Monday, June 18, 2007

Btw, we're back.

I forgot to mention the rest of the trip, now that we've been home for two weeks or so. Aside from finally meeting a buddy I've been yakking and working with via AIM for years for the first time in person, it wasn't too terribly exciting.

Salina, KS
We were gonna stop here, but decided to press on a bit further into the trip, and made it to Topeka, where the NHRA event in Kansas City had sold out all but the deluxe hotel rooms. Jacuzzi tub anyone? We splurged for a night, and the closest eatery was Hooters, so that was a new experience for us both. Needless to say, those hos aren't getting hired based on their personalities or IQ, so I shouldn't have expected the best. An hour to get one simple burger seemed kinda ridiculous, not to mention them bringing the wrong food to our table once, two waittresses trying to take our orders, and all the girls being a little less endowed than I'd been led to believe they'd be. Still, when the burger finally showed up, it was mighty tasty. Everything else was disappointing, though. Sorry Topeka. Your girls need work.

Kansas City, KS
Didn't do much here but drive through it, though it did look pretty nice. Might come back and check out the city a little more someday.

St. Louis, MO
This is where I met up with Mike at the deli. After an extended debacle that started with him saying we could crash with him, then not there, then he didn't even know if he'd have any time available that day, then forgot which day we were even going to be there, things generally worked out. We got a room at the Drury just outside of Arnold (near Mike's home/work), and played with the idea of killing a couple hours driving around St. Louis. Everyone encouraged us NOT to. They say it's dangerous, and a statistic I saw not too long ago slated St.L as the new murder capital of the country. Eh, pass. We just lounged in the hotel room for a bit and then went back out to have Mike make us some bourbon chicken after he got off work.

Indianapolis, IN
The stretch from St. Louis to Columbus was largely forgettable. Dave Letterman's hometown wasn't bad lookin, but it was mostly a footnote at this point in the trip since we were close to home and could come back and visit this place almost anytime. Didn't look bad from the highway. Laura did have a few problems getting a pic of it though. Stupid truck.

Columbus, OH
Home at last, and not a moment too soon. Weather was turning shitty when we got here (drove thru it on the way), and I had to host a multiplayer event for work literally about 15 minutes after we got home. Rushed in and set up the laptop, then helped Laura unload some of her stuff from the car quick as we could. Figured she could sort it all out from the doorway while I was working if we at least got it in out of the weather.

I worked. She unpacked. And that was about it. Combined with our drives from Columbus to NY, NY, we've now driven the entire width of the United States. Of course, mom pointed out I haven't been to Minnesota yet, which....I don't even see what that has to do with the width.

Ahh, mom. I think she loses it a little more every year.

The Gaming Landscape As It Stands

Chances are, I'll never buy a Xbox 360. It'll be a while before I touch a PS3. And my Wii has had only a couple minor hiccups. So as not to bore you non-gamers too much, I'll try to keep it simple in case you were thinking about picking up a new system for yourself or your kiddos this summer.

Xbox 360
Everyone I know who bought this hunk of junk, literally everyone, has had at least one system die on them, and not a year or two down the road. I mean like a month or even the same WEEK as purchasing it. They simply don't hold up, and I don't know if it's because Microsoft is using cheap parts or cheap labor--or both--but neither would surprise me, coming from the company that would do anything--badger, steal, or kill (the competition)--to stay on top. Read more from a non-gaming site here:
http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/06/07/microsofts-xbotch.aspx

Sure, Live Marketplace is supposed to be the "shiznit" and playing online is seamless (though you have to pay for it). But as the article puts it, if the hardware doesn't work, why would someone piss away $400-500 on it?

PS3
Speaking of price, this is one of the three reasons I don't have a PS3 yet. Even when I was working at Pizza Hut full time after school and had an all-disposable income, I couldn't have justified blowing $600 on a game console. The 3DO tried that shit back in the '90s and we all know what happened there (if you don't, I rest my case....it died a quiet and meaningless death).

Reason two that I don't have one is there just aren't any games out for it yet that change the world or appeal to me in any meaningful way, like how Smuggler's Run, SSX, and Midnight Club expanded things between the PS1 and PS2 at launch. I'm sure Resistance: Fall of Man is lovely to look at, but is it really that big of a departure from the last console first-person shooter (FPS) I played? I doubt it. Probably has more in common with PS2 launch FPS TimeSplitters than it does with that same series' robust and infinitely superior Future Perfect installment that came third and serveral years later. And it goes without saying that Blu-ray doesn't matter to me at this point, either. I'm still trying to wrap up my DVD collection as it is, and since I own more movies than anyone I know, I become the go-to guy for movies when I visit friends, and buying movies on discs they can't play at their houses doesn't help anyone.

The third main reason I don't have a PS3 yet is that I don't feel like they've really finished the damn thing yet. They're still changing the firmware and releasing patches for launch games. Download download download is all you end up doing, just to make things do what they should have done (at least, IMO) out of the box. The ironic part is, I just opened up the DVD remote for my PS2 the other day, hoping to use it with my elder PS2 that doesn't work so well but will still play movies, only to find out that the version of the DVD driver on that old workhorse is too old to support most of the remote's special features and buttons. /sigh

Wii
The Wii has held up well to all the abuse and hours we've thrown at it. Laura plugged five hours into ExciteTruck the other night without even thinking about it. Hunter and I played various games within Wii Sports and Wii Play for quite some time this past Wednesday. I'm getting new Miis from friends around the country. And the system hasn't even flinched. Aside from Wiimotes turning off for a second here or there mid-game or batteries dying (you have to expect a little of that with all wireless input, and the console DOES warn you when the batteries are getting low), the only time I've gotten a serious error out of it was when ejecting a disc and then hitting the Reset button rather than hitting Home on the Wiimote and going back to the main Wii screen that way. I learned that the Reset button is only designed to restart the game in the disc slot, not the entire console. It seems like a deliberate design choice I simply wasn't aware of. Still, making the teaching method into a system freeze so hard that I had to unplug it to get it to do anything was a little harsh.

In The End...
All in all, my Wii and PC are more than enough to keep me happily gaming these days, much to the dismay of Microsoft (note: fuck Vista-exclusive PC games) and Sony. An article in EGM recently even predicted that the Nintendo DS could reach a 90% market penetration in Japan within the next few years, making it not only more popular than the original Game Boy, but making it as common as a DVD player or a TV in most homes. At that point, the DS would be as mainstream and accepted as a cell phone, and Nintendo's gonna be laughing all the way to the bank.

Note: Stifle the Big-N fanboy comments. I was a VERY late adopter of the N64 and GameCube, and probably would have skipped them altogether if not for the always solid Zelda, Metroid, and Mario games. Oh yeah, and a little gem called Perfect Dark.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Pooped In Las Vegas

Down:
Sacramento, CA
Redlands, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Mesquite, NV
Springdale, UT
Vail, CO
Denver, CO

To Go:
Salina, KS
Kansas City, KS
St. Louis, MO
Indianapolis, IN
Columbus, OH

About halfway through this crazy cross-country road trip, and here's what I've learned so far...

Sacramento is nice, not spectacular or anything. Prolly wouldn't be my first pick if I moved to Cali. The drive from there to L.A. reminds me a lot of Ohio, except Ohio's grass is actually green, not brown.

I could easily do without about half the geography of California, namely the desert. Can't we just carve off areas we have no use for and drop them on other countries? If not for Pennsylvania, driving from home to New York would only take 3 or 4 hours.

Nevada is....bleak. Somewhere between Redlands and Las Vegas I made a few references to WoW. For instance, I swear we drove through the real world equivalents of Mulgore and The Barrens, and Laura assures me that not too far away are regions that reek of Thousands Needles (apologies to non-WoW players, as you must be lost now).

Anyway, Nevada reminded me of a circus that doesn't shut down, and the attractions are the only thing keeping the state going. Vegas itself is kind of like living in a caricature of a caricature of reality. Sure, there are live human beings there, but with that level of tourist mentality, it must warp the locals' sense of what a well-rounded person is like anymore. It might just fry my brain to live there, what with all the cardboard and illusions. But it is the best place to catch Broadway and other live acts outside of a more congested major city.

Vegas to Springdale was largely forgettable (Mesquite was nice), save for the giant thermometer. Drive up on Rte. 15 and you can't miss is. It read 90F when we got there, and 100F about 20 minutes later when we left, loaded up with Burger King and gasoline.

I also don't want to hear about "overcrowding" problems anymore. There's PLENTY of real estate out here just begging for a town or at least a truck stop to emerge on it. When you can go 200 miles without seeing any signs of life, it makes the insanely compressed life of NYC seem ridiculous. NYC is all stone and little vegetation anyway. It would do just fine if it woke up one day in place of Ute, NV.

Springdale and the greater Zion National Park area in general was quite nice. Not too hot yet this time of year, nice enough that my bro and his wife sleep outside on their deck. No screen. No tent. Just out there with the bugs and the iguanas and the bats. I admire the outdoors, sure, but I still like sleeping with four walls and a ceiling around me. The view of the stars was second to none, though. Even saw a shooting one.

Springdale to Denver was the best looking yet worst overall day for me, and the most recent. I had some ear adjustment problems on the initial flight out to Sacramento (i.e., my left ear simply does NOT adjust), but I thought it might play more nicely with a gradual ascent through the Rockies. Sorry to say that's not the case. For...I dunno, 10-20 miles straight (?) my eardrum wracked me with agonizing pain, so much so that if I were driving, I wouldn't have been able to make it through. Hooray for being the co-pilot on this trip. Somewhere past Vail it finally popped (or ruptured, I don't know which), and I was able to let go of my head and wipe away the tears. Not fun. This rules out traveling or living in the mountains for me (unless I somehow get the ear fixed), since the pain starts at about 5000 feet and gets worse from there on up. Around 9000 feet elevation in Frisco, CO, we stopped for gas, I felt headachey, went to take a piss, and almost blacked out standing in the bathroom. Thin air + an already tore-up me = 1 step shy of the emergency room.

We descended into Denver some 9.5 hours after we left Springdale, I was miserable, and temporarily deaf in my left ear. It was all I could to do mutter out the words "room for the night?" when we got off 70. Tried to get some food, but most of the stuff in west Denver closes at 10pm, and wouldn't you know it, we arrived at 10:15pm. Annoying.

I slept a few hours and started having nightmares (nothing trip-related; more inspired by seeing 28 Weeks Later recently methinks), but luckily Laura's rumbling sinuses woke me up before it got too unsettling in dreamland. I'm sitting before you now in the hopes of clearing my mind before going back to sleep.

I decided we should break up our remaining days into shorter drives, even if it means we don't stay the night in the most scenic of places or have to be gone a day longer. About 6-7 hours driving/riding in a day is my limit for now. 9.5 was simply too damn much. Makes me wonder how I made it from Tallahassee, FL to NYC in one day. Must have been something that happened the night before. ;)

And where the ear is concerned, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really looking forward to being in Kansas.

More as it develops...