Monday, August 27, 2007

Summer is over - bring it.

I didn’t want to admit that summer is over…but I see that David Letterman is doing a bit about summer being over…so it must be true. Classes start for me tomorrow. Ugh…back to work. Summer really is over. It’s a sad fact. I know, some of you are thinking “Jerk, at least you get a summer break.” Well, to you sir or madam I say, “we all make choices. You could have chosen to be an educator. You could also have summers off. You made your own bed, now lay in it. Don’t blame me.”

I do have some sympathy and empathy for you. But I won’t accept blame. Sorry.

So, the students are back on campus. My syllabi are printed (mostly – I have a couple “corrections” to make). Parking lots around campus are full again. It is an exciting time of year. I remember when I was a kid I was always excited to see my old friends – maybe meet new friends. I also used to love getting my new locker. August and September were full of new beginnings.

Now I am looking forward to my new students – and of course seeing my old students. I am excited to see how the dynamic of my classes will be different. I am excited to start our new season. I am excited for all the other projects I am getting into this year.

Of course I am sad about summer being over. It always seems to go so quickly. One day you are excited for Wimbledon to start – then all of a sudden you are crying because the US Open has started. Summer is full of projects. Some get finished…some get started…some never leave the “honey-do” list. Summer is the time of year when you are so busy doing nothing that you feel too busy to do anything. You can stress about relaxing while relaxing without stress. It is an amazingly paradoxical time.

As I mentioned though, the beginning of fall is fun. I look forward to cooler days. I almost miss sweaters. Not yet…but in a few weeks I will be longing for that wool that I haven’t seen since early March. Then will come the wonderful season that is fall. The pumpkins, the leaves, October baseball – the excitement of college basketball – then the wonderful time that is Christmas! So many things to look forward to.

So, as I venture off to my “first” day of work for the year – I am excited. I feel like I spent a lot of my summer dreading this day – and now that it is hours away – I cannot wait! There are so many great things to come. Bring it on first day of classes. This year I am ready for you. My syllabus may have holes, my lectures may still need tightening – but my attitude is just right this year…I think…

I reserve the right to cuss and scorn this blog after things completely fall apart tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How comfy is your couch?

Furniture is “one of those things.” You know what I mean? It is one of those things that EVERYBODY has an opinion on…EVERYBODY has a solution (the best solution)…everybody

has furniture. And we have all come about it in very different ways. In our house, we did, what I assume is normal? We started with a bunch of hand me downs. We got an entertainment center that way, a dining room table and chairs, even a couple of couches. Our bed was a gift – so I guess that was not technically a hand me down. Anyway, the other pieces that we needed we tried to fill in as cheaply as possible – so IKEA.

It’s not an awful way to start. Especially when you are on a limited income or not sure how long you might live someplace. After all, you don’t want to base an entire decorating scheme on an apartment that you’ll be leaving in a year. At least I never wanted to do that. So the hand me downs paired with some IKEA pieces made for fine furnishings…for a while. But as income increases, and your living situation gets potentially more “stable” the burning desire comes to get your own things. So after seven years of the old couch – we finally ventured out into the world of “grown up” furniture shopping. That means you go to real furniture stores, and you look at different styles and fabrics. You start weighing the options of different fabrics and what leg style, etc. etc. In fact there are many decisions to be made, and they can be quite overwhelming.

Our first attempt was a miserable failure. We went to far too many stores and never found what we thought we were looking for. As a matter of fact, we decided after our first day of shopping that buying a couch was NOT for us…so we would just make what we had work. Clearly we were just jaded, grumpy and not really prepared. Fortunately deep down we knew that.

Roughly four weeks ago we ventured out into the furniture world. We learned from our first attempt and applied those lessons. First lesson – don’t go to a bunch of stores. It will just wear you down. If you have to go to a bunch…break it down. Second – avoid sales people. They have no idea what you like – and should just stay away until YOU make a decision. Third – don’t get too excited. It takes weeks to get the couch “made and delivered.” Those are the biggies. There are others, but I will leave those to discover on your own.

The couch that we ended up getting is from La-Z-Boy. It is part of the Todd Oldham collection. It is very sleek, classy…some might even say handsome. I won’t go into any detail describing the colors, fabric, etc., because, who cares? Look at the pictures – if that is not enough info for you – get your ass over here and sit on it. There’s really nothing else to say about it. So…without further ado…pictures and then I sleep. Enjoy.

New couch, new ottoman and our happy feet on the new ottoman. (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I just Wii'd myself.

The inevitable happened. I bought a Wii the other day. Technically, I bought 3 Wii the other day – but only one was for me, one was for Conor and one for Matt. Matt’s was a surprise for his birthday…which is actually why I am writing this blog today instead of last week when the purchase was made. You see – I didn’t want to risk ruining the surprise.

So, yes. Here I am, the proud owner of a Wii. It tooks weeks of searching, calling and waiting – but I finally found one (three). I purchased one at Toy R Us – the only one that they had. I then headed to Walmart – and got two more there as they were loading them on the shelves. People look at you funny when you buy two Wii systems.

So – how is it? It is amazing! As I mentioned in an earlier post – I was so turned off at the lack of HD capabilities. HD begin introduced in a video game system leaves lots of room for better graphics, more complex games, etc. etc. 10 minutes with the Wii and I say “F that!” This thing is absolutely revolutionary.

The games look as good as or better than the latest PS2 games. I know that the textures are richer, trees are more real buildings are more reflective with the XBOX 360 or PS3 – but you know what? If I want real trees and rich textures, I am going to walk outside and enjoy them for real. No need to spend my entire life on a couch wondering what the world is like. I play video games because I want to have fun – and because they are not real.

So – the Wii is fun. Loads of fun. As a matter of fact – even Amy plays it and is having fun. She NEVER plays video games. She is into the Wii and that is great! It is a little frustrating at first – because using the controls is like nothing you have ever done with a video game…but it is a fun frustration. You have to laugh at yourself. Eventually the movements make sense – and you are still having FUN!!!

Did I mention that it is wireless out of the box? No extra pieces to buy. It = ready to go. There are only a few games currently available for online play – but Nintendo has a bunch in the works. Mario Kart Wii has me the most excited. It is set to come out in 2008. The rumor is that you can race up to 12 people – so that should be incredible.

The machine itself is quite tiny – at least compared to XBOX 360 and PS3. That is especially nice for us, as Amy hates looking at “equipment” – but I’ll be damned if this thing is hooked up to my widescreen TV. So – it has to sit in the open…but as I said it is tiny. And sexy. If you haven’t seen them, they are glossy white line and iPod, but the disc slot glows blue. Rwar!

I haven’t played a bunch of games. Currently Amy and I are pretty content with Wii Sports and Wii Play. I did pick up the Zelda game – and it is amazing – but I am not in need of buying a ton of games. Playing what I have is great. Besides, there are some great titles coming out soon. I am also making sure to only buy games that are in 16:9 aspect ratio. I don’t know why…but I feel like that is important to me so don’t talk me out of it.

I have been Wii’d. It’s great. This is an open invitation…feel free to come over and play. If you have one…let me know your Wii number and we can swap Mii’s. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Wii tennis to play.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More conventions!?!?!?!

I am recently back from Wizardworld Chicago - which is actually in Rosemont, Ill.

Check out my report and photos of the weekend on the iFanboy site.

I'm tired...and mad at Rosemont.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Rampage! MarioKart! Pitfall! Oh my!

I vaguely remember the first video game that I played. It was on an old Commodore 64. It sucked – maybe at the time it was OK. I remember when our family upgraded to an Atari. It was pretty neat. We had pong – it had those little “wheelie” type controllers. For those of you that don’t know, pong is not an amazing game – but the fact that we had a controller instead of a keyboard, like on the Commodore 64 – that made it amazing.

Next came the Atari 2600. Upgrades galore! I remember that we had a bunch of little cartridge games for this fine piece of machinery. There were games like “Asteroids” and “Centipede” that relied on a single screen. You would be at the bottom – and you just had to move from side to side and shoot at the things as they came down. Then came an amazing game – one that I think of fondly whenever I look at games today. “Pitfall.” It was, at least to me, revolutionary. The character is this Indiana Jones looking dude – and basically you just run, jump and swing over various types of pits – trying to gather gold, or some type of treasure. Playing this game gave me such hope that there were exciting things out there. I never fathomed the future of gaming and what it would become…

As I grew older Nintendo was introduced as were Gameboy and Intellivision (I’m still not sure how that one worked?). My family never had Sega, or Sega Genesis, or Atari Jaguar, I had to head over to other houses to play games like Sonic the Hedgehog. The jump between Atari 2600 and Nintendo was huge. The characters and the movement were so fluid. The boards were longer and more challenging. Games like “Contra” (and yes I still remember the code – up up down down left right left right B A start – or select start if you were playing 2 player) were fantastic. In retrospect the violence in that game was mild, but at the time, it was a war game unlike any other. And then there were the sports games – “NHL ‘94” is the one that I remember most fondly. Although you couldn’t have fist fights (you could in the ’95 version) the movement was so smooth. Then there were the accessories, like the track pad, the gun for “Duckhunt” and countless other things.

I have run the gamut since then, buying a Playstation in college – spending countless hours on “PaRappa the Rappa” and on “FIFA ’98.” I had SNES and N64. “Goldeneye,” “MarioKart,” and “WCW/NWO Revenge” were some pretty amazing games for N64. I think, actually, that I haven’t played any games as good as those. I bought a PS2 when it came out…sadly Amy sold all my other systems after she realized I had it. So, all those brilliant games listed above are now out of my possession.

So why am I writing this? Well – over the past couple of months I have been contemplating an upgrade. The choices – in case you don’t know – are XBOX 360, PS3 and the Wii. All have their very distinct pros and cons. I won’t bore you with all that I have contemplated…hell, it bores me. There are so many different factors. “Gamers” could tell you more. I guess I should note that I am not a “gamer.” I enjoy video games, but I enjoy them VERY casually. So that is something that has factored into my decision.

I have decided to get a Wii. Like I said, there are pros and cons to all the new systems, but this is the direction I am leaning. The biggest con I am finding with the Wii is availability. Before I left for San Diego last week I saw them in many stores around here. Now that I am back, there are none! Natch. I have been told my numerous stores that they are expecting them this week…so I just keep calling and doing the rounds.

What about you? Did you play video games? Do you still play them? What is/was your favorite game? A friend recently lent me some fantastic games for PS2 – “God Of War” and “God of War II.” It is just amazing to see how far these things have come in my lifetime. I can only assume that when my kids play video games (which they will do in moderation) that they will resemble the 3D Holographic “chess game” in Star Wars…or perhaps even more progressed. If you had the money, the time, or the gumption – what would you get and why? I am always curious to hear what other people are thinking.

Oh – and I’ll end with this – because it’s important. Some of you may know that I was very against the Wii for a long time. I was sad and disappointed that the Wii was not using HD technology, among other things. However, when we were in San Diego, Conor and I saw some company that was doing a promo for a new Wii exclusive Godzilla game…so after that there was no turning back for me. Oh man – remember “Rampage”? The arcade version was SOOO GOOD! Let’s hear your video game thoughts and stories.