Monday, February 28, 2005

Ubisoft Surprise

Here's something interesting out of left field that I just saw on Ubisoft is going to make sports games. They're starting out with a golf game endorsed by Vijay Singh.

I assume there will be an "verbally abuse your caddy" option, but no word on that yet.

Here's more:
Ubisoft also announced that it has acquired the technology, tools and source code shipped in Microsoft Game Studios team sports games, including NHL Rivals (hockey), NFL Fever (American football), NBA Inside Drive (basketball) and MLB Inside Pitch (baseball). Ubisoft plans to develop games for all platforms and will initially concentrate on consoles, including Xbox® and next-generation.

How they work around the exclusive NFL licensing agreement, and the third-party exclusive licensing agreement in baseball, I don't know, but it looks like they're in.

I should have seen this coming. Sales of sports games count for a huge percentage of total console game revenue (it's over 30%, if I remember correctly). EA wasn't just going to be given that action forever. And maybe EA realized it, which is why they've bought up exclusive licenses as fast as they can sign the checks.

Family Reunion

This weekend I was thinking about that water-skiing squirrel.

If you haven't seen Twiggy, here's a picture of him:

I was also thinking about family reunions.

Inevitably, these two lines of thought converged into squirrel family reunions.

Can you even imagine what this squirrel is like at reunions? Family, college, whatever.

"So, what do you do?"
"I live in a tree and eat nuts."
"So, what do you do?"
"I live in a tree and eat nuts."
"So, what do you do?"
"I live in a tree and eat nuts."
"So, what do you do?"
"I live in a tree and eat nuts."
"So, what do you do?"
"I water ski. On tour."

Are you kidding me? I'd be going to reunions I didn't even belong in if I had that much scoreboard.

This squirrel is pretty savvy. He sticks with what made him famous. He's not branching off into rap albums or endorsing political candidates. He doesn't try to ride motorcycles. He knows what people want to see.

Of course, without proper representation, he's probably got an awful contract. I don't know if he's got a nut to his name. Still, he's in the bright lights, and it's got to be better than being chased by dogs in the park.

Who Are Those Masked Men?

They carried Super Porky away on a stretcher.

That's the first sentence of a very funny story in the Washington Post about "Lucha Libre," a professional wrestling spectacle that is very popular in Mexico. Here's a link to the article:

I have a professional wrestling story, believe it or not.

Pro wrestling is basically a soap opera for men. And not-quite-men.

When I was seven, and ESPN didn't exist, Saturday Night Wrestling came on at 10:30 on Saturdays. Remember, this was in the era of one or two college football games on Saturday, so as a sports-crazed kid, wrestling counted as "real sports." Or almost real, anyway, which was close enough.

Wrestling was less outrageous and less caricatured back then, although it was still silly. I was only seven, though, so when evil Johnny Valentine won a match through some kind of illegal maneuver, I was outraged. I used to wrestle on the bed with my Winnie-the-Pooh doll (it was about 15" high). Mom's bed, because I could use the headboard as a turnbuckle. Mom had to resew Pooh's stuffing about fifty times. She'd upbrade me for knocking the stuffing out of Pooh again, and I would say, outraged, "Mom! I was WRESTLING!"


My favorite wrestler was Ivan Putski, a Polish wrester (supposedly) who was a complete goofball. He used to eat hot dogs in the ring before the match. He just always seemed like he was having a good time.

Anyway, there were a few wrestlers from Mexico (I grew up in South Texas, remember), but the most important was Mil Mascaras, which was translated as "man of a thousand masks." He was very mysterious, obviously, and in the good guy/bad guy pantheon, was the purest of the pure. So I saw this article today and marveled that over thirty-five years later, the masked men are still around.

I'm not sure what happened to my Pooh doll, though.

MVP 2005 (PC) Player Progression Project

This is probably the only game I'll purchase from EA this year (due to the embargo, I now have a Gamefly subscription and get EA console titles through them as rentals), but as soon as MVP 2005 was released, the mod makers were going crazy again with hi-res uniforms and new bats and whatnot, and I got sucked in.

I'll say this: intead of adding 500 new features, EA focused on fixing what was wrong last year, and I've been very impressed so far. With the exception of Tiger Woods (PC), this is probably the best sports games EA has put out in the last year. I think with this version High Heat can officially be put to rest. It had a long run.

MVP is highly moddable, not due to any openness on EA's part, but due to the persistence of the modders and some very well-developed tools to extract individual data files from the .big files in the game directories. If you've read this column for a while, you know that last year we had a big project to improve player progression, which was totally broken in the shipping version of the game. With the help of some very hard-working volunteers, we modified the player progression system to produce stable stats for 80 years.

So I did an initial test of the player progression system this time to see what EA had changed. Last year, offense collapsed over time with the default player progression values. This year, it's the opposite--home runs went up 35% over 20 years. That's a massive increase.

That sounds like bad news, but it's not. The reason it's not is that the player progression system is entirely new and much more sophisticated. Last year, the progression system was very simplistic. Players were categorized from 1-5 stars, and for each star level, there was a potential min/max for a rating at three ages : 18, 31, and 45. Players had a defined potential (which was inside the min/max for their star rating and age category), and they inexorably marched toward it until they reached age 31. It was very linear, and their decline after age 31 was linear as well. Very basic and very predictable.

This year, much to my surprise, the system is totally different. Instead of a linear system, it is probabilistic, and it's far more dynamic and interesting. Here's how it works: For every age (by year, not in ten-year chunks) and every star rating, there is a table that lists the probability of a rating change. A random number is generated each year, and the number is compared to the table to see whether a rating should go up, stay the same, or go down.

Having those definitions available for each year makes the system much more powerful than last year.

So let's say the rating is supposed to increase. A second table looks at the existing rating and assigns probabilities for three possible categories: 1-5 points, 6-10 points, and 11-15 points. Again, there is a definition for every age from 18 to 45, not just age categories. And there are additional categories for the existing value of the rating. Another number is generated and the table is read.

Ratings declines work the same way, with their own tables.

As far as I can tell, that's how things basically work. Put all this together and it produces a player progression system of tremendous depth. It's much less linear and far more dynamic. It's now possible to model player development far more realistically.

It's also very difficult to balance. I can't imagine trying to balance this complex a system while also facing the pressure of shipping the game.

So I didn't think I was going to get into player progression again this year, but it looks like I am. And I'll need a few testing volunteers. If you'd like to volunteer, you'll need a copy of the PC version of MVP 2005 and the ability to sim a minimum of twenty seasons (which takes 2-3 hours). You can sim as many seasons as you'd like, but 20 is the minimum. Like last year, I'll try to round up some prizes for the people who sim the most seasons.

If you're interested, just hit the "email me" link in red in the upper-right hand corner of this page. Thanks.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Whoo, Tony!

I turned off the shower this morning and opened the door. Eli 3.6 was flopped face-down on the carpet. He struggled to turn over, mumbled "Out of many--one," then flopped over again.

That's the key to saving the planet in the Rescue Heroes movie, by the way--gathering an unexplained, uncontrolled series of lightning strikes that are threatening the planet into one gigantic bolt. Then the lightning returns to the volcano it came from or something like that. Then they get a new element named after them called "Rescue Hero-tonium."

I'm sure Enrico Fermi and Lord Rutherford would be thrilled.

There's a point in the movie where a character yells "Whoa, doggies! Ride 'em, cowboy!" Eli, with his talent for "manglage," runs around the house yelling "Whoo, Tony! On cowboy!"

If you want Eli to do someting, you must now precede the activity with the "Mission Select" designation. As in, "Eli--Mission Select: bathtime," or "Eli--Mission Select: carrots."

If I hadn't come to like the Rescue Heroes so much, it would be driving me crazy, but it doesn't. Tomorrow he's going to test for his Rescue Heroes Certification on a course I've designed that goes from the backyard to the front and out into the cul-de-sac.

Yes, I'm crazy. I'm finding that it helps.

Dangerous Waters Reviews

I saw two in-depth reviews of Dangerous Waters and wanted to pass along the links.


DW is a tough, very challenging experience. If you order the game, I highly recommend springing for the "deluxe" version that includes a 550 page, spiral-bound manual (which is a work of art as far as manuals go).

If naval simulation is your genre, this is a hundred hour game. It may well be a two hundred hour game. That's the depth of thought put into this simulation.


Paul Costello of sent a link to a little game that is a very interesting exercise. It's here:

It's a basic maze game with one curious distinction: the movement of the cursor is reversed. Move the mouse left and the cursor goes right. You can almost feel your brain throwing a rod as it tries to translate. It's a nice time-waster on a Friday afternoon when you're already wasting time by reading this.

Celebrating Toasting in a Glowing and Shining Way

Engadget ( had a link today to the toaster equivalent of a concept car. The bread is enclosed in glass and can be viewed while toasting.

That's long overdue.

What I really like, though, is the product description on the company's web page.
A toaster made of glass, which celebrates toasting in a glowing and shining way that makes us look forward to enjoy a fresh piece of toast. At work, he shows himself and at the same time he explains how he works. He neither hides the bread, nor its preparation. In this way it is possible to receive him as an idyllic little light. He stages the bread and the way it gets toasted, which is accompanied by warm light and a tempting aroma.

I am not ashamed to say that I have yearned to celebrate toasting in a glowing and shining way.

I noticed that this toaster is apparently male. I took the liberty of writing the text for the female version:
A toaster made of glass, which celebrates toasting but with some anxiety. At work, she shows herself and will explain how she works. This explanation cannot be stopped or shortened. She does not hide the bread, nor its preparations, but will question you about the quality of the toast. You must only answer that the toast is excellent. She stages the bread and the way it gets toasted, and she will ask you whether she, the toaster, has gained weight. Answer in an idyllic and warm manner, or the toaster will stop working entirely.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Trip Hawkins: Microsft Will Buy Nintendo

That's what he said in an interview with, anyway. Here's his quote:

My magic eight ball says they [Nintendo] will be acquired by Microsoft within five years.

Dude, that eight ball isn't magic. Did you bid on that at the 3DO bankruptcy auction?

I tend to immediately dismiss anything Trip Hawkins says because he's, well, Trip Hawkins. But let me play devil's advocate for a minute: Even when somebody's pants are pulled down and their head is buried in the sand with their ass in the air, they can still tell you when the sun is shining.

They'll have sand in their mouth, of course. You'll have to work around that.

Take Two and the Major League Baseball License

I don't know why I didn't realize this before. Today, as I was desperately arguing with myself to justify buying MVP for the PC (the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end), I realized that there won't be a baseball game for the PC next year. EA can't make this game next year, at least not with the licensed teams and players.

No baseball for the PC? That's ridiculous.

Of course it is, which is why I don't think it will happen. Nobody's mentioned Take 2 increasing the exposure of their sports line by porting them to the PC, but it makes sense. Absolute sense.

It makes even more sense with Xbox 2. At least 720p will be supported for every game, if not 1080i. Much of the work involved in supporting a higher resolution for the PC will already be done. Plus the XNA tools should, in theory, make it much easier to port the game.

There's no way that a PC version of the baseball game wouldn't be profitable. It's got no competition!

Take 2 has to have growth drivers. There's not going to leave this revenue on the table. They're going to port the entire sports line.

Eli 3.6: Appearing All This Week

Eli 3.6 told a joke today.

"Daddy! Daddy!" he shouted. "Why is the GRAPE so UPSET?"

"I don't know, little man," I said. "Why is the grape so upset?"

"Because PEOPLE keep PULLING on his EARS!" He then collapsed in laughter. I raised an eyebrow toward the internationally renowned Eli 3.6 translator, otherwise known as my wife.

Oh, wait. The phrase "otherwise known as my wife" will get my ass kicked but good.


Gloria looked at Eli and said "Eli, do you mean corn?"

"Daddy," Eli said, "Do you know why the CORN is so UPSET?"

"No," I said. "Why is the corn so upset?"

"Because PEOPLE keep PULLING on his EARS!"

I'll be opening for him all week.

Play group is at our house on Friday. This generally means an emergency evacuation of all male, adult personnel. It's sort of like 1917 in Russia, except nobody is over three feet tall.

"How hard would it be to put up the stair gate again?" Gloria asked today.

We took down the child gate at the base of the stairs several weeks ago. It's a real pleasure to walk around the house without feeling like you're in a tiny, maximum security prison. Some of the kids that come to play group, though, are quite a bit younger than Eli 3.6.

"Mmm," I said, mumbling. I'm an excellent mumbler. "I'm not sure."

"Last time I moved the plastic kitchen in front of the stairs," she said. "But they just pushed it aside."

"I wonder if little kids are like buffalo," I said.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"Buffalo," I said. "Buffalo won't test a barrier that looks solid. The Indians used to weave grass fences to pen them in, and as long as their were no gaps in the fence, the buffalo assumed it was solid and didn't try to escape."

"What?" Gloria repeated.

"If they were like buffalo," I said, "we could just get some gift wrapping paper and tape it across the opening to the stairs. It would look like a wall."

"Never mind," she said. "Ill just use the plastic kitchen. I'm sorry I asked. Which is often the case."

Functional incompetence. I wear it proudly, like a badge.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

NBA Street v3

I've been playing NBA Street v3 for about ten hours over the last five days, thanks to Gamefly (I still haven't bought an EA game since they secured the exclusive NFL license--we'll see how long that lasts).

Actually, it might not even last another two hours, because I really want to check out MVP. Does it count if I'm buying a game that they can't make next year?

NBA Street has always been one of my favorite franchises. V2 was my favorite sports game of the year in 2003--it was so polished that it gleamed. It was a fine moment for EA Sports.

I wrote part of the review of that title in street vernacular.
What up, whodie? Me and my peeps were bamas to the ballers--no steez, weak kicks, no skillz, just frontin' and cold lampin'. Playas highside the nathans, but I was catchin' the vapors. Then I rolled old school with Stretch Monroe and yo, he showed and proved, know what I'm sayin'? Throwin' down the Honey Dip, Boomdown, Bonafide, Krunk Junk, The Hammer, it's all tight. After I got Cha Cha and Off the Heezay, I was a baller, dawg. Me and my road dog Stretch step to--The Boogie Bang, ChiTown, The Get Low, Seatown--and it's phat. I'm doing a buck fifty, clockin' the R.T.D., and Stretch is reel to reel, he is smooth like butta. Then we hit L.A. and I fade Kobe B., dawg! Now I chill at Shaq's crib, parlaying with the posse. G'd up, got the bank and the bling bling. True that.

I have no idea what that all means, but I had a hell of a good time writing it. So much so that I just used it again.

So is v3 of the series an improvement over the outstanding v2? Yes.

And no.

In the "yes" category there are phenomenal graphics and a deeper career mode, including slam dunk competitions. The animation is also absolutely spectacular. The game design is as good or better than v2, and I thought that was one of the best-designed games I'd ever played.

In the "no" category we have looser control and some poor choices for camera angles. The announcer has also progressed from being clever in v2 to totally obnoxious and never shutting up in v3. Ever.

I mean it. He NEVER shuts up. Until I turned him off.

As I played this game, I was struck by this irony: v3 is more fun to watch and less fun to play. It's still fun, but it's not as fun as v2, due to the control and camera issues. The camera in v2 was perfect, and it was removed.

Note to sports game developers: never remove a camera angle that you included in a previous version. The code has already been written, and taking one out is going to piss people off (see ESPN NHL as another example). And please never develop a sports game that doesn't have a user-defined camera as an option, because it takes you off the hook if you make bad choices.

This game is tremendously well-designed, but I do think one conceptual error was made (and it was made in v2 as well). The career mode, essentially, is a long series of mini-games, which is great. Quite a few games go to 7 or 11 points, often with special rules (dunks only, etc.), and they're over quickly. Games that go to 21 points, though, with regular baskets only counting as one point, just last too long. It makes sense to have these games occasionally as tournament finals or as some kind of climax. But it works against the grain of the game to have too many of these as regular playground challenges. A player will literally play hundreds of challenges in the course of his career, and it's fun to have multiple careers. Very few people will experience that, though, if getting through even one career winds up being a grind.

This game has gotten quite a few reviews of 9 on a 1-10 scale, and I think that's fair. It's excellent work. I don't think I could recommend it over v2, though, which has better controls and camera angles, particularly when you can pick up v2 much cheaper.

It's Opening Day! In February!

Once again, the people of apparently low intelligence who control the release dates of sports games have decided that this year's baseball games must be released before the start of spring training. Groan.

I purchased ESPN MBL2K5 today. MVP is coming from Gamefly (sorry, EA). I've watched ESPN on and off for about an hour since I got home.

Here's what I can tell so far:
--Presentation is absolutely sensational. The camera angles and ESPN integration are fantastic. It's a big upgrade from last year.
--Slider variety is excellent. There are a ton of settings that can be tweaked. This is a double-edged sword, since it takes work, but at least it creates the opportunity to improve the game.
--Graphics are a mixed bag. 720p support is out this year, so that's a big downgrade if your set could accept a 720p signal. 480p still looks good, and sometimes excellent, but it's amazing how much of a difference lighting conditions can make. A game in "sunlight' looks bright and colorful. An "overcast" game looks awful--washed out and bland (far more washed out than it should be). I'm not sure the color saturation and brightness settings they're using for overcast games are accurate.
--The "stiffness" in some of the batting animations doesn't seem to have changed. They should scrap every single hitting animation they have and start over next year. It's not that they're awful, just that some of them are weak enough to stand out.
--I've also never been crazy about the ball movement from the pitcher to the plate, and that also doesn't appear to have been tweaked. There are times when the ball movement doesn't seem natural--almost as if it's moving on a parallel plane with the ground instead of being affected by gravity. The pitched ball doesn't seem to have "natural velocity," for lack of a better term.
--Someone who doesn't understand much of anything was responsible for coding the crowd movement. It looks stupid, as it does in so many sports games, and hopefully I can find an option to turn it off. Individual crowd members, though, look outstanding.
--Please, please, please. THE RUNNER MUST TOUCH THE BASES, PEOPLE! MVP does this as well, and it absolutely drives me crazy. Particularly on hits that go for extra bases, the runner frequently does not touch first base. It's not even close. That's just embarrassing.

So like almost every baseball game I've played in the last ten years, this game is probably a mixed bag, but I'll write with more detailed impressions after I get to actually play for five hours or so.


Okay, so this is what I'm doing right now. I'm typing out this post, watching ESPN MBL2K5 play unattended on the plasma screen, and listening to David Byrne's album "Grown Backwards." And I'm thinking about NBA Street V3, which I'm going to be posting about next.

I assume that this combination should probably make my head explode, so if there are no further posts from me today, that's your most likely suspect.

EB Ripoff Alert

Thanks to DQ reader Geoff Engelstein for this cautionary tale:

I know you always enjoy dealing with game stores, so thought you'd appreciate this.

I was in our local EBX a few days ago, and when the cashier rings up my purchase the cashier says "Your purchase includes a 2-year replacement guarantee -- if anything happens to your CD we'll get you a replacement."

I thought that was a little odd -- but then I look down at the credit card pin-pad and see that there is -- already included in my bill -- a $3.00 charge for this 'insurance'. I told them to take it off, and they did so, but this is clearly deceptive -- they added it on to the bill before asking me, never mentioned how much it would cost, and made it seem like it was a free service.

I'm sure there are a ton of people out there who don't even look at their receipt and end up paying for something they don't want and didn't ask for. This is certainly deceptive at best, and maybe even illegal.

I'm curious if others have seen this 'insurance' program or if the clerk I dealt with just didn't present it right.

I certainly don't plan to go back there.

I went to a local Electronics Boutique today to pick up ESPN MLB2K5, and they did ask me about this "guarantee," which I declined. So Geoff's experience might be an isolated incident, but if you go EB, watch out.

Consider the economics of this totally dubious "replacement guarantee." We have to guess as to how often this gets used, but I'm willing to bet that ten percent is a ridiculously high estimate. So for every ten people who purchase this, they get thirty dollars and give out one used game that cost them about ten dollars to buy--or less. Those are some serious, serious profit margins.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It's a Good Time to Begin Shopping For Memory Erasure

You people send me crazy links all the time and want me to write about them.

I read the link about the Oklahoma judge using a penis pump during trials. I did like the disgusting detail that a "whooshing" sound could be heard on the audio transcripts of the trials in question. Didn't write about it, though.

I read the link about the female distance runner from Zimbabwe who turned out to have a walking stick. And here was the explanation:
Sithole told the court he was born congenitally deformed. A tribal healer, known in the West as a witchdoctor, gave him "female status" but the spell didn't work properly because his family didn't pay the healer's full fee, Sithole said.

Dude, you're such a sithole. Didn't anyone ever tell you that you get what you pay for? And if you want to stiff somebody, it's not the guy who's rearranging your genitalia.

But I didn't write about that, either.

You might have been lulled into a false sense of security by my restraint. Perhaps you told your grandmother about this blog and thought it might amuse her. Maybe it does.

When someone sends me a link about Koko the gorilla having a nipple fetish, though, the restraint is over.

Again, I can't possibly make this stuff up:

Koko, in case you've never heard of her before, is only the coolest animal on the planet. She communicates via sign language, knows over 1,000 signs, and can recognize over 2,000 words of English. She asked for a pet once, and I still have a book of photographs that show her tenderly caring for a tiny kitten.

So for me, Koko is the Mother Teresa of gorillas. She's my hero of the animal world.

And she has a nipple fetish.

Here's an excerpt from the story (edited):
The suit claims [Francine] Patterson pressured the two women on several occasions to expose their breasts to Koko, a 33-year-old female...They were threatened that if they “did not indulge Koko’s nipple fetish, their employment with the Gorilla Foundation would suffer,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit claims that on one occasion Patterson said, “’Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples.”’

Are we absolutely sure that "Francine Patterson" isn't an alias for Steve Ballmer? Because he did that monkey dance before the original Xbox came out, and I'm telling you, this has his nipple-prints all over it.

And poor Francine Patterson (if she's not really Steve Ballmer, that is). She's Koko's trainer, she has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stanford, and she's been President of the Gorilla Foundation for nearly thirty years, but none of that really matters now. When she dies, her tombstone, her legacy, will be this:

.................Francine Patterson, R.I.P.
.......You are probably bored with my nipples

There's one more horrifying detail. Years ago, Koko appeared on Mr. Rogers.

Did he lift his sweater?

We Will Stop at Nothing

If you haven't read the original post about the Cody Banks action figure, you can find it in the February archives--just do a search on "Worldwide Scoop."

CPT Chris Mcnair is a DQ reader who was recently rotated stateside (congratulations). He's an Army Reserve Public Affairs Officer, and thus has frequent dealings with the press. He sent me this story:

The night before I left Kuwait, the Spec Ops Cody story broke. The Associated Press stringer in Kuwait, a total ditz, called about it. This is the reporter who, if a story broke on Monday morning at 8, would call Tuesday at lunchtime to find out about it. She called and wanted to know how the terrorists got the action figure since it was designed for the Kuwait PX two years ago. I told her that the doll had been in production for two years and that they could have gotten it anywhere. They could have gotten it off of Ebay. She asked if the Army was going to investigate it. I told her there were no plans to investigate it at the time. She kept on and kept on. Finally, I said, "We will stop at nothing to reunite Special Ops Cody with his unit."

The Coolest Thing You'll See Today

This is an entirely remarkable display of data that would please Edward Tufte. It's an analysis of baby name usage over the last century, and it's presented visually as geologic strata. Click on a name and see it in an individual graph. Type in a few letters and see all names beginning with those letters in their own separate graph. It's an extraordinary piece of work, far more for the visual representation than for the data.

Here's the link:

Monday, February 21, 2005

Breaking Game News

Psycho Craft Studios has announced that their upcoming game "Road 666 Deathlands" has been renamed "Drive'n' Kill."

I was one of many people who thought that "Road 666 Deathlands" was too vague.

Thanks to Gamer's Hell for the information. We certainly are.

A Salute to Hygiene

I saw "57" at the pool yesterday.

I don't know anyone by their names at the gym. It's not a social hour. I do know how fast they swim, though, because I'm always watching people to see who swims well and what I can learn from them. I also check how fast they're swimming. So everyone has a number, based on their average 50 time (which is timed during a longer interval of 200 or 300 yards).

The reason 57 is important is that she swims 100's in 1:54, which is the perfect speed for me right now. I can swim 100 with her, take 50 off to rest, and swim another 100.

There's 54, but she's too fast for me right now. Most of the men who swim at the pool are 60's, which is too slow.

I told Gloria about this and she said "You are SUCH a geek."

She thinks that's an insult. Heh.

Remarkably, though, that long digression is not the point of this post. I was in the locker room after swimming yesterday when I saw one of the "sales counselors" at the urinals. I've gotten very suspicious about this gym--it's very poorly run--and so when I see this guy, I immediately think "This guy's not going to wash his hands, because this gym is The Black Plague."

If only I'd been so lucky.

So he finishes his business, and then he leaves the commoner area and enters the "V.I.P." locker room. I'm curious, because I've suddenly turned into a hygiene stalker or something, so I casually move over so I can glance at him through the glass window.

Now remember, this guy hasn't washed his hands after using the urinal. He goes to the V.I.P. sinks, looks in the long mirror at himself, and sort of adjusts his posture to stand more ruggedly upright. Then he licks his hands and smoothes his hair down. A Clooney cut, in case you're wondering.

That's right. For those of you keeping score at home, just record that as "urinal using-penis touching-hand licked by mouth."

Since this guy is a sales counselor, he's a hand shaker. Good luck on getting a handful of that.

Holy hygiene, Batman!

Hunter S. Thompson

One of the signature characters of American journalism shot himself yesterday.

When I was eighteen, I read Hunter S. Thompson's classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Imagine being eighteen and reading these opening paragraphs:
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"

Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you talking about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

It was wildly funny twenty-five years ago when I first read it, and it's still wildly funny today. The entire book was brilliant and outrageous, and it made a permanent impression on me. In an era when most of his peers were talking about peace, love, and understanding, Hunter S. Thompson was a swift kick to the face. By jack-booted thugs.

Thompson's family issued a statement after his death. "He stomped terra," it said. That's the best one sentence description of a man I've ever heard.

There was no one like Thompson. There was no one like him then, and there's been no one like him since. He was so strange as a person that I'm not sure he can be defined or even described. His writing suffered greatly when he became a celebrity, as it almost always does. Before his caricature, though, he was a laser beam, and besides being damned funny, he was one of the best political writers in the country as well.

I was saddened yesterday when I heard that he committed suicide. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that he wouldn't have had it any other way.

If you haven't read "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," do yourself a favor and check it out. It's well worth the time.

Max Powers

Eli 3.6 fell and scraped his elbow yesterday under suspicious circumstances.

He had turned his pedal car over on its side and was sitting on it, an unstable configuration that he'd been cautioned about before. One of his good friends, Lewis, was sitting on the car with him.

It's at this point that the facts get murky. Depending on which version of his story you listen to, they either tipped the car over together or Lewis pushed him.

After Eli's bath, I went up to his room. "Daddy, my elbow feels a yittle better," he said.

"Good," I said. "I bet it feels fine in the morning. How did you scrape that, anyway?"

He grimaced. "I tripped, that's all." For a split-second I thought my son had joined the mob and didn't want to rat out a rival family.

"You tripped?"

"I tripped, that's all," he repeated. "Let's move out, people!"

Thus continues Eli 3.6's tendency to speak only in Rescue Hero dialogue. If he's allowed to eat a cookie, the decision will be greeted with "Booyah! Victory is assured!" If I tell him he can't do something, I hear "I have to know when I'm not the go-to guy." If we're going somewhere and we're waiting for Gloria to get ready, he'll shout "No one gets left behind!" Since his middle name is Maxwell, he's been temporarily renamed Max Powers, and I expect his feet to grow to Rescue Hero-esque size 30 any day now.

Friday, February 18, 2005

KOTOR II: The Sith Bored

I uninstalled KOTOR II last night.

The very short version of my impressions is that the game reminded me of Frankenstein--it was made of human body parts, but it wasn't quite human.

That's the difference between a Game of the Year and a game that very few people will remember. KOTOR was the former. And KOTOR II, unfortunately, is the latter.

I had decided to give it a few more hours, largely based on your e-mails, which generally said that the game got better and had some occasionally fine moments. Not entirely ringing endorsements, as a whole, but enough to make me keep going for a while.

The longer I played, though, the more I felt like this game just wasn't finished. And I sympathize with the developers, who seemingly had a larger vision for the game than was realized, but it's just not my damn problem. I've played enough raggedy-ass games for a lifetime, and I'm no longer willing to add to the total.

It was about at this point that the game crashed and I got kicked out to the desktop. And I was so dissatisfied that I wasn't willing to go back and redo just thirty minutes of the game. I uninstalled.

So long, cool-looking, menacing menu dude. You kicked ass.

Free Samples

I had to stop in at Ye Olde Apothecary Shoppe today to pick up some kind of irritability poultice for our cat. I’ve written about this place before, and speculated then that it was run by curious folk. Today, I see a large flyer that says “NEW! EMU PAIN RELIEF!” Underneath that it said “ASK FOR FREE SAMPLE.”

Hell, yes, I’m asking for a free sample. If I ever meet an emu who blows out a hammy at the company softball game, I’ll be ready.

Imagine my dismay when I was told that this pain reliever was not for emus. It was, instead, for humans, made from emu oil.

I have an emu story, believe it or not.

Emus were the foundation of a classic Ponzi scheme in Texas in the early 1990’s. Breeding pairs were sold for over $40,000. But after they laid eggs for a few years and the offspring were sold to other eager breeders, those birds would make you a gosh darn fortune! I remember a woman who worked for me who came in one day and was absolutely thrilled because they were going to get a breeding pair for only $20,000. This was a woman whose salary was around $25,000 a year, and her husband (who also worked in the company) made probably $35,000. So they were going to spend over HALF of their yearly take-home pay on a pair of emus.

This was a very nice, even delightful, woman. And I tried very hard to talk her out of it. “But Bill,” she’d always say, “just do the math!” I told her that math was funny like that—sometimes the values of variables changed—but she wouldn’t listen to me.

The theory was that there was going to be a huge market in emu meat. It was the new chicken, or the new beef, or the new something. And there was a legitimate market for emu meat. But the market was very small, and is still very small today. The breeding pairs were only valuable because people wanted to buy them, to breed more breeding pairs to sell.

It all blew up, of course, like it always does, whether it’s emus or tulips. Breeding pairs can now be had for $300, and it’s been that way for quite a while.

At some point, people started noticing that they had a lot of damn emus to feed and it wasn’t making them any money. Now we have emus just sort of roaming around out there—not a huge number, but quite a few were released.

So back around 1993, I was running with my best friend at lunch. We had a five mile loop that we ran, and occasionally I’d find something bizarrely interesting. I found an armless Batman action figure once, which I still have. I found a bracelet with a broken clasp, and after I fixed the clasp I saved it—as it turned out, for Gloria, even though I hadn’t met her yet. And one day I found a photograph lying in the middle of the street. A photograph of two emus.

They looked like a nice couple.

Monkeys and Robotic Arms

It’s getting pretty freaky out there. After walking robots and personal entertainment pods comes a link from DQ reader John Catania about monkies moving robotic arms with their thoughts.

Now I know right where a monkey would immediately move a robotic arm, but that’s not important to the point of the story. Perverts.

Here’s the possible application:
The research may one day lead to permanent artificial prostheses for those who have lost a limb, and it might also increase the mobility and dexterity of those suffering from spinal cord injuries or nervous system disorders, like ALS.

I’d write more about what’s in the article, but so much of it is mind-blowing that I’m just going to post the link:

But Is It Soundproof?

All of us who are married and have children need one of these. Desperately.

In case you're too generally too disinterested to click on the links, what you'll be seeing is a personal entertainment pod. I can't think of any other way to describe it.

The Jetsons are coming.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Love, Jordanian Style

DQ reader Steve West sent me a link last week that I originally thought was an urban legend. Now, though, it appears to be true. Here's the link:

AMMAN (AFP) - A budding romance between a Jordanian man and woman turned into an ugly public divorce when the couple found out that they were in fact man and wife, state media reported.

Bakr, who passed himself off as Adnan, fell head over heels for Sanaa, who signed off as Jamila (beautiful) and described herself as a cultured, unmarried woman -- a devout Muslim whose hobby was reading, Petra said.

Cyber love blossomed between the pair for three months and soon they were making wedding plans. To pledge their troth in person, they agreed to meet in the flesh near a bus depot in the town of Zarqa, northeast of Amman.

The shock of finding out their true identities was too much for the pair.

Upon seeing Sanaa-alias-Jamila, Bakr-alias-Adnan turned white and screamed at the top of his lungs: "You are divorced, divorced, divorced" -- the traditional manner of officially ending a marriage in Islam.

"You are a liar," Sanaa retorted before fainting, the agency said.

Bakr (Adnan) was later seen wearing a t-shirt with the slogan "My Wife Wanted To Have An Affair And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt." Sanaa, meanwhile, has asked for a full refund.

Okay, I added that last paragraph.

I will say, though, that if you can't stand your spouse, you seek an affair online, you find someone who wants to have an affair, and that person turns out to be your spouse, then you are a charter member of the My Life Sucks club.

There's another very funny aspect of this story. If you look at the link, there's a photo included of an unidentified, veiled woman typing on a keyboard. Wow--I guess a picure really is worth a thousand words.

Bon Appetit

We're all eating lunch together today. Gloria and I are sitting at the kitchen table. Eli 3.6 has a little table of his own next to ours.

That's not to imply that Eli sits at his table while he eats. The table is mainly a base station while he conducts extensive investigations of the surrounding area; occasionally, he returns for a handful of food, then off he goes.

After several months of observation, I've decided that Eli 3.6 has two primary objectives while we're eating:
1. Make as much noise as possible.
2. Make requests for service at an unfillable rate.

Objective number one is usually accompanied by a cacophany of noise from any battery-powered device available. Objective number two is quite simple: if he requests service faster than we can fulfill those requests, we don't actually get to eat. This is strangely satisfying to him.

So I'm eating.
WHEEeeeeWHEEeeeeWHEEeeee. Eli 3.6, in an apparent emergency situation, has activated the fire siren on his pedal-powered fire engine.
"Eli, please turn that off," says Gloria.
"Turn off WHAT?" Eli asks, shouting to be heard above the siren.
"The siren," Gloria says.
"Oh." Eli turns off the siren.

Two seconds of silence.

"I won't use the siren," Eli says. "The horn is not so loud, is it, Daddy?" HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK.
"No horn," Gloria says. "Not while we're eating, please."
"Okay," Eli 3.6 says, somewhat dismayed.

Two seconds of silence.

"THIS IS PRETTY QUIET," Eli says. He's using the working microphone on his fire truck to amplify his voice.
"I could have eaten a sandwich in my car in the parking lot. That's sounding pretty glamorous right now. Why exactly did I decide not to do that?" I ask my lovely wife. She laughs.

Oh, that's right. So we could have lunch. As a family.

Walking Robots

There's an amazing article on MSNBC about advances in robot movement technology. In particular, robots simulating the human gait have improved dramatically. Here's a link to the article:

It's also possible to select a video from that page, and I highly recommend watching it. The gait of the robots is just spectacular.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

P.S. Has Anybody Seen My Feet?

Okay, I think that's it for me for the day. You guys have sent me some very funny stuff and I'll post it tomorrow, but the wobble effect has kicked in at this point. Have a great day.

When Nothing Else Matters

I just finished reading When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan's Last Comeback by Michael Leahy. While I would recommend it for the excellence of the writing and the depth of thought alone, it also has relevance when it comes to the current state of gaming journalism.

Leahy is not sympathetic to Michael Jordan. He sees him as a man stuck in a state of chronic adolescence, unable to move beyond the moment of the game into something more substantive as he reaches the end of his career. A fair criticism, certainly, but Leahy uses it as a stick instead of a lense. In spite of his bias, though, Leahy manages to do something that no one else who has written about Jordan has ever done: he succeeds in making Jordan human. There is more than a small hint of Shakespearean tragedy in Jordan's decline, and it is that inevitable winnowing that makes for absolutely compelling reading. While it is true that the book is biased, it is just as true that it is clearly remarkable.

Leahy also comments about the relationship between sports journalists and the players they cover, and I think his observations also apply to gaming journalism in general. He writes that the relationship is one of relative subservience because access is more important than content. Without access, the writer has nothing, so he must preserve his access at all costs, even if the quality and depth of the content must suffer. True investigative reporting in sports is extremely rare, and the sidekick mentality is the core of the reason.

His descriptions reminded me almost exactly of how I see the current state of gaming journalism. It's focused more on promotion than it is investigation. When was the last investigative journalism piece you read on gaming? If you can't think of one, you're not alone. And gaming journalists will never be taken seriously until there is more distance between them and the companies they cover.

NHL: the No Hockey League

They officially cancelled the National Hockey League season today.

What? You didn't know there WAS a hockey season?

That's the problem, really. Nobody seems to care that nobody's playing hockey. Not even in Canada, to any great degree.

I love playoff hockey. And I will really, really miss it this year. But it's very hard to care about billionaires fighting with millionaires.

And if you're an NHL player, enjoy playing in Division One of the Upper Slobekistan League for the rest of the season. One word of advice: stay away from any kind of meat that comes from a yak. Trust me.

Yamaha YSP-1

Yamaha has a new sound technology and it's, to use a highly technical term, "pretty freaky." They're calling it a digital sound projector, and it's designed to create a 5.1 surround sound environment with a single unit.

That's been done before (with mixed results), but not like this. The single component contains 42 individual drivers (they're 1 1/2" each, I believe). Here's a picture:

Does that look amazing or what?

Even more amazing, the sound is apparently very impressive. It's about $1100 over the Web, which isn't cheap, but your audio sources plug directly into the unit--in other words, it acts as both speaker AND receiver. So it's not a bad deal at all for what it does.

Here's a thread on AVS that talks about the unit:

This wouldn't be for everyone, but if you live in an apartment or want a 5.1 setup without the hassle of mounting speakers and running wires, it's a great option.

Greetings From Traction

Okay, not traction, exactly, but I thought that was a good post title. I hurt my back on Sunday (not realizing it at the time), and by yesterday I was in some pain.

Today, "some pain" would be a considerable improvement.

I swam a mile anyway, because even for an old goat, I'm extraordinarily stubborn. Flip turns were out, though--the first time I tried one it felt like I was in a swimming pool scene in a Friday the 13th movie. Stabbing pain, in other words.

Now I've taken a muscle relaxer and it's a race to incoherence. Hopefully I can get a few items posted before I start drooling.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

KOTOR II: The Sith Lords

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was my favorite game of 2003. It deserved every accolade it received--Xbox Game of the Year (most publications), RPG of the Year (most PC publications), and even PC Game of the Year (in my book, anyway).

Finally, the sequel has been released for the PC. Most of the reviews I've seen for Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords have given scores in the mid 80's, and every single review I've seen has boiled down to "More of the same, but just not quite as good."

I only have one question: what game are these people playing? Not the same one I am, certainly, because after several hours I am totally dismayed by how poorly the sequel has been handled. And I'm going to tell you why.

The original KOTOR featured a very rich sense of being in the Star Wars universe. Yes, the game started slowly, but even then there was an overwhelming sense that the player was of a world. There was an almost immediate immersion into a fantastic variety of races and cultures, all stunningly modeled and voiced. It was all so beautiful, so outrageous, that I laughed out loud several times.

Inside a nonsensical world, things must be sensical.

Okay, I made that word up, but here's what I mean. We all, to some degree, engage in the willing suspension of disbelief when we enter a gaming world. Once inside that world, though, it must be internally consistent. It must be coherent. And if it's not, it will never convince us, and it will certainly never move us.

The original KOTOR was sensical. It was coherent. And it was, to a very large degree, a memorable experience.

The first three hours of KOTOR II, in contrast are a mess. A miserable mess, at that. There is almost no sense of the Star Wars universe. It could well be a Star Trek game, or Unreal II, or anything else. It has absolutely no identity of its own.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: I want to discuss a few specifics of the first hours of the game. These are all minor plot details, and I'm going to fog them up a bit, so I don't think it's going to ruin the experience for anyone, but still, please be forewarned.

As a delightful opening, you will find yourself in a totally generic environment. A poor start, and to make it worse, you'll get to work your way through the tutorials--as a droid. And a mighty small droid, at that.

What? Can someone please explain to me the narrative benefit of THAT? Why am I going throught the tutorials as a close relative of a Roomba?

A dreadful, misguided decision, and it will get worse. Finally, after you are allowed to play as the Jedi, it's quickly apparent that there are very few Jedis remaining. Well, after another hour, I'm pretty sure I know what happened: they all died of boredom. They drifted away from their calling to become insurance adjusters and accountants. More exciting professions, in other words.

How, you might ask, could being a Jedi possibly be so boring? I can understand making me be Don Knotts in a track suit for, oh, the first five minutes, but no way should I be running around that way for half an hour. I spent most of my time looking for a finish line tape to lean into.

But I'm still a Jedi, and I'm a bad ass (which is a remarkably un-Jedi-like thing to say, I know). Except I can't hit the broadside of a freaking barn. Look, guys, if I'm already a Jedi, I shouldn't be missing targets from five feet. Actually, scratch that--NO ONE should be missing a target from within five feet, not just Jedis. Blasters and lasers are shooting energy--they shouldn't be less accurate than a nineteenth century rifle. I can understand a degree of inaccuracy in order to lengthen combat encounters, but not to this ridiculous degree.

Then there are the cut scenes. KOTOR had an unbelievably well-written, intricate plot, and the cut scenes accompanied by the fabulous voice-acting advanced the believability of both the game and the game world. The voice-acting is still excellent, but the characters in the cut scenes punctuate their dialogue all too often with idiotic, repetitive gestures like fist-pumping. It's contextually totally out of place. That kind of crude representation is an insult to a world that was so carefully and spectacularly crafted in the first game.

So the first few hours are, in summary, a miserable, unbearable slog.

So I struggle, and I mean struggle, to continue. There is absolutely no way in hell that I would have kept going if it hadn't been for the memories of the first game. And finally, FINALLY, there was a brilliant, spectacular series of dialogues by a female character (who is magnificently voice-acted, by the way) that gives me some hope for the rest of the game.

In the first three hours, though, and I'm not exaggerating, the best thing about this game was the menacing dude on the menu screen. He looked absolutely fantastic.

I'm still playing, and I'm going to revisit the game here after I play for about five more hours. I very much hope that what I write then is far different than what I've written this time.

The Time That Land Forgot

We were invited to an Eighties Party on Friday night.

I went as Winston Smith.

Gloria went as Joan Jett and she just looked great. All she was missing was a cue ball in her purse in case she got into a fight. We had to leave early, though, because she had a gig at Six Flags.

Apparently, the hive mind has decided that the Eighties are worth reliving. I will tell you plainly that they are not. They weren’t worth it the first time, and they’re certainly not worth it now.

This party took place in a rental house that some friends are staying in temporarily. The neighborhood is an odd amalgam of mansions and tiny cottages. We parked outside a white mansion so large that I thought I saw a slave quarters in the back. I wanted to ask the owner what would happen if he died—would the remaining help get to live out their lives as free men?

The rental house was even stranger. The original owner added on an extra room off the back bedroom with wood floors--and wood paneling. Think hunting lodge without the animal heads. Then, he built a basement underneath the new room—a basement entirely of white plastic. It was spotless. It’s the serial killer floor plan, I think, and I told my friend Mike that on his next lazy Sunday afternoon he should swab the basement for DNA evidence.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Gift Suspense

Eli 3.6 was hanging out in Gloria's study while she wrapped up my Valentine's day presents. She had just finished putting them in a gift bag when I walked up.

"Can I help?" I said.
Eli whispered, "No, Daddy, you can't come over here. These are your presents." Then he said, "You got a GILMORE GIRLS DVD AND A BOOK."

Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW

So many companies have aggressively committed to building LCD's, and they've created so much capacity, that there is an enormous glut of panels on the market, and prices are dropping rapidly as a result.

Not this rapidly, though. Dell introduced a 24" widescreen LCD today--the UltraSharp 2405FPW--for $1,199. That's fully 50% below the price of competing panels. It can be used as either a PC monitor or an HD screen and it has an excellent response time, along with a wealth of features.

Extreme Tech gave it an excellent review today (9/10) and here's a link:,1558,1764458,00.asp.

If you're wondering why you should care, here's why: if an excellent 24" LCD is $1,199, that's going to drive down the price of every competing 24" LCD. When that happens, it's going to force down the price of every other LCD as well. Quickly.

Hopefully There's Only One

One last "Jake 2.0" variation. A reader who wishes to remain anonymous let me know that he has a friend named Tucker Fitzpatrick.

Oh my. I'm sure there's a limerick in there somewhere.

What You People are Sending Me

I've gotten a slew of interesting stories and links in the last few days from you guys.

DQ reader Chris Gwinn's sister has a new job--as the assistant to the artist-in-residence of the New York City Department of Sanitation. That's right--the NYC Department of Sanitation has an artist in residence. One of the oddest art jobs around, and here's a website where you can view the exhibitions:

Mark Vidov sent along a link to, believe it or not, "The Eli Project." It's now at version 3.6, and the upgrade path, while clearly horrifying, is less difficult than the upgrade path of the real Eli 3.6. Here's the link:

Brian Witte sends along a link to a revised version of "My Little Golden Book about God." While the pictures are unchanged, the text is now a primer--for an alien invasion. You can find it here:

Jeremy Fischer sent in a link to a video about the Mac. It's been around for a while, but it's still very funny:

Reader Stories

I received two very funny stories from DQ readers about the "Jake 2.0" post I made last week.

The first, from Tim Hibbets:
While discussing names for our daughter and looking for one that wouldn't obviously rhyme with something, a family friend remarked that she had done the same thing and was satisfied that no one was going to make fun of her son due to his name. His name? Tucker. I managed to stare at her for three full minutes after she said it.

And the second, from Mike Kolar:
Someone here was trying to decide the ethnic origins of "Haywood Jablome", and we decided the best answer was: Australian.

You guessed it- Haywood Jablome from down under.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eli Vator, Rescue Hero

Eli 3.6 has been running around saying lines from assorted Rescue Heroes episodes all week. Here are the top three phrases in our house:
--"BOOYAH! Victory is assured!"
--"It's go time!"
--"Let's move out, people!"

The Science of Popcorn

My long-time friend Frank Taylor e-mailed me last night and said that his son (Frank Jr.) had won a Grand Prize with his fifth grade science project.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because his science project was about determining the optimal temperature to store popcorn.

Geeks everywhere salute you, Frank Jr.

I've had unpopped popcorn in my freezer for years, because I'd always heard that it was the best way to get the most kernels popped and the fluffiest popcorn.

And as it turns out, I was completely wrong. After they popped and measured the volume of popcorn under different storage conditions (freezer, refrigerator, room temperature), here are the averages (three bags popped for each storage environment):
Room temperature: 2.25 liters, 10.67 unpopped kernels.
Refrigerated: .........2.25 liters, 15.33 unpopped kernels.
Freezer: .................2.06 liters, 36 unpopped kernels.

So the one place popcorn shouldn't be stored is in the freezer. Thanks to Frank Jr. for the methodical investigation.

Owen, the Hippo

I know I'm a cynical old crank, but I've always had a soft spot for stories about animals from different species meeting and becoming friends. I saw a bit of film footage once about a baby rhino who had become best friends with a goat, and even I had to admit it was pretty cool. So I'm poking around at (urban legend site) today, and I saw this listing:
Claim: Photograph shows a baby hippo and a tortoise who have become friends in captivity.

As it turns out, this story is true. The hippo is only a year old, still a baby, and the tortoise is over a hundred.

That brings up some really unpleasant memories of "Harold and Maude," but I'll let them pass.

So the tortoise has apparently become the little hippo's mother. It's quite a nice story, and there's an utterly charming picture of them together as well.

Here's the link:

The only cautionary note in the story comes at the end:
It is hoped that Owen [the baby hippo] will eventually mature into a romantic companion for a lonely female hippo named Cleo who is also housed at this wildlife park.

Cleo. Listen to me, dear. Dude lost his mom and was adopted by a hundred year old tortoise. Do you want to marry into that family? Get your freak on if you have to, but if he breaks out the Elizabeth Barrett Browning, leave skid marks in the driveway.

Terminal Velocity

Now that I've been famous, I know how fleeting fame can be. Fleeting. Fleeing. Whatever.

After less than twenty-four hours at a giddy #1 in Google when searching for the phrase "video clip of a chimpanzee scratching his butt," my reign has ended.

Yesterday, I was #1 with a bullet. Now I'm #2 with a boat anchor.

What, you may ask, have I learned about fame? To answer that question I'd like to tell you a story. Dorothy Parker received an invitation to a Halloween party, and it was mentioned that there would be ducking for apples. "Change one letter," Parker said, "and it's the story of my life."

That actually has nothing to do with me whatsoever, but I love that story.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Next Stop: The Putzliter Prize

I'll try not to get too emotional as I write this, but it won't be easy. I've written in relative obscurity for years, always hoping for a break, but the big time looked the other way.

Ran, actually. I was chasing after it, yelling "Big Time! Big Time!" and it pretended not to hear me.

Today, though, I found out that all the years of writing have finally paid off. Suddenly, I'm in the spotlight. If you go to Google and type in "video clip of a chimpanzee scratching his butt"...

That's right. I'm number one.

I'm living the dream, baby!

A Phone Message

Someone called while I was out digging ditches yesterday.

That's a metaphor, and a poor one. It's the only one I have in stock right now, and I apologize. I hope to have a fresh shipment on Friday. It's not easy keeping 4,000 words a week well supplied with trope.

I'd had my car worked on last week, and the call was a follow-up to that visit. The person who called, curiously, was named Melissa Etheridge. Gloria took a message for me, and this was it:


Melissa Etheridge

re: Recent service followup

p.s. somebody bring me some water.

If you have never been subjected to the strident bleating of Melissa Etheridge, you won't get the joke. Believe me, though, no matter how funny the joke was, you're still better off.

My wife. A damned funny woman.

Was "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" Already Taken?

Late start because I did something new today: I fell asleep at my desk.

DQ reader and Shreveport humanitarian Steve Micinski sent me a link to this story:

OLALLA, Wash. (AP) — "Jake 2.0" didn't cut it with viewers, and a couple who named their son Jake Matthew Thompson 2.0 are finding the numerical part doesn't cut it with businesses and government agencies.

Although decimal designations are commonly used for successive versions of computer software, many computers can't seem to handle it for human names, parents Kyle Thompson and Dawn Carpenter have been told.

Their son was born on Feb. 4, 2004, a couple of months after the UPN science fiction show was canceled after less than four months on the air, but they still liked the name.

"He's like an upgrade of us, the better version," Thompson said...

Carpenter, a housekeeper at a convalescent home and an aspiring actress, said some co-workers have told her that when her son reaches school age, classmates will make fun of his name, "but I don't worry about it.

"They made fun of me because my nose is small," she said. "They make fun of you no matter what you do."

Are you SURE it was your nose?

Yes, kids make fun of other kids. That's no reason to write "KICK ME" on your son's forehead. If your last name is Jablome, you don't name your son "Haywood" (thanks, Jon Stewart).

When we were thinking about baby names, I used one of my savant skills to exclude names that would become schoolyard taunts. It was like the speed round of a game show. All boys can innately find a dirty or demeaning rhyme for a name. It's our gift.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


DQ reader Court Dimon asked me to let you know about a contest he's sponsoring and I'm happy to do so.

I thought that maybe some of your faithful DQ readers would be interested in helping me out for the chance to win a board game (if they’re into that sort of non-computer mediated gaming).

Essentially, they visit the site, create a forum account and post answers to an easy quiz. At the end of the contest (next Monday), a random entry will be selected and the winner will receive a free copy of the Fantasy Flight Games board game of their choice. All the information can be found at

Just some basic information:

The site is being used for two purposes:

1) It fulfills a course project requirement (not in web-design mind you) and I need additional traffic to complete a specific load tracking study.
2) I am in the process of testing a board-game I designed, and the site is a mock-up corporate site devoted to the game. It also serves as a medium by which I can communicate with testers and interested players.

Eli 3.6 and the Code of Perfume

Woman have this secret code of competition when they're visiting each other. They have to fix their hair and put on makeup and perfume. It's as if they're expecting a spontaneous modeling competition to break out near them on a portable runway.

And if it does, they want to be ready.

So Gloria's having dinner with one of her friends tonight, and she goes through her usual rigorous preparations as I watch a Rescue Heroes episode with Eli. When she comes out of the bathroom, she's wearing perfume. Within seconds, Eli 3.6 yells "Mommie! There is an unfamiliar smell coming from you!"

DUBIOUS QUALITY: From the Inside

The following transcript was reconstructed from security tapes recorded at the Dubious Quality production facility on February 9, 2005. While there were over thirty people involved in the production of the February ninth blog, the voices identified on the transcript belong to the following employees: Otis P. Driftwood, Producer; Rufus T. Firefly, Engineer; Stephanie Dubious-Assham, Technician; Admiral Dan Sinking, Runner; Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding, Mastering Engineer. These employees are all sitting in the production booth, separated by glass from the writing floor.

Bill walks into the recording studio and speaks to the employees in the booth.

Bill (into microphone): Sorry, I'm late guys. Man, I had a great swim, though.
Producer: No problem, Bill.
(turns off microphone)
Producer: I could give two shits about his swimming.
Engineer: That's one more than I could give.
Runner: I had an internship with Conan O'Brien. Now I'm listening to people count shits. I've hit rock bottom.

(Bill sits down at the writing desk and stares at the monitor.)
Producer: So who's in the First Sentence pool?
Technician: I'll take 'It was a dark and stormy night.'
Engineer: I'll take 'Thanks to DQ reader xxx, who...'
Mastering Engineer: Five bucks on an anti-EA rant.
Producer: My guess is five thousand words on an obscure sports game. How's this for a first sentence? 'Little Debbie Equestrian Champions is a remarkable demonstration of the core mechanism of a great sports game: variation inside repetition.'
Producer: Thank you. That only took one draft, by the way.

Bill (into microphone): I'm having a hard time getting started.
Producer: No hurry. We've got time.
(turns off microphone)
Producer: We're 50K over budget and he hasn't written a word.
Technician: Diva.
Runner: He's more like a blind man looking for a flashlight. Even if he finds it, it's not going to do him any good.

Bill (into microphone): Okay, I think I'm ready.
(Bill, typing.)
Here's a follow-up on that monkey p*rn post from last week.
Producer (viewing monitor feed): Oh, my God. He's writing about monkey porn again. I am LOSING MY MIND here.
Technician (to Runner): NOW you've hit rock bottom.
Engineer: This is why I don't have any Webbies on my mantle.
Producer: Did I talk to him about the monkey porn last week? Did I not talk to him?
Technician: You talked to him.
Producer: It took him SIX MONTHS to forget about that video clip of a chimpanzee scratching his butt and then falling over when he sniffed his finger. This could go on for YEARS.

(Bill, staring off into space)
Engineer: We've got to get somebody on the phone. He's gone totally off the rails.
Mastering Engineer: What about Bill Abner? They get confused with each other all the time, anyway.
Producer: Somebody get Abner on the phone.

(Bill, staring at monitor)
Producer: Just type! It doesn't even have to be words. We'll fix it later.
Runner: Why are we working for this guy?
Mastering Engineer: Because he used to be good and he's got a name, so people read him.
Runner: I applied at Starspangledhaggis last week but they're not hiring.
Engineer: She doesn't need any help. She's actually funny.
Technician: I've got Bill Abner on the phone, but he's a no-go. Grade three ankle sprain and he's researching a seven volume history of the Cleveland Browns.

(Bill falls asleep)
Engineer: Talent down!
Producer: All we have is one sentence. Can we fix that in post-production, Jeffrey?
Mastering Engineer: Why should this week be any different?
Producer: All right, people. That's a wrap!
Technician: I'll bang out something we can post. Maybe an Eli story. I like making those up.
Producer: Thanks, Stephanie. It's a good thing he never reads his own blog--he might start looking for his imaginary family.
(lights turned out in production facility)
(sound of snoring).

Google Maps

Thanks to DQ reader Jarod Werbick for a link to the Google Maps beta. It's pretty amazing and makes Mapquest seem downright clunky. Here's a link:

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Balls, I Say

Excerpts from the story at
A Welsh rugby fan cut off his own testicles after his team beat England, police confirmed today...

It was reported that the man told his friends: "If Wales win I'll cut my own balls off."

After the 11-9 victory in the Six Nations clash, the man is reported to have gone outside and severed his testicles before bringing them back into the club to show fellow drinkers.

A local was reported as saying that the man was on medication and should not have been drinking.

Now that's what I call a bittersweet victory. And could somebody please call the "local" and find out WHAT medication this guy was on? Because we all need to check our prescriptions. Right now.

People can say about me what they want. My reputation doesn't mean so much that I want to be defined by the phrase "He's got no balls, but he's a man of his word."

I immediately assumed that this was an urban legend (and still hope it is), but a thorough search of and a few other places turned up nothing to discredit the story. During this search, Gloria was standing beside me, and after a few minutes she offered a definitive comment on the whole affair:
"The only thing worse than you scouring the Internet for confirmation that a man cut off his own balls is that I'm standing here watching you do it!" she said.
"I'm using that," I said.
"Great," she said. "Just great."

Cell Processor Articles

Here are a few links for further reading if you're interested: (the most detailed information I've seen),1558,1761778,00.asp

Virtual Apple

Thanks to DQ reader LP Miller (of the outstanding high-tech discounts site for sending me a link to the best emulator I've ever had the pleasure of using. It's an Apple II and Apple IIGS emulator, and it is beautifully easy to use--all it requires is an Active X control. There are over 1100 disk images online, and all you do is select the game you'd like to play and wait for it to load.

Just watching the IIGS boot-up screen brought back a flood of good memories. The first time I saw an Apple IIGS it was running Mean 18 (a golf game), and it looked and sounded so good that I was absolutely amazed. That was why I eventually bought a IIGS, and I have many, many good memories of gaming on that system. So it was a huge treat to play Mean 18 again and relive those memories.

Here's the link:

The Cell Processor

The Sony/IBM/Toshiba Cell processor was introduced yesterday at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. Well, "introduced" in the sense that some technical details were presented. There wasn't enough information to get a real handle on much of anything, except to confirm what we already knew: the Cell is an extraordinarily ambitious processor design and is truly revolutionary.

I'm going to try to explain this as simply as I can, and please be forewarned that given the highly technical nature of the information, I may not have a clear understanding. Basically, the Cell is revolutionary because instead of one processor doohickey it has multiple doohickeys and you can get additional doohickeys to use if the first doohickey is connected to other doohickeys.

Roughly speaking, of course.

Instead of a conventional x86 architecture, the Cell architecture consists of a Power PC chip "on top" and eight subsidiary processing units underneath. Each of these subsidiary units can be addressed individually or in combination, with the Power PC chip directing traffic, so to speak. It's a remarkably flexible and potentially staggeringly powerful architecture, particularly running at 4.6 GHz as claimed. According to ZDNet, it also can also process 256 billion calculations per second (256 gigaflops). As a comparison, they mention that the 500th fastest supercomputer currently in use can do 851 gigaflops. So essentially, a single Cell processor, allegedly is 1/3 as fast as a supercomputer.

That sounds pretty damned impressive to me, and it's even more impressive when you consider that devices with Cell processors can be networked to provide additional processing units for the active device. So a Sony computer, theoretically, could receive additional computing power by being connected to a PS3. Like I said, this is wildly ambitious, and it certainly appears to be one of the most radical and ambitious processor designs in history.

Thanks for all that. Keep your flops to yourself, if you don't mind. I'd really just like to play games. And there are certainly open questions when it comes to gaming. Primarily, with the tremendously flexible architecture, the level of complexity when it comes to programming may be extremely high. The Playstation 2 was released with almost no middleware, and it took years to develop appropriate tools. This processor makes the brains of the PS2 look like a pretzel stick. So unless Sony has robust middleware tools for developers, and quickly, the cost to entry in terms of creating a PS3 game will be very, very high.

So Sony's vulnerabilities are two-fold: first, this processor cost an incredible amount of money to develop, which might translate into an inappropriately high launch price for the console, and second, Sony must make it a priority to support developers with tools to reduce the complexity of programming such a flexible processor.

In terms of power, though, there's no question that this is a real beast.

Sony is also making noise that they're going to unveil the PS3 before E3. This is designed to make Microsoft honks start sweating and call meetings where endless Powerpoint Presentations are shown. I'm sure it's happening today, actually. It's all part of the endless strategic gamesmanship that's going to take place over the next six months. There's a good chance Sony is lying, just as there's a good chance that Microsoft will issue a lie in response. We really have no idea when these consoles will first be seen until a few weeks (or even days) before it happens. After that, they should both be playable at E3, and I would expect Microsoft to provide a launch date (October, I'm guessing) then as well.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Stuff You Might Like (Books)

I finished a few books in the last two weeks that I thought were excellent and I wanted to share them with you.

he's just not that into you (written by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo).
Written by two ex-Sex in the City writers, this book discusses how men REALLY feel about relationships and women. The basic premise is that if a man acts like he doesn't care, he doesn't. There's not some complicated dynamic at work--he's just not that into you. I picked this up one night at Border's because it looked funny, and it is. Wickedly funny. And it's also the most accurate description of men's behavior in a relationship that I've ever seen. It's what we are, ladies. And it's not pretty.

With the Old Breed:At Peleliu and Okinawa (written by E.B. Sledge)
Thanks to DQ reader Aaron Liebling for recommending this book, which is regarded as one of the best war memoirs ever written. E.B. Sledge, a Marine, fought in two of the most nightmarish battles of WWII, possibly ever--Peleliu and Okinawa. The language is very plain and straightforward, and Sledge writes without the ego and bravado that defines so many memoirs.

It is painful and unflinching and very difficult to read at times. It's also riveting and almost impossible to put down.

Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)
Murakami is one of my favorite writers, and this book is another journey into a strange and fantastic world of his own creation. If you liked Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, then skip out of work early and go pick this up. And if you've never read Murakami, he's one of the world's greatest living novelists as well as one of the most creative authors I've ever read.

The Secret Edge: Steroids in High Schools

There is a groundbreaking investigative article by the Dallas Morning News on steroid use by high-school athletes, and it's both thorough and disturbing. It's also well worth the read, particularly if you have kids or are interested in sports.

Here's the link:

It's a three-part series, so in addition to the articles you already see available, there should be one more tomorrow.

CGW: Off the Rails

Over the last few months, I've said many complimentary things about Computer Gaming World magazine. I said I thought it was the best-written, best edited, best layed-out computer gaming publication. I also implied that it was the most intelligent.

I'd like to take all that back now.

Before I do, I'd like to say that I still think Jeff Green is hilarious and also a terrific editor. And Robert Coffey is a very funny writer. And they have some very talented people working on the magazine.

None of which explains why their Game of the Year Awards article was so bad that I actually burst out laughing several times while reading it. This article was so bad it made Gamepro look like The Washington Post. During the Nixon years.

To start off, they basically invent a category called "Arcade Classic" in order to give Sid Meier's Pirates! an award. The other nominee was Zuma Deluxe. Baffled? Me, too.

The War Game of the Year went to Battles in Normandy--unopposed. There were NO other war games in 2004 even worthy of a nomination?

I have no idea who the RPG nominees were (besides the winner, Vampire), because they duplicated the Adventure nominees by mistake.

"Best Use of a Game Engine?" Silent Storm, because it "...calculates every detail--every broken window and bullet casing--and lets you see it all onscreen." What they should have added was "...two minutes after you end the turn." Yeah, it's cool to calculate all that crap, but not if I have time to shave between turns--with a blade.

It goes on and on. I've just scratched the surface, but you get the picture. And you think I'm just being pissy. Fair enough. Keep reading.

Then they get to Single-Player Shooter of the Year. Painkiller. Sorry, Half-Life 2. Listen, Painkiller was a nice game. It was pretty, absolutely no thinking whatsoever was required, and things blew up in ways that made seventh graders shiver with delight. But there is no known universe and no coherent method of evaluation that can make Painkiller a better game than Half-Life 2. It's ridiculous.

Half-Life 2 did win one award, which made me burst out laughing again. By far, the weakest element of the game was the music, and I wrote about in some detail. So of course, Half-Life 2 wins the award for--Best Music!

In another strange twist, Half-Life 2 was nominated for Game of the Year (World of Warcraft won), while Painkiller wasn't, but Painkiller is still the best in its category--which included Half-Life 2.

Even funnier is the Staff page where everyone lists their top-five games of the year. Eight people, mind you, and Half-Life 2 isn't mentioned ONCE.

Here's a little exercise. The chances of someone who's played Half-Life 2 thinking it's one of the top five games of the year is, conservatively, around 80%. That's probably well below the real number, but let's go with that. So four out of five people would put Half-Life 2 on their top five list. So what are the chances that a random group of eight people wouldn't mention Half-Life 2 once?

15,625 to 1.

Clearly something is going on here. And it's probably Steam. And they do give Steam the "Coaster of the Year" award, which is fine, because Valve has done some extremely jerky things with Steam, some of which appear to be of questionable legality. Blast the delivery method all you want, but the delivery method is not the game.

So why do I care? I'd like to think that there were some publications that I could depend on, and CGW has been my favorite gaming magazine from the day Jeff Green took over as editor. He took a magazine with no style or consistency whatsoever and turned it into an excellent publication. But I don't see how I can take a group of people seriously if they are so insular that they can collectively delude themselves.

A Note on "She's Dead"

If you're wondering where the scanned image below came from, go back to the January archives and read the January fifth post titled "Art Day Was Apparently a Complete Success." I've been meaning to scan it for weeks and finally got around to it yesterday.

She's Dead: The Scan (per your request) Posted by Hello

Friday, February 04, 2005

Live From Jacksonville

Bill Simmons, who is a very witty writer for, wrote an extremely funny column from Jacksonville, site of Sunday's Super Bowl. He doesn't like Jacksonville (apparently, no one else sent to cover the game does, either), and one of his memorable lines is "This place has turned me into Charlton Heston in Soylent Green."

Here's the link:

Our Neighbors

"I saw those people who live a couple of doors down," Gloria said. "What are their names?"

"The People Whose Names We Can't Remember," I said. "Mr. and Mrs."

"They were with their little boy," Gloria said.

"The Boy Whose Name We Can't Remember," I said.

"I can't believe he's almost one," Gloria said. "I wonder when it's his birthday."

"Mid-February," I said immediately.

"How did you know that?" Gloria asked.

"You know me," I said. "I'm all about the neighborhood."

"Oh, right," Gloria said, laughing. "Mr. Block Party."

I'm actually fairly sociable in our neighborhood, as incredible as that may sound. If I'm hanging out with Eli 3.6, everybody wants to talk. And I want to listen. Okay, I admit that sometimes I don't listen too well, and I only remember the name of one little boy because his name rhymes with "Funyon," but I'm trying.

Conversations From a Marriage, Part VII

Me: I notice you're getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night now. What's up with that?
Gloria: I don't know. It seems to take me a while to get started when I pee, and when I do, the flow isn't quite as strong as it used to be. Plus I seem to need to pee more often. What do you think it could be?
Me: It sounds to me like the doctor needs to examine your new penis.
Gloria: WHAT?
Me: Don't get all freaked out. I'm sure it's a very dainty, femine penis. But it sounds like you're describing a prostate infection, and that means welcome to Penisville, population one.

At this point I was smacked on top of the head. With vigor.


Thanks to Steve Davey for sending a link to the funniest "Scam the Scammers" story I've ever read. Someone was selling a Powerbook on Ebay and was approached by purchasers using a fake escrow account. They thought they would be getting a free Powerbook. How they wound up not getting the Powerbook and losing over $500 on top of it makes for hilarious reading. Here's the link:

The Heliodisplay

Thanks to Rhys. K. for sending me a link about the Heliodisplay, a holographic image generator. Here's the spicy part:
Amazingly, the machine can take input from just about any video source, such as TV, DVD or even video game systems can be interfaced to view the image in free space.

The Holodeck moves one step closer.

What's also interesting is that this machine is cheap (relatively)--around $18,600. That's a price breakthrough for this sort of technology.

Here's the link (with pictures):

And here's a link to IO2Technology:
The "demo with different lighting and backgrounds" video is pretty spectacular.

Peeing Man Update

Legitimate news organizations in addition to this bastion of investigative journalism have apparently been fooled by the "man peeing way out of avalanche" story. Here's the scoop from (
Origins: The story about a Slovak man who was buried inside his car by an avalanche, and supposedly freed himself by drinking beer and urinating on the snow to melt it, was carried by a number of western news services in January 2005. The story has so far proved difficult to verify because its attributions have been vague (e.g., "correspondents in Bratislava"), and it evidently originated in a part of the world (the Slovak Republic) where information sources are more difficult to track down (particularly because the language is unfamiliar to most westerners).

However, a correspondent who works for a Slovak news agency informed us that not only has the avalanche story (or any news story about an avalanche) not appeared in the news media there, but the very same tale (of Czech origin, told about an unnamed man caught in the Austrian Alps) was circulating in that country as an e-mail joke even before the heavy snows described in the article occurred.

So, while it is undoubtedly true that a Slovak man has drunk sixty half-litre bottles of beer, and a Slovak man has been trapped in an avalanche, it appears to not be the same man. At this time.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Print Me Some Sushi, Please

There is an amazing article in the New York Times about Homaro Cantu, a chef who is also, well, a geek. Here's a small excerpt from the article:
Homaro Cantu's maki look a lot like the sushi rolls served at other upscale restaurants: pristine, coin-size disks stuffed with lumps of fresh crab and rice and wrapped in shiny nori. They also taste like sushi, deliciously fishy and seaweedy.

But the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon
i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.

The guy is just spectacularly inventive. And what he's creating brings to mind the words of British geneticist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane: "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine."

Here's the article link:

What You People Are Sending Me

Man Pees His Way out of Avalanche (David Jones):
Just to clarify--David Jones sent me the link. He is not the peeing man.

Here's an excerpt:
A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

When found by police, he asked "What time does the match start?"

Okay, I added that last paragraph. The rest is verbatim, though.

No Ho, No Go
A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year...

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit...

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars.

Yes, it would have been very difficult to distinguish between serving drinks for money and having sex for money. Damn near impossible to sort through, actually.

[Update: I saw on the page that this is an urban legend:]

Fit Gamer
This whole idea of exercising while playing games is a curve I was apparently well behind, because I've seen a huge number of articles about it in the last month. Now "Staff" sends along this link: It's a compilation of gaming exercise equipment. The Golf Launchpad is there, which I've heard excellent things about, and so is the MOG On-Line Fitness Bike.

Like I said, I had no idea how much momentum this idea was gaining. I still think it would be easier just to get a recumbent stationary bike and play on a regular console, though. And I'd like to.

Malcolm Cox sends along a link ( to a crazy man who apparently makes a living flying with a jet "Rocketbelt." And now he has a spiffy imaginary superhero outfit to wear while he's flying.

Worst. Blind date. Ever.

Now that I go further into the website, in spite of all the entirely logical reasons not to, it appears that there are multiple Rocketmen. And here's a blurb from their website:
The Rocketman is an icon of American culture. Unlike many icons of today, The Rocketman image is one of integrity and honor. The Rocketman's goal is to show the light of true value to others.

Since more people walked on the moon than piloted a Rocketbelt, it is very rare to meet or have an autograph from a true "Rocketman."

I have no idea what the "light of true value" could be, unless that means the true value of scratching a gi-normous check to the Rocketman.

I also guarantee that more men have walked on the moon than have written this blog.

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