Obama, Clinton, and Hobgoblins

I typically avoid making political posts because, first, they tend to be boring, and second, they violate Peterb’s First Law of Human Nature, which, expressed concisely, is: “You can never tell anyone anything.” Lately, however, it has become impossible to turn a corner in Pennsylvania without hearing people discuss politics, and in particular the politics of personality that surround Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I think that these discussions are emblematic of a particular failure of the Democratic party, and will be the proximate cause of their close-but-no-cigar heartbreaking loss to John McCain in November. Read On →

April Fools' Day: Still Not Funny

Seriously, everyone, your little April Fools’ Day fake news articles aren’t funny and you’re killing me. Let this holiday die. Please. I beg of you.

Mike Nelson Interview

A couple of weeks ago, after reviewing RiffTrax and its cousin project, Cinematic Titanic, I had the happy opportunity to speak with Mike Nelson, the face of RiffTrax. In particular, I was most interested in talking to Mike about some of the business model issues I raised in that earlier article. He graciously agreed to discuss them. You started RiffTrax in 2006. How long did it – let me just ask this very bluntly. Read On →

Brown's Eats

I’m probably the only food dork who hasn’t been watching Alton Brown for the last 9 years or so. He became a fixture on the Food Network just about the time that I felt that I had learned everything I needed to learn, for the moment, about the whole food and cooking hobby. So it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when we were filling the Tivo at random while the flu rampaged through the house that I happened to watch Good Eats for the first time. Read On →

1000 Years of Popular Music

I’ve returned from my sojourn across half of the nation. Along the way, there were plenty of adventures: the Priceline reservation that turned out to be in a crack den, the fabulous KC barbecue, delicious and hard-to-get booze, and, of course, the disaster that ended in my being stranded in Indianapolis for an extra day. All of that will be written about in good time, once I’ve collected my thoughts. But for today, I’d just like to share one discovery that has nothing to do with the trip other than it was an album I bought to keep me company: Richard Thompson’s 1000 Years of Popular Music Thompson does a great job of explaining the concept, so I’ll take the liberty of quoting him here: The idea came from Playboy Magazine – I was asked to submit a list in late 1999 of the 10 greatest songs of the Millennium. Read On →

Xbox Live: Retarded Edition

I remember a couple of months ago I got a little notice from Amazon.com when I visited the web site saying that the credit card information I had given them was about to expire, and that I should go to my account page and fix it. So I went to my account page and fixed it. Apparently the same thing happened at Xbox Live. Because Microsoft is going to crush all comers in the online service sweepstakes, you would think that they’d have a similarly streamlined scheme for dealing with this issue. Read On →

Size Matters

Tonight a simple tip: size matters, so make sure you give the food enough space. This tip comes with a story. Back when I was younger, I used to actually ride my bike regularly in the summer. Wednesday nights. So one Wednesday I left to do my ride and I left my lovely wife with the task of prepping some aromatics for whatever we were making that night. The recipe called for her to cut up and saute off some celery. Read On →

Kyoto By Way Of Kansas City

Those of you following me on Twitter know that I managed to find not just one, but three of the types of booze I’ve been looking for last night. This is one of the nice things about travelling out of state: I get to shop at liquor stores that aren’t run by people who are profoundly uninterested in selling liquor. Here in Kansas City, Missouri, for example, there are at least two local chains that are worth visiting: the larger Berbiglia, and, my new favorite, Gomer’s. Read On →

Chicken Noodle Soup

The flu hit the household a couple of weeks ago, so just before I was taken down with fever, chills and that whole body ache, I stocked us up on the main defense against this sort of thing: chicken soup. This soup is similar to another lazy recipe I talked about before but it’s been refined a bit and is slightly more work. The basic idea is the same. First you spend a day making a nice chicken stock. Read On →

There Is A World Inside The World

For a while now I’ve wanted a microscope for performing various silly home science experiments. This week, I found one. It’s marketed as a children’s toy: the “My First Lab” Duo scope. “Duo,” in this context, means that it has two lights, one above the stage and one below. I had a microscope when I was a kid. I used microscopes throughout college. This silly little thing, at just over $50 – FIFTY DOLLARS – is better than any microscope I’ve ever used. Read On →

PC to PS2

I fired up Shadow of the Colossus last night only to find that I had somehow managed to overwrite my “You beat the game” save file. The last save I have is right before the final battle with the last Colossus. I’d rather pull out my own teeth than jump straight into that battle just to unlock Time Attack mode – again – but I see there are all sorts of save files for the game on GameFaqs. Read On →

Smart And Dumb

Today I got home from dinner and sat down to do some coughing while I surfed up some of my regular web sites on the couch. Today was a good surfing day because I came across two links worth sharing with you, our beloved readers. One is a smart article, one is a stupid article. First the good news. There’s been a lot of traffic at the game boards on the role of piracy in the PC gaming industry. Read On →

Game Developer To World: Please Revolve Around Me!

Today I read an interesting interview with Tim Sweeney of Epic whose tag line is “PCs are good for anything, just not games”. Summarizing the interview perhaps a bit unfairly, here’s what he says: (1) People aren’t buying expensive enough PCs. (2) Even the expensive PCs aren’t good enough to run his games. (3) People who buy cheaper machines with Intel integrated graphics are giving their money to Blizzard instead of Epic. Read On →

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I’ve been making real progress in the past year, giving away and donating books and DVDs, even finally getting rid of some of my most ancient and decrepit computers (somewhere, in a Goodwill building, are an IBM RT and a Decstation 3100. Good riddance.) Tonight, I opened the door to The Room I Don’t Go Into for the purposes of throwing away a few things. The Room I Don’t Go Into is worse than I remember. Read On →

No More Like This

I spent my third day with this year’s flu today. In my fever induced haze, I did manage to read some books I’ve already read, and I made a tiny bit of progress in the video games that I’ve been playing. I have to say, Lost Odyessey is great fun and all, but the costumes on the female “leads” are a few levels past chainmail bras. These chicks go into fights in Full Victoria’s Secret +4 Battle Underwear. Read On →

Chocolatier

The good thing about PlayFirst’s Chocolatier is that it reminds me of Taipan!. The bad thing is I’ve gained five pounds this week from playing it, because it makes me crave chocolate. Art Canfil’s Taipan!, for those of you old enough to remember it, was a sailing-and-trading game. You travelled from port to port in the Orient trying to make money, and to stay one step ahead of the moneylender and pirates. Read On →

And Another Thing...

You have to give the Japanese credit for two things. They know about knives, and they know about rice. After spending more time than is actually healthy for an responsible adult lurking in the insane asylum we call the knife forums, I finally gave in and picked up the relatively pedestrian Shun Chef’s Knife. You can already tell that I am suffering from forum brain damage because I feel the need to call this knife pedestrian. Read On →

Short Clips

I haven’t had anything long form to write about games recently because I have not been sufficiently in tune with my own sense of self-absorption to come up with much of an extended thought. But this does not mean I haven’t spent some time with the old electronic crack. What Your Mother Will Never Learn My parents visited over New Years. Mostly this meant my mom cooked and we ate a lot. Read On →

Dwarf Fortress for Mac!

I don’t have a lot of time tonight, because I am playing Dwarf Fortress. On my Mac. Under OS X. Without emulation. That’s right, after years of trial and travail, Dwarf Fortress, one of the most interesting games of the past few years, is finally available on my computing platform of choice. This was the single game that had me keeping a Boot Camp partition on my machine. Now I can get rid of it. Read On →

Demi-glace

Back in the distant past before Tony Bourdain was a TV personality jetting all over the world eating the more questionable parts of animals, I heard an NPR interview with him discussing Kitchen Confidential, the book that turned him into a TV personality who gets to jet all over the world and eat the more questionable parts of animals. He pontificated about kitchen knives, what pans you need, when to order fish and so on. Read On →

Rage: Interrupted

We spent the weekend visiting some good friends in New Jersey. Since the route home sends us right past Philly, I figured I would take advantage of the opportunity to enrich myself with the erudite discussion of the day’s issues at that landmark NPR station WHYY. Instead, I was assaulted with this show about Second Life run by some psychologist named Dan Gottlieb, PhD. You always know something is going to go badly when the guy makes sure to put “PhD” on the end of his name. Read On →

Accidental Discoveries

Here’s a dirty little secret: I am kind of a sucker for Bailey’s Irish Cream. Yes, yes, I know. It’s too sweet. It’s a girly drink. It’s like an alcohol milkshake. It’s sort of gross. I know all these things, and I agree with them, but I still kinda like it. What can I say: i have my guilty pleasures. But, truth to tell, I never drink Bailey’s anymore, because I am embarassed to be seen buying it. Read On →

A Short Ribs Rumination

From time to time I try to get ribs around Pittsburgh, or anywhere in the Northeast for that matter. I am usually disappointed. Now, I like ribs in many different styles. There are the Chinese ones my mom made. There are the slow cooked barbeque ribs in the South. There are the braised ribs at fancier restaurants of various types. Tonight I got the ribs at Tessaro’s. Normally I would only get the burgers there, but you have to change up once in a while. Read On →

Mass Effect and the Magician's Choice

I’ve written before, disparagingly, of the use of the Magician’s Choice in games. The magician’s choice, reduced to its simplest form is: “Pick a card, any card.” And then, whatever card you pick, you’ve picked the one the magician intended you to pick. When done poorly, this feels like a clumsy and ham-handed attempt at interaction. When done well, it’s seamless. Mass Effect is a good example of what happens when the choice is forced on you by a really good magician. Read On →

RiffTrax, Cinematic Titanic, and Me

For many years I was a fan of the cult classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. When I say “fan”, I mean this in the most derisive and dismissive way possible: I’m an utter fanboy. My love for the show was, and is, beyond any sort of rational analysis. So as I prepare to discuss two projects that the shows’ various members have launched, Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax, the reader would do well to remember that the projects’ creators would probably have to drive to my house and literally pee in my cornflakes before I could bring myself to say anything bad about their work. Read On →

Legume

Legume is a new bistro-style restaurant in that increasingly glorious food corridor of Braddock avenue between the Regent Square theaters and the entrance to the Parkway East. I was suspicious of the place because the name conjures up images of a prison run by terminally smug pot-smoking NPR-listening hippy types whose mission in life is to convince me that quinoa (it’s pronounced “keen-waaah”, apparently) is a reasonable substitute for Japanese short-grain white rice. Read On →

Imbibe!

My personal copy of Imbibe! arrived from Amazon today. Posts in the coming days may contain many misspellings and seem somewhat inebriated. I apologize in advance. And, let’s face it, if the last 8 years have taught us anything, it’s that election night is a good night to start drinking heavily.

In the End, No Final Victory

I was really hoping that I’d be able to tell the 72 Dolphins to Suck It. I guess I thought about that a little bit too much this past week.

Peng Shui

We’re going to talk consumer home products today, because I have a story to tell, and a recommendation to make. Slate had an interesting article today where they reviewed a number of warm mist, cool mist, and ultrasonic humidifiers. This topic is of interest to me because I bite my lips. And so, every winter, when the heaters kick on, the air dries out, and then my lips dry out, and then I have to walk around for a month with dry, cracked lips. Read On →

Guns, Germans, and Steel

Pity the PC (or Mac) gamer. We spend thousands of dollars buying or worse, upgrading our computers so that we can play the latest high end games. Then we spend our time with those computers seeking out remakes of the classic games that we actually liked, but which don’t work on modern hardware or operating systems anymore. The poster child game for this effect, for me, is Panzer General (and its fantastic sequel Panzer General 2). Read On →

Are You Going to Wear That?

Long time readers of our humble writings will recall that we have no love for the Metal Gear Solid games. Pete says, and he is not wrong, that the games implement gameplay systems that are actively hostile towards the player and he doesn’t have time to play games designed by people who hate him. A couple of years ago, I had tried and given up on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for that exact reason. Read On →

Does This Game Make Me Look Fat?

There’s a certain question that makes straight men freeze with fear: “Does this outfit make me look fat?” Men hear this, and they are paralyzed in a moment of fight-or-flight panic, because they know, first, that they have to respond and, second, that there is no correct response. Women, so I’m told, often have the same reaction to being asked “Hey, honey, am I starting to go bald?” The reason these questions are problematic is that they are sometimes not asked in earnest. Read On →

In Libris

I’ve contributed a chapter to an upcoming book, “Computer Games as a Sociocultural Phenomenon: Games Without Frontiers - War Without Tears”, edited by Andreas Jahn-Sudmann and Ralf Stockmann. The book can be ordered directly from the publisher, or you can pre-order it from Amazon. My chapter is titled “There and Back Again: Reuse, Signifiers, and Consistency in Created Game Spaces”, and builds on some ideas you’ve seen on this very weblog. Read On →

Building a Better Grasshopper

The grasshopper is a classic sweet cocktail that, typically, sucks. If you order it at a bar, you’ll get a concoction made from bad green creme de menthe, worse white creme de cacao, and cream or half and half. It will be undrinkably sweet, but to make up for being too sweet it will also taste bad. The mystifying thing about the grasshopper is that it should be good. Chocolate and mint is a great combination. Read On →

The New Iron Chef

I’m not too much for spreading around YouTube memes, but I can’t let this one go without comment. It has to be seen to be believed. The missing context is that the star of the show, “Ramon Razor Hard Gay”, is actually a fairly well known comedian and professional wrestler. So that makes it all OK and not at all sick. I think.

Please, God, Don't Let Me See Etna Naked

My co-writer may complain bitterly that I infected him with the shopping virus, but from my perspective, turnabout is fair play. I have spent the past month mostly ignoring any game that doesn’t have “Disgaea” in its title, and it’s all his fault. I finished the main storyline of the first Disgaea game, and then switched to the second game. It’s time to talk about it a bit. But first, let me tell you a little something I’ve noticed about our web traffic. Read On →

The Shopping Virus

Tonight I am upset with my co-writer, although it’s not really his fault. It all started when we had an innocent conversation over lunch where peterb told me his dad was going to buy him a cooking knife for his birthday. Until that point and time, I had thought about cooking knives perhaps three times in the last fifteen years, and each time it was to plot how to make my friend Erik sharpen my knives for me. Read On →

Hot Buttered Rum Triumphant

I wrote, some years ago, an article about rum and its many uses. In it, I mentioned that I don’t understand hot buttered rum, because I’ve never found a recipe for it that resulted in something even remotely drinkable. Nat provided me with a recipe at the time, but it just didn’t work for me somehow. This week, however, he lent me a copy of David Wondrich’s awesome book Imbibe! From Absinthe Cocktail To Whiskey Smash, A Saulte In Stories And Drinks To “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. Read On →

Beautiful, Sharp, and Mine

Thanks to the generosity of my dad, I now own a really nice chef’s knife, a Kumagoro 210mm gyuto. Gyuto - “Cow knife” Dad decided to give me the gift of a sharp cooking implement for my birthday, on the condition that I research it and pick it myself. I suspect this was his own way of defusing his own lust for an ever-increasing number of knives. There are a number of internet forums (of course!) discussing cooking knives, knife sharpening techniques, and accessories. Read On →

And Now the News

In a special report, here is a summary of the breaking news over the past few days: Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Obama Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Edwards Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Money Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Clinton Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Huckabee Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Romney Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Iowa Can someone please explain to me why every few years the “news” people engage in this collective mutual masturbatory spoogefest over the opinions of a couple of hundred thousand people in the middle of nowhere? Read On →

Assassin's Creed Picoreview

It’s awesome, except for how it sucks.

Pot Sticker Update

Recently my pot stickers have been bothering me. It was a texture problem. The filling tasted right, but was not solid enough. Ideally the filling of each dumpling is an independent little meatball that just happens to be sitting inside the doughy skin. Mine were not like this, they were sandy and insubstantial. Clearly I had to ask my mom what was going on. So when my parents visited over Christmas this year, we investigated my methods, going over each step of the process. Read On →

Random Thoughts at the End of the Year

As is traditional at this time of year, our brain capacity has been severely limited by a all the blood rushing to our stomachs. I can’t really remember what I was doing a week ago, much less a year ago. Still, here are a few thoughts that I can manage to locate in the fog. Pittsburgh Food Events of the Year The beginning of this year saw the sad loss of one of the iconic food locations in Pittsburgh. Read On →

The Grinch Who Stole New Years' Eve

Y’know, I pretty much stay awake until 1 or 2 am every night of the year. Every single night. But something about the hype and circumstance surrounding New Years’ Eve makes me want to go to sleep at 7:30. Bah, humbug.

The Assassin Prince of Metal Splinter Cell Gear in Persia

At my request, my co-writer and game pusher peterb used his Gamefly powers to obtain Assassin’s Creed for the Xbox 360 the other week. I’ve spent a couple of weeks playing it in between my long sessions of getting repeatedly shot in the head playing Call of Duty 4. To say that Assassin’s Creed is a mixed bag does not really do the game justice. After all, the game has far loftier goals than usual. Read On →

Dwarf Fortress, Now in 3D ... sort of.

I’ve made no secret of my love for Bay 12 Games’ Dwarf Fortress. I’ve returned to it this holiday season only to find there’s been a significant change: the game is now 3D. It’s still a roguelike, mind you. But the environments now encompass a huge number of z-levels, which you can step through with the < and > keys. I’m of two minds about this development. On the positive side, it brings a lot of freshness and variety to the game, and opens up a lot of interesting possibilities, particularly with respect to moving water and magma about. Read On →

Cheese With My Whine: Peggle for Mac

Karl Hendricks, a Pittsburgh indie-rock local legend, released an EP in the early 90’s called I Hate This Party which perfectly encapsulated teen angst, the feeling of simply not understanding the things that other people like to do, and the shame that can sometime go along with it. I hate this party. I hate all your friends. I hate feeling stupid. I always do in the end. This, not to put too fine a point on it, is how I feel when people talk about what a superlatively awesome time they are having playing Popcap’s pachinko- on-crack game Peggle. Read On →

An Ongoing Sickness

…and now I’ve picked up Disgaea 2 via eBay. STOP ME BEFORE I BUY AGAIN.

Descending Further Into the Item World

I visited The Exchange last night, and ended up walking out with two other Nippon Ichi games, La Pucelle Tactics and Rhapsody, A Musical Adventure. I am so very doomed.

Dis Guy Walks Into A Bar...

My co-writer and I have somewhat different approaches towards games of questionable value. He approaches gaming a bit like a “catch and release” fisherman, constantly buying the newest games on a whim, playing them for a couple of days, and then selling them on eBay in a week if they don’t work out. I, on the other hand, agonize over each and every purchase, determined to hold on to my hard-earned cash to the last second. Read On →