Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gelatinous DOOM!

This game has something for everyone…but it’s got more for some and less for others.

Tales from Space: About a Blob
Game Type: 2-dimensional Side-Scrolling Platformer/Puzzle
Synopsis: You play a gelatinous alien that comes to Earth and is captured by a scientist. You have to escape his lab by solving puzzles and absorbing items to expand your size. As you grow, you can absorb bigger and bigger items until you get big enough to absorb buildings, people, and eventually the world.
Modes: Single and Co-op
Play Time: approximately 5 hours
Cost: $15
Available on PlayStation Network Only

I love everything about video games: the graphics, the music, the excitement, the culture of the fans, everything. Here’s the problem: I am really bad at them. Oh, don’t get me wrong–I can kill it on a Genesis. But if it’s anything in the current generation, I am a total wreck. I can’t get my bearings in a 3D world and if there is more than 4 buttons on a controller I just start panicking.

The old "run-and-jump"

About a Blob is a perfect combination of old school gameplay and present day mechanics. You start off using simple controls–a joystick to move and one button each for jump, run and absorb. As the game continues and you gain more abilities (like being about to attract and repel to certain surfaces), the controls get more complicated, but it’s a slow, manageable progression. This is good for someone like me who hasn’t mastered these new-fangled controllers…like a 3 year old.

This is a fun game, but it’s by no means an all-absorbing game (except for the part where you, you know, absorb stuff). You can play for an hour or two, then walk away from it without diving for the controller ten minutes later shouting, “I HAVE to know what happens next!” Seasoned gamers will find it amusing for a while, but they’re prolly gonna get bored pretty quickly.

Blob's Night Out

However, players of all levels will appreciate the aesthetics of this game. The music is very catchy, quirky and fitting with the funky, doodle-esque art style. My only qualm is that the appearance and score remain mostly the same from level to level, which gets pretty monotonous if you sit and play straight through. Splitting up your game play over several days will make it less repetitive, even endearing. It’s something familiar to look forward to, instead of, “Oh God–this again.”

This is a great game to play in co-op mode, particularly if the pairing is one pro-gamer and one novice. The game is easy but still interesting (if taken in small doses). I would especially recommend this for parents looking to play a game with their kids–it’s not violent or obscene, and the kids will get a kick out of absorbing water towers and townfolk. It’s like I always say: the family that destroys the planet together, stays together.

Hmm…maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have kids.

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Greetings from Minnesota!

I should be writing a review of Hell’s Kitchen. But I can’t…because I’ve fallen off the wagon. Kind of.

No, I did not cave in and resume cable; I’m in Minneapolis visiting my parents who can afford such luxuries. So here I am, in the living room of my childhood home on a cold, rainy September day (which may or may not be the first day of fall, come to think of it), and there it is: the dark, hulking form of temptation itself, peering down at me from it’s perch atop the entertainment center. Yes, it is in fact too big for the dedicated TV slot inside the entertainment center that was bought back when TVs were square and had a footprint at least 2 feet in length.

I’ve been home for a couple days now, and so far I’ve been good at resisting the television’s welcoming and sinister glow. The trick is to keep busy: go to the gym, go out to lunch, go shopping, go go go. At night, my family and I all watch an episode of something together before we turn in for the night, but since we’re talking and commenting to each other about the show, it’s only half-watching, really.

But now…it’s the middle of the afternoon. I’m all alone. No one would care if I cheated a little…there’s probably an America’s Next Top Model marathon on somewhere…just an hour won’t hurt anything, right?

But I know it won’t be just an hour. I will find some other show, some other excuse to keep watching. Eventually, I will start to get bored, but I won’t turn off the TV and do something more engaging. Instead, I will find a supplement for my viewing—like those Chinese food leftovers in the fridge. Keep watching, keep eating. Just like high school, without the math homework.

I blame the weather. If it was sunny and warmer I could go out on the porch with a book and read. I could probably even deal with this computer screen glaring in my face and post what I meant to post today. I know I that winter’s coming, and I will have to figure out a way of dealing with the weather’s effect on my resolve eventually, but not today.

Also, since I haven’t seen the season finale of Hell’s Kitchen yet, it feels kind of stupid to write about it now. Tell you what—if you have access to Hulu or Hulu Plus, while don’t you go watch it now, and I will watch it when I get back to Madison on Monday, and then when I do finally write about it we’ll be on the same page. In the meantime, I’m going to stop feeling guilty. I am technically on vacation after all, and everyone will be home in a couple hours and the entropy will be curbed. As long as I stay out of the refrigerator, the damage should be minimal.

Week 4: Are You Ready for Some….?

It took a whole month, but now the first snag in this plan has come to the fore. See, it was summer when I chose to sally forth bravely into the Post-Cable Era, which means I forgot to consider a very important television event: football.

Ha. Clay Matthews is my favorite ever.

Yes, I know football is on network television, but you have to consider that last year, I had not only a DVR so I could skip the commercials, but also HD channels (an upgrade made for the World Cup in 2010). Now, I have to watch it in real time via a spotty network anntanae. I think we can all agree that is a bit of a downgrade.

Football Off the Wire

If you can’t get it at home, the solution is obvious: go out. Football is really better experienced in a group setting anyway, and here in Packland (that’s Wisconsin for the Midwest-illiterate), there’s not much people won’t do in order to see a football game, whether it’s change the channel on a bar TV or reschedule a school graduations. Seriously, that happened this past weekend.

You can do this one of two ways:

1) In a Bar.

Who doesn’t want to bask in the glow of 18 giant screens simultaneously? The festive atmosphere and the variety of food and drink are just an added bonus. Plus, at least in Wisconsin, you can chose from dozens of bars with atmospheres ranging from sporty to trendy and they’re all probably gonna have the game on somewhere.

 

 

Cons: High noise levels, expensive bar prices, lines for EVERYTHING (bathroom, bar, parking lot, etc), obnoxious drunks, rude employees, commercials, riots.

2) At a Friend’s House.

For the price of a six-pack, you can ingratiate yourself into a comfortable couch seat where you will have a more-or-less guarenteed view of the game. Odds are the crowd will be small and you will know everyone, plus you might be able to skip the commercials if you’re lucky.

 

 

 

Cons: Lack of availability (you have to have 1) a friend 2) with cable to have this be a valid option, limited space, monotonous food and drink selection, obnoxious drunks, riots.

(BTW, these guys are exactly the kind of friend you do NOT want to watch football with. It looks like they’re watching a really exciting House Hunters episode. Come on, guys–get ROWDY! It’s the one day a week were yelling and cheering loudly is not only okay, but ENCOURAGED!)

A possible third option is to go to a live game, but Lambeau Field is harder to get into than a coconut. And I can’t get into a coconut to save my life.

 September 18th: Packers @Carolina Panthers

This week we chose option #2, and went to the house of a friend with a seriously giant HD TV, a million HD channels and DVR. I had to stomach 20 minutes of Dragon Ball Z so the DVR could build up a buffer, but it was worth it in order to skip the commercials.

In the beginning, the Packers looked a little bit off-kilter–Cobb’s fumble after the punt was especially embarrassing, and their amount of penalties overall was nothing to be proud of. However, 3 interceptions by Woodson in the second half and the classic/awesome Rodgers’ short pass-Nelson’s 80 yard touchdown run in the 4th was…well, both classic and awesome. Both teams put up and extremely intense fight throughout the game, and at the final 2 minute warning the Packers were up by 14, their largest lead of the day.

A few seconds later, the DVR playback froze. Apparently the game was running over and the DVR hadn’t kept recording the overflow.

Luckily, we had almost been caught up to real time so we frantically switched to live television. We missed a Panther touchdown but managed to see the Packers win by 7 anyway. No real harm done, but I will be making doubly sure the recording stop time is set properly from now on, I can tell you that much. Overall it was an exciting game, and exciting win, and it was made all the better by sharing it with friends.

I Beat People (Magazine)

FUN FACT: While waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store this afternoon, I look over to the racks of impulse buys and what do I see? The newest issue of People magazine has a cover article about Toddlers and Tiaras and the corresponding controversy. HA! I went over that a week+ ago! I think this is the first time I find myself ahead of a trend. Feels pretty good 🙂

Can’t See the Forest Through the Nanotubes

I only watched the first episode, but it infuriated me so much I had to write about it now, while the anger is fresh.

Making Stuff
Format: 1-hour 4-part television special (part of the Nova series)
Category: Education
Premise: We need materials that are Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, and Smarter. This series shows us how we are finding and creating them.
Original Broadcast Channel: PBS
Off the Wire Locaton: Netflix (Episodes 1-4)

 

 

 

Making Stuff  is what we’ve come to expect from Nova over its 3.2 million year run. The goofy humor tries to appeal to a mass audience with that charming earnestness signature to public broadcasting. The demonstrations were pretty standard fare: slow-mo car crashes, slow-mo bullets, and the Periodic Table (though the PTOE animation was surprisingly slick for public television).

However, it was the carbon nanotubes that caused my only science-based emotional reaction to date. Carbon nanotubes are products synthesized in labs by combining carbon-rich gases over slides in an oven. The results are little patches of fuzz called “nanotube forests.”

A nanotube forest

When one tube in the forest is pulled away from the slide, it hooks the tubes next to it and forms a yarn forms that is the width of 1/100th of a human hair, about 20 feet long and stronger than steel.

Pulling the nanotube forest into a string

As the host (David Pogue, NY Times technology writer) illustrated the possibilities for nanotubes in engineering, I found myself getting deeply, inexplicably…depressed. When he mentioned that we could use nanotubes to build a suspension bridge across an ocean, I realized why.

We will never build a suspension bridge across the ocean. The technology may be there, but everyone (and I’m talking mostly about companies in the private sector) is too worried about acquiring and keeping wealth to take the risk, no matter how awesome it would be. We live in a country of dragons that snarl from of their caves of gold, shelling out the bare minimum and calling it excellence. It’s all so BORING.

I can’t see our generation building the Panama Canal or the Sears Tower. All we shoot for is NOT leaving a trillion dollar debt for our children. That is so LAME. That’s like saying, “For you’re birthday I’m NOT gonna punch you in the face. You’re welcome.”

This more than anything else (yes, even more than canceling cable) is what frustrates me about life in America today. We have the technology and (contrary to popular belief) there are people out there who do have the money. But they’d rather see the numbers in their bank account rise than build an underwater city or something.

It makes me really sad for the people who worked to develop those nanotubes. Nanotubes won’t be used to build an underwater city–they will be used to reinforce the bumper of some rich guy’s Jaguar. And we’ll be told that it’s an impressive leap forward, and we’ll accept it because we don’t have the energy or the courage to demand anything better.