Gaming Sadness

There is always a period in every year where there are basically no major releases in PC and console gaming. When you’re like me and don’t care about first person shooters and sports games, the gap is even more noticeable. Even so, there is usually at least one title that is halfway decent in the Sim, RPG, MMO or RTS genres to keep me going. Sometimes I’ll be gifted with a game that rocks enough to keep me playing and playing through the gaming doldrums.

Well this year, most likely due to the fantastic economy we’ve been blessed with, what few decent titles I was looking forward to (namely Dragon Age: Origins) have been pushed back. Things are made even worse due to the fact that some of the titles I was looking forward to in the past turned out to be disappointing. You can absolutely lump Age of Conan in this group. Add in the fact that no game lasts forever, no matter how cool (sorry, Fallout 3, but I still loved you!) and you find yourself right in the middle of absolutely nothing worthwhile to play.

The problem is, with the better half out of the house in the great white north, I find myself in dire need of some gaming goodness! I’ve got a couple movies I’m looking forward to shaking off the boredom a little, but that will take up a whopping 5, maybe 6 hours. She’s out of town the next 3 to 4 weeks at this point. Ideally I’d settle into a good MMO if one frakking existed, but the cartoony nonsense that makes up most current MMOs, including WoW, distracts me from enjoying the game and I’ve played EQ2 until I’m bored with it.

So here’s the question, and this is what I need all of you freaks and geeks for: What games are out there… freeware, beta or full version… that are worth a look? I’ve been looking about and haven’t been able to find anything on the near horizon to be excited about.

Help me fill the vast numbers of hours I could normally spend arguing about what to get for dinner! Interwebz, to the rescue!

Failure IS an Option

Over the last few months, the concept of “bailing out” failing businesses and industries has become pervasive. First it’s the banks failing due to their own greed and an excess of government intervention in the lending process. Next is the auto industry staggering under its own weight and failure to innovate. Most recently it’s the newspapers, finally falling prey to the inevitable death of the old media from the unstoppable pressure of the internet. The concept of the bailout is not a new one. For decades we’ve been sustaining, in what essentially is a long term bailout, the entire farming industry.

The problem with bailouts, however is that they are simply not American.

The entire concept of the American economy is based on our particular sort of economic Darwinism/Spencerism; the free-market economy. The economic powerhouse we became was because those businesses that dominated the landscape were the strongest; the most fit. They had to learn hard way. They had to create innovative… and sometimes unpleasant… methods of succeeding and taking and keeping the customer from going to the competition.

This approach to business has its roots in the very mindset of the people that made this country. They were the sort of people that struck out and tried to do things their way. They stuck their necks out and they knew they would either succeed or, sometimes quite literally, perish. Big gains meant great risk and bold action.

It’s not enough that people take these big risks. If every time someone tried something new they were successful it would sort of take the boldness and bravery out of the act. No one would ever really learn anything and bad ideas would flourish as well as good ones. It was just as important to the success of this country that some of the things people tried failed as it is that some succeeded and, of course, a heck of a lot more people failed than succeeded.

Failure teaches us the valuable lesson that it’s time to change what we’re doing. It is the impetus for gene mutation in this country’s economic DNA. Every time one business fails it teaches another business how *not* to run their business. Each failure is a lesson we can all benefit from.

There is a reason farmers are failing. We’re no longer an agrarian society and the primary business and product of our country is no longer food. We cannot expect to make a living fashioning stone spear-tips, either. Old businesses die out as the product they produce becomes less important or unnecessary. What is the point in supporting an archaic way of doing the food production of this country aside from nostalgia? Is our money truly best spent on nostalgia?

There is a reason the newspapers are failing. This is the digital age where news is updated by the minute, not by the day or the week. Periodicals and newspapers produce a product that is, by today’s standards, old news. If I grab a newspaper directly from the “presses,” it’s already a few hours old. Why people are worried about this backwards industry failing is just beside me. I don’t get my information from cave paintings, nor does the family gather around the radio to listen to serials. Technology moves ever forward and those that don’t change are left behind. This is a long time coming and I’ll personally be glad when everyone gets the news online.

There are a multitude of reasons the Banks are failing. Simplistically speaking it boils down to just a few. First, the government forced the banks to give out loans to people that would normally fail a credit worthiness test. It should come as no small shock these people are defaulting. Second, while banks were forced to give out a certain percentage of these loans, some institutions embraced the sub-standard mortgages with gusto and gave them out left and right; plain old-fashioned institutional greed. Lastly, if you work for $12/hour and your wife works part time and you have two kids, you cannot afford a $300,000 home; good old fashioned personal greed and a lack of common sense. Yeah, it’s worth several trillion dollars to save people and companies from being greedy. Or, how about this, we just let them fail and let smarter banks and credit unions benefit from the absence of these idiotic financial giants.

The Motor Industry is also failing from a myriad of issues, the largest of which is a failure to realize that giant, gas-guzzling, expensive to manufacture vehicles are not the wave of the future. In addition, giants like GM are finally beginning to understand that having 58 different brands isn’t always a benefit. This industry is notoriously slow to “get the hint,” and this sluggishness to react to the market is no small part of problems they have recently been faced with. If they go under someone will fill the gap. This is the absolute purest form of free-market survival of the fittest. If they’re failing, they’re not fit.

The dead horse I’m swinging at here is that when we take time and (vast sums of) money to prop these sorts of businesses back up, we are celebrating and enabling failure. By selecting these types of businesses or industries we are breeding the very failed portions of their economic DNA into all the businesses that descend from them. Not only is letting these businesses and industries fail an option, but it is the more preferable option in the long term. By suffering the small… and sometimes seemingly large… failures now, we save ourselves weaknesses in the economy down the road and build a better and more fit economic base.

So, after years of research and snide comments from school counselors and advisors, I can assert with certainty: not only is failure an option, it’s the best option!

Spring Sproinged!

Ok, so I might not be quite the awesome photographer that my better half is, but I wanted to share a little of the awesomeness going on in the Garden these days. Within the last few weeks everything is growing virtually uncontrolled and color is everywhere. In addition to making sure you all get to see these wonderful flowers, this is also a great way to celebrate Mel’s safe arrival in Canada after a grueling 3 day bus trip. It’s still snowing and cold in Alberta and plenty of other places, so I figured this might help warm her (and the rest of you) up! So take a gander at what’s growing in the garden!

First, some Tomato Flowers. There are about 30 of these and I’m hoping each one turns into another of the amazingly large and delicious looking tomatoes we already have growing. Something about tomato plants just screams spring. They just exude warmth and the plants themselves have this amazing smell that only tomato plants really have.

tomato

Next up are these awesome little Nasturtium that were a suggestion from Mom. Brightly colored really doesn’t do thee little suckers justice. The reds are vivid and the yellows almost shocking. unfortunately for me (and you all) the camera didn’t really do these justice but take my word for it, these suckers are delicious!

nasturtium

At the other end of the spectrum we have these Texas Bluebells. I’ve always had a thing for blue flowers. No, I don’t know why either, but I could look at these things all day. The blue of the Bluebells and the lush green of the stems along with the rich soil…. this is why i wanted to have this garden to start with.

bluebell

And last but not least, the surprise. We grabbed a lot of random flowers when we set out this year’s garden and honestly forgot what seed we purchased. This is a Tri-Color Daisy Chrysanthemum and it is just awesome looking. The leaves on this thing are really odd looking and it had out curiosity piqued. These were the last flowers to open, literally in the last two days. There are at least a half dozen more buds out there and I just can’t wait to see what the garden looks once all of these open, along with the rest of what we have above.

tricolordaisy

Not pictured, because I couldn’t get a good picture, are the few dozen tiny, white awesome pepper flowers we have, both Cayenne and Jalapeno. Looks like a bumper crop this year! Fingers crossed! For all of you who decided to see what color your thumbs are, I hope you’re all as happy with your results as I am already! Happy Spring!


It’s peanut butter vacation time.

As some of you may know and as some of you may not know–tomorrow evening I will be boarding a classy Grayhound bus and traveling from Florida all the way up to Alberta Canada. In Alberta rests the two possibly not sane people who decided to bring doom upon the earth by spawning me. I shall go visit them and make them remember why children after the age of 10 should be thrown to the badgers.

It’s a three day trip via bus. Three very long days which I will have a cell phone and intend to update best as I can (conserving cell phone battery charge and all) using our 2phatgeeks twitter account. So if you’re interested in watching the insanity as it happens, bookmark our twitter account at twitter: 2phatgeeks and enjoy. If you’re reading this my personal live journal, if for some reason the Twitter home page for 2phatgeeks makes you go running and screaming into the night? Thanks to Loudtwitter, all of my updates, or ‘tweets’, will be shipped and posted together at 11pm. EST every night behind a live journal cut.

During my time away, I will leave 2phatgeeks in the capable mad scientist genius hands of my husband, bariguy. Work will probably eat him alive and I suspect that posts will return to infrequent. We’re sorry for any inconvenience and hope our readers will chillax and wait for the vacation time being over.

For those of you who need to get a hold of me while I am away, I direct your attention once again to the fat man holding the beaker with the goggles–bariguy, my husband Shawn will be glad to pass along anything you need to tell me.

Obviously, during this time my art commisions are closed and there will be no more forthcoming rants about geeky stuff.

I’ll miss ya’ll, internets. You rowdy bunch of porn addicts, you. Be good while I am gone and for the love of god, Rick Rolling is so last year already!

Digital Parchment.

I need you so much closer.”

It was just black Arial text on a white back ground staring at me unflinchingly from the frame of my monitor.

Eight little words delivered to me via a tool bar downloaded and installed into my fire fox to entertain me as I browsed this great tangled mess called the Internet. He didn’t send it to me directly you see, he thumbed it up. Possibly several months ago, maybe a week before I received it, could have even be the day before it arrived onto my screen.

It arrived, actually, sometime early last week and I haven’t said anything about it–that’s a bad habit of mine. I don’t say things to the important people. I write them for the world to see; I bare my dark little places with courage to a room full of strangers. When it comes to close friends or family, to the people I should say things to? My mouth shuts tight with the clang of savage bear trap. So I never told him that I got it. I never told him how it rang within me like old sounds lost forever in endless deep-earth caverns.

I know that after I read it several times, I went very still.

The television had long been turned off before he’d gone to work. The birds were unusually calm, the cats napping, the house hummed along with its central air conditioning; everything appeared to follow me in this moment. Movie directors have been attempting to perfect this single moment without much success. It is when the span of a heart beat stretches on for endless minutes, when the world to your right and left become a blur and all you can see is the tunnel of clarity directly in front of you.

For me, it was nothing more than black font on a white page.

I need you so much closer.”

It wasn’t noise that brought me back to this world. It wasn’t the cat knocking something over or the sleepy chirp of our pet cockatiel. It was the emotion that welled up into my throat to make the back of it ache then tighten.

It was the understanding that right here on this very planet, in a million, million lost souls gasping, lamenting, clawing, screaming, wishing, praying, wanting for love–trying so hard to be loved–fighting for love, that I had already. That I’ve always had it. That I have it every day. That is sleeps beside me, snoring away every night and it gets up in the morning and it goes to work and it plods through shitty people with shitty attitudes to bring home money that it spends on me even when it doesn’t really have the money TO spend on me. It wakes up in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep to roll over when he’s snoring because it knows I can’t fall asleep when it does. It’s the hand that curves around my hip jolting me awake after fighting all night to go to sleep anyway. It’s the cheesecake that mysteriously appears in the fridge when I’m on my period and ready to kill everything that tip toes around me. It’s the quiet, adamant insistence that there’s nothing wrong with me and that I am beautiful no matter how many rolls of fat I can count.

It’s the man I married, quietly thumbing up a web page with the words:

I need you so much closer.”

And I’m trying.

I’m trying.

I love you.

Why I still watch cartoons…And like it!

Sometimes I get asked by friends or relatives the age old question.

Mel? They start out, hesitant and possibly just a little afraid. Why do you watch the anime? You know, them crazy cartoons? I always grin a little bit when they ask that because I know just by the question they’re a little biased already. Biased within reason too. Several years ago I was in their place, asking the very same question of the people I knew who watched anime. In fact, I thought anime was for small toddlers and freaks1. And it pretty much still is but–there’s another side to it that luckily, I was introduced to by a very classy lady who writes for Rulihe.com.

My answer for those who ask me now, however, why I watch anime is,  “Because I’ve been watching cartoons since I can remember. Why shouldn’t I watch anime?

As far back as I can recall anyway,  there has always been a cartoon series to watch. My toddler, early teen age years and early adulthood were filled with animation!  Looney tunes,

Ho, Thundercats!

Ho, Thundercats!

Voltron, G.I. Joe, He-man, She-Rah, the Flintstones, Care bears, Pirates of Dark Water, Snorks, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Gargoyles, Thunder Cats, Beetlejuice, Batman, Aristocrats, Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, X-men, Dexters Labratory….My personal list would go on and on.

So there’s the set up right up there. Yet,  I can hear the cries of Loony Tunes fans as well as anime fans alike. They’re not the same! They might shriek as they’re clutching their pikachu plushies and Bugs Bunny replicas. I dare say at their core, they are. They are both:

  • A series of stories
  • A series of character stories following a story plot for some sort of outcome be it humorous or not
  • A series of stories either hand animated or now-a-days computer animated. Animated.
  • Cartoons.

But trundle away from the core of what anime and my favorite cartoons were and we start to see the differences. Anime has license to boldly go where Bugs Bunny would never dare go. It can tackle such issues as violence, death, depression, disease, war and the human (or not human at all) condition. It can be a gore-fest or sexually explicit or it can be a bunny infested cute-pop of sugary sweetness aired early on Saturday morning where kids scream for the latest cards. It is so much more than just my Saturday morning cartoons while allowing me to be a little nostalgic and still watch ‘cartoons’ as an adult. There’s a grand, grand wonderful story hidden in a lot of anime that some are entirely missing out on due to either being poorly informed; watching horrific dubs, or being exposed to the wrong kind of anime…

let's go watch FF together <3333

let's go watch FF together <3333

What kind of anime is the wrong kind? The tentacle-small children-we-like-to-rape-everything-that-moves-sex-with-your-mom/sister/dad/brother/chicken oddness that some times goes hand in hand in dealing with anime–that’s the wrong kind.  If you’ve been exposed to that, or god forbid, Digimon and it’s various off shots? That isn’t exactly the kind of anime I am talking about here.   It is not all like that.  Also: It is my duty as a complete and total opinionated bastard to inform you that I don’t consider any of the above mentioned rape/sex/chicken stuff to be any sort of art form to waste your time with. To those that do…Well….You scare me dudes. You scare me.

Anyway, I understand however that it is just not for everyone. There were several things that kept me away from anime for the longest time (and still do in some cases):

  • Some times reading subtitles distracting. I want to focus on the action above the bottom of the screen.
  • Some of it is hard to understand, with metaphors and cultural references foriegn
  • Dubs are generally just awful to listen to, with lackluster voice acting or horric voice acting that can mentally scar.
  • Excessive sexuality or gore for no logical reason. Cute bunnies and the–BAM: BLOOD EVERYWHERE AND RAPE–wtf?
  • Too childish a story.
  • Over the top animation
  • Tentacles
  • Tentacles that have tentacles
  • Children. ‘Nuff said.
  • Way, way out there shit that I don’t even want to type here.
  • The fans are generally nuttier than I am. That takes talent. And perhaps ritual sacrifice…but talent.

I watch anime, not for the panty shots or the nose bleeds or the silly cute faces. I watch anime because inside, I’m still a kid looking at an art form that tells amazing stories. I’m an adult searching for a tale to wind myself up into and I find some of the amazing stories told through animation. To me, they’re  just as satisfying as those told on television or in a movie. Maybe this is just another phase I am going through in my quest to forever hold onto that wide-eyed sense of wonder, maybe I’m just forever doomed to be twelve. I’m surprisingly okay with either or!

If you don’t watch anime I won’t hold it against you for several of the reasons I’ve already listed as well as several more I won’t bother grossing myself out by going into. I won’t  rant and wail at you if you don’t want to try watching it either. I always thought that maybe an explanation as to while I enjoy it might finally be in order, so here it is.

I like a good story, I like something pretty to look at while I am doing it, I like to be moved.  It’s pretty simple! I just want to be entertained and anime does that a-plenty for me.

1Humor.

The journey of life includes Survivorman & flaming poo.

Shawn and I were cuddled up in bed, nice warm sheets and blankies around our necks. Sleep was coming soon but we weren’t in any rush, just enjoying the night and the television show we were watching.

We happened to be watching Survivorman. Now, despite Survivorman being a whiny bitch, Shawn and I like to watch it because compared to Bear–he’s a whole lot more surviving, a lot less “doing shit just for the camera and show.”

Last night Survivorman was re-running an episode in the Australia Outback. Les, the main man from the show was chillin’, eating grubs and making a fire to keep himself from freezin’ his dangly bits off. To make a fire and keep it going he used dried up old dung found strewn about all over the ground as well as dead wood. Some of you out there are aware that poop, especially very old dried out poop makes for an excellent source of fire. It burns hotter, longer and slower than wood and has the advantage of keeping away a lot of bugs.

So Survivorman was on the tubes telling us that he was thinking about moving on to the next place in search of better water when I turn a bit to Shawn and say, “I’d grab me a big ol’ piece of flaming poo to carry with me, if I were him.”

There were several seconds of silence where we sort of eyed one another over the edges of our blankets before Shawn and I lost it.

Never in my life did I ever think I would have ever put the words big ol’ piece of, flaming, and poo together.

The journey of my life is a quiet, crazy path. A path that I am learning to follow with hopefully crazy grace, flaming crap and all.

Freakin’ Sweet

Like most of the geeky internet folk, I tuned in to watch the Family Guy episode last Sunday night. Like a lot of folks, I suspect, I was initially teased in by the reuniting of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast that FG’s creator, Seth MacFarlane, was teasing to bring in viewers. I’m a big FG fan and don’t need much of a “hook” to get me to watch. The ST:TNG gag was more than enough. I went in expecting a decently amusing show.

What I got was freakin’ sweet.

The Star Trek business was just a hook, and was little more than an amusing side story with some killer cameos. The real story of the episode titled “Not All Dogs Go To Heaven” is about the outing of Brian as an atheist and his de-conversion of Meg. Most folks, I assume, figured Brian was at best an agnostic. He never really spoke openly about his faith, but MacFarlane is a relatively outspoken atheist and Brian seems, for most things, as the true voice of the creator (in more ways than one, har har).

But there was no doubt about it after Sunday’s episode. Brian explicitly outed himself. The town’s ensuing reaction is pretty much what most of us have had to deal with, just magnified through the comic lens. It commented on the fact that most Christians would rather actually have a person be a terrorist than an atheist, despite the fact that atheists don’t fly planes into buildings or burn compounds filled with children. I find it terrifying that, according to more than a few polls, people would apparently rather live next to a murdering psychopath instead of someone that doesn’t believe in a fairy tale like they do.

At any rate, the story traces Meg as she tries to convert Brian to Christianity. Meg is initially brainwashed by her own neediness, a lack of inquisitiveness and a good used-car style sales pitch… like most believers. By the power of Kirk Cameron, she becomes the absolute worst of the worst: a born-again Christian. During the family’s discussion of this and her blathering idiocy, Brian outs himself to the family. The family decries his belief (“we believe in god in this house”) and Meg takes it upon herself to “save” Brian. When Brian rejects her attempts, Meg outs him to the entire community and the town and all its businesses shun and ridicule him.

More importantly for the purposes of typical Family Guy humor, the town cuts him off from his “dear booze.” After a night of the DTs and a resigned sigh, Brian decides to lie to Meg about converting, and pretends to be a Christian to get his drink on. As she welcomes him “into the flock,” she invites him to a good, old-fashioned book burnin’! What could be more charmingly christian?! As Brian watches while religion does what it does best, repress knowledge, he has a crisis of conscience and reverts back to what he knows is right. As he turns “back to the light,” he takes Meg with him after a brief soliloquy on the virtues of fairness, tolerance and knowledge.

It’s gorgeous.

And based on the internet over the last couple of days, it hit home. Atheists, like myself, are by-in-large pleased. Some that don’t even really like the show like that it so cleanly stated the case and illustrated the ridiculousness of the believer’s view of atheism. Nearly all of us have been told, in some shape or form, that we’re “worse than Hitler.” To have it so plainly stated, and on one of my favorite shows, is a real unexpected treat.

I did a little digging around this morning, an apparently the non-atheists are screaming like a two-year-old in a toy store about how “unfair” this is. They are crushed and offended that this show got “preachy” on them. I think it’s marvelous to watch them have to deal with our point of view for a change. The funniest thing about this is that they complain about the preaching while choosing to follow religions where they show up once a week specifically to listen to preaching.

Some, perish the thought, don’t like the show anymore and may not watch again! Oh noez! I can almost hear a former friend of mine making a similar comment and complaining about how “liberal” the show has become and that he just can’t watch it anymore.” Bon voyage, buddy! That kind of idiocy and this “everyone has to be and think like me” approach is why you’re an ex-friend. I think Family Guy will do just fine without you all. Maybe without you idiots watching we can stop having to care about your frail sensibilities.

Family Guy. You rock.