I Praise the PLCB

After harshing on them last week for how clunky their SLO system is, I will take a moment to say something nice about them: my Special Liquor Order arrived today. That means that it took them less than a week to get 3 fairly exotic bottles of liquor into my local store, and they got the order exactly right, despite my snark. So while it may be a painfully slow process to place an SLO, I have no complaints at all about the actual delivery process. Read On →

Bioshock: Day 1

Like at least half of the rest of the gaming universe, I picked up Bioshock this week. Most of the industry appears ready to pronouce it to be the orgasmic second coming of gaming nirvana. This may or may not be the case, I don’t know. What I can say for sure is that the game knows how to begin with a bang. You might recall that earlier this year I ruminated about how not to start a game. Read On →

Final Fantasy XII update

After being killed by a cactus with a flower on its head, I restarted the game and used a cheap technique to quickly level up to level 15 before progressing with anything. I’m much happier now.

Max Roach

The news came last week that Max Roach passed away in Manhattan. I was lucky enough to see Max Roach play live a few times while I was a graduate student at Dartmouth College. My most enduring memory of the man would have to be Max and the drum kit alone on the stage while he completely captivated the audience for five or ten or fifteen long minutes. It was a shame to see him stand up and exit. Read On →

SLO as in "Slow"

While on my recent trip to California, I visited a couple of liquor stores – the venerable BevMo, of course, and also the little diamond The Coach House, in Cupertino, where one can find Tequila Los Abuelos. While at the latter facility, I stumbled across a bottle of Amaro Nonino, perhaps my favorite Italian amaro. I considered bringing it with me, but I knew that Nonino was available via Special Liquor Order – aka SLO – in Pennsylvania. Read On →

Hail to the Hard Core

In my time on this Earth I have often been accused of taking things too seriously. As I’ve grown older and seen more of the world, I have tried to keep a tighter hold on my tendency to do this because if there is anything I have learned it’s that no matter how seriously you take something, there is always some guy living in a basement somewhere who is working much harder that you are. Read On →

On Donuts

This past week the Petes were both in Cupertino for a visit. The last few times I’ve been out there, I’ve been told to find a donut shop called Stan’s that is close to our normal Cupertino hotel. Because I am lazy and morally suspect, I never managed to do this. On this trip though, we girded our loins and made ourselves get out there one morning. So here is a shout out to Stan’s. Read On →

California Ãœber Alles

Both of the Peters are out of town this week, so updates will likely be slow for a while. Our apologies.

Yuppie Egg Cream

The egg cream, as anyone over a certain age who grew up in New York will be happy to tell you, is a transcendent soda fountain drink that contains neither egg nor cream. A strict interpretation of the egg cream contains seltzer water, Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, and milk. It invokes summers in Coney Island, open fire hydrants, and Steeplechase Park. The dirty little secret behind the traditional egg cream, however, is that it doesn’t actually taste good: imagine carbonated Yoo-Hoo, and you’re not far off the mark. Read On →

They Are Both Stupid, Redux

Just when you thought it was safe to browse your internets, the intellectually challenged have come out to play again. This seems to happen once or twice every year. Or maybe it only annoys me this much once or twice a year. This year, I come to the partial defense of the current punching bag of the defensive gamers everywhere: Roger Ebert. You may recall that he said some stupid things about games versus art last year and like a kid in an Internet Forum, he is back to troll again. Read On →

Degree of Difficulty

I’ve been happily playing through the opening chapters of Resistance. The game is as good a straight up shooter as I’ve played in a while. The presentation is strong, the level of polish is high. Even if the game doesn’t quite reach a Halo-like sense of place and atmosphere, the game does present enemies that are enjoyable to shoot in a world that is mostly enjoyable to look at. Here is the one problem though. Read On →

Yo Ho Ho and a Bushel of Blueberries

This weekend I went to heaven. It turns out that in heaven there are lots of blueberry bushes. Heaven is just north of Ligonier, at The Berry Patch, a pick-your-own blueberry farm. The same week that Whole Foods raised their prices to $4/pint for berries shipped halfway around the country, I was picking fresh berries off the shrub for $2.50 a quart. I have a few quarts now. Quite a few. Read On →

If I'm Grumpy

…it is because I appear to have lost my precious Nintendo DS, along with the game that was in it at the time. Curses. Update: The missing lamb has been located. The crisis has ended. Shop as usual.

PS Three Sixty

I got the PS3 last night. My overall impression is that Sony should stick to hardware, and Microsoft should stick to software. It’s really too bad that the companies did not end up as partners. The out of box experience is great. It’s just one box and two wires. No retarded power brick. No connectors the size of a washing machine. No kludgy external wireless doohickey. You plug it into the wall and into your TV and you turn it on. Read On →

Xbox 360 °F

For those following along at home, my Xbox 360 Died The Death about a month ago and I shipped it off to Microsoft for repair service. When I sent it they had not yet announced the repair program, so they billed me $70. A package with an Xbox 360 arrived yesterday. I don’t know how they plan to refund my money, but hopefully it will just magically happen. Anyway, there are a few things worth discussing in terms of the machine that came back. Read On →

The Irrational Consumer

There is a prevailing line of thought in the circles of economic theory that consumers will act in a manner that is in their best interest. This is the idea of a rational consumer. The notion is that consumers will evaluate the choices given to them in a manner consistent with logic and reason and the pick the choice that maximizes whatever it is that consumers want to maximize. Not being an economist, I’m sure I’m doing violence to their elegant theoretical thinking. Read On →

World War UI

I don’t read game manuals. I should qualify: I don’t read manuals for games first. After I’ve been using a program for a while, sure, I might look up a specific task in the manual. Or if I’m truly obsessed with the game, I might read it later, for recreation (really, everyone should keep a copy of the manual for Dominions 3 in their bathroom). But I never read a game manual before actually trying the game out. Read On →

Hyped Definition

Almost everything about the “new generation” of gaming has revolved around High Definition. High Defintion allows console games to look as “good” as PC games. These same consoles, at least the two that aren’t selling that well, are being used as a wedge to try and own the High Definition movie market. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been watching Planet Earth in HD. I have also been re-playing Resident Evil 4, which is decidedly not in HD. Read On →

Poor Fractured Tantalus

Snippets from a real conversation I had this weekend with my friend Nat: Me: “Hey, you remember that game Exult, the re-implementation of Ultima VII? Nat: “Sure I do.” Me: “I’ve been not playing it quite a bit lately. I grabbed the sources from CVS and built it so that I could have a Universal binary to be not playing.” Nat: “Did it build easily?” Me: “It wasn’t too bad. There were some hidden dependencies that I needed to tease out. Read On →

Hold that Recipe

Today I am inspired by the sauce I just ate. But I’ll get to that later. My story begins with a long standing conflict that I have with my lovely wife. Karen, in general, has the role of telling me what to cook. Left to my own lazy devices I’d just eat ramen noodles and hot dogs every night. Thus, Karen spends her time making up shopping lists and handing me recipes for the dishes that she’d like to have that week. Read On →

One BILLION Dollars

It seems like just the other week that I ranted about the Xbox 360 design being unacceptably fragile. And what’s the news this week? Microsoft is extending Xbox 360 warranties for the “red ring of death” to 3 years (even retroactively!), refunding service fees for that repair already paid by customers, and taking a one billion dollar (plus) charge to cover the costs Without any schadenfreude or sarcasm whatsoever, I’ll just say “good job, guys.” This is the right way to address a serious customer-facing problem. Read On →

You're Only Going Through The Stop-Motions, Baby

iStopMotion is a wonderfully simple little Mac app that helps you make stop-motion movies. I made the below movie with a tethered Canon Rebel XT, because I’m an abject, hopeless wanker. An easier (and probably more correct) way to do it, however, is probably to use the program’s excellent support for the iSight camera. OK, OK. As you can see, I’m not Martin Scorsese. I’m probably not even Ed Wood. But I still had fun. Read On →

Hodo Kwaja - now on YouTube

It’s been a few years since I made a video of the fantabulous walnut pastry (“hodo kwaja”) machine in Toronto (see À la recherche du temps à noix, from 2004). I figured it would be a generally good idea to get the video on YouTube, just to make it easier to find and view. Enjoy!

The 80 and the 20

The 80⁄20 heuristic states that in most computer systems, you spend 80 percent of your time in 20 percent of the code. Another way to say this is that 80 percent of your users will spend most of their time using about 20 percent of the application that you have so painstakingly constructed for them. This leads to a lot of meetings where we spend time trying to guess which workflows we must support in order to please the “80 percent” users. Read On →

Pokémon Battle Mehvolution

Still in the throes of my newfound Pokémon addiction, I went overboard and picked up Pokémon Battle Revolution for the Wii. Meh. To be fair, this is one of those cases where I have no one to blame but myself. The ad copy for Pokémon Battle Revolution makes perfectly clear what it is: it’s essentially a “visualizer” for Pokémon battles. So the battle mechanics are the same (or nearly the same) as the handheld Pokémon games, but instead of just getting a modest shake or a small animation, you get a beautifully modelled 3D depiction of one Pokémon kicking another Pokémon’s ass. Read On →

The iPhone in Pittsburgh

In Shadyside tonight I noticed that the queue for the iPhone has already started: I took the opportunity to do a quick on-the-spot interview with the guys who dared to be first. The video and audio quality is pretty poor, but nonetheless…here it is.

Hope is the Thing With Pokéballs

As psu mentioned yesterday, Pokémon on the Nintendo DS is the new obsession. Being a consummate joiner, I am not afraid to admit that my descent into the Pokéworld was due to Penny Arcade’s ungrudging respect for the game, coupled with a purely base financial motivation: I’m reviewing Pokémon Diamond and Pearl for PTD Magazine. After just two days playing the DS game, I found myself scrounging the local used game stores for the older GBA games so I could understand exactly what I had been missing all these years: the best Japanese RPG since Earthbound. Read On →

What's Old is New Again

Today a discussion of two games that have been around for a long time, and are still more interesting to play than most of the new games. I suppose it’s possible that my current state of mind makes me more inclined to stick with the familiar. I think it’s more likely that these games are just better. First, Resident Evil 4 again. For some reason I just can’t stop playing this game. Read On →

Back from Vacation...

…and I sort of suspect it’s a bad sign that the planned highlight of my week is likely to be the release of Pokémon Battle Revolution for the Wii. More on that soon.

Make a Note Please

When I was a graduate student, I lived in North Carolina for a couple of years. I didn’t personally enjoy the area, although I can see why others might. One thing though. The fresh fish was fantastic. There was this guy just outside of town who would go to the coast every week and bring stuff back directly from the boats. In the summer, we’d gorge on snapper and live soft- shell crabs. Read On →

Fig Daiquiri

Ingredients: -Juice of a lemon -6 fresh figs -lots of rum -ice -about a tablespoon of sugar (depending on how sweet the figs are, adjust to taste) Instructions: blend everything and pour into a frosted glasses. Makes 2 big drinks. The good: The fig texture works with the ice to create a drink that will stay frozen for a while, even when there is a ton and a half of rum in the drink. Read On →

Fresh Figs are Back

…and tonight, I will determine if it is possible to make a cocktail with them.

Lull 2: The Return of the Lull

In what has become something of a yearly ritual, the time between early Spring and the next release of Madden brings with it almost nothing of interest to play. Last year, I was saved when [Oblivion]() hit and kept me busy for a couple of months in this normally empty time. This year there is no such white knight to save the gaming industry from my disinterest. Worse, some new equipment and a nice overseas vacation have awakened other obsessions that have for the most part been dormant while the gaming obsession has taken its course. Read On →

When Is The Best Not The Best?

I had what started off as an extremely productive weekend. I got a lot of work done at my job, did some house stuff, changed the oil on the car, and was otherwise efficient and in a good mood. As a reward, I decided to play some more Forza 2, a game I’m reviewing for PTD Magazine. I’ve been enjoying Forza, and approached my Xbox 360 with some enthusiasm. This should have been a warning sign. Read On →

Children's Zombie Books

10. Clifford The Big Dead Dog (peterb) 9. If You Give A Mouse Some Serum (peterb) 8. Horton Hears His Doom (peterb) 7. Goodnight, World (peterb) 6. Where The Dead Things Are (kosak) 5. Bedknobs and Boomsticks (peterb) 4. Olivia’s Favorite Flesh Eaters (psu) 3. One Vein, Two Vein, Red Vein, Blue Vein (peterb) 2. Click, Clack, GGGGgggaaaarrrrrrrgggghhh (psu) 1. Green Eggs and Hand (peterb) Please feel free to pile on with your own suggestions in the comments.

Chase the Light

Our first full day in Paris was gray, wet, and cold. As a result, I didn’t take a lof of pictures of the city. It’s hard to make nice landscape or cityscape photographs when the sky is white. But, I dutifully carried my camera into the early evening just in case. You never know what might happen. What we did this evening was walk over to Joel Robuchon’s restaurant to see how long we’d have to wait for a table. Read On →

The Retro Issue

A while ago you may recall that I posted an enigmatic call for writers to assist in some-project or other, without saying exactly what. Now I can tell you what that project was: PTD Magazine’s latest issue is devoted to retrogaming, edited by your humble narrator. You can download the digest version here, or subscribe to PTD for a mere 99 cents per issue to read the rest. If I do say so myself: it’s awesome. Read On →

The Camera We Want

I like Thom Hogan. He is an intelligent writer, photographer and fellow technical geek and his web site is one of the better collections of information about Nikon cameras. As a bonus, the overall design and layout of the site shows a lot of taste and restraint, unlike almost every other such site in the universe. This week, Thom posted a nice rant about the sad state of the compact digital camera. Read On →

The Paris Reviews

Pete mentioned last week that I was in Paris on one of my periodic visits. These started over ten years ago when a friend of mine got a long term consulting gig over there and we went and visited and got hooked on the place. Now I try to take a trip once every year or two. This trip was much like the others. Mostly what we do is walk around, sit in the gardens, and eat. Read On →

When The Tripods Came

30 second exposure at f/5, ISO400 equivalent. The sky was nearly completely dark, so most of the illumination came from the sodium vapor lights at the nearby dock. My favorite thing about the picture is how the long exposure smoothed out the waves on the water, making it look like a sheet of textured glass. Click the image to see a full-size version (warning: large). Here’s a 16 second exposure at f/8, taken a bit earlier. Read On →

Travelogue 360 Paris

While I remain hidebound here in Pittsburgh, co-author psu is taking a few weeks in Paris. But I’m not jealous: I have Travelogue 360 Paris, just released for Windows and Mac. And my Paris has a rhinoceros wandering around the base of the Eiffel Tower. Travelogue 360 Paris is a bit of a strange beast. I went into the game not knowing anything of its provenance, and was expecting a sort of dreary “virtual room” tour of the French capital. Read On →

Halo 3 Beta Minireview

I’m basing this minireview on three game sessions. Step 1: Insert Crackdown disc. Step 2: Choose “Play Halo 3 Beta” Step 3: Watch pretty opening screen. Enter multiplayer lobby. Step 4: Start matchmaking process. Step 5: Wait 15 minutes while the game tries, and fails, to find a match. Step 6: Give up and go do something interesting. Color me unimpressed.

Fishy Fishy

Fish is not hard to cook. We are just trained to think it is. Early on in my cooking “career” (graduate school) we picked up a large cookbook about fish that meticulously broke down multiple techniques with several examples of each and hints about which kind of fish which technique was suited for. I remember bringing the odd piece of fish home, thumbing through the book to try and figure out what to do and then throwing up my hands when I couldn’t find the right set of instructions out of the right list. Read On →

A Season with Sam & Max

And so with the release of Episode 6: Bright Side of the Moon, Season 1 of Sam and Max has come to an end. So, how did they do? Pretty damn good. Let’s talk about what this means for the future of adventure games. Sam and Max I don’t want to turn this into a blow by blow review of the games in the series. There were high points, a few puzzles that were really clever, a few others that were really stupid. Read On →

The Ludlum Demonstrative

I was at the library the other day and realized that I still hadn’t seen The Bourne Identity. So I said to myself “Hey, I’ll just pick up the book instead.” Perusing the shelf of Robert Ludlum titles, I realized they all had these very stilted, cold war, nouny sort of names. The Osterman Weekend. The Holcroft Covenant, The Chancellor Manuscript. So I wrote a little script to autogenerate Ludlum titles for me, just in case I should ever need to ghost write a book for his kid. Read On →

The Camera Bag Problem

When I bought my first SLR film camera, I didn’t give much thought to bags. I needed a small bag to fit the body and two lenses that I had bought, so I went to the store and picked out the smallest Domke (the F-5) which seemed to be big enough. It could fit the camera ready to shoot and the extra lens, and it wasn’t that big. I could get the camera in and out without putting the bag down. Read On →

Margarita's New Toy

Early this week, Tea Leaves’ industrious panel of dedicated tasters converged on Mad Mex in Oakland to try a variety of wonderful tequilas. I’ll be writing about that in detail, in the next few weeks. In addition to discovering some new favorite tequilas, I got a peek at the best hand-held lime juicer I’ve ever seen. Half of a lemon or lime goes in, you give it a quick squeeze, and the juice just flies out in under a second. Read On →

NBA Street

I have a weakness for the NBA Street games. I like them because they do not try to simulate basketball, rather, they let you play a type of basketball that is completely ludicrous and unhealthy. I think the series peaked with NBA Street 2, which is still fun to play even today. Hoping to recapture some of that magic, I picked up a used copy of NBA Street: Homecourt at the Exchange the other day to see if it would make it through the Ebay Review System. Read On →

Put a Cork In It

Wine is a funny business. There are plenty of tangible resources that go into producing the bottle of wine that lands on your kitchen table: land, grapes, yeast, glass, and so on. And there are plenty of intangibles that go into making a good wine: knowledge, patience, and most importantly, process. But many people (or at least, many Americans) who buy wine are really trying to buy something else: romance. This puts the industry in the odd position of trying to protect the public from finding out what really makes great wine. Read On →

A Flash about Flash

Having buried myself in the Strobist for the last couple of weeks, I came up for air over the weekend and reflected on what I had learned. First, I learned that buying a lightstand and umbrella can be a bit stressful and complicated. But that’s not important or interesting. What is interesting to me is to compare the techniques at the Strobist with those in the excellent Bob Krist lighting book I read a few years ago. Read On →