Friday, April 30, 2010

Not Enough of a Good Thing

You've been there.  I've been there.  We've all been there.  Looking through the freezer case for the perfect snack.  Up and down the aisle, carefully inspecting everything as you weigh your options.  Pull a box out, check the nutrition info, read the ingredients, inspect any cooking directions, and then put it back and move on.

Choosing a frozen snack is no easy task.  You have to find the right balance between tasty and HNNNGGGGG.  The last thing anyone wants is to end up with a heart attack, but at the same time, it's got to taste good enough to be worth the money.  So you inspect, and inspect some more, and finally make your decision.  Quickly, you hurry to the register before you change your mind.  Once home with your prize, you open it up and follow any directions on the box.  And then what?

It's good.  Oh yeah, it's delicious.  Only problem: it's too small.  This happens all too often.

Such is the case with the box of M&M's cookie ice cream sandwiches I got at the store last Thursday.  I just got into the box now, and my exact emotion upon finishing one was "damn, that was good, but it was over before I knew it".  Just when I was getting into it and my taste buds were going crazy, I finished it.  It's like premature ejaculation.  There's no other way to describe it.  The ice cream sandwich is done for the night, but I'm still awake and left wanting more.

Part of me thinks they design it that way on purpose, so that you end up purchasing their product more often.  The other part of me thinks they design it that way on purpose, so that they can try to make something that's clearly not nutritious look more nutritious than it really is.  I dunno about you, but I don't want substitutes or reduced sizes on anything.  If I'm going to eat something, I want the real thing in a satisfying size.  This is why I don't buy reduced fat cheese.  Sure, the regular stuff might not be the best thing in the world for me to eat, but I know that.  It's supposed to be delicious.  Sometimes we have to make nutritional sacrifices to obtain deliciousness.

On that note, one thing that's very delicious that I pulled at random from the freezer case last week is California Pizza Kitchen flatbread melts.  Prepared as directed they're done in a couple of minutes and are actually satisfying.  The only problem I have with them is that they only have microwave directions.  I'd much prefer some stovetop directions, as it's impossible to get anything golden brown like the pictures on the box using a microwave.  I tried it, but the bottom began to burn before the cheese had started melting, and the chicken was still frozen.  Maybe I need to thaw one out first and pre-fold it before beginning the warming process.  I had a compromise, basically getting it golden brown on the griddle and then microwaving it to warm everything else up and re-soften the bread so it would fold.

Maybe I expect too much out of my frozen tasties.  I dunno.

Monday, April 19, 2010

<insert title>

For <insert time frame>, I've been <insert activity>. It's pretty fun, but <insert drawback>. So to try and get around that, I've been <insert possible solution> for <insert approximate time spent searching for solution>.

I thought I'd found it, but <insert fatal flaw in possible solution>. <insert sentence explaining fatal flaw>. So for <insert time frame> I've been looking around for another way to do it.

Randomly browsing the internet <insert somewhat recent time frame>, I happened upon a/an <insert internet posting type> that made mention of <insert eventual solution>.

I <insert past-tense verb enabling me to use the solution (installed, ran, etc.)> it and right away, <insert reaction>. Not only does it remedy <insert issue>, but it also does <insert other useful things>.

<insert screenshot of solution>
<paragraph describing how to configure solution>

<paragraph orgasming about how useful the solution is>.

So overall, I'd have to say <insert overall statement>.

The verdict: <insert random rephrasing of "it's awesome">

Monday, April 12, 2010

Washington, D.C. Fails

As promised, here is a rant on the road signage and traffic patterns in our nation's capitol.  If you want the gist of it now so you can skim the rest, well, they suck.

Since the source material for this rant was obtained by driving around Washington, D.C. on CAINE's Cherry Blossom Festival trip, chances are there are going to be some references to events that took place during said trip.

First up, road signage.  You know how highways have all those helpful signs telling you the places you can go if you get off at each exit?  You know how in regular cities they will also point you towards other nearby major roads you may be interested in getting on (or at least are interested in using as a landmark)?  Yeah.  Getting onto Route 7 from Interstate 66, there is absolutely zero signage telling you to get on Route 7 West if you're interested in Route 123.  Which we so happened to be using as a landmark since our destination was in a shopping center just after it, which was ironically very close to the MAGFest 5 hotel.  We drove quite a ways on Route 7 East before getting hold of people and figuring out we'd turned the wrong fucking way.

Furthermore, getting back onto Interstate 66 from Route 7, the sign that tells you "hey this exit takes you to I-66" is literally in the inside of the curve of the exit ramp, helpfully obscured partially by a nearby tree.  Furthermore, there is absolutely no sign whatsoever stating that the very same exit branches out to let you choose your destiny (East or West).  Hell, there wasn't even a sign saying "Junction I-66".

So we went a few blocks past and used a parking lot on a side road to turn around.  It was then we noticed that another one of our cars had been following us and had also missed the I-66 exit.  Going back, the exits (that's right, there were actually two of them on this side of the road) were clearly labelled in advance of the exit and we easily made it onto I-66 West so we could go home.  What the fucking shit.

While we were driving the wrong way on Route 7 due to lack of useful signage, naturally, we had to experience some traffic patterns.  They range from confusing to absolutely fuckstupid.  At one point I changed lanes one lane to the right only to discover that the lane I had just changed into was ending at the next traffic light and I'd have to move back into the lane I was in to begin with.  Going further in the wrong direction, there's an interchange with Route 50 and one other road whose number and designation I forget where it's basically just a huge intersection with roads branching off everywhere and it's up to you to look far off into the distance for that Route 7 sign if you want to stay on it.

After turning around so we were headed in the correct direction, we went over the interchange with Route 244, and all I can really say is "WTF road maintenance wut".  Seriously.  The road is bumpy as all hell there.  For no real reason as far as I can tell.

Washington, D.C. is full of richfags.  People that have money out the ass, as is evidenced by the number of people I noticed on I-66 who were passing the subway train and getting abysmal gas mileage while doing so, meaning they have to fill up their gas tanks more often and thus have money to burn.  If there are so many rich people in D.C., why can't they put up any god damned signs that fucking help motorists who don't fucking live in the area and therefore don't fucking know exactly where everything is?  Oh wait, I forgot, the only way to get rich is to sit on your money and not use it for anything.  If you actually spend you don't get rich.  Fucking money hogs.  You're the reason the economy sucks right now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival: 2010 Edition

Officially no problems getting there.  Yay.  When getting fare cards (the all day ones are well worth it) I discovered that my only money (a $20 bill) essentially couldn't be used to purchase one farecard as the machines will reject anything that makes them have to give out more than $5 in change.  Fortunately I wasn't the last in our group to get one so I just bought two with the promise of being paid back.

The fucked up shit happened right when we got out of the Federal Triangle station.  For whatever reason, some people were protesting.  Leave it to some people to turn an event based solely around cherry trees blooming into a political agenda.  I didn't really pay attention to them and ignored the person that tried to hand me a flier as I walked past.

Our first objective, as always, was food.  This is how I got paid back, essentially.  By receiving approximately $8.30's worth of food that I would have purchased had I not had to buy two metro passes.  It was closer to $8's worth of food, but who's counting?  Furthermore, where can you get anything for around 30 cents anymore?

After eating my takoyaki and taiyaki, and some chex mix for good measure, we started meandering our way around the festival.  One thing is important to note: to actually see what any given booth has at it, you have to sift your way through the crowd at that booth.  Even if you aren't interested in whatever it turns out that they have.  So naturally we're doing our best to scan from a distance to ascertain what everyone has, but also naturally we missed some things and had to go looking for them later.

Another thing that's important to note: everything available for purchase at this festival is overpriced.  No exceptions.

Honestly there isn't much to say.  We spent the day wandering from one end of Pennsylvania Ave. to the other and back.  Every time we went past the booth that had Guitar Hero 3 (seriously, GH3?  That game is oldsauce) I'd name the song that was being played.  Withdrawal's a bitch.

Eventually we decided to leave.  Part of leaving involved trolling one of our members.  It's difficult to explain, but I'll try.  Basically, it involved taking him into a sex shop without telling him that he was going into a sex shop, just to see his reaction.  Unfortunately, because of directions fail due to receiving second-hand directions, I didn't actually get to see the reaction.

Something incredibly weird happened when we were leaving the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU metro station.  My car has automatic seatbelts.  Normally the driver's side one moves up when I close the door.  It stayed put.  Even when I started the car.  No amount of opening and closing the door or turning off and restarting the car would make it budge.  lol i dunno ‾\O_o/‾

After the trolling, we decided to get some dinner and drove to the Olive Garden in Tyson's Corner.  I didn't know Olive Garden was classy enough to have a valet parking setup, but it sure as hell looked like one.  Narrow driveway going past the entrance with large parking lot further back.  The valet parking wasn't actually in service (thankfully, I wouldn't trust anyone in DC with my keys), so we parked ourselves and then I think we inadvertently trolled some random people there because there was a party of five being told there was a 20-25 minute wait but our party of 12 got seated immediately.

At this point, I was out of money, but I have nice friends who don't like to see their friends starve.  I went easy on Peaches and just got the endless salad ($5.65 for as much salad and breadsticks as you can eat, pretty damn good deal) and a Coke, which I got refills on as well.

Now it was dark so we headed home.  While picking up people I ended up with an energy drink (Amp), which actually worked 100% into my plans because I have this tendency to be falling asleep while attempting to drive the return trip from an event, even if I've just gotten up.  It also helped that one of my passengers stayed awake so I had someone to talk to.  I still ended up drinking the Amp, but it was between Gainesville and Charlottesville when I needed it as opposed to last year where I was already trying desperately to stay awake before I even got to Gainesville.

I'm going to have to get that seat belt fixed.  Thankfully I already got my car inspected.

Also, due to general wtfness from the roads while we were trying to sort out the second-hand directions failure, there may be an incoming rant on DC's signage and traffic patterns.  Spoiler: they suck.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Video Game Rant

So, hopefully it's no secret.  I like First Person Shooters.  I mean, hell, I've played some of the best in existence.  Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D, the Unreal Tournament series (with the exception of UT2003, which was horrible but at least paved the way for the more recent UT games), and so forth.

So generally speaking, I know what's good when it comes to FPSes.  Give me some weapons with varying advantages and disadvantages, put me in a scenario with some enemies to shoot, and let me go.  Tie in a story that doesn't really matter at all and multiplayer where I can either team up with friends or kill friends and call it a game.

Naturally, with a lot of games following that same cookie-cutter design, the genre stagnates quickly.  Innovations are always welcome.  Innovations usually come in the form of new gameplay mechanics and weapons.  Ladders, hanging from ledges, and complex dodging maneuvers have been added to the standard repertoire of FPSes over the years.

As far as weapons go, the most recent noteworthy innovation was the Gravity Gun.

Many companies have tried to innovate by merging the FPS with another genre, typically the role-playing game.  Cue images of games like Borderlands.  Some have instead merged a third person shooter with a role-playing game.  Cue Mass Effect.  They also added in co-op (cue Left 4 Dead), which is a fucking joke because co-op has been in FPSes since the beginning, it's just that you weren't forced to play it so nobody ever did.  There has been variance in the enemy you're fighting (nazis, zombies, nazi zombies, etc.), but that can hardly be considered innovation.  Another fucking joke has been some of the "realism" adjustments where you can only carry two weapons and a handful of other things that fit in your backpack.  Bring back the FPS where I can carry nine or ten weapons and switch between them all easily and effortlessly.  When I'm carrying a rocket launcher and a plasma gun, and I can fall off a tall structure while only taking a few hit points' worth of damage, who the hell cares about realism?

But back to mechanics.  Lots of FPSes now have vehicles.  Some even offer multiple vehicles with different weapons, armor strengths, etc.  One of my favorites, Unreal Tournament 2004, is certainly no exception.  While they do diversify the gameplay, FPSes with vehicles really just make me wish I was playing a racing game with weapons.

I'm not talking about games like Mario Kart.  In Mario Kart your "weapons" fall into two categories: mostly useless and largely imbalanced.  To top it off, the game has an insanely tight rubber band on its physics.  In order to do well you have to sit back in 2nd or 3rd place and pounce on the last lap.  No thanks, I don't want to play a racing game where being good involves holding back.  Rumble Racing is an example of a Mario Kart-like game without a rubber band, and it's quite the underrated gem on the PlayStation 2.

What I'm actually wishing for is a game where you have a vehicle, whether fictional or real, where you can mount a couple of weapons (let's say one forward-facing and one backward-facing) and race around shooting your opponents.  You and your opponents would all have health bars and if you take too much damage you get destroyed.  The exact mechanics I haven't thought too much about, but it's the archetype that's important.

This was the entire reason I played the Auto Assault beta.  It was an MMORPG where you drove around in a car with weapons shooting things.  It sounded pretty cool.  Since it was the beta, there wasn't yet a monthly fee.  So...  I played it.  And I played some more.  I tried to get into it.  Then I got tired of driving around and shooting the bad guys because literally the third area I got to was too high level for me to go through.  So I spent most of my time, you guessed it, driving around basically making race tracks out of the terrain and generally exploring.  At one point I got to a town, which was actually an area where you had to get out of your vehicle.  So I'm walking around, and people are trading items I've never seen before for large amounts of a currency I haven't even gotten any of yet.  In the beta.

To be fair, it was an MMO, so I expected a grindfest.  That's another genre that's rather stagnated (the funny thing is, it's stagnated since the beginning).  In each one the people you represent and your enemies change, but the same basic gameplay still exists without notable innovation.  I play Guild Wars, but that's hardly an MMO seeing as how once you walk out of town it's just you and your seven party members in your own instanced version of the area.  Its gameplay is fun and compelling but overall it gives you plenty of great stopping points making it possible to have a life and play the game at the same time.

Now, there have been weapons-based racing games in the past, but none have really caught my eye.  Most have a long list of flaws ranging from bad controls to too much story.  Think about it.  First off, how do you screw up the controls on a racing game?  You steer left, steer right, accelerate, brake, and in the case of the sub-genre I'm talking about, fire weapons.  It's not a complex control scheme.  You can get all of that into a directional pad and three buttons.  Next, take a look at racing games and shooters.  Have racing games (well, make that good racing games, there's a lot of shit in the genre that gives it a bad reputation) ever had a story?  No.  Have shooters ever had stories that you actually needed to pay attention to in order to get through the game?  No.  So why does story suddenly come up when you combine two genres that don't depend on story?

Come to think of it, one of the best games in the weapons-based racing game genre is on the SNES: Rock & Roll Racing.  There's zero story, different cars with different strengths, different characters to choose, and a completely straightforward upgrade system.  All of this puts the emphasis on what really matters: the gameplay.  Driving on race tracks in crazy fantasy worlds while shooting your competitors and rocking out to 16-bit versions of classic rock tunes?  Hell yes.  All this from a system where the only 3D games had to have a special chip in the cartridge.

Am I missing something here?  Since when should a game on a third-generation console be better than a modern game in the same genre?  It seems as though modern games are stagnating in the gameplay department while simultaneously trying to one-up each other for prettiest 3D graphics.  Since when did graphics ever trump gameplay?  Sure, Unreal Tournament 2004 looks awesome, but it plays awesomely as well.  There are plenty of modes with different objectives and mechanics to keep you entertained and when that's not enough you can download a mod to spice up the gameplay.

Maybe the problem is actually me.  I largely prefer the arcade-style racers to the simulation racers.  I just want to hop in a car and drive fast around a race track.  The race track doesn't have to actually exist, the car I'm using doesn't have to be infinitely tunable, I just want the action.  Tuning the car is why real life auto racers have an entire team of mechanics and engineers.

I can understand wanting to tune your car yourself if you're into tuning street cars, but where's the alternative for people like me that just want to race?  Auto Modellista had a very simplified tuning system, but it didn't matter because regardless of how you tuned your car, the instant you touched your brakes you went into a four-wheel slide.  If you were lucky you could control it to a certain extent, but usually there wasn't much you could do to prevent yourself from bouncing off the walls.  That doesn't make the game fun.  Which sucks because Auto Modellista looked like a great game up until it was released and we actually got our hands on it.

Going back to graphics, this may seem weird coming from someone who signed the Diablo 3 graphics petition, but there are lots of games that just completely lack contrast between everything.  Your colors will be grey, brown, and red.  Remind you of anything yet?  Gears of War?  I signed the D3 graphics petition because the dungeon graphics were bad.  Where does an ominous green glow come from in an underground crypt?  The only light should be from torches and anything magical that generates light.  Underground crypts are supposed to lack color.  The overworld actually looked quite good.  Speaking of D3, has any of the music been revealed yet?  I'd be interested in knowing whether or not we're getting a rehash of the crying babies from D2 or if it's actually going to be decent music.

It's obvious from my point of view that the video game industry is quickly headed towards its second crash.  Think about it.  Two of the three major consoles have reliability issues.  Very few original games are being released.  The vast majority are continuations of a franchise, "ooh look someone else made an awesome game let's make one similar to it", or minor variations on the same concept (i.e. yet another role-playing game or FPS).  I call this shovelware.  They just churn out a mediocre game and shovel it into stores for all the hardcore gaming schmucks to buy.  Even the creator of Final Fantasy wants Squaresoft to stop rehashing the game.  If that doesn't tell you something, you don't have a brain between your ears.  It's the franchise born from the one final game Squaresoft was going to release before going bankrupt that turned into an unexpected hit and kept them alive.  So not knowing what else to do, they continue making games like it.  Occasionally they branched out and made something else like The Bouncer, but, well, The Bouncer sucked.

Oh and since I've mentioned both consoles and FPSes a few times now and somehow skirted around this issue, I might as well enrage some fanboys now.  Console FPSes suck.  Lack of fine-grained control = not being able to hit enemies when I know I should be hitting them = bad controls.  Mouse (or in my case, trackball) and keyboard are far superior to a gamepad.  Every time I've played an FPS on a console it's just made me wish I was playing that game on a computer instead.

Monday, April 5, 2010

1M Get Wallpaper Update

In honor of /w/ finally reaching a million posts yesterday, I'm posting a wallpaper update.

Fun fact: I got 185k get on /w/.  I'm an oldfag, I know.