02 December 2009

Changing domains next week

Heads up to all my readers: I will be changing domains from
the-unexamined-life.com
to theryanburke.com next week. Be sure to update your bookmarks and
RSS feeds when the change goes live!

Sent from my mobile

22 November 2009

Moving Time AGAIN

We found a house rental two streets away from Josh and Casey, so we took it! It's a great looking 4 bedroom, 2 full bath, detached two car garage, and a finished basement to boot. Huge kitchen, which we're both very happy with. There's not much to see yet, we only just moved everything in boxes yesterday. We have a ton of new furniture to assemble before I want to snap any pictures for us to show off!

Send me an e-mail for our new address.

09 November 2009

Yes, I'm a Jerk

A blog jerk. I just said on the 25th that I would be returning to regular blogging. That happened to be two days before we lost Internet service for the move to the new house AND a trip to Atlanta for work.

Nyehhhh, sorry about that. I'm home again now, with speedy Internets, and full of topics to blog about. I've even been invited to write for a new gaming blog, gamesforbreakfast.net. So much to write about!

A recent dream gave me an idea for a story (too late to start a NaNoWriMo project). A sleepy Texas town lucks out and gets a stop in the World Wrestling Entertainment tour. It's the talk of the town for weeks and is guaranteed to sell out the local venue. Main character works for the venue, is either a prankster or lambent entertainer and decides to alter the ticket date and shock the town's redneck demograph with a secret project of his own... Alternatively, main character is revealing his big project at the venue the day after the WWE show and it is random chance that alters the ticket dates, securing him a large audience, which shocks not just the crowd, but the main character. Thoughts?

In other news, I'm thoroughly pleased with my upgrade to Windows 7. I like the new Apple-esque taskbar and love being able to hit the Windows key and type the name of any program or file I'm looking for. Faster than navigating Explorer or the Start Menu.

02 November 2009

28 October 2009

Jealous?

We have to move to the new house in this.

25 October 2009

A Return To Blogging

Hi, everyone! After a long hiatus, I am returning to regular blogging. Please see the following list of coming topics.

Blogging To-Do List
- Wedding
- Honeymoon
- Recently Consumed Media
- Beer Log (to include the Great American Beer Festival)
- DragonCon 2009
- XNA Game Programming

Tonight, Lisa and Casey went to a costume party while Josh and I stayed in and watched a movie. We watched Ridley Scott's American Gangster. I enjoyed it for many reasons. Not least of any of them, it's a solid crime drama. Multiple times during the movie, I thought to myself, 'this is like watching David Simon's The Wire, set in the 60's/70's!' and not just because Idris Elba has a role ;)

I enjoyed a story about two men, who don't meet for 95% of the film's duration, and how their lives influence each other. I enjoyed the backdrop of the Vietnam war, who only one soul seemed to take any notice of, and even then only because it affected business. I certainly enjoyed the palm-sweating tension and pace of the dramatic conflicts.

I also took note that this is the second time Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe have sparred on-screen. The first? 1995's Virtuosity. Not a good movie. :) (Remember how the movie had to explain to the audience what that symbol means? Yikes.)
But what did I find in my nostalgic IMDB investigation? The little girl in distress in Virtuosity... it's Kaley Cuoco, from CBS's The Big Bang Theory!

03 August 2009

PopCap Respect, or, Why I Need to Make a Puzzle Game

First of all, respect to PopCap games. Their games are paragons of accessibility meeting good design. I own three of their games and one of them I play on three different platforms. You gotta give it to them, they know how to make an attractive game.

Let's take a brief look at Peggle. Why does everyone love Peggle so much? Accessibility! Every single person who can operate a computer can play it. The only method of interaction is to click somewhere on the screen. We do that all the time! Even without instructions, the UI is presented in a way that after moving the mouse and clicking once or twice, you understand exactly how Peggle works. The other way accessibility comes into play is the software requirements. The game runs on platforms that millions upon millions of consumers own: any friggin' PC made in the last 5 years, the iPhone, Nintendo DS, and Xbox 360. Try and think of someone you know who doesn't own one of those platforms (good luck). Now think about how many folks you know who own more than one of them. What potential for customer base! When a product is so widely available and for the cost of a couple bucks, many hurdles are leapt on the path to success.

If accessibility gets PopCap half way, good design takes them to the finish line. All PopCap games I've played to date have sharp, identifiable, attractive artwork. Bjorn the Unicorn, the Bejeweled gems, the Sunflower plant, etc. The sound design is memorable to the point of internet meme. All the audio/visual design is flawless and I haven't even started on gameplay principles. Their games are scary addictive. Perfect implementation gradual difficulty slopes and "one more level" syndrome. Bookworm and Bejeweled can be played over and over ad nauseum while Peggle and Plants vs Zombies share a similar formula with specific level designs and elements of progression & challenge. The former tend to appeal better to casual gamers looking to relax while the latter two having stronger appeal to non-casuals looking for the satisfaction of skill development and identifiable level progress. To me, both styles have their time and place in my gaming diet.

Game developers looking to tap the vast customer base that PopCap has discovered absolutely need to study the PopCap library and understand what it means to be accessible. This brings me to my own game developer aspirations. Not only are PopCap games simple to program in terms of scope and code complexity, but they are fun, too! I have plans to try developing a few casual games while constantly keeping in mind the principles that make PopCap games fun. The first two ideas are based on the careers of my wife and best friend; a nuclear reactor and an electrical power substation. Ideally, with their help I can make some games that are fun, accessible and informative!

10 July 2009

Currently on my lap

Look at this cute chihuahua...

09 July 2009

July Update

What's going on with me?

Been awhile since I wrote a new blog entry. The use of Twitter supplanted my need to blog outright during my three weeks in Atlanta. Since I returned home, the Twitter bug stuck with me and I've been getting by with microblogging. Feels like Twitter nets me more comments/feedback than blogging does, which is important to me for two reasons. One, it lets me know people are reading what I bother to say to the world. Two, I'm interested to know what people have to say about many of my ideas. Otherwise the blog just acts like a journal, which only interests me to a certain extent.

It's still early in July, but that only means there's less than a month until our next move and the wedding! Fortunately, life decided to add another curveball to the mix and I've lost 60% of my primary job working hours... which is more or less our sole income. Shit.

GameTap is pretty much hosed and continues to cut costs in idiotic ways. One of those ways is to reduce the amount of customer support and eliminate testing. Smart, eh?

Well, rather than pick up a third job, I've decided to look elsewhere to continue my career. The problem there is that Lisa is still looking for a job and there are only so many places where she can go. So, it's either wait for her to find something, which in all honesty could take some time, or let me find something and have an uncertain future for her career. Let's just say she didn't go to grad school to be a stay-at-home wife.

Currently, I have my sights set on Blizzard Entertainment and Microsoft's Project Natal group. There are two jobs at Blizz that I'm absolutely qualified for, another that's a long shot, and the Natal job is 50/50. I've dreamt of working for Blizzard since I was a child, so getting the opportunity to work for them would be legendary. From everything I've read about their campus, the people, the work ethic... it just sounds like the kind of business family I'm looking for.

Working on the Natal project is also very interesting to me. I'm not in love with Microsoft like I am with Blizzard, but the potential locked away in Natal is fascinating to me from a game designer viewpoint. And that's just what the job is, game design. My time at GameTap has exposed me to over a thousand games, I've gained an understanding of what kinds of games appeal to the various demographs, and I've gotten a taste of game development from our work on Sam & Max, URU Live, and Galactic Command. I've also got the background in computer science and programming to ease the game design aspect into the game programming phase. I believe that a designer who can create mock-ups and write pseudocode is a valuable asset to a thinktank like Natal. Also, working with Johnny Lee would be awesome =)

The biggest downside about these jobs is that they are all on the west coast. Guess how many people I know on the west coast? One. I only have two friends nearby in Denver, so most of my friend interaction is online already. I have to think working at Blizz or Natal is instant people connection for me, but I'd still be moving further away from everyone I know now, which does translate into seeing them less often. Ultimately, I'll have Lisa with me wherever we go and that's a VERY comforting thought. Marriage FTW!

Let's see, what else is going on... Oh! We are thinking of selling the Jetta to Lisa's parents. Her mom is looking for a more fuel-efficient vehicle and we were looking to offload our second car. Originally, this had a lot to do with the fact that Lisa commutes via bicycle or public transportation and I worked from home. I won't be working from home anymore, but selling the Jetta may be the kick in the pants I need to pursue public transportation. It's financially smart, economically responsible, and I even get to play on my iPhone or PSP on the commute. The Jetta has also retained enough of its value that the money we could get for it would help us through this difficult economic transition and would pay off the majority of the remaining loan. Can't think of any serious cons, what do you think?

07 June 2009

Impact of E3 2009

In an unusual turn of events, I was detached from E3 coverage this year. With the exception of last year's minimalist E3 trade show, I've historically sat at the computer waiting for floor footage to hit the web with tongue lolling from mouth. Back in the day when bandwidth wasn't cheap for content providers, I used to sign up for a month of FilePlanet just to get immediate access to hi-res videos and trailers.

E3 started this year the day after my return from Vegas, which was also the day before I had to travel to Atlanta for work. I only got to see the Microsoft and Nintendo press conferences live and I was only able to read textual coverage of the Sony PR show. Other than that, I've seen about two or three videos for other games not featured in the conferences. For me, that's almost like missing it completely! Especially after I actually went to see E3 in 2006 =)

Here's my take on what I saw. Microsoft had the strongest press conference in my opinion. They showed some solid games and took another step into PS3's exclusive territory by bringing the Metal Gear Solid series back to the Xbox. (MGS2 saw a version on the original Xbox.) That was the first half. Then, out of nowhere, Microsoft introduces Project Natal, a controller-less camera system which uses your body as input. At first, I was extremely skeptical. Then, they brought it on stage for some tech demos. This I did not foresee.

The demos were decent, for such raw tech. I was impressed most by the 1-to-1 link of avatar to user. The Breakout-style game and painting demos were interesting, to say the least. It starts spinning the brain about new possibilities. Then they showed Peter Molyneux, and I groaned. Peter had made a short video of his latest creation, a boy named Milo. This boy interacted with a human based solely on voice recognition and simple hand gestures. I was floored, but yelling "LIAR!" at my monitor the whole time.

I was in disbelief about this last video and I've been thinking about it all week. I came to the conclusion that it's not wholly unbelievable, given the progress in each component that made up Milo. Facial recognition, speech recognition, gesture recognition; in my time at Georgia Tech, I saw some incredible student projects in each of these fields. Student projects. When I thought about that, it really puts into perspective what programmers can do when they work with some smart people.

I really feel like Milo shows an upcoming paradigm shift in the context and content of video games. Perhaps the traditional hardcore video game and the recent flood of casual games which have expanded the population of our community will merge in interesting ways. What do I mean? Here's my first game idea based on Natal.

The main character is the young prince of a kingdom. You are not him. You are his childhood friend, another boy or girl of a family in the court. The two of you play games around the castle, such as hide and seek, play sword fighting, and so on. The way you play with the prince determines how he develops as a person. Do you always beat him when playing with wooden swords? Maybe he develops a short temper at his short comings. If he always wins? Perhaps he becomes arrogant and petulant. One of the significant events of the game is a traumatic kidnapping of you and the prince as children by thieves seeking ransom. Based on your skills, you find a way to escape your captors and free the prince. Depending on how well you and he played hide and seek plays a role in how well you elude the alerted thieves. Eventually, perhaps after six weeks or six months, you "complete" the game and the prince grows up to be king. As the person in his life who had the most influence on him, you get to see how he rules his kingdom. Did he become a peaceful monarch, or a warmongering tyrant? What could be more gutwrenching than a friendship which ends in your own exile from your home by your childhood friend? Or more rewarding than the feeling that you played an indirect role in preserving a benevolent domain?

To me, such a game is fascinating. Most of the game is played by simply talking to the prince. The "mini-games" (and I hate using that term in this case) used to play with the prince wouldn't need complex input like today's hardcore games and could be played with natural human interaction as they demonstrated in the Milo video. The thrill of the game lies in the psychological influence you may or may not be aware of as you play. Depending on the various life events and outcomes, the game could also have amazing replayability. What do you think of such a concept?

That's all my time for this evening, I hope to write on E3 impressions more later.

05 June 2009

so busy

want to blog
 
so busy

30 May 2009

Poolside

Josh, casey and lisa are enjoying some classic spring break style r&r
while I enjoy a little classic poolside Internet surfing.

Josh and casey in the venetian

Bedroom view of the strip

Vegas has been good to me so far. I am up $50. I'm sure that will
change tomorrow.

29 May 2009

M&M World

Taken minutes prior to an emergency building evacuation for which we
received no explanation. They didn't let us buy our custom m&m bags :(

Oh yes

Offspring!!!!

Posting this last one after the show; couldn't spare the time to email
it :)
My legs are gelatinous, voice is hoarse, and ears are ringing. Yep,
it was a great concert!

28 May 2009

Waiting for Offspring

Good show so far! I like the differences in showmanship each band has
brought. More on that later


Sent from my mobile

Alkaline trio!!

Emo Ryan can't be bothered to rock out

Vandals played the Team America theme :)

The Vandals

"who decided to put a stage in the middle of the f---in mountains? I
can hardly breathe!!"

Waiting for The Vandals to take stage

Punk rock show at Red Rocks Ampitheater!

Street Dogs!!

Hailing from Boston, Mass!

13 May 2009

I suck at blogging

I tell ya, soon as I don't make a new post in two days it all goes downhill.  I wish I had David Jaffe's problem.  The guy has "quit" blogging about seven times now, yet he's always back within a week.  

What's up with me?

I'm back on a Rock Band kick.  I never unlocked all the songs in RB2 through the tour mode.  I've finally got all the cities and gigs unlocked, now it's just a matter of wrapping up.  I've been buying a lot of new songs lately, too.  Silversun Pickups, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Eat World, The Offspring.  Good stuff.

PopCap has laid waste to my free time and made a small dent in my wallet.  (It's PopCap, how much money could they really take from a person?)  Between the Peggle add-on for World of Warcraft, the recently released Plants vs Zombies, and now Bookworm and Peggle on my iPhone, it seems like I've been giving them a lot of my game time lately.  The Bookworm iPhone app is excellent!  Definitely got my money out of PvZ as well.  Heck, I'm still enjoying the mini-games well after completing the main game.

I mentioned iPhone apps and my previous post was sent from an iPhone... yes, I broke down and bought one.  I've been getting too jealous of all the apps available for the platform that just aren't happening on the Windows Mobile platform.  It's also lighter, slimmer, and easier to use.  My soon-to-be brother-in-law was looking to get a new smartphone and had been eyeing my model for some time, so I sold that one to him.  Apple has made a great device... looking forward to the 3.0 operating system and the day when Lisa gets her new MacBook Pro (so that I can steal it from time to time and try my hand at iPhone development).  

I'm currently watching The Office and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  The Office is a lot better than I thought it was.  I admit I thought it was a trendy thing to watch like Lost or 24 which is why I avoided it until now, but it is genuinely hysterical.  The Terminator series is... okay, but nothing great.  I'm just fascinated by the Terminator universe lately and I'm hyped for the new movie.  

Speaking of movies... I saw Star Trek today.  Talk about movies that I was hesitant about.  Up until the first screenings of the movie I was absolutely disgusted by the premise of JJ Abrams rebooting the Star Trek universe.  Then I started hearing nothing but good things about the movie from people who had respectable opinions on ST.  So, I took a trip to the theater and checked it out.  Wow.  Great job to the cast and crew for a solid flick that was both faithful and refreshing.  I really hope to see additional films from that team.  Zachary Quinto knocked one out of the park with his Spock portrayal.  

Lisa's graduation is this Saturday.  Yay!

12 May 2009

Testing iPhone post

Sent from my mobile

01 May 2009

27 April 2009

Amazon, you so silly

I just received an e-mail from Amazon.com stating that I had purchased The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, so I am probably interested in the Twilight Ultimate Collector's Set Blu-ray.  Hahahaha.

Fun fact - The Dark Knight is the only Blu-ray movie we own.  It is also the only physical media I have purchased for the PS3 in one year of ownership.

25 April 2009

Ender's Game

Let me start by addressing all of my friends who share a fondness for real-time strategy games and sci-fi.  I highly recommend Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game to you.  Many people will enjoy this novel, but if I had to guess, my love of those two interests made the book especially fascinating to me.

A brief, spoiler-free plot synopsis:  Earth has been twice attacked by a race of aliens.  The military has devised a plan to engineer young people capable of the strategy, tactics, and leadership to defeat this threat.  Their last hope is a six year old boy named Ender Wiggin.  

The appeal of the story is tangible.  What young boy never had the fantasy of being humanity's only hope against an alien race?  Heck, one of the reasons I play video games today is to constantly relive this fantasy.  Ender's education takes place aboard a space station battle school complete with combat simulators and student armies.  Think Hogwart's meeting West Point... in space.  Why wouldn't I want to read this?

Card did several things right for me in his writing choices.  I loved reading Ender's experiences right at his level of thought.  To see how he perceived his situations, think about them and arrive at optimal solutions.  Making the main character such a young age made empathizing with his physical and emotional struggles easier than say a teen or young adult.  Yet the character thinks and acts at an adult level.  It's a simple read, too.  Card only elaborates on details and physical description only when absolutely necessary.  Most of the book takes place in thought or in conversation.

The other thing that really worked for me was Card's pace. Paragraphs can move the storyline up days, months or years, while some entire chapters are a single important conversation.  It's a short book, but Card seriously doesn't waste much time.  I appreciated it.

I have only two complaints and they are minor.  One, there's no way that kids of this age could believably think and act the way they do.  I conjured up some pretty elaborate stuff from six to twelve, but I couldn't have even played a game of StarCraft well or survived a Nickelodeon obstacle course at that age.  Two, I couldn't help but feel that the Battle School sections got the most attention but didn't progress the character as much as the rest.  It's fun to read the battle simulations that Ender experiences, but they are similar to Hogwart's quidditch matches.  Engaging, but not where the meat of the book lays.  

One more thing about Card, he is quite the visionary.  Original publish date of Ender's Game pre-dates a lot of significant sci-fi and modern technology.  I wouldn't have blinked if I learned this book was written in the 90s.  Card displayed an amazing sense of zero-G environments and networked computer systems.  

I can definitely see myself reading Ender's Game again in the future.  The journey of Ender's psyche should still be interesting even when knowing the future.  Perhaps that will even lend itself to alternate interpretations.  I am, however, skeptical of reading future books in the series.  The ending takes a radical left turn towards a direction I don't feel will stimulate the same parts of my brain.

Have you read Ender's Game?  What are your thoughts on it?  Did you read any of the next books?  Does reading this post raise some interest in reading it for the first time?

05 April 2009

I Watched the Watchmen

This one should really be a video blog, to show how animated I am about this film, but I know I couldn't contain myself to the YouTube ten minute rule.  

Watchmen was incredible!  I can't remember the last time I enjoyed every single aspect of a film.  Cast, direction, cinematography, story, sound effects, soundtrack, everything.  Zach Snyder is officially on my Awesome List.  Dawn of the Dead was decent, 300 was quite good, but this was amazing.  

I can't believe this movie lived up to the hype and my expectations.  I want to see it again already, with a copy of the novel in my hand.  There were several scenes that I want to freeze frame and look up directly in the novel to make comparisons.  That's how authentic the film is to its source.

Were some elements of the novel left out?  Of course they were.  Many of the sub-plots and narrative devices Alan Moore wrote into Watchmen just couldn't be translated to film or were cut for time's sake.  I'm sure many purists are upset about this, including Moore who I've heard vowed never to see the film, but the end product is still everything necessary to tell the story. To be honest, the end of the film makes MORE sense than the novel. (very small tweak)

My favorite scene from a difficult-to-orchestrate point of view was from the prison scene where Rorshach pins down the midget in the bathroom.  The setup of seeing exactly what Snyder wants you to see as the door swings back and forth just enough to see into the room twice.  Exquisite.  

The guys who played Dan Dreiberg and Rorshach were intense.  The characters from the novel basically jumped off the page and into the screen.  They were EXACTLY how I interpreted them from my reading of the novel.  Well done to all involved who made that happen.  I got chills when Rorshach yelled at the prisoners, "I'm not locked in here with you.  You're locked in here WITH ME."

Gosh, I wish I could gush endlessly about the film... 

Beer Log: Defiant

I recently had the pleasure of trying some beer from Lisa's old stomping grounds, Pearl River, NY. Defiant Brewing Company had two truly delicious offerings for people who like sweet and sour beers.  The first one I had was their Grand Cru, which must go by some other name or just isn't listed on Beer Advocate.  The flavor immediately reminded me of something else I liked... but couldn't quite put my tongue on it.  After drinking half the brew, I realized that it reminded me of New Belgium's La Folie!  Not quite as strong or bitter, but the closest thing I've had to La Folie.  

The other brew I tried was the Abominal Snow Beer; a great name for sure.  This was one of the sweetest beers I've ever had, right up there with lambics.  Probably not for everyone, but as I said before, great for fans of fruity sweet beers.  

22 March 2009

Pork Fest 2009

Pork Fest 2009


Josh and I had a weekend to ourselves without our lovely women around.  So what did we do?  We cooked up an insanely unhealthy meal of pork, bacon, cheddar, stuffing, and TGIF potato skins.  Holy moly.  Vegans or those with aversions to greatness may not want to click the link.

16 March 2009

Paris Recap

I'm starting this post on the plane. There's about an hour left in the flight and my PSP battery is toast. 17" laptops are not fun to use on a plane =/ (Really wish I had a 10" netbook for this trip)

Paris is an amazing city! Probably my favorite city that I've been to yet. Tons of history, culture, architecture, good food, and friendly people. It seemed like the entire city was accessible by foot or with a quick metro or bus trip. Contrast to Atlanta which is the least pedestrian-friendly city EVER and it's no surprise that I enjoyed Paris so much. I can't wait to go back with more than a day of free time =)

That's how busy work was while in the Metaboli offices. I was in the office until 9pm or so every day. This didn't ruin the trip however. I had a blast! All of my new trans-Atlantic colleagues were a pleasure to meet and work with. One thing that was odd - six of them distinctly reminded me of other people. Who? Westley from The Princess Bride, Jeff Daniels, Rachel Dratch, a future version of my brother Kyle, a young John Cusack, and Marco from Titanic (more so because his name is Marco than in appearance). I would have lost it if the Westley look-alike started reciting lines from The Princess Bride ("if only we had a holocaust cloak and a wheelbarrow, we'd be SOMEwhere!"); same for Jeff Daniels with Dumb & Dumber lines.

Anyway, they are a good lot and I look forward to working with them from now on. The week was productive -- learning all of the systems we are migrating to, understanding their existing processes, planning for the big launch of the new GameTap website next week -- noses were right on the grindstone. I love the feeling I get when working hard and getting a lot done. I even made some progress towards one of my 2009 goals: to quit slacking in the programming department and write some code. In the limited downtime, I was able to setup a new table on our local SQL database and put together a small Perl script that reads in a text file of TapIDs and numbers to update our Prize Arcade point standings. We are currently spending way too much time doing that stuff by hand and this is the start of getting all that automated. It's not a complex script by any standards, but it was a good refresher for Perl.

Yesterday was my big tourist day. I had a list of sites I wanted to see and a couple specific items to buy. By the end of the day, I had walked 20km in about ten hours! I started my first loop around 11am - click here to see the path in Google Maps. Once I got back to the hotel, I took an hour break to give my feet some rest and to let it get dark before I went to the Eiffel Tower. Click here to see the second loop. Aaaand click on this third link to see my Picasa Web Album from my trip.

My favorite site, the one I had been looking forward to the whole week, was the Eiffel Tower. I love how it looks at night. My path took me along the river as I approached it so I had good visibility as I closed in. I probably spent an hour just enjoying the walk up to it and gazing at it from the base. I got some good video of the tower as it sparkled... but I captured it sideways forgetting that I would need some software to transpose it. It is in the Picasa album. If I get it transposed, I'll upload it to YouTube.

Tl;dr - Paris is awesome. I can't wait to go back. Check out some pics I took.

12 March 2009

Why My Brother Is Awesome

Kyle's status message: The half-life of radium is 1602 years
Ryan: the radium of Half-Life is GORDON FREEMAN
Kyle: there's a joke about Half-Life's release date decay somewhere in there

Paris Update

Half way through my Paris trip.  Working 12-hour days.  Not seen the city except for some restaurants and the outside of the Ministry of the Interior (is that funny? I think it's funny).

The architecture, people, and food are excellent.  Wouldn't mind working here more often (but WITH Lisa present).

I had lunch with one of my Metaboli counterparts today and it was a conversation three and a half years in the making.  It was so refreshing and funny to talk to Guillaume about all of the same frustrations we experience in our line of work.  Also kind of freaky to meet someone else in the world who has so many of the same work experiences and a similar personality!  It didn't help at all that he looks like Kyle in ten years.

Also, I ate a sandwich today that had chicken, arugula, and mayo.  Think about that for a second if you are familiar with my eating habits.

Last thing, the phrase "Tunisia is the new Romania, which was itself the new Dublin" came up at work today.  I can't make this stuff up.

04 March 2009

On the move again

Here I am at the airport. Again. Off to atlanta for the usual weekend of reserve duty, but on sunday I won't be flying home to colorado... I'll be off to Paris! Yes I will be in the land of my new employers receiving training on some new software systems Gametap will be utilizing, as well as teaching some staff there about some of the systems we currently use. Then I will spend some more time in Atlanta regurgitating my new skills to those who were unable to come. Good times, but I wish Lisa could come with me.

In other news, our latest wedding decision has been made. We are spending our honeymoon in Vermont! Hope everyone received their save the date cards and found the travel info on our wedding website to be helpful.

Time to board! More to come soon enough...

16 February 2009

MOVIEEEEEES

Burn After Reading
Hysterical dark comedy that resonates with the Coen frequency.  Great performances from the entire cast!  Starts off slightly slow but then takes off mid-way with a big finish.

American Psycho
James favorite movie.  Crazy novel adaptation where Christian Bale goes on an insane murder spree.  Impressive cinematography, sets, and costumes make this 2000 film look like it was really made in the late 1980s.  Amusing commentary on late 1980s upper class Wall Street businessmen.

In Bruges
Simply amazing film.  I wish I could write a story like this.  However, I can't decide if the coincidences are smart or contrived.  Either way, they are compelling.  This movie didn't come up on my radar until the Golden Globe awards and I am sooooo glad I've seen it now.  Glad to see Colin Farrell back on screen and taking things seriously.  He brings a likeable, star-crossed gunman to life.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
The legendary return of Neil Patrick Harris playing his alter ego.  A couple other funny jokes, but not quite the original stoner comedy.

21
21 is a safe, predictable, formula of a movie.  The main actor is easy on the eyes; part Jake Gyllenhaal, part Tobey Maguire.  The math behind the card counting appealed to me the most and I wish they had done a little more with it.  Perhaps a scene after the explanation of the rules to see if the viewer can keep up.

Tekkon Kinkreet
Intriguing anime film from Studio 4°C, based on a manga.  It's drawing to a conclusion as I write this post.  Rare in my experience, but the English version is very good.  Interesting art style and some amazing shots for 2D animation.  GORGEOUS settings/backdrops.  I won't bother to present an interpretation of the plot! =)

13 February 2009

BSG Report: Game 7

Players: Ryan (Baltar), Casey (Adm. Adama), Lisa (Starbuck), Josh (Tyrol)

Game 7 was a return to the original "cast" of players aka The Pod.  I brought back from my games in Atlanta some insight on rules clarifications and card strengths.  Most importantly that Raptor scouts and Investigative Committees are huge as well as the fact that the President does not lose his/her title when placed in the brig.

Overall, this game was heavy on Cylon fleet cards and light on skill checks.  As such, the Humans usually had the skill cards they needed and rarely failed skill checks.  It did mean, however, that there was generally a sizable Cylon threat in space for most of the game.  Lisa did a great job shooting toasters down in total Thrace style.  

The game did not get past round 2 without the Cylon reveal.  Seeing so many Cylons in space made it irresistable for me to hold back and I revealed.  I had the reveal bonus of choosing two damage tokens for Galactica, so I picked the FTL control as one of them, hoping to keep the humans from jumping away early.  Casey/Tigh got my presidency (a winning combination, for sure) and I was promptly airlocked.  

By the game's end, I regretted revealing so early.  To me, the game isn't quite the same without the Cylon suspicion element.  Being President Baltar, I had the best possible position to put suspicion on others.  My reasoning for revealing was that I thought there would be no other better point to reveal in the rest of the game.  In a five or six player game, there would still be another Cylon to covertly disrupt the human efforts, but in just a four player game, it felt like I was only rolling for Cylons and not really participating much in the game.  In future four player games, I will likely hold off on revealing in order to do more psychological and subtle damage.

The mid-game was pretty standard.  Towards the end, the humans had seven points of distance towards Kobol and picked up the Legendary Discovery crisis card.  If passed, this crisis card adds one to the humans' distance, meaning they would only have to jump one more time to win.  They were already at FTL prep spot #2, which means one more jump prep icon and they could jump early to win.  Unfortunately, such a prize is expensive and the humans did not have the skill cards necessary to pass the check.  The game ended when their final jump to reach eight points of distance dried up the remaining fuel, leaving them forever stranded in space.  Tigh probably would have nuked the fleet to prevent them from dying at the hands of the Cylons. :)

Humans 2 - Cylons 4

12 February 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 6

Players: Ryan (Helo), Tony (Baltar), Jason (Roslin), TJ (Apollo), Carey (Adama)

Tony drew both Cylon cards at the start of the game.  He didn't reveal until the final jump cycle.  He will never live it down.

The accusations for two hours were hysterical.

Humans 2 - Cylons 3

BSG Report: Game 5

Players: Ryan (Baltar), Jason (Adama), James (Apollo), Jack (Helo)

I'll never forget this game!  I had such a fun time as Cylon Baltar from the start of the game.  I had all three human players second guessing each other and totally unsure of who was the Cylon.  I sabotaged two skill checks early on to let them know there was a Cylon among us, but did all I could publicly to reduce my suspicion.  My grand master plan came to fruition as I convinced the group to send Jason to the brig on my turn, then have Jason himself use Executive Orders on me to look at Jack's Loyalty Card.  The look on his face was PRICELESS when I disgustedly put his card back on the table and said "Well, we've got our Cylon."  His face was utterly shocked and yet he was smiling because I was clearly lying AND essentially revealed myself to him.  After another five minutes of outright lying and trying to convince Jason and James that Jack was the Cylon, I used the other action of my Executive Orders to reveal and damage the ship in two places.  It was delicious and I don't think Jason will ever trust me in BSG again!  This was the second or third time I've been the Cylon and totally burned him.

The game came down to the wire, but I used the "Inbound Nukes" Super Crisis Card to reduce one of the human resources to zero before they could jump for the win.

Humans 1 - Cylons 3

11 February 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 4

Players: Ryan (Starbuck), Tony (Baltar), Carey (Tyrol), Justin (Helo), Tessa (Roslin), Matt (Tigh), James (Apollo)

Ugh.  Guess who put this off too long.... this guy.  The highlight of this game was Tessa.  Most masterfully played Cylon player to date.  She was the President and a Cylon from the very beginning and no one EVER suspected her.  She did a wonderful job of putting doubt on several other human players.

We had to improvise upon the rules for this game.  We accidentally setup seven people to come over and play without realising the game only supports six.  I don't remember how, but we managed to deal an additional Not Cylon card and played with two Cylons and the Sympathizer.  

Unfortunately, we ran out of time playing the game.  A couple folks had to turn in and we called the game without knowing really which side was winning.  The game momentum can change so rapidly that it's hard to predict a winner in BSG.

Something I'll never forget is Matt reading his second Loyalty card for more than five seconds, to which Tony points a finger and starts yelling, "Matt's taking too long to read his card! He's clearly a Cylon!"  And he was right. 

Humans 1 - Cylons 2

Great Tunes

More stuff I've been listening to.

Great
Mogwai - Happy Songs for Happy People
Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (I am psyched for their April album!)
Black Rebel  Motorcycle Club - Take Them On, On Your Own

Good
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - (self titled)
764-HERO - Weekends of Sound

07 February 2009

My Contribution to the 'Fail' Movement


Excerpt from an online food delivery website.  Do you see the glaring flaw?


02 February 2009

Beer Log - TRIPLE FEATURE

New Belgium Brewery -- Mothership Wit

New Belgium Brewery -- Blue Paddle Pilsner

Full Sail Brewing Company -- Pale Ale

All NBB beers are magical, no need to tell you about them.  The Full Sail is a new company to me and I'm glad Josh handed me one; normally I don't care much for pale ales but this one was delicious!

22 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 3

Players - Ryan (Tigh), Lisa (Starbuck), Josh (Helo), Casey (Baltar), Lou (Boomer), Jason (Roslin)

We played game 3 at Lou and Sharla's house on New Year's Day.  Lisa revealed early on since, as a pilot, there is not much she can do to avoid her piloting duties without appearing suspicious.  The humans had a grand ol' time dealing with a damaged Galactica without the Chief around!  I myself had a wonderful time plotting everyone's demise as the unrevealed Admiral Tigh. =)

I was doing juuust enough good for the team to save myself a trip to the brig.  I think my final act of sabotage was to give me Executive Orders so I could jump the fleet at a cost of -3 population and then reveal.  

Josh and Casey had to leave mid-game to go to the airport, so a pair of Lou and Sharla's friends took over for them so we could finish the game.  Joanne and Chad?  I think that's right.  I remember Joanne sitting down and saying "OK, what do I get to nuke?"  Awesome.

Lisa and I ended the humans' quest for Kobol by destroying the Galactica outright.  We made some great rolls for the basestars!

Humans 1 - Cylons 2

Beer Log - Unibroue Trois Pistoles

There was one bottle of Trois Pistoles left in the fridge from a mid-2008 beer run where we bought a four- or six-pack of individual Unibroue bottles.  I decided it would be a good sipping beer while playing some Warcraft.  

How right I was.  At 9% ABV, this is not a drinkable beer!  "Belgian strong dark ale" describes it perfectly.  Smells and looks good.  My tongue was often combating the taste of alcohol to find the caramel and molasses flavors.  It does have a decent aftertaste and did get better as I drank it.

Not my favorite beer, but it is good for a strong dark ale.  If there were a little less alcohol in it, I think I would enjoy the flavor more.

L33T Pally

15 January 2009

Beer Log - Odell Easy Street Wheat

I went to the Odell brewery here in town last night with Lisa and Jerri.  Thought about getting a sampler, but decided against it so I could drive home soon.  I went with a 10oz draft of their Easy Street wheat beer.  Mm hmm!  Very tasty, unfiltered wheat with a hint of citrus.  I would need to do a full on taste test, but I want to say this out does New Belgium's Mothership Wit in my book.  Sooo drinkable!

How to Stump Blaine the Pain?

I've recently started book four of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, Wolves of Calla.  Trying to avoid spoilers, the protagonists find themselves aboard a monorail train that is driven by a computer thousands of years old.  The computer tells them that it will kill them unless they can provide a riddle it cannot answer correctly.

The idea is fascinating to me.  A computer that's been around and self-aware for millenia.  It's smart.  Really smart.  And it likes to solve riddles.  

I went to bed before reading through this scene to see how the situation is resolved.  It was the first time I've ever dreamt about something I'm reading.  I had a dream where I was also in the protagonists' situation, frantically trying to think of a riddle to stump a super-genius computer.  I thought of two of my favorite riddles, ready to save the day, but woke up before I could finish reciting.  

I thought it was neat that I was dreaming but I was conscious enough to dig through my real memories to find a riddle.  When I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to stump the machine.  What if you asked it, "What is one divided by zero?"  Would it crash the computer?  Or does he run everything through a try{ ... } catch(exception e) ?  I decided it would not be best to crash a computer controlling a train travelling in excess of 800 miles per hour.  

How would you try to stump a computer that excels at riddles?

In the spirit of riddling, here are the two I had remembered in my dream.  The third is one that I created while laying in bed.  Can you figure them out?

A man who lives in at the top of an apartment building takes the elevator down to the lobby each morning.  When he returns, he takes the elevator half way up and the stairs the rest of the way home.  Why?

Police investigators discovered the corpse of a man who had hung himself in the middle of a room with no windows and the only door bolted shut from the inside.  The room was empty and there is no way he could have lifted himself to the height of the noose by himself.  How did he carry out his death?

I live at the center of my universe; I am neither good or bad; neither happy or sad.  I never add anything to a situation.  What am I?

Answer them in the comments!

14 January 2009

Great Tunes

Today was something of a long day.  Fortunately, I had all of these great albums to get me through it!  I was working while listening to these, so I can't say anything more right now than I recommend all of them.  These were all first time listens for me:

Akron/Family - Love is Simple
Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours to Keep
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Take Them On, On Your Own
Death Cab for Cutie - Something About Airplanes
Deerhunter - Microcastle
Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is not a Dead Cold Place

I dunno how many people are familiar with most or all of these albums, but if you are, you know what a freakin' great music day I had!

12 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 2

Players: Ryan (Boomer), Casey (Tigh), Jason (Tyrol), Steve (Helo), Lisa (Roslin)

Game 2! Steve and Jason joined us for this round at a good-sized holiday party at Casa de Manglass.  Neither of them were fans of the show, but this turned out to be a good thing.  It proved to me that this game is completely enjoyable without being a fan of the series!  Excellent news.

Setup and play went much faster, considering how much there is to explain and how many pieces and cards there are.  Jason grasped the Cylon concepts pretty quickly and Steve was able to watch a few turns before playing since Helo skips the first round.  (I love when the game rules reflect show plotlines and lore.  It's not gimmicky or game-breaking.)

Cylon activity was little to none in the first half of the game.  I recall only one skill check having three negative cards in the result ( a sure sign of an active Cylon) before the Sleeper agent phase.  This was enough of a tip off to get the humans suspicious of each other; a great early play for unrevealed Cylons.  

Lisa played a good President game, using her skill cards for checks while making use of the Quorom deck on her turn.  The rest of us did a decent job fending off the waves of Cylon fleets in space.  Casey was more than pleased to be a nuke-happy alcoholic.  I was thrilled at how effective Boomer's recon ability is for scouting crises (and how destructive it could be in the hands of a sleeper Cylon.

Things got a little hairy when Galactica was boarded by some heavy raiders.  It was right around this time that President Lisa Roslin revealed herself.  Crap.  Revealed Cylons are deadly when the ship has been boarded; they can use their turn to push the boarding party one step closer to ending the game.  That, plus any other heavy raider crises that come up on human players' turns means that a boarding party can end the game very quickly.  

Once again, I put off writing this too long and I've forgotten the end game.  Jason turned out to be a frakkin' toaster, too, but I think this happened after we dealt with the initial boarding party.  Somehow, we got another boarding party, probably from a Super Crisis Card, and then the Cylons pushed the boarding parties to our demise.  Frack.

I remember suspecting Steve of being a Cylon for the whole game... he was too smiley and coy when accused.  I had no clue Lisa was a Cylon.  She acted genuinely upset when the humans were threatened.  Jason also played it cool when he got his Cylon loyalty card.  I think his history of poker came into play.

Overall, this game played out in favor of the humans - only one Cylon on the first deal, good jump timing and resource management, little to no brig action - but they were just plain unable to deal with the significant heavy raiders and boarding parties.  We were still learning the game and use of powers & skill cards.  Good game!

Humans 1 - Cylons 1

09 January 2009

Smart ass

[16:31] Kyle: hey, it occurred to me that bioshock is a short game
[16:31] Kyle: and i've beaten it within a week of getting it
[16:31] Kyle: now what
[16:31] Me: uh
[16:32] Me: what do you do with a movie after you watch it?
[16:32] Kyle: complain about its faults

08 January 2009

Battlestar Galactica Report: Game 1

Players: Ryan (Baltar), Lisa (Starbuck), Josh (Tyrol), and Casey (Tigh)

Ah, the first game of BattleStar Galactica: The Board Game.  We spent most of the time referencing the rule book, but it wasn't any less interesting.  Play was pretty slow as we were constantly reading the cards in our hands, the abilities on our character sheets, and discussing how frakked we were.  Cylon fleets were everywhere (our first crisis card was '33') and we were still figuring out how best to deal with raiders.  Due to a lack of suspicious behavior, there was little in the way of Cylon accusation in the first half of the game.  

Then we hit the Sleeper Agent phase.  Lisa pulled the Sympathizer card and fortunately we had just recently dipped a resource into the red zone (otherwise she would have joined the Cylon team right then).  We did throw that frakkin' toaster lover in the brig, though!  Our concerns shifted rather quickly as Josh asked for the rule book after receiving his second Loyalty card (the ones that tell you whether or not you're a Cylon).  Uh oh.  On my next turn, I used my special power to look at Josh's Loyalty cards.  Definitely uh oh.  Baltar's Cylon detector actually worked.  Being our first game, I did not immediately reveal to Casey and Lisa that Josh was a Cylon.  That was a mistake.  Josh used his next turn to reveal himself and overtly work against us from the Cylon fleet.  

The next couple rounds went significantly poorer than the earlier rounds, as the Cylon player can do much more damage once revealed.  Naturally, we had a tougher time dealing with the crises that came up with one less player.  Josh did a good job of relentlessly keeping Heavy Raider and Centurion boarding party pressure on us.  He waited until we were low on cards before he used his Super Crisis Card which boned us into having two additional boarding party tokens.  Then he tried to end the game by forcing as much boarding party progress as possible.  The humans were barely lucky enough to eek out the last FTL jump to victory before the boarding parties took over the ship!

We had a good laugh after the game when we realized there are only two of each skill card type!

Humans 1 - Cylons 0

06 January 2009

Play N Trade

Have you been to a Play N Trade store yet?  It's like a GameStop, but not evil.  Really!

Lisa and I paid a visit to a Georgia PNT store looking for a copy of Wii Play for her mom.  I figured the store was a GameStop clone, but what a difference!  The interior is tidy, there's little audio/visual noise, and games are treated with respect.  I certainly didn't feel like I had entered a pawn shop, as I do in a GameStop.

This particular store had about eight game stations setup with different titles in each.  Older consoles going back to the original NES were on display almost like it was a hands-on museum.  Heavy waves of nostalgia struck me as I looked over a NES, SNES, Dreamcast, and several classic controllers.  Classic games from NES and up were displayed on shelves and at reasonable prices!  

I didn't check out their values on trade-in titles or for how much they sell used games.  Stores are split... some are corporate-run and others are franchises.  Thus, there is no centralized online store to check prices.  Anyone know if PNT gives decent value for trade-ins?  Do they charge full price minus five bucks for used titles, like GameStop?

Something else I noticed on the way in - they do weekly tournaments!  Nice!  Talking to Lou, he mentioned they do tournaments as well as rent the place out for LAN parties and the like.  Good stuff.  Actually PLAYING the games in-store is a big win in my book.

A quick look at the Wiki page for PNT, I just noticed they also do pre-purchase trials.  Quote from Wikipedia - "where customers can play any game in the store prior to purchasing it."  Wow!  That's what I'm talking about!  There are several games I wouldn't need to play via GameFly if I could just play for 20 minutes in the store.

Ever been to a PNT?  What did you think?  This is a franchise I would seriously consider running.

05 January 2009

GameFly Mini-Review

This one is about Condemned 2: Bloodshot.  I didn't play through the first one, but the demo was one of the first I downloaded when I got my 360.  The first-person melee combat intrigued me and the spooky CSI elements were also interesting.  In retrospect, I probably SHOULD have rented the first game!  However, I did not, and now I've skipped to playing the sequel.  

Bottom line - this game is freakin' scary!  Above all else, Monolith Productions (of AVP2 and F.E.A.R. fame, they are good at scaring me) nailed the atmosphere.  Excellent surround sound was constantly making me check my back and flanks as I moved through eerie levels.  Bad guys are thoroughly repulsive and in-your-face.  The levels are dark, but not Doom 3 dark and you have an unlimited flashlight.  They did such a good job making the game frightening... that I sent it back after 2 hours of play. I could NOT handle the black sac children hanging from the basement ceiling, waiting to grab your face and scream as you walk beneath.

Having only played the demo of the first game, I don't know how supernatural it got by the end.  I can tell that the main character did go through some crazy events and the story jumps right back into it.  I liked how the supernatural elements were included in the presentation.  Example: to get your next objective, you're forced to look up close at an old TV and move the antenna around until you get a signal.  A signal of a creepy Saw-movie-influenced character doing bizarre stuff.  

The melee combat was still as solid as I remember from the Condemned 1 demo.  You can pick up and swing blunt objects like pipes, 2x4's, and prosthetic arms (lol).  Enemies are really good at weaving in and out of range, running away at low health, and ganging up on you from multiple angles.  Would anyone else second me if I called the Condemned series a fine evolution of the classic beat 'em up?

If your taste in games goes anywhere near brawlers, supernatural stories, or hide-under-the-couch scary, I recommend you take a look at the Condemned series.  A big plus if you have a quality A/V setup.

P.S. There was another big factor that influenced sending the game back on day one.  It was the day before I was going on vacation for three weeks and I really wanted to have Mirror's Edge waiting for me when I got home!

04 January 2009

Beer Log - The Beginning

New feature for 2009!  I got it in my head that I should start reviewing and keep record of all the beers I enjoy in my travels.  Within the last year, I've finally been able to identify the qualities and aspects of beer that I like and apply it to new beer selection.  The biggest hurdle I've encountered on my journey is that American mass media only promotes mainstream beer, which in my opinion, is crap.  For the longest time, I associated beer with Budweiser, Miller, and Coors because that's what's advertised on TV, most available in restaurant chains, and so on.  I didn't like any of those beers so I had given up on the idea that beer was for me.  How wrong I was!  

It took a little Decatur pub and a friend's insistence that I try his beverage to forever change how I viewed beer.   Many thanks to The Brick Store Pub, Anthony, and Duchesse de Bourgogne for showing me the light!  

So far, my taste in beer tends to favor Belgian styles, white beers, and brown ales.  Some of my favorites so far:


I considered thinking long and hard about the last few beers I've had and writing about them in this initial post.  I decided against it because I'm too lazy to hunt them all down on BeerAdvocate.com (there's been 20+ new brews to me in the last two weeks) and if they made good impressions, they'll show up later on future Beer Log posts!  I will mention that I've tried several breweries new to me lately, and they are Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta, and Green Man Ales, Highland Brewing, and Asheville Brewing Company in Asheville.  I can definitely recommend all four breweries (Green Man will likely be our pick to supply the wedding) for having at least 2-3 good recipes.

I'm a very lucky soul to live in Fort Collins, surrounded by several excellent microbreweries!

03 January 2009

BattleStar Galactica: The Board Game

Oh brother, I've been meaning to write about BSG:TBG since I got it for Christmas and now I don't know where to begin!  Let me start by thanking Josh and Casey again for finding it and gifting it to me for Christmas; I will cherish it always.

We opened the box together and began pouring over all the fun game pieces, thinking this game was mostly a simple one with the aim of fan service in mind.  Let me tell you, that is not the case.  Fantasy Flight Games produced this bad boy and it shows.  Quality board, full color images on everything, and a rule book that took me an hour to read!  

A breakdown of the game... human players take the roles of BSG leadership and are trying to find their way to Kobol.  Players, as a group, tackle a crisis each turn.  These crises represent the challenges of the fleet as seen in the series, such as food shortages, riots, or Cylon fleet attacks.  Players contribute cards from their hand in effort to overcome the crises and make their way toward Kobol with dwindling supplies.  Meanwhile, one or more players could secretly be a Cylon subtley laying sabotage to the group efforts until the time comes when they reveal themselves and join the Cylon fleet.  Their goal is to prevent the human players from reaching Kobol by reducing one of four resources to zero, blowing up Galactica, or successfully enabling a Cylon boarding party to the ship's demise.  

The genius of this game resides in the cooperative aspects.  Players are working together to win this game, a break from the norm where players are competing for some sole victory.  And while cooperation is the key to human success, there is always the threat of hidden Cylon player(s), working against the humans.  The suspicion that arises from every turn make for fun and entertaining table talk!  It makes for a unique board game experience that I've not encountered before.

So far, I've played the game three times, with only one human victory and two Cylon victories.  Good Cylon players do as much hidden damage as possible before revealing themselves and overtly working against human progress.  The game is so much fun to play that the victory is nearly irrelevant.  I feel as though I could play BSG:TBG fifty times, lose often, and still have fun each time.

I don't know how often we will get to play, but I definitely want to keep a BSG:TBG log of our experiences.  I'll write up the three games we've played to date and save them for rainy blog days.

In other BSG news, Lisa and I have only 3 more episodes left in season 4 before she is caught up.  Good timing - the final ten episodes start on January 16th!  So say we all!

01 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Hooray! It's 2009 AND my laptop is back online!

I purchased a spare ATI X1400 128MB card from eBay and made the replacement myself. I was recently all up in the innards of my laptop to clean some fans, so it was easy enough to repeat the steps from memory and swap out the dead part. It will be a hit to the gaming performance of the system, but now that the laptop is no longer my primary gaming PC, this shouldn't impact me too much.

I've been having a great holiday! Lisa and I took a weekend trip to Asheville to knock out some wedding items and for some nice time together. We wanted to personally scope out some hotels in town for recommending to friends and relatives, sample some of the local brewery options, and get some more details from the BBQ restaurant we want to cater our reception. The BBQ vendor was still closed for the holidays... two outta three ain't bad.

We did find some great hotels and learned that just about any hotel in town is 15 minutes max from the event location. We will be putting our findings on our wedding website, which will be linked soon in our Save the Date cards. From there, you will be able to find details about the wedding and RSVP. We will also send out a more formal invitation in the late spring or early summer.

At least we are now in the year of our wedding! Woohoo!