Where I Have Been

I have, as you can tell, not been doing much blogging lately. Instead, I’ve been making videos on my channel, Tea Leaves Programming. What kind of videos? All sorts, but as you might expect there’s a clear focus on obsolete programming languages, computer games, and retro computers generally. In addition, there’s the occasional video about double-entry bookkeeping (it’s a long story.) See you there!

Heaven's Vault

I was midway through my second playthrough when I realized that Heaven’s Vault was an order of magnitude deeper than I thought it was. If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this review, that’s it: there is more to this game than meets the eye. And there is much that meets the eye. There are layers upon layers here, and you will not discover them the first time you play. Read On →

Masala Chai Custard

For complicated reasons I have been making a lot of custards lately. A friend asked for the recipe, so I’m typing it up here. Custards fall broadly into two categories: stirred custards, and baked custards. Baked custards are in some sense easier and more reliable, taking less attention but more equipment and fuss. Because I’m very very lazy, I prefer to make stirred custards, which require more focus while making them but use fewer dishes and equipment in the kitchen. Read On →

The Game Detective: The 'Marcus Aurelius' Version of Star Trek

In the very first year of this weblog - 2004 - I published an article with the (I thought) Calvino-like title of I Giochi Inesistenti that described the strangest of Star Trek text games: a game which, at seemingly semi-random points, would emit long, wandering quotes from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. It was such a strange, mismatched thing that I wasn’t entirely sure it existed. I’ve looked for this game on and off since that time. Read On →


Editorial note: This review contains minor spoilers for BattleTech. Pete and I are both nerds of a certain age, and BattleTech is one of those giant robot franchises that was formative for both of us. (Although apparently Pete had waaaayyyy more of the novelizations than I did.) I’m a fan of what Harebrained Schemes has been doing lately (the Shadowrun CRPGs are some of my favorite recent turn based CRPGs, even if they do have some warts), and I’d seen demos of the new BattleTech game at PAX and online, so I was pretty excited for this one. Read On →

Rock of Ages 2

The core mode of ACE Team’s Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder plays like a delirious mix of Super Monkey Ball and Rampart, all presented within an animated and unapologetically full-throated Terry Gilliam audiovisual pastiche. Per its own subtitle, the same could be said about the game’s 2011 predecessor; this sequel serves primarily to amp up the absurd audiovisuals for current-generation game systems. This sequel also gently astonishes me with its existence in the first place. Read On →

The R Word

Those of us who play video or computer games need to confront racism and sexism every time they are expressed in our community. I have been playing games since I could barely walk. I’m not going to let racists or sexists define “gamer” as an identity. Why is this your problem, as a gamer? Because the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. It’s more than Pewdiepie’s slur on YouTube. Read On →

Yakuza Kiwami

Sega has had an epiphany. They have realized that what people want out of their Yakuza games is “more”. More fights, more Kamurocho, more mini-games, more deadpan naivete from their trademark Mobster With A Heart Of Gold, Kazuma Kiryu. And also more Yakuza games, period. Explaining the Yakuza games is difficult. To borrow a phrase from the late Douglas Adams, the Yakuza games are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Grand Theft Auto. Read On →

West of Loathing

This review may have some very minor spoilers for the game West of Loathing. It was sometime in the late 1990’s that my friend Zarf introduced me to Kingdom of Loathing, a humorous stick-figure MMORPG that you could play in a web browser. Possessed of both a ridiculous amount of whimsy (classes in the game included Pastamancer, Sauceror, Disco Bandit, and Accordion Thieves, among others) it also had a surprisingly deep number of game systems. Read On →

Madness and the Minotaur - A Mystery Solved

One of the true pleasures of this weblog is to see gaming mysteries, occasionally, solved. Today, I’m happy to announce one of the oldest mysteries on this site – in this space dating back to 2004 – has been resolved. This is the answer to the question “Who, exactly, wrote the classic TRS-80 game Madness and the Minotaur?” The game, as I’ve detailed elsewhere, has mystified and fascinated many of us old gamers. Read On →

Mahjong For People Who Don't Want To Think About It Too Much

A couple of people have asked me about the Mahjong minigame in Yakuza. “What is this? What is happening? Will it ever end? I AM CONFUSED,” they say. Do not worry, for I am here for you. A lot of people have only ever discovered the western “solitaire” variant of Mahjong. Real Mahjong is a 4-player gambling game similar to Gin Rummy. I’m going to explain it to you so that you, too, can be a marginally terrible player like me. Read On →

Yakuza 0 - A Review

It’s late afternoon in Sotenbori 1988 and Goro Majima, nightclub manager, exiled Yakuza, and hyperintelligent thug is drafting Japanese tax policy. Earlier in the substory, he rescued a nameless bureaucrat from angry Osaka businessmen through weaponized breakdancing and his GOD MODE baseball bat. The grateful functionary plied him with booze and asked for his opinion as a small businessman on Japan’s soon to be proposed national sales tax. They talk, and true to his criminal roots, Goro outlines a plan to gradually squeeze the populace with a rate of 8% or higher, terrifying the guy with his plan to make the populace accept it by gradually jacking up the rate over decades. Read On →

Brief Thoughts on No Man's Sky

There’s been some Gamer Drama about No Man’s Sky lately. This game came out last week, and I picked it up and have been playing it a bit, and I think it’s an interesting game. Let’s talk about it for a while. First, let’s dispense with the drama, which is the typical entitled gamer whinging. There are two main lines of complaint: “The game is not worth $60 and I’m sad that I paid that” and “The publishers lied about what features would be in the game. Read On →


The things we want are not always the same as the things that we need. What we want, in this case, is Stellaris, a strategic space conquest game that is epic in scope. It is, without question, the galaxy-spanning, world-building, spaceship-fighting, technology tree-climbing, planet-developing, Space Octopus-negotiating, ore-mining, hyperspace-traveling game you have been waiting for. If you are a person who likes this sort of game - and by this point in the review, you already know if you are! Read On →

Victory and Glory: Napoleon

The great countries of Europe were pacified. From my throne in Paris, I sat atop the Empire by the middle of 1807. Victory and Glory: Napoleon is a Windows game that is the first product of a successful kickstarter, and it’s a little gem of a game. Published by Slitherine/Matrix (and not to be confused with the also-just-released Wars of Napoleon), it’s a great take on the era and one that I found hard to stop thinking about, even after I had stepped away from my computer. Read On →

Madness and the Minotaur

Many years ago I wrote a paean to an obscure text adventure called Madness and the Minotaur. It’s a strange game, for several reasons: Hardly anyone has heard of it. It was on a comparatively unpopular platform, the TRS-80 Color Computer. It was brutally difficult. Although solved today, I do not believe that anyone actually solved it in the 1980s. It has real-time and randomized elements, both rare traits in the text adventure genre in 1981. Read On →

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a Windows game that is a labor of love. Designed and implemented by a single developer (with the disarming moniker “ConcernedApe”), the game bills itself as “an open-ended country-life RPG”. What does that mean? In practice, it means many of the game mechanics of Harvest Moon, combined with story beats from Earthbound and friendship mechanics from Animal Crossing. The game is presented in 1990s-style pixel art graphics and chiptune-style music - it would look and sound right at home on a Super Nintendo system. Read On →

How Captain America: Civil War Started

The Tea Leaves slack channel presents: How the civil war in Captain America: Civil War began. Sizzling repressed homoerotic tension finally boils over (peterb) Cap irons and folds his clean underwear. (uurf) Like ten, with Bucky (snefster) Cap sick of Tony’s nicknames (arixey) Wanda accidentally causes the whole thing with a spell and then looks straight at the camera and delivers Erkel catch phrase. (uurf) Fighting over who gets the Avengers' complimentary ticket to see ‘Hamilton’ (peterb) Tony and Steve each jealous of Bruce’s attention of the other. Read On →

Desert Island Disks

Inspired by The Incomparable’s current podcast listing record albums they would take to a desert island, I decided to compile my own list. The rest of the gang on the Tea Leaves slack channel got into the act. What results is this little compilation. I was going to include links and explanation and discussion, but on reflection I think the various lists are sort of more interesting taken on their own. Read On →

X-Com 2: The Dark Souls of Strategy Games

This weekend I dove into many engrossing and painful hours with X-Com 2, the sequel to the reboot of the venerable turn-based strategy game. This game does not pussyfoot around. It is hard. There’s a lot that one could say about the game and how it differs from its predecessor, but I’m going to stick to the big picture. The tactical game is massively improved from the first outing, adding more options and complications for both your soldiers and the enemies. Read On →

First Impressions: Dragon's Dogma

We live in a world where the Internet has become the primary medium for arguing about things, all sorts of things. Certain topics, among nerds, have always been contentious. Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Mac vs. PC. Nintendo vs. Sega. And, among a certain set, “Western-style computer role-playing games” (usually “CRPG”) vs “Japanese-style computer role-playing games” (usually “JRPG”). Personally, I’ve never had a dog in this hunt: I am omniludorous. Let a thousand flowers bloom; if your game involves simulated fantasy combat in a vividly realized yet oddly constrained world, the chances are good that I will play it. Read On →


Due to our long hiatus, Tea Leaves has never written about any of the Zachtronics games. Since Zachtronics made these games solely for me, under the direction of the network of orbital mind-control lasers I employ, this is a tragedy. Let’s fix that now, and give a small signal boost to their latest release, TIS-100p, an assembly langauge programming game for iPad. Although they might chafe at my typecasting of them, I’m comfortable waving my hands and saying that Zachtronics makes puzzle games disguised as programming games. Read On →

Opera Club #1.5 - You'd Think That People Would Have Had Enough Of Silly Love Songs

If you’re just joining us, start at the first article in this series. As always, if you have any comments, feel free to share them with me on twitter. Number 4 - Un di, felice, eterea Starting at 13:17 on the Netrebko/Decker production (which as always you can find near the head of the first article of this series.) A brief editorial note before I get started on this bit. It’s really easy to let your mental model of Alfredo in this scene look like this: Read On →

Opera Club #1.4 - La Traviata, The Drinking Song

If you’re just joining us, start at the first article in this series. As always, if you have any comments, feel free to share them with me on twitter. Why You’ve Heard This Opera’s Music Before Number 3 - “Libiamo ne' lieti calici”, a.k.a. Brindisi (“The Drinking Song”) Let’s get to the drinking song! In the Netrebko YouTube video this goes from 10:10 to to 13:17, but I suggest you don’t watch it right now, because we’re going to hear this song a few times and I want you to avoid fatigue. Read On →

Opera Club #1.3 - La Traviata, Prelude and Opening

If you’re just joining us, start at the first article in this series. The Music One special note here before we begin. The first act of La Traviata has an absolutely astounding velocity, in both dramatic and musical terms. I’m not prepared to call it unique, but it’s certainly unusual in its incredible density of memorable music. You’re going to be exposed to tons of strong emotion and at (at least) three lyrical, hummable, embed-in-your-head tunes in a mere 30 minutes. Read On →

Opera Club #1.2 - La Traviata in 60 Seconds

If you’re just joining us, start at the first article in this series. More Champagne, Please, I’m Dying And now, on a high wire, without the benefit of a net, I will give you a brief summary of the plot of La Traviata. I am not referring to the libretto, and am just giving you my inaccurate internet summary of the plot in what I hope is a mildly entertaining form. Read On →

Opera Club #1.1 - La Traviata - An Introduction

Or, “She Dies, And It Takes A Long Time.” I hereby call the first edition of Opera Club to order. I’ll be watching, listening to, and writing about Verdi’s La Traviata over the next several weeks, breaking it down a number at a time. First, I’ll post some history and introductory notes, and then we’ll launch into the analysis proper tomorrow. I’ll be illustrating each number with links to YouTube videos, and will suggest others not on YouTube for those who really get bitten by the bug. Read On →

This Is What We Talk About When We Talk About Hexagons

Let’s talk about Order of Battle: Pacific. Let’s do it by talking about Panzer General. And let’s talk about Panzer General by talking about the history of computer wargames. In order to do that, let’s talk about the board-based wargames from the 1960s and 1970s. We could, of course, go even further back, but this is going to be long enough as it is. In the 1960s and 1970s, board-based wargames gained some small measure of popularity, spearheaded by two companies, Avalon-Hill and, later, Simulations Publications Inc. Read On →

Guest post from Tilt

Long time friend-of-tleaves and master of dungeons Tilt decided to grace us with some of his thoughts on modern computing trends. You can find tilt on Twitter. Fine art commissions undertaken for very reasonable prices.

Crusader Kings II - Way of Life

The archbishop was pretty sure that my fourth daughter, Aelfflaed, was The Devil. It’s kind of a long story - have a seat. The wine’s poor, I apologize - and here in Leinster, it costs a bloody fortune to have it imported from France, the damned merchants are laughing at me as they sail away, thinking how much I paid for it. D’ye take water in your wine? Muadhnait, bring our guest some warm water. Read On →

About Tea Leaves

Tea Leaves was a blog hosting the writings of (mostly) the Two Petes. Currently under reconstruction, the original archived content can be accessed here

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Astro-Physics: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Meridian

I’m about a year into using my astronomical video camera to view deep- sky objects from the city and capture [small and simple pictures](http://www.f lickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/6933922817/in/photostream/lightbox/) of what I see. All things considered the experience has been tremendous, but there was an obvious weak link: the mount that I bought does not track well. This is not to say that the mount did not perform up to my expectations. In fact, given the relatively small amount of money that I paid the mount has been excellent. Read On →

Microsoft Flight

There’s a particular cry that goes out on gaming forums whenever any sort of sequel is released. The cry can be reduced to the phrase “They dumbed it down!” Deconstructing this, what it really means is “They changed some difficult or unforgiving aspect of the game such that more people will want to play it.” It’s the gamer version of “Oh, that band was really awesome until they sold out.” In the music context, “sold out” means “has made music that more people want to listen to. Read On →

Dark Souls Ate My Brain

Dark Souls ate my brain. I don’t understand how it happened. I started December a normal, older, jaded gamer who has not seen anything worth playing in most of a year. I ended it about half way through this game and already planning a second run to see if “tuning” my character build would make things better. But here is the worst part. If you write down what people say about this video game it reads like a set of requirements for building a game that I will hate. Read On →

Better than Real

Today a trailer for a documentary film about a band I have never heard of reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write down. Since the thought was too long to fit into twitter. Here we go. First, this band LCD Sound System apparently came into being, published its body of work, and flamed out prematurely before I had even managed to obtain any hint whatsoever of its existence. I think this says more about me than the band, or the music scene, but I found the situation a bit disturbing. Read On →

All I Want for Christmas is a Place to Farm Souls

Dark Souls is the mildly sadistic sequel to the completely sadistic Japanese action RPG Demon’s Souls. I gave up on the latter game a couple of years ago after encountering the second one hit kill boss in the game. The first one hit kill boss in the game was placed at the end of the tutorial, which gives you an idea of what these games are like. You know from the start that Dark Souls will be easier on you because after getting killed by the tutorial boss you will immediately notice that there is a door that you can use the escape the fight. Read On →

Skyrim: "Blackreach"

For the past year or so I have been bitching to my friends about how the free Oblivion mod “Nehrim” was more expansive, more epic, and generally more impressive than any game Bethesda had ever made. In playing Skyrim, it’s been clear that Bethesda has played Nehrim, and shamelessly stole their good ideas, which is something they should be proud of, because it made their game better. Then, today, I reached the section of Skyrim called “Blackreach”. Read On →

Meanwhile, In Skyrim


Dinner in Half an Hour: Spaghetti Carbonara

This one is so easy it’s almost cheating. But I had to put something here so that we didn’t lead the front page with the stupid Internet people anymore. So here we go. This scheme is based on a recipe I have stolen from Marcella Hazan. Buy [her book](http://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Classic-Italian- Cooking-Marcella/dp/039458404X/), it’s in there. But I’ve adjusted the flow a bit to make it easier to follow. For me. First get out 2 six to eight quart pots. Read On →

The Stupidest People on The Entire Internet?

Read the comments on this page. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/four-star-vegetarian-dishes-from- eleven-madison-park/> Tell me I’m wrong. For the record, [comment 25](http://community.nytimes.com/comments/well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/10 /four-star-vegetarian-dishes-from-eleven-madison-park/?permid=25#comment25) was the one that put me over the edge. There is no more foul being in the world than a vegetarian who is also a picky eater.

Grab and Go

One key to enjoying the telescope hobby is to know how to set up and tear down your equipment quickly. This is especially true around Pittsburgh where the weather can change only instantly from perfect to disastrous. Over the past couple of months I have developed a reasonably systematic routine in the deployment of the telescope. With it I can set up my full video rig with automatic pointing and tracking in about 20 minutes. Read On →

Deep Sky Projects

Astronomy is an endeavor that is full of catalogs. And I don’t mean the ones that are on the Internet that are designed to separate you from your hard earned cash. For much of its history, astronomers did little else than catalog what was in the sky. Before the telescope, this meant just what you could see with your eyeballs: the brighter stars, the planets, the moon, sun, and their various activities and relationships. Read On →

Blue Streak

The bike computer that came with the new blue bike in July is reading 385 miles. For some perspective, in the last few years, I doubt I’ve ever had a six month season go by where I rode much more than 400 miles. The six months that I had the Surly, according to the computer on that bike, I rode the thing 322 miles. It’s possible that I have an extra (say) 50 or 60 on that bike because the computer could have been broken or not installed. Read On →

My Secret Hideout

“My secret hideout is a row of intricately ornamented domes hung through a willow copse. A row of beams, engraved with the figures of dancing birds, opens to an uneven core room which is filled with the scent of growing things. Below that is the place where I write; it is decorated here and there with tiny relief carvings, and yellow light radiates from hidden skylights. My desk is in back. Read On →

Dinner in Half an Hour: Flounder and Tomatoes

Here is an expanded version of an idea I have posted before. It’s the perfect summer fish dish and there is almost no way in which I can imagine someone messing it up. Here we go. Start with 4 or 5 or 6 or however many pieces of flounder filet you have. Some will be thicker than others, so make sure at least someone who is eating the fish likes it a bit overdone. Read On →

Tens of Dollars

A guy at the office and I have a running joke about the amateur astronomy business. I will opine that the market is just begging for some great product to solve problem X for every telescope user in the world. And then we both snicker that one could make tens of dollars by building and offering such a product for sale. This is a marketplace where selling thousands of units a year makes you a massive player. Read On →

Some Food Shorts

Haven’t done a short snippet food roundup post in a while. So here we go. Salt of the Earth This place opened recently to a huge amount of hype and buzz, and I avoided it for three reasons: 1. Hard to get in anyway. I have plenty of places to go that are easy to get in to. 2. An overbearingly self-concious twitter feed. 3. I had a friend of a friend who had a poor service experience there. Read On →

Consumer: Know Thyself

I bought a new bicycle yesterday. “But wait! You just bought a bike last year!”, you might be thinking. You probably are not thinking that since you’d have to be an obsessive reader of this web site to remember. But it might happen. Yes, [I bought a bike last year](http://tleaves.com/2010/06/30/bike- shopping/). On paper it was the perfect bike for me. Steel frame: check. Nice blend of road bike speed with utilitarian versatility: check. Read On →

Let Them Eat Cake

Several people who know me felt the need to point out that Dozen Bake Shop closed their doors last week. I guess since I have written mean things about Dozen they expected me to gloat or something. But while I will talk trash about anyone, I generally don’t take pleasure in someone else’s loss. Well, except for the Lakers and the Yankees. Those guys can kiss my ass. Anyway, with Dozen gone, you might be asking yourself, “where should I go for cake? Read On →