
- Barry Zito, SP (7.3)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (6.9)
- Jose Valverde, RP (13.5)
- Freddy Garcia, SP (9.4)
- Adrian Beltre, 3B (13.4)
- Jason Lane, OF (13.4)
- Justin Morneau, 1B (14.7)
- John Garland, SP
- Willy Mo Pena, OF
- Ambiorix Burgos, RP
- Gustavo Chacin, SP
- Chriss Duffy, OF
- Erik Bedard, SP
- Luis Gonzalez, Util
Looking at the draft, there's a couple things that jump right out at me. First of all, I didn't intend to draft three-fifths of the White Sox starting rotation and no, I don't believe they'll be as dominant this year as they were last year. Garland had good numbers and signs of improvement, but for some reason I thought he was with the Twins and not with the White Sox. My bad.
The second obvious possible uh-oh is that I have two third basemen. Well, that was intentional. Beltre was still available in the 13th round and should he get used to AL pitching and playing in Seattle, he could bounce back and prove to be a steal at that spot. And our league plays with a Util slot that is open to any position player so while he won't be bumping A-Rod from my third base position, he will definitely spend time in my starting lineup. Unless of course he repeats his miserable 2005 performance.
Also, it looks as if I may have reached on Scott Podsednik in the 5th round. I realize that's where most drafts had him going but I think I probably could have waited another round or two for him. But I couldn't take the chance. He is an automatic 50 steals and with all of the power I was assembling with A-Rod, Jones, and Kent, it was imperative that I took a speed guy before I punted the entire stolen base category. I just wish he was still with the Brewers; their commentators are hillarious.
Speaking of punts, I'm not very happy with my saves situation. A run on closers occured deep between my picks so when it was finally my turn again in the 7th round, I had to make sure I got one. Everyday Eddie did me well last year (I took him in the 13th last year) and I hope he can do it again. But going into the season with the closers for Seattle, Arizona, and Kansas City doesn't exactly instill confidence.
All in all, I do think this was my smartest draft to date. This is my third season in fantasy baseball and it is so much trickier and more complex than fantasy football. For lack of a better word, it's a lot of work. But I love it. It's six-months of comaraderie and trash talking and a chance to win a decent-sized slice of $1200 to boot. But most of all, it makes watching baseball a whole lot more enjoyable.
My first race in nearly 4 years was moderately successful, but it certainly did not go off without a hitch. I've toed the starting line in hundreds if not a thousand races in my life and never have I seen an event as poorly organized as this one. My fears that the race didn't even exist (no contact info, no website, no confirmation of early registration) were unfounded, but what we got for our $40 entry fee certainly left a lot to be desired. I finished in 4th place overall in the long course (5k trail run, 20k mtn bike, 5k trail run) but there were probably only about 15 or so who did the long course, another 15 to 20 did the short course, although only 4 or 5 five of them finished ahead of me. Anyway, the total race featured 1040 feet of elevation gain (4 hike-a-bikes) and took me 1:39.46. Ultimately, as weird and disorganized as the event was, it was a great training day and I look forward to the next one (Kristin will be volunteering and making suggestions). The race distances go up 5k in each discipline with each race, so it will be a challenge.
The race took place at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA and several dozen people showed up to compete. Everyone had a choice between a short course race (5k run, 15k mtn bike, 5k run) or the long course (5k run, 20k mtn bike, 5k run). The long course was supposed to begin with a 10k run, but the distances are going to increase each month so they knocked it down to a 5k. I opted for the long course, although there was no way for anybody to know that. The race organizers had no way of differentiating between those doing the long course or the short course. And with a mass start, multiple figure-8 loops, and people in both events finishing simultaneously, it wasn't long before it was total chaos and the organizers had no way of knowing who did what.
The biggest issue with the race was the course map and "briefing" in which we were told where to go. The course was marked -- pretty well in some areas, not at all in others -- but the instructions were on a level that expected everybody to have been intimately familliar with the area. Nobody knew the park well and the time leading up to the start, in which we could have been pre-riding, was spent trying to extract a proper description of the route from the race organizer. It was like pulling teeth just to find out in which direction we'd be entering the transition area from and when. Factor in multiple figure-8 loops in varying directions for different races and you had several dozen, clueless competitors.
The race started and it was obvious everyone was going to go out way under control. I lead the race for the first 1.5 miles at a comfortable 7 minute pace around the lake and through the first hill and bit of singletrack before a couple others decided to kick up the tempo. I'm glad they did. The course featured a very steep climb to a "u turn" that wasn't marked. Five of us crested the hill together and proceeded to run around in circles like the coppers on Benny Hill looking for some sign of where to go. There were trails leading off in different directions, but nowhere where there any trail markers. After wasting nearly 2 minutes we ran straight back down the way we came. And that's what we were supposed to do. It was news to us. Thanks to the confusion atop the hill, I finished the first 5k leg in a very pedestrian 24:29.
Me in the orange shades at the start of the race.
We were laughing because none of us knew where to go.
I stripped off my mtn biking gloves on account of the warmth, quickly changed my shoes, put on my helmet and camelback and took off. I was in and out of the transition area in 56 seconds.
The bike course started with the same 5k loop we just ran and this time when we crested the steep climb -- hike a bike -- there was a cone and a sign instructing us to turn around and descend the way we came. And that brings me to another issue with this ridiculous event. The trail leading up to the turnaround was no more than 4 or 5 feet wide, was draped in blackberry thorns, and was a pure hike-a-bike. So what does the race director have us do? Immediately turn around at the top and bomb straight back down the hill into oncoming racers who have no where to go to avoid people! It was mind-boggling. I came away with several large thorny scratches and a near-wreck.
With the first 5k done we rode through the transition area and out onto the back stretch. This area was very flat and mostly double track. There was one lengthy climb that everyone I saw pushed their bike up. I pedaled halfway and then joined the march. The way back down was kind of fun, but off to our right looked to be a lot of fun singletrack with log rollovers. Why we were stuck riding boring double-track is beyond me. After this second 5k portion, we repeated the initial lap again, then back loop again. I passed a couple guys who flatted on the final 3 miles and moved up two spots to what should have been 5th place. The race leader was accidentally instructed by no-nothing-volunteer to do another full lap on the initial 5k portion instead of returning to the transition area and ended up riding an extra 2 miles. Thanks to that mistake, I was now in 4th. The mountain bike portion took 52:03 and had a total of 4 hike-a-bike portions.
I didn't have EZ-laces installed on my shoes like I used to so I worked my feet into my still-knotted laces, dropped the helmet and camelback and was back out of the transition area and on the run in 51 seconds.
Completely uneventful. This run leg utilized the "back loop" of the course and wasn't the same area that we ran earlier. A guy I kept passing back and forth on the first two legs of the race maintained a hundred yard lead on me and it wasn't until the final quarter mile that I started realing him in. I probably would have caught him if the race was a little longer, but I ran out of real-estate. Oddly enough, this very non-technical, sterile off-road course had a single cobble lying in the grass in front of the finish line. I rolled my ankle on pretty badly just two steps in front of the line and collapsed to the ground as I crossed the line. Kristin took a photo of me coming in to finish and you can see the rock I stepped on in the foreground. I'm okay now, but I was limping for about 10 minutes. The second 5k was a lot faster on account of not getting lost and I was pleased to finish this leg in 21:27, which is back under 7-minute pace, for a total time of 1:39.46.
Wrap it Up
In talking to people after the race, we learned that seemingly the majority of competitors either got lost at least once, ran or biked too far, or accidentally cut the course. Everyone's attitude was, "well, at least I got a good workout in." Which is a good, healthy way to look at it, but when you're putting up $40 in entry fees it wouldn't hurt for the race to have some semblance of organization.
Which brings up to the awards ceremony. The race director laid out two tables full of wonderful swag for the winners to pick from. But does he look at the stubs from the race numbers they collected at the finish line? No. He simply asked for the firt overall male and female from each race to come forward and take a prize. "You know who you are" he says. Well, not everyone did. And it turned out that the two guys who came forward saying they won the long course race simultaneously actually finsihed 7th and 8th. The guy who did win had already gone home. And the guy who should have won, rode too far on the bike course and got penalized for accidentally cutting the second run leg. Whatever. I did end up finishing in 4th and I know the three guys who beat me did the full course just as I did, and in picking my prize I got to snag the EZ-Laces that I cursed myself for not bringing.
Live and Learn
I'm going to come back and do the next race in the series despite how disorganized this one was. And that's for two reasons: it was definitely good, fast, competitive training (trust me, this is nobody's "goal race") and because Kristin is going to volunteer next time and we've talked a lot on the way home about how to make it better. The guy only had 2 helpers and was clearly in over his head. With a little extra help, these events could be really enjoyable. Hopefully, Kristin's help and the suggestion we are going to email him will help make the next race better. So, although I spent much of this race report complaining about the organization, I will be back. And we will help make it better.
The new wheels felt great and reinstalling the Hutchinson Pythons (26x2.00) that the bike came with was a special treat. There's far less rolling resistance with these tires than the ones mounted on my everyday wheels and having them pumped up to 41psi made the bike really fly. The course tomorrow is supposed to be most doubletrack and non-technical "beginner" singletrack so I'll likely leave the tires at a pretty high pressure. I may even keep the front shock locked-out, but that will depend on the pre-ride findings. Regardless, the bike is humming well, my legs are loosened up, and I'm ready to rock. The new shoes that came with the pedals are a hair big, but totally usable. Speaking of which, those Time Atac pedals are easy to get into but really take some effort to unclip from. They're definitely going to take some getting used to.
Race report on Monday.
Nat'l Collegiate Team Standings - Final
1 Alaska Fairbanks 4682
2 Nebraska 4666
3 Army 4650
4 Navy 4625
5 Murray State 4621
6 Mississippi 4616
7 Kentucky 4600
Yep, you read the correctly. Army came in third place and Navy came in fourth, barely edging out Murray State. And people wonder why we haven't won the war yet. Perhaps instead of making sure overseas military bases have a Burger King, they ought to have a Pearl Vision Center.
Brighton, UK. Britain will witness its first crucifixion for almost two millennia later this week, when Cynewulf is nailed to a cross as punishment for ganking other players as they first appear. Cynewulf, (in real life a 27 year-old electrical engineer from Flint, Michigan, USA) has no need to worry about suffering any permanent pain to his hands or feet, however, as this barbaric sentence is due to be carried out in cyberspace; in the virtual world of Roma Victor®.
it gets better...
Cynewulf, who is the first player within Roma Victor to receive this brutal punishment, will be hung on a cross for a full seven days on full public display in the digital reconstruction of the provincial town of Corstopitum (modern day Corbridge in Northumberland, England).
Kerry Fraser-Robinson, RedBedlam’s CEO says: "Roma Victor has been designed from the outset to offer an historically authentic and realistic virtual world. Although crucifixion is nowadays synonymous with persecution and religious symbolism, in 180CE it was just one of many severe punishments used by the Romans to punish criminals and to send a clear message out to other potential wrong-doers. And since our online world is historically authentic, we feel that applying this punishment to cheats, hackers and other virtual wrongdoers is not only appropriate, but also adds to the gaming experience by resonating with classical history."
Crucifixion is to be used as a form of player 'ban' within the virtual world of Roma Victor, with the length of the ban reflecting the severity of the punishment. For cheating by exploiting a bug and advancing his or her character's skills unfairly, for example, a player might typically receive a seven-day ban; multiple or more serious offences will result in a longer (or even permanent) ban.
Head over to http://www.roma-victor.com/ to check out the game. I'm not big on MMORPG's, but any game that promises to punish unruly players in this manner is worth checking out.
If so, then you need to watch this video. The lesson you learn may save your life.
There are two other uses of the word that come up this time of year, and both relate to triathlon. Many triathletes wind down their season in November and use the winter months to recover from injuries, reintroduce themselves to their spouse and children, and generally goof off and take it easy. Of the triathletes I have known and trained with, few ever swam during the winter months. So, come spring, with the hopes of a succesful season on their mind, triathletes everywhere return to the pool and try to regain their stroke. The self-effacing of the lot will often comment that they swim like a "brick". As in there stroke is completely gone, they're horribly slow, and they struggle to keep afloat. Of course, nine times out of ten, the people who say this about themselves are really just being modest or trying to be funny. But nevertheless, many triathletes will comment that they swim like bricks.
The third use of the word -- and the one I really want to talk about -- is the one that refers to a certain type of multisport workout. In triathlons and most every duathlon, there is a certain order to the events. You swim first, then you bike, and then you run. Duathlons are often run, bike, run, but it's the bike-to-run transition that is the focus here. Stepping off your bike after a lengthy bike ride leaves most everyone with jello legs. Immediately embarking on a foot race anywhere from 5 kilometers to 26.2 miles in length with wobbly legs only serves to compound the effect. It's a weird sensation to say the least.
Triathletes help prepare for this transition by incorporating what are commonly called "bricks" into their training regimen. In short, it's a workout that includes both biking and running and, preferably, with no more than 5 minutes from the time you dismount the bike to the time you start the run. The term is said to originate from the fact that most people's legs "feel like bricks" when beginning the run, but I've also heard many people attribute it to simply a combination of the words bike and run. Obviousy, whoever coined the term didn't care for running much and only borrowed the "r", but nevertheless should you mention to a triathlete or duathlete that you did a "brick" today, he or she will know exactly what you're talking about.
Today, I did my first brick in nearly 4 years and it felt great. For years they were a weekly part of my workout regimen and it felt great to have that crazy-legs feeling again as I headed down the sidewalk after my run. I loved the way each stride felt so purposeful and how my muscles were twitching and how their memory of spinning the pedals was conflicting with the lessons my brain was trying to now tell them. My legs wanted to keep spinning, and I wanted them to drive forward. It took about a mile, but eventually they complied.
With my first off-road duathlon of the season just days away it was high time I got a brick in. I've had a couple two-a-days but not like this. I needed to do a brick and I needed to make it a smart one. One of the great parts about doing such a workout is the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with it, and sometimes it's easy to get overly ambitious with the mileage. I was sure to keep this first one to no more than 75 minutes in length. Another possible hang-up is getting the right blend for it to be effective. I've always believed that the ratio for a good brick should be 4:1 between the biking distance and running distance and definitely no more than 5:1. It's funny how these little lessons one learns over the years come rushing back into one's consciousness as if they never left.
Maybe they didn't leave? Maybe all those miles logged and races completed didn't leave either? I went out and rode a 13.5 mile loop on the road bike, with just under 1000 feet of climbing (will that climb on Snoqualmie Parkway ever get any easier?) and immediately changed shoes and shorts and was out the door on a 5k run less than 3 minutes later. The run felt good and, despite just totally doing it for a nice casual workout, I finished just over a minute slower than my 5k time trial earlier this month. It's all coming back.
Of course, the nice thing about doing off-road duathlons is that the bike geometry and riding style inherent in mountain biking makes the transition to running not nearly as awkward and painful as road biking does. Also, on raceday, I won't have to change shorts cause I'll be wearing special tri-shorts. But today was about getting a good workout, not necessarily about approximating this weekend's race or about practicing my transition. It was about feeling good and sweating a ton.
F.E.A.R. consists of 11 episodes, the majority of which take place in what seems to be the same exact location. You run through offices ducking behind desks for cover, searching for Medkits and extra ammo, and you blast your way through thousands of enemies that, for one reason or another, all look identical. I'm assured that there are multiple enemy types in the game, but as far as I can tell there's only about 5 or 6 varieties. Regardless, once you master the controls and get a feel for the way the game operates -- it's a FPS so this takes all of 2 minutes -- you are ready to plow ahead and leave a trail of blood and gore in your wake.
This game was billed as a merging of the horror and FPS genres. I don't see it. Aside from the occasional apparition and accompanying screeching music, there is nothing remotely scary about the game. Yes, it can be tense at times but these moments are so few and far between that they seem completely out of place when they are reintroduced. It's like reading through several chapters of a book about nothing and then having the title character suddenly appear for two pages and then quickly disappear yet again. Sure, you'll hear about what he's up to a few chapters later, but do you really care at that point? At no point in the game could I honestly answer the question, "so what's this game about?". And when asked that question, all I could honestly say was that it was about shooting guys before they shoot me.
But I still played the game through. Why? Because like I said, it's completely mindless entertainment. Lately, everytime I want to install a more robust game, I get bored of it within minutes and decide that I don't have the patience to play it. F.E.A.R. was nice in that I could play it for an hour or so a day and still get through it in under two weeks.
Of course, the game does have it's good points. Most notably, it's graphics and sound. In the technical department, I don't think the game has a rival. It definitely gave my machine a serious workout and I definitely did enjoy the eye-candy the game presents. I think that was part of why I kept playing it. It had been a couple years since I upgraded my PC and although Doom III and Half-Life 2 looked okay running in a slightly nutered mode on my old rig, F.E.A.R. is a huge leap forward for gaming as a whole. Maybe the upcoming game Prey on the Xbox 360 will look even better, but so far nothing on any platform that I've seen can really compare. And although the sound occasionally hiccups or is overdone, switching to SloMo mode and hearing each individual bullet casing hit the floor and the bullets whiz by overhead and debris slide across the ground was a feast for the senses. Even my wife who watched me play for a short while one night was utterly amazed by the level of detail in both the textures and the audio. She really liked the blood splatter.
But the game isn't just about looks, it also impresses with its artificial intelligence. As repetitive as fighting the same breed of enemies may be, these guys are pretty freaking smart and they will downright feel like human opponents at times. Unlike a lot of games where the enemies act the same way one hundred times in a row, the enemies in F.E.A.R. do adapt to your strategies and honestly seem intelligent. Yes, they occasionally puke on themselves and accidentally bounce a grenade right at their own feet, but so do I. I very well can't fault them for doing what I myself am guilty of.
All in all, the faults I find with this game are inherent to the genre (although Half-Life 2 seemed to rise above them) but if you look past the genre's limitations, this is probably one of the better games if for no other reason than the artificial intelligence and the shear sensory delight that this game provides. Don't go into it expecting much of a story or to be even mildly scared, however. And don't expect to want to play through it over and over, because I doubt you will. Ultimately, I expect this game to be remembered simply because of its graphics, if it's remembered at all.
I've been working in the gaming industry for nearly 6 years now and throughout that time, every springtime hope springs eternal that Duke Nukem Forever will make an appearance at E3. Could this be the year? I don't know. To be honest, I'm not even sure if I care anymore, but I'm sure there are many who do.
And for them, there is good news in that a wealth of information on the game -- straight from the developer's mouth -- has been compiled in a lengthy Q&A article. All of the information has been taken from message boards over the past several months, but it's a pretty good sign that the game is not vaporware and may actually ship before undergoing yet another overhaul.
Read about Duke right here.
If I were a religious man, I'd suggest that this is just God's way of punishing the Cowboys for signing Terrel Owens to a three year contract. Religion, karma, or whatever else you want to call it -- it's good to know that sometimes bad things do happen to bad people. And no, this isn't me hating on the red staters.
Face it Dallas, Owens deserved to be black-balled from the NFL forever for the stunts he's pulled and, instead, you gave him $10 million dollars in guaranteed money. Enjoy the floods Cowboy fans; the locusts and brimstone should arrive sometime Thursday.
Here's the basic description of Thumbsucker. It's about a 17 year old boy living in Oregon who hasn't yet stopped sucking his thumb. His ex-football player father is stuck managing a sporting goods store due to a bad knee that prevented him from going pro. His mother is a workaholic with a celebrity addiction. Both parents insist on their children calling them by their first names because hearing "mom" and "dad" make them feel old. So homelife pretty much sucks. This is where it gets weird. So, the thumbsucking boy gets console from his debate coach, played by Vince Vaughn, and his dentist, played by Keanu Reeves.
If only every teenager with a screwy problem had Reeves and Vaughn to turn to for help and advice. The movie isn't really supposed to be a comedy but it's impossible not to laugh when seeing these two type-casted actors in these atypical roles. So, if for no other reason than that, it's pretty much a comedic-drama. I enjoy independent films like this and am also a big fan of both Reeves and Vaughn. So even though they're not really the stars of the movie, they still added a lot to it. Definitely worth checking out on Netflix if you don't mind something different.
Check out the trailers...
And best of all, of course, are their prices. After having all but completely shredded my mountain biking shoes last year and having gone through three pairs of crappy Crank Brothers "Candies" (two busted wings and one pedal stripped off the spindle) there was no choice for me but to get new shoes and pedals. I wanted Time Atac pedals, but they retail for over $100. And most mountain bike shoes retail for anywhere from $80 to $200.
Pricepoint.com happened to have a combo deal on a pair of shoes and the Time Atac pedals for $99. Even if the shoes are just average, it's like getting them for free, so I'm still up. And any pair of shoes would be better than what I'm riding now. You can practically see my socks when I put them on.
So, thank you Eric for havin the worst case of "upgradeitis" and for telling me where you plan on buying your next derailer. My feet appreciate it.
I have 3 months to prepare to race in four different disciplines nonstop across 104 miles of King County, Washington. Literally from the mountain pass where I go snowboarding to the shores of Puget Sound in Seattle. I'm completely confident in my mountain biking and road cycling ability, but have a lot of work to do on my running and kayaking. And our trip to Germany in early June couldn't possibly come at a worse time as far as my preparation for this event is concerned -- and the riverboat we'll be cruising on doesn't have a workout room.
Anyway, you'll probably hear me talk about this event on this blog at least a few times in the coming months so here's the full description so you know what I'm talking about. Keep in mind that the race description is based on this being a 5-person relay. There will be 300 teams of five people, 25 teams of 2 people, and 25 individuals.
This 104 mile course extends from the Snoqualmie Pass areas beginning with a 23 mile Mountain Bike Leg that plunges riders into a two mile long, pitch black abandoned railroad tunnel requiring each rider to carry their own illumination. This leg continues on down the meandering Iron Horse Trail once used by the Milwaukee Railroad Co. and has been converted to a biking/hiking trail. Riders end at the Iron Horse Trail Head and Rattlesnake Lake where they hand off wristbands to the Road Bike Leg participants.
Road bikers immediately cruise down to North Bend along Cedar Falls Rd, giving a taste of what's to come over the next 50 miles. The Road Bike Leg takes riders through some of Washington's most scenic rural areas anywhere. Participants are treated to routes along the base of striking Mt. Si, then along the Three Rivers Natural Area and on via Snoqualmie Falls, Fall City and Carnation. A stunning, bucolic ribbon of roads meanders through Snoqualmie Valley giving enthusiastic bikers plenty of hills and dales to test their endurance. The course has been carefully planned to minimize traffic and maximize enjoyment. Riders culminate their leg by riding the famous 'Redmond-Roubaix' Red Brick Road along 196th near Redmond ridden by the likes of Greg LeMond. Traffic will be controlled where necessary for safety but it is an open course.
Bikers finish by riding through Marymoor Park and ending at Luke McRedmond Park for the handoff to the Canoe / Kayak Leg.
Paddlers are in for a 12 mile, downstream adventure on the Sammamish Slough. Winding through rural and residential areas, the Slough parallels the Sammamish River Trail that becomes the Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle. The slough runs calm at about 1 kt. This paddle promises to be a unique experience to many paddlers who've not seen this part of our city. As the Slough enters Lake Washington, they'll cruise around to their right being cognizant of the many seaplanes landing and taking off at Kenmore Air. Entering an inlet near Kenmore, participants will land their craft and send off the runners for the Half Marathon leg along Burke Gilman Trail.
Runners begin their test on a Half Marathon (13 miles) run over the top of Lake Washington and our famous Burke Gilman Trail. The trail meanders along Lake Washington's western shore past Magnuson Park and ending their leg at Seattle's Gasworks Park.
The last but not least is the Six Mile Glory Run to the finish. Runners continue back onto the Burke Gilman for the big sprint to the finish along the newly completed trail right to Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. The trail takes runners along the North end of Lake Union, Fremont and the Ship Canal that includes the Chittendem Locks. The finish 'kick' passes Shilshole Bay Marina right along the harbor and beach and finishes at the new Ballard Community Beach House located at the sandy shores of Golden Gardens Park.
Finish festivities for the June 25th 2006 event will be a huge celebration. Tons of giveaways, food, drink and a multitude of premium awards for participants
The mountain bike leg will be a piece of cake and if I do it on my cyclocross bike, should take less than an hour. Many of the roads in the road bike course are what I train on and the 50 miles won't take more than 2.5 hours. The kayak will be a challenge for me as I'm not experienced at all in kayak racing, but I'm willing to train for it to prepare (I can't wait for the upper body workout this will bring). But, despite running being my forte, I'm most concerned about the running. The legs will certainly stiffen up after all of that cycling while on the kayak and the upper body will be fried by the time the running begins. Running with rebelling extremeties will be pretty damn tough. And although the legs will loosen up, it's going to be extremely hard to run that far with tired arms.
I can't wait to try.
Before starting everyone loosely seeded themselves in order from fastest to slowest. Some wanted me to be the first to go, but I instead opted to go 5th. I said it was my lucky number, but really I just wanted to avoid the possibility of encountering other riders and also not feel "chased".
Despite helping flag the course the previous day, I still had to pause and look around for the flags a couple of times due to the complexity of the trail system, but fortunately I didn't get lost. I also avoided any major crashes or mechanical problems for the most part. I slipped and fell once or twice and definitely bumped into a couple more trees than I'd care to admit, but it went well.
Out of the 18 or so riders that participated in the time trial, I surprised myself in beating all but 1 of them. A couple guys who I expected to beat me finished several minutes back and, perhaps more importanly, I didn't beat myself. I have a tendency to not take events like this very seriously and usually just go through the motions and laugh my way through it, but I felt good and pushed myself pretty hard. I was out of the seat for much of the race and was definitely not holding much back.
A couple of us joked around about the "Bode Miller Effect" before and after the race. The "it's only for fun" mentality and the "I care more about my race tomorrow" type of comments. And, there were more than a few "I didn't know the course" complaints and blaming one's bike for their time. The thing about mountain biking though is that these excuses can be said by anyone at anytime. There's always something slightly out-of-whack on most bikes; everyone crashes; everyone gets turned around on the course and struggles to find their bearings; and everyone is out there just for fun. Nobody is really taking it very seriously. That's what's so cool about mountain biking -- it's an imperfect science. Victory doesn't always go to the swiftest, but who manages to quiet their "inner whine" and just shut up and put up.
I can whine with the best of them, but fortunately on Saturday, I avoided the gears on my bike that don't shift well, I stood when I couldn't sit because my seat slid out of the clamps again, and I tried my best to not get lost and not panic if I didn't see a yellow flag. And this all worked for me and I surprised myself (and more than a few others I think) by posting one of only two sub-thirty minute times. But as happy as I was with my performance, I was really glad to just see how psyched about the event everyone was. I enjoy little races like this amongst friends and it's great to see others feel the same way.
And now I'm told that I get to enjoy some bragging rights for the next few weeks. Many of us meet back out there on Tuesday nights so it will be fun playing "king of the hill" this week (the guy who won rides with a different group of people). Of course, next time it will probably be my inner whine that refuses to be quieted and I'm sure I'll be on the receiving end of some friendly smack talk next month. Either way, I'm sure it will be fun and nobody will mind come the following morning.
PS: In no way am I saying that those who did suffer an actual injury from a crash or serious mechanical failure didn't have valid complaints. Eric & Bernie, I'm looking in your direction. But the rest of you... consider yourself served! Oh snap...
Pepsi test-marketed a coffe-flavored cola in the area where I went to college back in the mid 1990's and although I loved it, I honestly believe I was the only one. At least that's what Kristin still tells me. It was named "Pepsi Kona" after the great coffee-producing region of Hawaii's big island. It had a pretty powerful first taste, and it was definitely an acquired taste, but I enjoyed it. Alas, Pepsi Kona never hit the big time and it died an unnoticed death on store shelves in eastern Pennsylvania.
But that was before the coffee-craze, so here's hoping Coca-Cola Blak has some staying power.
Enjoy the smooth jazz of Blak right here...
Less then two hours later I hopped on my mountain bike and helped Erik go and flag the course for tomorrow's grassroots time trial. We set up a 4 mile loop through the singletrack we ride on Tuesday nights. It should be really fun. Erik selected a nice group of trails that flow really well and I think we may have even placed enough yellow caution tape out there to keep people from getting lost. I'll probably still get lost, but that's beside the point. We finished up our task just as the sun was setting, which was a good thing because we didn't have our HID lights with us.
Upon arriving home, I found a large box on the front porch. My new wheels! I did eventually get a pair of lightweight wheels to use for racing off of Ebay. The wheels are brand new and are the Bontrager Racelight wheels that come on the high-end Trek Fuel bikes. They're not the best wheels but they have better hubs than what I ride on now, are a little lighter, and I got a good deal on them. Plus, I really wanted to have a second set of wheels that I only use for racing. This way I can just leave racing tires on them all the time and also not have to worry about knocking them out of true.
But, for me, it is 2002 all over again. Back then, I was an active member of the Tri-DRS listserv and myself and several other guys I got to know got pretty caught up in the notion of ultra-endurance events. It wasn't enough to run a marathon anymore, or to do a century ride (100 mile bike ride), but they had to be EPIC. They had to be off-road, in inclement weather, or they had to contain thousands of feet of elevation gain. And, together, we found some pretty sick events to enter. One of which has become the bane of my existence ever since.
Yes, 2002 was to be a monumental year for me as an endurance athlete. I kicked off the year with my first ultramarathon, a 50 kilometer trail run through 5 inches of snow. This served as my lone over-distance training run (and was the most painful competition in my life) for the Death Valley Marathon, which I ran several weeks later. I won my age group by over a half-hour and finished 13th overall despite walking the final mile with a blister the size of a jalapeno pepper. It was a good day and my training was going well. I started placing in my age group in various triathlons that year, completed my first Half-Ironman in 5:10 after suffering through the worst swim of my life, and also participated in my all-time favorite bike ride. It was called "Blood, Sweat, and Gears" and took place in the mountains outside of Boone, NC. The race was 107 miles long and had over 11,000 feet of climbing in it. I refused to push the bike that day, even when everyone around me was walking, and I finished in 6:05 with a huge smile. I still proudly wear the t-shirt. My buddy Steve and I woke up the next morning and ran 20 miles on trails through Pisgah National Forest. Yep, that was the kind of shape I was in. And it's where I want to be again.
But those events were all just appetizers for the main course that never came. My main goal that year was to finish the world's first off-road Ironman triathlon in Colorado. The 2.4 mile swim would take place at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The 112 mile mountain bike leg consisted of two laps, each beginning with a ten mile 3,000 foot climb to over 11,000 feet. Lastly, the 26.2 mile trail marathon was going to be through dry, dusty trails in the middle of the night. I've talked about this event a lot over the past four years and I can't stop talking about it still. For six months, every day of my life was geared towards training for this event. An event that got cancelled a week before its scheduled start time. An event that was supposed to give me some answers.
I don't know if I would have ever finished that race, but the main reason why I entered it was to find out once and for all if I'm a quitter or not. As I liked to put it years ago: I want to know if when I'm exhausted and hurting in the middle of the night, and I'm sitting on the side of the trail, will I or will I not have what it takes to get up and continue on. Or will I sit there and cry and go home a quitter.
As a college senior, I forced my track coach to kick me off the team during the final semester. I had to make him do it for scholarship reasons -- I couldn't quit and afford that final semester my own. Between graduating, helping to plan a wedding, getting into grad school, and working on my thesis, I decided that I could no longer spend two hours a day plus weekends away with the track team. I remember a painful conversation with my father on the phone prior to this. I was ashamed of myself for wanting to quit and I was hoping that my father would have expressed some sort of shame or anger in me and talk me out of it. I was looking for some stern, manly advice. It never came. Years later, a friend's younger brother commented to me that there was "no way my father would have ever tolerated me quitting anything." I was jealous of him for that. And, in retrospect, I should have known better than to look for a moral lesson from someone who always takes the easiest way out of life's problems.
And so I entered the race to test my will. And I put so much into it emotionally and physically that when it got cancelled, I collapsed and disappeared from the sport. And it was easy to do so. We had recently moved, there were new things to do, and I didn't have the heart to do it anymore. I convinced myself that I only did it because there was nothing else in North Carolina to do. I sold my bikes and quit.
This whole sad lesson has made it very hard for me to look in the mirror the past few years. Ever since I ran my first 5k when I was 10 years old, I thought of myself as an athlete. I ran track through high school, earned a scholarship to a Division I college, and ran then too. And when I got myself booted from the team, I did so as an undefeated individual in dual-meet competition. And then, after a year of adjusting to married life and grad school, I took up multisport competition and got into even better shape. I was faster. I was stronger. And I looked it. Yes, when I've looked into the mirror these past few years, it's been like seeing the body of a cheap imposter. Gone was the lean muscular build. Gone were the chiseled legs. Gone was the angular jaw. Some would take the easy path and simply blame it on a deskjob; others would say that I'm simply getting older; a few would probably suggest that I may have finally gotten my priorities straight. That's not what happened. The fastest triathlets and endurance athletes in the world are in their mid-thirties and all the ones I knew had desk jobs -- who else can afford all those trigeek toys? And as for that third suggestion, that's simply a matter of personal preference, but I know for a fact that I'm a better husband, more efficient worker, and more patient listener when I've gotten a good workout in. Not to mention the fact that I find improving the "net worth" of my body to be equally important to that of my wallet. But that's another discussion entirely.
There is good news though in that, at 30 years old, there is still plenty of time for me to test myself physically, as well as mentally. I don't have to stare at the stranger in the mirror, I can welcome back the old me. And, with some hard work and a bit of guts, I can even put myself back in the situation that I craved so badly some years ago. To enter a race that will likely test the limits of my endurance, determination and strength, and to find out once and for all if I am really just a quitter. Or will I go on?
I think I found my test.
A couple weeks ago my buddy Eric informed me that he wouldn't be accompanying me on the mountain biking trip to Sun Valley, Idaho. I understood his reasons for not going, but I was disappointed as we were going to drive together and share a campsite. Not to mention, he's fun to ride with and we constantly push one another out on the trails. But I'm not so sure I'm going to go anymore either. It seems there's a little something called the "Mountains to Sound" race at the end of June that I may want to stay home and compete in. It's a 5-leg relay race that covers 100 miles from the mountain pass where I snowboard all the way to the waters of Puget Sound. I hope to solo it. It consists of a 22-mile mountain bike leg, a 48 mile road bike leg, a 12 mile kayak portion, a 12 mile run, and a final 6 mile run. To be honest, aside from the stiffness one's legs will feel when transitioning out of the kayak to do the running portions, I don't imagine it will be that hard. Maybe this isn't the right test after all? Or maybe I'm just completely back to my endorphin-obsessed self?
I wonder how many people will remember me on the Tri-DRS listserv?
With Duke over Boston College to win the NCAA Tourney.
I should warn you against using my predictions to assist in any gambling you may have planned. You see, although I am in two "pools" neither of them are for money. It's simply for fun and bragging rights. So, without any monetary incentive, I spent all of 5 minutes filling out my bracket. Research? Ha! Last year I was DFL in the BradyGames free pool. Surely I can at least match last year's performance with just the bits of knowledge I've gleamed from listing to ESPN several hours a day over the past 4 months, right?
Fantasy Baseball is a different story. I have pages of data and half-baked statistical analysis poured into the draft on March 26th. But there's money involved in that. Big difference.
The trails were designed to switchback down the side of a hill and are being built to last for decades to come. To do so, loads of gravel, cobbles, and boulders are being placed ever so carefully so to make the trails hold up. Each section of trail is supported by thousands of hand-placed boulders and I can assure you that an average of 5 to 10 minutes goes into placing each and every one of them to ensure a tight fit and a proper angle. This is certainly not some backwoods hack job.
A dozen or more people were out there this past Sunday helping out on what was, I believe, the 35th work party since the groundbreaking ceremony. Having not been there since November, I couldn't believe how much progress was made--and how much still needs to be done. Fortunately, the project has received several corporate sponsorships and, in addition to providing coffee and snacks for many of the work parties, the Starbucks coffee company is going to donate $10 to the BBTC for every hour worked by volunteers next weekend. With the work party scheduled to last for at least 4 hours and over 25 people currently signed up to help out, the club can expect at least $1,000 donation from Starbucks.
One of the BBTC members who is also a photographer posted some photos from this past Sunday's work party online. Click this link to view them.
To learn more about the Colonnade project, its origins, plans, and status, follow this link. The project still needs an additional $110,000 in donations and materials to be completed so if you feel like making a donation, it would be greatly appreciated.
And regardless of whether the delays are caused by a technology issue, pricing concerns, or manufacturing limitations, Sony shouldn't worry one bit.
A lot of the kneejerk responders to this delay are saying what a boon this will be for Microsoft and the sales of their Xbox 360. They say how Sony is guaranteed to lose considerable marketshare in this "next generation" and how the battle is Microsoft's for the taking. I disagree.
Should Microsoft ever solve their enormous supply-chain problems and actually put product on the shelves (they shipped fewer Xbox 360 systems in February than January) then yes, they will gain a small advantage in sales through the spring and summer. They may even get their installed user base up to 3 million by the time September rolls around. But they've already blown their chances at posting an insurmountable lead. The buzz has died down and the difficulty of obtaining a system, combined with the lack of worthy software has made owning an Xbox 360 not nearly as prized of an accomplishment as it should have been. Next week's release of Oblivion will help, but it's far too niche of a game to be a cure-all.
By the time the PS3 does finally release in North America (for argument's sake, let's say February of 2007), most of the early adopters of the Xbox 360 will have replenished their funds and be able to purchase a PS3, if they choose. And while many of these same gamers may not be in a position to consider purchasing both the Xbox 360 and PS3 right now, by this time next year so much time will have passed since they purchased the Xbox 360 that the PS3 will seem to be the true "next-gen" console. And because of that, they will buy it. Even if the technological differences aren't easily distinguishable, 15 months is a long time for a product with just a 5-year life cycle -- it has a way of separating generations. Had Sony have released the PS3 in the spring of 2006 as originally planned, the time difference between launches wouldn't have made a difference. The Xbox 360 and the PS3 would have been perceived to be on equal ground. But by delaying the PS3, Sony is going to inadvertently shift the public's perception of the Xbox 360 from "next-gen console" to "stopgap solution". And just as Sega jumped the gun with the release of the Dreamcast, Sony is going to make it seem that Microsoft jumped the gun with the Xbox 360.
And this is where Microsoft's supply problems hurt them the most. There are thousands, if not millions, of gamers out there right now who, like me, haven't bought an Xbox 360 because of the supply shortage and assinine bundling requirements. As time goes by many of these same gamers are going to get increasingly frustrated and eventually just decide that if they've waited this long for an Xbox 360, what's a couple more months for something even newer and better? Not to mention, less likely to be replaced in 3 years and can play Blu-Ray discs. And I fully expect Sony to even salt the media mines with speculation that Microsoft will have no choice but to release a newer console as early as 2008 to catch up to the power of the PS3. And even if Sony doesn't do it personally, I'm sure their legions of fans will have no problem convincing the ill-advised masses that so much is true.
In other words, so much time will have passed between launches that those who jumped on board with Microsoft on day one will have the money -- and the hunger -- to be there for another launch. These gamers aren't really loyal to a company or brand, they're loyal to technology. They crave the latest and greatest and the PS3 will be it. Also, so much time will have passed between the launches that those who didn't jump on board with Microsoft will feel that their wait paid off and that they can now, with another year gone by, justify a new console purchase. In this case, which one do you get: the one that launched in 2005 or the one that just came out in 2007 that also plays Blu-Ray movies? And this touches on one other, final issue, that is at work here. Graphic snobs aside, there are a lot of people -- myself included -- who didn't really see the need for the next-generation to start yet. Yes, the PS2 was really showing its age but there are still several highly anticipated titles releasing for it later this year even. And none of the Xbox 360 titles look to be anything but prettier versions of Xbox games so far. Because of this many people are holding out intentionally. And when they do finally plunk down the $400 that the new console will cost, they're going to likely go with the newest one they can because they won't want to upgrade again anytime soon. It's all about perception and timing.
In conclusion, there's a lot of talk right now about how happy everyone in Redmond must be upon hearing the PS3 is going to be delayed. Well, I got news for the folks at Microsoft, if they're dancing and celebrating this delay it's only because they clearly don't have the pulse of the gaming public. To use Microsoft's advertising slogan, the next-generation of console gaming doesn't officially begin in the mind of the public until everyone "Jumps In". And by the time Sony slips into its swimsuit and wades into the deep end the Xbox 360 will already be pruned, cold, and getting tired. Jumping in first is only good if you know that everyone is right behind you. Swimming alone is never fun. And it's certainly not good for business.
Yes, you're seeing what you think you're seeing, right out of the box. The Motionetix skate system looks a lot like a pair of in-line skates, except that the wheels are turned 90-degrees sideways. It's impossible to roll forward or backwards on these things; you can only move from side-to-side.
Throwing caution to the wind, I strapped those suckers on and fired up the primitive speed skating technology demo they'd shipped with the skates. Basically, you move your feet from side to side, and -- provided you stay in front of your TV instead of, say, rolling down the stairs -- your virtual skater on-screen will mimic your moves, gaining speed the faster you move your feet. At first it seems impossible, but I found I could do it by keeping my knees bent and my center of gravity low. Plus, you know, you look badass. The game feels great on the straight-aways but doesn't really simulate speed turns very well.
Click here to read the full article at Gamespy.
It's not all rosey, but it's not near as dire as many articles these days.
One thing that I read that I do fully welcome is the use of the PC and handhelds to test the waters with new IP. Being that I recently announced that I'm going to sit tight and not buy an Xbox 360 or PS3 at least until next year on account of the handhelds and PC I own, this is certainly something that I hope comes true. Will it? Time will tell. But with the power of the PSP and uniqueness of the DS, I don't see why not.
One offshoot of risk aversion may be that other platforms -like the PC and Handheld system- become the incubation centers for new intellectual property, because of their inherently lower development costs. Once titles achieve success on these platforms, they can be transitioned over to the more expensive console systems.
The bike is still in its break-in period and the cables are stretching and I'm getting a feel for its subtleties, but all in all it rode well beyond its pricetag would suggest. It was very stable on the twisty descents dropping down from Snoqualmie Falls towards Fall City and also on the descent on Tolt Hill Road. Perhaps more importantly, however, was how well it climbed. It was almost as stiff in the rear as my old Klein Quantum Race and the way the bike transferred power was impressive. Even more impressive was the Ultegra 10-speed tranny. My old Klein was a mere 8-speed and while I was a bit apprehensive if I would be able to climb Tolt Hill Road and Snoqualmie Parkway on a dual-ring setup, the gearing was perfect and only ever-so briefly did I even need the 25-tooth cog.
More to the point, I surprised myself. My first on-the-road ride in four years went very well. I rode 43 miles with 2,040 feet of climbing and finished in 2 hours, 31 minutes. I wasn't pushing to ride particularly fast -- never sprinted -- I was just focusing on not having to stop. The wind picked up later in the day while I was out and despite an ever-so-gradual decline on Route 202 coming back towards Fall City the wind was holding me to about 16 mph. If not for the mountainous scenery I would have thought I was back in the windy countryside of eastern North Carolina.
As I expected my feet did eventually get pretty cold after 40 miles, but I think it was partly due to my road shoes not fitting well with me wearing two pairs of socks. I also remembered why I used to always ride with a bandana -- I sweat a ton when I'm cycling and so much salt got into my eyes that I couldn't open them for a few seconds. I had to grab the water bottle and flush my eyes out in order to continue. But it was a marvelous day out on the road. The route Erik Alston showed me last weekend was indeed a good one and featured great views, smooth roads, and few cars. So glad to be back doing the things I love.
Starting in April, Kotaku will launch a regular feature called “Preview Ho of the Month”, and the object is to name and shame.
“Preview Ho” will be a compilation of the most egregious, blatant promotion for unreleased games from across the gaming press. We will challenge the editors of these magazines and websites to justify their hype on behalf of their advertisers’ products. We will ask them why they gave so much glowing press to games that were so unfinished as to be design documents with conceptual art, or gave any attention whatsoever to yet another movie spin-off with no perceivable originality at all. In doing so, we will go after previews as they exist now for what they are: the mortal enemy of good games.
You see, the way the current crop of gaming "journalists" (remember the rules about gaming "journalism" -- always in quotes when not prefaced with the words so-called) conduct their job is with fear. Fear of losing access to early builds of games. And because of that each and every preview that ever graces the pages of a gaming magazine or the html of a major site is written without an ounce of criticism. And, in turn, game publishers show this glowing press coverage (which they might as well have written themselves) to the buyers at retail and use it to convince stores like Electronics Boutique and Wal-Mart to stock large quantities of their game. The stores then buy into the hype and push the games and, then months later when the title is released, every customer that walks into said store or calls on the phone is immediately pressured to buy the game.
Kotaku's Wagner James Au seems very proud of himself for "uncovering" this secret of the industry via some cocktails at an E3 after-party, but truth is that this is all very obvious. Now, I don't want to pop Au's bubble entirely though. Because although this process doesn't take insider tips to uncover, Au is proposing to do something about it. And, should his efforts even make a minor difference on just one editirial staff, it will be a triumph for gamers everywhere.
The goal is good games for everyone. But to get there, the dogs of the industry have to be exposed rather than hyped during the preview process. Imagine how many mediocre games could have been great had somebody have had the sense to call it out for what it was. Ideally, if enough previews actually critiqued the game like they're supposed to, publishers and developers would be faced with the decision -- go back and make the game good or unleash it as is and lose lots of money.
Read the entire article at Kotaku here.
Kristin and I, along with our dogs and Kristin's friend Dawn, piled into our Element and caught the 7:55 ferry over to Kingston, crossed the Hood Canal Bridge, and were soon in the microscopic town of Quilcene. Several miles of snow-covered dirt roads later, we arrived at the trailhead. Kristin and Dawn immediately put boot to tread and began hiking the trail while I waited for my ride partners to arrive.
The Lower Big Quilcene trail is just over 6 miles in length but runs through seemingly remote old-growth forest alongside the namesake stream. The area had been hit hard by a winter storm earlier in the week, but the noteworthy snow was restricted to areas above 2200 feet. We wouldn't hit that elevation until we were over 5 miles up the trail. Much of trail did have a serene dusting of snow atop it, but also many other signs of this winter's strength. There were a couple areas where the trail had washed out, many large blowdowns, and a couple of deep bone-chilling creeks to ride through. Each creek crossing was rideable, but one in particular was far too deep to avoid getting soaked.
Me zipping past some old-growth cedar. Photo by Tim Banning.
The trail isn't very technical, nor very steep (about 1,050 feet of climbing in 6 miles) but the quiet and the size of some of the surrounding trees added to the enjoyment. I rode with BBTC's Tim & Travis and we stopped quite a few times. The pace was quite pedestrian on the way out due to photo ops and later on because of the snow we encountered. After some snacks at the turnaround point (a picturesque cascade) we began the ride back to the trailhead.
It was shortly after turning around where the ride got a bit more memorable for me. I was working the bike through a few inches of snow when I suddenly heard a loud pop and felt my seat rip out from under me. The bolt that clamps the seat to the seatpost had sheared in two and the seatpost clamp broke off. Fortunately, I didn't impale myself on the aluminum seatpost but this was not a failure I can repair in the woods. Tim helped me gather the busted parts and remove the seatpost from the bike. Sure, my bike was suddenly a pound or so lighter but I had to ride the remaining 6 miles without a seat. When I had a hardtail I almost always rode standing up, but since moving to full suspension I've gotten lazy and spend way too much time in the saddle. Breaking one's seatpost will surely cure that problem! It took a half mile or so to get used to not having a seat under me or between my thighs, but it eventually felt natural and as actually kind of fun, especially when the trail descended out of the snow and back onto dirt.
Tim spending his birthday the best way possible.
I finished up the ride with some extremely tight and painful calf muscles (especially during the final climb to the trailhead) but this pain was masked by my frozen feet. Two pairs of wool socks were not nearly adequate protection against the wave of freezing water kicked up during the creek crossings. Fortunately, I did bring a third pair of socks and was able to warm up before long. After providing Travis with a jumpstart, the five of us headed into town for some grub. Quilcene doesn't have much, but we did find a bar with some decent burgers and fried oysters, Port Townsend Amber Ale on tap (pretty good), and a half dozen 45-foot long shuffleboard tables. They apparently take their shuffle board pretty serious in Quilcene.
Final Word: The Lower Big Quilcene trail rises from 1400 feet to just under 2500 feet in elevation in about 6.25 miles and is a fun stretch of non-technical singletrack. It's not necessarily worth the drive from Seattle (and definitely not from points further east) but I would ride it again as a shorter cool-down ride following a more arduous ride on the previous day. For those looking to ride the Dungeness/Gold Creek loop (highly recommended) and then camp near Sequim, this would be a perfect ride to do on the next day prior to heading back across Puget Sound.
I told her to think of something, someplace, anything! She thought of nothing. So I typed in "Patagonia", being that we were recently looking over guided trips to Patagonia with REI. A wealth of information on this region in South America is instantly available. We do a couple other searches for other places we're interested in visiting and each search seems to bring up even more information than the last.
I decide we should try searching a person. "Name a person" I say to her. Again, Kristin can't think of a single person -- it's really quite amazing to watch someone so intelligent be so utterly stupified when posed such simple, open-ended questions -- so I type in "Shaun Alexander". The biography of the Seahawks' star running back is immediately on-screen. I was very impressed to see that his stats from last month's Super Bowl were already included, as well as the details on the 8-year contract he signed last week.
Now Kristin has an idea. "Do a search on Hutch" she says and see if his new offer is on there. Steve Hutchinson is the Seahawks' Pro-Bowl left guard and just this afternoon he signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Vikings.
"There's no way they'll have that info on their already. Nothing's final yet. Seattle has 7 days to match it." Or so I thought.
So we typed in "Steve Hutchinson" and after a brief biography (about 1/5 the size of Alexander's) there it was, the details on the offer from Minnesota that was made just hours ago.
Being that Wikipedia is, for the most part, updated by the general human population and then fact-checked by the general human population, I must wonder how many people make a point of rushing to update various Wikipedia entries as soon as something happens. Is this how that site works, or is there more to it than that? I mean, unless you're an NFL diehard or a Seahawks fan, you probably don't even know who Steve Hutchinson is. Yet his Wikipedia entry was updated with information pertaining to his contract negotiations within hours of it happening. Not only would the old Encyclopedia Britannica not have even included him, but it would have taken at least several years for this information to be included in a published volume.
Hours? Are you kidding me?
First, I should point out that the only reason I was cleaning my office closet on Friday was because I actually wanted to finally really sit down and play the game F.E.A.R., but I was presented with a 256 megabyte update to the game upon logging in. So I began the download and, while wondering how to busy myself, I began cleaning my closet. People often complain about this aspect of PC gaming commonly known as "patching" but for once I want to thank it. Usually playing games is how I procrastinate. On Friday, however, wanting to play a game actually helped give me time to get something done. Weird, huh?
So then comes the rounding of the turn and bringing this conversation full circle and back to the initial topic -- sold out software. While checking the contents of various cardboard boxes I came across the copy of Anachronox that I purchased online a couple years ago. Anachronox is a role-playing game for the PC, developed by Ion Storm, and promises a nice meld of western and eastern RPG styles of gameplay. I'm writing about this now because I obtained the game for $4.99 and I'm going to tell you how you can too.
If there's an older game out there that you hoped to purchase one day, but it's now out of print, you need to check out Sold-Out Software. It's a company in the UK that specializes in selling many of the bargain-bin gems for $4.99 (pounds). They don't have everything and they certainly don't stock some of the older hard-to-find classics like Grim Fandango, but they have a decent selection and a great price. I'll be ordering American McGee's Alice from them soon and maybe one of the older Thief titles as well.
Here's the link: http://www.sold-out.co.uk/soldout/index.html
Okay, now that you remember who they are, there's a pretty interesting interview with them over at AustralianGamer.com. They talk a bit about their craft, but also their fascination with playing videogames. Also kind of gives a look at how average Aussies feel about America. Some of the more interesting nuggets...
4. Do you have a console preference at present, and what next generation console is at the top of your shopping list?
Yeah we're an Xbox family over at mine. Jeez, next gen, i'm a bit of a swinging voter at the moment. I want to be loyal to the Xbox, with which i've had a lot of good times, but the only launch title that even grabs me a little bit is Elder Scrolls (Still an RPG junkie. oh yes). Everything else just seems a bit... kind of American, and derivative. Meanwhile on the Sony you get access to all the kooky Japanese freakouts like that one where you roll a ball of lint around and end up sticking mansions and that to it. i heart Kalama- something.
Fact is, i reckon the Japs make better games. More left of centre. Electroplankton, anyone? So unless the 360 can start getting some tops wierd stuff on it and dispense with all the "hey check this out! Driving and/or Shooting! Neat, huh! And look, it's slightly more realistic than last time!" boringness, i'm afraid my dollaroonies will be heading Asiaward. We'll see, though.
6. When we saw you at the Brisbane Powerhouse, we noticed the intro was the Halo theme. Does this backup the frequent and persistent rumours that you guys were given complete creative control of the Halo 3 soundtrack? =)
I wish. Probably a lot of work though. And you'd have to deal with a lot of Americans. Like, not being racist or anything.
Hey, did anyone see the bonus disk that came with the Halo Two steel box? Gee, nerds doing corporate team building exercises. Glad I pre ordered that.
Here's the link to the rest of the interview: http://www.australiangamer.com/feature.php?id=55
Team USA bounced back after the embarrasing loss to Canada by clobbering South Africa 17 to 0. The game was called after 5 innings because of the WBC's mercy rule.
Normally I wouldn't discuss the outcome of a sporting event that was going to be aired on tape delay in case there was a chance some of you were looking forward to watching it later. But I don't think that's necessary in this instance, as the game won't be shown on television until 3am tomorrow morning on ESPN.
If Ken Griffey Jr homers twice in a game but nobody in America sees it happen, does he still get to run the bases?
But six years and forty-something books later, I find myself with several hundred pounds of strategy guides in my closet and a lack of ideas concerning what to do with them. On my office walls is a framed cover of each of my books. On my bookshelf is a lone copy of each of my books. And in my closet is two boxes, each containing one copy of each of my books. There are also about 12 other boxes filled with hundreds of strategy guides. And some of them are quite heavy.
Last fall, I thought it'd be a good idea to give one copy of each book to the Seattle Public Library. They recently opened a new 10-story architectural wonder of a building (click here to see it) and I thought it'd be cool to donate some of my books. They preferred I didn't. I was told that there are far too many of them being published for them to house them in their collection. He then cited my authoring of 40 or so as a perfect example. Nevermind the fact that taking a contribution from a local author doesn't obligate them to then acquire every guidebook published from here to eternity, but why would they turn down free books? They're obviously too good for little old me.
In stark contrast to the SPL was how the town of North Bend's library reacted. They didn't really care if I wrote the books or not, they were happy to take any donations I wanted to make. Cut and dry. They didn't care if they were videogame strategy guides (although they did have my Prince of Persia and Enter the Matrix books already on the shelves) or not and they didn't seem to feel some obligation to now collect every one. There were no forms to fill out. No explanations needed. I walked in, handed over two boxes of books, and was promptly thanked and sent on my way. Which was just the way I wanted it.
And now I can return to the task of cleaning out my office closet, which has suddenly been made easier with the addition of 3 empty cubic feet of space.
The thing about Master of Defense -- aside from its time-sucking, addictive nature -- is that once one of the monsters get through your defenses and kills a civilian in the castle, it's pretty much an unpluggable leak in your dam and it's only a matter of time (not much time, that is) until you're giving up 6 to 10 civilians per raid. Sure, it's possible to bounce back and not give up any for a few raids, but once you lose a civilian in two consecutive raids, you can kiss it all goodbye. You're behind the curve at that point and there is no possible way to climb back on top.
Well, after having nursed my survival in the game all the way to the 142nd raid -- and having wasted another 3 hours with no mention of my efforts in the High Scores list -- I think it's time I uninstall this game. I've clearly gotten my $20 worth and I have the zip file and key code saved to a disc so if I ever get the urge to give it another go in the future, I can. But I need to get on with my life. For a very simplistic game that has no chance of being released at retail in the USA, it sure was fun. Actually, it's really not that fun. It's just addictive. I don't know, my head hurts from playing this game too long.
But in case you missed the previous links I posted. Here's the link to the game's website where you can tempt yourself with the demo... and then crack and purchase the full game.