A Quick Political Snark

CNN reports that a recent poll “suggests that one of out of five Americans think that Dick Cheney is the worst vice president in American history.” My question: what the hell is wrong with the other four?

Wii Bitter

The sales figures that the NPD group (who exactly are the NPD group anyway? No one seems to know) came out this week and the result was yet again the same. Nintendo sold more units of their stuff than Microsoft and Sony combined, leaving Microsoft and Sony to fight over an increasingly small remaining share of the hardware market. This share is mostly made up of the so-called traditional gamer, whose reaction to this turn of events was as predictable as the events themselves. Read On →

And Jump Off Of The Dock And Watch The Winter Waste Away

I’m reviewing the Wii game Animal Crossing: City Life for PTD. Any Tea Leaves readers who would like to explore the online component with me should feel free to drop by “Idletown”, at 4468-4770-4775. Leave your name and friend code in the comments section, and I’ll cross-register you. Just make sure not to tell anyone the terrible secret of Animal Crossing!

Eat Small

Locavore (n): A person who eats local and fresh food, and is particularly smug about it. This fall we happened to book a trip to San Francisco, where we planned to drop in on Slow Food Nation, the convention of the national Slow Food geeks. So we found ourselves in the middle of our favorite food town surrounded by a national population of the food-obsessed. It should have been a fantastic feast for the senses and the palate. Read On →

New Heights of Mediocrity: NWN 2

As I predicted in 2006, I finally gave in and bought Neverwinter Nights 2. But I have an excuse: I was able to expense it to write a review. I had one major complaint with the original Neverwinter Nights, which was that the camera management was intrusive. As far as I was concerned, to have a decent launch for NWN 2, Obsidian needed to do two things: 1. Add new campaigns to basically the same game. Read On →

Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People

It’s easier, in some sense, to review bad games than good ones. Good games often succeed by just unobtrusively doing what they are supposed to do. Bad games, by their nature, can be held up to mockery and ridicule. It’s harder to be witty about a game that is, simply, fun. One of the subjects I’ve been known to harp on is the adventure game genre. For a few years in the early 1990s, the entire genre was basically abandoned by the commercial game industry. Read On →

New Xbox Experience, Picoreview

1. The little Xbox “Mii”’s are pretty lame compared to the Nintendo ones. 2. What exactly is the point of the large dashboard? It appears to almost, but not quite, duplicate the mini-blade interface you get when you hit the big green button. So you think everything is there until you can’t find something and you remember go look at the mini-interface again. 3. Still nowhere to cancel my credit card renewal payment without calling Microsoft. Read On →

Duck...and Cover!

I like Fallout 3 quite a lot, so much so that I’m going to review it even though psu already did. This article might contain minor plot spoilers, but I don’t think they are anything you won’t figure out in the first 15 minutes of playing. “Fallout 3 is great” is not exactly a controversial opinion. Apart from a few irredeemable nut-jobs, everyone in the entire world agrees that in Fallout 3 Bethesda Softworks accomplished what it set out to do: deliver a compelling game set in the post-nuclear Washington, DC. Read On →

Wandering The Wasteland

We’ve all been playing a lot of Fallout 3 lately. I had not decided to write anything about until now for a couple of reasons. First, I am lazy. Second, I think that if I like a game, I should give it a chance to become hateful before I write down how much I like it. Hating a game is different. If a game sucks in the first few hours, it hardly ever gets better. Read On →

Kivi's Underworld: Mac Game Development

I recently had the chance to try out Kivi’s Underworld, the new “casual hack-and-slash” game from the developer of Depths of Peril. One of the things I thought was interesting about Kivi is that it was released simultaneously on OS X and Windows. Steven Peeler of Soldak graciously consented to be interviewed on the development of Kivi’s Underworld, and the experience of targeting the Mac as a platform. [caption id=“attachment_1207” align=“alignright” width=“300” caption=“Kivi’s Underworld”][/caption]I’ve been enjoying Kivi’s Underworld quite a lot. Read On →

Art is Where You Find It

As regular readers know, this past summer I undertook an in-depth review of the Nikon D300 camera. My initial plan was to shoot the sorts of photos that I know I’m good at. But shortly after taking my first set, I resolved to push past my comfort zone and shoot subjects that I normally wouldn’t think of as “mine.” This worked well in a few ways. First, of course, I got some great images. Read On →

Is This Thing On?

Psst? Anyone there? It appears that after a bit of technical chaos and angst that we are back. In a slight breach of protocol I’m going to spend a bit of time sending a big raspberry to the “developers” who create the wonderful weblog publishing software that we spend so much of our time using. Take the Wordpress upgrade and migration scheme. Please. It’s not clear to me who thinks that this is a well designed process. Read On →

If You Can Read This...

…it means that our transition to the new hosting service was successful. Here’s to another few years of game reviews, chowhounding, and bitterness! I think one or two of the most recent comments on posts might have been lost. I’ll try to move them over later today. In the meantime, consider visiting our forums and commenting there instead, while things settle down here.

Distance Learning the Blues

This week, on a whim, I bought a harmonica. It always seemed like a fun instrument to play, and you can get a quality instrument for just a few bucks. There’s only one problem: I don’t know how to play the harmonica. I dug around a little on the net, and found a series of instructional materials on YouTube. As soon as I started watching one, I realized there was something crazy going on here: The guy teaching the lessons was Adam Gussow, of Satan and Adam. Read On →

News of the World

Meanwhile, it’s pretty clear that someone at Amazon.com’s mp3 download department is happy about the election results..

Schadensürfing

I am introducing a new term into our public discourse. Schadensürfing: The activity of deliberately seeking out blogs, articles, and forum threads by defeated political opponents just for your own personal enjoyment (such as th is, if you’re an Obama supporter.)

Watching the Election on the Web

I have no broadcast TV antenna in my house. I have no cable. I have no satellite feed. So for me, the most fascinating part of this year’s election is that I am able to choose from among multiple professional webcasts of election coverage to watch, live. I have ended up going with the BBC coverage as the most interesting. Tip of the hat to Cynthia Closkey for the recommendation.

A Force for Good

In an astounding blow to the forces of darkness and evil, Amazon has introduced what they are calling Frustration Free Packaging. This does away with all of the extra bullshit that manufacturers like to surround their products in for the sole purpose of making sure that after you buy product you cannot use it. Jeff Bezos I salute you. Truly you are using your superpowers to fight for truth and light. Read On →

Stockholm Syndrome

I had been wavering on whether to buy Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360 or for Windows. Normally, this would have been a no-brainer for me. I like playing games from the couch. But recently I reorganized my house a bit, and the feng shui of the room with the iMac is just about perfect for games. And, truth to tell, I’m a little irritated by the amount of noise the 360’s fan makes. Read On →

Nama Sake

As I’ve mentioned recently I’ve been on a Japanese liquor kick, enjoying the hell out of various hard-to-get-but-delicious Japanese whiskies. Whisky, of course, is a comparatively new import to Japan. Their classic liquor production tradition subsists in two drinks: shochu, a distilled spirit probably first imported from the Asian mainland, and sake, a type of rice wine or rice beer. A friend of mine recently stopped by Astor Wines in New York and asked me if I wanted anything. Read On →

Pancakes

I like pancakes. I like them thick and fluffy and full of maple syrupy goodness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good pancakes. So finally out of desperation, I stole a recipe from Alton Brown. So now I get pancakes like this: Every Sunday. Luckily, good pancakes are fairly simple. It turns out that the fluffiness that you want comes from combining just the right leavening agents with the right amount of heat. Read On →

Minimum Standards

Ever since Fresh Air started putting up a daily podcast I’ve spent entirely too much time in the car listening to Terry Gross or one of her cohorts interview various people who are famous for various reasons. I have noticed something interesting about the “entertainment” related shows. Often they will perform a friendly interview with the director or star of some new TV show or movie. Everyone will sound intelligent and thoughtful, it will make you want to see the film. Read On →

Unplayable Classics: Balance of Power

This is a brief review that will appear in next month’s PTD Magazine. Thanks to PTD for graciously allowing me to pre-publish it here. We’ve all seen that guy. The one out on the dance floor, doing that shuffly dance guys do. The guy is convinced of his own savoir-faire. He’s convinced he’s talented. He’s convinced he’s irresistible. To everyone else in the room, however, he looks like a clumsy, embarassing dork. Read On →

Camera Shopping Update

It’s been about a year, so it was time to look around at the current round of compact digital cameras, since I grow tired of lugging my D200 around so much. Conclusion: they still all suck. So, dear photo industry, please get with it and make something good. Thanks!

Name That Tune!

I can’t get this song out of my head. I don’t have a copy of the original. I’m pretty sure it was from a commercial for color film from either Fuji or Kodak in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. But I could be misremembering. I jotted down the notes and made a brief MP3 fragment of the melody here. Please take a listen, and if you know what this is called, tell me. Read On →

Ring of Red

A tip of the hat to Michael Collins who, knowing my weakness for turn-based strategy games, suggested that i check out Ring of Red, (or, in Unicodese, Ring of ?ed), a PS2 tactics/action hybrid. There are advantages to not buying a game until 8 years after its release, and one of them is this: I was able to pick this up at The Exchange for a mere $7. Given the current state of the stock market, that’s about all I can afford. Read On →

Good Press

I spend a lot of time complaining about the press to peterb. I will storm into his office and start drooling and ranting about how so much radio, TV and print coverage about so many subjects is so vapid, shallow, ill-conceived and flat out factually incorrect. Then he reminds me that I work in software, where time to market is everything, and I shut up. So I’m happy when every once in a while I come across something in the press that is not vapid or shallow or ill-conceived or simply wrong. Read On →

Teacher. Wordsmith. Blowhard.

I will allow myself a brief comment on the little local blogging drama. I will keep it short and sweet, and anyone who doesn’t already know what I am talking about can safely ignore this. My comment is “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Post-Consumption Glow

I am not given to declarations of consumer affiliation (subliminal: buy !) But last year I waxed rhapsodic about Seagate’s FreeAgent Pro external drives, and tonight, well, I’m going to do it again. I needed more storage, and I couldn’t quite convince myself to shell out the cash for a Drobo storage robot (mostly because I was afraid it would be loud) so instead I just bought another FreeAgent. Specifically, I picked up the 1 Terabyte model Every good thing I said about the 750 Gb model holds true for the 1 Tb. Read On →

DRM and Me

I’ve had some bad luck with hardware this year. For the first time ever I had a disk fail in one of my computers. And then after getting my laptop rebuilt my iMac’s power supply went south and I had to get that machine rebuilt as well. When the laptop came back, I had to install all my old tools one by one, something I haven’t had to do for three or four years thanks to the wonderful Apple magic brain transfer function which makes imaging old machines into new machines easy and painless. Read On →

Spore: Turning Gold into Lead

What’s wrong with Spore? This is the question that’s been occupying me this week. With the help of about an hour on the phone to India I managed to resolve my DRM issues and played the game for days and days. It leaves me a bit cold. But frankly, I expected Spore to leave me a bit cold, since I’m one of the 2% of the population that doesn’t like The Sims. Read On →

The Cold Hard Reality of Perspective

There is a classic scene in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where it is revealed that the best way to destroy the mind of the average intelligent being is to put them in a room that shows exactly how insignificant they are with respect to the rest of the universe. In other words, the last thing people need is a sense of perspective. I felt this way the other week when we landed in San Francisco and got some Dim Sum. Read On →

Message Unreceived

As sometimes happens, I began writing a long and detailed article about how I have given up on having my stereo receiver be part of the “AV” system my TV is hooked up to. Quickly I discovered that psu wrote the same article a year and a half ago, in more detail and with better reasoning. So I’ll just say that tonight is the night I gave up. I unhooked the receiver and speakers, decommissioned the classic Xbox and the DVD player (anything I want to watch anymore I stream from iTunes, and I can use the 360 as a DVD player in a pinch), and moved them out of the room. Read On →

Breaking news: Canon 5D Mark II

I don’t usually republish press releases, but this is so fresh that I’m taking liberties: Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, today introduced the EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR camera, the long-awaited successor to Canon’s highly popular EOS 5D, introduced in 2005. Building upon the qualities that made the EOS 5D camera so successful, Canon has coupled the creative power of a full- frame CMOS sensor in a relatively compact and affordable camera body, together with groundbreaking HD video capture that opens the door to a much wider range of imaging possibilities for photographers. Read On →

Five Things I am Too Lazy to Twitter

I signed up for Twitter last week even though I have no idea why. Apparently you use this service to post things that are too useless or trivial to even write into a weblog. Of course, here at Tea Leaves, nothing is too useless to post. So here we go. Shazam! The Shazam app on the iPhone is perhaps the best encapsulation of modern dork convergence ever to be conceived by man. Read On →

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

Children have their heroes: Luke Skywalker. Indiana Jones. My hero was, and is, Sherlock Holmes. Happy are we to be living in the era when Arthur Conan Doyle’s copyright has expired, freeing up the name and likeness of Holmes for the use of other creators: in stories, in books, and even in video games. One such game is Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, or, as I like to call it, “Sherlock Holmes vs. Read On →

A Good Rule of Thumb

“Any game that has the language it is written in in the name is going to cause deep hurting.” And yes, authors (or packagers, whoever deserves the blame) of PySolFC, I’m looking at you. The thing where installing the cardset images also slapped a full-on Fink installation onto my mac was particularly poignant. This is like buying a cup of coffee at a 7-11 and the next thing you know the cashier moves into your basement.

Why I Don't Write

I sat down a few times this week to try and crank out my weekly or twice weekly little rantlet about nothing in particular, but I have not been able to summon the interest and the energy necessary to type the letters in the computer. In contrast, I just listened to the 100th GWJ podcast, which was the very definition of a guilty dork pleasure. How they managed to maintain the energy needed to fill that many hours of content with a relatively intelligent level of discussion about video games is almost beyond my comprehension. Read On →

Lie Down With Dogs

Item: a seemingly huge number of people (including me) can’t play Spore online because the copy protection breaks the game. Item: as of this writing, the average review score for Spore on Amazon is 1.195: 27 5-star reviews, a smattering of 4s, 3s, and 2s, and nine hundred sixty-three 1-star reviews. Most of the 1-star reviews focus on the copy protection of the game. Item: the average score of the Metacritic user reviews of Spore is 6.8, stunningly low for a AAA title. Read On →

Don't Buy Spore (Yet)

Once again, I suffer so that you don’t have to. This morning I picked up Maxis/EA’s new Spore. Apparently, though, the online part of the game – which is to say “most of it” – is completely broken and doesn’t work. At all. I’m sure I’ll hear from the “works for me” contingent any moment now. But for those of you who haven’t yet bought the game, you might want to peruse this 39-page thread on EA’s support forums. Read On →

The State of Mac Gaming: Summer 2008 Update

As regular readers know, I’m not only a gamer, but I’m a gamer who lives primarily on the Mac OS X platform. For years, this has been an insufferable position, akin to being seated at a restaurant where all the other customers were being served but where you couldn’t flag down a waiter. There have always been unique games for the Mac platform, and the occasional game like Diablo 2 that was on both PC and Mac. Read On →

Nikon To Canon: Not

Camera dorks, like most dorks, are obsessed with “systems.” You only ever hear dorks talk in hushed tones about how the most important thing to consider is not the individual purchase, but how all of your purchases should meld together into a cohesive whole that is a larger synergy. You hear this a lot when you ask camera dorks for buying advice. “It’s not the single item that matters, it’s how the whole system fits together” they will say. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon

Amazon.com Widgets Several years ago I entered the digital photography age and bought a DSLR. The other principal at Tea Leaves, psu, is a dedicated Nikon shooter and lent me his Nikon D70 to play with, and another friend of mine lent me a Canon D350 (“Rebel XT”). Both were fine cameras, but I liked the “out of the camera” JPEGs from the Canon a little more, so I went with that. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Conclusions

Amazon.com Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?) Conclusion I set out to answer the question “can a Canon shooter go Nikon?” The best answer I have for this question is a personal one: in writing this article, I’ve been packing up the D300 to send back to Nikon, and I’m mentally tallying up my bank account to see if I can come up with the cash to buy one – and the 17-55 f/2.8, and an SB-800 -- for myself. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Focusing

Amazon.com Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Focus Nikon’s auto-focus system UI differs from Canon’s in the particulars. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Lighting and Exposure

Amazon.com Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Flash When I first began shooting, I didn’t have any interest in flash photography whatsoever. Read On →

From Canon to Nikon: Noise

Amazon.com Widgets (Part 1 of this article explains my rationale for answering the question “How hard is it for a Canon shooter to go Nikon?” After a month with a D300, I’m ready to answer that question. If you buy equipment from Amazon via links on this page, or click on the ads, we get a little cash, which helps us maintain this site.) Noise and High ISO performance Nikon DSLRs have traditionally lagged a bit behind Canons in terms of digital noise at high equivalent ISO settings. Read On →

The Coming Flood

It’s the middle of August which means that the new Madden is out and we can say that the annual “Retarded Fall and Holiday Gaming Release Flood” has officially begun. While the coming weeks probably won’t bring us anything quite as bountiful as last year’s Bioshock followed by Halo 3 followed by Ratchet and Clank followed by Rock Band, there are no lack of interesting titles. But first, Madden. The “HD” Madden engine is now on its fourth release and I have to say that this time they have finally gotten something close to as playable as the older PS2 versions of the game. Read On →

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with Moriarty

I just paid $90 for a set of games that, purchased separately, would cost nearly $500. Long-time readers know of my love, bordering on irrational, for the games of Everett Kaser. From his first great game, Sherlock, through to what I consider the apogee of the deduction game, Baker Street, Kaser’s games have kept me company for upwards of 15 years. There has always been one problem: his games didn’t run natively on Mac OS X. Read On →

A Wee Dram of Hokkaido

I’ve alluded, once or twice, to my growing interest in Japanese whisky, and talked about the bottles that I absolutely, positively, did not buy out of state and certainly did not bring back to Pennsylvania, because that would be wrong. I have, it seems, taken it to a new level: friends have started not bringing me whisky directly from Japan. First, you may recall, there was the bottle of the Yamazaki 12-year that I totally did not buy at Gomer’s in Kansas City. Read On →