gaming, playstation, tv comments edit

Now that this Kingdom Hearts thing has invaded our lives, it’s become sort of an obsession. I believe Jenn is starting to understand the conversion of a game from a pastime to an addiction, just as I understood when I first encountered Grand Theft Auto 3. It’s no longer just something to sit down and play; it’s a common reference point that we can share and see what’s going on with the other person’s game.

Jenn’s a bit further ahead than I am as far as her characters are concerned, but I’ve taken more time to go through each world you must traverse and get all of the things so I don’t have to go back.

A few nights ago we watched A Very Merry Muppet Christmas on NBC and were very pleased with it. We had just recently been complaining about how Kermit the Frog really doesn’t sound like Kermit now that Jim Henson’s dead, and with this latest movie, I was pleased that his voice was nearly spot-on. They also paid a lot of tribute to the original Muppet movies and had some great humor for both the kids and the adults.

I ended up buying the VHS tape (along with a “Best of Muppets CD”) from Normally I would never consider buying a VHS tape in my land of DVDs, but I asked the customer service folks and they said they weren’t going to release it on DVD. Anyway, I look forward to that getting here so I can see it again. Great stuff.

Hmmm… Oh - I get the Zamboni newsletter (what - don’t you?) and saw in this latest one that they’re coming out with a remote controlled Zamboni ice resurfacing machine. I think that’s a must-have for yours truly. Jenn’s dad has a remote controlled truck, my dad has a Hum-Vee… I need the Zamboni. (Speaking of Zamboni, a lot of their clothing items are on sale. For those looking for gifts for Trav, there you go…)

I’ve started reading a book called The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It reads a little like the Harry Potter series, but has a much different world; rather than placing magic into today’s world like Harry Potter does, this series takes place in a world where you might recognize the names of things, but that’s about as far as it gets. Sort of alternate universe style. Anyway, it’s really quite good so far, though I’m only on page 50 or thereabouts, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

Finally, I’m in the process of installing and testing SharePoint Portal Server v2 beta 1. After talking to the Microsoft guys about it, it looks like a lot of the work I’ve done on customizing v1 over the past year will basically amount to jack squat because they’re changing the whole thing so drastically. On one side, I’m happy that they’ve improved everything so greatly; on the other, I can’t help but feel like I’ve basically just been spinning my wheels for the past year now because I’ve gotta start all over from scratch - there’s no “migration path” for these things. C’est la vie.

personal comments edit

Thanksgiving came and went without incident. Rather than the standard (lesser alternative) of turkey, my family celebrated with a great lasagna and some shrimp ravioli in scampi sauce. Two thumbs up from me - both were excellent, and I ate until I nearly burst. I didn’t even have room for dessert! Great stuff.

After eating, we played some games. We have a Survivor board game that we hadn’t played before and busted out. It was actually pretty fun, but it takes a long time to play, and the longer you play, the more people you have sitting around, bored, having been voted out of the game. I can see where it may not be a holiday game, too, because you sort of have to choose favorites and vote people out. It was fun, though. Also, Dad mustered up a Clue card game that played similar to the board game but went a little faster. I liked that one a lot. Apparently, it’s sort of hard to find, though, so if you see it and you like Clue, grab it up.

That, in a nutshell, was Thanksgiving.

Friday I worked, and I had hoped it would be a slow day, me being the only person in the department, but that was the day our WOS (wireless office services) system went berzerk and stopped letting phone calls go through to anyone who has a cell phone. This, of course, included me and the rest of the tech guys, and loads of other folks, too. The real catch is that I was the only one here, and I couldn’t call the phone guy for help because his phone was one of the ones affected! I eventually figured out that if I left the immediate campus, I could call my boss because he had gone on vacation and separated his phone from the system. He came in and we did a very technical procedure to restore service - we turned the system off and back on again.

I dunno. It worked, so all was well.

Saturday morning was spent in Kingdom Hearts. The more I play it, the more I like it. There’s really only two things I’d fix on it to make it better: First, in some places the camera bugs out and it’s hard to figure out where you’re going. Second, there’s a piece of the game that involves you building and configuring a space ship to fly around in; that’s unnecessarily difficult to figure out and really doesn’t have anything to do with the game proper. Take it out. Other than that, it rocks.

Saturday night our friends Jason and Tracy came over for some teriyaki chicken sandwiches and some games. We played Catch Phrase and Zobmondo, both of which were quite fun. I hadn’t played Zobmondo before (though I’d had it for a while and meant to), so it was good to finally bust it out. You definitely need a few people for that, though.

Sunday Jenn and I decided that we needed the strategy guide for Kingdom Hearts, so we picked that up at Best Buy (a store I loathe for their shitty return policy, but where you can find some stuff that it’s difficult to find elsewhere). While I was there, I saw that the Kelly Osbourne album (Shut Up) was out, so I bought it.

I’m actually very pleasantly surprised with Kelly’s album. It’s sort of punky and hip. I don’t know what I was expecting, but either way, it came out ahead for me. I can’t say she’s got the most awesome voice in the world or anything, but her songs are catchy, if maybe a tiny bit repetitive. I found myself toe-tapping all the way to work this morning.

The best songs on there are “Shut Up” (the title track) and “Too Much of You.” There is, of course, the requisite ballad at the end of the album, which wasn’t all that great. Then again, I listened through the entire album waiting for it, since doesn’t every rock album have one?

The album itself is short - I was able to listen to the entire album on my commute to work this morning, about 45 minutes. I don’t think that’s a problem, but it is what it is.

In all, I think it’s a pretty good album, and I’m not sorry I picked it up.

Sunday night we went to the hockey game and watched the Winter Hawks finally win one. They’ve really been sucking lately, so it was nice to see a win come out of ‘em for a change.

This morning brought some interesting news: The people have finally received their own taste of my irritation. While shopping there on Friday, I found that I had like $100 worth of gift certificates on my account. Hey, no problem for me! I did my shopping and it all came out of the gift certificates. Well, they finally got around to looking at my account in the depth I wanted them to, and they realize that they owe me $11 and that they miscredited me $120 on my account. They further asked for me to authorize them to charge my card for the amount of my order. Interesting how they want immediate action when the shoe’s on the other foot, isn’t it?

So I mailed them back and said, basically, that I’m not a thief and I understand that accidents happen, but if they wanted me to authorize them to charge my card, they’d have to call me the way I told them to do in the first place.

Not an hour later, I got an email with the customer service phone number for so I could get in touch with them. Yay, me!

For the record, and for anyone who wants it, the customer service phone number for is 1-800-201-7575. (For the non-US folks, it’s 1-206-266-2992.) I challenge you to find that on their site anywhere.

I called them, talked to a guy named Brad, and got everything straightened out. I authorized ‘em to charge my card (see? I’m not a bad guy) for the stuff I bought, and everything will be sorted out shortly.

I’m gonna rip ‘em a new one if it’s not. I got your number now, baby!

personal comments edit

I’ve been sucked into Kingdom Hearts thoroughly and against my will, but, nevertheless, it’s happened.

I think it’s a combination of the familiar characters and my own problem-solving nature that requires me to finish puzzles at all costs. Regardless of the original cause, it’s got me in its grasp and I’m having a good time not trying to escape.

The only issue I’ve really found so far is that some of the puzzles you have to solve are a little on the obtuse side (as they tend to be in these games), so I’ve gone to GameFAQs and printed off a FAQ/walkthrough on it so I can get a little help when I get stuck.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my least favorite holidays. Why do I hate it so? Well, let’s see… First (and foremost), I hate turkey. Hate it. And the turkey lovers out there are looking at me now like, “How could anyone hate turkey?” Well, look at it this way - there are foods that you don’t like, too, but nobody harasses you about them, so you can leave me the hell alone about it. I’m not a big ham person, either, so that’s not an adequate substitute. Second, now that Jenn’s around, I’ve got to try to split my rather limited and harried time between two families who love to plan things that occur at the same time. Finally, I’m not much for the “large family gathering.” Not that I don’t love my family, but when we get together in large groups, I get to repeat the same answers to the same questions over and over and over. I don’t have “anything new” to tell you, folks. If you want to know what’s going on, read this blog. That’s what I’m doing. I write it down so I don’t have to tell you.

“What,” you may ask, “do you mean by that?” Well, here’s the typical conversation between me and every single one of the family members attending Thanksgiving (I’ll put my internal thoughts in square brackets…):

Relative: Hey, what’s new with you?

Me: Nothing. I still have a job and I haven’t won the lottery. [Do you READ the blog? And if there was anything of real note, don’t you think I’d have called or something?]

Relative: How’s work? They keeping you busy over there?

Me: It’s a job, not much I can say beyond that. [My job is way too technical to explain to you. I can’t explain it to my boss, who knows generally what I do, so how could I even go about it here? Maybe when you finish those beginning Windows classes we’ll talk.]

Relative: So when are you getting married, eh?

Me: That hasn’t been discussed as yet but if and/or when it ever does, you’ll be on the list of “first people to know.” [Look, shitheimer, I don’t appreciate you belittling my feelings by patronizing me with the wink and the nudge. Besides which, the whole thing is none of your business and has nothing to do with you, so fuck off. If I was armed, you’d be shot full of holes by now.]

Relative: Okay.

Me: …

Relative: I’d better go check on that turkey.

Rinse and repeat. I’m not kidding - there could be three people, all sitting next to each other on the couch, and each one of them will strike this shit up with me in turn. Verbatim. Because God forbid I have the ability to answer questions once and call it a day.

“But they’re just interested in you and showing concern for your well being,” you might say. To that, I say, “Too fucking bad.”

This whole thing repeats itself at Christmas and Easter, too, so one would think people would learn.

Maybe I have holiday issues.

It’s just a big ball of stress and I don’t like it and I don’t want to have to deal with it. But I’m never given that choice, and I always have to concede to everyone else’s wishes, when I figure, it’s my holiday, too. Maybe people should concede to me every once in a while.

I’ll let you know when it happens.

gaming, playstation comments edit

…The Home of the No-Splinter, Full-Woody Tropical Dream Vacation (and Spa Salon).

Huge brownie points to whoever knows what that’s from.

(If you really don’t know, you can get a taste here.)

I’m having an interestingly bland day today. Not a whole lot going on, as is usual during holiday weeks. I’m being nickel-and-dimed to death with pissant requests. Modify a user account, check on this server, run around with no pants on…

Okay, maybe I’ve kept my pants on all day long, but the rest of the requests were pretty lame.

I went today and traded in Virtua Fighter 4. I bought it a while ago and after playing it a few times, I realize that it is too large and complicated for my tiny brain to grasp. In exchange (with an additional few dollars), I got Kingdom Hearts, a role-playing game with Disney characters in it. I’ve never been a huge RPG fan, but we rented this one a couple of days ago and it’s fun. Even Jenn is sucked in, which is cool because it’s hard to find games she likes.

I also picked up a copy of Ice Age because it was pretty funny. I didn’t like it as much as the Pixar movies that have come out, but it held its own.

I’ve got a haircut to get to, so I’m gonna get out of here.

movies comments edit

While reading here, keep in mind that the review is a little biased because: a) I love James Bond movies; b) I think Pierce Brosnan rocks; c) I like action movies almost regardless of whether they’re any good or not.

With that out of the way…

This Saturday, I saw the latest installment of the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day. My biggest question going into this one was, “Who’s the bad guy going to be?” I mean, think about it - during the cold war, the “bad guy” was always, like, a communist or some other terrorist against the World Order. Of course, you had your SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) people, but even the SPECTRE folks were, on some level, the same as the “evil commies.” Now that all that’s pretty much over, if you notice, Bond villains aren’t nearly as interesting because they’re utterly contrived - Who’s going to believe a bad guy is a media mogul who wants to do bad stuff so that he can get the scoop on other folks? I wasn’t disappointed this time around.

Die Another Day is the story of James Bond (Brosnan) getting captured while spying on some North Koreans who are plotting to take over South Korea (and, subsequently, the rest of the world). After a period of time, he gets released in trade for a North Korean assassin, Zao (Rick Yune). M (Judi Dench) thinks that trading Bond for Zao was too high of a price to pay and tells Bond that. Bond decides that he needs to track down Zao and recapture him in order to make things right and, in doing so, finds that Zao is working with the group of North Koreans who want to take things over. Which, thus, means that Bond now has to finish off the group of people who captured him in the first place. Revenge is sweet.

Take that, then throw into the mix Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a philanthropic thrill-seeking diamond broker; Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), his secretary who happens to be an Olympic-level fencer; and Jinx (Halle Berry), a woman who proves to be a wildcard in every situation. What you come out with is a Bond movie on par with the excitement of the originals, but with the effects and stunts you come to expect out of Hollywood action movies today.

Brosnan is my second favorite Bond, right after Roger Moore. (Don’t get me started on who the “best Bond” is; it’s a personal taste issue, and while the politically correct answer is “Sean Connery,” I will maintain that my favorite is Roger Moore.) I think he does his best job in this movie, finally coming into the role the way I had hoped he would with Goldeneye. If he had done this well with all of his Bond films, he’d be my new favorite.

I’ve never been a big Halle Berry fan, but I think she did well here. I heard something about people wanting to make a Jinx spin-off movie or something, and I hope they don’t. She was good, but not that good. She did throw in a certain quality that helped to kick the whole thing up a notch.

As far as the Bond girls go, Rosamund Pike was the one in this movie. Again, I’m not a big Halle Berry fan, and while she looked good, Pike was by far the hottest one on the screen. (Rosamund, if you’re reading this, feel free to stop by my place anytime.) She played her character well, and added a sort of subtle British element. Love it.

The humor here was well done as far as Bond movies go. There were the usual one-line groaners and lewd double-entendres, but there were some legitimately funny parts, too. John Cleese returns in his role as Q (I thought, after the last time, he’d be called “R,” since Desmond Llewelyn died, but “Q” works, too). And this time Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) has a nice scene all to herself that I was very pleased with. (I won’t ruin the surprise, but you’ll know it when you see it.)

The action and effects were superb, though there was a scene with Bond sort of parasailing on a tidal wave that was a little less than convincing. I wasn’t too concerned about it, though. I was too busy feeling excited by the whole thing.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised. Normally I have to classify movies in certain genres to put my feelings in context. Bond movies are sort of their own genre, sort of like Schwarzenegger films - it’s not an action movie, it’s a Bond movie. In that case, I try to gauge how good that movie is in relation to other movies of its respective genre - apples to apples, if you know what I mean. In this case, I’d say Bond has outdone himself. I could easily compare this to other action/intrigue movies and feel pleased about it. If only they could come up with Bond movies this well done all the time.

Anyway, I’d say see this on the big screen. I’d pay the full $7.50 for it - it’s well worth the watch.