Friday, December 24, 2010

NORAD Santa Tracker 2010 Here! -->

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!
It's that time of year again, to track Santa using our friendly neighborhood NORAD unit!

That's right kiddies, Santa Tracker is up and running now that Santa is out delivering his presents. You can download the Santa Tracker file for Google Earth while at NORAD’s Santa Tracker website and track him on your own. As of 2:45 pm Pacific it looks like he is currently over Berlin, Germany, but he moves fast!
This is a fun site that I first discovered back in the 08' year, there are many options to play with, as I mentioned-like viewing Santa’s journey using Google Earth.
So, without further ado...-enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chatroulette! The world officially gets weird!

I just now discovered what all the commotion regarding the viral website, is all about. This site apparently was the #1 most searched for inquiry on Google for the entire year 2010!  And Holy Cow...the world has gone one step closer to crazy.

 That's right, for those that haven't been there yet, you login, use your webcam to start a total random chat with anyone in the known [internet] connected world!  Que :/ silly,shocking, political, amusing, LOL, degenerate, depraved, socially unacceptable, hilarious, weird, disturbing webchat's that are sure to provide hours of reluctant enjoyment!

Feast your eyes on a few of these 'best of' stills I recently discovered!  You'll see what I mean! I dare check this out??  Like opening a gigantic can of worms methinks....

 Here's Paris for starters, with an envious stranger in the states...

LOL - total randomness...


Ya..might be worth checking out...
Hope you all enjoy, Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'm SO spoiled!!

Yes, it's my birthday, and YES I AM spoiled!

I have a beautiful new home, I have a beautiful wife, who's given me 2 beautiful boys we both adore...and one on the way!  heh....heh...

Last Sunday we found a PERFECT and HUGE Christmas tree, from our favorite tree farm now just up the windy road from our house. Had some nice apple cider after cutting down that mammoth beast! The boys had lots of fun trampling around the hillside full of trees.

As soon as I get off work we hope to go out my Fav German Restaurant Gustav's, for some awesome atmosphere and some fine German Bier.

Continuing this spoiled-ness, Fred Myer has had a nice sale last weekend, and we found a new, freshly arrived shipment of the new Nintendo Wii bundle there, the RED Super Mario Bros. one!  YEAH!, with a nice discount off with a sale coupon to boot!  My wife and I couldn't wait to dig into that game, we tried the Wii sports and Mario the other night, and WOW, what a quality piece of Hardware, and fun fun game! Instantly brought back all kinds of nostalgia.

Just last week, I found a decent lightning deal on amazon for a PS3 bundle, which had a couple games that will be great for gifts for the kids, and a credit for me to get....hmm, either Gran Turismo 5, or a couple cool games...haven't decided yet!

We used the Fred Meyer sale to get my step daughter the new, hard-to-find Nintendo Dsi XL/Mario Kart bundle! yeah...that's right, 3 gaming systems in 2 weeks..!!  Like my wife said, I think we just opened up a whole can of worms...for in spite of my every growing library of epic PC games, now there are HUNDREDS other new games I/we/kids will want!  It's gonna be a gamer-tastic Christmas around my house this year, to be sure!

Can a guy get any luckier? I submit that they can NOT!  :)   It has been a good year.
 Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweet new Wii Bundle! 25th Anniversary 'New' Super Mario Bros.Edition!

Here it is folks! I've decided it IS now THE time to stop holding off on purchasing that Wii for those kiddos, If you are as nostalgic as I about playing the good ol’ Mario games of yore, you might wanna check this new Bundle out.
Here we have a bright RED and shiny new 25th Anniversary (Of Mario Bros.) Wii bundle, but this one has both controllers, the nunchuk and the main remote, which is the upgraded remote with the new Wii motion technology [Remote Plus]. Of course, it wouldn’t be a 25th anniversary Mario party without a complimentary game from the extensive Mario world, so…that ‘s what they give you. The NEW Super Mario Bros. game, in addition to the standard Wii Sports package! All for the same price as the standard package! Not to shabby!

I’m seriously talking to the wife about this one….the kids would love it, but so would WE. I was just gazing upon all those old Mario Games with fond memories of my youth, and wishing I could go back and play them all over again…It looks like Nintendo is now giving us the chance to do just that! I’ve played all of the old NES and Super NES games, up until Nintendo 64, which I never ended up getting. Around this time, I was becoming a…, and had responsibilities I had to tend to.

If we do get it, there is another Mario game I’ve noticed getting rave reviews-I’ve seen video of the Super Mario Galaxy, and sequel (2), and they both look really amazing.

Though, I’m still loaded up on my PC games, and we’re STILL planning on getting the PS3 soon [GT5 here I come!]…but, might have to delay those a bit….I need to dig in my pockets and see what kind of change I can muster up here…
Gran Turismo 5
Oh yes, GT5, I WILL have you soon...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Friday Mayhem! Thanksgiving Shopping Havoc! -It comes early this year!

Well happy turkey week everyone! That's right, it's my 3rd annual Black Friday Post! -wow time is flying by.

This year, I have both Turkey day and Friday off of work, so we will have to plan accordingly. We also are on a fairly tight budget this year, as [you may notice from previous post] we now have a brand new home that needs plenty of it's own little necessity's. Indeed our home may be the one making off like a bandit this year.

But alas, i'm sure we may brave the shopping madness and hopefully score some sweet deals.

I am looking forward to our first holiday in our new home...relaxing a bit from a hard move, drinking some nice wine, having some ham, and sweet 'tater pie with the kiddos! ....mmmmmmm....pie....

This will be the third year shopping on black Friday, so we are going to arm ourselves accordingly. We have a strollers for Rowan and Aidan, which will be equiped with an ample supply of snacks, diapers, toys, to (hopefully) curtail the inevitable tantrum throughout the business. We have a list of the family members and a rough idea of a budget to work with. I have my best gel-inlaid sneakers and probably will strap on a powerful set of elbow and knee pads. Hey! It's a JUNGLE out there!

I will take no prisoners.

I fear for the worst, and expect that it will be bumper to bumper roads, and near-misses in the parking lots that day. Good thing we have decent insurance!

"i said that was MY spot!"

A funny thing came up when I was thinking of what I wanted to get for my wife for x-mas. Exactly how would I spy something, get it in our cart, pay for it, and get it into our car without her noticing? I can't. So I think we will have to have two separate carts, I may have to force her to run away until I get something hidden amongst all the kiddy toys etc. or maybe I just jot the items down in a little notepad and when WE have gotten everything for everyone else, I have her check out and go through the cashier and to the car, then I run around like a mad chicken and speed shop my wifes gifts??  sigh, last year I had to go BACK to the stores, and try to grab the stuff I wanted to get wasn't easy.  There is also the question this year, of "shall I get her a 'ok' priced gift, and lots o' small ones, or just get her that one big, nice expensive one she's been wanting for years? "[there are multiple options of these as well]

What do you you all think?? Does anyone have any ideas?

I will leave it at that for now, did I mention yet that I luv the holidays?   ;/

-And just so I didn't completely waste your time reading excerpts from my personal life, here's a few links to get you on your way. I'm sure they will be happy I led you there. (my personal fav) (my fav local store) (for you Oregonian/Washingtonians) (if u really have to..ugh) (for that angle-grinding,circular sawing,super-sanding, Makita-drilling, Tim Allen-worshiping dude on your list)

-and last but not least! (the most important one for this holiday season methinks)


Mission Completed - First House!

So besides all the facebook mentions, and much thankful congratz from our friends and family, I thought i'd make a quick post for our first home, which we FINALLY closed on November 9th.

I'll use my wife Heather's quote, as I think she said it best: "Once upon a time back in...gosh, March? My husband and I decided we wanted to make one of our biggest dreams a reality, and after many months of planning, hard work, downfalls, tears, anxiety, and one final large hump, we can safely say as of last week that we are now HOMEOWNERS! The house began as a lot and is now a home!"

Indeed, we have been through a lot with this one, with many lessons learned on the mortgage loan-obtaining part. Looking back, we had a number of things stacked up against us, and somehow, through sheer determination and brute force, we managed to plow through the obstacles and accomplish this one, ever so important goal for our family. It's still all a bit unreal, and all the homeowner responsibilities are lurking just under the surface, waiting to take a great majority of my time...but I tell you this: I won't mind it a bit. I'm so proud of this house, and I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and many many more years of holidays and memories to come. 

Here's how it turned out!                       Construction -  Aug. 4
 Breakfast Area
 Shiney new Kitchen! All maytag appliances.
                     Center Island sink/dishwasher, w/ Aidan showing off the spacious living room.
 Master Bath Tub, (Shower is on right)

Completed - [Sept] Nov 2010

For anyone interested [in this area], The builder was Stone Bridge Homes NW, via Don Morissette Realty.

We ended up with a respectable 4.5% Fixed 30 Yr Rate with a VA Home Loan. Of Course, we couldn't have accomplished most of the icky parts of this without our exhausted and relieved mortgage broker, Mark Wilson @ Innova Mortgage!  If you haven't used your VA loan yet, the market is still perfect for you to get a home now! It's not easy, but if you can make it through, it's the best time to buy in a long time, and the future can only go up right? 

                                Now I gotta get a Lawn Mower! (among a hundred other things!!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Interpol - (2010 Self-titled Album) - Micro-Review

It was a rushed morning, I was coming back from a rare appointment with the doctor which reminded myself of the age I am now forced to be mindful of, and so, reeling with worries and doubts of the future in general I was distracted out of my numb platitude by the radio in my aging old black prelude. The new INTERPOL album has just dropped today! My favorite store would sure to have a copy, and so a small deviation from home and kids and family would naturally be first order on this cool and bright morning.

I arrived at Target with only the morning merchandise stockers and sales people shuffling around in good spirits. When I got to the music area, I dodged my way smugly around the morning meeting, a flinting memory to my old days as a early morning salesman at many electronic stores in the area. Go Team Go! and Be HAPPY and HELPFUL!  I felt many bored and curious eyes watch as I grabbed the brand new album on the top shelf of the 'New Release' rack, just as I heard the manager state to his children- "Umm..and today the band 'Interpol' has a new release...Weezer.." Just then I turned and smiled sheepishly at everyone watching me grab THE very first copy of the store, heck, probably in my CITY..that morning!  I was pretty excited actually - when my wife and I saw this band a few years back at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland during the 'Our Love to Admire' Tour, we were both effectively blown away by how crisp, clean, and beautiful they wife adding that they were extremely well dressed young lads. I was enthralled by the precision and relentless drumming of Sam Fogarino, the arena-filling majesty that was Mr. Daniel Kessler and his Rickenbacker. (In other words, they rocked), and I quickly began to realize they would be one of my all-time, long staying favorite bands.  They already had won me over with the amazing 'Antics' album, with the song 'Evil' impossible to keep out of my head.

I read a brief in SPIN magazine that all was not as they had hoped...but that all wasn't lost. So I was hoping for the best. Back at my car, tearing the wrapping off and flipping the plastic case fell off into my hand-the hinge broken into pieces. Apparently picking the first on the shelf wasn't so good an idea. I groaned- oh nooo....a bad omen?

It's apparent that this record is split right in two, between the stronger/faster tracks within the first 5, then comes screeching to a halt right after Barricade- the first radio single. Not that this in itself is bad, just that it leaves one wanting a nice fire-branded, energy track on the second half -which begins to trail off into experimental techno-ballads with some nice moments here and there. The setup here suggests strongly a thematic and artistic quality to the album, which is probably what garners it the most consternation among casual listeners, if not long-time fans.

First song- Success= far so good!... I liked how it's moody layers grabbed me. I instantly thought, if this is a sign of things to come, I'll be quite happy with this album. If there is a song most like their old albums here, it would be this one.  Many swirling vocal lines and atmosheric orchestrations hovering like mist in the background. A memorable line: "I've got two secrets , but I only told you one"

Second song-Memory Serves- Ok, but the chorus seems almost too layered with Pauls vocals. Again, stylistic choices.

Now..the third song- Summer Well- At first this song raises an eyebrow, then gets your fingers tapping as you admire the intricate percussion, then a pulsing base line-like an old Atari game theme, the quiet piano marching before Paul Banks low musings..then BAM, that burst of sound and guitar and singing all in a millisecond announce that they are not a band that has given up it's intense emotional turns. These are among my favorite qualities of the best Interpol songs, how you feel the shift going somewhere, quieter, a different key perhaps, then they catch you off-guard by going where you least expect in the next bridge, or chorus.
This song, is epic. By far the #1 best quality song on this album, and one that I try to avoid listening to too much, because it is simply amazing and I don't ever want it to wear out.
Lights is a strong song, it is a linear song, like a march up a begins with a pleading man for a lost love...the steady beat driving you ever onward...presumably to a climax that releases a mountain of pent up longing..but alas, a peak that doesn't come. The song maintains this steady climb and then just fades out...not one change before the fall. Not so much a fall but a wither away.

Barricade grows on you, if only for its sheer energy and restlessness. At first I didn't know what to make of Paul's higher than normal pitched chorus...but it equates itself to frantic desperation, which seems fitting for a song desperate to either go back to, or get into something or somewhere it once was. Many of Interpol's songs are maddeningly vague with the lyrics, so one is left to form their own story- which is perhaps what they, as many, great artists want you to do.

As for the second half of the should give it a great many turns, and don't dismiss it on first listen. Many whom find fault in these songs, should wonder if perhaps they have little patience to spare in this world of 20 second sound-bytes. It is part of the overall story, and it is as valid as any unique young artists surrealistic painting to study.

This record, like the long-time fans will tell you, grows on you. It hasn't left my ol' cars CD player for a month now. As much as I want to take it out for fear of ruining it, I go back to that song #3 every study it a bit more.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Why We Fight" - Complete video here. Must watch documentary on the Military-Industrial Complex.

"Why We Fight" -a riveting 2005 Sony pictures documentary directed by Eugene Jarecki. I must have missed this one, until now. An eye opening, but hardly surprising summation of the Military-Industrial Complex, as forewarned by our last great president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He saw into the future, and was dead-on accurate about what he wished to warn Americans of, and we have fulfilled tenfold despite his warning. But as any wise man or woman will tell you...Americans have short memories. 

It is slightly over an hour and a half, the complete film here- but you will have lasting impressions, and a sense of perspective perhaps you hadn't before. I wish the majority of the American public would see this film-it is enlightening to say the very least. 

So go grab some coffee, and a sandwich...get comfortable and please find this film as important as I have.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted!

I stumbled along this article, and believe it to be a must-read for ANYONE whom plays games more than just casually, or knows anyone whom they have ever called 'addicted' to their video games.

There is a disturbing amount of truth evident here, in the psychological tried-and-true methods to which game designers strive for ever more profitable game designs. For some, reading this i'm sure will be an enlightening, if not shocking, experience. For others, it will merely put words to what they may already know about themselves. The dark secrets of why they play the games they love.

I am one of them.

Please check out this humorous but cautionary tale on the funny site: HERE

-An excerpt:
"Why is your mom obsessively harvesting her crops in Farmville? Because they wither and rot if she doesn't. In Ultima Online, your house or castle would start to decay if you didn't return to it regularly. In Animal Crossing, the town grows over with weeds and your virtual house becomes infested with cockroaches if you don't log in often enough. It's the crown jewel of game programming douchebaggery--keep the player clicking and clicking and clicking just to avoid losing the stuff they worked so hard to get."

By: David Kravets of

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Go inside the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing at the Portland Air Base!

Well folks, I thought i'd submit a rare televised look into my 'other' part time F-15 Aircraft Mechanic for the Oregon Air National Guard here in Portland, Oregon.  This was a local news spot for our Oregonian paper and website.

It looks like the press stole a quick shot of me while I was working under the jet. Somebody told me they thought they saw me in the newspaper, after the story about our scrambled F-15's rushing w/full afterburners to Seattle to find out what that float plane was doing in restricted air-space during Obama's visit on Tuesday. THAT story [HERE] made national headlines, of course, but sadly... my aircraft repairing skills were probably viewed by....the editors at the Oregonian (and my mom!)!  ha ha

For the link to the OregonLive article that's worth a quick read click HERE.

For those of you fellow PC gamers, if you're jonesing for a sweet new update of an awesome Flight Sim with plenty of military Jets to curb your need for speed, check out the recently released Lock On Platinum. I highly recommend it, as it's brought to you by the same people who created the amazing DCS: BlackShark KA-50 helicopter simulator, with a equally comprehensive A-10 simulation in the works as we speak. Ooooh baby, I can't wait to fire off those virtual rounds in that jets horrendous AN/GAU-8a 30mm Avenger seven-barrel gatling gun!

Check me out ma, i'm famous!  (I'm at the 1:57sec mark in the video, bottom left dude under the plane)
'Inside the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing'

…I'm still waiting for my agent to call with those movie offers.…still nothin'?!?!?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2011 Military Pay Raise: House, 1.9% vs. Senate, 1.4%?

[Updated 1/1/2011]
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 was passed by Congress and has been sent to the President for signature. Touted as the largest Defense budget since WWII, the bill authorizes $725 billion for fiscal year 2011. The bill covers virtually every aspect of military spending including authorization for expanding TRICARE coverage to include dependents up to age 26, TRICARE fee protection, family support and care giver programs and a 1.4 percent increase in military pay

Find the pay chart HERE

For my fellow military members- here is the pending, unofficially proposed increases for next year, the great battle between the House and the Senate for the 2011 military pay increase.

Here's a excerpt from a reliable source on the recent conundrum:

"The House of Representatives wants a 1.9 percent military raise for 2011, an amount that would shave another half a percentage point off a perceived gap between average military and private-sector wages by providing an across-the-board increase higher than the average civilian wage hike last year.

The Senate, however, is siding with the Obama administration by putting a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise in its version of the 2011 defense authorization bill passed May 27 by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

...Differences in the House and Senate bills must be reconciled before a final bill passes. The Obama administration has made clear that it sides with the Senate, although it is unclear how hard it would fight for a smaller raise."

There is a longer-termed benefit to the proposal by the Senate, that will have far reaching benefits to certain military members beyond the next fiscal year.

In addition to their chosen 1.4 percent increase (which they believe to be quite fair due to a number of other military pay/benefits having healthy increases), and by the urging of Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., chairman of that committee’s personnel panel, the Senate bill takes the first steps toward establishing a new formula for military pay raises that, beginning in 2012, would provide bigger increases to ground combat troops.

“There is no civilian equivalent for a grunt,” Webb said. “We need to have a new formula that recognizes that.”

Here is an excerpt from the latest news regarding this story @ USA Today:

"The House approved a 1.9% raise, but the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., adopted the administration's lower recommendation.
Two weeks remain in the "lame duck" session of Congress, and Democrats have made passage of a defense authorization bill, which includes the pay raise, contingent on a divisive measure to repeal the military's ban on gays serving openly.
Some senators say Congress should give a boost to troops doing the most fighting. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., will propose bonuses for troops doing the "hardest work and most hazardous duties," spokesman Will Jenkins says.
Retired vice admiral Norbert Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, says his group is leading a coalition of 32 groups representing 5.5 million current and former military personnel and their families in pushing for a 1.9% raise."

I think we'll soon be seeing a LOT more of these pop up in the sandbox!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Red Dead Redemption - for PC fans?

The trend continues...seeing now that the average age of video gamers is 35 years old (which has risen from last few years) we now see a correlation of the console market gaining massive share of the sales of games, with a relatively small percentage of us PC gamers still holding sway.  Is it that perhaps the older gamers get, the more lazy and couch-bound we become? I'm 33, yet I still haven't sprung for the ps3 or it's 60 dollar games. I'm a PC gamer, going on at least 20 years now, and i've had playstations and nintendos (where my age group started of course!), but the games on consoles IMO serve a purpose, but don't satisfy like the PC counterparts. This is immensely arguable, of course, and fiercely debated in countless forums and internet discussions.

Now, more and more of our favorite games are developed for the money making console market FIRST, then...maybe, if we are lucky, the dev/publishers might throw us a bone and port their masterpiece's of simplistic gameplay and limited depth to the PC, where invariably the result is a buggy, un-optimized mess of a game [looking at you GUN] that is basically abandoned shortly after release and rarely polished with patches. There's apparently just no money to motivate them anymore.

Now ordinarily, this never bothered me too much. After all, like I said, console games are usually simplistic quick casual games or action games that are high on explosions and mind-numbing time wasters, fun because you don't have to 'think' too much and therefore, yes, are fun in a casual sit-on-the-couch-after-the-kids-go-to-bed mode. But now there is a crossing over, a turning point, where once in-depth, strategic, or franchised FPS games are being stolen from the PC, published on console first...and worse, ONLY on console, leaving us longtime fans of a certain franchise scratching our heads, with money in hand, wondering why we don't get to share in the fun anymore. Yeah! There I said it!  Listen up EA, 2K games, UBISOFT! Even one of my favorite developers, Bethesda (Morrowind, Oblivion) spent their money on optimizing Oblivion and Fallout 3 for the @%$! [parden me, consolers] Xbox/Ps3 crowd first, then ported it over to the PC-where these games roots began. With InfinityWard/Activision's bastardization of the infamous Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, the trend continues as the money rolls in.

So now we come to one of my other favorite developers, Rockstar, whom have a mostly outstanding track record of high-quality, highly addicting and fun games, releasing what appears to be a stellar new game -Red Dead Redemption, only on the consoles. Yes, I realize that the first in the series '..Revolver' was also a console-only game- that game was mostly a fun 2 player shoot-em up without a major story or single player story campaign. The sequel looks vastly superior, complete with hollywood quality writing, graphics, story and cut-scenes [a la GTA series], and therefore...I really want a chance to place this bad boy. Will I get the chance? Only time will tell.

Rockstar took a year to release GTA4 to PC, almost as long for Vice City and San Andreas. Currently, what Rockstar San Diego is reporting is they have no plans to release Red Dead Redemption for PC, but if that changes they will 'let us know'.

So for you Xbox/Ps3 owners who may enjoy this game- go ahead and 'let me know' how it is. I'll go back to my port of the still excellent Fallout 3 GOTY edition in the meantime.

Friday, May 14, 2010

RollerCoaster Tycoon Movie on its way, Thanks Sony!

Ha Ha-this could be really great with a great script! Think: Bill Murray as the retired amusement park tycoon who’s spirits are down due to lack of interest and anything worthy to top his past creations. Enter- 3 kids and a dumbass parent (how bout Mr. Lumberg’s Gary Cole) to help spark his passion and resurrect an old abandoned amusement park on some coastal town. Shenanigans and site-gags ensue as Bill tries every wiley, low, and hilarious method to create rides that are barf-o-matically hilarious, every one worse than the last; and scrupulous sideshow contests and venders that attempt every dirty trick in the book to rob customer’s blind. +Plenty of 3-D CGI rides shots!!
It’s all in the script people!

I played the heck out of this game when I first began my PC-gaming roots. Glad to see all those 2-D pixels will be getting the HOLLYWOOD Treatment now! heh heh

Friday, May 7, 2010

Time to buy your new Home!

It is spring, the sun is peaking between the grey-blue clouds, and in-between sun showers, I feel it's brief warmth. I'm getting happy, and anxious, for we have finally decided to take the plunge and go for purchasing our first home.

It means a lot to us, both of our parents never purchased a home. My mother rented place to place since I could remember. I've probably lived in over 20 places growing up, and another 10 or so in the last decade, on my own, and with my family.  It has been an impossible dream since I was old enough to become bitter at moving so much. School to school, gaining a friend a year, losing them, starting over with a new one, losing them. People treat you like a temporary fixture in their classroom, other kids react to you like you just stepped off the plank from mars, either ignoring you, antagonizing you, or worse. All because you didn't have a nice big house to live in, for more than 2 years. Kids are cruel, and so is the credit building process, come to find out.

Both my wife and I have been unofficially 'building' a foundation for owning a home at least the last few years, but  with the recent perfect storm of low interest rates, plenty of available housing, and my unused VA loan collecting dust, it was time to get serious. Credit repair is a aggravating and counter-intuitive process. Literally, the more you read the FICO website forums, the better off you are, if you have any intention of keeping track of your credit, and/or plan on any major purchases. Start EARLY, building credit; and start saving for the myriad fees involved in closing costs, inspections, downpayments etc. That, and with a little good luck, and a fabulous friend/Realtor like my wife has, and you'll find your new home too.

I could write an entire post on what I have learned to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do, but that might put some of you to sleep. I would highly recommend visiting that forum for further help. It's free, and it is written by people like you and me of their trials, tribulations, victories and journeys to better credit. FICO Forum HERE

Fast forward through the last few months, and this weekend we are going to meet with the builders/sellers of our future home to sign papers. The process isn't over yet, closing won't come until the house is built in 4-5 months, but we will have fun in the interim with choosing colors, wood-types, appliances and the like.

It is all very surreal, coming this far to have a big beautiful home customized by us to call home. It's going to be a busy summer.

Here's a picture of the identical model of the home we are having built, for anyone curious!  Isn't it beautiful??!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins - Where has all the A.I. in PC Games gone?

I finally started my character in Dragon Age: Origins and I have to say I haven't played a game whose story has so quickly sucked me in for a long while...perhaps even since the original Sierra's Homeworld.

Within an hour of playing, I had to make a crucial decision between loyalty to a friend in need, or my duty toward my Elf Mage's 'Headmaster'... twists and turns are already abound, and I truly feel like I am changing the script of the game on the fly, with every decision [one of 5 if I remember] that I choose during conversations in the well-done cinematic moments. While all this is great, and the game itself is very polished and beautiful, (and I am picky) I am missing the elements of deciding strategy in the combat portion of the game. Being not an expert at all of the D&D affiliated Neverwinter Nights/Baldur’s Gate vein, I am guessing that the 'rule book' that seems to be equally a part of this style of play/franchise is the reason.

Yes, you can select when to use that heal, when to use that type of magic, when to use your sacred whatchamacallit at the crucial time…it is still formulaic and ultimately, the odds are still based on mathematical calculations. Up until the recent excellent (and personal fav) Left4dead series by Valve, I’ve seen little evolvement or incorporation of any meaningful A.I. into a PC game as of late. For those that haven’t played those games, the A.I., [Valve call’s the “Director”] constantly monitors many aspects of the in-game human players actions, skill and whereabouts to adjust the gameplay on the fly. This creates a more dynamic, unpredictable, and engaging solution to the game that might otherwise bore players after multiple play-through’s of the same levels.
 Left 4 Dead 2

Nothing whatsoever against Dragon Age in of itself -I'm just going to rant about the 'random-stat' result in games in general. Nothing is worse than when I feel like any strategy that I am learning, or have gained in all my warmongering years on the pc, is completely undermined by a simple, mathematical formula of odds. It changes from an actual strategic decision, to something akin to a digital slot machine.

Quick thought- remember Black & White (1&2)? I couldn’t WAIT to play that game, and found it mostly to my expectations. Randomness worked in that one, in the form of an elegantly complex A.I. that would allow your creature some truly surprising, interesting and sometimes hilarious results. I remember the devs stating how their creature A.I. behavior had actually surprised them with actions they never expected! That was totally groundbreaking territory, and I wish we got more of that in pc games.

All too often, games are released with simple paper-rock-scissor type logic. While some are still extremely fun to play (another favorite-Company of Heroes comes to mind), these are among hundreds I have learned ‘how’ to play. Usually this is against real logic, which is fine when in a fantasy environment, but I feel even these style of games could benefit from allowing the player to use real strategy and logic to out-smart the enemy, not merely play by a very finite limit of game ‘A.I.’

Doesn't matter that I outflanked those troops with the appropriate weapons, setup defenses that prevented that spy from taking out that town [EMPIRE I’m lookin’ at you], ESPECIALLY with most games ‘diplomacy’ options…once you press the conflict button, it’s still a crap-shoot. This is why I am in endless search for a game that allows true freedom to discover, and use your own brain's strategy. Those lend the best reward and enjoyment I have found…

I'm not saying EVERY game needs to have a mandatory awesome A.I. code injected -Despite these wants, I will play Dragon Age feverishly, to simply see the story unfold, for despite any [or lack thereof] dynamic A.I. incorporated, it is still a fun-as-hell and intriguing game in its own right.

 Dragon Age: Origins