There's Money in Dem Dar Hills!

I was riding back from Tolt-MacDonald park last night on my mountain bike and couldn't help but notice a very spiffy silver Ferrari go past in the opposite direction near the intersection of Snoqualmie Parkway and Railroad Road.

"A nice day to be out cruising in something like that." I said to myself.

Not two minutes later, as I was coming up the parkway, a red Dodge Viper SRT goes rolling by with a silver Lamborghini Murcielago right on its tail.

Spring has indeed sprung. My first clue was the birds chirping outside my office window yesterday morning. The second clue was that I was able to ride in shorts yesterday evening and not get cold. But, just as Pennsylvania has its groundhog, we in King County have our own unique way of telling when winter is over -- the common appearance of six-figure exotic vehicles on the roadways.

I couldn't help but think back to one day three years ago. I had just finished washing and waxing my RSX Type-S and it looked awesome. It was silver with the OEM underbody kit, spoiler, dark windows, some nice Konig wheels and lowered. It wasn't riced out and gaudy, but it definitely looked a lot better than the ones on the lot. It was a gorgeous spring day and I had the sunroof open and windows down and was out cruising. Not a mile from home, a guy pulls up next to me at a red light in a periwinkle Ferrari. Never in my life had my ego been deflated so quickly.

Course Maps

Snoqualman has requested that I post a map to the Thrilla course I do on Wednesday nights. I'll go one better. I've begun using the GPS tracks I collect and TOPO! software to make a collection of maps that I'm uploading to Flick'r. I haven't had time to add to many yet, but there are a few up there. Also, I need to add cue sheets and/or divide the maps up into pieces so as to get more detail from them. Right now, each map shows the complete route and elevation profile so it's a pretty small scale.

As for the Wednesday night ride, it's called the "Thrilla in Woodinvilla" and anyone can come out to ride it, provided they sign up at so the ride leader (Kevin) knows you're coming. The map that's up for this route is actually the slightly-bastardized CW version which includes Gold Creek Park, an unusual side-trip we took that night. I'll get the "official" map up for it and some other routes in the coming weeks. Right now I just don't have time.

Mootsapalooza Invades Far Hills, NJ

What are the odds that Mootsapalooza, an annual gathering of Moots owners, would be taking place in the same small New Jersey town that Kristin's parents live in? It's true! A guy by the name of Bill Trego has a 60-acre farm in Far Hills and is inviting all Moots owners to come to his place in Far Hills "along with your girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, bikes and imaginary friends, but no children or pets please" to enjoy a day of road and mountain biking in the Somerset Hills area. When done riding, retire to his farm where his "farm cooks" will cook you up whatever you want -- provided you brought it. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be provided. Bill has 5 Moots bikes (would that be Mootses or Mootsie?) and having an idea of what 60 acres in Far Hills could cost, the fact that he has 5 Moots bikes is not surprising.

Unfortunately, this Mootsapalooza event is the same weekend as the Round the Clock 24hours of Spokane race I'm entered in. So, as much as I would like to fly across the country with my new Mooto-X YBB and visit family -- and make some new friends in my new Moots family, we just can't do it. It's tempting, honestly, but not this year. Too much on the plate already.

Read more about Mootsapalooza 2007 here.

Snoqualmie Mountain Biking Park

It's been in the works for a while, but it looks like ground breaking is about to begin (or already has) on what will certainly be one of the cooler reasons to live in Snoqualmie.

Follow the link to see the diagrams, illustrations, and proposed routes for current and future phases of the Snoqualmie City Mountain Bike Park. The location for this is less than 1/2 mile from my house and just off a trail I ride at least once or twice a week.

Mental note: donate money to Dirt Corps to help fund this.

The PS3's Double-Edged Sword

I wrote last summer that I believed Sony's $600 PS3 console would find a certain problem previously unseen in the console world. I speculated that the high cost of the unit, combined with a dearth of software during the launch window would lead to a situation in which gamers would withold their puchase of the unit until more software was available. I then proposed that software publishers, in turn, would withold their software until a larger installed base existed. The high price of entry was simply too much for folks to dive into headfirst. Instead, they would wait-and-see.

It's starting.

We've already seen certain franchises -- previously bedrock exclusives to the Playstation brand -- jump ship and go multi-platform and now Eidos announces their intent to withold their support of the PS3 until the second half of 2008, nearly 14 months from now. Gamers would be forgiven for asking what Eidos has coming down the pipe that makes this a big deal, after all what have they made for us lately. But the truth is that their upcoming Age of Conan is a very anticipated title with great promise -- a game releasing on the PC and X360, but apparently not the PS3 at least for more than another year, if at all.

The game I suggested would be the bellweather for this penomena when I got home from E3 is still the one I point to now: Metal Gear Solid 4. I fully expect/hope to author the strategy guide for this game -- I co-authored the book for MGS3 -- yet I do not expect to do so in 2007, despite what Sony has been saying for the past 18-24 months. The Metal Gear Solid franchise is to the Playstation library what Legend of Zelda is to Nintendo. But whereas Nintendo can count on their game only helping the sales of their inexpensive console by considering it an investment (it's a first-party title) Konami has nothing to gain and everything to lose by releasing their game before a critical mass of PS3 owners exist. The problem therein lies that many gamers, myself included, are extremely unlikely to buy a PS3 until games like MGS4 are released. Standard chicken and egg scenario, only it's Sony getting scrambled. Can Konami afford to risk the success of their flagship title on what we gamers might do? I don't think so. Now, let met just cover my tracks here for a second and state clearly that I have no inside knowledge. Heck, not only do I have no clue as to when MGS4 will actually release, I doubt most folks at Konami do either. It's the nature of the beast, and this particular series has an interesting track record.

So while Sony does have some promising first-party titles on tap like Gran Turismo and Heavenly Sword, the big marquis third-party titles like MGS4, Final Fantasy XIII and the next Grand Theft Auto may very well find themselves released on the X360 simultaneously or, perhaps, companies like Konami, Square-Enix, and Rockstar will simply let their games continue to bake until 2008 in hopes that more gamers will own the PS3 by then. And when you consider the stellar lineup of games coming out for the X360 this year, what incentive do these companies have to release their best selling games to a limited installed base, only to get crushed in the sales charts by possibly-inferior games selling to a significantly larger audience?

Sony may be fine with taking the "Mercedes-Benz" approach to gaming, but that doesn't mean the third-party publishers only want their games being played by those with the deepest pockets, especially since their games are going to be selling for the same $59.99 no matter which console it releases for. Sony has to either make some serious bids for exclusivity -- which they said they won't do anymore -- or the choice between the X360 and PS3 is going to be a no-brainer for at least another year. A serious price-cut for the PS3 would render this entire conversation moot.

A New Personal Record

Rode the Thrilla course again tonight and made a huge improvement over my previous best time. I dropped from a 1:44 to a 1:36 tonight. Granted, we did skip a short 0.4 mile section (not part of the true time-trial course, I'm told) but that aside, I felt great tonight. Two of the guys I was riding with both have reecorded times around 1:20 in top mid-summer shape, but considering I couldn't break 2:00 back in November and the course is only 20 miles long, I must say I'm enjoying the time I hit tonight. Also, thanks to getting done so quickly we didn't need to turn our lights on. Trails were a little muddy in spots, but mostly pretty dry.

Feeling great about this Sunday's race! Bring it on!

Playing Chicken With the Local Wildlife

What was supposed to be a clear, dry, night tonight turned into a rainy, cold evening in a matter of minutes this afternoon. I was getting my gear ready to ride the 14 miles of trail to the meeting spot for tonight's group ride when I thought I better check to make sure it wasn't canceled. I had checked the website just 15 minutes prior to see who was coming, but in the time I spent filling my Camelbak and putting my iPod into a ziploc bag, Erik decided to pull the plug on tonight's ride.

What to do now?

I was already dressed to ride. I thought about changing my clothes and just riding the trainer instead -- I did just wash my mountain bike, after all. Nah! I'll just stay local. The rain made choosing which jacket and shoes to put on an easy decision and by ten minutes past five, I was out the door in the pissing rain ready to ride. I didn't know where I was going to go nor how long I would ride for. I just figured I would go until I felt like stopping and hope that I wasn't too far from home when that decision was made.

I hopped over to the Silent Creek trail and rode that to the Business Park trail and, from there, onto the wood-chip double-track leading downhill toward Snoqualmie Falls. I thought about hopping onto the SVT and riding over to Tokul West, but why would I do that? The singletrack will be a mud-bog. Hmmm... Well, there is that rocky singletrack near the falls, why not do some exploring? So that's what I did. I hopped onto the singletrack at the upper falls parking lot and tried to find a way over to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I know one exists, I just have to find it. Before I began riding though, I recalled Erik's email comment about momma bears and cubs and my memory flashed to an email I read recently about a cougar sighting in this area. Time to turn off the iPod -- I at least want to hear if something higher on the food-chain is coming after me!

I made a few left-hand turns hoping to avoid circling back to the brown gate near Tokul Road that mocked me on an earlier attempt at navigating this corner of woods. I emerged from the singletrack near an old BBQ pit on an abandoned forest road. "If I go left here, I should make my way over to the SVT. After all, I didn't ride in a circle." I rolled up on the brown gate two minutes later. What the...? Screw this. I turned the iPod back on and pedaled back up the three trails I rode earlier.

As I neared the end of Silent Creek, I felt my ride coming to a close but I didn't want it to end. I don't know if it's because I know that I'm going to be attempting to solo my first 24-hour race exactly 2 months from today, or maybe it's just that it doesn't seem worth it to ride for less than two hours anymore, but I wanted more. And I definitely wanted more climbing. So I decided to drop into the Deep Creek trail, ride down the Preston-Snoqualmie trail to the switchbacks and get some climbing in.

The Deep Creek trail is a bit scary. It drops off the backside of our development into a beautifully lush forest home to a number of wildlife that likely used to live where my house is now. I envision these animals as angry. And I just know that one of these days there's going to be a cougar "incident" with a jogger or biker. One friend I have in the neighborhood refuses to ride this trail alone. And he's from South Dakota, a red state! And he drives a huge truck! Guys in big trucks from the Dakotas aren't afraid of anything. If he says not to go down there, there ought to be a reason, right? I've ridden this trail a dozen or so times now and never had any problems, but it was dusk. Would I be OK returning in the dark? I have my lights with me, but that will only help me see the whites of the maneater's eyes as he chomps down on my jugular.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I descended into the no-go zone. I was trying to sing along with The Beastie Boys as "Time to Get Ill" blared through my headphones, but my mind kept drifting back to large felines. And protective bear parents.

Just as I was braking for the first really tight left-hand switchback, a large female deer came walking around the blind-corner toward me. She wasn't more than 10 feet from me, well within Sergio Garcia's spitting range, when I first spotted her. The instant I saw the beige coat, I immediately thought... Well, you can probably guess what my thought was. Fortunately, at that range there is no mistaking a deer for a cougar and the urge to piss myself only lasted 1/10 of a second. A funny thing about this deer though; she wouldn't back away. She just stood there staring at me. She looked over her shoulder, looked at me, and then gave me a look that said, "Are you going to get out of my way, or what?"

I eased off the brakes and slowly rolled toward her and finally, when about 5 feet from her, she turned around and walked ever so slowly down the trail with me literally on her tail. This annoyed her and she took a big hop into the hillside and turned around to stare at me. Actually, correct that, she glared at me. How dare I make her get off the trail! I stopped my bike and stared back. I was almost close enough to hand feed her a Cliff Blok, but thought better of it. After all, I still may need to bribe a cougar with them later on. I finally got tired of playing Don't Blink with the local wildlife after a lengthy thirty-second stare-down and continued on my way. By now the rain was coming down pretty hard and Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" began playing on the iPod. Great song. I bombed down the rest of the trail, did an out and back on the very slick switchbacks near Raging River -- cleaned every one of them and the exit trail without dabbing, thank you very much -- and worked my way back up Deep Creek to home.

Tonight's ride may have been canceled on account of the weather, but I didn't let that stop me. I got to ride 20 miles of trail, climb 1500 feet, and meet one very precocious deer, all without really leaving my neighborhood. I finally realize why they call this place a "master planned community". I'm not leaving.

Rapid Fire Download

A few things to mention briefly. This is going to jump around, so bear with me. Do you mind bullets? I like bulleted lists, so I'm going with them. It's one of the few formatting features that Blogger uses that doesn't suck. All topics covered...
  • The Utah trip in May is coming together very nicely. My plans to ride the Kokopelli Trail are moving forward full speed ahead. I have the maps for the trail, have read the guidebook that exists for it (trails this long have their own books) and although my original riding partner won't be joining me, I have two (possibly three) other great guys to come along for the journey. I'm really excited about this because I was considering skipping the Fruita singletrack section and the descent down Porcupine Rim in Moab if I was by myself for safety reasons. We'll be riding from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT on May 5-7. Can't wait!

  • Careful observers of my race calendar on the right will notice a subtle change. It's the addition of four small lowercase letters in parentheses. Solo. After talking with other bikers, I've decided that it would be "easier" to solo the Round the Clock Spokane 24hrs race than it would be to do it as a two-person team. I've been told that with a two-person team you can never truly rest -- you're always either warming up or cooling down. And I don't care to do it as a four- or five-person team. So I'm going solo. Now, let's get one things straight, with this being my first attempt at something like this, I'm not planning on trying to ride for the full 24 hours. I am, instead, going to try and ride without any planned breaks for 10 to 12 hours, get a few hours nap in the middle of the night, then get back on the trail and hopefully put in another 6 hours or so in the morning. Yet another event in which I am going to be heavily reliant on Kristin's support. And cooking.

  • I finally started playing Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and the game is freaking brilliant. It's available for the PSP and DS and there is a playable demo available on PC. The game is a very fun, entertaining role-playing game in which all of the combat is carried out in what amounts to a roided-up version of Bejeweled. I suggest you go ahead and order it online, as it's very difficult to find in stores as Penny-Arcade clearly (and comically) demonstrates here.

  • I missed the Peyton Manning episode of SNL this past weekend on account of work, but I did finally watch the main clips on NBC's website (they were taken off YouTube). I highly recommend watching the "United Way" skit Peyton did with a bunch of kids. It's one of the funnier SNL skits in years. Click here to watch it.

  • Kristin reminded me of my "tradition" last night. For those who haven't read this blog long enough or who have simply chose to forget the trivial details of my life, I'll offer up this refresher. It started a couple years ago, but on the last night of a project -- usually a night in which I'm going to be up working till 3 or 4 in the morning -- I'll drive to the Krispy Kreme in Issaquah and get a dozen assorted donuts to snack on while I burn the midnight oil. I also stop in the adjacent Starbucks for a vente americano "with room". The expansion of my waste line prior to my increase in cycling has gotten me to dial back the Tradition to just every other book. Last night was an every-other-book's final night, so it was necessary to make the donut run (I have a funny story about donut runs, for another time) around 9:30pm. We got home at about 10pm and, here I sit, twelve hours later, with ten raspberry filled, iced kreme filled, and regular Krispy Kreme donuts doing a wicked tango in my stomach. I'm tempted to go for #11, a chocolate-frosted donut that Kristin has yet to eat (she picks out two) but I honestly feel as if doing so might kill me.

  • We bought Casino Royale on DVD the other night. I said it back in December during the power failure, but I'll say it again now cause it bears repeating. This is the best Bond film ever. Not that I've actually watched any of the other Bond films in their entirety but I just know they couldn't possibly be this good. It's long, and you have to watch all of it to fully appreciate the complexity of the story, but it's a fabulous movie with a bit of everything in it.

  • Kristin ran the Mercer Island Half-Marathon on Sunday and finished in a time of 2:00:32. She didn't beat the time she ran in January, but this race was a good bit hillier and had thousands of runners in it whereas the other race had maybe 150 people. Lots of traffic to run around and those familliar with Mercer Island know there's not room for thousands of people on those streets. On the other hand, the course winds through one of the ritziest neighborhoods in the country and past some absolutely incredible waterfront mansions. Kristin trained right through the race in preparation of the 50k run she's doing on April 22nd.

  • Lastly, my sister Jessica reports that Stephen King's "Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower" is not the steeming pile of you-know-what I thought it was when I threw it down in frustration, yelling "I waited 18 years for THIS!!!" at the top of my lungs to the ceiling in my bedroom. She says, "Once you get about 150-200 pages into it, it gets really really good. I can hardly put it down." I checked the bookmark I left in it and, sure enough, it was on page 104 when I finally gave up in disgust. I'm still working my way through wonderfully dense "The Colony" about the Molokai leper colony, but I'll have to take Jess's word for it and give the DT7 book another try when I'm done. Kind of funny that I got her hooked on reading these books not even two years ago and now she's the one prodding me to finish the last one.

Well, that's about it for now. Time to make some coffee and get to work. Have a good day!

Call Off the Dogs

Being that I grew up 3000 miles away and don't have any children, I don't really care about high school sports. I have no rooting interests, much like college, only with college it's because our AA football and basketball teams are kept sealed away, far from the public eye. All of this notwithstanding, I do like to read the "Sideline Smitty" column in the Seattle Times each Wednesday. Smitty is obviously a skilled writer who possesses an encyclopedia of knowledge on Washington high school sports and his topics are always interesting -- even if I seldom know where the towns are that he's mentioning.

Today's article was certainly no different.

Did you hear about the 64-0 fast pitch softball game played last week between Woodinville and Franklin? I didn't either, but it happened. Woodinville whipped up something fierce on Franklin and didn't back off until the ballgame was over. 64-0. And the reason it wasn't in last week's paper is because the high school is too embarrassed to report the results. Oh, and Woodinville was the home team so they didn't even get to bat in the 5th inning. Four innings = 64 runs. 18 per. Holy crap!

Read Smitty's comments here and also why he thinks a girl's basketball score of 87-3 that took place in Seattle in 2005 was an even more egregious case of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Fantasy Baseball Draft - 2007 Edition

Each of the past few years has seen me spend at least a dozen hours getting ready for the fantasy draft. This year? Not so much. Much like my NCAA bracket, I basically winged it. Sure, I printed out some of the "cheat sheets" the experts put together online and I'd be lying if I said I didn't remember at least some of the 800+ pages of stats I typed in when writing the guidebook for MLB 2K7. Nevertheless, I felt woefully unprepared for the draft and was constantly rooting through various websites and reports during the 3.5 hour draft to try and prevent my team from becoming the Washington Nationals (hysterical article by the way) of the "Brewer's Baseball" league of Fantasy Baseball.

Anyway, without further ado, for those who don't care in the least, here's my 2007 Fantasy Baseball team:

Inconceivable Wisdom
  1. Carlos Beltran, OF, NYM
  2. Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE
  3. Chris Carpenter, SP, STL
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B, TEX
  5. Roy Halladay, SP, TOR
  6. Brian Roberts, 2B, BAL
  7. Bobby Jenks, RP, CHW
  8. Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA
  9. Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, OAK
  10. Carlos Guillen, SS, DET
  11. Rich Hill, SP, CHC
  12. Michael Barrett, C, CHC
  13. Jose Valverde, RP, ARI
  14. Adrian Beltre, 3B, SEA
  15. Salomon Torres, RP, PIT
  16. Sammy Sosa, OF, TEX
  17. Corey Patterson, OF, BAL
  18. Tom Gorzelanny, SP, PIT
  19. Frank Thomas, UTIL, TOR
  20. Patrick Neshek, RP, MIN
  21. Nick Punto, 2B/3B/SS, MIN
  22. Cla Meredith, RP, SD

Yep, I'm screwed.

TR Training: Week #18 Numbers

Total Ride Time: 6:26:31
Total Mileage: 70.9 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 6,762 feet
Total Calories Burned: 7,065

Only had time to get in four quick rides this week, and unfortunately none went for more more than 2 hours in duration. That said, I did post my fastest time on the Thrilla course on Wednesday and then also had my fastest trip up to Poo-Poo Point on Saturday while chasing after a potential TransRockies teammate who was easily leaving me in his dust while riding a single-speed.

Anyway, it was a pretty vanilla week -- three non technical mountain bike rides and one session on the trainer. The next two weeks are going to be pretty rough workwise -- I'm finishing up one book tonight and starting another tomorrow -- but come April 9th I should have about a month of uninterrupted free time to ride as much as my body and mind can take. And I should have the Moots by then. And the weather will be getting better and the trip to Moab will be happening.

In the meantime, I just have to try to work in at least 10 hours on the bike each week and hopefully have a good showing at next weekend's race down in Capitol Forest -- I just hope the mud doesn't cost me another set of brake pads.

Yahoo Madness

So we all know the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing. It's the middle of the second weekend and, if you stand in the same place long enough, there's a good chance a complete stranger will ask you how your bracket is doing.

I paid about 5 minutes worth of attention to NCAA basketball this season -- the 5 minutes I spent filling out a bracket on thirty minutes before tipoff of the first game. My "research" constituted trying to think back to the discussions I half-paid attention to on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.

The first two days of the tournament didn't go too well for my bracket. The right side was in dire straits, or so it seemed.

Flash ahead to today. My correctly predicting UCLA and Ohio State to reach the Final Four gave my bracket a bump in the standings. A big bump. I actually leap-frogged over 443,395 other people's brackets to land in the 84th percentile. I'm still only ranked 313,444 out of God knows how many people but I'm pretty happy with that, especially since my other two Final Four picks (Florida and UNC) are both still alive and heavy favorites for tomorrow's games.

Oh, and the lightbulb in my head just went on -- I'm in the 84th percentile and ranked 313,444? That means at least 1.9 million brackets were created on Yahoo. Wow, that's a helluva lot of people vying for nothing but bragging rights.

Yeah... 84th percentile beyotch! Suck on that!

Lindsay 1, Gisele 0

There's a funny story in my wife's family about the time her sister Lindsay travelled to Africa with her grandmother. Lindsay was about 17 years old at the time and was apparently quite desired by the native Africans who they encountered in the Serengetti. It was presumably the whole blue eyes, blond hair thing. One tribesman became so enamored with her that he offered twelve head of cattle to the grandmother in exchange for Lindsay. And while Lindsay always did say she wanted a big family, I don't think this is what she had in mind. Fortunately, the grandmother declined the generous offer and the two continued on there way, albeit with a funny story to tell.

If Lindsay wasn't flattered by the offer, she should be.

"To be honest, all I was thinking about when I was with this woman was my cattle and goats," he said of his brief encounter with celebrity.

That's a quote from Keseme Ole Parsapaet, a Maasai tribesman who recently did a photo shoot with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. The photos were for Project Red, another Bono-inspired effort to raise money for fighting AIDS in Africa. The photos show the lengthy Maasai standing stout with full native dress while the much skimpier-cloaked Gisele leans into him. He was paid $5,000 for the photo shoot which is equivalent to five years salary for most Kenyans. Yet, despite the money and the trip to London, and the fact that he had one of the world's top supermodels -- a particularly gorgeous woman by first-world standards -- draped sexily against him, he was thinking of his cows.

One look at Lindsay and a tribesman was ready to give up his cows for her. But silly Keseme has Gisele in his arms and he was homesick for cattle. Score one for Lindsay!

Read the rest of the article at the Seattle Times here.

She Hasn't Pulled Her Hair Out... Yet.

Kristin just got an email from a very annoying coworker -- the one I've heard her complain about vehemently night after night for four years. The one nearly everybody in the company, for that matter, wouldn't mind seeing hit by a bus. She's the type of coworker who uses her PhD to try and bully those with fewer letters after their name. The type of coworker who insists on controlling everything and anything going on, no matter how outside her realm of responsibility it is. The type of coworker who, despite not being a manager, simply must have two offices. You know the type.

She wrote Kristin tonight asking, very simply, "Can you show me how to turn on Spell Checkers?"

Let's Get One Thing Straight

When it comes to the format wars, Blu-Ray is pulling ahead in movie sales thanks in no small part to the PS3's ability to play Blu-Ray movies straight out of the box. However, it's also largely due to the fact that Sony controls a ton of media and is keeping everything under the Sony Entertainment umbrella off of the HD-DVD format. Go to the store and see how many movies are available on HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray. I assure you there are more for Blu-Ray. Which makes sense. And while it may be true that Microsoft did release a standalone HD-DVD player that hooks up to the X360, Microsoft doesn't make the HD-DVD format, they're not trying to win with HD-DVD, and truth be told I don't think they really care one way or the other.

I bring this up because there is a lot of Intrnet blather going on about Microsoft "conceding defeat" and lowering the price of their HD-DVD unit and even saying that they would consider offering a Blu-Ray "solution" in the future.

Why wouldn't they? Again, it's not like Microsoft makes the HD-DVD players/discs/technology.

If anything, when it comes to Sony and Microsoft betting on a technology, Sony chose Blu-Ray and if you want to be specific, Microsoft chose DVD. Not HD-DVD. Which actually seems to make sense for a number of reasons. First, it is the format that is cheaper and what nearly everyone is currently satisfied with. Secondly, increasing disc space does not guarantee better games. If games the size of Oblivion or with the graphics of Gears of War can all fit on a single DVD, then there really is no reason for more space. Lastly, Microsoft doesn't care about the format wars because it's already moved into video-on-demand with their Video Marketplace being second only to iTunes in television/movie downloads and currently the only place to watch HD movies online.

Yes, that's right, Microsoft didn't choose Blu-Ray nor did they choose HD-DVD, yet X360 owners can still watch HD movies on their system.

What's cheaper -- a $600 PS3 + $30 to buy a Blu-Ray movie or a $400 X360 + $5 to download the HD version of that same movie?

Anyway, my point was that people seem to think that Microsoft is behind the push for the HD-DVD format. They're not. They did offer an external HD-DVD player, but it was terrifically downplayed and never given any marketing push whatsoever. It was doomed to fail, but also designed to quiet the demand while Video Marketplace got a larger library of content.

From The "Gotta Have It" Files

Introducing the Monster Pod!

It's a 6-oz, slightly dome-shaped, beanbag looking thing that clings to all surfaces and supports most compact digital cameras with it's standard tripod-like mount. And yes the photos show it sticking to a cold piece of wood and stone block wall in mid-winter. Incredible.

From the B&H Photo website:

The Monster Pod is very easy to use; simply fasten your camera to its standard ¼-20 screw thread and attach it to almost any surface - it will stick securely for up to ten minutes (depending on the surface and the angle). Take blur-free, low-light shots without resorting to a flash, or get a picture of yourself with friends without having to ask anyone else to take the shot! When you're done, just peel it right off. The Monster Pod does not leave marks or residue, and its effectiveness is not compromised by dirt. It is not a gel, and will not dry or harden.

The Monster Pod is not a suction cup or a bean bag, it has no clamps or straps, and it will stick where none of these other materials will dare to tread. Gentle pressure gets it to fasten and mold to even irregular surfaces. It has been tested on an impressive range of surfaces: wood, stone, concrete, metal, veneer, glass, tile, enamel, sheet rock, rocks, trees, painted, wet, dry, smooth, rough, flat, rippled, and the list goes on and on. Put it on a fire hydrant, parking meter, kitchen ceiling, canoe, etc. You are limited only by your imagination!

This looks perfect for mountain biking trips, but does cost a pretty hefty $32. You can see the article and pics, including a link to purchase the Monster Pod here.

The Spring Crush

It's been an annual rite of fall for gamers the world over to feel crushed by the barrage of games being released in the months of September and October. Those two months (and November to a lesser extent) regularly receive at least half the year's games, not to mention the lion's share of all the worthwhile games. This isn't to say that the rest of the year is a barren wasteland (well, unless you were looking for a game to play on your Gamecube) but the other months do often feel overlooked in favor of the pre-Christmas blitz. If gamers can do anything well as a whole, it's complain. And that we did. Message boards routinely featured pleas by cash- and time-strapped gamers for publishers to spread the games out across the calendar year.

I'm not so sure the entire calendar year is being used equally, but it seems that many in the industry have listened as we are going to see a lot of great games coming in the next 8 weeks.

Under the urging of nearly everyone who played the demo, I ordered my copy of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords for the Nintendo DS yesterday. This particular game is unique in that it plays like a strategy-rpg, but uses a Bejeweled-style set of puzzle to settle combats. That game released yesterday.

Then, of course, there's Guitar Hero 2 for the X360 on April 3rd, The Darkness (made by the folks behind the exceptionally good Chronicles of Riddick) quite possibly on May 1st, and Forza Motorsport 2 on May 15th. There's also a very good chance that the new Colin McRae rally game could also release in early May.

Then, of course, there are all of the other Live Arcade games coming every Wednesday, not to mention Wii owners have Super Paper Mario to look forward to in April. PS3 owners have a bunch of impressive ports of games coming their way too in the next month. Hard to get excited about games that have been out on other platforms for over a year, but hey, at least they're getting something.

Anyway, the point is that I'm already starting to wonder how I'm going to find the time to work, train, and play all of these great games. Not to mention, you know, actually spend time with Kristin. It's going to be hard, but hopefully a little pain now will lessen the crush in the fall.

High Performance

When I bought my Giant NRS C2 two years ago, I did so at Performance Bike in Redmond. It was about the 5th shop I went to that day and while I was very happy with the bike (and the 10% back they gave me in store credit), I felt as if I was somehow doing a disservice to the bicycle-riding world by not shopping in a trusty family-owned LBS. That's "local-bike-shop" for those non-cyclists out there. In cycling, Performance Bike is The Man. It's Wal-Mart. It's everything that is wrong and unholy in the world, to paraphrase a quote from Office Space.

Is it though?

In the two years since I've purchased my bike there, I refused to take it in for servicing to that shop. I would stop in to take advantage of their sales if I needed more Clif Bars or Gu, or if I needed spare tubes, but I only ever let the mechanics at the LBSs work on my bike. Funny story about that actually... it turns out they all sucked. In two years of bringing my bike to different shops for service, never once did I come home happy and completely satisfied. If they weren't half-fixing things, they were overcharging, and if they weren't overcharging they would be rude and condescending and talk to you as if you don't know anything at all, let alone how to ride a bike.

I've since learned how to do a good amount of the repairs/maintenance to my bike myself, but it doesn't hurt to let the experts handle some fixes. Like a couple weeks ago, after changing the chain and cassette, it was apparent to me that my chainrings were all worn down. Time for a new crankset. Since I was recently annoyed (again) by the guys in the shop most local to me, I decided to take it to Performance Bike in Redmond. They were limited in cranksets, but it was time to start putting heavier, lower-end stuff onto my Giant as I certainly can't afford to maintain two bikes with high-end parts. The service was excellent, they were friendly, and the bike was ready to be picked up by noon the next day. And, I might add, unlike the other shops, they actually boxed up my old parts and had them waiting for me without having to be asked. Pretty cool too, since my bottom bracket that went with the old cranks was virtually brand-new.

I was impressed, but I wasn't completely sold. Maybe I just got lucky. During this past Sunday's ride at Moran State Park, it became apparent to me that my rear brake had to be bled (hydraulic disc brakes). The stopping power was nil and I had to turn the dial about 50 times to move the calipers inward enough to get any grip at all in the rear. Also, my rear derailleur cable was shot. The cable guides on the bike cut through the housing and were dicing up the cable and making for a pretty bad shifting experience. How bad? I would push the lever, nothing would happen, and I would have to use my finger to pull the lever back outward so I can push again to get it to shift. Each push would actually be equivalent to about 3 shifts. So I had to shift roughly 6 times to change 1 gear.

Monday afternoon I brought the bike to Performance Bike and was given little reason to expect good things. I was told their main service guy had quit that weekend and they literally didn't know if they had anyone in their staff that knew how to bleed brakes. Gulp. They told me I would have the bike back by Friday or Saturday *if* they found someone to hire. Double gulp. I told them I wanted it by Wednesday for my weekly group ride. As an aside, I've finally ordered the Avid bleed-kit with the syringes and oil so I can bleed my own brakes from now on.

Anyway, my phone rings on Tuesday and it's the guy from the shop telling me the bike was ready to be picked up. Oh, and since I bought the bike from them (two years ago, remember) they are only charging me for the actual cable and housing. The brake-bleed and install/tuning of the rear derailleur cable was free. When I picked it up, I was billed $7.50 +tax. And just as important, the bike shifted like it was brand new all night last night and the brakes are just the way I like them -- super grippy! Oh, and I'll get another 10% back in store credit on the parts.

While pedaling my way through our weekly 20-miler last night over the hills and dales of Redmond and past the mansions of Woodinville, I got to thinking about Performance Bike. Sure, they might send catalogs and flyers out once a week, and they might only sell a pretty limited, lower-end line of bikes (they no longer carry brands like Giant, Trek, Cannondale), and the stores all reek of corporate sanitization, but when you get down to it, they're just like the other bike shops. Not only do they need to do good service to get you back in the door, but I might even say they have to give even better service to erase the stigma of being a chain store.

I'm happy to call the Performance Bike in Redmond my new favorite LBS. I won't be buying any more bikes from them, but I also won't only go there for nutrition anymore. They can work on my Giant all they want from now on. And the cheapie Scattante road bike I bought there last winter. As for the Moots, well... we'll just have to wait and see who gets to touch that one.

PS: Don't think for one second this means I'll step foot in a Wal-Mart.

In the Green

Let's cut straight to the chase: I am not a patient person. My life as I know it is built on a foundation of impulse decisions. Everything from college selection to the cars I have bought over the years to dropping out of grad school to "quitting my dayjob" to moving out to Washington to the house we bought has been a decision made, what some would consider, on the fly. Hell, Kristin and I still own a nice piece of property in North Carolina that was bought on a whim.

Looking back on my life up this point, I see only two big decisions that I've made that I actually took a modicum of time to consider. The obvious decision was asking Kristin to marry me. But even that wasn't much of a dilemma -- much to the chagrin of my dormmates, she and I essentially lived together for four years at college anyway. The only other "big decision" I've made in which I've really did a whole pros/cons thing with is the decision to buy this damn Moots I'm still waiting for. Which is kind of fitting actually, as Kristin pointed out the other night that this bike is costing a good 2-3 times her engagement ring. D'oh! As an aside, I'll have you know I bought that ring while still in college and she has received many compliments on it over the past 10 years.

Note to self: Make sure you get Kristin something very, very, very nice for our upcoming ten year anniversary.

Back to the Moots, I spent nearly three months going back and forth on this bike choice and the exhale I let out when I finally did swipe the plastic in mid-January could probably be heard all the way in Steamboat Springs, where my highly-anticipated new bike would be built. I was told it would take 6 to 8 weeks.

We all know that nothing ever takes less time to build than anticipated. So I waited about 7 weeks and then had the shop in which I ordered the frame make a call to Moots to see where we're at. We were told 1-2 more weeks. Okay, fine, I can live with that.

So I waited some more. Knowing that we are now in that illustrious second week, I had the guys at Ti-Cycles order me the fork and headset that I wanted and, as mentioned earlier in the week, I even got the wheels ready to roll.

I continued to wait, but it was clear that my trademark impatience -- which, by the way, has yet to stear me wrong -- has set in. I finally decided to call Moots directly and was told -- drumroll please -- 1 to 2 weeks.

How'd you guess?

Apparently they use a color-coded system to help track expected delivery dates and my bike "is in the green" which means 1 to 2 weeks. The woman on the other end of the line said there is a chance that my bike "went green" right when the shop called to check and that it might be shipping this week, but it's more likely at least another week of waiting. Or two.

Oh well, I guess it could have been worse. Waiting for a bike pales in comparison to other things. Like, for instance, Kristin could have left me on my knee waiting for an answer for 6 to 8 weeks. Yeah, I'd rather wait for the bike.

Ichiro TV

With apologies to Madden 2006 cover-boy Shaun Alexander, Seattle's only true sports superstar, Mr. Enigma himself, Ichiro, has his own game show in Japan. And why is it not surprising that it consists of him sitting in an empty room with a contestant who he takes turns with in a battle of wits. It's not triva per se, but seems to revolve more around mind association and theory. His competition is always an expert in their field, such as a neuroscientist or fashion designer. Ichiro, in his zeal for the zen-like quote offers up the following:

"The world is filled with different sensibilities," he explains. "There's a sensation that comes from interacting with people outside your normal profession. If you limit yourself just to the sensibilities that are familiar to you, then you can't achieve self-development.

Definitely not your typical ballplayer.

Here's the link to the Seattle Times article.

And here's a link to a video clip of the "Ichiro Versus" show on Youtube.

Lunch Money

A song called "Chinatown Hustler" just came on my personalized Yahoo Launchcast station. Who sings this funky song, you ask? Why, the Notorious MSG of course!

No, I've never heard of them before, but the song is damn funny. And yes, they all seem to have backgrounds in the take-out restaurant biz so it should come as no surprise that they have songs like "Dim Sum Girl" and "Egg Rollin'". There best titles have to be "Straight Outta Canton" and "F.O.B. For Life". That's fresh off the boat, by the way.

The Notorious MSG
(from left to right: Down-Lo Mein, Hong Kong Fever, the late Funky Buddha)

Head to Wikipedia to read the pretty funny biography for the band.

Or head directly to their site to watch their videos. Good beats, and funny too.

Big Boy Wheels

Remember when I said that my new 29er wheels didn't really seem that big? Apparently that all changes when you put the tires on. The power went out for an hour today and while it was out I took out my custom "" wheels and did up the rim tape, mounted the tires (Maxxis Ignitors) and tubes, and installed the brake rotors (185mm on the front, 160mm on the rear) and cogset (Sram PG970).

And then I stood back to admire my handiwork and got a little lightheaded. Wow, those are some big honking wheels! Suddenly, without thinking, something inside me mustered up a nasally emphyzema-tainted voice and bellowed, "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Come see the amazin' 29er AT THE TACOOOOOMA DOME!" I then of course followed this with a very poor rendition of Tim Allen's stupid grunt from Tool Time.

Boys and their toys.

Snow Doughnuts

This was in last week's Seattle Times:

Stanford found frozen doughnuts of snow on the top of Washington Pass in the North Cascades this week when he was doing avalanche-control work.

At first he couldn't believe his eyes: Perfectly shaped doughnuts had rolled down the mountainside and frozen in place.

He said it's only the second time in his 30 years of working in the snow that he's seen anything like it.

The larger of the snow rollers, as they are commonly called, was about 24 inches tall, he said, large enough for him to put his head through the hole.

Stanford said snow rollers form when there is a hard layer on the snow, covered by several more inches of dense snow. "Then you add a steep slope and a trigger such as a clump of snow falling out of a tree or off of a rock face."

As gravity pulls a clump down, it usually rolls down the hill and collapses, creating what the WSDOT calls a pinwheel. Or it will not roll at all, and come down in an avalanche of snow. But if the snow is the perfect density and temperature, it rolls down leaving a hole in the center, Stanford said.

Strong, gusty winds also can be a factor, according to NOAA's National Weather Service office in central Illinois, where snow rollers have occurred.

As soon as the sun comes out and it warms up, the doughnuts would be gone, Stanford said Friday.

Click here to see the rest of the article and for a photo of a snow doughnut.

The Barkley Marathons

This is 26 minutes of the coolest podcast I've ever listened to. It's about the Barkley Marathons and one man's attempt at becoming only the second person to ever finish it. The Barkley is a very un-publicized ultra marathon in the Appalachian Mountains that consists of running five 20-mile unmarked loops. It's incredibly rugged terrain and racers must rely on their orienteering skills to figure out where to go. Cutoffs are enforced at 12 hours per lap and racers are given up to 60 hours to navigate the full 100 miles. You're probably thinking that 12 hours to run 20 miles is more than enough time. In most circumstances, you would be right for thinking so. But not in the Barkley.

I've never heard of this race and no longer am interested in ultra running (those days are behind me) but I love just knowing events like this exist. The podcast is an excerpt from the book "Running Through the Wall" and is as eloquent as it is entertaining. The author, Dr. Blake Wood, did a phenomenal job of mixing just enough background info about the race with his own trials and tribulations.

Here's a link to the mp3 file or you can visit and scroll down to view the March 9th podcast in other formats. I recommend listening to it even if you're not really interested in endurance sports -- it will amaze.

Also, I should add that the EndurancePlanet podcasts are available on iTunes and are a great source of information for endurance athletes. The topics usually revolve around triathlon, but there are plenty of cycling and running interviews and discussions, as well as mountaineering, nutrition, and strength training episodes as well.

TR Traning: Week #17 Numbers

Total Ride Time: 11:48:57
Total Mileage: 106.6
Total Elevation Gain: 9,581 feet
Total Calories Burned: 11,794

It's very early and I'm incredibly tired so this may not read as well as other posts. You've been warned.

I only rode four times this week but tried to make each of them count. Work is really getting pretty busy and is going to stay that way for the next few weeks, so I'm going to have to make the best of it when I do ride. Each of this week's rides were on the mountain bike, including a lengthy 47 mile ride I did on Saturday that used local rail-trail to access a couple singletrack spots. It was a good long day in the rain, but doing it felt great.

Yesterday, I made the trip to Orcas Island to finally meet a potential TransRockies partner coming down from Vancouver, BC. We tried to meet up a couple times in the past weeks but he had to postpone. This time around, I wanted to be the one to cancel but I didn't want to bail on him last minute. I probably should have just stayed home. I got some good riding in at Moran State Park, and Jamie was a very nice guy and good to ride and chat with, but our paces were just very different. He's coming back from injury and is probably a good several months of hard training away from reaching where I am at now. I was hoping that by doing a 47-mile ride the day before and only getting 2 hours of sleep (worked all night) that I would be slowed down enough for him to keep up, but not so. I actually felt pretty good and climbed really well yesterday. Although I can look past the lack of fitness regarding the climbs, it was actually all the waiting I did on the descents that has me concerned. It was pretty slick yesterday and after having gone down hard on a wooden bridge, I was taking it pretty slow. Yet I was still putting big gaps on him on the descents. Unfortunately, this may have been an effort in eliminating a potential teammate rather than a day spent finding one. Too bad, too, because I got along with the guy really well.

And if going all the way to the San Juans yesterday wasn't time-consuming enough, we get back to my truck and get cleaned up at 2:00pm. Just in time to head to the 2:55 ferry back to Anacortes, right? Wrong. Despite there being only 5 cars on the ferry in the morning, and despite it being a windy, rainy, nasty weekend on the islands (the sun finally came out Sunday afternoon), the ferry landing was mobbed. We rolled into the terminal at 2:15 and not only was the 2:55 ferry full, but I was on stand-by for the 6:15 ferry. If there were any medical emergencies needing to get people off the island, I would have been bumped to the 9:00 ferry.

This is why I stay away from the San Juans in the summer -- you can't daytrip to a regional vacation/honeymoon spot without being overrun by tourists. Well, that and the fact that mountain bikers get kicked off the trails between May 15th and September 15th.

So, anyway, about this week's riding. I'm glad to have gotten the 12 hours or so of riding in (that time is actual pedal-time and doesn't include stopped time) but it's clear I'm going to have to do most of my training alone. A lot of people are transitioning back into "bike mode" now and are easing back into things a bit more socially than I would prefer. So group rides right now consist of lots of frequent stops and conversation. Which I love to do, but I just can't. I'm just too busy right now to invest time in rides in which heart rates repeatedly drops below 70bpm. Looks like the Wednesday night Thrilla rides will be my only group rides for a while, at least until it warms up a little and stays lighter later. Once it does, then I can time-trial my way to some of the trailheads, ride socially for an hour or two, then really push it back home afterwards. One place in mind is 14 miles of rail-trail from home -- and all uphill on the return trip.

Well this has gotten longer than I intended and I didn't wake up at 6:30 to waste time posting on my blog. I have a lot of work to get done. I do have other things I want to post about though, so maybe I'll sneak it in at lunch time.

PS: I begin my monthly sports massage sessions tonight. Couldn't have come at a better time, as I am very sore after this weekend's rides!

19 Down, 1 To Go

I've finished 19 of the 20 Challenges on Worms for Live Arcade and the final Challenge is driving me crazy. It's super difficult on account of the bunching of the worms and the insanely accurate enemy worms. I don't want to call the game cheap because I believe that a really good player could pull off the shots that the enemy ai does, but not quite with as much regularity. Nevertheless, unlike other games that stop me in my tracks, I don't get mad playing Worms. I take my beating calmly, go upstairs and work for another hour or so, then come back down and try again.

I've read online about people using the girders in the game to basically build themselves a little fort in the upper corner of the area and waiting for Sudden Death to flood the other worms. I know a friend had done this to get past Challenge 13, but ther's something really odd about seeing no score for him for that Challenge on the Leaderboards, yet see them for subsequent Challenges which he was able to pass without having to resort to the cheesey run-and-hide tactic. I'm going to try fighting it out like man-worm a few more times before I give up and try to win by default. So far nobody on my Friends list has made it past Challenge 19 but me, but there's a few closing in.

The Moment They've All Been Waiting For

No, I'm not unveiling my new bike -- quite the contrary actually.

Instead, it's been announced today that next week's Xbox Live Arcade release is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The 2D action-adventure is widely considered one of the best Playstation games ever made and there are many who would say it's one of the best games ever. Period. It will be available for download next Wednesday for 800 points ($10 US) and features improved visuals to take advantage of high-definition televisions and also contains "modernized sound", widescreen support, online leaderboards, and of course, Achievements.

I ended up deciding against downloading this week's TMNT game as I just know I'm not really going to play it. But SOTN? Definitely. Especially since I never played it the first time around. I actually bought it for $5 at a grocery store in Greenville, NC several years ago, never opened it, then proceeded to sell it on Ebay last year for about 5x what I paid for it. So even with the $10 download fee, I'm still up a few bucks and will finally get to play it. I can't wait.

Click here for a bunch of screenshots.

Uncontrollable Sneezing

You know that person who sneezes really loud? Everyboby knows that one. They make a huge dramatic production out of sneezing. Their sneezes literally have three acts complete with suspense, soliloquies, and a denouement. And it's all for show. Your God Bless You is their curtain call. It's quite annoying.

And they ain't got nothing on my dog.

Kristin and I got home from dinner, and just as I was settling into my office chair for round two of my work day I start to hear my male dog, Kimo, sneezing downstairs. Each sneeze is followed by a thud. After the third sneeze-thud combo I hear Kristin calling to him, "Kimo, Kimo, no, buddy, no, Kimo no." And the sneeze-thud continued and her pleas for him to stop grew more desperate sounding.

So I run down the stairs to see what's going on just as he finishes his 9th or 10th sneeze. There's blood on the floor in the hallway. There's blood on the floor in the kitchen. Kimo -- completely unfazed mind you -- is in the living room licking his foot.

He was sneezing so violently that he repeatedly slammed his snout on the floor with such force that he gave himself a bloody nose. Over and over. Each sneeze was loud and violent and immediately followed by a hearty thud -- his head hitting the bamboo flooring. With each sneeze he blew a fine mist of mucous and bloody spittle, and with each sneeze-thud he hurt himself a little more, causing a little more blood to leak. He never wimpered. He never even made a peep, save for the ridiculously loud canine ahh-choo. And the thud.

Kristin and I instantly surrounded him and were hugging and petting him, trying to provide comfort after this insane display of unintentional masochism. He just licked a little blood off his feet, licked his nose, and smiled at us as if to say, "What's up with you two?"

It's times like this when I really start to wonder exactly what goes on with these dogs when we're not around.

New Bike Envy

In the past three days I have seen three of my mountain biking cohorts roll up to me on new bikes. First it was Erik and his brand-new tricked-out Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper. A ridiculously light 5"x5" travel all-mountain bike. You gotta admire a major brand like Specialized actually *not* putting their big-ass gaudy logo on the side of the bike like all the other companies. The bike looks stealth. He's going to love it.

Then my rides-it-all friend Eric (no relation to Erik with a "k") meets me at Redhook Brewery last night after my weekly training ride to show me the 8"x8" monstrosity he had in the back of his girlfriend's car. He had just bought this Ironhorse downhill bike (can't remember the actual model name) about 30 minutes before showing it to me. It still had that new bike smell. I've never even straddled a bike with more than 5" of travel before and Eric right away encourages me to ride it down the stairs in front of the brewery. Holy crap! This thing made riding down the concrete stairs feel exactly like riding over a small tree root on my Giant NRS. It was insane. I would never in a million years buy a bike like this but the technology that goes into it and the sheer heft (43 pounds!!!) demands respect. No, I won't ever be riding that thing anywhere where that much suspension would be required, but I'll gladly go and take photos of him doing it.

Lastly, as we're leaving Redhook Ross leads me to his car to show me his new Salsa El Santo. Now we're getting somewhere! The Eric/k's bikes were indeed pretty freaking impressive, but this is something more my speed. The El Santo is a 4"x4" cross-country bike. Nice and light, beautiful root beer and silver paint job and best of all, it actually had a triple chainring. Ross also uses shrinkwrapping on his cables to protect the bike/cable from rub -- a nice touch.

So that's three new bikes shown to me in a three day span.

Ahem... any day now Mr. Moots. Whenever you're ready.

Culdcept SAGA is Official

The sequel to my absolute favorite PS2 game is indeed going to be released stateside for the X360 this summer with full four-player Xbox Live functionality and I cannot wait. I've been holding onto hope that despite the original game's very poor sales (thanks to zero marketing and very few copies made available) that the sequel would indeed make the trans-Pacific journey to our great shores. And it will. And on this note, I can finally get to work...

SANTA CLARA, Calif., – Leading video games developer and publisher NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc. announced today that Culdcept™ SAGA will be released this Summer for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and feature online competitive gameplay via Xbox Live®. The latest entry to the popular card battle series, Culdcept SAGA combines the thrilling luck and strategy of a board game with the depth of a trading card game to create a unique twist on traditional turn-based play. An original storyline developed by one of Japan’s premiere sci-fi writers adds RPG-style elements that offer an enriching experience any player can enjoy.

Here's a video of Japanese gameplay footage of the game. Beware, however, that this is most decidely a Japanese-y type of game. Think Monopoly meets Magic: The Gathering.

Obligatory Final Four Prediction

North Carolina
Ohio State

Florida over UNC in the final to win the title two years in a row.

One Final Post on Dyack

Just wanted to say one other thing that I forgot to mention in my previous post. It seems there are a ton of people posting across the Internet about how mean and nasty Dyack was in the podcast. People are saying he was throwing a tantrum, that he was berating the reviewers, and even making it out to sound as if he was screaming at them and/or throwing things.

He wasn't.

People are so averse to any type of strong language these days that the slightest hint of non-politically correct passivity startles them into thinking the speaker must be a loon. Maybe it's just the Jersey boy in me, but I found absolutely nothing wrong with Dyack's questions and comments, nor his tone. He never raised his voice, he tried (with some success) to keep the conversation factual and not veer off into any unnecessary personal attacks, and he didn't resort to petty name-calling. People are making it sound as if Dyack somehow metamorphosed into Mike Tyson at a weigh-in. This was a man who has built up a company that makes games he cares very deeply about defending his "life's work" for lack of a better term (not to mention that of the 50 or so employees also working on Too Human) . And I can totally understand why he took EGM's comments personally and felt the need to address them -- even if it was a year later and the world had moved on.

Dyack didn't get to be in his position by rolling over and letting everyone rub his belly and scratch behind his ears whenever they want to. Or by sitting when he really wants to stand. And he certainly shouldn't be flamed for confronting perceived adversaries and directly questioning them about it. No, he should instead be applauded. This world would be a better place if everyone had the courage to speak directly, ask pointed questions, and not get mired in passive-aggressive PC nonsense. He had a problem with EGM and felt he was treated unfairly and he called them on it. That's how it ought to be.

Even if was a year late.

Dyack vs EGM

The post I made earlier about Penny-Arcade's comic was a response to the brew-ha-ha surrounding a preview written in EGM magazine last May about the upcoming game Too Human. The game, believed to be one of the crown jewels of the Xbox 360 lineup was still well over a year out from release, was utterly trashed in the magazine. Dennis Dyack, founder and head of game developer Silicon Knights recently posted a lengthy article about this on his blog -- yes, nearly a year later -- and then this week went on EGM's podcast to, essentially, fight for his game. Literally. Again, this is all about something that happened nearly a year ago. And, I might add, something that everyone who might buy the game has completely forgotten about or never paid much attention to anyway. I mean, really, who reads EGM anyway?

I digress. I make a point of not listening to videogame podcasts as the ones I have listened to in the past were clearly aimed at a younger demographic. Like 5 year olds, perhaps. I listened to EGM's podcast today against my better judgment to see what the fuss was about. I have a morbid sense of curiosity, to say the least.

Before I comment about Dyack's comments and perceived hostility, I have to give credit where it's due -- I thought the EGM guys did a phenomenal job of maintaining their composure and politely stating their case and respectfully standing up for themselves.

That said, I think Dyack has a very good point -- that being that game previews serve no purpose at all. How many times have you seen a preview in a magazine or website that was anything less than positive, other than the case in question? You don't. If the game is bad, they simply say nothing at all or mention that it "shows promise".

Previews by nature have so many caveats attached to them (i.e. the game is unfinished, so everything we say may be wrong) that there is of little point in even writing or reading them. They have to be positive for fear of killing a relationship with a publisher (and let's not forget the lovely press junkets and swag) and promise of future early access and debug kits. Not to mention, there's no reason to not be positive for, as Dyack correctly pointed out, the game isn't done yet. I've had access to early builds of games for nearly 7 years now and I've attended E3 three or four times -- I've seen games change dramatically right up to two weeks before going gold. Take Gears of War for example: when I visitied Epic in August to see the game, I left impressed by the game but also very concerned about the unbalanced difficulty and some questionable weapons choices. When I returned at the end of September, it was almost as if I was playing an entirely different game. Everything that was a concern in August had been polished to a glossy sheen. Now take that and apply it to a game that isn't two months away from going Gold, but over a year out. See my point?

As for E3, the show floor is the absolute worst place to get a feel for a game unless it's one of the rare instances when you have a friendly, knowledgeable staff-member right there to walk you through it -- like Ubisoft had for Prince of Persia: Sands of Time three years ago. They provided phenomenal attention to booth visitors that year and everyone left completely mesmerized by the game -- I was so excited that I practically ran right back to the BradyGames booth and begged my Editor-In-Chief to let me write the guidebook for it.

Anyway, I understand the public wants a quick rundown of what went on at E3 and EGM has to sell magazines so they give the readers what they want. Where Dyack has a right to be mad, however, was the venomous tone the previewer took. In his attempts to be "edgy" and appeal to the youngsters who read EGM, he stepped over the line. The language he used should be saved for reviews of very, very, very bad games. Instead of trying to be so negative, he could have simply shown a screenshot and instead of calling the game "terrible" which is impossible to tell at that point -- or any other point before the game goes Gold -- he could have just put "needs work" or something less harsh. It would have still conveyed his feelings of the game as it was shown at E3, yet wouldn't have had the potentially business damaging repercussions.

Now, of course I agree that Silicon Knights and Microsoft shouldn't have pushed to make the game playable on the show floor if they weren't prepared to take the criticism they would get for it -- and Dyack even says they knew full well the game was going to get negative comments. And I'm sure that would have been fine, but the EGM writer went over the line. Maybe it was an attempt to just appeal to a juvenile readership or perhaps it really was a part of a subconscious allegiance to the "Nintendo Defense Force". Who knows?

Either way, I agree with Dyack that it is good to see E3 go the way of the dodo bird. And I really hope that previews go away too. Release screenshots, release trailers, wait for the game to be finished, then provide the reviewers with final code. Until then, everyone should get the benefit of the doubt.

But as for my thoughts on Too Human, I'm still disappointed about how bad Eternal Darkness was to say for sure that I'll buy any game Silicon Knights produces. One thing for certain though, is that I won't be basing that decision on a one-paragraph preview written over a year before the game comes out.

Tyax Air

Just got an email from Tyax Air, announcing their new website, which you can view here.

They seem to be getting a bit more organized since I took a trip with them back in 2005. They now have multi-day guided trips to a remote camp with "safari tents" and lots of trails to hike, mountains to climb, and, of course, scenery in spades. The prices seem reasonable and I know when I went with them, both the pilot and our mountain biking guide were very friendly and knowledgeable of the area.

Why Industry-Only Conventions Are Necessary

If you've been around me during the month of May, you've probably heard me complain about "the public" turning the annual E3 expo (redundant yes, since the 3 E's are Electronics, Entertainment, and Expo but everyone does it) into a putrid cocktail comprised of 2 parts sweat-stink, 3 parts fanboy salivation and 3 parts irrational consternation. And by public, I mean by and large the thousands of gamers who refer to themselves as "gaming journalists". E3 is no more (at least as we once knew it) but those very same journos have dusted off their inability to comprehend the words "Work In Progress" and aimed their deadly pens at the Game Developers Conference, an unto-now conference that has always flown well under the radar.

The Internet was ablaze last week with rapid-fire "articles" about every little comment, announcement, and sidebar convesation made at the show. Not the least of which (and also my favorite) was from one brave, if not retarded, developer who in the middle of a speech commented that Nintendo's Wii console was "a piece of shit". Ahh yes, and we wonder why people think gaming is something only kids do.

Anyway, back to my point. The guys at Penny-Arcade took the gaming press to task with today's excellent comic. I think everyone, no matter what industry you work in, can appreciate what they're getting at.

View the comic here.

They Exist

At approximately 8:25 PDT on March 14, 2007, for the first time in my life, I met an owner of a Playstation 3.

He goes by the name "Steve" and politely responded to the questions I posed him. He says he plays a game known as Resistance, which I believe was supposed to be a killer-app at one time or another. I don't know how that panned out, as I haven't heard the word mentioned since November. He expressed concern over his choice in consoles, yet remained cautiously optimistic that it will pan out. My questions about Home and Flow only drew blank stares and I must admit that he didnt't take kindly to me pinching him -- I had to see if his flesh felt like my own. It did. Sort of.

My brush with this rare alien breed of gamer was uncomfortable. He spoke of waiting for Devil May Cry 5 and Warhawk (aka Tech-Demo) while I regaled him with tales of Xbox Live Arcade and my 2-1 record in the league I started with my friends for MLB 2K1. He said he believes he has the more powerful machine, yet was visibly uncomfortable throughout the conversation. He declined a request for a photo and when I asked him for an autograph "to prove he really exists" he lost all control of himself, grasped me by my Camelbak straps and started pleading for me to not tell anyone about what he did.

"Especially my wife, man. Don't let her know. Please? Be a pal. Don't tell her man. She'll leave me. How could I be this stupid? How? What was I thinking?"

He then started slapping himself in the head over and over with the battery from his NiteRider head lamp. After the fifth blow from the battery caused a slight hematoma to form, he slumped to the ground and began quivering and sobbing uncontrollably. He asked me to lend him $400 for an Xbox, but I just rode off into the night, visibly shaken from my encounter.


How much is a trip down memory lane worth?

If the answer to that question is $5, then you're in luck. This week's Live Arcade release is the arcade classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and word on the HTML street is that this particular version supports 4-player Co-Op play via Xbox Live. For those like me who dumped pocket fulls of quarters into the arcade machine as a kid, this is indeed very good news.

And, unlike other recent nostalgic binges like Frogger, Galaga, Pac-Man, and Root Beer Tapper there is the chance that this won't be yet another case of rose-colored memories. The chance is there, but I'm hoping it lives up the memories. For starters, the game is a good bit "newer" than those old 80's classics. And if nothing else, the ability to play 4-player games with friends (assuming they buy it) will be great fun. And if the game sucks, well, then we'll just make fun of it together. Either way, I'm sure I'll laugh.

So, if you want to get your ninja groove on, send a "cowabunga" over to me on Live and I'll grab my bo staff and join you. Just as soon as I complete the last 2 challenges on Worms. Errr, what I really meant was as soon as I finish writing this guidebook for Dawn of Mana.

It's A Dry Noise

One of the gifts I gave Kristin for Christmas was a pair of electric shoe driers. You plug them in, put the pods into the shoes and let them go to work. After a few hours your wet shoes will be dry. They were advertised on the Cozy Winters website as being "silent". Being the techno-savvy guy I am, I took this claim with a grain of salt. Nothing is silent in the true sense of the word. Right?

Finally, a few weeks ago Kristin got around to giving them a trial run. We plugged them in and... nothing. They were dead. Not only was there no noise whatsoever, but there was no vibration, no fan, no... anything. We searched for an on/off switch, something to twist, pull, or push. Nothing. They were as inanimate and motionless plugged into the wall as they were sitting on the table in their packaging. We called Cozy Winters and asked for an exchange. The ones they shipped us were defective.

The replacement package arrived the other day and Kristin immediately plugged them in. Silence. We were dumbfounded. Could they possibly have replaced our broken pair of shoe driers with another malfunctioning set? I looked at the packaging and read the description of how they're supposed to work for the umpteenth time and finally decided to just throw them into her running shoes and see what happens. Again, no noise whatsoever. No vibrations. No flowing air. Nothing.

Imagine our surprise when we returned an hour or so later to find the shoes nice and toasty warm -- and DRY! The driers somehow suck the humidity out of the shoes and push the dry hot air out the top. My guess is that it's probably related to one of the physical/chemical reactions we learned about in Physics 101. The stripping away of the humidity must be enough to create its own air flow, perhaps like how wind is generated over the cooling beach in the summer? I don't know. It's pretty wild though.

The Yin to the Yang of these shoe driers is, of course, the Xbox 360. I've always shrugged off the complaints about how noisy this console is as being your typical online whining. After all, I've had the system for nearly a year now and really never noticed much noise it generates. That is, until the other day when I turned it on with the wireless controller and the start-up startled my dog who was laying on the floor near it. He literally did a small little fright-jump, looked over his shoulder at the Xbox, then took off running into the other room.

So there you have it folks, you now have an answer for the next time someone asks you what an Xbox and a vacuum cleaner have in common.

Thanks Gamecritics!, my online haunt for much of the past 5 years, was nice enough to include a mention of my sponsorship with BradyGames and pending attempt at racing TransRockies in their weekly news roundup. Thanks guys!

For those who've never been to GameCritics, you should definitely check it out. They really strive to elevate the standard game review to a higher-brow level of critique and, from what I can tell recently in my covert reappearances on the site, the blog posts from the editors are a lot better written and more interesting than what you find on some other gaming sites. I speak of GC in the past tense, however, as the forums there really sucked me in for a few years and I just had to finally quit cold turkey... with something like 7,000 posts.

SWM Seeks SWM or SWF for 7 Day Fling

I posted what amounts to a personal ad on the MTBR and TransRockies forums looking for a potential TR teammate and I'm having flashbacks to when I used to help a friend in graduate school weed through the replies her personal ad would get. Granted, the replies to my ad aren't necessarily flooding in (nor do they contain the occasional photo of frontal male nudity, thank God!), but they are an odd bunch. I got one from somebody who also has a team reserved and is apparently having a tougher time than he expected in finding a teammate -- I expect his rather tough performance last year has something to do with this (6 hour time penalties for being dropped by his teammate and a DNF on day 3) . I'm also getting replies from folks who see no reason to write more than one or two sentences. Not even to my questions asking for more info. Considering everyone that does this thing says that you and your partner are basically "married" for a week, I would hope to get a little more than the textual equivalent of the cold shoulder -- especially since they contacted me first.

Fortunately I finally did get a reply from a well-spoken Canuck who is 40 years old and a former Cat 1 cyclist who has 6 24-hour solo races under his belt. Sounds like a really nice guy and is even willing to come down to the Seattle area for a lengthy training weekend if I return the favor and make the trip to Banff to train with him on his turf. Getting me to have to go to Banff for a long weekend of mountain biking will require zero arm-twisting, I assure you. Even if it is 11-12 hours away.

I still have a couple more local irons in the fire though -- one of whom I'm really hoping says yes -- but it's definitely good to potentially have found a contingency teammate. The money is due in full by May 1st, so time is running out. Hopefully, I get this sorted out in the next 1-2 weeks.

In the meantime, I'm beginning to grow impatient with Mr. Moots.

EDIT: My TR teammate needn't be white as the title of this thread implies. I don't care if you're a purple double-amputee with red hair, freckles, and a lisp as long as you are a skilled mountain biker, committed to training hard, and have a good attitude.

TR Traning: Week #16 Numbers

Total Ride Time: 9:03:06
Total Mileage: 132.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5,628
Total Calories Burned: 9,820
Total Paused Time: 0:15:04

Added a few new stats to the weekly report. The scientist lurking deep inside me is still a data geek and if there's one thing I love about the Edge 305, it's all the wonderful numbers it gives me. And since I'm training with an HR monitor on (haven't begun HR-specific zone workouts yet, but will once my base prep phase is over) I get to see how many calories I'm burning. Or, as I like to say, proof that I can gorge myself on a daily basis.

This week had all the makings of a big one. Nearly all of the riding came in the first three days of the week, then when a friend had to cancel on Thursday I scheduled that day as a rest day not knowing I would end up not riding on Fri and Sat due to work. My second attempt at meeting a potential TR partner from Vancouver also failed, as he had to postpone again. Just as well, as I'm swamped with work and the weather sucks.

This coming week is going to be huge though. I have to finish one book this week and start another that has to be done by 4/9, so I'm going to have to really fine-tune my time management skills. I got night rides scheduled for Tues and Wednesday, a 60+ mile tour on Saturday, then a very hilly all singletrack ride on Sunday planned.

Anyway, that said, I'm psyched about that ratio of paused time to actual ride time. Less than 2 minutes of paused time per hour of riding. Ahhhh... the joys of riding by myself again!

HD Photo File Format

Microsoft released a press release concerning a new file format for images that could one day replace the ubiquitous JPEG. It's said to essentially have all of the functionality and flexibility of shooting in the RAW format (including the ability to undo changes made later on) but offers much cleaner compression and higher image detail than JPEG.

This could be awesome for taking photos of landscapes and objects, but too much image clarity isn't necessarily a good thing for portrait photography. Those who have an HDTV and have noticed zits and other facial blemishes on television broadcasts will no doubt understand what I'm saying. Better get that soft focus filter ready!

Read the press release here.

Garmin + TOPO! = Flick'r

I created a Flick'r account to host the higher-res versions of the maps and elevation profiles I'm creating for each of the bike routes I do. It's divided into two sets -- one for Mountain Biking and one for Road Biking. There's currently only 4 maps/profiles uploaded, but give it time. I'll have a wealth of maps and info on there before long.

These will stay public until I have enough to put out my own guidebook. Hehehehehe...

GDC Awards

The Game Developers Conference came to a close and the big award winners were Gears of War (Best Game, Tech, Visual Arts), Okami (Character Design, Innovation), and Wii Sports (Game Design, Innovation. And lucky me got to write the guidebooks for two of them, with the third not being the type of game that would ever require a strategy guide. Yeah, 2006 was a good year for me.

The other big winner at the GDC was Aquaria, an adventure game set underwater. It won for Best Independent Game and took home a prize of $200,000. Very nice. Here's a blurb Aquaria's website which you can visit here.

Aquaria is an action-oriented, non-linear 2D side-scrolling game. Using an intuitive and fluid mouse control system, Naija can deftly swim through and explore a massive, handcrafted world that is teeming with undersea life. Along the way, she will encounter literally hundreds of different types of plants and animals and explore many ingame miles of hidden caves, lost ruins, and other strange places.

Aquaria looks and sounds great, but I really have to ask one question: How does a game that's not even out yet win an award? Aquaria isn't due out till Spring 2007 according to its own website.

Worms - XBLA

I'm super busy with work and can't write much today, but I just want to say that I downloaded Worms on Xbox Live Arcade yesterday and am a believer. I've never played the Worms franchise before -- I know, I can't believe it either -- but now I have and I'm completely hooked. The game is both easy to learn, incredibly fun, challenging, and can be played in short spurts (that is, if you can tear yourself away from the whole "just one more game" factor). Also, for those interested in the Achievements, they seem very fair and also very doable. Most will come with time and through consistent play of the game.

For those who, like me, have never played Worms the game is essentially a turn-based 2D strategy game involving small teams of worms. During each turn you will have one minute to move and attack with whichever worm's turn it is. Worms can jump and squiggle around, but can also use nearly two dozen weapons and accessories ranging from bazookas to shotguns to mine-defusing sheep and jetpacks. Each worm has a set amount of hit points and the battle is over once a team has been eliminated. The environments are completely destructible and wind speed, trajectory, and strength of the attack must be taken into account. It's possible to blow holes through the landscape with missiles or blowtorches, just as it's possible to ricochet a grenade off the surroundings to blow up a well-hidden worm. It's great fun and highly addictive and is just a $10 download. Thumbs up!

Click here to see some screenshots.

Trials of Trails

Thanks to Steve C. for sending this along to the BBTC listserve.

Awesome video on North Shore (Vancouver, BC) mountain bike trails and their maintenance. And what I like best about the video is that it shows the wide range of ages who enjoy this sport -- the guy in the red going big on some of those stunts is probably someone's grandfather.


See it here.

Oh God Fodder, Where Art Thou?

I've been listening to my old Ned's Atomic Dustbin albums (circa early 1990's) a bunch recently and it's really starting to annoy me that no current bands sound like them. Bands today rip off anything and everything that ever reached the slightest bit of success. Hell, we now have bands imitating bands that set out to imitate other bands. But where are the Ned's sound-alikes?

If you know of any bands that sounds the least bit like Ned's Atomic Dustbin, please email me their names. And if you never listened to the band, head to iTunes and download the "God Fodder" album for $9.99. I personally like the "Am I Normal" album better, but this one's a classic.

Edit: I just noticed that there are some free Ned's Podcasts on iTunes, one of which has a video for a new single. Wow! It's been over a decade since they put anything out. The band isn't completely in tact, but better than nothing.

MLB 2K7 - Just Like Real Life

I'm in an online league and just got done playing the first two games as the Mariners against a guy using the Tigers. Not a fair matchup, but I was pitching pretty well and keeping it close.

It was the top of the seventh inning and I was down by 2 and had runners on second and first with no outs. I called the double steal, but wanted to make sure nobody got thrown out so went about performing a sac bunt.

In true Mariners fashion, my sac bunt popped straight into the air to the pitcher who promptly threw to second and then to first for the triple play. Inning over. Momentum lost. I didn't panic though. Jeff Weaver was on the mound and serving up quite a performance (his 12-6 Curveball is nearly as deadly as Halladay's in the game). The top of the 9th comes around and Ichiro grounds out. Beltre hits a homer to left to cut the lead to one with Big Richie due up next. Richie draws the intentional walk, so here I have Ibanez at the plate, with a runner on first in the top of the 9th. He's a lefty facing a lefty but who was I going to bring in to pinch hit? Willie Bloomquist? Rene Rivera? Hell no. Ibanez hit into a game-ending double play.

This game is more realistic than I thought.

68 Degrees and 200 Beats Per Minute

I said it yesterday and I'll say it again. I was riding through a freaking snowstorm last Wednesday night and today... today it was 68 degrees and sunny! There was absolutely no way that I was going to miss taking advantage of this remarkable (and record-breaking) weather. So, around 12:30 I switched my Yahoo Messenger status from "available" to "gone cycling" and slipped into my bib shorts and a short-sleeve jersey and was out the door on my road bike in no time.

I chose to combine my lengthy Carnation/Fall City ride with my short North Bend loop and was feeling great. Normally, thanks to the climb up and over Tolt Hill Road, I don't reach the base of Ames Lake Road at 18 miles until 58-60 minutes into the ride, but today I was there in under 54 minutes. I was dumbfounded. I knew I was going pretty hard, but gawdam I was moving! Nice to see all that riding I did this winter is paying off.

I ran into a bit of a headwind on the way back out of Carnation and was feeling pretty low on energy. I was conserving my water and Gatorade for the final climbs and wanted to hold onto my last Gu until at least back up to Snoqualmie Falls. I stopped at the drive-thru espresso stand in Fall City in hopes of buying a bagle, but they only had some very messy danishes. I declined and kept riding, realizing that there is a water fountain and gift shop at the top of Snoqualmie Falls -- I can stop there to refuel.

With fresh water bottles, I took off up Tokul Road to add the North Bend loop onto the ride. The views of Mt. Si were incredible and I took a short out-and-back excursion down a dead-end road that parallels the base of the mountain. I've been told it's possible to see mountain goats from this road, but all I saw was a snake that I almost ran over.

This wonderful ride did end in a near-catastrophe, however. While pedaling back through "downtown" Snoqualmie, a car made a right-hand turn literally 5 feet in front of me while I was going 20 mph. I was following off the rear passenger side corner of the car for over 1/4 mile when suddenly, without a blinker, the cellphone-talking driver turned hard into the parking lot of a coffee shop narrowly missing my front wheel. I squeezed the brakes with all my strength, skidding the tires and doing everything I could to keep from riding right into the side of his car. My mountain bike skills came in handy as I started to slide sideways but kept my balance and hopped the curbing.

I was furious.

Without even thinking I started yelling at the guy with language that is not fit for print. He didn't even tap the brakes or acknowledge my near-disastrous collision with the side of his car -- he was still on the phone -- so as he drove around the circular driveway to approach the window of the coffee shack, I met him there. I yelled through the window and, finally, he hung up the phone and lowered the window to ask what the problem was. The guy was huge. A big sloth of a human being slumped into the seat of a dirty Caprice Classic. A country boy, but older. I didn't care who it was.

"Why don't you get off your *bleeping* phone and learn how to use your blinker! You almost *bleeping* killed me!"

"Were you riding alongside me?" he asked nonchalantly.

"You passed me and I was riding behind you for 1/4 mile, but you were too busy talking on your damn phone to notice!"

"Listen boy, don't start giving me shit."

"You almost *bleeping* killed me! Hang up the phone and use your blinker jerk!"

There are several recognized ways to determine one's maximum heart rate. The casual method is to simply subtract your age from 220. Others recommend the following "best fit" formula: 210 minus 50% of your age minus 5% of your body weight (pounds) + 4 if male and 0 if female. Neither of these are guaranteed to give an exact number so many athletes choose instead to do an intense interval workout and simply look for the biggest number. When I got my Garmin Edge 305 cyclocomputer and entered my age and weight it approximated my max HR at 186. I figured this was probably a little low, but good enough for the time being. I was going to do a max-HR test next week to determine what it is. Thanks to the idiot driver with the cellphone, I no longer have to.

When I hopped back on my bike after my very brief bit of road rage I looked down and noticed my heart rate was at 200bpm. I guess I found a new way to measure one's max HR! I was completely enraged and adrenalized and I took off up the very hilly Snoqualmie Parkway like a man on a mission. I was 55 miles into my ride, but was still in the big chainring and running a middle cog. Finally, once I was about halfway up the hill, my heart rate dropped to a steady 170 and I relaxed my grip and eased the throttle in my legs back to a more sane gearing. I did an extra loop around my neighborhood as a cool down and although I was still playing back the close call in my head, I was at least back into a happier mood and enjoying the weather.

Finished up with a bit over 57 miles and 2700 feet of vert and, thanks in small part to my briefly elevated heart rate, I burned nearly 4100 calories during the ride. Guilt-free ice cream binging tonight!

Two More Weeks

Until the Moots is in my possession.

In light of this new development, I'm actually kind of glad that my brother's trip out to the northwest has been postponed till the end of the month. I was hoping to be riding the bike by next week, but I'll take a couple more weeks of waiting if it means my brother will be here to help teach me how to build the bike up myself.

As I've said all along, so long as I have the bike by April and can do a few warmup rides on it before taking it down to Utah to ride the Kokopelli's Trail then I'll be happy.

Oh, and if you should happen to find yourself in the Ti-Cycles shop in Seattle, please don't ask to see my bike before I do. And if you do -- don't -- but if you do, please keep your hands off and under no circumstance should you tell me about it. The Best Man doesn't describe the Bride's dress to the Groom as he waits at the altar... and he certainly doesn't rush outside to squeeze her ass before she makes her way down the aisle.

Just kidding, bro. Sort of.

That said for posterity's sake...

You Might Be A Gamer If...

You get an email from "National Multiple Sclerosis Society" with a subject line that reads "Move Us Closer to a World Free of MS"...

and your first thought is, what do these people have against Microsoft?

Every Extend Helps

Xbox Live Arcade is getting mighty enjoyable these days. Last week saw the release of the masochistic, carpal-tunnel inducing, however enjoyable Alien Hominid HD (what other game gives you an Achievement for eating 50 Russian KGB while riding an enormous Yeti?) and tomorrow will bring the arrival of Worms, a classic game of strategy and tongue-in-cheek humor that is absolutely perfect for Xbox Live Arcade. And aside from the game I'm constantly clammoring for -- Catan Live -- there's news out of the Game Developers Conference today that Every Extend Extra will also be headed to Live Arcade.

Every Extend Extra, from the makers of Rez and Lumines has taken up permanent residence in my PSP since December and I cannot wait to buy a downloadable version of it for Live Arcade. It's a phenomenal game that, on the surface, appears to be a clone of Geometry Wars, but in reality it's nothing like it. While you do control a ship of sorts and there are all sorts of alien bugs and cubes flying out you, you don't shoot them. Instead, you self-detonate your own craft in hopes of setting off a lengthy chain-reaction to earn an "extra extend". It's highly strategic and the game almost plays more like a puzzle than a 2D shooter.

In other news, Xbox Live is set to get the old-school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, as well as the new Boom Boom Rocket which looks like a cross between Fantavision and Dance Dance Revolution. Go figure.

Lastly, Microsoft announced that Xbox Live has 6 million active members (subscribers?) and has sold $62.5 million dollars worth of Microsoft Points, which is the currency of Xbox Live Marketplace. That's a lot of dough!

Perhaps the neatest bullet-point item in the MS press release was that each day, gamers use Xbox Live to send over two million text and voice messages to one another. This goes right to the root of why I have been supporting Xbox Live since day one several years ago -- it fosters a community. And I really mean to use that word specifically. It's a centralized hub with a system that allows gamers to keep in touch no matter what game they are playing. And now that we have it and use it, there's no going back. Deciding not to implement a system like this was a fatal error on Sony's part. The games are all the same when you get right down to it, but the ability to nurture and maintain a social network is a driving force for so many gamers who made the switch to Xbox. Just in my own circle of friends, each and every one of them, including me, was a Playstation guy. And then little by little they saw what was possible with Live Arcade and they made the switch. It wasn't the games or the hardware specs that got them to switch, but the social aspects and ease of use. People complain about Xbox Live costing $50 a year all the time. In my opinion that $50 spent on Xbox Live is a better value than any game I might buy to play instead.