Well, actually, there’s no Gilbert and Sullivan in this post, apart from this sentence. I just needed a third thing to put in the title since, as any writer knows, the most memorable things come in threes.
4th of July came and went this past weekend (I suppose I could have put that in the title) with the usual fanfare it does around my place. Which meant some eating, some talking, some partying, and a lot of drinking. Not too much drinking, mind you, as New Years tends to be the winner in that department. Though there were a few guests at my place this year that seemed eager to bum-rush into drunkenness, an activity I do not approve of and did my best to curtail. We didn’t finish off all the beer I bought so I suppose that’s a good thing. Oh! And the liquor bottles never got opened, which is great from a moderation standpoint I suppose, though a little disappointing from the Gin and Tonic standpoint (my favorite drink).
New to the festivities this year, though, was the Fire Pit. I had bought one a few months back during the Brief Age of Funds that occurred in May (when several monetary windfalls for me happened to occur simultaneously) because… well, I like fire pits. I’ve never been much for camping, but I do like the idea of a camp fire. People collect around it almost habitually and often there is fun things like S’mores being made around them. Sure enough, on the 4th after I got it started people began to gather and S’mores were made. Of course, the next day I found out that there was bits of chocolate all over because people are sloppy, but I guess that’s why you do those things outside.
Also last weekend, apart from the 4th of July activities, I attempted to do some woodworking. I don’t have a long history of this activity, but I was eager to try my hand. I’ve been collecting power tools ever since I’ve had a garage and I really wanted to use them for something. Well, I did. I made a bench. Or, I suppose, 3/4 of a bench. It has no secure surface at the moment, just a piece of desk laying on top.
As it turns out, though, I’m not very good at wood working. Or, at least, not very practiced. Despite the fact that I had a plan, I didn’t follow it completely, and even the modifications I wrote in I managed to screw up. Thankfully, a quick assessment of my supplies and calculations in my head meant that I didn’t need to go to the store to get more lumber, I was able to complete the frame with what I had. Still, I would have preferred to have gotten it right without having to recalculate everything midstream. I suppose there’s always next time.
So, Laptops. I ordered one, waaaaaaay back on June 16th. It was a pre-order, so I didn’t get it right away. In fact, I still don’t have it. It’s a little disconcerting. I ordered it from a major manufacturer of computer parts, MSI, but apparently while MSI Taiwan (their HQ) is huge and well run, MSI USA is staffed by 2 customer service representatives and a monkey. They’re terribly overworked, and 200+ pre-orders of a laptop that just arrived yesterday completely overwhelmed them. And that damn monkey just sits there and watches. He doesn’t even help!
The reason why I’m sort of waiting eagerly for this new laptop is sort of two fold. Well, three fold if you count the fact that I paid for it and want to get my money’s worth. But aside from purely mercantile reasons, I really have gotten used to the portability of a laptop. I used to use my company-provided HP all over the house and take it with me on trips of all sorts. But now I have to make do with my desktop PC and it isn’t the most portable device in the house. Also, its running the TV, so I can’t even move it into another room if I wanted too.
Part of the reason why I like the mobility is that I do a lot of computing on my couch, and the desktop simply isn’t convenient for that activity. I don’t want to type word documents on my TV, and I can’t see the monitor clearly from the couch, despite the fact that I have all wireless peripherals and I can easily take the keyboard to the couch. So, I find myself without the ability to do my computing in the most comfortable means that I’m used to.
The second reason — which, to be fair, is related to the first — is that I’ve done all of my writing on a laptop since I started again in 2004. It’s like some psychological block when I sit in front of the PC on my desk. I can’t get myself to start writing. It’s a terrible, terrible writers block and as far as I can tell it’s purely comfort based. I want to get going on my new writing projects (new chapter of Apocolocyntosis, which I’ve more or less planned out already from start to finish, and the first chapter of the new Never-Forever, which I’ve got a link to up there on the navigation bar but, as of right now, has nothing on it) but I just can’t get the words onto the screen. It’s terribly frustrating and I’m hoping getting back into my comfort zone will fix it.
That or I’ve reached the end of phase 2 of my writing life. Which would be a tragedy as well. I was doing so well during this phase. It has been 4 years, though. And, frighteningly, that’s about how long phase 1 of my writing life was (1996 – 2000). So, we’ll see. The laptop should ship today and I expect to see it on Wednesday. I’ll post here if it helps or hurts. Either way we’ll get a review out of it.
Though, if the laptop doesn’t do it, I can then focus on some of the projects that don’t involve writing. Like the re-cut of my High School movie project I’ve been meaning to do for 5 years, or the music videos I’ve got playing around in my head. It might not be terribly bad to take a break from writing.
Then again, I want to make a career out of writing someday, and setbacks like this could be murder to any such plans.
Whoops, forgot about the video games part.
So, Metal Gear Solid 4. I’ll do a full review of the game after I complete it, but, well, I have to say I’m enjoying it. It’s a solid (no pun intended) action game that is quite a bit of fun to play… during the parts where you’re not watching people endlessly rehash plot points you’ve figured out already. Seriously, Konami: you don’t need to explain everything to us in 6 separate cutscenes. Just one or two will do. If we forget, we can always use the ridiculously comprehensive encyclopedia you provided us as a free download.
I’m at the end of Act 4 of a 5 or 6 Act game and… yeah, there’s that feeling of a finale here. Everything is WAY bigger stakes than before, the action is completley over the top, and, I can say from where I’m standing, it looks like this will be a game of 10 Little Indians. Snake is very clearly going to bite the bullet at the end of the game, the opening cinematic more or less confirms this, but the further along I get in the game, the more allies I’ve seen die and it’s not a good sign. I’ve got this creepy feeling that in the last scene of the game it’ll just be Snake and Meryl (like the end of MGS1) having seen everyone else kick the bucket, and Snake dies in her arms.
I don’t know yet, but we’ll see.
Civilization Revolution. This game just came out today but I’ve been habitually playing the demo this past weekend. I will definitely pick up this game today and try it out. I remember playing Civ 1 and CivNet way back in the DOS days in high school and being a big fan. Though I lost track of the series after going to college (being more interested in FPSs at that time) but now I think I’m ready to try the world building again and, from all I’ve heard and read, this game is the perfect distillation of the core concepts of Civilization. Sid Meier has even said this is the game he always wanted to make.
The best part of this game, though, is that I think you can easily get through it in one sitting. Which means no saving and then coming back months later and wondering what you were trying to achieve or which wonder you wanted to build next. A nice 2-3 hour sitting should finish a game off and then next time you can start from scratch as another one of the starting civilizations. Perfect for us casual gamers. Yay!
I played another round of Warriors Orochi last night with a friend. I’ve reconsidered my previous opinion of it and decided it’s a decent game. Probably the best version of the ‘Warriors’ formula that had been tweaked since Dynasty Warriors 2 (a launch title for the PS2, if I recall). While the endless grind of the game is more than a little annoying (73 characters are in the game, and you really gotta play a LOT to get them all up to 99). The achievements are certainly doable with some semi-intense playing. And being able to play co-op through the missions is a real joy. Especially for those annoying missions where they ask you to ‘protect Princess Brain Dead’ at the same time as ‘kill super hard to kill mid-boss’ and you ask yourself how the game expects you to keep the princess (who does her own damn thing all the time) from getting slaughtered while you fight the mid-boss.
The sequel, Warriors Orochi 2, is set for later this year, and we’ll probably end up getting that one too. Its supposed to have 96 characters in it. I hope they offer some means of transferring your character data from Orochi 1. 96 characters is just too much. Sorry, Koei, you had a great idea there and took it too far. I like choice, but I want to choose from a squad of players, not a legion.
Finally, Alone in the Dark. I’ve not played it yet, but I’ve watched the new trailers and … well, I think it deserves at least a rental. It looks really, really cool. And just watching the trailers, you can see some of the most diverse gameplay elements I’ve ever seen in a single game. Yeah, there’s a driving section, we’re used to those popping up in games now. But there are several climbing parts, swinging parts, first and 3rd person parts. The creepiness of Silent Hill is in there with the constant darkness (they really make the darkness a character in this game) and the peeking through holes in walls and seeing enemies fly past.
Also, it appears to have a story. I mean, I can’t tell yet if it’s a good story, but it looks fascinating. It clearly has several occult elements (alternate demon dimensions, mystic stones, runes, rites, and hidden secrets in, of all places, Central Park), and it involves consequences from a previous AitD game: the very first one released on PC back in the early 90s. How rad is that?
I’ll let you know, after MGS4, and Civ Rev.