Review: Tales of Monkey Island

He sails the seas of the Caribbean like he was born on a schooner. He romances beautiful women, scandalizing those in the Governor’s Mansion. Every time he makes port, it seems that a piratey bar brawl starts. And he is locked in a seemingly endless conflict of swordplay and sorcery against an undead ghost pirate. What’s that? Captain Jack Sparrow, you say? Sorry, mate, never heard of him. I’m talking about the mightiest pirate of them all, Guybrush Threepwood! Read On →

Versus versus Versus

It’s Tour de France time again, and this year we pretend it’s 2005 all over again. Lance is back in the race and Versus has made it its singular mission to make sure that we don’t forget this. I watched the first couple of stages over the weekend, and noted a new twist in the action. You can watch the old fashioned way, over the TV cable. Or you can watch the same race at the Versus web site via streaming video. Read On →

Wine, Donuts, and Sex

Why won’t I be buying The Sims 3? Because, although I sometimes do act like [a dog who returns to his vomit]( perspectives/), I have finally come to peace with the fact that I no longer have any interest in playing games that require as much effort as my job. So, sorry, no Sims 3 for me. This was driven home to me recently when I foolishly started re-playing Animal Crossing after a hiatus of a few months. Read On →

Premises Aren't Books

The other week I made a mistake and read some things on the Internet. In particular, I was sucked in to following a contretemps (read: “flamewar”) with the nickname of “Racefail 2.0”. The premise of the flamewar is that a writer, Patricia Wrede, wrote a book called The Thirteenth Child which was an exemplar of racist writing. The book takes place in a 19th century-America (“Columbia”) where magic is real, where megafauna roam the plains, and where the First Peoples never crossed the land bridge from Asia. Read On →

More than Camera Enough

Someone finally did it, and I should have known it would be Olympus. Back in 1972, Olympus shook up the 35mm SLR world by introducing the OM-1. Here was an SLR camera that was not as big as a brick. It was small and cute, and came with small and cute lenses. Of course, Olympus has always tried to make small and cute things. The Pen cameras from the 60s, the OM cameras in the 70s and the Stylus point and shoots in the last glory days of 35mm film. Read On →

Male Pattern Dorkness

If I have any hobby that does not involve the gratuitous exchange of money for material goods, it is the observation of the dork in his natural habitat. It’s not just that I was educated by dorks at a school that was mostly dorky. Or that I work with dorks in an industry whose products are primarily concerned with parting dorks from their dork cash. The fact is that even without these advantages, I spend all 24 hours of every day in the head of a dork (mine), so there is nothing I know better than what drives the dork psychology. Read On →

The Illustrated Pot Sticker

We had folks over for one of our periodic Chinese dumpling parties. The food came out particularly well this time, and I managed to use my nifty Panasonic LX-3 to take pictures of some parts of the process. So here is an updated and hopefully slightly more useful version of the reference recipe. It’s best to have a good system for this. So I’ve broken the recipe up into stages. Read On →

Wallace and Gromit

Telltale has done it again. By “it”, of course, I mean “find a humorous property and turn it into a point- and-click adventure game,” and not necessarily “rolling around naked in fat sacks of cash,” although frankly I’m pretty sure they’re doing that as well. Their latest victory, as they trundle across the face of PC gaming like Germany crossing Belgium, is Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventure, a series of 4 games for Windows PCs and the Xbox 360. Read On →

Teaching the Less Important Lesson

Today over at The Online Photographer Mike Johnston wrote a [post suggesting that spending a year using nothing but a Leica](http://theonl and shooting nothing but black and white film could teach you a lot. I think he’s right about one thing. It would teach you a lot, but about what? I think Johnston’s claim was that the exercise would teach you a lot about photography. I think it would teach you a lot about shooting black and white film with a Leica. Read On →

Dances With Dinosaurs

My recent experience [buying a car]( premorse/) 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]( not-a-game-review/) 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. 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](http://popcap.c om/games/mac/pvz/?icid=plantsvszombies_HP_DL_1_8_19_08_mac_en) 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]( my-parents/), 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. Read On →


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 →


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]( for-the-perplexed/). You don’t eat liver, so I tell you – at least those of you without heart conditions – [ to eat liver](http://tleaves. 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]( content/uploads/2009/03/51un0vjibql_sl500_aa280_.jpg) 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]( people-too/) 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 →


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]( /resident-zombie-lull-killer/) 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]( fools-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. 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]( terminal/). 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. 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 →


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 →