In:

Lego Star Wars

I just have one thing to say.












Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy for the Playstation 2 is AMAZING!

In:

Evidence - The Last Ritual

Evidence - The Last Ritual. Sitting on the shelf at Target it appeared innocuous, a PC game cleverly packed in a sealed plastic "evidence" bag. The case was clear plastic, and on the cover was a evidence label with the names of the police officers who checked it in, the dates and times, etc. I was struck. The back promised an intriguing puzzle based game focused on catching a serial killer called The Phoenix.


Get home. Install game onto computer.
Creepiness ensues.

The premise begins with why you have the game. CDs were sent to the police by Phoenix, and in an effort to decipher the puzzles within, the NYPD has decided to distribute the CDs to the public. When you install the game onto your computer, you are prompted to register with a login name and an email address, then receiving a password which you use to access the CDs. You are also prompted to register at http://www.phoenix-investigators.org/us/, the International Committee for the Phoenix Arrest. The website features tools such as a web search, translations, a case update section, lastest news section, etc. Immediately upon doing both things, you are connected via your email address with a group of fictional characters who offer hints, musings, and discussions right to your email as you play through the game.

The CDs themselves are of course somewhat disturbing - they were offered to the PD by a serial killer, after all. The first few puzzles are a test of sorts, and are relatively easy to figure out. As soon as you get through those, however, the puzzles become much more difficult. You spend time searching for clues through the single screen puzzle presented to you, look things up online, check your email for hints or suggestions from your fictional compatriots, and finally solve the puzzle.

My favorite puzzle thus far: several numbers in floating around on your screen, not really a discernable pattern: 8, 9, 21, 33, etc. Small rectangular pieces of illustrations towards the bottom of the screen, scroll through them and you can place a number on each of the illustrations. But what number goes where? The hint Phoenix offers you in the puzzle screen is simply "Alessandro Mariano". Do some research on the MSN web search linked from the Phoenix arrest webpage, and find that Alessandro Mariano became Sandro Botticelli. And Sandro Boticelli did illustrations for Dante's Inferno. Hey, wait... do those picture fragments look like Botticelli's Dante illustrations? More research - hey, I bet those numbers floating around are the plate numbers for the illustration fragments....

And puzzle solved.

After completing a puzzle you're usually rewarded by a short live action video clip following one of the two storylines that the Phoenix is presenting before you. You're following the story of Jack Lorski, invesitgating a series of murders in Spain with a woman named Manuela, and the story of a woman named Jessica, who is searching for her brother Adrian.

I absolutely love that you have to do actual research online to find the answers to these puzzles. It gives the game a more realistic feel. I read a review online that was complaining about the fact that you spend just about as much time on a internet search engine as you do in the actual game, but I think it's a fascinating and original idea. The live action video clips and the emails you receive give an even more realistic feel, especially when you get your first email from the Phoenix:

"Hello little friend
You can tell the people at the ICPA that they ought to protect their databases a little better. Get ready, I know where you live now...
The Phoenix"

Gotta admit, when the Phoenix started sending me mail, I got pretty freaked out. ^_^

I haven't played through too much of the game yet, but what I have played (with friends Bob and Nils) has been clever, original, and creepy but not gory. The puzzles are interesting and difficult, but with some effort and teamwork the answers are attainable. I haven't yet felt like I needed to consult a walkthrough. Not only would that be cheating, that would definitely destroy the realistic feel the game attempts to impart.

Great game. Frustrating at times when you get stumped on a particular puzzle, but when you hang in there it's worth it. I'm curious about where this is all going to end up....


In:

Conversations - Women's Secrets

The scene: Standing outside my office building, leaning on Bob's car, hanging out until my lunch break finally comes to an end and I have to go back to work.

Bob: "I was reading an article about the oldest man alive."

Me: "Oh yeah?"

Bob: "Yeah. He's Japanese, and is 111. He attributes his good health to never having smoked or drank alcohol."

Me: *laughing* Wow, never drank alcohol? What's the point of life???"

Bob: *laughing as well* I know. Anyway, he looks great. I mean, he's old, but he looks great."

Me: "That's cool. I guess I should stop drinking and start eating sushi."

Bob: "Weird thing is, the oldest living woman is from the same village."

Me: "Huh. How old is she?"

Bob: "114."

Me: *laughing* "Yep, that's because it's been statistically proven that women live longer than men."

Bob: *scornful noise*

Me: *lecturing tone* "Men say it's because women nag them to death, but it's just because they don't want to admit that women are the genetically superior gender. It's sad, but true."

Bob: "It's because women suck the souls of of men. They suck the life force away from men to sustain their own life. Soul sucking fiends!"

Me: *eyes widen, staring at Bob*

Bob: "What?"

Me: "YOU'VE DISCOVERED OUR PLAN! Our wicked scheme to one day control the human race and lock men away like the cattle you are, to feed upon at will and make us nearly immortal! How did you know??? We were so careful never to let on! You man, you could never figure it out on your own! Who betrayed us?!?!"

*long pause*

Me: "I mean.... that's ridiculous."

In:

World Naked Bike Ride

I stumbled across some interesting photos on Yahoo! news. So apparently this past Saturday (June 9th) was the World Naked Bike Ride, where people across the world took their bikes out for a spin in the nude, some painting their bodies in colorful and interesting designs, to protest dependency on oil, highlight the damage that dependency on cars has caused, and promote the use of bicycles. According to Yahoo! news.


I was immediately curious about why riding your bike in the nude was supposed to promote the use of bicycles. Why not just stage a massive bike ride clothed, although I suppose being naked would certainly attract a lot of attention. ^_^ I wasn't judging, I was just curious about the thought process behind this event. Hell, if scores of people want to ride a bike naked, more power to them! So, I did a little more research.


Visiting www.worldnakedbikeride.org I was immediately confronted with this:


"We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the unique dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians as well as the negative consequences we all face due to to dependence on oil, and other forms of non renewable energy."


Huh. Interesting. More info?


In the FAQ section of the website, I found this:

"Why are you riding naked?


To celebrate cycling and the human body. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and is a protest against oil dependency."


Well, okay then. Actually, this sounds pretty cool.


The dress code for the ride isn't strictly nudity, it's a "bare as you dare" policy. Any level of bare skin is welcome. Riders just as often go partially clothed as they do nude. And of course, a country's laws prohibiting nudity can get in the way, such as in 2005 in Aukland where riders were ordered by police to put on underpants, though female cyclists were allowed to remain topless. On the question of legality, the FAQ had several things to say - here are a few of my favorites:


"A common question that seems to be coming up is, what does the law say?


Yup, it seems that almost everywhere in the world riding your bicycle naked is illegal — but still we do it!"


"The laws on nudity also seem to hinge on something called "indecent exposure". The fact of the matter is that being naked is not "indecent". There is nothing indecent about a naked body. The only thing that is indecent are the laws on indecent exposure. Simon Oosterman of the Auckland 2005 WNBR says it best: "Stop the indecent exposure to vehicle emissions!" After all, the shame is on them, not on us!


There are many indecent laws that we the citizens of the world have to stand up to, especially those that infringe our personal freedoms. "


"Police do not want to be seen confronting a large group of peaceful naked people. It's too embarrassing! "


I also loved what they had to say in response to this question:


"What about the children? Aren't they especially at risk from the adverse consequences of seeing naked people?

The idea that somehow children are negatively affected by non-sexualized nudity is a myth. Children are more likely to be curious if nudity was discouraged in their family. The only thing prudish parents have to worry about is that their children might want to get naked themselves if it looks like people are having fun. As children grow older they are more likely to resent repressive parents if they think they lack common sensibilities. "

They also have a link to an interesting essay titled "Children, Social Nudity, and Scholarly Study".


Exhibitionist? Well of course! The object of the ride is to get attention and make people aware of the issues that they're stripping and riding for. And really, think of how much fun it would be to participate. Body paint is big in these bike rides, and people can get extremely creative. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me to be a bold celebration of the human body and brilliant way of making people aware of the dangers cyclists face.


Anyway, check out http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/. There's lot's more information, including a video and a list of countries/cities with World Naked Bike Ride groups. Find a naked bike ride to participate in! I'm sure tempted to attend Seattle's next event! ^_^

In:

Battlestar Mania

I've recently begun to suffer from an unusual malady that no doctor in the world can combat. I am not alone in my affliction - my friend Bob has also been infected, so at least we are not alone in our miserable states. Taking into account where I believe this malicious disorder spawned from (and after learning that apparently all scientific names for viruses end in 'ridae'), I have dubbed it:

"Battlestarigalactiridae", more commonly known as Battlestar Mania.

You may start to notice symptoms of this plague after watching one or possibly two episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica television series. If you watch more than two episodes and notice no signs of Battlestar Mania, then you may take heart in the fact that you are more than likely immune. Unfortunately this also indicates that you have absolutely no taste, and wouldn't know a good TV show if it punched you in the face.

Keep an eye out for these signs of Battlestar Mania:

1.) After watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica, you immediately begin to feel jittery, and experience a strong desire to watch another episode. As the disease progresses, these feelings will grow stronger and stronger, and if you are unable to immediately satisfy your desire, you will resort to behavior such as screeching, jumping about like a madperson, and shaking the person next to you in despair. Watch out for hyperventilating.

2.) Later in the disease, when left at the end of an episode which happens to be a cliffhanger, after engaging in the beahvior mentioned above, you will immediately call everyone you know who has seen the entire season (no matter what time it is) and resort to abject begging to get them to tell you what happens next. Of course, you don't really want them to tell you, you would much rather be surprised when you can finally see it for yourself, but you will be completely unable to control yourself. If you begin to notice any signs of this, make your loved ones aware of this disease as quickly as possible and encourage them not to give in to your pathetic begging.

3.) You slowly begin to feel personally involved in the dramas that play out on the screen, particularly between Comander Adama and President Roslin. You may slowly find yourself slipping without noticing it until you are beside yourself with rage, yelling at the fictional characters on your TV, and/or pausing the show to call your mom and yell about the recent development that may in fact shatter your entire life.

4.) When the end of the first part of Season 2 comes to an end, you may spend at least an hour raging about how much you hate Admiral Kane, and OMG ADAMA IS SUCH A BADASS! This behavior may seem similar to the behavior outlined in #1, but do not be fooled - this is much, much worse.

5.) ***SPOILER*** When Admiral Kane is finally assassinated by the cylon, you joyfully celebrate with alcoholic beverages and high-fives with whoever you're watching it with. You may feel as though a giant weight has been lifted from your shoulders, now that you don't have to worry so intensely about the fate of your beloved Battlestar Galactica crew.

These are all the major symptoms that Bob and I have experienced thus far. Since I am not quite finished with the second part of the second season, I can only expect our condition to worsen. You may not think this affliction is very serious, but I can assure you that it should be considered with the utmost gravity, especially if someone you love or you yourself begin to exhibit signs of infection

I will continue to relate the course this disease takes, and hope that it leaves me with some small shred of dignity and sanity.

Though at this point, I am skeptical. ^_^
All that being said, I would encourage every single person who has not had the pleasure of viewing this series take a night and rent the first disc. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Of course, keep in mind that this is the main way the infection spreads....


In:

Bathroom Graffiti

The first few months of 2006 were difficult ones for me. The office where I work was in total upheaval, I was moving to a more expensive place and the bills were piling up, and my best friend's mother, whom I had been close to, was losing a battle with breast cancer.

One night my boyfriend at the time had a show his band was playing in Kirkland, and I went along with him. The show was at some shitty little dive bar, as they so often were. Towards the end of the evening I decided to brave the bathroom, because after several beers even the prospect of a filthy dive bar public restroom isn't enough to make your bladder agree to hold on for another half an hour, even if you beg. ^_^

In this restroom was more graffiti than I have ever seen. Covering the sides of the stalls were the usual anecdotes about sex, name calling, and political slogans. Crudity in black ink. Amused, I was entertaining myself by reading a few of the sentences, laughing at the improbable drawings of male anatomy, when I saw it. Surrounded by important quotes such as "I <3 Lucas, best sex ever!", "Impeach Bush", and "Katherine is a whore", was one sentence that struck me:

"It just is."

Just three words, written in small letters, diminutive next to the rest of the phrases that people had been in a hurry to scrawl across the side of a toilet stall. And I found in those three words surrounded by filth, something so profound I can't quite express it. It's amazing what you find when you really need something, but you don't know quite what it is that you need. I think about that phrase that I found surrounded by graffiti whenever I'm depressed or stressed out, and sometimes it helps. Not always, but enough. So to whoever thought to write "it just is" in a public restroom, my hat is off to you. Thank you for giving me those three words.


(visit http://www.xkcd.com/)