Saturday, December 31, 2005

Well I did it again. Chalk up another great day in my video gaming career. Let me set the stage. In case you’ve been living in a bubble the last 6 months the first “next generation” video game console that is out in stores is the Microsoft XBox 360. So far, I’m frickin’ impressed. A buddy from work, Mike, picked one up and until yesterday we’d played games on it such as Madden, Call of Duty 2, and even Zuma. Yesterday Mike picked up the new Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Now I am no stranger to the Need for Speed (NFS) series. One of my all time favorite games for the PC is NFS III: Hot Pursuit. So after helping me install my Sirius satellite radio in my car Mike and I set off to play a little NFS. We sat down around 500PM and began out play. Next thing we new it was 800PM and we were hungry as the dickens! We called for some pizza and called our buddy Josh to join the fun. After a number of arrests, countless races won, and even a drag race or two Josh took off for the evening around 1130PM and the game was once again left to Mike and myself.

It was as if the rest of the world never even existed. 200AM and we were still going strong. We had busted through roadblock after roadblock, destroyed countless personal vehicles and even had our car impounded on an occasion or two. Once 300AM, 2 beers and one heck of a giant root beer came around it was time for me to go. Suddenly once the XBox was turned off the world was suddenly back again. A wave of extreme tiredness came over me and I was left to drive home to my nice bed to try and get some sleep for today’s big evening. A solid 10 hour video game play has not been accomplished since the late days of my college career. NFS: Most Wanted will forever go down in the books along with Super Smash Bros. Melee and Dynasty Warriors III as one of the best, and longest game day in my short 25 year existence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Have you seen the new greatest show on Earth yet? It goes by the title, “Deal or No Deal.” If you haven’t seen it then you either A). must be living in a mud pit wearing plad pink pants and a brown shirt, or B). are just so full of yourself to never fall into “what’s popular” you refuse to ever watch a single episode. In either event you are a fool! The show requires no real intellectual thought what-so-ever. There are no questions to answer, no stupid physical challenges to accomplish and best of all no Regis Philbin hosting! The host is the very underestimated misunderstood Howie Mandel. Sporting a stylish bald head and love patch these days the man is his usual comical self who seems to find an unusual delight in the tortured nerves of his players.

The concept is simple. The player picks one suitcase out of about 30 and holds on to it the entire game. Each suitcase, sported by a very attractive female, contains a different amount of money ranging anywhere from a penny to one million dollars (please pronounce one million dollars like Dr. Evil holding your pinky up to your mouth because that’s just how it should be read). Once the player picks a case to keep, he begins to open up the left over cases one by one to see what amounts are NOT in his case. After he looks into so many cases the player gets an offer to buy back his case. The offer is based on the dollar amounts left that the player has not yet found in the remaining cases. If the player found a lot of suitcases with low dollar amounts in then the offer will obviously be higher. The deal/no deal part comes in when the player must decide to either take to the offer to buy back his case (deal) or continue playing and picking suitcases (no deal). Frankly if I was on the show I’d pass out from extreme nervousness and disappointment. I sit and watch and I start to sweat for the person. I love it! Here’s to TV shows that are so awful they are awfully good!

By the way, HAPPY SOLSTIVUS everybody!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Let me add one more to the list. This also involves the merging process. Just for clarification purposes, the person merging onto the highway does NOT in any way, shape or form have the right of way. If you are merging onto the highway and the jack**s next to you refuses to get over to the passing lane, or if the passing lane next to him is currently occupied then you must either hit the gas and get up to speed in from of the jack**s, or slow down and gracefully enter the highway flow of traffic behind the current highway occupier. Never, ever, ever should you the merger assume that the highway drivers are going to modify their speed just so you can keep your RPMs at a constant rate on the acceleration ramp. If you’re a bad enough driver that you need to come to a stop on the ramp to work you’re way into traffic then do so, although I would never recommend doing such a ridiculous thing. If you’re having trouble following these simple highway driving techniques I would recommend you stay clear of the highways and spare the rest of us the grief of hassling with you.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Let’s talk about driving for a minute here shall we. Now I know I’ve brought up the topic before but let me just let some of you people out there know how to drive, and by drive I mean drive in a manner that does NOT irritate me.

First of all, merging. Merging is not a difficult task but the key thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of merging is to get up to speed BEFORE you get on the actual highway, not after. I realize that in some locations this is difficult to achieve especially when there is a lot of traffic or the acceleration ramps are short, but around here neither of those two items will ever be the case so let’s get up to speed! This will also spare you of frustration, as I will have no need to cop out of the acceleration lane and accelerate on the actual highway and pass you trying to merge.

Second of all, just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean that there is snow on the road causing you to drive at an unreasonable 20 MPH below the legal limit. Also if there is snow on the road but there exists tire lanes in which no snow exists please, PLEASE feel free to also not travel 20 MPH below the actual speed limit.

Finally if you don’t want to use your signal, that is really fine with me. I’d be lying if I said I always use mine. In fact there are times when it is just simply unnecessary, like when it’s two o’clock in the morning and there are no cars around to watch me make a left hand turn. Heck if you’re stopped at a traffic light and don’t want to use it I’ll even let that slide. But if you’re making a turn in the middle of the road and there is someone behind you, please, oh please use your signal so the person following you knows why you are slowing down. And if you put your signal on even before you brake, well let’s face it the world would just be a darn better place.

So to summarize, to be a better driver you should accelerate on the acceleration ramps, don’t go slow when there is no snow on the roads, and use your turn signal when turning off the road. It’s that simple and it will drastically increase all of our qualities of driving. It will also most likely keep me from seeing how close I can come to your bumper without me actually hitting it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It’s coming and frankly I’m scared to death of it. It connivingly hides in the darkness, in the stillness. It waits until forgotten about and then begins its attack. Its claws pierce flesh deeper than any knife; its bite more painful and long lasting than a broken heart. There is no place to hide, no place to seek refuge for it is not concerned with physical location and position. Timing is its most important element. For without time, it has no form of attack, no existence. It cares nothing about my life, my fear, my pain. Its sole purpose is to cut my legs out from under me and leave me to rot, to suffer, to die. It disguises itself as no one, yet as everyone. There is only one way to defeat it and that is with my death itself. While others have learned live with its presents even befriend it, I doubt I will ever be able to subdue such a creature. Someday I will conquer it I suppose, but until then The Birthday will forever be my fear, my haunting, my depression.
You know how it works by now. We get a big snow one night and I am off to The Knob the next day. That's just how it is. The Workplace can wait. It was great too today. I got to the mountain around 9 AM this morning and there were only two of us there living it up. Have you ever had a mountain all to yourself? No? Shows how much more important I am than you I guess. The only thing I didn't think thru today was preparing my body for a volleyball tournament tomorrow. I have a very bad feeling my feet aren't going to make it too high off the floor tomorrow. Deep mountain snows create burning muscles in the thigh. Hmmm, I wonder if it will ever stop snowing this December? Let's hear it for NOT living south of the Mason-Dixon line! Haha! Suckers!

Monday, December 12, 2005

To respond to Moose's comment I have provided the following statement.

I do still use mp3 formats (with LAME encoding). As big an open source advocate that I am I haven't switched to Ogg Vorbis mainly because of compatibility issues with that format and my music devices. My car, stereos, DVD players, portable disc players, not a single one can play an Ogg Vorbis file (though my iRiver disc player claims it will eventually support it with a firmware upgrade, however they have been saying that for years and countless firmware versions ago). So since I like all those devices that I already own and I don't plan on replacing them anytime soon and I don't plan on converting my music library once anytime soon, I doubt I'll be switching in the foreseeable future.

Speaking of open source though, have you checked out the new version of Mozilla Firefox (1.5)? It supports bookmarks and I'm all siked about it (you can read more about it here)! For those of you who think I'm being sarcastic here, let me point out that I am still single and for probably obvious reasons...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I think I would consider myself an audiophile. For those of you who don’t know an audiophile is, according to Wikipedia, a person dedicated to high-fidelity sound reproduction and achieving high-quality results in the recording and playback of music. In other words when I rip my music CDs to my PC and other portable devices I like to rip them at a very high quality. My compressed music file of choice? MP3s. I have always been an advocate of the mp3 (except for my brief downfall to wma’s in 2001) since I discovered them back in my junior year of high school. Back then though you could find mp3s on websites and easily download them. It was great! Then freshman year of college I was introduced to Napster. Oh holy illegal, massive downloading, mp3 day! I quickly amplified my music library just overnight! Back then I ripped and downloaded mp3s at a bitrate of 128kbps. This was great until I invested in a fairly nice audio system where the high end sounds of my 128kbps mp3 just didn’t sound good.

About two years ago I began re-ripping my entire music library to mp3s with a bitrate of 192kbps. While this was very nice audio quality, until recently I was curious if maybe I could do any better with keeping the size of my music files still small. Enter in my mp3 savior, LAME.

Just some background info here, there are other music file types out there that don’t loose any information when compressed (called lossless compression) such as the Monkey file type however the size of these files are just too big. WMAs seem to not sound as good as mp3s in my opinion and I just refuse to switch to the Apple formats. While those of you out there claim that I’ll have to switch to an aac format or Apple’s lossless format once I get myself an iPod, I beg to differ and it’s just not going to happen. And here is the reason why.

LAME (LAME Ain’t an Mp3 Encoder) is the answer to my high quality music obsession. Like BASF, LAME doesn’t make the mp3, it makes the mp3 better. How is this so? Well LAME uses some super slick algorithms to compress your audio without a massive loss of sound. It does this by using whats called a variable bit rate (VBR) instead of a constant bit rate (CBR) when doing it’s thing. In other words, when the music in the file is pretty simple, it will use a lower bitrate. If in the middle of the song the music gets more complex, the bitrate supernaturally goes up. The result is an audio file about the size (or maybe even less) of a 192kbps mp3, but sounding way better! Of course this means spending hours and hours re-ripping my CD library once again, but hey sometimes we need to invest a little time so we can invest in great music listening.

If you’re wanting a very nice music ripping bundle, check out a program called Exact Music Copy (EAC) and then download the LAME codec. EAC is pretty complicated but it is a fantastic tool and I may just have to marry it if no women ever enter my life. You can find a very nice online manual for EAC here and from there it will guide you thru the setup and download of everything you’ll ever need to be just like me, a dedicated audiophile!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hee hee! It's snowing! IT'S SNOWING!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let’s talk a little about this lovely state of Pennsylvania. For the purposes of this blog and to keep Roman from discussing the issue any further I will forever refer to Pennsylvania as a state and not a commonwealth for two reasons. One, state is just shorter to type than commonwealth but second and more importantly, there is absolutely no difference between the two. None what-so-ever! It would be like having to use the term flammable with only chemicals and inflammable with anything else that can catch on fire. And that makes about as much sense as a window in an underground bunker. Commonwealth is just the name that four states choose to call themselves (just to satisfy your curiosity those states are Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Virginia). No more, no less.

Anywho, so Sunday morning I took off to see the Stillers game in good old Pittsburgh, PA. Usually this is all fine and dandy except this Sunday morning I woke up to some ice and snow. Usually this is not a problem, however the snow plows seemed to be hiding somewhere at the time probably playing some form of Snow Plow Soccer with a giant turtle shell and some banana peels. The roads were covered with about an inch of an ice/snow mixture that really provided no vehicle advantage what-so-ever at seven o’ clock in the morning. So I was driving along slip-sliding everywhere on my way to meet people to go to the game. Even the major highways, I repeat, MAJOR HIGHWAYS, were snow covered with only one lane open for what I’ll call semi-fast travel.

So the big mystery (alone with how the Stillers could have possibly lost this weekend) was why were the roads not maintained this weekend? And here in lies my issues with this state. Supposedly PennDOT decided to cut back their spending this year. This cut back includes, but is not limited to working only 40 hours a week and no more than 8 hours a day. So now because this state wants a save a little money I need to jeopardize my life when driving after an evening snow? I don’t think so! Aren’t I paying taxes so this purposefully is NOT the case? Maybe all you other homebodies have no place to go on the weekends, but I’m only 24 and I’ve got stuff to do and places to be! I can’t tell you how many cars I saw this weekend that had ran off the road but I know it was more than the total I saw all of last year!

My solution to the problem? Get your big old state a**es out there and get those roads cleaned up! Not just for me, but for the people that go to church on Sunday mornings, and go shopping at 4AM on Black Friday and those people that go to work in the insane hours of the day. I just don’t get it. We’ve got men, we’ve got plows, we’ve got salt, FIX IT!!! And don’t come back until you do!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Since Andy brought up the subject of Joe Paterno I feel like I should elaborate on his opinion. Being one of those people that didn't go to school at Penn State, but attending a school in the great state of Pennsylvania I became a Penn State fan. Following State's last number of years of football I became one of those people as well that started to doubt the abilities of Joe Pa. The only difference is I still continue to believe that. It's funny, you watch ESPN and all the sports casters who just last year were Joe bashing are now Joe praising! Come on now! Andy is right. If the man were smart he'd go out on top this year, but I'm afraid he's here to stay. The only comfort I can offer is this. Let's face it the man isn't really coaching anymore is he? Sure State's D is great, but the offense is not the typical Joe Paterno. Paterno would never start a true freshman let alone two of them. Also the passing game is just too active for a Joe Pa offense. Whoever it is that is coaching the Nittany Lions is doing a good job this year and hopefully whether Joe is the face of Penn State or not they will be back on top for years to come.