Paris in the Springtime

Microsoft has released their first downloadable content for Project Gotham Racing 2, including a bunch of cars I’ll never be able to afford and a whole new city: Paris. Paris Comparison (click to enlarge) I don’t particularly care about the new cars – Gotham already has more than enough cars to hold my interest – but I’ve been eager to drive down the Champs-Elysees since I got the game. The developers did a great job of bringing the city to life. Read On →

Stop me

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before: Once again the consumer bit of my brain has gotten the sickness, and I have the urge to upgrade my “gaming” PC. I am fighting it tooth and nail. Those really are derision quotes around “gaming,” since most of the games I actually want to run on my PC – like Warlords II -- don’t actually run on modern versions of Windows. Read On →

Gmail

On the confusingly named Google Blog – the one not run by Google – Aaron Schwartz opines that gmail’s security isn’t strong enough: …[Gmail] should use public-key encryption. (This part will be a bit technical.) When you create a Gmail account, your computer creates a keypair. The public key is sent to Google. The private key is encrypted with a password you choose, and the encrypted version is sent to Google. Read On →

Corporate Food is Evil

I normally don’t just link to other people’s entries. It’s against my philosophy. But rules are made to be broken. psu goes completely insane about how P.F. Chang’s (and its equivelent alter-ethnic wannabe brethren) are destroying the American palate and wallet, and it’s just such a righteous rant that I have to share it with you: Lost in all of this is the fact that even in a relative backwater like Pittsburgh there are smaller, cheaper, better places that are far more deserving of your dollars. Read On →

Banh Mi

How do you know it’s Spring in Pittsburgh? When Lucy, the best Banh Mi vendor in the world (aka “The Saigon Sandwich Lady”) sets up her outdoor stand and starts vending her wares. photo:Krista Schinagl, Post-Gazette A good Banh Mi (literally “French Sandwich,” colloquially “Saigon Sandwich”) is a transcendent experience. Along with Pho, their beef noodle soup, it is empirical evidence for classifying the Vietnamese palate as the best in the world. Read On →

P.F. Chang's: Why it's evil.

Places like this represent a new trend in the marketing of what is essentially bad fast food towards a more lucrative audience. A couple of years ago, my new job took me to a set of offices that were situated close to a new retail complex in the Pittsburgh area. The complex was anchored by a large cineplex and a few “box restaurants” and a few more “box stores”. At some point, one of the “box restaurants” that opened was a chain of apparently high reputation called P.F. Read On →

Ask The Game Geek

Intro screen To the person who arrived at my site googling for “apple II games remake download old parachute”: The name of the game you’re looking for is “Sabotage,” and you can get it here. It should play in any halfway decent Apple II emulator. I liked Sabotage. It was one of my default “pick up” games that you could always rely on when you wanted something quick and fun. Sabotage It was a diverting little game, with a surprising amount of tactical trade off. Read On →

Dear Game Industry:

Booth Babes at E3 Enough with the porn stars and cheesecake girls at your conferences. I know you think that everyone who buys games is 17 years old and in a state of arrested development, but we’re not. So cut it out, already. It’s embarassing. OK? PS: Also, reuse more code, you dorks.

C64 vs. Atari 800

The thing about boys and their toys is we’ve just got to argue about whose is bigger. Microsoft employee Mike Fullerton has had it with his Mac because all software for the Mac sucks. Meanwhile, over at Mac and Back, an intrepid ex-Mac user sold his Powerbook and has replaced it with a Dell Inspiron, and has discovered that all software for Windows sucks. Really, this shouldn’t surprise anyone: all software sucks. Read On →

The Grail of Yendor

Random thoughts on the meta-design of roguelike games, preserved here so I don’t lose them. In the late ‘80s, I nearly failed out of college playing urogue, a rogue derivative by Herb Chong that, as near as I can tell, was heavily based on AT&T’s Advanced Rogue. I was quite addicted. I liked it even compared to the then-more-advanced Hack, because it seemed simpler, more elegant somehow. In the late ‘90s, I tried compiling urogue on the then current x86 systems, Linux and NetBSD, and the build failed utterly. Read On →

High End Wine Battle

Since I tend to wax rhapsodic about the great dessert wines I encounter, it’s only fair that I mention the losers. This season’s big loser was La Tunella tocai friulano. To be fair, this is really my fault. Although I am American, I do know a little geography, and I knew going in to this that Tokaji is not, in fact, located in the Friuli province of Italy. So, I got what I deserve: a nasty, attenuated wine that had the consistency, nose, and taste of oversweetened grapefruit juice. Read On →

Losing My Religion

Jack Chick has a new tract, and I am once again nearly speechless: I have a hard time seeing straight when I have to look intolerance in the face. It’s an issue that hits very close to home with me. As an adult, I’ve managed to order my life such that, most of the time, when we’re not in an election year, I can pretend that most people, most of the time, aren’t hateful. Read On →

Schadenrennen

He’s insanely talented. He has won Grand Prix after Grand Prix, and seems absolutely invulnerable. The gods love him. He can take certain defeat and, using a seemingly endless reserve of luck, skill, and cojones, turn it into a victory. His rivals seethe with bitterness and jealousy, and fans wonder if the sport will ever be free of his domination. I am speaking, of course, about MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi. What, you thought I meant Michael Schumacher? Read On →

On the Tragedy of St. Nicholas' Greek Food Festival

When spanakopita is wet and lame there is no pastry quite so false and weak, with spinach, feta, phyllo over flame, we eat it only at festivals Greek It’s true, indeed, that this need not be so: somewhere a Turkish baker plies his craft, but on divided Cyprus, Greeks say “No!” (a culture war can make one’s taste buds daft.) A rice pilaf that costs almost ten bucks is robbery even by standards Church The dollars flow in like a row of ducks, Somewhere a bishop cackles in his perch. Read On →

Ten Little Ladybugs

[ Ten Little DEAD Ladybugs ](http://www.tleaves.com/weblog/images/articles/ladybugs.jpg) A gothic tale of kidnapping, murder, cannibalism, and mayhem in the insect kingdom, Ten Little Ladybugs, written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith, presents a troubling view of the devastating havoc that eschatological idolatry and ideology wreak on America’s children. That such potentially scarring material is promoted as a “children’s book” is even more troubling. The cover is gaily festooned with the pastoral scene from a bourgeois garden, the smiles on the faces of the predatory insects arrayed around the ladybugs designed to mislead even the most cynical reader. Read On →

And the Ass Saw the Angel

One of the more egregiously out of print books, in America at least, is Nick Cave’s And the Ass Saw the Angel. Elise introduced me to this book ages ago, lending me a copy of her precious (Imported! British! Naked lady on the cover!) paperback. It’s written in an approximation of how Cave, a Australian gothic heroin chic musician, thinks an illiterate retarded Southern anti-Elvis educated at Eton might write: A single naked bulb hung from the ceiling directly over mah crib. Read On →

Simple pleasures

Two eggs 1 - 2 teaspoons soy sauce generous squirt of sriracha chili sauce (a.k.a. “rooster sauce”) dash sesame oil scramble in skillet with a little canola oil Enjoy with tea.

Beyond Good and Evil

Currently on the bargain racks for the Xbox, GameCube, PS2, and PC platforms is a little gem of a platformer: Beyond Good and Evil. It was released with some fanfare late last year, and proceeded to impress critics and fail to sell at all. The fact that this game (essentially) flopped makes me a little sad. I am not certain if it is a sign that the publisher, Ubisoft, is an incompetent marketer (as a friend of mine said, “Beyond Good and Evil? Read On →

Blood and Treasure

Why this picture? Why now? Mostly because of this woman who was fired for sharing a picture like it. Photo courtesy of The Memory Hole and the Freedom of Information Act. Link courtesy John Scalzi.

Children's Books vs. Video Games

33. If You Give a Mouse a Glock 19 [peterb] 32. Duck on a Warthog [peterb] 31. Horton Hears a Sniper [agroce] 30. Cat In A Hat With An M-16 [jch] 29. The Cat In The Hat Talks Smack [peterb] 28. The Little Castle Wolfestein on the Prairie. [tmwong] 27. Green eggs and fireballs. [bhudson] 26. Goodnight, Moon Patrol [peterb] 25. The Little Rocket Launcher Who Could [tomault] 24. Little Red Jedi Knight [bhudson] 23. Read On →

Fnord!

Last night I read The Da Vinci Code (detailed review forthcoming). Tonight while idly wanting to see some of the paintings the author describes, I stumbled on this kook’s site: [ (Click to enlarge)](http://www.tleaves.com/weblog/images/articles/davinci- kook.gif) The best part is that that diagram is the sanest thing on the page. The text is a hundred times worse. I always assumed that Robert Anton Wilson was joking or exaggerating about conspiracy theorists’ ability to see echoes of their delusions in anything and everything. Read On →

President Forever

As a followup to my preview of The Political Machine, I decided to try President Forever, which was suggested by one of my alert readers (who, I believe, is involved with the publisher?) There is a free demo available, and the full game can be purchased and downloaded for a mere $12. I paid more than that for lunch this week. (They also will sell you, as a bonus, their previous game President 2000 for just $2. Read On →

New Addiction

The only MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that is any fun: The Kingdom of Loathing. And it’s free! I blame Zarf.

Dawn Comes Early, With Rosy Fingers

It has been a long time since I’ve experienced a web site that filled me with such elation and glee as does Winged Sandals, a Shockwaveriffic introduction to Greek mythology for kids. It has really enjoyable, accessible movies that everyone can enjoy, some neat activities (I like the trading cards), and a wonderful searchable “Who’s Who,” which while not comprehensive is well designed. The art style is Samurai Jack meets Pocketskeleton. Read On →

The Political Machine

I renewed my drengin.net subscription today, specifically so I could get access to the beta test of Brad Wardell’s still-in-development election game The Political Machine. The Political Machine I’m a big fan of Brad’s games, and have long felt that he brought an exciting independent voice to PC gaming. I don’t play too many PC games anymore, what with the Xbox filling so many of my needs and my main leisure computing platform being a Mac. Read On →

Quick U.S. Political Update

Our President is still painfully stupid.

Gabba Gabba One of Us

I finally stopped resisting and bought an iPod, the 15 gigabyte model. Although I was probably doomed to buy the “regular” iPod rather than the Mini, simply because Minis are not readily available enough to satisfy my desire for immediate consumer gratification, I did actually go use a Mini before making the choice. A lot of people talk about the superior controls of the Mini; coming to both of them cold, I thoroughly disagree. Read On →

Tokaji

A brief followup Toronto booze report: I’ve always “liked” Tokaji, but never been crazy-go-nuts over it. In Toronto I picked up the 1999 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu (“3”), and I love it. Although it has the sweetness you expect from a pourriture noble wine, like Sauternes, it is balanced not just by a peppery bite, but by actual saltiness. It’s refreshingly tart, with an unripe apricot ester-like aroma. I’ve never tasted a wine quite like it. Read On →

On Jews and Jewishness

Should you, perchance, use a particular popular internet utility to look for information on “jews,” the most prominently displayed entry turns out to be somewhat, let us say, antisemitic. That doesn’t strike me as the most useful introduction to a topic. I think the wikipedia entry on the Jewish religion is somewhat more informative and less inflammatory, as is the amusingly named jewfaq entry on who is a jew?

Dramatis Personae

_ ‘“Help him. Help him” Dobbs sobbed. “Help him” “Help who? Help who?” called Yossarian once he could wrestle his headset back into the intercom. “Help who?” “The bombadier. The bombadier. Help the bombadier” “I’m the bombadier” Yossarian yelled right back to him. “I’m the bombadier, I’m all right, I’m all right.” “Then help him, help him” Dobbs begged. “Help him. Help the bombadier.” And Snowden lay dying in the back. Read On →

Smooth, Rich, Bold, Lousy.

After a whirlwind weekend gustatory tour of Toronto I was driving home, and needed coffee to stay awake. I stopped at Krispy Kreme donuts, which for a long time had perfectly fine coffee, and once again was confronted by the trio of horrible coffees that they replaced their old, perfectly adequate coffee with. The new Unholy Trio goes under the nom de suck of three vague adjectives: Smooth, Rich, and Bold. Read On →

350 Miles for Liquor

Some more loot from my Toronto trip: alcohol! The LCBO store on Queen’s Quay near Yonge is truly a revelation. Egly-Ouriet a Ambonnay Champagne, Grand Cru Brut Tradition (try saying that five times fast). I’ve been looking for this for about 6 months, but of course you can’t get it in Pennsylvania because of our antediluvian state-controlled wines and spirits system. This is a champagne that has some of the body of a red wine; if you close your eyes you can almost imagine that it’s a Belgian lambic. Read On →

Why Orlowski Hates Google

Even in an article ostensibly about Sun and Microsoft, Andrew Orlowski can’t help throwing in some foaming-at-the-mouth about how Google is evil. Someone asked “Geez, what did Google ever do to Orlowski that he’s such a nutbar where Google is concerned?” and this of course led to: Top (Fictional) Reasons Orlowski Hates Google 13. His wife made out with Google CEO at wild party, who bragged to all of his friends. Read On →

Pittsburgh Gets Apple Store

In the “taking away things I like to whine about” department, Apple Computer will apparently be opening a retail store in Pittsburgh. Now I have no excuse for not buying that iPod. The rumor is that they will be getting planning approval on April 6th, and MacMinute says it will be located at 5508 Walnut Street, in the upscale (“bohemian,” say the marketers) Shadyside neighborhood. I can’t picture a huge space at that location – Walnut is a street of fairly modestly sized spaces, so perhaps this is the first of their rumoured new “mini” stores. Read On →

I Have no Sense of Humour

As my special gift to all of you, I am providing this small, modest space – perhaps the only one on the entire Internet – where there will be no stupid April Fools’ jokes. Enjoy.

Bodies in Motion

[ Jagged Alliance 2 ](http://www.tleaves.com/weblog/images/articles/ja2.jpg) Lately I’ve been playing a bit of the squad-level strategy game Jagged Alliance 2 (both the original and the new “harder than killing a puppy in cold blood without guilt” Wildfire version.) I generally prefer turn-based strategy to real time strategy games, but thinking about some of the design decisions the JA2 guys made sparked some thoughts about the fundamental choices designers make when building these games. Read On →

350 Miles for a Hot Dog

I arrived in Toronto at about 2 in the morning, and the very first thing I did, after parking the car and checking in to the hotel, was to walk down Yonge Street to the nearest street vendor and buy a sausage, slather pickled peppers and mustard and kraut on it, and walk back to the hotel, eating my hot dog, victoriously. Hot dogs taste better in Yankee stadium, or on Yonge street. Read On →

Blame Canada!

I’ll be in Toronto this weekend, eating good food and visiting good bookstores; probably no updates until Monday.

Got (raw) milk?

Note: I originally published this article at Tea Leaves. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the idea of being able to buy and drink raw milk (or as some would have it, “real milk”) rather than the pasteurized and homogenized product we all know and love. Part of it is the (realistic) fantasy of being able to make real clotted cream and part is the (unrealistic) vision of myself living in the Dordogne making an earthy, runny cheese from lait cru, which I bring to market each week. Read On →

Middle East^H^Hrth

Lebanese mourn death of Saruman, Wizard of Isengard Concept courtesy Paul Bennett, who graciously allowed me to use his idea. Here’s a link to the original story.

Digital Picture Workflow

One of the digital photography web sites recently published an article on how Sports Illustrated manages its digital photographs. The piece described the process of shooting and editing 16,000 pictures during the Super Bowl. After reading it, I realized that the workflow that I’ve come up with for managing my own personal digital pictures is similar to SI. Workflow is a word that gets tossed around a lot when referring to the management of digital pictures. Read On →

Two Overpriced Ports

Buying vintage port is like going on a blind date in Manhattan. No matter how many close friends vouch for your blind date, you really can’t know in advance whether it will be fun or a disaster, and the only thing you know for sure is that it’s going to cost a lot of money. You can’t even count on having a good time if the date isn’t completely blind. Since vintage port is a wine that we often keep for years, it’s not unusual to end up in a situation where one bottle of a given house and vintage is superb, and then the next bottle from the exact same batch is awful, because it has spoiled, because you didn’t rebottle it; this happened to me with a bottle of 1977 Smith-Woodhouse. Read On →

Metamechanics

Game mechanics: the underlying rules and goals of a game. How do you decide what a player is allowed to do? When has a player won? How do player actions affect the game? The mechanics of a game are part of a game that is not narrative. Some basic game mechanics: Run around in a circle; first one to finish wins. (all racing games) Kill everyone else and/or capture the flag (most FPSs) Move the ball to the scoring zone the most times (sports games) Capture and hold victory points (war games) Wager and win tokens (gambling games) Compound games exist: Get the ball in the goal while killing everyone (Deathrow). Read On →

Europa Universalis II

Since my last article was spent talking about console games and how great they are, let me shift gears and talk about a PC game I’ve been playing lately: Europa Universalis II. This is a game with beautiful, beautiful maps. Gorgeous maps. Maps that literally take your breath away and make you marvel at them. You’ll sit back, contemplating the intriguing position of the Low Countries in relation to the principality of Brandenburg, and say – perhaps out loud, even – “Damn that’s one beautiful map.” See, I like maps. Read On →

La Prima Espresso

In a wonderful rant, psu talks about the perfect cup of coffee, and how there’s only one place in Pittsburgh – La Prima Espresso – to get it. His conclusion is that it’s pointless to buy an expensive espresso machine like a Silvia because it still won’t be as good as what we can get at La Prima. He’s right and wrong. Whether or not getting a fancy espresso machine is “worth it” is of course a judgment call, but I agree that generally what you’re going to make for yourself isn’t going to be as good as what you get at a good cafe, if only because of what I like to call the “hot dog in Yankee stadium” effect. Read On →

Europa Universalis

Since my last article was spent talking about console games and how great they are, let me shift gears and talk about a PC game I’ve been playing lately: Europa Universalis II. [ Europa Universalis II ](/weblog/images/articles/eu21.jpg) This is a game with beautiful, beautiful maps. Gorgeous maps. Maps that literally take your breath away and make you marvel at them. You’ll sit back, contemplating the intriguing position of the Low Countries in relation to the principality of Brandenburg, and say – perhaps out loud, even – “Damn that’s one beautiful map.” See, I like maps. Read On →

Why I don't buy a Silvia, or Ode to La Prima

Home espresso machines are a big business. For a few hundred dollars you can get a machine on par with the stuff that Starbucks is using to make those Venti half-caff double caramel 2-pump vanilla machiatto smoothie drinks for the local teenage set. But here is why I’d rather just go to La Prima espresso. Really good coffee is a complicated thing. My wife never drank, and in fact, hated coffee for at least the first 15 years we were together. Read On →

Platforms in Play

I play video games, on average, maybe an hour a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but on average probably 1/24th of my adult life is spent playing videogames. That’s quite a lot. I have a love of the game medium that is wide and deep. For the past many years, I’ve played games both on the PC (Windows and Mac) and more or less every console in vogue. I spend time and money on gaming as a hobby. Read On →

Gjetost: Freakish Norwegian Caramel Cheese

I have a cheese problem. My problem centers around the fact that the two best cheesemongers in town (Penn Mac and Whole Foods) are somewhat inconvenient for me to reach without planning. So I often find myself in the local supermarket, Giant Eagle, which purports to have a good selection of cheese. And they do: in the abstract, their selection is “ok.” Nothing fabulous, but they often have cheeses that I would like to eat, especially if I haven’t had time to pick up something great at Penn Mac. Read On →

Stupid Symlink Tricks

I do all of my work on my laptop. I have an external drive for large projects, but the desire to keep everything on the laptop means that I really only want to spend internal hard drive space on the essentials. I love LiveType, but I only use it once in a blue moon, generally when finishing a project up. Unfortunately, Apple’s dopey installation program requires that LiveType (like all the Pro apps) be installed completely on the internal drive. Read On →