Eight years

Did you know that as of today Geralyn and I have been married for eight years? What’s more, we dated for a long time before getting married, so we’ve actually been a couple for over fourteen years. Before long we’ll have been together for over half our entire lives!

Let’s hear it for beating the statstical odds!

Sam’s Story: Week 70

Sam is feeling much better this week, having put whatever illness she had behind her. She’s down to only an occasional wet, hacking cough instead of a constant stream. Her appetite has returned along with her health, so much so that we had to strip her down after one overenthusiastic feeding session.

There are many things I dread about Sam’s future. Paying for her school. Her having (or hopefully not having, but let’s be realistic) sex. Drugs, alcohol, and artificial DNA manipulation. But the specter that looms bigger, darker, and closer than any of these is that the “terrible twos,” the name given to those strong-willed years after children acquire the gift of language and use it to tell you off. Sam has already started to prove herself immune to both negative reinforcement and punishment, both concepts that even Pavlov’s mongrel dog was clever enough to eventually grasp, and with about the same amount of drooling.

I mean, we can get down in Sam’s face and sternly admonish her for poor behavior, but she usually thinks this is the funniest thing ever conceived of by God or man. She just laughs hautily and toddles off, as if to say “Yeah, you keep saying that kind of stuff, but you may have noticed that it isn’t stopping me.”

Sam’s rampages are such that she has managed to yank one safety gate right out of the wall, leaving twin cavaties in the drywall that forced me to prostrate myself in front of the guy at Home Depot and beg him to tell me what exactly “joint compound” is. Her next target seems to be the home theater equipment, as she seems to take great joy in pressing the “Power” button as soon as I’ve forgotten where the remote control is. Last night I think I made some headway, though. I sat on the floor in front of the television and behind Sam. Whenever she started heading towards it I grabbed her by the waist of her pants and tugged her backwards until she fell on her well-padded rump. She’d look around for the culprit of this dirty trick, but she’d just see me, whistling and looking up at the ceiling. She’d make another run for the TV and I’d tug her back again. After about a dozen tries, she gave up and went to go throw food at the cat some more. A partial victory, but maybe she IS smarter than some Russian guy’s slobbering dog.


I particuarly like this one where she’s trying on my shoes and this one where she’s trekking through the Congo as she hunts Man, the deadliest of all preys.

Besides frustrating our attempts at instruction, Sam’s new favorite thing is Sesame Street. We don’t encourage her to watch much TV, but for an hour or so each day it’s kind of nice to hand her over to some blathering puppets and their letter of the day. Sam’s attention actually wanders to and from the show, but she seems to particularly enjoy it whenever Cookie Monster is on camera. And I have to admit, the way that blue-furred freak inevitably attacks his cookies cracks me up, too. At any rate, Sesame Street is pretty safe, with its lack fo commercials and mild endorsements in the form of “Today’s show is sponsored by McDonald’s, who wants children to use their imaginations (to think of ways to get parents to take them to McDonald’s and eat our fatty, god-awful for you food).” But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Sam toddles in and asks me for a tasty Quizno’s Toasted Sub™. Because that’s what Elmo likes.

Exile’s Return

I’m changing the format of my “now reading” bits to be more “just finished reading” so that I can actually talk about the books. As I’ve mentioned before, Raymond Feist is one of my guilty reading pleasures, along with Stephen King. Feist is a prolific high fantasy writer whose stuff is, by and large, not wonderful by most literary standards. But it’s almost always a ripping good yarn and I enjoy reading it. He’s built such a backstory and depth to his world of Midkemia that long-time readers like myself are sucked in like some kind of literary quagmire.

Exile’s Return is the third book in his meandering “Conclave of Shadows” series, and it appears to not be the last. The book deals with (former) Duke Kaspar, who was exiles at the end of the previous book. Kaspar is a real bastard who killed a lot of people in his grasping for power, and Feist sets up an interesting premise when he promises to explore what redemption for a guy like this would be like. And for a while it’s interesting, but I quickly got the impression that Feist wanted to speed this development up for the sake of the book’s plot, which involves the unearthing of an otherworldly suit of armor that could lead to –wait for it– the destruction of Midkemia. Feist even throws a trite “Eh, Kaspar was really being mind controlled by an evil sorcerer so he’s really not that bad a fellow” explanation in there, which made me roll my eyes and knock the estimation of the book down a whole peg.

So Kaspar’s development and redemption soon get swept up in the admitidly more exciting but ultimately less meaningful action surrounding the mysterious armor. It culminates awkwardly in a munchkin-fest battle featuring the high-level heavyweights of Feist’s D&D-based world. Still, it IS fun and I did find it hard to put down until it was over.


Sometimes while driving on the highways in Southern California, traffic comes to a complete halt for no apparent reason. Just cars stacked up as far as I can see. When this happens, I often catch myself hoping that it’s because of a wreck, because you can get past a wreck and things open up again. But then I’m ashamed of myself for hoping that, because it would mean that some person is involved –maybe even hurt– and I shouldn’t be wishing for that kind of misfortune on an innocent person.

So I start hoping that it’s a wreck involving Hitler’s clone, because, you know, he’d deserve it.

But then I start feeling guilty about that, because the clone has got to be his own person, and maybe he’s not that bad a guy if he was brought up in a loving home. Probably not, but maybe. And besides, cloning Hitler would be like a huge story, and if he were killed in a car accident we’d never get to interview the clone on our 24-hour news channels.

So I stop hoping that it’s Hitler’s clone involved in a wreck, and it NEVER is. Weird, huh?

The Chronicles of Narnia

I vaguely remember reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe back in grade school, and I think I enjoyed it. With the new Narnia movie coming out at the end of this year, I thought now would be a good time to read this whole series. They’re written for young adults, but I don’t think anyone can consider himself a fan of good fantasy without having read them. So I’d better get to it.

I decided to read all seven books in chronological order of their events, not the order in which they were published. So I’ll be reading The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and his Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of The Dawn Trader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle. In fact, since the books are so short, I’ve already finished listening to the first one. The Christian allegory IS pretty darn blatant. Lewis all but cracks you over the head with it, but that’s cool. It’s what I expected, and it’s a lot more entertaining than the other book of his that I’ve read on the subject, Pilgrim’s Regress.

Also, I love The White Witch already. She’s extreme to the point of caricature, but I still love her. 🙂

Sam’s Story: Week 69

Bad news, Sam Fans. Sammy is sick again. It’s not that bad this time, but she’s got some kind of chest and throat thing that has her hacking up gobs of stuff like a two-pack-a-day smoker. And I know she doesn’t smoke anywhere near that much. She seems okay most of the time, but every once in a while she’ll cough something up and really get upset. I don’t blame her, as it’s probably the worst sensation she’s experienced in her short life, besides getting a plastic bag taped over her hoo-ha at the emergency room. She’s almost over it, though, and it has really only slowed her down a little.

On the development front, below is a list of cute things that Sam does, listed in order of cuteness:

  1. The Sammy Dance
  2. All other things

“The Sammy Dance” is Sam’s newest expression of happiness. If she gets excited about something –for example going for a walk, the theme song from That 70s Show, or getting a cookie– she’ll stamp her little feet and flap her little arms, grinning and giggling like a monkey the whole time. Heck, she’ll even do it on cue lately. All you have to do is shout “SAMMY DANCE!” and she starts jamming.

There are a lot of photos this week, so I’ll split them up. Part I:

As you can see, almost all of these pictures were taken on the same day. This is partially due to my being in LA all week with the camera, but also we went to a birthday party for the daughter of one of Ger’s friends from playgroup. The gig was held at “Wiggles and Giggles,” which is like a play gym for kids. The party was the kiddie equivalent of a raging kegger, and it left everybody exhausted. Two coordinators, who could have made a good living as cat herders, led the dozen or so kids through a bunch of different activities, ranging from making cookies to singing in a circle to playing with bubbles. They even played with a giant, multicolored parachute.

The parachute is a long-standing tradition, it seems. I remember very clearly doing that whole thing in my grade school gym class. We’d all flap the thing up and teachers would shout out a month. If your birthday was in that month, you got to run, giggling and shrieking, under the slowly decending parachute from one side to the next. There was always a child that tried to convince the teachers that he was born in March, August, September, and twice in November. That child was usually me.

Pictures, Episode II:

It seems that Sam may be picking up some of my other habits from childhood. While the coordinators tried to coordinate everyone into group activities, Sam would inevitably grow bored after 2.3 seconds and wander off. So one second she’d be eating the cookie she baked (and by “she” I mean “Geralyn”), then the next second she’d be on the other side of the gym, trying to do her own thing.

That’s okay, Sam. I used to do that kind of stuff all the time and look at me now. I have a weblog!


Stacked scooters at Wiggles ‘n Giggles. When the coordinators got these out and told the kids to “schooch!” I kept laughing and thinking of that Simpsons bit where Christopher Walkin is reading “Goodnight Moon” and telling the frightened children to “schoooootch” closer.

E3: The photo dump

Time to wrap up my E3 blogging for the year with a few photos. Okay, over 40 photos. Sorry to those of you not on broadband.

There’s a few that I feel like I need to discuss specifically. As in previous years, I stayed late at the L.A. Convention Center where the show was being held so that I could write my articles in the “War Room where IGN/GameSpy had set up space and Internet connections for us to work. When I arrived and hit the show floor around 9 am on Wednesday, the lobby looked like this:

Twelve hours later at 9 pm when I’d finished all my appointments and had written my previews, it looked like this:

The other “time series” pictures I took were of the giant Katamari that Namco had put out in front of their booth. If you remember when I raved about Katamar Damacy here, you may remember that a “Katamari” is a sticky ball that this little Prince of the Cosmos rolls around in the game, acquiring more and more stuff. Namco had their own Katamari, and throughout the show they added stuff to it –just any old bric-a brac that was lying around, plus a few things I suspect Namco had brought along themselves.

Here’s a picture from Wednesday morning:

Now one from Wednesday at the close of the show:

And one from right before I left on Thursday:

I’d love to see how the thing looked on Friday afternoon. And now, a gigantic dump of photographs from the show. Enjoy.

Finally, if you’re interested in reading what I wrote for the show, here you go:

I also previewed a turn-based strategy game called “Shattered Union” and an adventure game called “And Then There Were None,” but those don’t seem to have been posted yet. My favorite bit from stuff that I wrote this year comes from the Serious Sam II preview:

There are also new weapons, like a rapid-fire shotgun and a bizarre parrot — yes, as in “bird” — with a bomb chained to its foot. Apparently CroTeam adheres to the adage of, “If you love something, set it free and watch it blow the crap out of something,” because setting the bird loose causes it to fly off and deposit its payload on the nearest enemy.

I can’t wait to try that.

John Hedgecoe’s New Introductory Photography Course

I actually have a small stack of books and magazines on photography that my buddy Rhys (hi, Rhys!) lent me. I figure I take so many pictures for this website that I should at least make a token effort at improving myself there. I’ve also been kicking around the idea of investing in a nicer camera setup, and I’d like to know what I should be wanting to do before convincing myself that I need to spend several hundred dollars to do it. Know what I mean?

John Hedgecoe teaches the skills of a professional to the beginner, and inspires the self-confidence to take on any aspect of photography, through guided projects and over 400 examples of his own work. The new photographer first learns the secrets of the camera’s make-up and its use. Then all the most popular photographic subjects are covered in 65 easy-to-follow projects, beginning with how to put together the components of a picture and how to make the most of lighting. The photographer will then learn how to photograph nature, still life and dramatic landscapes, to tackle cityscapes, action and architecture shots, to capture candid portraits and to experiment with the range of possibilities in black and white photography. A section on how to process and print photographs is included, showing how to set up a darkroom, and it is followed by a technical guide offering quick-reference data and advice on identifying and solving picture-taking faults from finished prints.

Seems like a good beginner’s text.

The center of attention

I love how this photo came out. That’s not Sam there, as you may notice. It’s Risa, who has appeared on this site once or twice and who invited us to her 1st birthday party at Wiggles and Giggles this afternoon.

E3 Day 2

E3 is over. Actually, it’s still going on today, but I only stayed two days again this year. Just like last year, at the beginning of the first day I thought “Wow, there’s no way I’m going to be able to see everything I want in just two days.” But then towards the end of the second day I think “Wow, I’m so sick of this and I’ve seen everything I want.” I mean, I’d still like to get more behind-closed-door demonstrations of games and I’d like to get more actual play time with some of the games on the showroom floor, but I don’t have the energy or patience for either at this point. So see ya next year, E3.

Funny E3 story for the day:

Around 5:00 yesterday I’m cutting through the outdoor walkway en route to my last appointment of the show. My feet hurt from 2 days of almost constant walking and standing. I mean they ache from my heels all the way up to the top of my calves. Halfway to my destination, I notice a booth with signs saying just “Ouch!”. The signs themselves seemed to be filled with some kind of pills. Here, here’s a pic:

She’s not in this picture because I went back and snapped it later at closing time, but staffing the booth at the time was a woman –a typical E3 booth model with a huge chest and too-blonde hair. I didn’t really notice her, though. Partially because I’d seen dozens just like her by that point, but mainly because of what she was holding in her hand and offering to all passers-by: sample packets of Tylenol. Feeling the ache in my legs renew, I walked straight over, pointed at what she was holding, smiled at her, and said “Man, I sure would love a couple of those.”

She had seen me coming, but she looked kind of surprised when I spoke and gave me a look like she was trying to figure me out. This threw me off until I suddenly realized that between the time I had pointed my finger at the Tylenol packets she was holding and looked up at her face to make contact, she had moved her hands. I had said what I said while pointing directly at her unnaturally large breasts.

My mind kind of locked for a second while I tried to think of a follow-up that wouldn’t dig myself deeper, but thankfully she got what I meant and decided that I wasn’t dropping some awful line on her. She smiled back and said “Feet hurt, huh?” as she passed me a couple of Tylenol packets.

Funny thing is, I never even had a chance to take the pills, rushed as I was and lacking anything to wash them down. I still have them, and they’re probably the best schwag I walked away with.

Speaking of schwag, I once again succeeded by walking away with as little of it as possible. You can always spot an E3 newbie by looking for the people completely overburdened by tee shirts, inflatable swords, keychains, press kits, mouse pads, balls, and pamphlets. Every year I see people make fools out of themselves for the sake of a black tee shirt riddled with company logos. Or else they’re waiting hours in line just to get an inflatable plastic ball with more company logos on it. This stuff not only weighs you down in an otherwise tiring gauntlet of dashing between appointments, but you get home and realize that with few exceptions it’s all a bunch of crap that just takes up space. And the only time they wear those tee shirts is at next year’s E3 when they want to show how hardcore they are while waiting in line to get more tee shirts.

This year my schwag take consisted of the following:

  • One tee shirt for the Alan Wake game (given to me by my PR contact; would have been rude to refuse)
  • A poster for some World War II game (again, handed to me by my PR contact)
  • A badge holder (picked up to replace the crappy one I got when registering)
  • A Myst 5 mouse pad signed by the game’s lead developer (that’s kind of cool, actually)
  • A copy of Magic the Gathering: Online (looked valuable, maybe I can sell it on eBay)
  • A playable demo disk for Sly Cooper: Honor Among Thieves for the PS2 (definitely glad to get this)
  • Two sample packs for Extra Strength Tylenol (see above)

Not bad. I could have done a lot worse and gotten a lot more.

So that’s it for another year. This was my 6th E3 convention, and I hope to be back again next year. I had considered myself a veteran last year, but my friend Sluggo taught me something new this year: how to use the L.A. Convention Center’s back hallways. These are the halls that convention center staff use to transport equipment, food, and other items around without having to cut through the crowds. They save MASSIVE amounts of time and frustration by completely circumventing the gawkers and idiot cell phone users who decide to suddenly stand still in the middle of a stream of people. I think the halls are supposed to be off limits to non-employees, it’s surprising how few people will give a crap if you just act like you belong there.

I’ll wrap up my E3 coverage tomorrow by posting some of the many photographs I took. Some great stuff in there.

Caught in the act of enunciation

This picture from E3 2005 just cracks me up for some reason. I was actually trying to get a shot of the crowd waving their arms in the air like morons trying to get one of the tee shirts this lady was throwing out, but I just missed it. I like it better this way, though.

Off to E3

Just like last year, I’m off to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) to cover it for GameSpy.com. Actually, I’m here right now in the GameSpy/IGN (or IGN/GameSpy, whatever) “war room.” Unfortunately the power is out in half of the LA Convention Center, including the Media Registration room. So I can’t get my badge to get into any of the show rooms. In fact, one of the HUGE halls where the majority of booths are apparently doesn’t have power. It’s not a pretty situation, but hopefully it’ll get cleared up soon. ‘Til then, I’m just kind of sitting on my hands.

Update: Whew, it’s the end of the day and as usual I’m exhausted. Given that the power problems knocked the media registration area out, I had to borrow someone else’s badge. So, just for today, I was known as “Alfonzo.” It’s actually better than the first badge they handed me, which read something like “Ying Jin Jang.”

Stuff I saw:

  1. Prey
  2. Allen Wake
  3. America’s Army
  4. Spellforce 2
  5. Dungeon Siege 2
  6. Unreal Tournament 2007
  7. Soul Calibur 3
  8. Rise of Nations Rise of Legends

And a bunch of other stuff. Previews to show up on GameSpy.com soon. I’ve got a lot more to see tomorrow, including a few just for myself.