Posts Tagged 'wii'

Me and My Android 2.0



Meet Android

So, tomorrow’s the big day. I’ve taken the whole day off work. I’ve identified the Verizon Store I’ll be making my purchase at and I know that they’ll be opening at 7:00 am (three hours earlier than usual). I’ve called and crunched all the numbers with a Verizon Wireless “plan expert.” I’m going to show up at the store early (even before their 7:00 AM opening time). Every detail has been considered, processed and addressed.


The next question is, will I even like my new Motorola Droid?

I’ve hunted across the net and found mostly raving, shining reviews. There are a few iPhone fanboys and enthusiasts that are shrugging the Droid off (or worse), but for the most part the reviews are glowing. Many people have tried to call the Droid an “iPhone Killer,” but I agree with those who don’t even bother pitting the Droid against the iPhone. We’re talking about two completely separate demographics in the same market. Think Nintendo Wii versus Playstation 3. While they may technically share the same market, the numbers prove that the demographics are so wildly different that they might as well not even be competing against each other.

I think my favorite review so far isn’t about the Droid specifically, but about its operating system, Android 2.0. I found it on Gizmodo, a site I generally get news from through other sources. In this case, Matt Buchanan writes one of the most objective, comprehensive and even stinging reviews of the Android operating system I’ve ever read. Halfway through the article I questioned my decision to buy the Droid this Friday. If you have been considering buying an Android phone, make sure you don’t miss this review.

His conclusion? Keeping his audience in mind (remember, the site is called “Gizmodo”), he says, “I can’t say Android 2.0 is ready for your mom yet, but it’s definitely ready for anybody reading this.”

For one of my favorite aspects of the Android operating system, read this one about its integration with Google services.

Essentially, for someone like me whose life is already nearly fully integrated with the services Google offers (Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Contacts, Google Maps… the list goes on), the Google build of the Android operating system seamlessly synchronizes the online Google services with a device that you carry in your pocket. No more forgotten appointments. No more separate phone/address lists. Everything consolidates nicely into the Google package and I slip it into my pocket. Sure, Android has shortcomings. The Droid may not be the ultimate cellular device, and its hardware may even be lacking in a few areas. But I know that the Google Android branded Motorola Droid is a perfect match for me.

Why? Mostly because I already know I don’t want an iPhone.

Sophie’s First Oreo

We’ve had a very busy last couple of months. Allow me to attempt a summary here.

It has been crazy. We traveled, we found a new job, we novelled, we did some shopping, we fed Sophie an Oreo cookie…

Photo by Rochelle – From Family Stuff

Like I said. It’s been crazy. If you check out the Family Stuff album, you’ll likely see more photos of Sophie’s first Oreo experience. One of my favorite shots is of her examining the slimy remains of one of the cookies.

Ok, poll time. I spent the entire month of November writing for NaNoWriMo and completed the first draft of a 50,000 word “novel” (really, more like half a novel in length, and far less in actual content). This site (blog thing) is decidedly not for me to post entire chapters of a mediocre first novel draft. However, I might make it available for curious eyes via DeviantArt if enough people would be interested in reading it. Please be honest, the poll is completely anonymous and I won’t be upset if nobody wants to read it (I’m not sure I really want to read it again). To be fair, it is titled “Alex” and it is a science fiction novel that would most likely appeal to teens (though they might need to be drugged or bribed to actually read the story). It contains very little of my famous witty humor, and was written with the sole goal of reaching the 50,000 word count mark.

Most likely, I’ll spend some of my writing nights going over the draft and using it as practice for some of the editing techniques I’m learning about in the various books on writing that I’ve accumulated. With a massive amount of luck and stupidity on my part, the draft may even one day find itself polished enough to not  embarrass me as much as it does today.

For those of you who haven’t followed us very closely while I wasn’t posting here for a while, our Thanksgiving trip to Arizona went really well. We had a great time and my parents were extremely gracious hosts. We all got to meet my sister’s friend (of the male variety). I found it surprisingly easy to resist throwing most of those embarrassing jokes at him. I had hoped to find it in me to ruffle him up a little, but alas – he came away unscathed. Maybe next time.

We had considered visiting other people while in Arizona, but we didn’t even get confirmation that our travel plans were approved until the last minute, and since we drove out (a 12+ hour trip) most of our vacation week was spent in the car. Eventually we do hope to visit all of our dear friends and family members (except those who live too far away for our meager world-travel budget – we’re sure you understand).

In the way of a quick update, our family is doing very well. I recently received a call about an assignment. Training begins in the early parts of January (don’t send any perishables for my birthday, I’ll be done with training sometime in March). Micah is making steady progress adjusting to school life, Sophie is making steady progress adjusting Mommy to slave life, and Mommy and Daddy are nervous about the move (we still don’t know where we’re going to be sent for this job).

Photo by Brian – From Family Stuff

Most of my time at home these days is spent laughing at Sophie (like when she climbs into the space under the sink as seen above, but then decides its too far up to get down on her own) or working on a new family project (tentatively titled, “The Family Book” – including our family mission and the system outlined below, among other things). Ok, there are plenty of other things I spend my time doing, but those are the big ones.

Our family is developing a financial system. It’s something like a reward system and an allowance all rolled into a tortilla. At school, Micah is rated by his teacher based on his performance during different class activities. He comes home with a rating of a star (excellent), happy face (only one warning, then he did better), sad face (the warning didn’t improve his behavior) or a rain cloud (his behavior was terrible). 

Under the old system, we used the Wii as our leverage to get him to keep his bed dry and his school behavior satisfactory. If he went three or more days in a row with a dry bed, he was allowed to play the Wii for any amount of time that we saw fit. Wii privileges were removed when he woke up with a wet bed. However, if he behaved well at school, he could earn up to half an hour of play time per day regardless of his bed. At the time he was rated in five different categories in the classroom, so it followed that stars and happy faces were worth six minutes each, and anything else was worth nothing. Too many rain clouds though, and he got nothing.

The new system is much cooler, in my opinion. Using a free program called InkScape I designed our own family money. When Micah gets home from school, he gets two family dollars for a dry bed, two for each star and one for each happy face (he’s been way too satisfied with happy faces lately, but that still means he was doing something wrong and the teacher had to correct him). If we catch him doing anything extraordinarily wonderful at any time, we (his parents) can hand him some family money to say thanks.

Here’s a sample of the family one dollar bill:

There are also $5, $10, and $20 nominations available.

There are also $5, $10, and $20 nominations available.

Whenever he wants, he can use his family money to purchase things from the family store (a list of available items that we have posted on the refrigerator). Among the items for sale are: minutes to play the Wii (five minutes for one family dollar), going out for a scoop of ice cream (twenty family dollars), and going out to breakfast at a restaurant with mommy or daddy (thirty five family dollars). The prized item on the list (as far as he’s concerned) is a little card I made in InkScape that entitles him to play the Wii without purchasing minutes. The card is nice, with pretty graphics and everything, and we even had it laminated. The back of the card explains:

This card entitles the holder (child) to unlimited time on the Wii (with no need to purchase additional play time) according to standards and regulations to be determined by the parents of said child.

This card may be revoked at any time by the parents based on infractions to any set household rule.

Basically: as long as you hold this card you don’t need to spend your family dollars on Wii time, but if you break any rules or wet your bed, we’re probably going to take that privilege away from you and you’ll have to save up your money to buy it back. We didn’t want the card to be impossible to get, so it only costs ten family dollars. On a really good day, he could earn two for a dry bed and he now gets three ratings from his teacher so up to six family dollars from school behavior – that’s eight family dollars a day. Even if he doesn’t have perfect days, he should have enough to buy the card after a couple of days with no problem. Although, today he only got two family dollars (two happy faces at school, a sad face and a wet bed in the morning). We gave him his own wallet to keep everything in (the money and the Wii card, when he buys it) and basically told him to treat all of this stuff like the real thing. He seemed excited, but a little depressed that he only got two dollars on his first day of doing the new program.

When Sophie gets older (old enough to count and do basic addition with some help) we’ll start her on this too. I think it’s a good introduction to money and it is a great reward system for children who can handle it. If we tried it right now with Sophie, she would eat the money. She loves eating paper. We really have to watch her lately, because anything she can tear goes directly into the mouth for consumption.

She’s been experimenting with new sounds as well, and a lot of what she says sounds like real, deliberate speech. She forms rudimentary sentences using phrases like “bite bite” which sounds more like “bye bye” combined with “mama” or “dada.” She also says “dis” (this), “dah” (that) and “I did id” (I did it). She also claps (occasionally her hands even slap together to make the traditional clapping noise, but most of her clapping is silent) and says “yeah!” Most of her expression is in her beautiful face, though, and she makes the most adorable happy sounds (lots of raspberries, grunts and squeals).

Everything she says is said with a fat, heavy tongue that causes spit to go flying everywhere and all of her attempts at “S” sound more like “SH.” Imagine our surprise, then, when she attempted to say “sit” this morning. If she hadn’t demonstrated the action immediately after saying it, we might have thought she had picked up a bad word from somewhere (though we couldn’t imagine where – nobody in our house uses words like that). Since she was already seated when she said “sit,” the only logical place to go from there was to the reclined position, which she achieved by throwing herself backward.

To demonstrate to us that she had completely mastered the word and technique, she sat back up, said “sit” (with the “SH” sound still, but a little clearer), and threw herself back to lay down again. 

To give you an idea of how I spent my November, as of right now, this entry contains roughly 1,500 words. To meet the requirement of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo last month, I had to average at least 1,667 words a day (for thirty days) or, since I wanted to finish early, I set the goal for  myself of hitting at least 2,500 words a day. I didn’t always meet that goal, but I did finish the story a few days early and there were at least two times when I didn’t write for a few days in a row.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m sure there is more I can share, but it’s late and I want to get this posted and send out an e-mail so you all can enjoy my meaningless ramblings. Thanks for reading, and be sure to keep in touch.

Review: Wall-e (Game for Wii)

Summary: Fun Game – Rent Me First

Pros: Fun to play, easy-ish controls, tons of multiplayer options, nice graphics, cheat codes.

Cons: Not a whole lot of replay value, only a couple of multiplayer games are fun, cheat codes cause glitches.

Game Cover

Game Cover

I rented this game, and I’m sure glad I didn’t rush out and buy it.  As much as I loved the movie, I was hoping the game would be good.  Plus, I read some reviews and found quite a few people saying the game was actually pretty fun (as far as movie games go).  Since most movie games turn out to be lame, and some people were saying this one was fun, I decided to get it.  I almost just bought it, but in a fit of good judgement I decided to rent it first.


From the very beginning the game established a routine with me – lots of waiting for things to load.  This game loads especially slow, even for a Wii game.  I imagine the load time comes from the massive graphics.  Every new level brought a loading screen that would show hints and tricks completely unrelated to what you were about to do.  I love Wall-e though, so I was willing to wait for him.

I imagine that you, as a potential buyer of this game, are interested because you loved the movie like I did and are hoping to jump into the story and feel of the movie through this game, reliving those beautiful memories.  While this game does a much better job of carrying the feel of the movie to your game console than past attempts, it still falls short on too many levels to really get me excited.

The production of the game began before the movie was released, and the game crew was working with concept sketches and written descriptions of many parts of the unfinished film in order to do their job.  In several places they had to do their own thing rather than follow the actual movie, though most of the time the game follows the movie’s storyline almost exactly.

I was able to work through the entire game in a matter of hours (two or three) which unlocked most the game’s content.  The remaining unlock-ables are cheats that can be found by searching the web.  Unfortunately, the cheats rarely made the game more fun, and in most cases they caused severe glitches that, on occasion, completely crashed my system and necessitated restarting the Wii.  This may not be the experience everyone has, but it was certainly enough for me to avoid using the cheats and recommend that you do the same (or, cheat at your own risk!).

The little Wall-e character was adorable on the screen (just like in the movie) and the look and feel of the environments was appropriate.  Some of the challenges were difficult, but beating the game was not.

I especially enjoyed a couple of the multiplayer modes, but was disappointed that only one or two of them was worth my time.  In fact, my overall evaluation of the game was not as positive as I would like to report.  Video games based on movies are rarely up to the quality that they should be, and I was hoping (in vain) that this one would be the exception.  If you have ever played and enjoyed a game based on a movie in the past, and you loved the movie Wall-e, then I recommend that you try this game.

Try it, then buy it if you like it.

Unrealistically Cute

How often do you wish technology would just deliver what it promises?

I have about had it with hardware that doesn’t do its job, broken links and slow system performance.

However, the hard work is done and I am now free to write a fun little tidbit for you all.

If you found this entry searching for anything related to:

Samus Aran


Super Smash Brothers Brawl

you can either continue reading (which will probably end up being entertaining and worth your time) or jump to the end for a summary and links to all the important stuff (lame).

That’s right, it’s all about a video game tonight, and special character in the game.

When I was young I loved watching cartoons and playing video games, and such activities always provide plenty of cute little girl characters to attract the straight little boys and make them want to play the game or watch the show. For example, I actually watched the Power Puff Girls because I had a little thing for Blossom.

Any time I tried a new racing game or fighting game, I wanted to be the girl just so I could watch her while I played. Obviously, I liked girls a lot then, and I still do. I married one.

Of course, just because I’m married it doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking these characters are cute.

Not long ago we purchased a new game for our Nintendo Wii. The game (some of you may be familiar with it) is Super Smash Brothers Brawl (or SSBB for short, check it out on Amazon). The game is massive, with tons of characters to play, levels to play in (even a level editor for if you get bored with the ones they made) and trophies and stickers to collect. There is an adventure mode to play that resembles older RPG style games but in the Smash Brothers game play. As with prior versions of the game, you can pause it durring the battles and move the camera around to take pictures (more on that later).

I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with the game for the last week or so, and early in my time getting to know it I found a character that I really loved.

Not only is the character a good player with nice, powerful moves to keep me winning a lot, but she happens to be rediculously and unrealistically cute. Meet Samus Aran:

As far as video game chicks go, she is the cutest one I’ve ever seen, and she’s got a big gun. I’m not usually into blond hair, but in this case it doesn’t matter. She’s got a simple face, pretty hair and a plain body (with the usual virtual enhancements to fill her out, which are not necessary but they make money).

After seeing her in the game, I realized there was probably a lot of fan art and material dedicated to her online, so I poked around just a little bit and found something that opened up a whole new world to me. The world of cosplay.

Basically, the way I understand it, cosplay is a word coming from “costume play” and it represents a whole network and community of individuals who devote a healthy (or, I’m sure sometimes unhealthy) portion of their time and effort into creating costumes and props and attending events dressed as characters from games, shows and movies all over the country and even the world.

What I found was a Samus Aran cosplayer who actually looks a lot like the real deal (only slightly more realistic). As of writing, she hasn’t updated her blog since January of this year, but here’s a link and here is a photo of her as Samus:

Isn’t she cute? Her face matches the video game character’s closer than any of the other “cosplayers” did, she’s got the big gun and her hair is just right.

I looked through some of her other photos (none were of as good a quality as this one) and saw some really sweet photos of her posing with kids at comic book conventions, hugging other video game characters and even posing next to a few real celebrities in the world of comics and anime (or at least, I thought they looked like the real people, I could be wrong).

Of course, I am not the only married man who thinks Samus is a hottie. Plenty of people absolutely worship this character and it was fun looking into their little world.

So, using the photographing feature in the game, I took some cool photos and wanted to share them. I went through the usual process of trying to get the photos off my Wii and onto the computer, but was stumped. I couldn’t just e-mail them to myself, they seemed to be an in-game item only, not viewable outside the SSBB game. There is an option to copy the pictures to an SD card in the Wii, so I tried that, but the files are stored as .bin files, not image files (.bin is used as a general file format for all kinds of random crap and is rarely meant to be opened or read by human eyes, only by the programs that made them).

That’s when I did what any nerd would do – searched the web to see if and how other people were doing it. I came across a whole bunch of people who credited one known as GTCoder as being the super-coder who wrote a simple .BAT for converting a bunch of the .bin files into .jpg files. It came bundled in a .zip along with a couple other files, I’m sure they’re useful too, but I only needed the bin2jpgall.bat program which converts any .bin file in its folder to a JPEG.

If you need it, the download can be found here, and you want to make sure you get the “Windows binaries: bin2jpg tools” rather than the source code (unless you’re hip to that stuff).

Of course, it wasn’t that easy (it never is). No, not for me…

First, in looking for the GTCoder program I found several broken links before stumbling upon the one that worked (found it on YouTube, of all places).

Then I loaded the images onto the SD card and went to put them onto my laptop (where I write from and do all of my Internet stuff). That would have been the most convenient and direct way to do it, especially since the laptop has a built-in SD card reader…

Guess what? The SD card reader doesn’t work anymore (anyone know how to fix that? It recognizes when I stick a card in, but doesn’t recognize that the card is formatted). So, I had to use the family PC to transfer the .bin files from the SD card to my thumb drive (good old trusty thumb drive…) and then take it to the laptop. From there, everything worked fine.

Here are a few of the photos:

If you’ve played the game you might be asking why the pictures look just a little funny. The Wii does a little anti-aliasing but stores the images in their raw, pixelated form. I could have taken these into Photoshop and made them look a little more like they did on the screen, but decided not to waste my time – they look just fine as they are.


In summary (for the losers who didn’t want to read all of the stuff I wrote:

*** I found a really cute girl who calls herself “a girl from mars” who dresses up like Samus Aran and looks a lot like the real fake character.

*** I found a way to convert the .bin files from your SD card (the way the images from SSBB are stored) to JPEGs using GTCoder’s tools.

*** Finally, I was really amused while reading in the Samus is a Hottie post by “chris” to learn that performing well in the prior Metroid games has always led to images of Samus outside of her power suit (like the images you see above, only less cool). Here’s an example (see his post for more):

With power suit (notice the time):

Without power suit (see the time again):

Notice that “without the power suit” means “without much on at all.”

Aahh, I love video games… 😀

Where I Went

Occasionally I may disappear from time to time. I should hope that anyone who knows me at all would realize that my disappearing does not mean that I have ceased to be actively engaged in something. In fact, when I neglect something like my “thing” here it’s usually because I have something more exciting going on.

In fact, over the last week I have had several more exciting things happening than this.

In small news, we rented a fun game over the weekend. I loved the movie “Wall-e” so much that I just had to try the Wii game. Overall, my impression of the game was a good one. I think the developers rushed through parts of the game, but the majority was well thought out and fun.

The real time sucker for me the last week or so has been related to my last post about the game project. Shortly after writing that post, I came up with the bright idea to set the actual game portion aside and continue with an aspect of my original idea – the part where simple games could be made even by a novice or child.

I remembered the days when I had a TI-eighty-something graphing calculator that allowed for some simple code writing (scripting) in its native language. I was able to program it to play a number guessing game. It would print out on the screen “guess a number between 0 and 100” or whatever two numbers I chose, then I could guess. It would tell me “too high” or “too low” until I got the answer and it reset to “guess a number…” The experience with programming that simple application was enough to spark my interest in computer and web programming and has led me to better learn linear/sequential-thinking skills (I guess I’m a visual/spatial person, and linear or sequential thinking is difficult for me).

What I’m getting at is this: I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if I could write a program that would ease my son into the world of programming!?!” My son is definitely sequentially challenged and could certainly benefit from a bit of computer interaction at the programming level. How do you teach a five-year-old to write code though? So, I devised a plan (like I always do).

The plan was only complicated because of how elegantly simplistic and straightforward it was. It would be able to teach anyone the basics of a simple web programming language known as JavaScript. I developed an outline for a set of lessons that would walk the user through various levels of difficulty in programming functions. The program itself would adapt its interface to grow with the user as he progressed through the lessons and became more proficient.

I may or may not create the JavaScript teaching program, but I am already nearly done with one of the projects the program would walk the user through creating.

In fact, the project has grown into something far more complicated than anything I would ever ask a new programmer to attempt. It has even stumped me a couple of times in big ways.

When I finish it, I’ll try to upload it to my Google page so you can try it out. Quickly, before I go off to bed, I’m going to explain what it is and ask for your input and suggestions.

I’m making a simple game that will be played in the web browser. It is programmed entirely in JavaScript and is (as of right now) designed to be played in one sitting, though each time you play it your choices will create a different experience. If I go back and review techniques for writing and reading cookies to your local machine, I may be able to allow you to save your progress, but for now the entire game resets when you close the browser, refresh the page or load the page.

Right now, the entire look of the game is achieved with text. Here are a couple of screen-shots to illustrate:

Eventually I may take screen-shots like these into Photoshop and modify each individual character to better represent its item (saving the modifications as small images and having the program assemble the images in the same manner as it assembles the text).

For now, I would simply have to explain what each character represents for a person to be able to play the game. The @ symbol represents the main character. The & represents other people, the s and S are snakes, the $ is money, * is health and the C is a lucky horseshoe. Of course, the e is an enemy, as are the Q’s and the snakes. The H’s at the tops and bottoms of the screens are doors, and the I’s are also doors on the sides. The ^ represents a hill that can be walked on, but an A is a mountain and cannot be initially transversed (perhapse special shoes could be obtained allowing one to scale a mountain). The w is water, and a raft (#) is required before one can cross rivers that do not have a bridge (=). Sand and grass are represented by periods, semicolons and commas, and trees are exclamation points.

Of course, there are many other characters that I have used, but it would be a simple job to have the Javascript replace each letter or character with an image and thus create a much less jarring visual experience for the user.

Essentially, I have too many ideas (just for the game engine, the inner-workings of the code that drives the game) to outline everything here. The room on the right in my example was dark (represented by a screen full of E’s) until I used my candle to light it up (many ideas are drawn from games like the Zelda and Link series). I have set my code up to be flexible enough to do almost anything. All I need now are more ideas.

What kinds of stories would you tell if you had an open ended game like this? What kind of adventure would you go on? You can’t bring any friends with you, and your items may be limited (with no features for animating, enemies don’t move and it would be nearly impossible to actually use the bow and arrow – for now I don’t plan on animating anything), but many quests and adventures are still possible. Send me your best ideas and I’ll see if anything sounds fun to me.

My wife has already contributed (Burt and the gummi worm are her handiwork). What ideas will you contribute?

Once I’ve finished the basic game engine I’ll try to post it online somewhere so you can see what it’s capable of. I won’t have a story fully developed by then, of course, but everything should function properly (as of right now, it is possible to lose a battle and end up with negative health points, but you don’t die). I’ll work out the bugs and you can come up with ideas for me. If your idea requires a reworking of the basic engine, but it’s good, I’ll see what I can do. Remember, I’m keeping things fairly simple, but complicated enough to be fun.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… The portion I expected an intermediate beginner to be able to code was finised within the first day. It consisted of a few lines of code to draw the map and some buttons that moved the little man around in the map. From there I just kind of went crazy… And what if you could collect items? Oh, and what if you could have a raft? Wow, and how about doors? Let’s put some enemies in! We need weapons, and battles, and candles for darkness, and keys for doors, and guys to talk to, and boss battles, and stores, and dynamic items and terrain, and conversations, and why won’t he die?, and, and, and… … …

Three is a BIG Number

When you’re stressed, tired or just four months old, three can seem like an awfully large number.  We had three events today, all of them sizable, and all of them enjoyable (when taken one at a time, per day).

First, a movie!  I love movies, and I especially love Pixar movies.  Today we saw what may soon be known as my favorite movie – WALL*E.  I generally consider movies either one of my favorites because I don’t want to actually say one good movie was better than another good movie.  In this case, though, you’ve got some great animation, wonderful characters, good story, fun laughs, stunning visuals and strong emotional elements.  Before this movie I loved Stardust, A Knight’s Tale, The Incredibles, and a few others – each as one of my favorites.  Now, though, I may begin saying that WALL*E is my favorite movie (until I find something better).

After the movie my five-year-old had to go to the bathroom and I was left holding Sophie in the lobby.  There was a huge, cardboard model of WALL*E, so I had the baby pose for some pictures in front.  Click on the smaller images to see larger ones:

Next, a birthday party for two little girls each turning one in the same month.  Silly?  Yes.  Excuse for adults to get together and drink?  Also.  We left at the first signs of tipsiness from one of the hostesses.  Not because she was getting drunk, but because we have a four-month-old and we had other things to do.

Before I leave the subject of that little party, I have to mention that it is so funny to watch the four-month-old baby when she gets her little fist wrapped around a Twizzler and starts to suck on it.  She absolutely loved the Twizzlers and the chips (don’t worry, I only let her suck until they got too soft but before they broke apart).  She also enjoyed sucking on ice and baby carrots.  Oh, and Laffy-Taffy.  She enjoyed the Laffy-Taffy for almost fifteen minutes.

Finally we headed over to the home of our friends (D’n’A) and ate dinner.  After dinner we played some games among screaming babies.  It was a good time despite my utter exhaustion and high stress levels.  I get stressed for reasons most people would scoff at, and the stress often gets worse if I begin worrying about whether my stress and social awkwardness are making others uncomfortable with me.  Fortunately for our friends D’n’A, I don’t stress much at their house because I don’t worry about whether they are uncomfortable with me or not.

At last we ended up at home with a very tired baby girl who had too much to do in one day.  I played a few minutes of a Wii game while my wife fed the baby, then I started typing this (which turned into a much longer project than I thought).  I think I hear the baby making some noise now, so I’m off to work.  Soon I’ll begin writing for the sake of writing again.  For now I’ve been using this mainly for family updates.  Before long I’ll get back to work!

Fine, I’ll Write Today

I still get up to write every day, as I originally promised myself, but I just haven’t felt much like writing anything here. Honestly, I haven’t had much to write in my other projects either.

This is, of course, because of the stress I’m going through right now with some big things at work and at home. For example, we’ll be moving within a month, and we’ve done almost nothing to get ready for the move. Sure, we’ve done some little things here and there, but we’re MOVING. That’s a big deal.

Eventually the stress will subside or I’ll get better at dealing with it and I’ll start writing more. Like I said, I haven’t stopped writing, I just haven’t felt very inspired. I’ve been trickling the few ideas I do have into a short story (that’s getting a little long). You might see that story posted here if I ever get around to finishing it. I often worry though that the parts I wasn’t excited about writing won’t be very exciting to read. I’ve heard authors say that this principle of proportion doesn’t necessarily hold true, but that’s the way it feels to me.

You might even be able to detect in my tone here that I just don’t have anything to say. I’m writing to write, not to say anything. I’ll stop now and write again when I have a good reason.

Ooh! New topic – I remember something I can tell you about!

In family news, we got Wii Fit yesterday. This was a bit of a miracle, since the store we went to wasn’t supposed to have any until Sunday morning (now).

So how did we do it? I’m not going to mention any details because I don’t want anyone to get in trouble, but a very kind employee of a store we love did us a favor. We had never met this employee before, but there should be an employee of the month nomination for him/her!

Basically I asked if they had any in stock, and the employee responded that they wouldn’t until tomorrow (Sunday) morning. I was let down a little and explained that it’s not possible for us to come in on a Sunday to buy one, so we’re just going to have to keep waiting until they are readily available on the shelves for weeks at a time. We all know that’s not going to happen any time soon…

Anyhow, we cruised around the store for a little while longer, then decided to leave. Just before exiting though, Sophie spit up all over the place and we had to stop to clean it up. My wife was rummaging around the diaper bag looking for wipes and stuff when another employee pointed out to me that my baby was spitting up all over the place. Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. I smiled and thanked him, adding that we were cleaning it up. He told us not to worry about the floor, they could get that. I thanked him again, we wiped the baby and me off, then walked out the door.

We were about to leave the sidewalk in front of the store when I heard a voice behind me. I turned and saw employee #1 following us trying to get my attention. We stopped and the employee said something like this: “You guys still interested in that Wii Fit?”

I said, “Of course yes!”

The employee said, “I talked to my boss, and as long as you guys go along with my story that you’ve been in here three times looking for it and you can’t come in on Sundays, he’s agreed to let me sell it to you today.”

We were ecstatic. The employee had us wait inside the store again while he/she went to the back to get it for us. We paid at the special customer service register after thanking the employee emphatically with many wonderful superlatives.

We played it a little last night and are bored with it already. We’ll probably take it back to the store tomorrow. Just kidding! We love it. It’s a lot of fun. In fact, I even feel like I got some real exercise. I worked up a sweat and everything.

Well, I’m glad I found something I wanted to write about. It’s much easier to write when I feel like I have something to say.

Until next time.

Fun Free Online Games

UPDATE: The links from this entry have been expanded upon and moved to a separate page.  Please visit the “Other” page and click through from there to online only games or downloadable games.


I need to make an hour of writing up to myself. Last night was Thursday, and according to my schedule I should have written for an hour (Tuesdays and Thursdays from nine to ten pm). However, because I have the day off today (Friday) yesterday felt like Friday and I didn’t even think about it possibly being Thursday. Oops.

While I should have been writing I was doing something I haven’t let myself do for a long time – I was playing games. Lately, the only time I’ve been turning our Wii on is when we have company who we play with or to treat my son to a few minutes of playing or helping with a game if he has been behaving well.

So, about ten minutes before his bedtime we turned it on and he chose to watch me play Super Mario Galaxy (a great game, by the way). Half an hour after his bedtime I coaxed him into going to bed without throwing a fit (a noble feat, he usually throws an all out tantrum when we tell him it’s time to stop playing games), and then I did something I haven’t done for myself for months: I went back to the game room after tucking him in and I put on a game just for me.

I used to do it fairly regularly, but it’s been months now as things have been pretty hectic. I guess the transition was the baby. I got back from a trip to Egypt and we had a new baby and I tried getting some evening gaming in before bedtime, but it was difficult, selfish and by that late at night I was exhausted from not getting enough sleep at night and working harder all day.

Last night though, I did it – I turned a game on and played by myself until my wife came home twenty minutes later. It wasn’t a long time, but it was fun. I played a game I’ve been borrowing from a friend (and it’s high time I returned it too). I’ve always been a big fan of the Legend of Zelda games, and even though I’ve only been borrowing it, someday I hope to buy the Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess. If you’re a Zelda and Link fan, you should check out this great recreation of the first Legend of Zelda for the NES called Zelda Classic. It’s a free download (only for PC, I think) and it can provide hours of fun (if you let it). It was began as a “prove I can do it” project by a sole programmer many years ago; but when he had succeeded at recreating the game, down to the last detail, he declared it finished. The on line following of fans became upset. They must have been the dreamer and imaginer type like me, because I always look at something that is “done” and ask, “what would make this even cooler?” The fans rallied some programmers and took the original open source project and began adding features. Now, the game not only emulates the first Legend of Zelda exactly, but it can simulate other early versions of the game for the NES, SNES and GameBoy. My favorite feature though is the editor, which lets you design your own Zelda game based on the tile sets and graphics from all of the early games. Now that is fun. Plus, it’s free! Who can beat that?

That’s a charming story of a great console game becoming an even better computer game with its roots in the on line world. When my wife arrived home she brought the baby in to feed her and watch me play for a while. She gets bored with me running around aimlessly in Hyrule, so I went to the Wii Shop channel to show her a cool WiiWare game that I thought she would enjoy. This game is a charming story of an on line game that became a platform game. I had heard of it before, but when I read a story by Wired about which WiiWare titles were going to help launch the service I was impressed that it was on the list. The game is called Defend Your Castle and it was originally done in flash. We downloaded it last night and I played for about twenty minutes. It was pretty enjoyable, very humorous at times and around round fifteen (where I left off last night) it was beginning to get challenging.

The graphics are cute. You have a castle, which appears to be made out of cardboard or construction paper, and these little stick figure guys are trying to raid it. They run in from the left in waves all day and at night you take a break from defending your castle. The stick guys have buttons for heads and their bodies are drawn with pencil or something. Some are carrying pop sickle sticks to bust the door of the castle down. Damage to the castle occurs when they make it to your castle and start pounding on it. Your job is to grab them and fling them into the air or smash them into the ground. They scream, their bodies splatter (it’s bloody in the original flash game, but it’s clean on the Wii for children) and you get a good, albeit guilty chuckle at the little guy’s demise. It’s especially fun when you really launch them good and it takes a while for them to fall. I like tossing a whole bunch of them and watching them rain down randomly. At night, when the attacks have subsided, you repair damages, upgrade and begin the next round. The upgrades and repairs are done with money you earn from defending against attackers. The more attackers you stop the more money you get. Some of the upgrades make the castle’s defenses stronger, some allow you to convert attackers to workers to defend your castle, and others add an archer tower, a bomb making tower and others to help with the war.

Now, as a family game, here’s the best feature. Up to four players can play at once, and it doesn’t require starting a new game or a special game. At any time players can jump in or drop out, simply by activating or setting down a remote (respectively). As more players join in the difficulty is increased to prevent the additional defenders from getting bored. Oh, did I mention that the cursor you’re using to pick these guys up is one of those plastic doohickies that come on bags of bread to seal them but always get lost? Fun. Anyhow, throughout the “day” whichever defender destroys the most attackers gets to be king for the night and handle the upgrades and repairs.

I’d say it’s one of the best WiiWare titles from among that initial lineup and it’s definitely worth the five dollars it cost.

In the spirit of fun, free on line games, I have assembled a list of fun games I have played over the years to kill time on line. I haven’t played some of these for ages, but I find time every once and a while to click around in them. Here they are with a brief description of each (in no particular order) and links to the playable version on the Internet:

  • I’ve already introduced Defend your Castle, but there’s another, similar game that my brother introduced to me called Desktop Tower Defense. If I had to give an award for most addictive, it would go to this one. Here, in stead of a side view of a castle and stick figures attacking, you have a desktop with a bird’s eye view and creatures are moving across the desk (either from left to right on easy mode, or from the left and the top in straight, intersecting lines to the opposite sides in harder difficulty settings). In this game, you can’t use your mouse to fling the creatures back, you have to build towers with money you get at the beginning, then upgrade and build more towers with money you get from killing the creatures. It may not sound very interesting now, but once you get started you’ll probably have to keep going. You see, the towers attack the creatures by shooting at them, slowing them down, etc. and they also create a barrier the creatures can’t cross. So, you build walls that they have to go around (but you’re not allowed to completely block their path across the desktop) and eventually these walls become complex mazes. It is a strategy game for hard core problem solvers and there are plenty of modes of game play if you get bored with the basic game.
  • In the spirit of strategy games, I have something here that will probably make you nostalgic if you are close to my age. Someone has built an emulator to run the Oregon Trail on the Internet! If you really don’t know what that is, look it up on Wikipedia.
  • Another classic game brought back on the Internet also got its start on the NES. I found this one looking for something else (can’t remember what). How many of you have played Duck Hunt on the NES? Well, if you miss that game you’ll have to run over to Johnny Slack and click on the Duck Hunt link (it’s a flash site so everything is run from the same page, I can’t provide a direct link to the Duck Hunt game). It’s fun just to shoot around (clicking the mouse, of course) and remember the good old days.
  • If you’re looking for mind-numbing, do nothing games, look no further. Interactive Buddy is a flash game made by some dude on DeviantART and it is just fun. Here’s the idea. You have this guy, who just stands there, and you use a variety of weapons and toys to make him happy or beat the snot out of him. You can toss baseballs to him and he gets happy playing catch (earning you lots of money) or you can toss grenades at him and he will catch the first one thinking it’s a baseball, but once it blows up he becomes terrified of them. The explosions are fun, and they still get you money to buy more stuff like upgrades to the game’s look, skins to make the guy look like famous people, and of course more weapons.
  • My final item for you is also a do nothing game that got its start at DeviantART but is now being developed into a Wii console game. It’s called Line Rider, and it is really fun. I have it on my phone. The idea is you draw lines and this guy rides them on a sled. From there you just have fun. Check out the site for videos of some really awesome rides, then create your own! (I sound like an ad, don’t I?)

That pretty much sums up the fun games I’ve found. If you have some of your own that you just can’t stop playing, post a comment with a link! Here’s the concise list:

One more bit of news. I announced a project a while back that I have been working on, but the going has been very slow. Believe me when I say I am going to continue working on it, but don’t expect to see anything any time soon. Life is not very conducive to carrying such a project out right now, and I have found short stories a lot easier to write than creative nonfiction about real people. Like I said, you can look forward to it in the future, but don’t hold your breath. You can hold your breath until I post a fun short story soon though (but only if you are capable of holding it for more than a week, because I don’t know when I’ll actually be posting one fo the stories). Just keep in mind that I will not be held liable for anyone who passes out because they are waiting for me to post a short story. I hope to finish and post one within the next week or so.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

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January 2021

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