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 →

This is Not a Game Review

I have a peculiar, but probably not particularly unique, habit. I like to read reviews of things after I have otherwise consumed them. I do this a lot with movies, music, books and other such “artistic” media. I think part of this activity stems from the engineer/dork need to search out validation for one’s opinions. For example, I was once thrilled to find out that the Trader Joe’s red wine that I had bought was also enjoyed by the wine critic on The Splendid Table. Read On →

Shooter Fatigue

I have always liked first person shooters. For a long time they were all I played. Every couple of years I’d pick up a new one and play it for a while and then go dormant again. Being slow and uncoordinated, I have never been particularly good at shooters. In online games I am particularly useless, and my main goal is usually to not be shut out. After the last flood of major releases in 2004, the last few years have been off years for shooters. Read On →

Gamespot, Gerstmann, and Gratuitous Grandstanding

I’m not going to link to any of the handwringing articles over this because I don’t want to bore my readers to death. For those of you who are already following the situation, here is my take: (1) No one who is talking actually knows why Gerstmann is no longer working at Gamespot. (2) Everyone who is talking is speculating. (3) All of the various posts people are citing that ‘confirm’ the rumors, don’t. Read On →

Dear ESPN Monday Night Football

I watch too much football these days. Aside from being one of the few things that makes HDTV actually worth the trouble, I am also blessed with being able to follow two teams that are playing at a high level: The Patriots and the Steelers. Which brings me to Monday Night Football. My beloved Patriots came within a few feet of losing their first game last night. I have nothing really to say about that. Read On →

This Old Nog

Every year I make some homemade eggnog, which always sounds disgusting but ends up being pretty good. I’ve made versions with both raw, pasteurized and cooked eggs, depending on to whom it will be served. The raw egg version does taste noticeably different from the pasterurized or cooked versions, and has a thinner and more pleasant texture, but does carry a higher health risk. Life, of course, is full of tradeoffs, and this is one of them. Read On →


Being something of a tea snob, I’ve always been fascinated by the over the counter supermarket tea market, where companies like Celestial Seasonings can sell exactly the same junk product as Lipton but, through the power of a nice box design and some flavor text, command a huge premium in price. Today it struck me: this is how I will get rich. I will market low quality teas in fine packaging. Read On →

Boycotting MacHeist

…or “Good software is worth paying full price for.” Around this time last year a package of products was marketed and sold to the Mac community under the name “MacHeist.” From a purely consumer-centric point of view, the package represented good value for money: a number of excellent apps for a bargain-basement price. What was a little bit irritating to me (and to others, such as John Gruber) was that the package was marketed as being half a celebration of indie mac development and half a charitable enterprise, when in reality the promoters raked in the mad cash for themselves, to the tune of (according to Gruber) around a half-million bucks. Read On →

Persephone Descending

My experiments with homemade grenadine have paid off. First, let’s talk about how I did it, then let’s talk about what to do with it. With this batch, I started with a fresh pomegranate, because I happened to have one. Having tasted it side by side with the POM brand juice, I feel confident in saying: there’s absolutely no difference, just use the bottled juice. It’s less work, and it will taste exactly the same. Read On →

A Small Milestone

Today I installed Leopard on my home laptop. As usual, installing a new version of the OS broke the Xemacs build I keep around for the one thing I do with Emacs. Normally I have the fortitude to get it working again, but not tonight. In a final step away from the brain damage of Emacs as a tool to use every day, I deleted the install and will not bring it back. Read On →

I Like Cake Too

I originally planned to pick up The Orange Box on the strength of the Team Fortress 2 trailer videos. Here was a multiplayer game with some character, I thought. I was excited about it. The people who play games for me played a lot of the beta and seemed to love it, but then they all ended up playing the multiplayer on Steam instead of the Xbox, and then my Xbox melted. Read On →

Trying 'Til You Run Out Of Cake

I don’t have a lot of time for games. This may seem strange, given how much I write about them, but the fact is that I work a day job, and have a social life, and games basically fit a slim slice of time between the time I’m done with everything else – usually around 10:30 or 11 pm – and the time I go to bed. That has some interesting consequences. Read On →

Mission Tenpossible

I recently played the first eleven missions of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Nintendo Wii. This breaks something of a tradition for me. I recently played the first ten missions of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the Gamecube. Last year I played ten missions (each) of Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones on the Gameboy Advance. I abandoned all of those games after ten missions. Why only ten missions? Read On →

Internet Forum People: A Taxonomy

Spend any time on the Interwebs these days and you will inevitably end up reading one kind of forum or another. These days there seems to be one of these for every normal human interest and probably the interests that aren’t all that normal. I have two observations to make about these forums, one short and one long. First, for some reason, they all use the same sort of shitty PHP forum software. Read On →

Grenadine Grenade

So I have been following, with a mixture of horror and admiration, a thread on a certain internet forum called Stomping Through the Savoy. The Savoy in question is The Savoy Cocktail Book, a fascinating manual full of cocktails from the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London. The most interesting aspect of these drinks is that they are all, without exception, utterly undrinkable garbage. OK, OK, I am exaggerating. Read On →

Espresso Lessons

After better than ten years of happily avoiding the home espresso problem I finally gave in last week and bought a fancy home espresso maker. Unsurprisingly, I did not go into this with a great deal of enthusiasm, and I have to say that I am surprised at the general quality of the shots that the new device is providing even at my relatively novice level of practice. As usual, many lessons were learned in the process. Read On →

Ice Station Santa!

TellTale has released the demo for the first game in Season 2 of their Sam and Max adventure games: Ice Station Santa. A full review will be forthcoming, but let me just say this: if you own a PC that you play games on you must buy Sam and Max. It is more than just a good idea. It is a moral imperative.

Martini Glasses Are Stupid

Finally, one of the videos we’ve been planning for a while is put to bed. Please enjoy our demonstration of why martini glasses are stupid (video after the break). As always, higher-quality versions of the video can be found here at .mac. I showed this to bbum and his first entirely correct comment was “You didn’t break the glass!” I actually had that in the script, but due to the location that proved infeasible. Read On →

New and Old

Tonight we begin with a couple of different links. First, I have to give a shout out to Yahtzee, that writer of flash-based animated video game reviews who brings a heretofore almost unheard of level of bitterness to the game. The target of his ire this week is close to my heart since he takes Zelda and literally skewers the game headfirst on a pike. As Mr. Yahtzee says, if any other developer (except perhaps Valve) spent their days repackaging their “IP” the way Nintendo does they’d be taken to task by an almost uncountable number of interweb forum dorks for being no better for “the industry” than that decrepit punch toy of the gaming forum bully: EA. Read On →

Up and Coming

The problem with having (and writing about) diverse interests is that it’s too easy to get behind the 8-ball and build up a pile of article concepts but not actually have the time to execute them. This is where I find myself today. To buy myself time, let me share what I’m currently planning on getting written and/or filmed this month. Why I Hate Martini Glasses (video) Why You Should Make Your Own Goddamned Maraschino Cherries Instead Of Eating Those Disgusting Things Comma You idiot My Manhattan (video) Liquor Producers Who Make Bottles Bigger Than My Shelf Should Be Beaten With Sticks Bloody Mary Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn review, a.k.a. Read On →

Boo Too!

…And on the other side of the block is one of the better Halloween displays, complete with tombstone lit in that particular color that cannot be captured.


Everything you need to know about America’s relationship with its food, its children, its culture, and itself is encapsulated in this photo, taken on Halloween night.

"Backing up 998,532 files."

I bought a new disk drive to use with my shiny new iMac, specifically for use with Time Machine. Picking out the right drive to buy was itself educational. There’s a tendency in geek circles to succumb to what I call measurebation, which more or less means to compare products solely by their feature lists. You pick the product at your price point that has bigger numbers on it, and you’re done. Read On →

Perfect Sports Weekend

The Steelers beat up the Bengals. The Patriots completely crushed the Redskins. Finally, the Red Sox finished off the Rockies to win the World Series again. Who would have thought.

Adventures in TV Part 6: Comcast Still Sucks

I was trying to record the new PBS series The War in HD on my shiny new HD Tivo. The first few episodes came in fine, but the most recent repeat only recorded in SD even though the program guide said it was on the HD version of WQED. So I tried setting up a single recording by hand, and after it finished, I looked at it and it was a completely different program than was listed in the Guide. Read On →

Seattle Shorts

We were in Seattle for a long weekend this past week. This is the first time I’ve been back since a trip about ten years ago. As before, Seattle is a great food town, especially for seafood. And, in the last ten years they have finally learned how to make a cappuccino. Here are a few places to try. Coffee First things first. Seattle has this reputation for bringing “good coffee” to the rest of us barbarians in the rest of the country. Read On →

I'll Take Manhattan

I’ve been wanting to do this recipe as a video blog, but due to an uncharacteristic bout of responsibility, I sent Sony back their loaner HD camcorder and I just haven’t been able to work up the enthusiasm to use my somewhat dilapidated Canon. So this is a story I will have to tell in words. Earlier this spring, in my article Rehabilitating Vermouth I extolled the virtues of vermouth, particularly sweet vermouth. Read On →

Mamma Mia

The American conception of Italian masculinity is somewhat out of step with reality. 30 years of Italian-American gangster movies have firmly ensconced the idea of Italian men as sort of irrationally hyper-macho. The truth is a little more prosaic. Any native Italian woman will tell you: Italian men are mama’s boys. I say this without rancor or intent to insult. It’s not inherently negative, it’s just the simple truth, to the point where the Italian government offers tax breaks to men to move out of their mothers’ houses already. Read On →

Returning Red Ring Rage Redux

You will recall that last week my wife and I called Microsoft to get a shipping box for my dead Xbox. That converstation lasted 45 minutes and included no less than six corrections to the shipping address as read back by the woman on the other side of the phone who apparently did not really speak english at all. Well, the box arrived that the beginning of this week. The only problem: it arrived at the wrong address. Read On →

Walk the Walk

My hands are still a bit chopped up from this weekend, and I’m still in a bit of pain, so pardon me in advance as I prepare to overstate my case. When I moved into my house, one of the things I liked about it was the cute little brick walk leading up to the front porch. It’s a bunch of concave bricks tiled next to each other, with no mortar or anything holding them in place. Read On →

Keyboard Perfection

I’ve used many keyboards in my time on this Earth. I think the very first one I used was attached to an old manual typewriter that I used to use to type up certain homework assignments in junior high. The first one that I used that was connected to a computer was the collection of square calculator keys that Commodore called a keyboard on the PET 2001. After that, there were the TRS- 80s, the Apple II, the VT-100 in the high school, the Adm-3a, Tektronix, and some horrific unified APL terminals at Umass, and who can forget the Concept 100s at CMU. Read On →

In the style of...

The two Petes collaborated on this article. If you can guess who it is written in the style of, you win nothing, but may feel either proud or ashamed, at your discretion. It was in a karaoke bar in Saitama that I first met Kobayashi Hikaru-san. This was not your high-end bar, like you’d find in Shibuya, or Harajuku, or any of the other hip spots. This was a thoroughly middle-class establishment. Read On →

Raging Red Ring Reaction Rant

As we hinted at yesterday my Xbox 360 melted over the weekend. I had happily worked through the single player of Halo 3 and was playing the occasional multiplayer match when the box started crashing randomly. Then it booted to the red lights. Then it recovered for a day. Then it booted to the red lights again. After that, the worst part of the experience came: I called Microsoft. Don’t let this happen to you. Read On →

Seeing Red

Early on Saturday psu let me know that his Xbox 360 had given up the ghost. He had been hoping to get the Red Rings of Death at least since mine died a few months ago, and they sent me back a cooler, quieter model. Still, he was a bit nonplussed, and at a loss as to what to do without his beloved Halo 3. “Maybe I’ll play Banjo- Kazooie,” he joked. Read On →

How to Buy a TV

Here’s what you used to do to buy a TV. You would go to Sears, look at the TVs, pick one that seemed to be the right size, take it home, plug it into the cable or antenna, and turn it on. Because the consumer electronics industry has your interest and convenience as its highest priority, today I can write a 1500 word essay on how to buy a TV in the modern world. Read On →

Twenty First Century TV

I finally couldn’t take watching HD sports over the air, so I dropped some cash on the new Tivo HD. If you weren’t paying attention, this is the $300 box that does most of what the previously $800 and now $600 Tivo Series 3 does. You can get dual HD tuning, a disk big enough for all the programming I’ll ever need, and that same stylish and streamlined Tivo interface. Of course, there is only one problem with this vision of Nirvana. Read On →

It's Finished

I finished the single player campaign in Halo 3 this weekend. There is almost no point in writing anything about the experience because the game has taken on a life separate from normal critical evaluation. There is really only one thing you need to know about Halo 3 and it is this: Halo 3 is Halo, only bigger. I was going to deploy the standard Spinal Tap reference at this point, but I’ve already used that line this year and it would be ironic to repeat myself in this context. Read On →

Ferris Bueller's Day Offing Himself

It is a disturbing and compelling image. The young man is wearing his school uniform and a slim pair of headphones. He reaches into a pocket with his right hand and pulls out a gun. He flourishes, twirls the gun, and points it at his own temple. There’s a sharp report as he fires, and a fountain of glittering shards spray out of the other side of his head. It is a compelling and disturbing image. Read On →

Monday Shorts

For today some short items that I never found the energy to turn into one of my normal-length wank-fests. These sit, like un-played games, on the pile for a while, and then I decide to just give up. Mio Kitchen and Wine Bar This is a new restaurant in Aspinwall that you should try. The chef used to work at Veritas in New York. Prices are high for Pittsburgh but for once the entrees are as good as the starters. Read On →

Run My Drink

This excellent web site cataloging and reviewing Japanese malt whiskies is making me want to try some. But the only Japanese whisky carried by the PLCB is Suntory “Yamazaki” 12 year, and it’s an SLO. Does anyone from a more civilized state want to help me obtain a wider variety to sample?

The Digital Archive of Everything

I was walking around in my local Borders a couple of months ago just after they rearranged the Music and DVD section. My eyes scanned through the shelves of DVDs, and I realized something that was at once horrible and amazing. There, on the shelves, was most of the history of broadcast television archived in little boxes of silver disks. You could get anything, almost no show was too obscure or too low quality to miss the cut. Read On →

Videoblog: Guinness Ice Cream

Today I met my friend Kilolo at the newly-opened “Oh Yeah Ice Cream & Coffee,” on Highland Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood. While perusing their offerings, I noticed they had something they claimed was “Guinness Ice Cream (Adults Only)”. Skeptical as I always am, I asked for a taste. And it was good. I didn’t have a camera. I didn’t have a mic. But I had my MacBook Pro, with its built-in iSight camera. Read On →

The Fifth Element Effect

I don’t recall when I watched The Fifth Element for the first time. However, I distinctly recall that I didn’t think it was that great. Over the years, however, my wife and I happened to catch the movie from time to time on HBO or whatever, and a funny thing happened. After watching the film the equivalent of five or six times, suddenly it became the one of the best films ever made. Read On →

Baker Street

“Baker Street is a game of logic and deduction,” says the web site, modestly. It is more than that, though. Baker Street is a life-destroying timesink of addiction and pure puzzle-solving pleasure. I rave about Everett Kaser’s games about once a year, and it’s about time for this year’s installment. Kaser makes essentially two types of games: logic and deduction games (where you are given a set of clues and from them must deduce each position in the board), and a bunch of other games that I don’t play. Read On →

Madden Imitates Life

I picked up Madden a couple of weeks ago, and actually had time to play about half of a franchise season before Bioshock hit and the quest for achievements consumed me. This year’s iteration improved many aspects of the gameplay, but was also annoying in many of the same ways as last year. The user interface problems persist: the play calling screens are a crime against usability studies. The game insists on using time consuming in game displays to indicate simple things like if the field goal was good or not. Read On →