Thursday, October 30, 2008

Postcard #1 from the Wasteland

Bethesda, the company that created Fallout 3, also developed Oblivion, another amazing RPG I played a couple years ago. One of their trademarks is to set the first level in a confined area, teach you a little about the game, and then turn you out into the Real World. Fallout 3 is no different.

The first 30 minutes or so of the game are spent in Vault 101, an underground labyrinth of tunnels. When you step out of the tunnel to look out at the world, the screen is bright white, as if you’re blinded by the light. This is the best part about the game, that moment when the expectation and excitement of the world you’re about to explore sets in. This is what I saw:

You can find a higher-resolution version of the picture here. Remember that ultimately I'll be able to go to every place you can see in this picture. Note the sign labeled “Scenic Overlook” in the foreground and the ruins of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument way in the background. Apparently ads featuring these ruins had some people upset in Washington, D.C.

My character’s name is Plebius (a name I commonly use in these games). He’s a quiet type, but he’s handy with rifles and great at picking locks. I’ve made it over to the town of Megaton, which you can just see on the right side of the picture, and which has a live nuclear bomb sitting in the middle of it. Apparently I’ll ultimately get to choose whether to detonate the bomb or not. Plebius is kind of an anti-social type who likes explosions, so I suspect he’ll end up pushing the button.


Fallen Fallen by David Maine

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
David Maine's sophomore outing is just as engaging as his previous work,The Preservationist. This is the story of Adam and Eve, their banishment from the Garden, and the effects on them and their children, particularly Cain and Abel. This is the story of WHY. Why did Eve eat the fruit? Why did Adam eat it as well? Why did Cain hate Abel and ultimately murder him? The blanks are filled in, and the characters, so dimly understood from the Bible, are fleshed out.

Obviously this book is not canonical; it's truly a work of fiction. But it forces the reader to at least consider these characters as real people, people who were motivated by a difficult life and a lingering sense of failure. Adam and Eve are forced to spend hundreds of years of their lives living beneath the shadow of "what-if," and this shadow looms over their children as well. Cain and Abel are developed into two extremes: Abel the optimistic, blindly-trusting, perhaps dim-witted good son, and Cain the bipolar, brooding difficult one.

The book is constructed in a way that forces you to focus closely on what's happening. I won't give it away - you'll understand what I mean by the second or third chapter - but it's really an interesting way to write a book that I've never encountered before.

Once again, Maine has taken some very sketchy characters from the Bible and built a plausible if fantastic world around them. If you liked his first book, you'll like this one. The Book of Samson is now fully on my list as well.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Preparing for the Apocalypse

I suspect that when many people think of video games, Super Mario Bros for the NES comes immediately to mind. That was truly a defining game for my generation and established a standard for years to come. Of course, EVERYONE remembers Pac-Man, the game that started the video game crazy of the early ‘80s. Was there anything cooler than those sit-down Pac-Man booths at Pizza Hut? And then there’s my Dad, who still believes that Janitor Joe is the pinnacle of interactive computer gaming.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, Fallout 3 comes out.

Doesn't look much like Super Mario, does it?

To be honest, I never played Fallouts 1 or 2, but somehow I suspect this game will be incredible. Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., the universe is completely open-ended. You can become any type of person you want: a sniper, a spy, a smooth-talker, a liar, the good guy, the bad guy, or anything in between. Fallout 3 was created by the same people who developed The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the game that holds my personal record for most time played; last I checked I was at about 120 hours. I love this type of role-playing, where you can go out and do anything you want to do and become anything you want to be. I strongly suspect this game will grab me by the throat and keep me engaged for a very, very long time. I’ll keep you updated on my travels. When I start playing tonight, instead of setting out on any particular quest, I’ll just start walking, say, north – and see what kind of trouble I can get into.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Parenting is HARD!

Monkey: But Daddy, I want it to be dark now.

Me: Well, we have to wait for the sun to go down.

Monkey: I wish we had a remote control to make the sun go down faster.

Me: Well, God controls the sun, not us.

Monkey: How does He make the sun go down?

Me: It doesn’t really go down, the Earth just spins and so it LOOKS like the sun is moving.

Monkey: So how does God make the Earth keep spinning?

Me: Um, he started it spinning long ago and it just keeps going because of... um… (some mumble about rotational momentum).

Monkey: So how did he make it spin long ago?

Me: Umm, well, there were these accretions disks and it just kind of started spinning and… well… it’s complicated.

Ann: Nice recovery.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If Canadians didn't have Pilgrims...

Then why do they have Thanksgiving?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

You can't deny it

Immaculate Conception of the Shark would make an awesome name for a rock band.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My idea of a great meal

When I was growing up in Argentina, my dad would take me out on my birthday to get a parrillada mixta, which we called a "Guts 'n' Grease Galore Gala." It was a mixed grill of meats, some of them normal by American standards, some of them not so much. The exact meats that were served varied, but the picture below gives you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about:

Picture used with permission from Buenos Aires Daily

Man, that was some good eatin'. I didn't really like the kidney or morcilla (seriously, you've not seen gross till you've seen someone spread morcilla on bread - thanks for THAT image, Dad). But I could eat molleja and chinchulines all day long. I even got a parrillada once that had "seso" on it - look that one up. In case you didn't know, molleja is sweetbread, which is apparently the thymus gland. Sounds a lot more disgusting when you call it that.

True story: my aunt was scheduled for some type of intestinal surgery, so my dad went down to the butcher shop and bought a pile of raw chinchulines, effectively a bunch of small intestine. He grilled them up, took a picture of us chowing down on them, and sent the picture off to his little sister. An idea that's twisted, yet so awesome - sort of like the chinchulines themselves.

I truly miss this type of food, and believe me, it's not something available around here. Throw in some of that incredibly hard, crusty bread and you've got yourself a great birthday meal. I'd pay a lot for that these days...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yeah, I'm pretty much that cute.

Vanilla Bean dancing from cbalmain on Vimeo.

You've taken your first step into a larger world.

On Saturday, the Monkey and I watched the first episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the new animated show on Cartoon Network. I've been reluctant to introduce him to Star Wars up to this point - it's got some decently scary stuff, and the themes would certainly be over his head. I'd decided I would wait until he's six or so before he comes face-to-face with Lord Vader, but this cartoon has given me an out.

It's a goofy, definitely-kid-oriented cartoon - and we both love it. We can both appreciate the awesome "lightsaver" combat, and it doesn't help that I stop the show every three minutes to explain the oh-so-elaborate plot. I had to explain that Count Dooku is the bad guy, and then explain that he's trying to take over the galaxy, and then explain that the galaxy is sort of like the whole world, only bigger. His favorite character is Yoda, who he calls "the little guy."

Now I just need to convince Ann to let him dress as Yoda for Halloween, I'll break out my Obi-Wan outfit, and it will truly be a glorious day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can't have it both ways

An interesting set of quotes from Senator McCain during tonight’s debate:

“I'm going to ask the American people to understand that there are some programs that we may have to eliminate.”

About two minutes later, he said:

“I'm going to tell you Americans we'll get to work right away and we'll get to work together, and we can get them all done, because that's what America has been doing.”

So which is it, man? Are we going to have to eliminate programs, or are we gonna get it all done? Because, you know, it really can’t be both.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Awesome reason to vote for McCain

This article on CNN claims the following about how Maine Republicans are responding to Palin:

"Local Republican officials told CNN they were thrilled to have Palin on the ticket, saying her accent and love for guns made her someone independents and Democrats uncomfortable with Sen. Barack Obama could relate to."

What better reason could there be to vote for someone than that their running mate talks funny and likes weapons? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you your next President of the United States: