Dances With Dinosaurs

My recent experience buying a car has taught me a few lessons that I hope I remember next time. I’m going to write them down so I don’t forget. Let me acknowledge up front that these lessons are colored by my personal hangup about “not getting ripped off”, where “ripped off” is defined as “paid too much for a given new car, by some semi-objective standard.” If you don’t share that hangup, a lot of this won’t apply to you. Read On →

This is Not a Video Game Review: 2

The title of this piece will give astute readers a sense of deja vu. You will recall that more than a year ago, disgusted with the state of writing about video games, I called on the industry to do a better job and find something interesting to write about our beloved medium. The response has been decidedly tepid. I guess people were confused about what I meant by “interesting writing” or “an enjoyable review.” While one can find the occasional example of what I am after, I don’t think the situation has improved that much. Read On →

DeLorme PN-40 and Topo USA 7.0

This post can also be called “In Which I Ignore Kelly’s Advice To Buy A Garmin And Pay The Price”. I just got my DeLorme PN-40 last night. I went for the PN-40 instead of the Garmin because I was lured by the promise of awesome topo maps and easy-to- obtain-and-load aerial photography (and because there was a fire sale on them and I got one at a very good price). Read On →

The Dragon Age of Benny Hill

Since everyone else is remixing the Dragon Age “Sex and Violence” trailer, I’m throwing my hat in the ring too:

Rather Caching

The biggest problem with buying a car is that once you buy it, you have to stop shopping. This is problematic for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that, having dropped so many thousands of dollars on a durable consumer good, suddenly other items seem a lot cheaper. So consumer electronics that, if you were sane, you’d dismiss as “too expensive” suddenly become little things to be casually picked up with pocket change. Read On →

Market Day Eggs

This weekend was the opening weekend for the Farmer’s Market at the Firehouse in the Strip, our favorite place to go for this sort of thing. The market is run by the Slow Food Pittsburgh people and has gradually grown to be a fantastic source for local organic produce, meats, and other products. This week we got wild leeks (ramps) and morel mushrooms. So to celebrate, I made eggs for breakfast on Sunday. Read On →

Most Consistent, Least Astonished

I was duped. Tricked. Conned. I was not going to join the zombie Facebook hordes, but it happened anyway. But I am not here to whine about the fact that I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the 2000s from the dark ages of the late 1990s. Facebook is actually kind of cool. It’s like Twitter, except everyone is using it instead of just the dorkiest people you know. My main problem with the system is that they have designed it so I never see the same thing when I load the main page, even when nothing has changed. Read On →

A Short Public Service Announcement

Popcap has released Plants vs. Zombies for Windows PCs and Macs. You should go pick it up now. That is all. Did you go yet? Because if you didn’t you are a fool.

Buyer's Premorse

I am, once again, a car owner. Yes, while co-author psu was looking to buy a car, so was I. But unlike his rather straightforward and serendipitous journey that ended with his luckily finding a lightly used Volvo, I had a lot more (self-inflicted) drama. I’d been driving a Ford Escort ZX2 coupe for 11 years. While this is the sort of statement that tends to make small children laugh and point, they can kiss my grits: I loved that car. Read On →

I Become My Parents

Good news! This will be (probably) my last post that mentions cars. While the whole car exercise has opened up entirely new and previously unmined avenues of comparison Internet shopping, you just can’t keep up that kind of enthusiasm for a consumer item that you only buy once every five to ten years. And no, surprisingly enough I did not get a Prius. But therein lies the story. If there is one dominant philosophy that has governed my life up until now, I would summarize it as: “live life by standing around and watching, but when you get lucky be ready to take advantage of it.” I picked my college this way, as I had a friend whose sister went to the same school, and I noticed that it seemed like a cool place. Read On →

Overtime!

As I type, the Bulls and the Celtics are going into their fifth overtime period in the series. Whatever the outcome of this admittedly excellent series, one thing is for sure. If the Celtics can barely beat this team there isn’t much hope for them in the later rounds. The D has been spotty. The bench is the worst since Greg Kite was their “sixth man”. It’s actually been hard to watch. Read On →

Eyes on the Prize

I hate my optometrists. Or should I say, I hate my _ex-_optometrists. I’ve worn glasses since I was in fourth grade. I’ve never been able to handle contact lenses, and to me there’s also something refreshing and liberating about having a little mask that I put on when I wake up and take off when I go to sleep. Eyeglasses are, perhaps, my only concession to the world that there is this constant public dance called “fashion” and that I participate in it. Read On →

Uniwar

Possibly the best game currently available for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform right now, Uniwar fulfills pretty much all of your “Hey, I’d like to play something like Advance Wars” needs. The polish is sort of stunning - multi-player online games, with multiple players per team (2v2, 3v3, or 4v4), email notifications when it’s your turn, a computer opponent that’s not too shabby, and best of all, it’s in your pocket wherever you go. Read On →

The Car Questions

I’ll keep this short, because no one could possibly be less interested in my continuous car shopping than you guys. But in my previous missive I forgot to list the questions brought up by this exercise. So here they are now. 1. Why do Americans hate hatchbacks? 2. Why is the station wagon dead? 3. Why don’t the car companies make an enjoyable luxury hatchback that is practical, spacious, and comfortable to drive? Read On →

Pasta Con Le Sarde

Consider the humble sardine. Yes, yes, I’m doing it again: rehabilitating foods that odds are you, for some godforsaken reason, don’t eat. Even though these foods are awesome. I’m not going to stop anytime soon. You don’t eat prunes, so I tell you to eat prunes. You don’t eat olives, so I tell you to eat olives. You don’t eat liver, so I tell you – at least those of you without heart conditions – to eat liver. Read On →

In Praise of Braise

Lately I’ve been trying to get a handle on a few basic techniques, one of which is braising meat. I’ve always had good luck with making stew but mixed luck with braising. After gaining some insight through failed practice sessions, I think I finally cracked the code this weekend. So here is what you do. First, buy a big heavy soup pot. I’ve had the best luck with my old Le Creuset enamel on cast iron dutch ovens. Read On →

Belly Up

We were in Dinette the other night getting ready to tuck into one of their excellent pancetta and sunny-side up egg pizzas when we spied a plate of prosciutto go by to the table in the back. It was placed in front of a young girl, maybe 8 years old. “That’s a lot of ham”, I thought. A while later, having polished off the pizza we looked back over and the plate was empty and a second plate of ham was being placed in front of the young girl. Read On →

The Other Green Fairy

Cocktail-making is as close as most people get to alchemy. One might think that cooking or baking qualify, as well. But in both cooking and baking, technique can tend to predominate, and it’s rare that you end up with something inexplicably numinous. In the cocktail, however, more often than you’d think, you can put three ugly ducks into a shaker and end up with a swan. The sum of the ingredients is greater than its parts. Read On →

Car Shop For Me

I’ve been looking at cars lately. I have never really shopped for cars in the past because for reasons that are too complicated to get into we’ve always just bought minivans. But, the current van is reaching the end of its useful life and for various other reasons that are too complicated to explain, it’s time to find a car for me to use as a commuter. I have found the experience to be both enlightening and confusing. Read On →

The Rose Tea Effect

Long time readers will no doubt remember that my favorite Asian food restaurant in Pittsburgh is Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill. Rose Tea is so good that you can come back to Pittsburgh after a week in a city with a real Chinese Food community and eat there without blinking. If this was all they had achieved, the place would represent a true watershed in the food history of our fair city. Read On →

Ninja Town

Dripping with style and almost aggressive cuteness, Ninja Town for the Nintendo DS puts the “aw!” in “kawaii”. Ninja Town The game takes place in a town of adorable, fluffy little death machines called “Wee Ninjas”. As Ol’ Master Ninja, you’re in charge of organizing the defense of Ninja Town against a seemingly unendless group of enemies hailing from nearby Mount Feroshi. Fortunately for you, the enemies come in waves, which gives you a chance to prepare. Read On →

Tater Boss

The Whole Foods tater tots are back. They are almost as good as before, but a little bit different. Phew.

Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Bugzir

How many software engineers does it take to screw up a beloved franchise? The answer is “However many work at Obsidian Entertainment.” Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir is the second expansion pack continuing the ongoing disaster that is NWN 2. As those of you who bought the original game know, Neverwinter 2 took the original formula of the first game, and added to it ridiculous system requirements to draw graphics that weren’t that good, which you wouldn’t see anyway because the camera in the game was completely unusable. Read On →

The Zombie Jamboree

As a great fan of zombie games I feel I have to point out the momentous turn of events that we are currently experiencing in this generation of game consoles. I refer to the fact that there is now a major new zombie game out for every major console console platform. How can one be anything but happy about this? On the Xbox we have already talked about Left 4 Dead. Read On →

This Machine Kills Fattists

Ed note: This article originally appeared in the pages of PTD Magazine “That’s obese!” the voice happily chirps. The voice, belonging to an anthropomorphized bathroom scale, is my nemesis. It is Wii Fit, and every day it tells me I am overweight (or, after a night spent drinking too many margaritas, obese). The Wii Fit has been received by the mainstream media as a novelty fitness device. And I guess it is that, but only time will tell if it proves effective as a way of promoting exercise. Read On →

Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble!

In a world where gamers complain that “there’s no innovation anymore!” but still always spend their money on the latest Bejeweled or the latest sequel to Prince of Grand Theft Halo, a game company that releases an innovative game is a rarity. A developer that releases two innovative games is almost unheard of. A few years ago, Mousechief published The Witch’s Yarn, proving that there was something new under the sun. Read On →

Lightroom 2

In the bad old days, I used to use three programs to import, process and catalog my growing collection of digital pictures. I didn’t really want to use all three, but I did for two reasons. First, each program in the set did its job better than the other two. Second, each program was barely adequate at doing its job at a reasonable level of usability. Photo Mechanic was good at importing and really nothing else. Read On →

Kivi's Underworld

Several years ago Soldak Entertainment released Depths of Peril, a game that took some of the addictive elements of Diablo II and married them to a framework for inter-player competition. The graphics were simple but effective, and the controls were instinctive. I ended up not playing it as much as I’d have liked to in part because it has a “kitchen sink” feel. There were so many options in the game, available from the very start, that I ended up not motivated, but paralyzed. Read On →

Killzone 2 Picoreview

A couple of days ago I talked to Pete on iChat: psu: Hey, should I buy Killzone 2, or should I just pretend I bought it and sold it again on Ebay after a day and then just go back to playing Halo? peterb: (b) My picoreview of Killzone 2: I should have listened to peterb. My main gripe with this game is that it comes from the school that thinks that it’s a good idea to bounce the first person camera around while you run and turn. Read On →

Coraline

Stop what you’re doing and go see it right now. Seriously. It’s that good. You probably want to watch that instead of A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn:

I Do Fusion

Everyone who knows me knows that I hate fusion food. This isn’t actually true. I tend to hate East/West fusion food when cooked by Western cooks who don’t know shit about the Eastern cuisine they think has influenced them. Meanwhile, my experience is that West/East fusion cooked by Eastern cooks who know what they are doing tends to work better. So tonight, just to amaze you, I present my perfect West/East fusion Pittsburgh bar food: Chinese mini-steamed bun curried turkey burger sliders. Read On →

Wii Fat

A few months ago, my Wii died the death, and I had to send it back to Nintendo for repair. When it came back, all of my data had disappeared, including several months full of Wii Fit user data. Now, obviously I hadn’t been playing Wii Fit during the several weeks that it was in the shop. And losing the data sort of took the wind out of my sails, so I didn’t really start up again until this week. Read On →

Guns, Lots of Guns

Whenever there is a lull in my game playing you can count on two things. First, I will find something to shoot. Second, I will happiest if what I am shooting are zombies, or aliens. So, today a round up of what I have been shooting lately. Left 4 Dead On the zombie side, as Pete mentioned, we have been playing Left 4 Dead. I don’t have a lot to add to his impressions of the game. Read On →

Like a Fool Returns To His Money

The first time I mentioned the game The Fool and His Money on this site was in 2004. This game is the long-awaited sequel to Cliff Johnson’s classic puzzle game Fool’s Errand. In that article, a review of Everett Kaser’s Sherlock, I optimistically said something about the game being released “later this fall.” At the time I wrote those lines, I had already paid for the game. Johnson has indicated he will list the names of people who pre-ordered the game in the game itself, in the “Compendium of True Believers.” I bought the game, if I recall correctly, shortly after it was announced in 2003. Read On →

Audience Service

I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. I know that at times I can sound ambivalent about this, but that’s more a reflection of the generally declining state of Classical Music as a cultural compass. In reality, I have no ambivalence about the PSO. I think they are consistently one of the top bands in the country, and it’s readily apparent at the shows that they have a strong connection with the audience and the community. Read On →

Zombies Are People Too

A little while ago, psu wanted to shoot zombies in Left 4 Dead with me so badly that he bought me the game. Zombies, you see are an eternal source of friction between the two of us. Put simply, he loves zombie games, and I do not. I’m pretty sure that if he’s playing any game – say, Tetris or Lumines – he’s secretly thinking to himself “Y’know, this is pretty good, but it would be better if it had zombies.” I, on the other hand, am alternately repulsed, horrified, and bored by zombie games. Read On →

Disneyworld For The Soul

I’ve written before about how much I love the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Tonight, I’m going to do it again. 3 floors of open stacks. 9 floors of closed stacks. Books, magazines, CDs, videotapes, DVDs, video games, audiobooks, graphic novels, downloadable books- on-MP3, as well as a variety of other online resources. Research librarians who can answer just about any question. An electric piano that you can play, with headphones. Coffee. Read On →

SixBurgh

I am lucky enough to have two NFL teams to root for. The one that is local to where I live now (WOOOOO SIXBURGH, WOOOO) and the other one of my youth, which was never any good until recently, but who missed the playoffs this year even after beating the Cardinals by 40 points. You know the one, they are the new face of evil and all that. So, six thoughts on the Super Bowl. Read On →

Tater Loss

The Whole Foods tater tots are gone. This is a great tragedy in the area of foods formed from shredded potatoes. For some reason the Whole Foods ones had just the right balance of starch, oil and salt so if you roasted them at 400F for 20 minutes or so they were little cylindrical bundles of crunchy joy. But they’ve been gone for a couple of months. I think this bodes ill. Read On →

Stir Fry Rules

Today I made a perfect stir fry. This doesn’t happen often, I usually get some small detail wrong that throws the whole enterprise off. I thought I would celebrate by imparting upon you, my dear readers, the rules you need to keep in mind to make the perfect stir fry happen more often. As is usual with my recipe advice, it will do you no good at all. Make the rice first Have the rice ready half an hour to an hour before you start cooking. Read On →

A Tourist in Azeroth

This story is about World of Warcraft. I say that up front so that you can bail early if you like. There seems to be a pattern where an otherwise interesting writer will develop a World of Warcraft addiction and decide that everyone in the world wants to hear the details of his character’s armor. (This happened to Joi Ito, for instance, who tried to bring to WoW the same insufferable gravitas that he brings to everything. Read On →

Coffee Time

Coffee is perhaps the most mysterious of all the hot drinks. Sure tea comes from the Far East and can at times be shrouded in ceremony and complicated cultural codes. But as a drink it’s simple. You take leaves, you put them in water that’s not too hot. After a while, you remove the leaves and enjoy your tea. While coffee works on this same principle, I think what makes it an endless puzzle is the literally thousands of devices that man has thought up to do the job of soaking ground coffee beans in water. Read On →

Camera Enough

If there is something that photographers like to do more than shop for cameras it is this: photographers love to tell you why a given machine is not good enough for what they do. Cameras are too small, or too big, or too slow or too loud, or too “plasticky”. The flash system might be no good. Or the lens system might be missing that one critical lens, usually an expensive fast prime. Read On →

Moore and Me

One of the many ways in which I’ve had a lucky life is that I grew up with Moore’s law. I became aware of computing hardware just about the time the integrated circuit came on the scene. From high school to college to graduate school and into my work life I have for the most part ridden the curve that the hardware people have so generously provided for those of us who work in software. Read On →

Painscape: Tormented

Long time readers will remember that a couple of years ago I worked my way through the first half of Planescape:Torment using a Windows emulator on my Mac. Since then I’ve dabbled in the game every once in a while, and then over this past Christmas break I decided to finish it off for good. Since my previous article on the game covered most of what I liked about it, now I get to complain. Read On →

New Year's Eve List

As the new year approaches, it seems like everyone is contractually obligated to publish at least one end of 2008 list. So here is our humble contribution to this strange ritual for this year: the top core gamer grievances of 2008. 10. What is with the Wii? What are all those people doing with all those Wii consoles anyway? There is no Bloodsport Deathspank 4 deathmatch to play. The Wii is a blight on the industry because it encourages people to buy what they want at a fair price and then have fun with it. Read On →

Name That Tune (Scooby Doo Edition)

Since the alert readers of this blog were so helpful in identifying the Vivaldi Largo in D minor that was tormenting me, I am turning to you to solve another musical mystery. Here it is (possibly in the wrong key): (if you don’t have flash installed, you can download the small MP3 snippet here) I first heard this little intro/trill on Leon Redbone’s cover of the old Emmett Miller tune “Ghost of the St. Read On →

In the Dark

It’s been a while since I went to see a movie. In fact, I think the last one I saw this year was The Dark Knight, a summer blockbuster to end all summer blockbusters. This was a popcorn movie with a difference. It was alleged to have a gritty and realistic style and was also taken seriously in the critical community as a movie with “mature” themes. After two and a half hours and change, all I remember thinking was that the film was too long and badly edited. Read On →

Achievement Unlocked

To keep you busy at the in-laws’ house over Christmas, try this brilliant little web browser game. You’re welcome. Have some eggnog.

Waste Not

Dear crust-hater who was eating at Dinette tonight: Good lord what are you thinking? You are throwing away the best half of the pizza you just ordered. I can only conclude that you were raised badly. For the rest of you who I am sure enjoy pizza crust, Dinette is the best pizza in town since Antonio left us. While it is a bit pricey, I think the value is good. Read On →