Friday, December 31, 2010

On The Matter Of Contractual Obligations

I mentioned in yesterday's screenshot-laden post that I'd taken on quite a few contracts in the Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer arena, but didn't provide much in the way of details. Now seems like a good time to correct that.

For those who haven't played Black Ops yet, the development shop responsible for the game - Treyarch - introduced a rather ingenious concept with this edition of Call of Duty. You can, at the cost of a small number of Call of Duty dollars, purchase contracts that represent specific objectives and which pay out multiples of their cost if you complete them. So, for example, you might buy a contract for "Get 3 kills without dying within 40 mins of game play", at a cost of 25 COD$, and be awarded 100 COD$ if you do indeed get 3 consecutive kills without dying in a game over the next 40 minutes of playing online. For some of the harder contracts, there are also XP rewards that you'll earn along with the COD$.

To see how the purchase of certain contracts can change your style of playing, I bought the "TDM Massacre" contract this afternoon. It costs 150 COD$, requires that you get at least 20 kills in a single Team Deathmatch, gives you 40 min of game time in which to complete it, and pays out 1100 COD$ and 1100 XP! Quite the return on your investment, if you can pull it off. I was in my 3rd game before I had a real shot at it, and I just barely managed to do it, finishing with 20 kills and 13 deaths. In order to do that, though, I had to play like a madman: always running directly toward the biggest fire fight, not bothering to lay down Claymores because it slows me down too much and I'll probably die before any could be triggered anyway, and generally throwing all of my usual stealth and caution to the wind.

I actually like that the contracts cause me to change things up, but that doesn't stop me from turning the air blue in our living room when I'm on one... as Vicki can definitely attest to!

Best Quote Of The Year?

OK, probably not. But still a really good one to end the year on... Director David Fincher (The Social Network), talking about potentially filming Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama:

"‘Cuz we want to make a movie where kids go out of the theatre and instead of buying an action figure they buy a telescope."

If only more directors thought like that!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Second Time Lucky

So it took me just over a month - Nov 10 to Dec 12 - to reach level 50 in Call of Duty: Black Ops the first time. At that point I decided to prestige, after which I was right back to level 1 again.

Tonight, I reached level 50 for the second time, and it only took me 18 days to do so. I've raised my KTD to 1.42, but it would've been even higher if I hadn't taken on so many Contracts that required me to play more aggressively. I'm currently 231-6 in terms of Contracts (completed to failed).

Here's a longshot kill:

And here's one that's much more up close and personal. That poor guy picked the wrong place to climb up to:

I played this particular game with wild abandon, as I knew I was close to reaching level 50. Below you can see a couple of enemies charging into the room where I'm crouching, just seconds before I'd blow them both away. I finished the game with 22 kills and 3 deaths, which is just how I would've scripted a match in which I'd get my final promotion!

Anyway, I don't think I'll prestige again. I'm probably close to burning out on the online portion of the game, so running through the 50 levels a third time doesn't appeal right now. But we'll see.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Call For Metrics For Predictors

This is the time of year when we get two broad categories of articles/features: retrospectives of the year gone by, and prognostications for the year to come. I've already read a few of the latter type, and I've come to realize that there's almost always an element missing from most of them that I'd like to see added: what kind of job they've done in the past.

If you're in the habit of making predictions for the upcoming year, then I think you owe it to your audience to give some sort of indication of past performance. So, for example, I just finished reading a comic-based article called "11 for '11: Things to Watch for in the New Year (Series / Graphic Novels)". In it, the author gives 11 series that he thinks will be worth reading in this new year, along with reasons why. I happen to recall that last year there were similar lists entitled "10 for '10", along the same lines. While I'm sure I could find them if I really made the effort, I would think that part of the act of establishing some "street cred" for such an article would be recounting what 10 series were highlighted at this time last year, along with a brief description of how each panned out. In that way, we'd have some notion of whether this is coming from an empty-headed, hype-swallowing bozo, or an enlightened observer.

What I find, though, is that predictors rarely seem to do this. Perhaps that's simply a reflection of the fact that most of them are lousy at their job, or even that they never bother to actually measure their own performance in that way! In either case, it makes me less interested in what they have to say.

2010's Nearly Over... So Did We Make Contact?

If you believe the title of the film adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two novel, this was supposed to be the year in which we make contact... with something! In the movie (and book), mysterious things begin happening on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, and it all goes kind of crazy from there. Here in the real world, scientists discovered Arsenic-based (microscopic) life in 2010, which is pretty darned cool but not likely to immediately lead us to making contact with anything intelligent.

I haven't decided just yet how I feel about 2010. Usually around this time, I'm ready to say "good riddance" to the outgoing year as I usually feel that it's worn out its welcome by now. And sure enough, when I think of the medical issues that Vicki and I each had this year - nothing catastrophic, but also not a particularly good run - then I'm hoping 2011 will treat us better. On the other hand, Vicki and I made a great new friend (Julie) in the past several months, and that sort of thing doesn't happen very often, by any stretch. I was disappointed that I didn't get more consulting gigs this year, but my tutoring business took off to the point where Vicki had to pick up some of the work that I couldn't do! The comic books of 2010 were pretty lousy, but I've read a ton of terrific books over that period. So it's been an uneven year, which I suppose is the way that most of them go.

I guess that just means that I'm ready to check out 2011... and discover just what it has in store for us!

Monday, December 27, 2010

One Christmas Delayed

Tonight was supposed to be our Christmas with Julie, as the three of us were to enjoy dinner together, exchange some gifts and watch 49 Up, the final (so far) installment in the Up series. Like just about all of our December plans this year, however, things were destined not to follow the script.

Julie, who in her mid-30s has bragged to me that she's never had the flu, came down with none other than a nasty influenza bug early this morning! A few other members of her family are similarly afflicted, but for once it got her in its sights, as well, and did a real number on her usually-sturdy frame. Vomit counts have already reached double digits, apparently. Poor kid!

Considering how long it took to find a night for 49 Up that fit Julie's busy, busy schedule (7 weeks and counting), maybe we're just not meant to see it together?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Santa Brung

Well, Christmas 2010 has now come and gone, and it was completely unlike what we had planned, for a variety of reasons. It wasn't the surreal experience that 4 years ago was, when both of my housemates were down with the flu for the day. However, a good friend of ours who had hoped to spend the day with us has had an ailing parent take a turn for the worse, wiping all yuletide thoughts from her mind, unfortunately. As a result, Vicki volunteered to make an impromptu trip out of town to deliver some essentials to the friend in need. Of much lesser import, Tammy and I didn't get our hoped-for Christmas Day walk in with Julie when her schedule didn't accommodate it, but instead decided to go on it by ourselves... only to bump into Julie and some relatives of hers on the trail! It was just a strange day full of unexpected twists and turns.

But gifts were still exchanged, and my haul included the following:
  • Books galore: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, Earth: The Book by The Daily Show staff, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut, The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris, Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin and The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (which I've been particularly-eagerly awaiting!)
  • Video games: Alan Wake and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, both for the XBox 360
  • a Daily Show / Colbert Report T-shirt from their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
  • The Hurt Locker on DVD
  • 2 Lois Lanes and 1 Superman comic, all lovely and from the 1960s
  • a homemade pillow and pillow case (superhero-themed, of course!)
  • a Future Shop gift certificate, some yummy chocolates and other sundry treats
Vicki got some books, as well, along with snuggly PJs, a Doctor Who DVD (with the David Tennant specials), Lush cosmetics, gift certificates from a craft store and a plant nursery, and a new work bag and genuine African scarf and pottery bowl (courtesy of world traveler Tammy). Tammy wanted cash this year so she was forced to answer trivia questions of our devising in order to win various amounts, and made out just fine.

In other words, the three of us all did great, as usual. That much, at least, went according to the script.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Where's Santa?

Check out the time on this post... Way too late on Christmas Eve / Christmas morning for me to still be up, but here I am.

Time to finally head to bed, though. Merry Christmas to all! And to those with young kids in the house, chances are you'll be in up in about 3 hrs anyway to start unwrapping all those gazillion presents.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Your Trivia Answers

Thanks to Vicki, Tammy, Boneman and Jimmy Hinckley for playing our Trivia Game this holiday season (and shame on the rest of you who didn't!). They all did well, given the eclectic nature of the questions. Jimmy picked up 8 Blog Points for his 16 correct answers, Tammy and Vicki each got 7 BPs and Boneman wasn't far behind with 6 BPs (including a small bonus for making me laugh). Leaderboard standings should be updated momentarily.

For those who'd like to know the actual answers, I've provided them below:

1) Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina, told his aides he was "hiking the Appalachian trail" while he headed down south to Argentina for a tryst with his girlfriend there (his wife would later leave him). (2 of the 4 respondents got that right, to some degree)

2) It was the Texas Rangers, formerly owned by George "Dubba Ya" Bush, who lost to the Giants in this year's World Series. (2 right answers)

3) DC Comics' Green Lantern was front and centre for this year's Blackest Night event, just in time to get prepped for his leading man role in next year's GL movie. (2 right answers)

4) I'm currently - almost literally so - playing Call of Duty: Black Ops. Too easy! (4 right answers!)

5) It was poor Rascal who had to be put down this fall. (3 right answers. "Patches", Boneman? Really?!?)

6) I currently have just over 28,100 comics, so 28,000 is the winning answer here. (only 1 right answer to be found)

7) Pi is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. (4 right-ish answers, although part marks were deducted for misspellings of "pie" and "pii")

8) KTD = Kill to Death, as everyone knows who reads this blog. (4 right)

9) It was Roy "Doc" Halladay who pitched a no-hitter this October in his first ever postseason appearance, of course. (1 right)

10) Arsenic and old lace go together, but who knew that arsenic could be a building block for Life? We do, now! Well, some of us do, anyway. (1 right)

11) 2011 is the year of Thor, Green Lantern and Captain America movies. (2 right)

12) Robin's secret identity is apparently very secret, as no one knew that Damian Wayne (illegitimate son of Bruce Wayne) is currently wearing the costume. (0 right)

13) Back to back shutouts for the respondents here, as nobody seemed aware that the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is just around the corner, since it went down in April 1912! (0 right)

14) Chris Nolan's first film, which Vicki and I watched not too long ago, is called Following and is quite the weird little gem. (1 right-ish, although Vicki got the title partly wrong)

15) Only one Star Wars fan knew that The Hidden Fortress is the Kurasawa film that George Lucas borrowed so heavily from for Episode IV. (1 right)

16) Branding apparently works: everyone knows who Brown is: UPS! (4 right)

17) I guess only a comic fan would remember that Tony Stark's father's name is Howard, although after he appears in next year's Captain America film, maybe more will. (0 right)

18) The Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, despite being blogged about here not long ago, confounded all but one of our respondents. To quote Boneman, it's "when you are in a sitcom for one episode, and only ever referred to from then on" (hey, close enough!). (1 right)

19) Not surprisingly, nobody recalled that Pedro Martinez started off as a Los Angeles Dodger, before being traded to the Expos and making his name there. (0 right)

20) On the other hand, everyone knew that James Ford took the name "Sawyer" after a con man by that name caused the murder-suicide of his parents. (4 right)

21) Only one true film buff named Roman "Hey little girl, wanna party?" Polanski as the director of Chinatown. (1 right)

22) Much to my amazement, no one tagged 1919 as the year of the Black Sox! (Maybe we'll get another scandal of similar proportion in 2020?) (0 right)

23) Probably the toughest question of the lot involved the given name of Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. Jimmy came closest with "Chester", for which he got part marks. Right answer? Chesley! (1 right-ish)

24) Surely only surly Sean Connery could deliver the line about bringing a knife to a gun fight, as two of our respondents knew. (2 right)

25) Steve Rogers has better name recognition than I'd expected, as everyone ID'd him as the Star Spangled Avenger, Captain America! (4 right)

26) Who could ever forget the 5 notes that the aliens played for us in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Well, apparently some could, as only half the people got that right! (2 right)

27) Almost everyone (surprisingly) knew that Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird! (3 right)

28) When do we get a leap year? In any year that's divisible by 4 but not divisible by 100 unless it's also divisible by 400, of course! So 1944, 1996 and 2000 each got an extra day for their troubles! (3 right)

29) What kind of people don't remember that it was Doomsday that killed Superman back in 1992? Apparently your kind of people, as no one got this right! (0 right)

30) And last but not least, it's of course my lovely wife Vicki and my wonderful walking buddy Julie who join me for frequent Movie Nights, as most of you knew. (3 right)

I hope you all enjoyed the trivia, even if you didn't take part!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time's Running Out For Trivia Answers

Remember: you only have until midnight tomorrow to get your guesses in for the Holiday 2010 Trivia Contest. I've gotten results from 4 people so far, but I'm sure there are others out there who'll want to get in on the action. So don't delay too much longer!

Here's a teaser for when the submitted answers are revealed: Boneman provided a very original guess for anything he didn't know! I just might award him an extra half a Blog Point for the act of making me laugh!

New Camera, Just In Time For Christmas

Higher resolution, lighter, smaller, sleeker... and considerably cheaper than the six year old model that it's replacing! Ain't technology wonderful?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greatest Game Trailer Ever?

I don't know for sure but this trailer for Portal 2 just might be the pinnacle of gaming ads. I laughed out loud several times, and it's not even 2 minutes long! Cannot wait for this game to hit (release date is 4 months from today).

[Update Dec 22/10: Looks like Portal 2's release date is now Apr 21, not the 18th. No biggie!]

The State Of The Comic Industry

Brian Hibbs, who owns the Comix Experience store in San Francisco (which Vicki and I visited in 2007), also periodically produces an online column called Tilting at Windmills at the Comic Book Resources site. His latest article in that forum, entitled "Time's Up", so perfectly sums up my own feelings about the comic book industry right now that I urge anyone who cares at all about that medium to go check it out and thus save me the trouble of yet another bloggy rant.

He makes many dead-on observations, including:

"The movement of focus of the market from “mostly long-term ongoing series, with a few minis and one-shots” to “mostly mini-series and one-shots” has led customers to be skittish about new titles and makes every “jumping on” point a “jumping off” one instead.

The trend of “deconstructed” storytelling, where writers aren’t as focused on writing jam-packed single issues, but, rather stories paced for the “inevitable” collection, when coupled with the incredibly stupid and greedy price increases has directly conditioned many buyers to look for reasons to not buy a new book."

I could not possibly agree more enthusiastically with those statements. That's exactly how I feel, and precisely why my monthly purchases have been waning over the last several years.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday 2010 Trivia (3000 Posts Later!)

Hey look, it's my 3000th blog post!!!

As promised, here are some trivia questions to help us all celebrate the milestone. Please answer from memory, rather than looking things up. Provide your answers in the comments. I've turned comment moderation on, and will hold off publishing any relating to this contest until after it closes, at midnight on Wednesday, December 22, 2010. If nothing else, this should provide some pre-holiday distraction and shake things up a bit on the Blog Point Leader Board.

And so, without further ado, here are 30 questions in random order, spanning a wide range of topics. Each correct answer will be awarded a 1/2 Blog Point:

1) Which American politician inspired the recent euphemism for stepping out on your spouse, now immortalized as "hiking the Appalachian Trail"?

2) Which team lost the 2010 World Series?

3) Which DC Comics superhero was at the center of the company's Blackest Night event in 2010?

4) What video game am I currently spending much of my free time playing?

5) What was the name of the pet that Vicki and I had to euthanize earlier this year?

6) To the nearest thousand, how many comic books do I currently own?

7) What symbol represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter?

8) What does KTD stand for in First Person Shooter games?

9) Who began his professional postseason career in 2010 with a no-hitter?

10) What element surprisingly formed the basis of a new life form discovered in Mono Lake recently?

11) What three big name superhero movies are scheduled to be released in 2011?

12) What is the secret identity of the Robin currently appearing in the main Batman titles published by DC Comics?

13) In what month and year did the Titanic sink?

14) What is the name of Christopher Nolan's first feature film?

15) Which Kurasawa classic is said to have provided inspiration to George Lucas in creating Star Wars?

16) Never mind figuring out "What Brown can do for you?"... who the heck is Brown?

17) What is Tony Stark's father's given name?

18) What is the Chuck Cunningham Syndrome?

19) On which team did Pedro Martinez begin his Major League Baseball career?

20) Why does James Ford go by the name "Sawyer" on the TV show Lost?

21) Who directed the 1974 film Chinatown?

22) In what year did the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal occur?

23) What is Captain "Sully" Sullenberger's given name?

24) Which Academy Award winning actor slammed his on-screen opponent for bringing a knife to a gun fight?

25) What is the superhero name that Steve Rogers usually operates under?

26) How many notes comprised the initial musical message offered up by the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

27) Who wrote the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

28) Which of the following were leap years: 1900, 1944, 1962, 1986, 1996, 2000?

29) Who killed Superman back in 1992?

30) Who are the two women with whom I enjoy Movie Nights?

Good luck to all!

Coming Up This Weekend: Trivia!

As hard as it is for me to believe, the very next post here will be this blog's three thousandth! That's a mind-boggling amount of blathering to have produced over a 50-month span, and yet it's true.

So keep your eyes peeled for a bunch of trivia questions coming your way over the weekend. You'll have a few days in which to provide answers in the (temporarily moderated) Comments section and earn truly (un)valuable Blog Points! I hope this can at least provide a momentary bit of distraction as we all brace for the coming Christmageddon 2010!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Woman And... Uh, Woman's Best Friend?

To go along with the photos from last week's snow-walk, here are a couple from today's, this time highlighting my walking buddy, Julie (and Cooper, of course... he's such a ham!). It didn't look like all that exceptional a day when we headed off (shortly after noon), but before long Julie and I were walking in yet another winter wonderland. The snow just continued to stream down, and the woods looked even more beautiful than last time. Here she's snuggled up to Cooper while he stares down an imaginary squirrel off to the side.
Our second shot shows off how low the overhead clearance was at times, as the branches were bent over with the weight of lots of snow. There were spots where we had to go along on our hands and knees, which just added to the adventure. I don't think the photos quite capture just how incredible the transformation of the woods has been over the past 9 days, but at least it provides a sense of it. While I haven't much enjoyed driving on the days that we've been socked in, the walks have more than made up for it. I wish Vicki were feeling well enough to join us, but she's still on the mend. Maybe later in the winter she'll get to see it all firsthand.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prestige Me!

In just over a month (32 days, or about 36 hrs of gameplay) I leveled all the way up in Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer. That means that I took my online character from level 1 all the way to level 50, with each promotion requiring more Experience Points (XP) than the previous one.

When I was in a similar situation with Modern Warfare 2, I decided not to Prestige. For those who don't know, that means starting all over again at level 1, with all of the best weapons and equipment once more being locked out until you re-achieve the higher levels. There's no huge incentive to do this, other than bragging rights and the desire to re-challenge yourself with the most rudimentary loadouts. I played a few games after Prestiging this afternoon, and have been promoted 3 times already... but again, the lower ranks are the easiest to pass through!

I didn't realize that my Call of Duty Points (the currency you use to buy stuff for your character) would be reset to zero, or I might've thought about it a little longer. I had over 150,000 CoDP at my disposal, and they're all now gone. I'm already wanting to buy Claymores and my 3 favourite perks, but am seriously short of the points I need for them right now.

I doubt I'll get all the way back up to level 50 again, but we'll see. At least I'm still playing the game!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

And Now We Have A Date For Resistance 3!

Thanks to the debut of the latest Resistance 3 trailer on the Video Game Awards show tonight, we finally have a release date for the long-awaited game:

September 6, 2011

And if that live action scene toward the end, where Capelli is holding onto the big-ass hammer, reminds you of anything else I might've mentioned recently, well that's just a coincidence. Maybe hammer's are now the hot weapon?

With just a little less than 9 months to wait now, I can already barely wait to see this baby arrive!

Hey, This Actually Looks Pretty Good!

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the Thor movie that's due out next year, but now that we've finally gotten this nifty trailer, I'm a bit jazzed! It looks like a healthy mix of Asgardian and Midgardian action, which is always the secret to doing Thor well ("Midgard", for those who don't know, is how the gods of Asgard refer to Earth). I like their choice of the Destroyer (the big metal dude) as one of the villains, and of course half-brother Loki, the God of Mischief, will be causing all kinds of trouble for the Thunder God.

This could turn out to be quite a fun flick!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Total Mastery Of A Game

For anyone who's played the amazing Portal, you have to watch this video of someone completing it in under 10 minutes! I've never seen anyone show such a complete and utter mastery of a game environment as this individual demonstrates. It will make no sense whatsoever for any strangers to the game; but for the rest of us: wow!

Something To Look Forward To

I'm now only 7 posts away from 3000, counting this one. At Tammy's suggestion, I think I'll post a long overdue trivia quiz to mark that occasion. (The Blog Point Leader Board at the top of this page hasn't changed in ages, so it's clearly time to do something about that.)

Therefore, keep an eye out for post # 3000, sometime between now and Christmas. When I run it, I'll turn Comment Moderation on so that any and all readers out there can submit their guesses - without spoiling it for anyone else - and be awarded invaluable Blog Points! Invaluable does mean "not valuable", right? Yeah, I thought so! :-)

It's No-Show Day!

I thought I had 3 tutoring sessions to do today, but each of the first 2 were no-shows! In each case I think the parent involved was confused by a change in schedules (my 2 Thursday afternoon students usually alternate weeks and each was here last week).

Anyway, what looked like a busy day when it started has been quite the snooze fest in terms of working! I managed to get a little Black Ops in, boosting my kill-to-death ratio up to 1.30 for the first time, as well as reaching level 45. Fortunately my ability to wield the Famas and Strela-3 was not a no-show today!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Man And Man's Best Friend

Here's how I spent a good part of this morning: on a walk through the woods with Julie and her dog, Cooper. The very narrow path you can see is what we walked along, when we weren't having to make the path ourselves! It was a much nicer day than Monday, with the sun shining and warmer temperatures, but we both agreed it was actually more work today because it was so uneven: sometimes we followed in others' footsteps, other times we hit virgin snow, and even the depth changed from area to area.

As an example of that last point, consider the following photo:

Yes, the snow really was that high! And Cooper's a big dog to be that out of sight!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Some Tidbits About Resistance 3

Although it's still nearly a year away from release, news is slowly emerging about what to expect from Resistance 3, the followup to 2006's Resistance: Fall of Man and 2008's Resistance 2. A nice summary, from Insomniac Games' Creative Director, Marcus Smith, can be found here.

Of most interest to me:
  • the return of the weapon wheel, so that we won't be limited to just 2 guns at a time
  • a 2-person Coop mode for the campaign, available both locally (split screen) and online
In both cases, this seems to reflect Insomniac listening to the feedback of those of us who loved the first game but were frustrated by some of the changes made for the sequel. As I'm always quick to point out: I still loved Resistance 2. But it could've been even better if it had stuck closer to the feel of its predecessor in a few significant ways, including the two areas listed above. So kudos to Insomniac! I can't wait to see what this game ends up bringing to the table.

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy Black Ops. I'm a level 44 (of 50) now, and am toying with the idea of prestiging at least once. And then at some point I need to continue the single player campaign, into which I've only gotten about 20 minutes!

All Hail The Mighty Boneman

I watched an amazing replay this morning: Boneman going 24-1 (24 kills, 1 death) in a Team Deathmatch on the Array map of Call of Duty: Black Ops! He was on fire, decimating everything in his path that had the poor misfortune to be on the opposing team. He called in 3 Attack Helicopters, thanks to some killstreaks and lucky care package contents. He collected a few kills with well-placed Claymores, and mowed down enemy combatants with his gun of choice (a Galil, maybe?). About the only he didn't achieve, as far as I could tell, was the Game Winning Kill... but maybe he even did that!

I've never had a game result that impressive, so I bow down to the Boneman on this day.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Snow Day!

I have to say, today was a pretty wacky day in these parts. Vicki's aunt and uncle from Baltimore braved the localized snowstorm to get back on the highway toward the States after spending the night with us (and having a fabulous visit with us); I had my first "winter walk" with Julie and her dog Cooper, most of it in snow that was up to my knees (the route that would normally take us about an hour lasted just over two hours, I think); I then had a long nerve-wracking drive home that covered about 3 kms but took almost half an hour to complete with several points threatening to leave me stuck in the snow; and I shoveled a whole lot of the white stuff here at home before and after my adventure on the roads... and still didn't keep up with the amount moved by Zac, our teen shoveler!

Vicki wisely stayed home (Monday is usually her day to go into the office on her current contract) but still managed to get 5 hrs of work done (a long day by our standards these days). I read tweets about people pushing stuck cars and delinquent buses (Julie and I participated in one of the former at the end of our walk, and she apparently did 2 more this evening on her own) and lots of folks worked from home. I was glad that I didn't have any tutoring scheduled for today as I would've worried about whether they'd be able to get here and I wasn't really in the mood to work anyway.

In other words, it was a very topsy turvy day. Here's hoping we get back to normality soon... cuz today was nuts!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Crazy For Snow? You're Probably Happy Right Now!

Winter arrived with a vengeance today, just in time to complicate the plans of Tammy, as well as Vicki's aunt and uncle from Baltimore, all of whom were here for a visit. This was the weekend when all would converge on our house for a long-overdue family get-together, and so of course Mother Nature threw everything she could at us. The relatives had a terrible time finding their way in to town because of the whiteout conditions and I shoveled the driveway twice today before finally bringing in some 'professional help' in the form of a neighbourhood teenager. Tammy left earlier than planned - missing out on dinner, unfortunately - and our other guests are staying with us overnight unexpectedly (making for a nice long chance to catch up).

So basically we're now just making it up as we go along, which always throws me for a loop. At least we're all safely out of the weather, though, and that's all that really matters.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Two Tales To Sadden Our Friends At Microsoft

Nightmarish "support" stories like this one, in which a consumer buys a new XBox 360-with-Kinect system, has it break right away (on the first day of use), and then spends weeks trying to get support for it while being told something different at every turn, tend to seem hilarious to everyone except the parties involved. I remember when Vicki and I worked at the bank back in the 90s we would hear the most atrocious tales of tellers or call centre operators providing crappy service, but fortunately such things were extremely rare. I'm not sure that's quite as true when it comes to Microsoft, though.

Speaking of whom... I have a mildly amusing MS story to share, now that I think about it. I've paid the annual Gold XBox Live membership cost ($59.99?) for the past several years, so that I could play the odd 360 game online with friends. My most recent subscription was due to expire in mid-November, and I had toyed with the idea of canceling it. To be honest, I've probably only played three or four hours of XBox 360 online so far in 2010, and considering that the PS/3 equivalent is free, it's hard to justify $60 for so little return. However, I'm a notorious procrastinator, and so I did nothing about it.

Eventually, I got the e-mail telling me that MS was renewing the subscription "for me", as they've done each of the past several years since I bought the box. Sigh. Oh well.

But wait! Then I received an e-mail saying that the credit card I'd used for that account had expired, and so I should please go and update the details so that I could get my subscription renewed and not miss out on the chance to play online with my friends! How perfect! Now I could procrastinate and actually get what I wanted, which is exactly what happened: I no longer have a current membership in the Gold XBox Live club, and have saved myself $60! This story, at least, has a happy ending!

[Update Dec 12/10: Sadly, I just saw on my credit card statement that the Gold XBox Live charge did go through, after all. So much for that good news story!]