November 2006 Archives

Used Wiis for more than Retail in Japan


While we were in Japan scouring Akihabara for DS Lites (back before they became available in the United States), we chanced upon the used game store Super Potato. Akihabara is a busy place, and we followed the sound of melodies of classic 8-bit game themes to discover the five story Super Potato. While we didn't find any DS Lites here, they had all manner of Nintendo games from early Famicom carts to GameCubes discs, and a lot of cool related merchandise (including game music and little pixel block things)

I always thought Super Potato was one of those independent specialty stores that can only be found in Akihabara, but apparently Super Potato is a chain with 10 stores, stretching all across Japan.

In Japan, the Wii doesn't become available until December 2nd, but Super Potato is already offering to purchase secondhand Wiis for 1000 yen ($10 USD) more than the purchase price of a new system. Good luck, Super Potato, as I doubt you'll be seeing any gamers part with their Wii so soon (I know I won't be parting with mine anytime soon).

links for 2006-11-28


links for 2006-11-26


The Sims for Wii


Absolutely Brilliant.

Jennifer Government and the PS3


Max Berry, author of Jennifer Government comments on the PS3 Launch:

    Not that I-m saying Sony deliberately engineered a stock shortage and then hired an assassin to shoot someone in the stampede in order to build up the hype. That would be unspeakably immoral. To rip off the opening of Jennifer Government so blatantly, I mean.

In his book, a Nike executive engineers a shortage of highly anticipated sneakers and then hires an assassin to shoot someone in the crowd in order to build up "street cred" for the sneaker.

Personally, I think the stock shortage (the numbers of PS3 have since been revised to an estimated 125,000-175,000 at North America launch) had more to do with the fact that Sony is losing upwards of $300 per console than any other factor.

Of course, with that stock shortage, it means that the 36,000 PS3 I initially surveyed as being available on eBay on launch day comprised almost 20 - 30% of total North American stock. At present, there's a little short of 16,000 systems available, most averaging between $600 to $900, and close to 68,000 completed PS3 auctions. If we take each listing as being authentic, that's almost 84,000 PS3s on eBay. Now, there are the scams or people selling things that aren't exactly consoles, but that likely to comprise less than 5% -- so we are talking about almost half the stock(48%) to two-thirds (67%) ultimately winding up on eBay. Just think about that for a moment -- up to 2 out of every 3 PS3s in North America ended up on eBay.

This is not some super-exclusive item, this is a video game system that will be found in every toy store, outdated and sell for less than $300 in a few years.

links for 2006-11-25


No Pies on a Plane


Yesterday at San Jose Airport flying out on Thanksgiving Day, While we were in the line for the x-ray/metal detector machines at the airport, the TSA employees were standing beside the line with a table and a trashcan for inspecting liquids in their "war on moisture" campaign.

"Mascara, cosmetics, toothpaste, and liquids cannot pass this point." One of the TSA employees called out.

"No food either -- pumpkin pie, cherry pie, apple pie, cranberry sauce, gravy, pecan pie"

"We'll gladly take them", the other one cheerfully called out, before breaking into laughter.

The threat level yesterday, for which they have a nice sign now next to the x-ray machine, was orange. I haven't decided yet if the TSA employees were just being jovial, or if they were just doing their jobs.

Wouldn't you feel safer if you knew there weren't any pies on the plane?

Zelda: Twilight Princess second-best game of all-time?


Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has scored an amazing 96% on metacritic (which aggregates the various ratings given by sites, newspapers and magazines). This is an amazingly high metacritic score -- second only to the classic N64 Ocarina of Time, which garnered 99.

Zelda: Twilight Princess is really, really fun. 96% fun? Maybe. Some of the puzzles are irritatingly frustrating, but there's nothing more fun than actually slashing, stabbing and bashing your enemies.

Today is Buy Nothing Day


Hope you all had a wonderful Turkey Day yesterday.

Today is the day traditionally known as "Black Friday" where "Day After Thanksgiving Sales" run amok at retailers who offer low-low prices in anticipation of the holiday shopping season.

It is also Buy Nothing Day, in which we restrain ourselves from buying during this frenzied shopping weekend. Since I've never really found Day After Thanksgiving Sales all that enticing to begin with, I am once again resolved to not buying anything today (and saving my purchases for next week).

links for 2006-11-24


links for 2006-11-23


The Cost of a Nintendo Wii


One thing that I haven't really seen too much commented on is how much the Wii actually costs:

    The Wii, which includes Wiimote, Nunchuk and Wii Sports is $250.

    Extra Wiimote will cost $40

    Extra Nunchuk will cost $20

    Classic Controller attachment will cost $20.

    Zelda: Twilight Princess: $50

Now, it can be said that you don't actually need the extra accessories I've purchased (in fact, they still haven't been broken out of their heavy trauma inducing plastic encasing yet), so just the Wii and Zelda will run you about $300. Each additional player is about $60, and if you want to use the Virtual Console with a more ergonomic controller than the Wiimote, that'll run you an additional $20. My total expenditure on the Wii has been $380, plus Tax, which comes to just a bit over $411, which is still a whole lot better than the stripped down versions of the Xbox360 at $300 or a PS3 at $500.

WoW Office Space TV Commercial


Nice job of editing.

links for 2006-11-22


links for 2006-11-21


Some Wii Thoughts


One thing bad about a Sunday launch (which actually might be good if you're the parents of children) is that you've only got Sunday afternoon and part of Sunday evening to play with it -- the next day is Monday, when normal people go back to work or school, or whatever it is that normal people do, and then when you come home from that activity, the system is sitting there, staring you in the face, as if to say "You kept me waiting all day, let's play!"

Zelda is proving itself to be an excellent game to demo the system -- the use of the Wiimote and the Nunchuk is quite exciting -- on more than one occasion of frenzied gameplay, I've gotten of the sofa and done some slashing and stabbing. That being said, I kind of wish the Wiimote was a little more ergonomically friendly -- I can already tell there will be a market for foam grips for the Wiimote for those with bigger hands.

While I was initially worried about the size of the TV in our apartment, the Wii seems to be just fine with it. There's no need for calibrating the sensors to pick up on the Wiimote either -- it seems to know exactly where it is.

My natural inclination with the Wiimote is to hold it with my arm fully extended -- this is likely muscle memory from years of holding traditional remote controls.

Here's something that I didn't realize about the Wii until we started playing Zelda -- there's a small speaker on the Wiimote that can broadcast sound, which brings the environment to life that much more. The rumble feature is very cleverly used in the game, (such as when a big baddie appears or some hidden passageway is revealed). On the regular Wii menu, as you roll over the buttons, the rumble shakes to indicate the movement over the buttons.

Zelda hides the load times very well -- I haven't really noticed any disc access or level loads with a giant "Loading..." screen.

I took a spin on the Wii online store, and looked at the games on the Virtual Console -- I don't have a Wii Points card yet, but it's a very clean looking interface, and there are a good number of games there.

The Wii will also read SD cards, and will let you modify and display your pictures or convert them into interactive puzzles. The Wii also records the amount of time you spend on each part of the system by date. This is a nice feature for parents to keep track of whether Junior has been spending too much time on the Wii.

Overall, it's been a great fun experience so far, and it plays GameCube games too, so any games you've got in your GameCube library work for it as well.

Wii: First Impressions



This morning, before I picked up my pre-order from Gamestop, I stopped by Target to pick up Zelda Twilight Princess, and a couple of extra accessories for the Wii: namely the Classic Controller, and an extra nunchuk and Wiimote (to enable two-player action).

Plugging in the system was quite easy, especially since each cable going into the console is a different shape, size and color. Wi-Fi is built into each Wii, which makes connecting it up to the home network a breeze. The Wii console also allows the play of GameCube games, and you can use the wireless Wavebirds on the Wii as well.

I unboxed, plugged in the Wii, played a little of Wii Sports, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing Zelda Twilight Princess. The learning curve of using the Wiimote as the main controller is quite low, and in no time, we were slicing and stabbing in no time.

While the graphics of Zelda aren't as jaw-droppingly realistic as Gears of War on the XBox 360 is right off the bat, it takes very little time before one is engrossed in the game for the graphics to not matter as much. Zelda is just really, really fun.

Flickr Photoset: Wii Unboxing

Wii releases today!


After a day of Casino Royale and gaming, I drove up along El Camino Real passing several major electronics stores -- at Circuit City and Best Buy, encampments of people waiting for the Wii could be seen. With 8 or 9 hours to go, these people have a wait ahead of them -- but at least they seem more sane than PS3 crowd.

links for 2006-11-19


Where's My Goldbox Amazon?


A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the Amazon personalized Gold Box was gone. I always loved the personalized goldbox, and sure, sometimes the items they listed came from left field (for some reason, they put in camping goods in my goldbox) but at least those deals were mine. Now they've moved the goldbox to be more woot!-like. One item listed, for all Amazon buyers. This fails to impress me (plus everytime I've seen the offer, it's been sold out), but this afternoon, they've finally given into customer demands and updated the Gold Box to be a little more like the old one, except instead of manually flipping through the ten items, they've listed out all of the 10 items that you can select from on the right hand side of the page. To me, this was a rather non-intuitive place to put them, as it didn't really register on the first glance. But they are there, located on the right side of main offer.

Good job on bringing the personalized offers back, Amazon, now put them where we're more likely to notice them -- like under the main offer.

Want a PS3? Try eBay.


As of this moment, there are over 30,000 36,000 PlayStation 3s for sale on eBay (just 1468 pages), with another 7,000 19,000 listings that are already completed (a completed listing just means the auction has ended -- it doesn't mean that the item sold, the buyer may have stopped the auction and relisted). The active listings on eBay comprise a over 15 percent of the entire North American allotment for launch day. Most of these are going for around $2,000 dollars, which I think of as an insane waste of money, especially given that the system is $600, and should be fairly commonplace this time next year.

The highest value one sold was the 99,999,999.00 PS3, which obviously was bid up as a joke, resulting in suspension of the ebay bidder. There are more in the 10-50,000 dollar range too, which are likely just as bogus.

PS3 Meanie Activity Continues...


The PS3 launched at midnight last night, with many people getting PS3s, and some getting robbed, some getting a trip to the hospital, and some getting their cars broken into. Auction site ebay shows about 6,500 PS3s for sale and "ready to ship" many ending within the next 24 hours to make a quick buck. Since some stores haven't opened yet, the full supply isn't out there yet, but with over 100 pages of PS3... well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that most of the ones on ebay are just being resold.

6,500 out of 200,000... that's about 3 percent... and given that some are holding onto it until the week before Christmas? I'll do another survey at the end of the day -- I fully expect anywhere from 5 to 10 percent, given the restrictions of listing it on eBay.

Here's your daily dose of PS3 violence:

Robbery at Elk Grove, 4 PS3 and 4 Xbox 360s taken

In Englewood, 5 PS3 Robbed at Gunpoint from Gamestop

In Atlanta, Fry's Employees poke fun at their campers

Best Buy Camper target of car thieves

Man shot while waiting for the PS3

An Evening with Neil Gaiman at SJSU


Tonight kwc, littlestar and I journeyed down to San Jose State University for An Evening with Neil Gaiman. Neil started off with a brief introduction and then decided that instead of doing the typical thing of reading from Fragile Things, he'd read us some works he's never read to an audience before.

The first story he read to us was one called "Orange" which came to him while he was at an airport waiting for a flight. He described to us the pain of getting the idea then, typing it out on his computer to the last possible word before getting onto the flight, waiting anxiously for them to tell the passengers they could use electronics again, and then dashing off the plane to search for a power outlet to charge his battery drained computer.

The second story Witch's Gravestone, was from a collection of shorts that he had writen for middle school children called M for Magic. He also dubbed it "The Graveyard Book, Chapter 4", because of its similarity to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, except instead of an infant wandering into a Jungle, the infant wanders into a Graveyard instead. It was a longer work, and since he's never read it before, he didn't know how long it would take.

After the reading of Witch's Gravestone, The Graveyard Book Chapter Four, it left us only a little bit of time for questions.

Q: Can you elaborate more on one of the characters in the Graveyard Book?

Yes, his story will be told in the book, as soon as Gaiman gets it out. He really wants to do this book as his next kids project.
Q: Will you and Terry Pratchett work on another project?

Gaiman talks a little about the Good Omens movie, and the whole grout/farthing rights.

Flickr photoset: An Evening with Neil Gaiman


links for 2006-11-17


PS3 Outbreak


Here we are, mere hours from the launch of the PS3, and already several acts of violence and injury have broken out amongst the campers.

People shouldn't need to resort to camping for console systems. Isn't that what online ordering is for? Circuit City made the city of Palmdale some good money though, by fining tent pitchers $400. Shame on you, Palmdale PD.

Wii on Amazon


Instead of camping outside your local electronics store, why not just order a Wii on Amazon on November 19th?

Just received from Amazon:

    Important News For Video Games Customers

    The Nintendo Wii will be available for purchase on on 11/19, Sunday morning (PST). We will be limiting purchases to one per household and we anticipate that we will sell through our inventory very quickly as we've received 100 times more Wii email sign-ups than consoles we'll have available for sale (i.e., for every Nintendo Wii we'll have for sale, over 100 people have signed up to be notified).

    We expect to receive periodic shipments of the Wii from Nintendo throughout the holidays and we will post availability updates on the product detail page as well as in the customer discussions on the Nintendo Wii product page:

    Thank you for your continued support of

links for 2006-11-16


50 Most Significant Science Fiction Novels 1953-2002


Taken from parakkum:

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov *
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov*
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card*
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling*
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Final Score: 20/50 finished, with 1 hated, and 7 attempted.

Halo 3 Online Test


In an eleventh hour bid to try and steal some of the media coverage away from the launching PS3 and the Wii, Microsoft announces that Halo 3 testing will be online, to gamers with XBox 360 and XBox Live in early 2007.

My equation for determining the victory for the console wars is based on only two factors: the initial cost of the system at launch vs their competitors, and the quality of the TV commercials at launch. The better your advertising, typically, the better the launch. Everyone remembers the classic Now You're Playing with Power" ad campaign, and the equally classic Legend of Zelda commercial. The NES was cheaper than the Sega Master System, whose "The Challenge will always be there" commercials were a little more forgettable.

Some people believe that by 2011, the XBox360 will have dominance over the PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. I don't believe that to be the case. Superior tech rarely equals fun, and superior tech equals longer shelf life -- but if technology is the main selling point, when the competitor's technology catches up and surpasses, what then? Fun does not become outdated the way technology does -- this is why I believe the Wii will be successful -- not only does it have modern hits, but it also has great classics on its Virtual Console.

Child's Play


Child's Play is Seattle-based charity organization that has helped raise over a million dollars in toys, games, books and cash for Children's Hospitals across the world.

Child's Play was started by the creators of Penny Arcade who were tired of how the media seemed to blame all of the world's problems on gamers.

They also have Child's Play T-shirts, in which the profits are donated to the charity.

I'll be sending my donations directly through their Amazon wishlists to the Children's Hospital in Oakland and Rady's Children's Hospital in San Diego.

Playstation One titles for download for the PS3


With the launch of the P3 in Japan last week, the first PS One titles are now known and available for download at a whopping 2000 yen ($17.10 USD) apiece:

  • Arc the Lad
  • Biohazard: Director's Cut Edition
  • Bishi Bashi Special
  • Jumping Flash!
  • Konami Antiques MSX Collection Vol. 1
  • Konami Antiques MSX Collection Vol. 2
  • Hot Shots Golf 2
  • Mr. Driller
  • Silent Bomber
  • Tekken 2

Quality, with a capital 'K'. Given the number of great PS One titles in their Greatest Hits collection like Gran Turismo 2 and Parappa the Rapper, I expected better titles available, but the truth is their initial launch titles for PS One download is quite a letdown. (You'd be better off getting the games off of the used market)

Countdown to PS3 / Wii Launch Continues - Bundles


If I haven't beat it into everyone's heads by now, I believe the Wii to be the new hotness and the PS3 to be old and busted. I also believe that all this craziness about launchtime is just that -- craziness. That said, if you absolutely must be the first one on the block to own a Wii, Toys 'R' Us will be doing midnight sales of the Wii console at the following locations listed below. As far as I can tell, Toys 'R' Us is not doing bundles (at least in the U.S.) -- the same cannot be said for Canada and Australia.

I always feel that the bundles are a dumb way to pump up the retailer's profit margins during the launch -- the customer gets a bunch of items they don't necessarily want, and retailer gets to dump a bunch of useless items unto the consumer, who pays for it, as well as pay a premium price for it. Capitalism at it's finest.

Walmart has gone so far as to offer a bundled Wii for $648 (hardware only should be $249), and a bundled PS3 for a bank account draining $1422. (Photos in the extended in case pages go away).

Amazon, due to supply has said they won't be filling any PS3 orders, and CompUSA has decided to take the really, really low road by allowing you to reserve a PS3 with the purchase of any Sony HDTV 40" or greater . Supposedly if you return the TV, you've got to return the PS3 too. And notice that it's not just any HDTV, but a Sony HDTV. Apparently, gamers are made of money.

While I won't disagree that some members of the gaming community are rather well-heeled with heaps of disposable income, I'd like to believe that gaming is for the everyman, and not just the financial elite.

Made for iPod: Airlines


Apple has recently announced having integrated-iPod entertainment systems on airlines Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United by mid-2007

From the press release:

    These six airlines will begin offering their passengers iPod seat connections which power and charge their iPods during flight and allow the video content on their iPods to be viewed on the their seat back displays.

On long flights, battery life has been an issue with the iPod, so I think it's a good thing -- it does however add more one thing before traveling, and that's to load up the iPod with movies and shows before a flight. Of course if iPod chargers and displays become the norm for airlines, expect little iTunes Store kiosks to show up at airline terminals, or Apple with preloaded iPod Videos packed with a selection of movies. If you have enough stores, you could even set up an iPod rental business -- simply return the iPod to the store after the trip is over. Charge outrageous overdue fees, and I think you've got a business model.

Of course, if interference from personal electronics plays so much havoc with take off and landing, imagine what a plane full of iPods could do...

Transporter 2


Transporter 2

Jason Statham reprises his role as Frank Martin, "The Transporter".

Basic movie plot is this: Frank is living in Miami, filling in as a chauffeur for an important American official. Kid gets kidnapped, and it's up to Frank to get him back. Car chases, gunfights, explosions, and all sorts of crazy stunts are the norm. While the first Transporter saw him mostly utilizing BMWs, in this one, Audi/Lamborghini seems to have taken the blue propeller's place as we see Statham driving an A8 W12 and Murcielago. (All the crazy stunt car driving is in the less expensive A8, while we only see excessive speeding in the Murcielago). Much like video games, despite all the damage these luxury cars should sustain, the body and the paint is perfect. There also appear to be much product placement for Nokia. For what the movie is, a basic car-chase, gun-shooting action movie, it's not bad, just don't go into thinking you're watching it for a great story. We also see the return of François Berléand reprising his role as Tarconi.

links for 2006-11-14


Underworld - Evolution


Underworld - Evolution (Widescreen Special Edition)

Kate Beckinsale as a vampire with guns.

"Neither vampire nor lycan, but a hybrid. It's only a matter of time before we're found. My only hope now is to awaken Markus, our last remaining elder, and expose the truth before Kraven tries to murder him while he's still in hibernation."

This sequel to Underworld takes place immediately after the events of the first Underworld movie, as Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) discover more about the history of vampires and lycans (werewolves). While the visuals of this film are stunning, the story and the plot do not have as much attention given to them, but ought to satisfy the 12-year old boy who enjoys these types of movies. Underworld is now officially a franchise, and given the monetary success of Underworld Evolution, I suspect a third one is on the way.

V for Vendetta


V for Vendetta (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

Remember, remember the fifth of November...

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Let me preface this by saying I've never read Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, but seeing this film inspires me to track it down so a personal comparison can be made -- not of which is better, because I am certain they are both good, but in what has changed. As parakkum explained to us before viewing it -- the graphic novel was written in the 80s about Britain, when the people fears were about different things, while the movie is a much more updated version of that. As we watched the film, it became apparent that the threat of nuclear war had been replaced by threats from terrorists and avian flu. The film invites us into the looking glass to see this world of what might be. I wish there were more engaging and intelligent films like this.

Shallow Grave


Shallow Grave

True friends are the ones that help you hide the body.

"I am not ashamed. I have known love. I have known rejection. I am not ashamed to declare my feelings; take trust for instance, or friendship. These are the important things in life. These are the things that matter, that help you on your way. If you can't trust your friends, well, what then... What then?... Oh, yes. I believe in friends. I believe we need them. But if one day you can't trust them any more, well, what then... What then? "

One of the nice benefits of watching movies with friends is that one becomes exposed to movies one might otherwise never watch. Shallow Grave is one these. The first film by directed by Danny Boyle of 28 Days Later and Trainspotting fame, this thriller revolves around three roommates who find a new roomate, who winds up dead a few days later with a suitcase full of money. Enjoyable, but dark and gruesome at times.

Countdown to the New Consoles


Playstation 3: Releases in North America on Friday, November 17th. 400,000 units.

Nintendo Wii: Releases in North America on Sunday, November 19th. 1.1 million units.

The PS3 launched in Japan this past weekend with 100,000 consoles and managed to sell 88,400 of them over the past two days.

Citing production problems with blue lasers, Sony has scaled back the number of consoles available in Japan during launch. Damn those blue lasers.

That's the least of Sony's problems, as Japanese gamers are reporting that the Playstation 3 has problems playing older PS One and PS2 games.

Since the PS3 is now available in Japan, disassembly of the system has been done.

Retailers meanwhile, are out to gouge the consumer. BestBuy has canceled all online pre-orders, citing a systems glitch and at least in Southern California, Fry's Electronics will only sell PS3s and Wiis as bundles (though specifics of what the bundles will be is unknown at this time), but the rumor is 8 games for the PS3, and 5 games for the Wii.

Ouch. The more I survey the console battlefield, the more certain I am of the PS3's high price of the system on the secondary market seems to be driven by greed, as can be seen in these Japanese photographs of "used" PS3s in Akihabara, a day after the launch.. 128,000 yen ($1100 USD) for a 60 GB PS3!

Of course, what I find positively brilliant about the Japanese launch of the PS3 is that Sony made Kutaragi go to a Bic Camera and do a little pre-launch speech -- only to find out that the first twenty or so campers in the line were Chinese. Japanese businessmen had outsourced to Chinese immigrants to stand in line for them.

I wonder what the camp status of Mexico and Canada are...

My advice to the gamer: Stay home this launch season. Maintain your sanity (and your checkbook) and wait until February (or better yet -- summer) when stock is abundant, and prices aren't outrageous. There's plenty of other great games out there. Ken Kutaragi says the PS3's lifecycle is ten years(!), so what's the rush?

Mazinga Z GX-01R die cast toy


Mazinga Z (or Tranzor Z) is a well-known robot manga created by artist Go Nagai in the 1970s. In the early 80s, I had several of these robots including a 3-foot high plastic version with firing chest rockets and fist rockets(likely a bookleg, as it was blue and yellow in my recollection) as well as a smaller die cast version(in the proper colors). In Japan, there are still many fans of Go Nagai and Mazinga Z, and they release new toys for the adult market even though the series ended long ago.

This toy is the most highly detailed Mazinga Z I've seen (even more than the original Soul of Chogokin), with Jet Scrander, Hover Pilder, Jet Pilder, Iron Cutter and Rocket Punch arms, and Missile Punch belly.


Available at HobbyLink Japan

His female robot companions Diana and Venus are also available, and equally as detailed.

links for 2006-11-13


Bacon Paella


Tonight ota hosted a bacon party, in which guests were invited to bring a dish which contained bacon. Rather reminding me of a Iron Chef ingredient, I set about creating an original creation: bacon paella.

Bacon Paella

Paella is a Spanish dish which includes rice, vegetables and meat. The name paella comes from the word 'frying pan' in Valencian, and the word 'paellera', now refers to the low shallow pan with handles on both sides that is used for making and serving this dish. I have no such pan and improvised with a large cooking pan.

The dish came out ok, although I think next time I will add a few more spices as I felt the result was a bit blander than I would have liked.

links for 2006-11-12


Plagued by Squirrels


First they came and took away my strawberries.

Next they came and killed my lettuce.

I only have my tomatoes and eggplant left.

The squirrels must be stopped.

That is all.

links for 2006-11-09


From St. Louis with Love


I get junk e-mail on a pretty regular basis that passes the spam filter on gmail. Sometimes they are Nigerian money scams, other times they are just nonsensical. I find them stupid but entertaining. This is the first in what will be a new category -- Junk e-mail.

This one comes from St. Louis, Missouri and is about a Russian executive who is offering 4 million Euros.

Joyous booklist


When I saw seeing littlestar's entry about the San Jose State University Department of English Guilt List, I looked at the list of books she had posted and thought to myself "I haven't really read very many of the books on her list", not realizing until after a second re-reading and a click to the guilt list that those books listed were just the books that littlestar read, not the entire list of books on the list. Sadly, while I read six of the twenty-three books on her booklist, I fared much worse percentage-wise against the real booklist.

Here's the list of books I've read:

  • Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness
  • Doestoevski, F. M. The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment
  • Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Orwell, George. 1984, Animal Farm
  • Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
  • Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn
  • Wright, Richard. Black Boy, Native Son

      and Genesis, Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

      12 books, and 4 short works. I need to read more, for I have no joy.

Remember to Vote


It's Election Day. Normally I vote absentee, but since I didn't change my address in time, I went to a polling place and placed a provisional ballot on their touch screen systems (which was a first for me). The polls are open until 7, so there's still have time.

links for 2006-11-07


EBGames thinks Wii bundle for $699 is a bargain


I just received the following e-mail from EBGames:

    "This Thursday evening (CST), November 9, your opportunity to get in on the excitement arrives when our Wii bundle becomes available for pre-order online at You'll get the best games, accessories and more in one convenient package delivered right to your door - all for under $699 plus tax and handling!

    Quantities are extremely limited and there will be a limit of 1 Wii bundle per household, limited to US delivery only. Ordering a bundle does not guarantee shipment at launch and orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-serve basis."

Since when is a $699 bundle plus tax and handling a bargain for a system that costs $249? For $699, you're not even guaranteed the bundle on the launch date. Now, sometimes bundles are good things -- but usually the bundles that are true bargains come from the manufacturer, not the retailer. Ever since Best Buy made a killing on the thousand dollar plus bundles for the XBox360 last year, it every retailer is trying their best to screw over the consumer with the release of the latest systems.

Of course, if you're that interested in hunting down a Wii, I recommend taking a look at the Wii Finder, which lists Targets and their supposed allocations of Wiis.


NHTSA seeks to hide safety data


The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), responsible for all those lovely official crash-test and impact reports wants to keep some vehicle safety data (covering consumer complaints, warranty claims and information on vehicles involved in deaths and injuries) secret, citing that the disclosure of information "will cause substantial competitive harm and will impair the government's ability to obtain this information in the future if released."

The article mentions that automakers succeeded in making the NHTSA keep warranty claims and consumer complaints confidential by claiming that "releasing the data could harm competition." The only way I see it "harming competition" is if people realize that a product is bad or dangerous and stay away -- in fact, I'd say that it "aids competition", not harming it. Warranty claims and consumer complaints should be public information -- if I had a problem with my car, I'd want other consumers to know and have access to that information.

I thought the NHTSA's role was to protect citizens by providing safety information, not to protect automakers by hiding safety information. .

Feds Want Car Safety Data Kept Secret (Detroit News)

WoW: Starting Off... and Stopping... Again


This weekend I started up World of Warcraft again. For those who haven't played World of Warcraft before, there's basically two sides to the conflict -- the Alliance, made up of the so-called "pretty" races (Human, Gnome, Dwarf, NightElf) and the Horde, made up of the "ugly" races (Tauren, Troll, Undead, Orc). I've spent the majority of my time playing on the Alliance side, so this time, I decided to play on Horde side, as an Undead Warrior. When you start off the game, you get a couple of quests to start with. Nothing too big, and nothing too epic. They're fairly easy, and typically along the lines of "bring me this item" or "kill this monster".

Each race has their own starting area, and their own quests associated with that starting area. The Humans start in a Monastery, and begin by killing wolves, kobolds and bandits. The Dwarves and Gnomes start in a ice-covered Valley and begin by killing wolves, troggs and trolls. The Night Elves begin in a big tree city, and begin by killing panthers, pigs, imps and spiders. The Orcs and Trolls start in a desert, and begin by killing pigs, scorpions and imps. The Tauren begin in the plains by killing ostriches and quillboars (spiky pig-men). The Undead begin in a crypt and start by killing zombies and skeletons.

While starting off the Undead seem pretty darn heroic compared to their counterparts, you leave the town feeling pretty good about yourself -- you've got your levels, you've got your skills, and you're on a quest to deliver a message to the Innkeeper at Brill.

As you run your way to Brill, you encounter a Deathguard who gives you your first quest outside the starting area. Your task? Raid the Human farms nearby and steal some Pumpkins and bring them to Brill.

The next NPC I run into on the road wants me to collect weeds.

At this point, my Warrior is confused. As part of the great Horde army, he's now a a thief stealing pumpkins and a gardener collecting weeds. Where's the epic fantasy in that? Given that the Alliance races spent so much time killing Trolls, Orcs, Tauren and Undead, I was hoping for equal time to kill Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes. Sadly, it just doesn't happen very often that the townspeople want you killing other sentients -- they'd rather you save them from the wild ostriches and the bears.

Once I get into the next village (Brill), I receive a slew of quests, including:

  • "Get me the correct weeds"
  • "Steal me a book"
  • "Kill some bats"
  • "Kill some puppies"
  • "Kill some zombies"
  • "Kill some named zombies"
  • "Kill some undead gnolls"
  • "Kill some ghosts"
  • "Kill some low-level humans dressed in red"
  • "Kill some Murlocs and bring me their fins"
  • "Kill some human warriors dressed in red and a named human"
  • "Kill some human priests dressed in red and a named human"
  • "Kill a named human and his two bodyguards who are dressed in red"
  • "Give this poisoned drink to the dwarf"
  • "Give this magic drink to the human"
  • "Go to the next town"

None of these are class-specific quests, mind you -- they're for every class, every Horde character, not just the Warrior.

What bothers me about these quests is that because a player doesn't have to do any particular quest, they've been designed to be disposable -- sometime they have some emotes or animations tied to the quest completion, but more often than not the NPC says the equivalent of "Thank you. Here's some xp and some copper."

While the Alliance have many multi-part quests which form a greater narrative (Westfall - Defias and Van Cleef, Scythe of Elune, Duskwood quests, The Missing Diplomat), the Horde has nothing of the sort (that I've seen up to level 35).

The goal of the game is to get to the raid-level content, where you and your 40 to 50 guildmates can spend 4 hours clearing a dungeon, wipe, do a 2 hour corpse recovery/buffing session, wipe during the corpse recovery, and try to make it to the final boss which hopefully the guild manages to kill and then fight over the phat lewt drops.

Some people really like raiding and the challenge of raiding. Coming from EverQuest, I was part of a guild that was very special-ops -- while other guilds were very much about throwing massive numbers of people against the creature (a "technique" known as "zerging"), we were very much about taking down the same huge creatures with small groups of people who knew how to play very well. It's working as part of a well-oiled machine that I miss -- all the raid stuff was really quite frustrating at times, but still a very exciting and new experience which is why I'm not at all surprised that this new experience is what attracts people to WoW.

Revisiting WoW has made me realize that while I like the achievement aspects of the game, having the game on a monthly subscription fee makes me feel as if I really should be playing constantly to get my money's worth out of it, and there are other games I want to be playing besides just WoW.

links for 2006-11-04


Flushed Away

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Last night I had the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of "Flushed Away", the latest CGI film from DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Animations. Aardman Animations is responsible for the Claymation based Wallace and Grommit series, as well as the CGI movie Chicken Run.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the story centers around Roddy, a house pet, as he gets flushed away and tries to return to his home above the surface. I thought the art direction was great, and many of the creative concepts (the boats and town building made out of refuse) were top notch.It's a tad bit slow to start, but otherwise, a really well done fun film.

Let's hope we see more films like this from DreamWorks, and less Antz and SharkTales.

Cooking Mama


Cooking Mama

Cooking Mama is a Nintendo DS game that puts you in the role of a culinary maestro, as you prepare meals and get scored on them. Think small-scale Iron Chef. I'm told the recipes and techniques can actually be used in the kitchen from this game, so it doubles as a cookbook (sort-of) too.

It brings something new to the DS, and appeals to the more adult audience of the game system. Cooking Mama also makes good use of the stylus and microphone interactivity; by blowing on the mic, it will cool the food, and drawing circles on the touchpad mimics the stirring action.

The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)


The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)

The modern version of Manchurian Candidate stars Denzel Washington in a remake of the classic version of the Manchurian Candidate (1962). The setting has been changed to make it more contemporary -- the soldiers were in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, and the Presidential race has a much more modern feel to it.

It's a good film to watch for the visuals, and the acting is top-notch. While not as heavily lauded as the original, it's a good update to this cautionary tale.

Munich (Widescreen Edition)


Munich (Widescreen Edition)

Steven Spielberg is known for making movies that are usually feel-good, heart warming stories. Munich is not one of those. It's bloody, it's grim, it's dark, and it was a rush job to finish the film in time for Academy Award consideration. Munich was nominated for 5 Academy Awards for the areas of: Best Achievement in Directing, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score), Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published).

Dave Navarro helps launch Guitar Hero 2 in West Los Angeles


Guitar Hero 2 with Guitar releases next Tuesday, and if you happen to be in LA, Dave Navarro (of Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rockstar fame) will be at the West Los Angeles Best Buy at Noon on November 7th to help launch the title.

For you Strongbad / Homestar Runner fans out there, Trogdor the Burninator has been included as one of the bonus songs that one can play in Guitar Hero 2.

Guitar Hero 2 is one of my picks in this year's Holiday Gift Guide for Gamers.

The list of bonus songs is as follows:

Final Fantasy XII


Yesterday marked the release of the latest installment of the Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XII -- yes, that's right, they're up to twelve now (although the actual count of Final Fantasy-affliated games is likely somewhere in the 30s). Available for the PS2 (and the PS3 when it ships), this latest adventure takes place in the world of Ivalice, and I'm torn about whether I should play this game, or just skip this one. Unlike Star Trek, there's no set pattern to whether a FF game is good or not, and this is the first Final Fantasy without both Nobuo Uematsu (composer) and Hironobu Sakaguchi (original Final Fantasy creator)

Here's my track record with Final Fantasy

  • Final Fantasy 1: Played and Finished.
  • Final Fantasy 2: Never played.
  • Final Fantasy 3: Never played.
  • Final Fantasy 4: Never played.
  • Final Fantasy 5: Never played.
  • Final Fantasy 6: Played and Finished.
  • Final Fantasy 7: Played and Finished.
  • Final Fantasy 8: Played, but could not finish.
  • Final Fantasy 9: Played, but could not finish.
  • Final Fantasy 10: Played and Finished.
  • Final Fantasy 10-2: Played, but could not finish.
  • Final Fantasy 11: Played, but could not finish.

In my mind, I only finish the good ones. The other thing in common with the ones that I've finished is that their battle systems are all essentially similar -- 6 uses Espers, 7 uses Materia, and 10 uses the Spheres, but essentially they're Power-up systems that required time, and not much else. Final Fantasy 12 has an all new battle system that more closely mimics MMOG style combat, which I'm rather ambivalent about, having spent several realtime months in the MMOG world already.

Wii Virtual Console Games List


All the new next-generation consoles have some form of online game purchase system (because microtransactions are the way to go), and the Wii is no exception. They use Wii points from a Wii Points Card (2000 Wii points equates to approximately $25) to buy games -- mostly classics from older game systems.

links for 2006-11-03


Mint Dark Chocolate KitKat minis


Mint Dark Chocolate KitKat Minis

Post-Halloween, one can rummage through the candy aisles at places like Target and can find candy discounted almost 50%. In addition to discounted candy, one can find Christmas edition goodies like the Mint Dark Chocolate KitKat minis (which come in a 10.5 oz bag for $2.97).

links for 2006-11-02

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Mike's Holiday Gift Guide for Gamers (2006)


With Halloween out of the way, the fifty-five day time bomb towards Christmas has begun. (For some retailers, they've already had their Christmas stuff out since Labor Day).

Every year I get various game-related queries about suggestions of what to get gamers for Thanksgiving / Christmas / Hannukah / Kwanza. While not everyone can get a Sword of a Thousand Truths for their favorite World of Warcraft gamer/lost soul, there are plenty of other gifts to entertain and delight gamers this holiday season.

The complete list of suggestions in the extended entry.

Game Lessons


One of the things I've been thinking about for the last couple of days is the question of why we choose to play games (as opposed to the two billion other things a human being could do). In the old days, games were used to instruct, a way to socialize, and a way to pass time. In modern times, the function of games seems to be based on entertaining the player.

In many games, the object of the game is to win -- to beat the computer or the other players of the game. Some games contain a narrative to follow such as the wildly popular Zelda and the Final Fantasy games. In other games where storytelling is not a central aspect, the narrative is created by the game player as a result of retelling the experience of the gameplay.

Games can be leisure activities, stress relievers, physical activities, and typically encompasses some aspect of wish fulfillment. But they've become important learning tools as well.

From Carcasonne we learn the important lesson that if you can't shove someone out of a city with an army of meeples, one needs have an equivalent number to share the points. From Settlers of Catan we learn the lesson that if you don't trade the other players will beat you. From Bang! we learn to distinguish friends from foes, and that beer restores hit points. From Mall of Horror we learn that during a zombie invasion a mall is a good place to be as long as you're not in a room full of cheerleaders or control freaks. From Arkham Horror we learn that going into extradimensional gates is bad, and that losing sanity is a really bad thing.

Lessons like these are not just limited to traditional boardgames -- videogames have their own unique lessons to share. From Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS) we learn that alien parasites are bad, and that power-ups can be received from defeated mini-bosses. From Ice Climber (GBA) we learn that in order to get off the mountain, one must bypass polar bears and get a ride from a pterodactyl. From New Super Mario Bros. (DS) we learn that Mushrooms with eyes are generally bad, and that that eating flowers will allow you to shoot fireballs. From LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (GameCube), we learn that it's okay to shoot a partner in the back -- they'll just break into LEGO pieces and lose some money. Tetris (DS) probably teaches us the most valuable lesson of all -- how to fit objects in cramped spaces.

Game developers have different lessons to learn from games. From Halo: Combat Evolved (XBox) we learn that if you don't have enough money to complete the level design, just reuse the first half of the game to make the second half of the game. From games like Dead or Alive 4 (XBox 360) game developers learn that as long as you stick a couple of females with jiggling breasts selling a million copies will not be difficult. From Gears of War (XBox360) game developers learn that game development on a triple-A title can cost 10 million, as long as tools, software, engine, marketing and other miscellaneous costs associated with the project are allocated to other budgets. Lastly, and most importantly, from Daikatana (PC) we learn not to give John Romero money.

It is for these important lessons that we play games (or at least hear about them), so that we do not repeat the mistakes, or that we learn the easiest way to overcome an alien invasion/rise of the living dead/nuclear attack because unlike games, in the real world there are no resets, no continues and no extra lives. Real life is one life, no continues, with a time limit.




After finishing the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I read Joss Whedon's comic book Fray, which takes place a couple hundred years after the events of the last episode of BTVS, and which centers on the first slayer since the early 21st century, in a futuristic world that while filled with flying cars and high technology isn't the bright, clean, sterile vision we're so used to seeing.

Fray has the sarcastic humor we're so used to seeing in Whedon's other works and reads like a pilot for a futuristic Buffy series.As far as comics go, it's one of the more intelligible things I've read of late.

Bad Yahoo!/AP Database cross-reference


I'm not sure why I find mistakes like this so amusing:


The picture on the left is of Nissan President Ghosn, while the news story is about a Bollywood Actress.

A look at the photo itself reveals the photo to be related to Aishwarya Rai's birthday and General Motors Corp.
Indian actress Aishwarya Rai turns 33