Some Reading to Do

While I continue to celebrate my first days off in over a month with Culdcept SAGA, I'm going to take the lazy approach to blogging and simply leave you with two excellent articles.

First up is this lengthy, detailed article on Next Generation titled "Is Xbox 360 Past its Peak". It's a really good read and covers all the bases on the console, talks about the competition, and the current state within Microsoft regarding the console and the year ahead. A great read, just don't skim the comments, else your head might explode.

The other article appears at Scientific American and asks the question, "Are Americans Afraid of the Outdoors?" The article discusses the declining trends in attendance at National Parks, the declines in hunting/fishing and the overall tendency -- it seems -- for people to while away their lives in front of the television instead of visiting the outdoors. The article is too short to really get to the heart of the matter or offer many solutions or concrete theories other than the types one can pull from thin air, but it's still an interesting piece if you're unfamilliar with the topic.

I'll be writing more about this issue next week, along with the long-awaited comments on Culdcept SAGA and some other games-related bits.

GearJammer and RAMROD Registration

Registration for both races opens on March 1st, although seemingly at an unspecified time.

GearJammer is the third and final race (July 26th, I believe) in the Squamish Triple Challenge race and online registration for it should go live right here sometime on Saturday, perhaps at 12:01 am. Don't take my spot.

RAMROD (aka Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day) is entry-by-lottery for anyone who didn't volunteer last year. You have the entire month of March to enter the lottery via and those who luck into an entry spot will be notified in April. Don't take my spot.

Good luck entering but, you guessed it, don't take my spot.

EA, Take-Two, Cities, States, and Global-Thermonuclear War

I made that last part up...

Earlier this week I commented rather haphazardly about the bid EA made to purchase Take-Two. I don't waver in my opinion on the matter, but I was pressed for time and didn't really flesh out my post much. It was lazy, I know.

Fortunately I don't have to go back and expand on it now because the ever-eloquent and always-informative Bill Harris did so for me. We both arrive at the same conclusion -- that the EA acquisition of Take-Two would be very, very bad for gamers -- but his post on the matter is not only one of his best articles yet, but provides an excellent analogy using EA's own recent use of the phrase "City-States".

Bill does investment research and, I believe, as done some freelance QA work in the videogame industry in the past, but I suspect it's just a matter of time before he gets a column in Business Week or the Wall Street Journal.

Read his fantastic article about the EA offer right here.

Locked-Out and Loving It

And with the sound of the rain drumming lightly on the roof, I can now say that our streak of 11 days of dry weather has come to an end. Exhale.

I'm not sad to see it end, but more than three dry days in a row this time of year is pretty unusual in these parts and it has felt that we outdoors-loving folks have been sort of willing it to happen. Every night, I sat fingers crossed and checked Accuweather for the next day's forecast. Every morning, I would get out of bed and dash to the window to see if the driveway was wet.

But alas, it's raining. We had a good run. 11 days in February without rain by my count. If only we could have made it a perfect two weeks... now I know how Tom Brady must feel.

But, seriously, it's the leap year's fault. What other possible explanation can there be?

But enough about the rain, yesterday was not only dry but also nearly 60 degrees. After a fantastically long ride on Sunday, I took Monday off the bike then took advantage of yesterday's weather to get a nice, fast, rail-trail ride up to Rattlesnake Lake in. I did this 30+ mile tempo ride nearly every week last year, but this was my first time for 08. It felt great to get back on the Moots (it's been in dry-dock since the November rains came and no, not the Guns n' Roses song) and to crank up the iPod, and to slam the lock-out button down on the front shock, and just zip along the wide-and-flat Snoqualmie Valley Trail yesterday.

I passed a number of cyclists, some dog-walkers, and even a couple young girls on horses yesterday. That's all pretty standard for the SVT.

Then, on the way back, not far from the Mt. Si Golf Course, I crossed a small bridge over a bog and 5 rough-and-tumble middle aged guys were leaning on the fence looking down at the water. They were scraggly, a bit over-dressed for the weather, and what I would rate as a "6" on the 1 to 5 scale of sketch. They may have been homeless or they may have been extras from the movie The Deer Hunter. I'm not really sure. One turned to look at me and I believe I saw a fly exit the gap in his teeth. But what really made their presence odd was that not even 10 yards to their left stood 5 high school boys, shirtless, leaning on the very same fence and stretching. They were members of the local track team, each without a trace of chest hair, each wearing huge baggy lacrosse-style shorts, none of them looking old enough to drive.

And yet there they stood and stretched, just a few steps down from a group of much older guys that looked more like axe-murderers than not. And it made me wonder: How fast are the distance runners on the Mt Si track team? Do they need an assistant coach?


A couple quick notes on biking:

- I'm very pleased to announce that BradyGames has renewed their sponsorship of my racing for the 08 racing season. I've really excited about this and can't wait to get the new uniforms designed and ordered. I'm also waiting to here from two local businesses who I'm hoping decide to sponsor me as well. With so many races now costing so much money to enter, it's great to get this support. I'll write a more formal announcement when I get everything finalized.

- I stopped at Performance Bike in Redmond on Monday to refill the pantry with Cliff Bloks and Gu and not only were they having a massive sale on nutrition products, but I'm happy to say that they also carry Ergon handlebar grips now. I have a pair with the bar-ends on my Moots and positively love them so I jumped at the chance to get a pair (without the bar-ends) for my singlespeed. The Kona Unit-29 I have came with minimalistic foam grips that are not only unbearably hard, but also tend to spin in place.

- Kristin and I decided to table any decision regarding the ECamper conversion for our Element. It was a tough decision, but we're going to put it off till later in the year and maybe then see about going down to San Diego in the winter and having it done then. In light of this, I looked into getting a room booked for Leadville yesterday. I believe I secured the last remaining vacancy for the nights of August 7th through 9th in Leadville. If you're racing the Leadville 100 and don't want to sleep in a tent the two nights before the race (or the night after the race) then you better call quick, as everything seems to be booked solid.

- Lastly, speaking of Leadville, I came across this pretty intense "ride" report last night during a short break from work. It was written last year by the wife of a racer from Kirkland, WA. She was his support crew and it's still pretty interesting. Read it here. The racer, Nick, was the top finisher from the state of Washington last year. According to the official results he finished 280th in a time of 10:15. Not too shabby! I was wondering about the completion percentage for this race and the finishing times so took a closer look at the 2007 Leadville 100 results:

(numbers are cumulative)

837 Racers Started
108 Finished in <9:00 (gold & silver belt buckle)
589 Finished in <12:00 (silver belt buckle)
663 Finished in <13:00
174 Racers DNF

So 1-in-5 racers didn't finish the event last year which, I understand took place during some extreme heat. I also heard that there were people coming off the mountain two years ago with hypothermia due to the driving rain and near-freezing temperatures. Nevertheless, a 20% DNF rate is pretty high, but not as high as the Cascade Creampuff 100.

Yeah, I'm doing that one as well.

And hopefully I won't end up just being a statistic.

The Hardest of the Core

Mike Curiak, who I've written about several times before, is on his way to Nome in the 1100 mile Iditabike, only he's doing it completely and 100% self-supported. Everything he needs for several weeks in the rugged Alaskan wilderness -- in winter -- is on his bike. He's not going to accept any food trades, no hand-outs, nothing. He vows to not even spend the night in a cabin if offered.

Track his satellite-transceiver progress and see photos and a video of his rig (a heavily modified Moots 29er, minus the YBB softail) on his blog right here.

What he's doing is absolutely insane and I can't wait to read all about when he gets home. Best of luck, Mike!

Cape Town

One of the guys on Kristin's Social Justice team (biz school) passed along a link to some photos he shot during a trip to South Africa this past December. He really lucked into some tremendous light and took some pretty nice photos.

You can see them here.

And speaking of South Africa, I was this close to putting my 50 Rand into the hat for a chance at a lottery spot in the 2009 Cape Epic the other day. It's a 9-day stage race consisting of 850 kilometers (527 miles) and 18,000 meters of elevation gain (56,000 feet).

Like I said, I was this close to taking a shot at the lottery for next year. I checked the currency converters to see how many Rand are in 1 US dollar and the entry fee was actually less than that of TransRockies, so that wasn't the problem.

No, the problem was airfare. South Africa is a long way away and the cheapest airfare was over $2,000 round-trip. Granted, I entered dates just a few weeks from now into Orbitz and I'm sure better deals can be had with more advanced planning (not to mention airfare discounters), but it was certainly not in the cards for next year. Maybe in 2010? We'll see...

In the meantime I'll just have to bookmark the Cape-Epic website and confine myself to daydreams...

Bike-Thieving Doctor Found Dead

Thanks to Ellen for sending me the link to this. The Longview doctor arrested for stealing high-end bicycles was found dead Saturday. He committed suicide Friday night in a hospital where he was admitted after a previous suicide attempt. He was awaiting trial and out on bail.

Full story at

A popular podiatrist who was charged with stealing about $55,000 worth of expensive racing bicycles in Washington, Oregon and Utah has committed suicide at a hospital.

According to a police report, Jacob J. Bos, 35, hanged himself Friday night in his room in the psychiatric ward of St. John Medical Center at Longview. Two certified nursing assistants found his body Saturday morning, police reported.Bos, 35, had been released on $5,500 bail while awaiting trial in Cowlitz County Superior Court on nine counts of first-degree possession of stolen property and three counts of trafficking in stolen property.

He was admitted to St. John Medical Center on Feb. 7 after attempting to kill himself by overdose, according to a police report. Bos also tried to commit suicide on Jan. 22 after being questioned by Seattle police, cutting his forearm and trying to drive into the Kalama River. A hospital spokesman said Sunday he could not comment on procedure with patients who have previously attempted suicide.

One of the nursing assistants who found the body told police she last saw Bos alive when he went to bed at 8 p.m. Friday. She said she checked on him every half hour by opening the door and shining a flashlight on his bed without knowing that pillows and blankets had been arranged on the bed to resemble a person sleeping. The ruse went undetected until she went to awaken him at 6 a.m. Saturday. Failing to find Bos in an initial search of the room, the nursing assistant got a colleague to join her and they discovered his body hanging in the bathroom, a leather belt around his neck, police wrote.

The guy had some serious issues and from the looks of it, stealing expensive bicycles were the least of them.

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

So last night was the big night. It was the night after Memphis's unbeaten streak came to an end and the world sat and wondered, "What will we possibly watch on television tonight?" One network had an answer: The Academy Awards.

This is what I know about last night's Oscars broadcast: John Stewart was funny, but seems awkward. I also learned that the Coen Brothers apparently made a movie this year. That movie won them a bunch of awards, Johnny Depp won zero, and a stripper won for best screenplay. I don't remember for what movie, but I know she had a tattoo that looked just like the girly pics soldiers painted on the sides of their planes in the movie Pearl Harbor.

I don't remember many details because I came up with the perfect Oscar-viewing plan. I exhausted myself all afternoon on a 5-hour mountain bike ride. Then I drank a bunch of beer, showered, and laid on the couch right at 5:30 when Jon Stewart was coming on stage. 15 minutes later I was sound asleep and, according to my wife, proceeded to mumble the words "Who", "What?", and "Why?" on and off while sleeping for the next three hours. As far as she was concerned, I was awake and just echoing her own sentiments as she sat and watched... and waited for a movie she had actually seen.

I did get up to pee at one point and saw the musical performance for one of the two-dozen songs from Enchanted. It was the one with 600 people on stage and the lady in the white dress was asking the same question over and over, and the reggae dude was trying to get her stoned. At first I didn't know if we were still watching the Oscars or if Kristin had changed the channel to CNN and this was just Nancy Grace orchestrating an elaborate reenactment of the Natalee Holloway death.

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take you...

And back to sleep I went.

I woke up in time for Best Male Actor and was really upset that I couldn't complain that Clooney and Depp were robbed because I hadn't seen any of the movies nominated. So I protested the rest of the show and went back to sleep.

It was my best Oscars in years. And while I'm at it, let me take a moment to thank the writers for ending their strike and letting the show go on. Without their ability to come to an agreement, the Oscars would have been cancelled and I would have risked staying awake and watching some worthwhile programming.

So I too would like to thank the Academy. Thank you deeply for scaring off all the decent programming last night and for helping me get a nice long nap in. Without your efforts, I'd be useless today. I'd be groggy, grumpy, and my whole day would be shot. They said it couldn't be done but you gave me HOPE and you helped me believe in my dreams and, dammit, you were right. I could fall asleep! I could take a 3 hour nap! And best of all, I didn't miss a thing. Watch out world, I'm well-rested and coming to get ya! As Barbara Streisand might say, "thank you, gorgeous!"

Online Distribution and Indie Game Development

I've said it a thousand times in this space: The most important advancement in this generation of videogame consoles isn't Blu-Ray or universal HD graphics or surround sound, and it's not motion sensing controllers. It's online distribution of small-budget games via Xbox Live Arcade. The ability to purchase games-on-demand for just $5 to $15 a pop not only gives an audience to developers who wouldn't otherwise find one, but it also makes gamers like me much more willing to experiment with titles in a time when nearly every major release runs $60.

The Seattle Times has an interesting article in today's paper about this system, focusing on the upcoming XBLA game Schizoid, which I look forward to downloading when it releases.

Read the full article here.

And what a pleasant surprise on a day when news breaks that EA is trying to buy Take-Two for $2.0 billion dollars. It's good to be reminded that all is not mega-corps and stifled creativity in this industry. And as long as systems like XBLA are in place for the little guys -- the ones not beholden to a Board of Directors or unafraid to take a chance on originality -- to get their games in the hands of players, then good, original, sequel-free content will continue to come our way.

As for the EA deal, my fingers are crossed that it doesn't happen. Take-Two has a long run of scandal and has been in trouble for a while, but EA has an even longer history of ripping the soul out of its acquisitions and leaving them shells of their former selves. EA is where good development houses go to die. And there are too many good development studios under the Take-Two banner for this to be anything but a potential nightmare in the making. Great for anyone with a financial stake in the matter, bad for everyone who enjoys playing quality games. If this deal goes through then EA and Activision will essentially own most every major developer in the western hemisphere, with just a few exceptions. They are swiftly becoming the Ford and GM of the gaming industry and just ask those guys how things are fairing lately.

Northern California 800 Mile Loop

There's never any shortage of motivation and inspiration on the Endurance Racing forums on and tonight was no exception.

The Northern California Loop

"An 800 mile loop through the most beautiful landscapes of Northern California"

This is an 800 mile loop through the best of Northern California. You start in the Central Valley and climb over the Coastal Ridge. Then you move North along the (lost) Pacific Coast and pass through Coastal Redwoods at the Avenue of the Giants.

Then you turn inland again, go around the Trinity Alps and pass over the Eddys at Park Creek Summit which leads you to the majestic Mt Shasta.

After half-circling this volcano you cross lava land and get to the other big volcano, Lassen Peak. Finally, you decent to Chester and Lake Almanor and then make one last final climb across the Northern Sierra and then down to Chico and across the Valley to close the loop.

The route is a mixture paved and dirt / gravel roads and was designed with the goal in mind to show you the best of Northern California while minimizing your exposure to motorized traffic.

I'm not suggesting I'm ready for something like this, hell no, but it's definitely something to think about for next year. It's only a self-supported ride featuring twice the distance and elevation gain of TransRockies. How hard could it be?

And that ladies and gentleman is what we writers like to call sarcasm.

But seriously, I'll be daydreaming about this thing all year. And if the first running of it in June goes off well, I'll seriously consider giving it a go next year.

Tonight, We Feast!

Meeting friends of ours tonight for dinner and then to go to an improv comedy called "The Greatest Love Story Ever... Made Up" at the Taproot Theatre. It will be a night out that Kristin and I desperately need after working 7-days a week, morning till midnight, since our Super Bowl party. I think I might have the entire month of March off, so I don't mind.

But that's not what has me excited. No, it's this slogan on the restaurant website:

"Join us for Happy Hour from 4-6pm every day in our bar above the conveyor belt."

No, we're not eating at the UPS sorting facility but thank you for asking.

PC Upgrade Question

I know a few of you out there are pretty savvy when it comes to computers and upgrades and whatnot, so I'm going to ask for your help.

I have a 2 year old Dell XPS 600 that runs pretty well, but is starting to chug a bit at times. I want to give it a boost and try to make it "new again" but not sure where to start. Essentially, I want to extend the life of the machine so I don't end up spending another $3k to replace it next year. Between games, video editing and batch-processing hundreds and sometimes thousands of screenshots at a time, I need something on the beefier end of the spectrum, especially now that I'm working a lot with HD-quality images.

Here's the nuts & bolts of the current machine:

- Windows XP Media Center S.P. 2
- Intel Pentium D 840 (3.20 GHz) w/Dual-Core Technology
- 2.00 GB DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz
- Nvidia 256MB Geforce 6800 videocard
- 250GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
- 160GB NCQ Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
- 18X DVD-RW

The system came with twin Geforce 6800 cards with SLI support but one of the cards died recently and since I typically run two monitors simultaneously (not supported with SLI) I usually had to turn SLI off and only use one card anyway. Also, the originaly DVD-RW died a few months ago and I replaced it with the 18X one shown in the list. I also have a 250GB Maxtor external hard-drive.

What I'm thinking of doing is this: replace the video card with something a bit more current, perhaps with DirectX 10 support, and to also replace the RAM with 4GB of something better. Maybe replace the Hard-drives with faster hard drives as well.


Also, while I'm at it, should I wipe the discs and reformat the entire machine and use the OEM discs Dell provided and re-install the OS and everything else Dell sent along or should I make the jump to Vista? My laptop is Vista and while I definitely *HATE* the new version of Office 2007, I might grow to hate it less if I was forced to use it regularly.

Any specific suggestions or product advice you can provide would be appreciated. Espeially when it comes to choosing RAM and Hard-Drives and going about reformatting the machine and making it new again.

Edit: I should also add that if anyone is local and would like to help me complete the upgrade, I'll happily buy you lunch and beer at the Snoqualmie Taproom.

Nice Web Mr. Crack Spider

Nando passed this along tonight: It's a riveting documentary about the effects of drugs and alcohol on web-building spiders.

And by riveting, I mean very funny. Gotta love those Canadians!

Seattle Tops List for "Healthy Living" Cities

Cooking Light magazine, whatever that is, came out with a top 20 list of best US cities for healthy living and gave the top spot to Seattle due to what it says is "an abundance of fresh local foods, walker-friendly streets, and inclusive attitudes helps make Seattle America's best city for healthy living."

See the list on CNN or check out the full blurb on why Seattle topped the list at the Cooking Light site.

Whether seen from the vantage point of a peaceful kayak excursion on the waters of Puget Sound or a morning tour of bustling food lover's mecca Pike Place Market, Seattle always appears to be a place where healthful living comes easily and naturally. In our year-long countdown of U.S. cities that epitomize the Cooking Light philosophy, Seattle ranked highest for dollars spent on parkland—$266 per person annually, according to the Trust for Public Land. The American Podiatric Medical Association ranked pedestrian-friendly Seattle a top spot for walking. Nearly 85 percent of city residents report exercising regularly and 89 percent say they are in good or better health, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. And when Seattleites are ready to indulge, they can do so in any of the city's many top-rated restaurants—it's home to both numerous James Beard Award-winning chefs and restaurants ranked "extraordinary to perfection" by culinary review, Zagat. If you love Cooking Light, we think you'll love Seattle, too.

Portland, Oregon came in second. I wonder if they had included Canadian cities, if it would have been a clean sweep for the Pac NW with Vancouver, BC as well? I bet it would have. Philly came in 9th and NYC in 15th for my east coast readers who'd rather not click on the link. Boston came in 6th, but I'm sure they would have rather have won the Super Bowl than beat NY in something this trivial.

Fun With iTunes: An Exception

I swear I'm not making this up.

I closed my eyes, thumbed through the pages of the dictionary, and pointed to a spot on the page. The word I selected?


I kid you not. So I typed it into the search field in iTunes and it spat back 1858 matches, mostly due to album titles and an extensive collection of music by The Beastie Boys. So I hit random play and lo and behold the the first song played was "Ice, Ice, Baby" from the album To The Extreme. No, I don't have the entire album (although I did in high school).

The silver lining to all of this is that I won't have to take out the dictionary and peform this ridiculous method of music selection again for 5 days. And that's if I leave the music playing continuously.

Fun With iTunes

Do you keep your music collection on your PC? Do you use iTunes? Are you tired of creating playlists?

If so, grab a dictionary.

Open to a random page, close your eyes, and point to a word.

Type that word into the Search field in iTunes (make sure you're viewing your entire music collection) and hit enter. Voila! Instant playlist.

Obviously, this works better for those with thousands of songs and, depending on the word, you might get 3 songs and you might get 83, but give it a try. Not only does it produce some pretty odd mixes, but it might just get you listening to stuff you had long since forgotten about.

Update: This tends to work even better if you just type the first four or five letters of the word into the search field, or if you make sure to use the most basic form of the verb. For example, I pointed to "Masticate" in the dictionary and came up with nothing in iTunes. No surprise, there. But when I typed in "Mast" I got about 25 songs, including a Christmas song by Run-DMC and a bunch of Van Morrison! Don't forget the search will return matches from all searchable fields including composer and genre and also any subtitles in parentheses. Good luck.

Why I Love My Dogs

Reason Number 375:

Our male dog Kimo is afraid of everything. Afraid of garbage trucks, vacuum cleaners, the start-up noise on the Xbox 360 (who isn't?) and he's also even afraid of the disc tray on the DVD player. Yes, our brand new yet already obsolete Toshiba HD-A30, but I digress...

You may be thinking that it's normal for dogs to be scared of those things. And you might be right. But let me ask you this: Is your dog afraid of his own farts?

It's true. Kimo will be laying down, fart, and literally jump into the air from fright and run out of the room. Considering he's a 52 pound Siberian Husky, it makes for a damn funny sight.

Alpha male? Not so much.

Gaming Notes

Some tidbits:

- Activision announced the next installment of Guitar Hero will be none other than Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Yes, that's right, a full game devoted to Aerosmith songs. Umm... why? Who exactly is the target audience for this? Let's take a look at demographics. We all know the vast majority of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 35. And that includes me, albeit at the upper end of that range. Yet Aerosmith was already on the decline when I bought their album "Pump" back when I was in high school. Most of their really good stuff came out when I was too young to notice... back when I was stuck in the backseat of my parents' car listening to the "soft rock" stylings of Lionel Richie and Neil Diamond. Sure, they no doubt have a few timeless classics (speaking of which, "Dream On" was availble for free download this weekend over Xbox Live) but a whole game? Just for them? And yes, I'm aware that they have released newer songs since Janie first grabbed her gun while loving in an elevator, but really, Aerosmith? I seriously cannot imagine anyone under the age of 35 being remotely interested in this. If they want to do a super-group version of Guitar Hero, then they ought to just cough up the millions in licensing fees and sign Metallica. An all-Metallica version of Guitar Hero would be the proverbial license to print money.

- Speaking of new downloadable content (DLC for the hip kids), new content and new Achievements are available for Overlord and PGR4, two games I was happy to cover in the Achievements Unlocked pocket-guide I co-wrote last winter. And speaking of Overlord, if you hadn't ever played it, you ought to. It's a really fun game and the new content seems to add new bosses, new dungeon enemies, and perhaps some other new stuff. I'm going to check it out this week.

- Kristin tells me that her sister and her boyfriend went into a games store in Long Island, NY recently and came across my BioShock strategy guide. She was pointing it out to her boyfriend and the clerk apparently overheard them. The story goes that the clerk was a little too excited about this brush with the relative of a Z-list celebrity such as myself and proceeded to praise the book a little too much. Then asked my sister-in-law if she wanted to see his gaming tattoos. He had three of them. One was for Guitar Hero and, naturally one of them was from Final Fantasy (probably Aerith). They put the book down and slowly backed out of the store, probably scared for their safety and not a small bit worried he might show them the hidden third tattoo.

- Another note from Kristin's family. Her mother is in charge of recreation and activities for a very swanky "assisted living facility" (it's really a country club with a medical facility instead of a golf course) and she's going to get a Wii for the residents there. A lot of them aren't fit enough to actually go outside and play golf and tennis anymore, but she's hoping to help them stay a bit more active with the Wii. I've ragged on the Wii quite a bit in this space, but I have to admit that not only is this a great example of where the Wii is perfectly appropriate, but also a strong argument for how important it is to pack-in a game (Wii Sports) with the console. How many people would otherwise not be aware of this game and never consider buying a Wii for a purpose such as this? I also recommended Carnival Games so the residents can throw darts and play skeeball too. She says she's not going to let the old-folks know that the games can be played with slight wrist-flicking motions -- she wants them up and about putting some real effort into it. I also recommended picking up (based on second and third-hand knowledge) the game Endless Ocean for the folks who need some brain stimuli.

- For every story you read about the growing number of female gamers, you end up with yet another example of how gaming simply doesn't make any sense to some women. Take last night for example, I was marking on a map where the Diamond Bracelet item was in the game I'm writing the guidebook for. Kristin was standing next to me waiting to kiss me goodnight and commented on how nice it must be to find diamond bracelets lying around in unlocked chests. She was interested because of the jewelry so I had to do the only thing I could do and tell her that, in the game, a Feathered Cap is actually much more valuable. "Well that's [bleep]. Who the hell would rather have a feathered cap than a diamond bracelet? Gamers are so stupid, sometimes." So predictable. And so right.

- I recently submitted a large chapter to one of my editors and he immediately wrote back asking me about a certain piece of text that I had formatted differently. It was text taken from the game that I replicated for the reader so they can read some backstory when not playing the game. There was a ton of it and it took a long time to type. Sometimes if a book is getting too long on pagecount, this is precisely the kind of info that would get left on the editing room floor, sort-of-speak. I replied, telling him what it was and that I hoped it wasn't getting cut because it took a long time to type. His reponse? Oh, they weren't going to cut it, but he was wondering because "the writing isn't... Well, it could be better in those places." That was a good response. A very good response.

- Lastly, I have an exercise for those of you who think videogame characters are well-developed. Try to write a brief biography for each of the characters in the next videogame you play. Nothing too long. Just write two substantive paragraphs for every major character in the game. The phrase "like pulling teeth" is particularly appropriate here. Trust me, I believe videogames can, at times, represent art and that they can offer stories that have at least as much depth as most movies and television series, but the truth is that game creators rarerly ever flesh out their characters. Most games still pigeonhole their characters into stereotyped roles, much like games used to (and sometimes still do) with their level design. For every fire level you have the muscle-bound thug; for every ice level you have the somber, introverted emo kid; for every jungle level you have the wise-cracking chick in overalls... or boy shorts. Game developers have finally, after decades of abuse, stopped jamming jungle/ice/fire/minecar levels down our throat. Let's hope it doesn't take several more decades for games to move beyond the cliched character development too. Some games get it right but we're not completely there yet.

75% Complete

Chapter 5 of my "phone book" project is nearing completion.

Some stats from the largest Word document file I've ever seen...

Pages - 244
Paragraphs - 3871
Words - 38849
Characters - 202173

Can't wait to wrap up the text so I can begin placing callouts on the 300 maps that accompany this one chapter. Not to mention all the maps that go with the other 140+ pages of text I've already submitted. Really glad I had a co-author on this project. He's already submitted about 150 pages of text -- primarily lists and tables -- and I believe he has another 120 page or so he's wrapping up this week as well. Primarily data.

But yeah, I know, I know, we just get paid to sit at home and play games all day...

And It's Official: Blu-Ray Wins

For the first time in the history of recordable media, Sony has come out on top. Bucking a trend that started with Betamax and continued through Mini-Discs, Memory Sticks, and UMDs (and I'm probably missing one or two), Sony has finally developed a media format destined to be the defacto standard.

I knew we were taking a risk buying an HD-DVD player in December, but damn, I didn't think it would be over this soon! In the immortal words of emailers the world over, "WTF?" For chrissakes, Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds and even he thinks Toshiba hit the mat too easily.

From Reuters:

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toshiba Corp is planning to stop production of equipment compatible with the HD DVD format for high-definition video, allowing the competing Blu-Ray camp a free run, public broadcaster NHK reported on Saturday.

Toshiba is expected to suffer losses amounting to tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars) to scrap production of HD DVD players and recorders and other steps to exit the business, Japan's NHK said on its website.

No one at Toshiba could be reached for comment.

The format war between the Toshiba-backed HD DVD and Sony Corp's Blu-Ray, often compared to the Betamax-VHS battle in the 1980s, has slowed the development of what is expected to be a multibillion dollar high-definition DVD industry.

Toshiba was dealt a blow on Friday when Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it would abandon the HD DVD format, becoming the latest in a series of top retailers and movie studios to rally behind Blu-ray technology for high definition DVDs.

Toshiba plans to continue selling HD DVD equipment at stores for the time being but will not put resources into developing new devices, NHK said.

Avalanche of Contaminated Water Threaten Leadville

Thanks to Ron Long of BBTC for forwarding me this link.

Full story here on

DENVER - More than 1 billion gallons of contaminated water -- enough to fill 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- is trapped in a tunnel in the mountains above the historic town of Leadville and threatening to blow.

Lake County Commissioners have declared a local state of emergency for fear that this winter's above-average snowpack will melt and cause a catastrophic tidal wave.
The water is backed up in abandoned mine shafts and a 2.1-mile drainage tunnel that is partially collapsed, creating the pooling of water contaminated with heavy metals.

County officials have been nervously monitoring the rising water pressure inside the mine shafts for about two years. An explosion could inundate Leadville and contaminate the Arkansas River.

Lots more info in the link above. Ignoring the catastrophic physical damage such a volume of water could do to a town (and the future shape of the river channel) Heavy metal runoff from mines is one of the most severe forms of pollution. This volume of contaminant could possibly "kill" the Arkansas River. Let's hope they find a way to release the pressure gently and get this taken care of before it's too late.

The Way You Dream

I don't listen to them as much as I used to, but I was a huge R.E.M. fan throughout my high school and college years, otherwise known as the '90s. I had all their albums (Up was the last one I bought, and for good reason) and a 2-disc live recording (i.e. bootleg) I have of theirs from a show they did in a cafe in London -- they went by the psuedonym Bingo Handjob for this show -- with superb sound quality remains one of my favorite albums in my collection. Right up there with U2's Achtung Baby which, for those who don't know me, is saying a lot.

That was a really difficult paragraph to read, I apologize.

So I was sitting at my desk last night listening to the "At Work: Chill Out" station on Yahoo's Launchcast music service and I suddenly found myself listening to Michael Stipe's haunting voice. It's unmistakable. Just like there's no confusing Billy Corgan's voice or Layne Staley's -- they're just too damn unique. I checked the player and the song was listed as being by a group called "1 Giant Leap". The song was The Way You Dream. The blurb on the Launchcast website made no mention of Stipe, yet instead said the self-titled album was the result of a musical tour around the world by two musicians I had never heard of. Apparently there's a documentary film to coincide with the project. The group is categorized as making "world music."

My mind once again drifted to John Cusack and Jack Black's attack on Tim Robbins in High Fidelity and I suddenly wished to own a music shop, or a shop of any kind, just so I could tell someone to "get their patchouli stink outta my store."

World music has strong connotations, obviously.

Well, at the risk of having constant Cusack recollections, I downloaded the nearly nine-minute-long The Way You Dream tonight on iTunes and am tempted to get the whole 1 Giant Leap album. Even if Stipe only guest-sings on that one marathon song. Not that I'm a fan of massage music per se, but there is something damn soothing about this group especially when writing. And yes, this statement is based entirely on exposure to the 30-second clips iTunes feels fit to dole out.

But that's a big committment. I usually wait for Launchcast to introduce me to at least two songs on an album before I take the plunge. So, with that said I opted instead to download Jack Johnson's new album, Sleep Through the Static, as well as Death Cab for Cutie's Plans.

My click-and-shop left me feeling sad though for the shopkeeps of yesteryear who no longer have that opportunity to insult their patrons. I felt as if I stole from them the one thing that kept them coming to work every day, their ability to espouse us with their elitist views.

Perhaps iTunes needs to implement a random-insult generator pop-up. Or, better yet, audio-based commentary linked to what you're browsing! It's not enough for them to post their "Staff Favorites" when the potential exists for "Staff Jerks!" How comforting would it be to have snarky, elitist comments lobbed your way through your PC's speakers based on the albums you're previewing? The biggest complaint against shopping online is the lack of the personal experience one gets from shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. This could silence the critics once and for all! Making people feel insulted and uncomfortable in their own home is the final frontier... if only Apple thought bigger!

Alas, it's probably not to be. But at least the fine employees of Gamestop and Electronics Boutique will always be there to fill this void.

And for that, I feel better already.

I Choo-Choo Choose You!

For jury duty!

Apparently I have to call in the weekend of March 16th to find out whether or not I need to show up on Monday the 17th. If I do then it's just a matter of whether or not I get picked to be on a jury and for how long. If I don't have to show up on the 17th I'll need to call back the following weekend to see if they'll need me to show up on the 24th.

I hope they pick me. A couple shifts at $40 per day plus that cherry $0.48/mile commute subsidy just might get us a nice dinner in the city one night.

Or an hour of bowling at Lucky Strike!

I wonder if asking permission to Live Blog the trial will help get me dismissed?

Desperate Holidays Call for Desperate Measures

So Kristin tells me today that the husband of one of her co-workers stopped by the office to ask the receptionist where one finds a store that sells flowers. He didn't ask where the local florist is, as that would have been understandable. No, he had no idea what kind of store even sells flowers.

But it gets better.

He lives a conservative 40 minutes away and is a manager of a Radio Shack. This is the kind of "technophiles" they hire at these stores. Rather than use the internet or make a call to directory assistance on one of the Sprint PCS cellphones they're always hawking, he drove nearly an hour into the city to ask the first person he came across at his wife's company. Welcome to 1980.

I know some guys have flowers delivered to the office to make themselves look good in front of the wive's office-mates, but isn't this kind of the opposite: going out of your way to show her co-workers how clueless you are?

And better still.. this same guy called the office four days before Christmas and somehow got put through to Kristin's line. He was hoping to find someone who might know what his wife wanted under the tree. As if Kristin would have any idea? I can't wait to hear what he does for Easter.

I think Kristin summed it up best tonight when she said, "Guys like him are the reason holidays like Valentine's Day even exist."


And in other news Kristin tells me that her company's website receives one-third the daily visitors as this blog. Now that's what I call scoreboard! Thanks everybody!

Guidebook Giveaway: The Club

It was just a few days after I wrapped up what I thought was my last project of the year, and a package arrived on my doorstep. It was an early build of The Club, a game I had never heard of.

Not an hour later I was laughing like a schoolgirl at the merry mayhem I was causing. The Club will be defined as a genre-bending and blending game that turns the third-person shooter on its ear. There are elements to it that make it feel at times like a racing game. Other times feel almost like a trick-based combo game, a Tony Hawk with guns if you will. And still, other aspects of the game hearken back to Space Invaders, namely the Bonus Enemy's quick flight across the screen. To borrow from an overused 90's axiom, This game had me at Push Start.

As anybody who downloaded the demo on either PSN or Xbox Live can probably attest to, the game could quite possibly be the greatest gift imaginable to Leaderboard hounds. The nearly 50 single player events -- most of which take just 2 to 4 minutes to complete -- each have that unmistakable one-more-game addictive quality to them that makes getting to bed on a worknight an impossible task. And the Leaderboards only make the desire to play even stronger. And then there's the multiplayer mode which is just tremendous fun.

It was still November, 2007 but I already had an idea on what the front-runner for 2008's CHOTY would be -- that's "Cult Hit of the Year" for the acronym-challenged -- and it's beyond a doubt The Club.

Giveaway Rules: At the risk of receiving enormous quantities of mail telling me how "bad" (I'm not) I am at the game, I included a "Beat the Author" feature in the guidebook for every mission in the game. This section reveals my best stats for every mission. The first four people who email me the name of the character I used and the score I earned in the mission covered within the sample chapter will receive a signed copy of the guidebook. As always, this contest has nothing to do with the publisher and is just something I do to release the strain on my bookshelves... err umm, I mean to show my appreciation for reading my blog.

*Note: I didn't think this needed to be said, but these giveaways don't go on forever. I appreciate every set of eyes that glances at this blog, but please stop emailing me requests for guidebooks I wrote in 2005. I don't have anymore. Thank you.

Paging Mr. Kissinger

Would the kind sirs and madams who continue to call my house asking for Leanne Kissinger and her doctor-husband please stop.

There has not been a Kissinger at this number for nearly 4 years, yet the calls continue to come nearly once a week. And sometimes the caller isn't even asking for the parents, but it will be a little girl asking if Sally is home. I don't know who this mysterious Sally is but I do know that if other little girls kept in better contact with their friends, they might not be calling the wrong number four years after it was changed.

It seems the problem is that we've been too polite with these people.

I've been a good boy up until now and have refrained from making any of the biting comments I wish I could. But no more! I've been woken up by these people for the last time. That's right, they never call at 1am when I'm awake. Instead they call at the ungodly hour of 7am. Who calls people at 7am? Heathens, thats who! And heathens need to be punished!

So I'm creating a list of appropriate responses and going to tape it to each phone in the house so that Kristin and I will remember to help make sure these calls finally stop. I can't afford to spend the next four years answering calls for someone I'm not.

Top Ten List of Things to Tell People Who Ask for the Kissingers:

1) Who is calling? Yeah, err... wow, this is awkward. Leanne told me to ask that you never call her again. But if it makes any difference, she said she'll be sure to pray for your forgiveness.

2) Oh, you're with the PTA. Well, I hope you're proud of yourselves. We've decided to home-school Sally now because of the trouble you've caused!

3) You're calling about the test results? Are you sure? Well, I hate to say this, but its definitely Alzheimers. Yes, I'm sure. What else could account for you forgetting your doctor changed his phone number four years ago?

4) No, Sally can't come to the phone right now but can I speak with your mother? ...pause... Yes, hello, I just want to ask that you have your daughter stop calling Sally. Leanne and I both think she's a very bad influence on our daughter and would prefer them to not be friends. Thank you.

5) How dare you! It's not bad enough I catch your husband banging Leanne in the backseat of my car, but now you want to go out with her too! You people make me sick!

6) I'm sorry but the doctor is not accepting calls at home any longer... I understand it's an emergency, but the doctor has had enough. He says you can either call 911 or simpy wait to see him on Monday, err, I'm sorry he's golfing on Monday and Tuesday this week. Can he see you on Wednesday?

7) Oh, I'm sorry, but Sally said she only wants to play with the popular kids from now on. Yeah, she said you have cooties.

8) No this is Leanne's niece/nephew. She's in the shower hold on a second. ...pause... she said she's going to be in your neighborhood in a half hour and wants to know if you want to meet for lunch? She says she'd like to go to that little sandwich shop you like so much. Okay, meet her there. She'll call if she's running late.

9) I've gone over your records and, well, I don't know how to tell you this but I really think you ought to see a veterinarian. Don't be alarmed it's just that you show all the symptoms of how mad cow disease manifests in humans and I think you need to be seen by a bovinologist.

10) Okay, listen up. You're not a part of the Kissinger's lives anymore. They changed their phone number four years ago and didn't bother to tell you. Get the hint. Wait? Is that your real voice? No wonder they didn't tell you their new number! Have you thought about just using text messages?

Netflix: Follow-Up

Below is the email I just received from Netflix regarding their switch to Blu-Ray exclusivity.

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

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

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

So there you have it. They're going to continue offering their current selection but will not add to it or replace any discs that get lost/stolen/scratched. So we get to continue watching HD-DVDs via Netflix for the rest of the year. Hopefully by then the Blu-Ray players (i.e. Sony PS3) will come down in price and there will be some games worth playing on it.

Netflix Goes Blu-Ray Only

Can't say I'm surprised, but I am disappointed. The decision to get an HD-DVD in December player was done in part because of Netflix's sizable collection of movies. And now they're going Blu-Ray only for next-gen formats.

Hopefully their existing collection of HD-DVDs will continue to be offered, or at least put on sale cheaply, but I doubt it.

Article here.

Wrapper Brigade

Thanks to Kevin Axt for passing this along via the BBTC message boards.

From Dirt Rag magazine:

Clif Bar and TerraCycle have teamed up to create a unique program designed to reduce the amount of energy bar wrappers going into landfills. Sponsored by Clif Bar, the "Wrapper Brigade" program will donate 2 cents to charity for every used wrapper collected by individuals and organizations.

The wrappers will be fused and woven into a strong material which will be used to make backpacks, gym totes and other products.Enrollment in the Wrapper Brigade is free, and open to anyone. After you sign up, you'll receive four collection bags that hold 200 energy bar wrappers each. Mail the collection bags back to TerraCycle, and they'll make a donation to the charity of your choosing, and even pick up the shipping fees.

"We're very excited to take our sustainability efforts to a new level with the Wrapper Brigade program," said Carly Lutz, Clif Bar brand manager. "From using organic ingredients in our bars to selling them in recycled paperboard caddies on store shelves, we are mindful of the importance of trying to reduce our footprint on the planet. Just like our consumers, we're passionate about the outdoors and want to protect and preserve the places we play."As a cyclist, you probably recognize Clif Bar as the maker of all-natural and organic energy bars. But did you know that TerraCycle is the maker of Worm Poop plant food line—the first consumer product to earn the right to carry the Zerofootprint seal. The seal signifies that the materials and manufacturing process used to produce its products have virtually no negative environmental repercussions.

Watch the video for more information:

I don't eat as many Cliff Bars as I used to -- I've swithed primarily to Cliff Bloks and Gu -- but I'm going to find out if the Cliff Bloks wrappers count for this as well. Either way, I'm signing up. It's a great way to generate a little extra money for the BBTC and to also help keep these wrappers out of landfills.


A peculiar site has made it's way into my daily reading and it's the blog for the Washington State Department of Transportation. I know what you're thinking, but trust me it's actually really interesting.

For those who aren't aware the mountain passes in Washington have received over 30 feet of snow so far this winter. There was 6-week period where they averaged over 8" of snow a day. Anyway, the passes are constantly being inundated by avalanche and the DOT workers have been working night and day since December to keep them open. There were a couple times in the last few days when there was no ground-based travel at all between eastern and western Washington. Think about that. We were cut off.

So, anyway, the WSDOT Blog has some great stats, some interesting posts, and plenty of photos and videos to check out. Plus it's a great place to drop a note of appreciation for the folks working through the night to keep the roads open... not to mention risking their lives doing avalanche control.

As an aside, the weather is supposed to warm significantly over the next few days and the rains are coming. Keep your fingers crossed for colder temps because conditions are ripe for catastrophic flooding in some low-lying towns.

Caucus Day: The Fightin' Fifth!

I'm going to risk feeding the trolls and provide one last political post about the caucus today here in Washington. Then it's nothing but a steady diet of videogames and mountain biking posts. I promise. Keep in mind, I live in a pretty rural part of King County, 25 miles outside of Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascades. My development is large, but the district is comprised primarily of a number of small towns that have less the 5,000 people. Much farmland and forest. No cities.

I went to one other caucus in my life -- 4 years ago. It was in Bellevue and there were barely 25 people there. And that was in a neighborhood with tens of thousands of people.

Today, in a much more sparsely-populated area, over 700 people packed the cafeteria at the middle school we were at. Of the 35 people in my precinct who attended (I didn't see my neighbors and am sure most were at the Republican caucus) I was the only one who ever attended a caucus before today. I'd also point out (for the sake of my anonymous Hitler-bomber) that I was also the youngest. I'm 32.

Parking was a major issue. I pulled my Element up onto the grass, as did many other people. Others had to park at another school and be bused over. The caucus started at 1:30 and by 12:45 there wasn't a seat left and we were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder hovering around the tables in the cafeteria.

I saw a white guy who must have been nearing 70 years old with an Obama sticker on his shirt. I never thought I'd see the day...

There were two African Americans in the crowd of 700 people, a handful of teenagers, and then a gradual increasing in numbers as you move from young to old. A sizable portion appeared to be in their 30's and 40's, but many, many more people nearing or already at Senior Citizen status. The only demographic missing was what I'd classify as the "middle management white guy types". Like I said, most of the Snoqualmie Ridge residents were probably at the Republican caucus. Either that or out skiing with their kids.

The way a caucus works is that everyone writes down their name, address, and the name of the candidate they endorse. These numbers are then counted, we're given a few minutes to talk it over and try and convince people to change their mind, then another final vote is taken.

After the first round of voting the numbers for my precinct were as follows: Obama 31, Hillary 2, Uncommitted 2.

One of the two African American ladies I saw at the caucus was in our precinct and when the numbers were read aloud I saw her scan the faces at the table -- the many old white faces of a well-to-do neighborhood -- and she briefly started to glow. She too never thought she'd see the day...

Our precint was given 4 delegates and unless Hillary ended up with 8 or more votes, he was getting all four of them. So it was time for the Hillary people to try and convince us to switch sides, but since neither of the two Hillary people wanted to speak we asked the uncommitteds to speak about their concerns. And one of them did. She was an older woman, somebody's grandmother no doubt, and she said she admires Hillary a great deal but is afraid of a "Billary" run white-house. She likes Obama, but is concerned with his lack of experience.

So it was time for the Obama people to talk on his behalf. One woman talked about Hillary's ability to generate so many strong opinions and such hatred as a reason to avoid her. Some talked about just general party strategy and that McCain would have a harder time beating Obama. The conversation shifted to Obama's lack of experience and the point was raised that none of us know whether or not Obama will be a good President or whether or not he'll get anything done, but the feeling at our table was that we're all willing to take that chance. Obama might be a dud. He might be all style and no substance and might not be able to translate his buzzwords of "hope" and "change" into practice and, yes, the crowds might simply be falling in love with the rockstar status he's created. But the vast majority of us felt that this was the right time in our nation's history and he was the right person to take that chance.

Then another lady, probably at least 70 years old in age, asked to talk. She was clearly the elder statesman of our precinct and she said that the reason she was voting for Obama was because she had lived a long life and seen her generation do a lot of good (and some not-so good) and that she remembers how thrilled she was back in the 60's when the previous generation decided to finally pass the torch to JFK... who was younger than Obama is now. And she said that after decades of waiting, the right person has finally come along to receive the torch from them. For her, she said, this election is a changing of the guard.

We did the mandatory second round of voting shortly afterwards and although neither of the Hillary supporters changed their vote to Obama, one of the uncommitted's did and Obama won our precinct 32 to 2 with 1 undecided.

This caucus process is very time consuming, a bit archaic, and in general, weird. And it's clear just from the discussion I overheard at some of the other tables that it must be kept within the party. I have no doubt fist-fights would break out if we decided the general election through caucuses -- can you imagine the Bush vs Kerry election being decided this way? But considering that we're raised believing we must keep our votes private, I think it's very refreshing to see neighbors come together for the sole purpose of discussing politics and the state of the country.

I got picked to be one of the four delegates from our precinct to attend a couple meetings in April and then, I suppose, if I really wanted to I could try to become one of the actual delegates who would represent the district in Denver in August. Oh, I might be in Denver in August, but it will be as I pass through to visit my brother in Boulder. I'll leave that leg of the process up to the junkies.

And now back to our regularly-scheduled programs. Expect a post about Culdcept Saga on Monday. And maybe one about a Chinese New Year 10-course banquet on Tuesday.


I apologize for the semi-political posts of late, but I can't help it right now.

Last night I theorized that in order to have a shot at getting into Key Arena this morning to see Obama speak at noon, I'd have to have lined up by 10am at the latest.

Oh how wrong I was.

People who were in line as early as 9:30 didn't even get in. They filled the 20,000 person arena within minutes and sealed the doors, stranding thousands of people outside in the rain, many of whom waited on lines for over an hour. The building can only hold so many people, yet those shut out banged on the windows and doors trying to demand to be let in. Imagine that, people clamoring to hear a politician. Tens of thousands of people.

This hasn't happened in my lifetime.

Call it inspirational. Call it a movement. Call it a hunger. Call it whatever you want, but do know that it's real and it makes me so damn proud of this country to see so many people believe the future doesn't have to resemble the past.

And for those with their heads in the sand, this is the opposite of disenfranchised. This is electrified.


Officials closed the entrances to KeyArena at about 11 this morning, turning away thousands who had gathered to hear Barack Obama speak at noon. Doors were locked after KeyArena reached its capacity of 20,000, officials said.

Those who made it inside were not allowed to leave because police wanted to keep those outside from pushing through the doors and forcing themselves in. People outside were banging on glass doors and windows of the arena, as Seattle Police were trying to maintain peace. Police sent officers outside into the crowd to physically push people away from the doors so that no one would get crushed or trampled.

Kathryn Hughes, a senior at Gig Harbor High School, got inside while her friend, Hunter Burton, also a Gig Harbor senior, was outside, pressed against a KeyArena glass door. Burton said he was "furious beyond words. Democracy should not be limited by a stadium's capacity."

There was a mad dash to get inside, with some people going through side doors leading to the upper level of the arena. One couple who got in line at 9:30 a.m. saw the doors close right in front of them before they could enter. Before the doors opened, thousands of Obama supporters had snaked through Seattle Center, with lines forming before 6 a.m. William Spiritdancer, of Seattle's Central District, pulled his four children — ages 7 to 14 — out of school to see Obama speak. The teachers were cool about it, he said, and wished they could attend themselves.

"It could be history in the making," Spiritdancer said. "He's inspiring. That's what needed. You have to inspire people to something higher."

Read the full article right here.

Fun With Subtitles Revisited

A lot of you enjoyed the "Hitler as a Cowboys Fan" video I linked to the other day, well someone else took that same clip of Hitler and added some gaming-related subtitles. It's definitely NSFW and, frankly, it starts out slow but it does get pretty funny near the end.

It's about Hitler getting banned from Xbox Live. It's a bit out-dated (the Halo 3 Beta reference gives it away) but it's still good for a laugh, especially the dig at Crackdown's agility orbs at the end.

Thanks to Ross for forwarding me the link to this.

Bike-Free and Hating It

Haven't been on my bike (nor out for a run) since Saturday and I'm starting to get a bit irritable because of it. As much as I want to get a quick ride in, I just can't justify it right now with the amount of work I have to do on this current project I have. Last year I came dangerously close to putting my mountain biking above my work and I intend to not let that happen again this year. It sucks to say it, but if I can only get 1 or 2 days of riding in during my main crunch weeks with work, then that's the way it has to be. So this week I'll only ride once. I'll make up for it in a week or two.

I've already come to grips with the likely fact that I'm not going to be in as good shape at the Spokane 24 hour race this May as I was last year. Hopefully it won't be a dramatic difference, but I'm setting my expectations low for that first one. Of course, I say that now but since I ride regularly with at least 2 (and possibly 4 or 5) guys who will be soloing it for the first time this year I know my competitive streak is going to kick in and I'm going to will myself to be in good enough shape to beat them. Not that it matters, but it'd kind of look bad if I didn't do an extra lap considering I'm younger, I have the experience in that sort of racing, and by golly I'm better looking too. Although it's going to be hard to beat them when most of them show up for my weekly "Endurance Training Series" rides.

I would have reconsidered this whole ETS thing if I had known I'd be helping to train my competition. That's not true, misery loves company and I'd probably be riding less if it wasn't for that series.

I really do need to get the ball going a bit more though. This weekend's high-speed cruise on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail should knock some more rust off. We're starting in Fall City near the entrance to Tokul West and riding gravel rail-trail east into the Cascades until we hit snow and then we'll turn around and cruise pace-line style back home. Should make for a 45-50 mile ride roundtrip with maybe some singletrack tacked on at the end if it's not too muddy.

Was doing some reading last night during my down time (bathroom) in one of the National Geographic Driving Guide books I have and think I have a very, very tentative plan for the week we head down to Leadville. I'm thinking instead of driving down through southern Utah and over past Grand Junction, we'll instead take our time driving along the southern edge of Wyoming then cut down to Steamboat Springs (stop in and see the Moots factory) and make our way to the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park for two days of backpacking. From there, we'll head east to Boulder to see my brother for another day or so and aim to get to Leadville that Tuesday before the race. I'll probably do one or two short rides on the course to keep the legs fresh that week, but mostly just do some sight-seeing and relaxing with Kristin.

And to help with the whole acclimitization thing, I put a call into these guys for info about renting one of their altitude tents for the month before the race. I have no idea how much it would cost to rent for the month, but if it's not more than a couple hundred dollars I'm going to strongly consider it. After all, the alternative is to try and get to Colorado two to three weeks before the race... and that is not an option.

Speaking of not an option -- and not in any way related to mountain biking -- I was really hoping to go see Barack Obama tomorrow morning in Seattle, but I just can't do it. Didn't get enough work done today to justify the hours it would require considering I imagine I'd have to be in line well over an hour early to even have a shot at getting in to Key Arena when the door's open. And it will probably be an hour of standing around waiting before he takes the podium. Then another hour of applause and cheering before he starts to speak. He's going to pack that place tighter than if Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain rose from the grave and anounced they were launching The Grateful Un-Dead reunion tour. It really sucks since even if he wins the nominee, I doubt we'll see him again here in WA during the run-up to the general election. At least not in western WA unless he needs money.

Oh well, the caucus should be fun though. I think I'll bike there.

Update: Is This Normal?

I posted about this on the community message board to see if anyone else received a note like we did and, sure enough, others have.

Maarten was correct in that somebody is out there fishing for people who might be having some financial trouble and contemplating selling their house. Our area hasn't been hit too hard by the mortgage crunch, but I guess there are enough people in trouble to attract the vultures.

Hopefully they just keep circling and eventually move on to some other place.

...or fly into the power lines.

Is This Normal?

In the mail today was a small envelope containing a piece of yellow lined notebook paper with a hand-written note.

It was a man saying that he and his son want to buy our house. He left his phone number.

The word buy was written in very large letters in the center of the note like this "$BUY$".

Other than that, the note seemed rather normal and not at all like a scam. It was stamped and postmarked, but the envelope's flap was folded in rather than sealed -- this tells me he had had sent a number of these notes out and was tired of licking envelopes.

The house isn't for sale and I have no intention of calling him back but this seems rather odd, doesn't it? We got a nice letter last year from an older couple in NC looking to buy the land we own there (they live in the neighborhood where our lot is and want to build a one-story house), but this wasn't at all like that. It seemed sketchy.

Am I paranoid or is this sort of thing normal? And if this is normal, is it common for people to be so unprofessional in their correspondence?

A Chink in the Buffer

I got an email Monday night from my friend Brian showcasing the trophy he had made for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. I clicked the Reply All button and excitedly tapped out the textual equivalent to unbridled hooting and hollering with the mandatory number of unnecessary four-letter words thrown in for good measure. Just as I was about to send the email, I had a funny thought come over me and decided to delete it instead.

Not ten minutes later Brian sent a second email saying that our friend Jeff had just stopped by to say his father died of a heart attack on Monday. Brian was asked to spread the word.

I only recently got to know Jeff, having met him just two years ago, and the vast majority of our interaction is in the form of cross-country electronic trashtalk and outright mockery confined to the realm of fantasy sports. Of our group of a dozen or so guys, Jeff is one of the ones I know the least. He was a late addition if you will and whereas I have known most of the guys in the group for nearly 20 years now and consider many of them extended family, I'm still getting to know Jeff. Nevertheless, the news hit me like a punch to the gut.

When it comes to death, I've always viewed it in terms of generations. We're all on a slow conveyor-belt ride to the big unknown and our grandparents were always out there in front, followed distantly behind by our parents, and then after some more space, there we stand. I believe many of us think of it this way even if only subconsciously, and I believe that much of the reason behind my mother's sadness at my grandmother's passing several years ago was tied to this thought. Sure, she was sad to see her mother die, but I think she knew that in many ways, her mom's death meant she was next. She was now leading the conveyor belt for our family.

Kristin and I each have one remaining grandparent and are lucky in that we have all four of our parents. In fact, everyone I know who is my age still has all of their parents. The buffer between us and death is holding firm.

Or at least it was until that email arrived from Brian. Now someone my age, someone who is a part of my life, has lost a parent. My heart feels tremendous sadness for what he must be going through and although I have to begrudgingly refrain from making the trip to NJ for the wake, I wish I could be there to lend support. Even if only to try and make him laugh for a moment by reminding him of the horrible trades I made last fantasy baseball season.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that much of the sadness I feel is due to the status of the buffer zone. Jeff's father's death draws near something forever kept at arm's length. It can't be ignored anymore. As young at heart and mind as we feel -- and although I often still think of myself as if I'm still in my teens -- we've approached the phase of life where we begin to lose our parents. Maybe not our own right away, but those of our friends; those of our cousins; and those of our co-workers.

And with each passing death, another dent in the buffer zone is made. With each passing year the buffer thins. And before any of us realize it, we will be standing alongside our siblings and friends leading the way forward on the conveyor belt, knowing that we're next.

I know I'll be in good company as I near the end of the ride; I just hope I've taken enough time to enjoy it while it lasts.

Because in the end, time is the only thing we can never truly have enough of.

Leadville Baby!

I got in.

Not sure how many thousands entered this year, but my name was plucked from the proverbial hat and I won one of the coveted lottery spots for the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race.

The race is August 9th in Leadville, CO. Starting elevation at 10,200 feet right in "downtown" Leadville and climbs 50 miles to a high-point at 12,600 feet above sea level. Can you spell altitude sickness? The race is a 100-mile out-and-back course with close to 14,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Unfortunately there isn't any singletrack but with that much climbing and 800 racers, that's probably a good thing.

Scratch that, no singletrack is never a good thing.

Anyway, this settles my racing schedule for this year and pretty much guarantees that Kristin and I will be spending our anniversary this year in the truck on the way to Leadville. I figure I'll need to get there a week early to acclimatize. No joke.

I'm psyched. I was starting to almost hope I didn't get in so we could make a week out of a trip down to Humboldt, California for a 12-hour race, but Leadville is a classic. It's one of the first big epic races and will certainly continue to be one of the most popular and most storied. How could I not be excited about getting in? Impossible.

So now do I want to set my sights on the 12-hour cut-off or do I dare dream of a 9-hour finish and a gold & silver belt buckle?

Oh, that's right, I practically live at sea-level. I think I'll just worry about finishing...

Brain Age Guy Makes Dumb Decision

The headline wrote itself, but I don't really think he's dumb. I think he could have made a better decision while still protecting his moral high ground and keeping his principals in tact. Like, for example, he could have socked one million dollars away in trust funds for his family or for his own old-age. He didn't need to forego taking any of the money.

Oh, wait, you have no idea what I'm talking about do you?

Well, read for yourself...

Ryuta Kawashima, the researcher behind Nintendo's Brain Age series of games for the DS portable system, would rather be working than enjoying $11 million in royalties he could have earned from his creations.

"Not a single yen has gone in my pocket," Dr. Kawashima told the AFP in a recent interview. Kawashima, whose likeness was heavily featured in the best-selling Brain Age games, is instantly recognizable to almost 12 million gamers worldwide.

Under the terms of his agreement withhis employer, Tohoku University in Japan's north-east region, Kawashima was entitled to accept half the Brain Age royalties personally. Instead, he used the proceeds to help fund $6.5 million in construction projects on Tohoku's campus.

"My hobby is work," he said. "Everyone in my family is mad at me but I tell them that if they want money, go out and earn it." Kawashima, who strictly monitors his teenage sons' gaming time, is currently working on a four-year project to study brain development in children. He's also cooperating with Toyota to develop a car designed to keep elderly drivers alert.

Story from

So, like I was saying, he was entitled to $6.5 million dollars and he turned it over to his employer, essentially to fund construction projects on a university campus. That's extremely admirable and for all we know he may already be quite wealthy, but assuming he's not (he works for a university, how wealthy could he be?) I think he owed it to himself to at least keep a portion of the money. A nest egg if you will. A giant, shiny nest egg.


Any Given Sunday

It's 10pm, the guests have gone home, Kristin and I cleaned the house, and I have water boiling for a french press of coffee to help me get through a long night of work.

Obviously my prediction (and that of most everyone who isn't a Giant fan) was wrong, but that's why I don't bet on sports. You can watch every game of every week, know the stats of all the players and the history of the game, and then still be completely wrong come Sunday. That's what makes the game great.

I don't have time to really write about the game right now (or the party, which was great) but I will say that Eli made me a believer tonight. This morning I would have told you I doubted he could tie his own shoelaces. But after the play that shall henceforth be known as The Great Eli-scape, I'm a convert. The dude can ball. Two touchdown drives against that defense in this game is not something an average quarterback can do. It's a shame Smith cost him that interception, otherwise his QB rating would have been near-perfect.

To the Giants fans among you -- especially my sister -- congrats. I still believe the Giants would have lost the NFC Championship had it have been at Seattle instead of Green Bay, but your team played great tonight and was probably the only team in the NFC who had the defense to spot the Patriots.

And for the Patriots fans, let me just say that I was pulling for you. Not that I necessarily didn't want the Giants to win, but that I was hoping to never have to see those old crotchety champagne-popping '72 Dolphins again. Their schtick stopped being funny back in the 90's and I was really hoping that we had seen the last of them. But it was a great game so I can't complain. And our guests were happy the Giants won so that made me happy.

There was one disappointing aspect of the game though and that was the cut-aways to Peyton Manning in the luxury box. There weren't enough of them. I made an early bet in the 1st quarter that they cameras would pan to Peyton at least 10 times during the game. They did it 9 times. And because of that I lost four football cards and a shot at winning the growler of Snoqualmie IPA that serves as one of our door prizes.

Oh well... I make foolish bets throughout the game with my cards so the guests can win anyway... like betting half my stack that "the next commercial will be for Victoria's Secret". I was about an hour premature with that one. But I'm guessing those girls are used to guys being a bit premature with them.

Ahem... on that note I'm going to get back to work.

Prediction Time

Patriots 37, Giants 17

Bicycle Thieving Doctor Nailed!

And our first nominee for 2008 Scumbag of the Year is...

From The Daily News Online:

A Longview doctor suspected of swiping pricey racing bicycles in three states was caught because of ordinary things he left behind: a coffee cup labeled "Jake," a baseball cap and a pair of slippers, according to police reports.

The items were left at a bike shop in the Seattle area last February after a man took a test ride of a $6,800 Cervelo-R3 racing bike and never returned.

In August, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab informed Seattle police that DNA on the items matched Jacob Jonathon Bos, 35, a Longview podiatrist and a member of Three Rivers Cycling Club.

Seattle and Longview police initially arrested Bos Jan. 18 and served a search warrant at his home in the 500 block of 28th Avenue. Police said they found five stolen bicycles and other stolen bicycle-related items in his garage, and another stolen bicycle in his office. He was released Jan. 19 on his personal recognizance. The next day, Bos was rescued from his car when Weyerhaeuser Co. workers found it teetering on the edge of the Kalama River. Police learned Tuesday that he had been released from Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver.

Tuesday, the Longview Police Street Crimes Unit arrested Bos again and announced further developments in the investigation.Friends of Bos who purchased bicycles from him - including the Cervelo-R3 stolen Feb. 2 - have met with investigators and returned the bikes. Investigators have recovered more than $55,000 worth of stolen bicycles and accessories. The bikes were stolen in the Seattle metropolitan area, Portland metropolitan area and Utah, where Bos' children live, police said.

Well, I gotta hand it to the guy... he had great taste in bicycles. I guess being a doctor wasn't good enough for him, he needed some extra money from fencing stolen bikes to his friends. Now he gets to throw it all away and head to the slammer for interstate trafficking of stolen goods and grand theft. And I have a feeling that the more play this story gets (it's also hitting the Seattle news sites) the more people are going to come forward with reports of stolen bikes that eventually get traced back to him. I hope he rots.

I still can't help but wonder though... who steals bikes in their slippers while carrying a cup of coffee? Book smarts and street dumb.

Thanks Nando for forwarding this link to me.

The Double-Whammy of Console Death

Jeff Carter emailed me a nice sympathy note about my bike wreck, but it was me who ended up feeling sorry for him.

Just listen to this gamer horror story:

I haven't been online lately due to my 360 suffering the RROD the day before I was hosting a Rock Band party. Luckily one of my co-workers brought his 360 over, but it's been two weeks now with no 360 - brutal!

In fact, my withdrawal was so painful, I actually broke down and bought a PS3 to keep me company. Karma was not with me however. The optical drive was DOA right out of the box. At least the 360 worked for 2 years before giving up the ghost! Now the PS3 is in a box to Texas (I couldn't return it to a store because I bought it at the SonyStyle store online).

All my consoles are in Texas. Maybe I should move there.

I wrote to Jeff to express my condolences and to suggest he not buy a Wii unless of course he's hoping for the screw-you-trifecta. I was going to also suggest he not move to Texas then stopped short of typing it when I remembered he lived in Florida. That's a toss-up.

Fortunately (for those who find pleasure in others' misfortune) Jeff expanded on his tale of woe:

As for the PS3, it being broken right out of the box was pretty shocking. That’s a first for me, and I’ve bought ‘em all, including the 3DO (I never said I was the smartest guy in the room). The fact that it coincided with my 360’s untimely (?) demise was just mindblowing.

What was even more depressing was that the unit gave no indication of being broken – it booted, I messed with the settings, set up my wirleless network, signed up for the PlayStation Network, even started downloading the demo for “The Club”. Then my wife was like, “Throw that Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray in there and let’s see what this bad boy can do.” Nada. Threw “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune” in there, which I had bought just that afternoon. “Great game,” the GameStop employee had said. Zilch. Threw my kids freakin’ Peter Pan DVD in there. Squat. I was crushed with disappointment. The Sony CSRs were taken aback as well, “This almost never happens” said the surfer dude who answered my call that night.

My bad karma continues – last night I came home to a note on my front door from FedEx, “Tried to Deliver, No One Home” with huge handwritten letters on it, “XBOX”. I crumpled the paper in my hand and raised a fist to the sky, ruing the day I had been given the soul of gamer. WHY?! I cried! WHHHHHYYYYY?!? as the camera pulls back to reveal the neighborhood, the state, the country, the continent, the globe, and finally the cold, vast emptiness of space... then a satellite beeps by.

Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! Thanks for having the courage to relive such an agonizing part of your life, Jeff. If we were sitting on aluminum folding chairs in a circle, I swear I'd come over and hug you.

I've been lucky in that my original first-gen Xbox 360 (purchased 6 months after launch) is still alive and kicking and that the only consoles I've ever had problems with were the NES (like everyone else in the world, I fixed it with lots of blowing and sideways shimmying of cartridges), the PSone (fixed it by turning the console upside-down), and an original launch-day Xbox which I had to ship back to have the disc drive replaced after 2 or 3 years.

But Jeff does remind me of something important... The Club. It's an utterly fantastic hard-core action game for those who are passionate about their Leaderboards. I wrote the strategy guide for it (giveaway next week) and definitely recommend going online to grab the free demo on Xbox Live or PSN.

The Snowy Wonders of Topography

This is our fourth winter living in Snoqualmie, but it ceases to amaze me just how dramatic the affect topography plays on snowfall accumulation here. At the extreme local level, we live on a ridge at an elevation of 900 feet above sea level. Off the ridge, less than two miles away, the elevation is roughly 450 feet. We routinely get snow at our house and can literally drive down the hill to where there's not a trace of snow. Turn around to face the ridge and you can see the snow-line just feet from where you stand. Everything above a certain height is snow, everything below is rain.

This sounds rather obvious, but growing up in the northeast you kind of get used to the "snow-line" not having anything to do with elevation, but rather latitude. Everything north of Philadelphia gets snow, points further south gets rain.

I'll admit the change in snow accumulation between my development and the town itself is only a matter of 14 inches and 6 inches (cumulative for the year) and that it's not very dramatic. What is dramatic is the difference between the accumulation at our house and that at the mountain pass, 27 miles up the road.

Like I said, I figure we received a grand-total of 14 inches of snow at our house so far this year (elevation 900 feet). Maybe an inch or two more.

Snoqualmie Pass lies 27 miles to the east and is rapidly closing in on 30 feet of total snow accumulation for the year. The pass lies at 3,200 feet above sea level. And it's only February 1st.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency Thursday for 15 counties, mostly in snowbound Eastern Washington, which has been nearly cut off from the state’s west side by mountain avalanches and paralyzed by inability to get all the snow off streets and highways.

"The snowfall this month has been relentless and this proclamation will help counties with response efforts,” Gregoire said in a statement.Long shutdowns of Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, the main east-west route across the Cascade Mountains, have increasingly disrupted the state’s economy, the governor said. Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said 7,000 trucks cross the pass each day, about one quarter of total traffic on the pass.

The pass remained closed a second day with no estimated time for reopening after an avalanche about 150 feet wide buried the eastbound lanes about 2 a.m. Friday, department spokeswoman Erin Bogenschutz said. More than five feet of snow has fallen this week and the National Weather Service predicted another 4 to 10 inches by 4 p.m.

The pass was closed for 28 hours ending Wednesday morning because of heavy snow and avalanches. Less than six hours later, another slide hit two cars and the freeway was closed again. No one was injured.

An avalanche 150 feet wide? People struggle to escape avalanche on skis. You can't even dodge that one in a car!

Snoqualmie Pass received 172 inches of snow in December. According to WSDOT the pass has received 317 inches of snow this season as of noon on Wednesday. It's dumped another two feet since then (and nobody has been able to play in it since the Interstate has been closed).

It's hard to believe that just two winters ago several ski resorts in the area never even opened for more than a couple of days due to an utter lack of snow. And now, this? I've pretty much lost interest in sliding down mountains on boards and skis, but damn if this doesn't make me want to lace up the boots and get out there soon. Then again, part of the reason I lost interest is that my snowboard sucks in the powder and I don't feel like buying another snowboard.

Oh well, the snowshoeing will be good... once the avalanche hazard drops to acceptable levels. My guess is that it will be safe to go back out there sometime in June.

In other news, I'm going to miss the annual discussion of water conservation due to "lower than expected snowpacks". I suspect many of the farmers in eastern Washington are considering abandoning their apple orchards and converting their fields to rice paddies as we speak. Or cranberries.