Pokemon X/Y – Why?!

I saw this announcement the other day and promptly showed everyone in my office. I’ve been playing Pokemon games since the Red Blue days, and the halcyon days of Silver and Crystal. After that I got a little less interested for a while, but still picked things up and have “beat” every game since. Pokemon Black got me really in to it all again, even borrowed my wife’s copy of white to work on filling out the Pokedex; thankfully I had transferred a ton of Pokemon from my original Silver all the way up to Pearl and HeartGold, so there were a lot of old world Pokemon I didn’t need again. What does this have to do with a 3D Pokemon game? Well, everything really.

  1. I’ve been playing games in the series since it was created
  2. We’ve all been waiting for a true 3rd person perspective and “3D” world, and now we get it!
  3. I’ll be able to see all the Pokemon I’ve been dragging around since Blue in eye popping 3D
  4. The games are fun if you take them for what they are

The interesting things for me is that I don’t even own a 3DS, but this one game will get me to buy the system and a handful of other games that I’ve been wanting to play on the hand held. As a short anecdote, I got to play on one of the original dev models while at E3 a few years ago, I’ve been wanting something to justify the purchase ever sense. The 3DS XL was the first half of justification I needed, this new Pokemon game will tip the game library to populating the other half.

“Superior” Spider-Man #1

Spoilers warning: this article contains spoilers for Superior Spider-Man.

If I wanted a dark, edgy, action Spider-Man I’d go back to buying Venom…that said, lets look at this a little bit.

Otto is, seemingly, fully in control of Parker’s body; he’s even finally giving back in to his relationship with MJ (finally). As we see Otto pulling out more stops than Peter usually we did we get a glimpse at what a Spider-Man that had bought Batman comics would do in terms of preparation. He’s taking cues from Tony Stark with the over the top, paparazzi, press filled take down. We also see something that more like Peter-Sense than Spidey-Sense: Otto stops his retreat to save a police officer. This crops up again before Otto can kill a man: Parker is a Force-ghost who stops Otto’s arm! This ghost has a moment where he notes that he is thinking about taking back control; so there’s one ace up the sleeve to bring Peter back, what others do they have?

Given the hype of this issue I thought there would be a lot more “meat” to it; but instead it reads like a normal, plodding and sparse number one issue, introducing us once again to characters. In that respect, it’s a great jumping on point to Marvel Now!

Bastion: Play through In Review

I completed my play through of Bastion in about 6 hours of playtime that included leaving some idols on, doing a couple proving grounds, and experiencing the awesomeness of “Who Knows Where” a couple times. I will note that this article contains spoilers; you’ve been warned. The soundtrack was amazing, the voice overs hauntingly intriguing, and the emotional impact high.

There’s a good possibly that I place a bit too much importance on music in games; being a musician will do that I guess. The soundtrack to Bastion was so good I was humming it in the shower after my workout this morning. It’s quite sparse in a lot of ways, but that just adds to the feeling of a desolated world trying to put itself back together. The slow building of the orchestration and instrumentation mimic that which is being played, which just adds to the feeling of progression that the games provides. At one point they made some of the sheet music available and given how amazing the songs on the soundtrack are I’ll be using that as the basis for my next round of trombone arrangements. That’s how good the music is in this game.

One of the features that caught me as truly innovative was the narrator; he even mentioned that I was just idling killing terrain, “raging a bit” over what had happened! The realization at the end of who is talking to and in what context is also quite awesome, it even influenced my decisions at the end of the game. The narration the first time I went in to “Who Knows Where” changed a lot of my feeling and attitudes toward Zia as well; it’s the main reason I evacuated at the end instead of just leaving it all to possibly happen again.

Speaking of “Who Knows Where” it was the turning point in the game for me. Going from action adventure game to an immersive game that happened to be an action adventure RPG. From there on out I was fighting for someone, for people, to find out what the truth was. A little while later I encountered Zulf who had sent some people to attack The Bastion; because I was quite tired at that point my poor Squirt died…I didn’t realize how attached I was to the little bugger until the awesome narrator told me he didn’t make it. I was heart broken and pissed that my little friend had died; and felt it was all my fault! From there I woke up a bit more and decided to push through and punish the bastard who had sent people to not only kidnap the girl, but to kill my friend. My rage was only enforced by the music, getting more and more epic with every level and layer added on. Then something happened; Zulf was on the floor, and I didn’t do it.

Seeing the man who was fueling all my rage impacted me in a very odd way; knowing that the people around him were technically Zia’s and had no desire for peace made me feel sorry for Zulf in a way. So I picked him up and slowly trudged to the exit, awash in so many emotions that it was odd to feel a sense of pride, of being the hero not leaving anyone behind. When I got back, and Zia went through all her comments about being together if we just evacuated, and knowing that Squirt wouldn’t be coming back no matter what I did, the choice was obvious: don’t let Squirt die in vain, don’t ditch the girl. And so we evacuated, ending an amazing journey that was more touching than any other game or movie in recent memory.

Comics in review

Next month I’ll be doing a full posting on my current pull list and some more on the reasons for those books; while it’s still January, another retrospective piece on how things got to now for me in the world of graphical goodies.

DC New 52 Fun in Review

Flashpoint got me back in to buying comics; Batman kept me reading. The low point of the year was a certain artist getting a hold of Deathstroke and taking him in a weird direction for a few months; which was rebounded later in the year and with T7. The Court of Owls was, interesting, and lead to the fun that is Talon. There were some other major story lines, but the big zero month did a good job of keeping the overall momentum going. Possibly most surprising was finding myself actually liking Jason Todd, not as much as Tim (needs his own book already) or Dick (best solo book right now for me), but more than I thought I ever would.

One of the most interesting moments in my DC collecting came when I realized that I had cut all the female books from my pull list; this isn’t all that surprising since there’s not a lot of the female characters in print form that I enjoy. In the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) I could use another few episodes of Wonder Woman, or Barbra Gordon doing her thing. Then I started to think about what would happen if I had a daughter who wanted to join in reading with me? This caused me to check up on all of the other characters that I had neglected since issues six; of all the books the one that captivated my attention the most was Batgirl (given it’s the Bat Family that I enjoy the most not too surprising), so I’m now caught up on those.

The New 52 has continued to be a great source of awesome and frustration for me; there’s a point of pride in knowing that many years of history and lore! That many years is fine and great, but when it stifles new stories it loses its appeal; these new starts and not worrying about any real past status quo has started to grown on me and I’m enjoying them a lot.

Marvel When?!

Moving on to Marvel there wasn’t much I enjoyed in the year; Schism was a bit of a flop for me, as was Avengers vs X-Men. But then came the All New X-Men, a big Spider Man event (more on that later) and now an Indestructible Hulk! The X-Men title may have spilled in to this year but its first few issues were in 2012; putting Beast made me very happy, giving him another new look after all these years was a good touch, too. Dr. McCoy and Logan have been my favorite X-Men since I was a little kid, but there’s been a little much of Logan in the world recently, more Hank can only be fun and exciting.

The Hulk has, historically, been at the bottom of character I like to read. The first issue of the new Hulk book changed that all for me. It came out right after I watched The Avengers again wishing for some more highlights of Bruce Banner in the comics; low and behold that’s exactly what I got! I’ve temporarily added it to my pull list for the beginning of this year, but it was a great way to cap off 2012 unlike the next event…

The comic series that got me in to comics in the first place all these years ago was a guy named Ben Reilly who took over for a certain web slinger of historic proportions. Sadly, this only lasted a few issues, but was my real introduction into reading and collecting comics; to the point where I asked for the Epic Ben Reilly collections for Christmas this year. Being burned so badly by his death (his portrayal as the Scarlet Spider before Peter stepped down is still some of my favorite moments in comics books) I wasn’t totally sold going in to this whole “Death of Spider-Man” thing. In the end, I very much don’t buy it; Peter’s memories aren’t powerful enough to make Otto just change on the spot given he’s still the dominate personality in that body. I’m not going to comment on the longevity as I’m not too worried about that, but I will comment that the end of Amazing doesn’t make me want to pick up Superior.

Locke and Key Open The Moon or how I leaned to cry when reading a comic book

While this may have come out in 2011, I didn’t read it until 2012 and was the most surprising thing I read all year. Not only did it serve as my introduction to the series it made me cry. I don’t cry over much, I get it out once a year on my late grandfather’s birthday; but that comic made me cry darn it. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it now…

Transformers, Turtles, and Manga!

The new Transformers books are better than I thought they would be; “Regeneration One” feels expected most issues, but that’s not a bad things. “More Then Meets The Eye” and “Robots In Disguise” feel like people who really liked all the animated series, and had a couple toys they wish had more screen time, got together and pushed the bounds of what a Transformers story should be. From characters physical transformations to a very cool time travel issue these books kept my captivated for the year.

Another large part of my child hood revolved around the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which leaked in to my adulthood given the name of the site this is hosted on. The Micro-Series issues focusing on one character that’s not a Turtle is a great idea; it’s what I wish other companies would do instead of trying to give a character a solo book. One full issue to completely focus on one character, what makes them tick, why they are the way they are, and just leave it at that! Additionally, it makes the TMNT universe feel a little bigger, but not like a conglomeration that’s too large where you can’t know everyones name.

One of the awesome guys at Comics Toons N’ Toys in Tustin told my wife that Sailor Moon had returned in manga form; we now own all of them. This caused me to go to that side of the shop a bit more and check out some titles I haven’t read in close to ten years.

Where I Buy These Graphical Goodies

This will also serve as my plug for this article that if you are in the Orange County area, or ever pass through and need some comics, then you should really check out Comics Toons N’ Toys in Tustin; the people are awesome, will hold books for you, and make sure that everything is priced fairly (including discounts on Wednesday, aka New Comic Book Day). Not only are the workers nice, but everyone who I have talked in the time I’ve been going has been quite nice and genuinely enjoying themselves, not the snobbery of some stores. Additionally, its quite kid friendly with a few places devoted to younger readers selections.

Weekend Update – 2013.01.06

For the first time in months I got a weekend off. We took an impromptu trip to visit some family members and just relax; no alarm clocks, no animals, no distractions. Had a nice drive down in and around some mountains (actually got to use my V8 a bit). Today, watched the weather go from sunny and cold, to rainy and warmer, to hailing. Watched a bit of sports with the family today. The Redskins made me a bit sad; as did Indianapolis. Can’t wait to see how the Broncos do in the next couple weeks. Watched them try to play golf on Maui; felt really bad when the ball was moving around the green and falling off the tee for some people. Wrote out an entire proposal and production plan for a new video game I hope to complete in a few months. And now on to a fun week!

2013 Gaming Backlog

As any good gamer who spends some money helping out people that are willing to be in the Steam Holiday Sale I have a large backlog of computer, console, and (not related to Steam) board games. For the last couple years I’ve been putting things like playing music, leaving the house, spending time with my wife and cats, and other such things ahead of gaming. What gaming time I did have was going to MMO’s and other competitive games. At this point in time I’m getting less satisfaction from those games types and more from picking up the controller connected to my tower, or booting up my PS3 to see what is free this month, playing those games for a few minutes to make some progress and get on with my day. Before the giant list is created I’d like to talk about what getting through a backlog means for me.

When I go to play a game it’s not always about “beating” the game; more than likely it’s about enjoying the game. Some games I play just for the mechanics (RTS, Rogue-like, some FPS, sports, racing), some for the story (RPGs, action or turn based), some for the unified experience, some for nostalgia, or just to check out what every one else has been talking about. There’s definitely a set of games that can’t really be beaten at all, things like city simulators or online only games. Then there’s some games that are really just about a single gimmick and once you’ve mastered it the game becomes either lifeless or you finally get to enjoy the game and not struggle with the gimmick. All that to prep this statement: this isn’t a list of games I want to beat, just a list I want to enjoy. It’s taken me a long time to get to understand that idea; I’ve spent most of my life in the “must beat everything on the hardest difficulty” camp.

With that out of the way, here’s the list! Many of these games I’ve started but had to abandon half way through (Borderlands, Trine, and the Valve games are the biggest culprits of that). In a future article I’ll talk about MMO and MOBA goals, and in another one I’ll touch on time management to get all of this done, work, go out with my wife, and play bass trombone three days a week!

2013 Backlogged Video Games to Play List in No Real Order:

Writing Template

I’ve been using a modified writing template form a few sources, but the Evernote section comes from here.

I would venture that a lot of writers follow similar steps; especially those that have been using blogging software for a long time (I used to use MarsEdit, too). But the straight up template and my variations have actually helped me out a lot. To that end I’ve uploaded said template to this server should anyone else wish to use it. Currently I have seven (7) other articles that I’m working on based on the same template; and when they’re done they will move to my archive notebook in Evernote and all will be well and clean.

Django: Basic Template Tags

One of things I had the hardest time finding was a good example of Template Tags in Django; so here is my basic template tags file I add to every new project (GPLv2). A lot of people have their own, and I’m sure in the future I’ll add on to my basics; but for now these get me by. One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is write a good small primer for beginning Django, consider this my first foray in to making that a reality.

from django import template
from django.template import Variable, VariableDoesNotExist
register = template.Library()
 
@register.filter
def gVal(object, attr):
    """Check the array, dict, etc for a value"""
    quasai = { 'object' : object }
    #print "gVal :: " + str(attr) +" - "+ str(quasai)
    try:
        value = Variable('object.%s' % attr).resolve(quasai)
    except VariableDoesNotExist:
        value = None
    return value
 
@register.filter
def xVal(a,b):
    """Since Python resolves left to right in template tags: pass value and then the dick to check; returns value or 0"""
    #print "xVal",a,b
    if b.has_key(a):
        value = b[a]
    else:
        value = "0"
    return value
 
@register.filter
def hexVert(value):
    """Removes all values of # from the given string and replaces with %23"""
    if value != None:
        value = value.replace("#", '%23')
        value = value.replace("!", '%21')
        value = value.replace("&", '%26')
    return value

Zealotry in Sports

Around the world sports have almost become a religion for some people. From Soccer (football) to baseball, from rugby to eSports (like StarCraft II), people have certain sports they care about more than others. It’s usually not the spot itself that gets the fanatic, zealous following; it’s the teams playing them.

Here in the United States of America we have three major spots, 2 almost major sports, an extreme sports following, and many other types of recreational activities that are monitized and organized in to leagues. To leave myself room to focus on other sports down the road (rugby, eSports, soccer, MLS, NHL, etc) I’ll be focusing on the “big three” here in the USA: football, baseball, and basketball. Before delving in to the specific sports I’d like to start on more ethereal level as to why I route for certain teams and how that leads to me picking a team in a new sport (or variation of said sport, like minor leagues and NCAA).

Top priority goes to local teams; if there’s a local team in a championship of some kind I will cheer them on; doesn’t matter the sport or activity. The caveat for such things comes with teams I like because of: someone on the team or how the team plays. Brett Favre, Wally Joyner, and Charles Woodson are some of the first that come to mind. Then again there are some teams that I just can’t enjoy; like the Giants (SF or NY). Sometimes there’s not a local team, so I’ll go with the closest one I actually like (more on that when I hit the NHL in a future post). If a local team, my favorite team, or a team I generally like doesn’t make the playoffs for a sport I’ll go with another team in the conference; if they beat out my team then they should obviously be the best in the league, right?! Some complications do arise in that I tend to like one team from each league, conference, division, etc within an organized sport. There’s the AFC and NFC for football, American and National Leagues for baseball, etc. That said, I tend to follow the same logic for each conference, but one I care about more than the others.

Generic cheering priority: Favorite Team > Random Team = Local Team = Player’s Team > Conference Team

Football

When it comes to football I’m a Raider’s fan. They were in LA when I was a kid, and when I got really in to football as an almost young adult they were one of the most exciting teams to watch. If the Raider’s aren’t in the playoffs I’ll first route for the 49ers (favorite NFC team) and then any team in the AFC West, so this year go Broncos! I should mention that my wife is a Charger’s fan, so at least twice a year we don’t sit on the couch watching football together…

Raiders >> 49ers >> Steelers = Chargers > Broncos = Chiefs > Everyone Else

…there’s a more “complicated” matrix in the “Everyone Else” category, but it’s greatly in flux these days, which I’m sure will spur a similar article ahead of next season.

Baseball

In the past I’ve liked other teams as my favorite players moved on to other teams. At this point though, it’s all about the Los Angeles teams; even the one that isn’t in Los Angeles.

Angels > Dodgers > Everyone Else > Giants

Basketball

My brother is the bigger basketball fan, I was in the early 90’s but then got in to Soccer and Rugby. I keep this one simple.

Lakers > Clippers > Everyone Else

College Sports

Since the college I went to isn’t in the NCAA it makes my list a little skewed. I’ve been a UCLA fan since I was a little kid and high school ruined any chance of me enjoying USC. Most football seasons I’m pretty neutral for the first couple weeks, then I start picking who I really like and want to win (besides UCLA) from there. Basketball and other sports I’m a little more stringent on…

UCLA > University of Arizona = Air Force > Everyone Else

Every new beginning…

Greetings and welcome to this, the innumerable time I try to get myself to write more and keep to it. In the now over 15 years I’ve spent writing things for various website and incarnations of my own “blog” like platforms I’ve realized a few things; chief among them that when I first started writing I was beyond horrible, I’ve now creeped up to just horrible. I’ve built up a very large archive of drivel that I don’t really wish on anyone, though from time to time I may “republish” a post or story.

I’ve gone through several blog titles in the past: tks (the kitchen sink), peanut gallery, blog, musing in a half shell, etc. The original idea behind “tks” was to comment on the things I didn’t see other people talking about; everyone else talked about everything “except” the kitchen sink, or so the sang goes. I came to find that I didn’t always have time for such things and instead it turned in to random musings. This time I’ll keep the name for personal nostalgia, but with a very different purpose. This time the cliche of “write what you know” is more guiding my steps.

To be clear, this is not a New Year’s resolution of some kind, though it is coming at that time of year. My current job has been given me many days off during this holiday season, giving me time to catch up in other areas of my life and allow me the luxury of figuring out things I’d like to do going forward. To that end there are a few things I’d like to cover in my writings going forward:
Programing code & design
Trombone playing & philosophy
Gaming- digital, analog, design & implementation
Writing- musings on other and short stories of my own
Socio Political issues (not politics)
Religion
Physical Activity- my own and others
Cats

In the day and age of personal “branding” when looking for a job, or even when trying to be an authority on a subject, some of these topics/ideas may be inflammatory and damaging in some people’s eyes: oh well, my apologies. They might as well know now what my views are instead of three months in to a job that I’ve budgeted for six months, costing me said job.

For an overview post 432 words isn’t really all that many; and it’s easy to do on a day when there are no other real distractions. The real test is going to be int six months: am I still posting daily, weekly, semi-weekly, monthly, at all? Only time will tell.