Rock Band – Warming Up

I have been salivating over Rock Band since its release. As a fan of music-based games, the siren call of the Next Big Thing was one that was hard to resist. A few things kept me from acquiring the game for some time, though: the high price tag, reports of less-then-stellar instrument reliability, and a set list that was heavy on newer music kept me away from the party for some time.

Finally, I decided to rent Rock Band and see if it was worth my hard earned cash. I figured a play-through of the Solo career mode on guitar would give me a look at all the game’s songs. I could then make a decision based on how much the game rocked…or not.

As I detest Blockbuster, I decided to go to Hollywood Video first to see if they had it for rent. I quickly discovered that the two nearest Hollywood Video stores were shut down, and I had no desire to drive over to Leon Valley Speed Trap, Texas. I dug up my Ballbuster membership card out of the dresser (I knew there was a reason I didn’t cut it up) and hit the road. Much to my surprise, they had the PS2 version, and as I still have my trusty PS2 Guitar Hero SG controller, it was time to rock. Blockbuster still sucks, though.

Much to my surprise, I liked more of the current songs than I thought I was going to based on just looking at the track list (yeah, I know, ‘don’t judge a book’ yadda yadda yadda). I finished the game on Medium in guitar and tried singing a few songs in QuickPlay mode, and it was lots of fun. The diffculty was scaled back compared to previous Guitar Hero games, especially when compared to the Medium = Hard stuff going on in Guitar Hero III. The Medium diffculty on the singing also felt easier compared to the Medium difficulty of Karaoke Revolution. That may be attributed to the game’s focus on the various flavors of rock music, however.

So, at this point, I knew I was going to get the game, its just a matter of when…

Waiting Inside The Box

I’m not sure which is worse: waiting for the cable guy to arrive to install your cable or waiting for the UPS guy to bring your package. To me, the anticipation is like waiting for Christmas or a birthday when you’re a kid. You know something good is coming, and you just can’t wait for the day to get there.

The main difference, though, is that you know when Christmas or that birthday is going to arrive. The Cable or UPS Guy give you the day, you don’t know the exact time they’re going to show up.

I guess UPS is the worse of the two. Unless you’re really unlucky (or piss off the CSR) the Cable Guy usually gives you a four or six-hour window, but UPS might come at any time of the whole lousy DAY. Of course, Randomizer’s Dumb Luck® means the UPS guy didn’t show up while I was at work, there is no surprise waiting for me when I get home.

So instead of tearing open my new Rock Band drums like a sleep-deprived, sugar-fueled kid on Christmas morning, I sit waiting to hear the diesel-rumble of the UPS truck. I quickly glance outside the window every time I think I see a vehicle pass through my peripheral vision. All the while precious minutes that could be spent rocking tick away. Of course, this is after I spent the day at work refreshing the UPS website every 30 minutes or so waiting for those damnable words “OUT FOR DELIVERY” to go away.

Its enough to make a man go mad!

Crispy on the Outside…

Today I went to Lake Corpus Christi in order to spend some time with the family, go swimming, eat some barbecue, and all that good stuff. As usual, I refused sunscreen on the grounds that “I could use some sun.” I’m pretty sure you can figure out what happened next.

I’m not “Lobster-Man” burned, but I’m burned enough to where I can feel it. Nothing says “good night’s sleep” like feeling like you have heat radiating from your body. I’ll be cranking up the ceiling fan tonight.

Windows Vista finally bit me in the pants, or rather Pinnacle Systems did. The version of their video-editing software that I own is at ‘end of life’ which means they are no longer working on it, and there is no Vista-compatible version. I can’t even install the blasted thing, when I try, the language changes.

Sadly, my current company has the opposite problem; they refuse to stop supporting old versions of their software long after they should have stopped. I’m hope they’re making lots of money off it, because supporting stuff that was written in the last millennium sucks.

Wii Need Exercise!

I have been curious about Wii Fit, the latest attempt at what some have termed “exer-gaming.” I’ve flirted with the seemingly unholy combination of exercise and videogaming previously but previous efforts have been hampered by techincal difficulties:

First I tried Dance Dance Revolution, which provides a pretty good workout, but can be pretty hard on the knees, or on downstairs neighbors if you’re a large fellow like myself. The short duration of the songs means having to wait in between, which is annoying, but this was on the PS2 version, so perhaps they’re fixed that in the current batch of consoles. It’s fun as a game, if you can live with the J-pop heavy soundtrack, but otherwise I can’t recommend it. Getting a decent pad also means shelling out a few bucks, the ones that come pre-packaged are alright for casual stompers, tho.

Sometime after that, I saw EyeToy:Kinetic on sale, and figured it was worth a shot. Using a wide-angle lens enables you to interact with objects placed on the screen by the game, and it offered a variety of pretty neat routines ranging from stretching to avoiding on-screen objects, to punching and kicking targets. I would work up a pretty good sweat with the game, and when it works, it works well. Sadly, the EyeToy requires a LOT of light and open space behind you to work properly. For me, this meant moving lights and furniture which added more work to the workout. Bleah.

Now we have Wii Fit, which promises to be The Next Big Thing in ‘exergaming’ and it seems to solve the problems I had with my previous attempts. It was designed from the ground up as an exercise game, unlike DDR, and it uses a peripheral that should work as advertised, unlike EyeToy Kinetic. My hope is to use Wii Fit to supplement my current regimen, which involves about 1.5 to 2 miles of walking on a treadmill. Today was Day 1 for me, and I gotta say its pretty neat.

You start out by being introduced to The Balance Board, represented by a cartoony graphic that talks in a squeaky voice like something out of a kids’ cartoon, but it seems to make sense in a Nintendo kind of way. The board itself has some weight to it, and has risers for those with thick carpet. I was a little nervous about it at first, not because of my weight (the board’s limit is 330 pounds) but because I have big feet. I wear a size 13 shoe, and my toes were just on the edge of the board. If your feet are any bigger than that, I would definitely try before you buy.

After you say howdy-do to the board, you get weighed and your balance is tested. Here’s where the bit about “OMG it told my kid she’s fat” comes in. The game uses the Body Mass Index, your birthdate, height, and a balance test to calculate a “Wii Fit Age.” The higher the age, the worse shape you’re in. In my case, the it accurately told me I was obese, to which I said “well, DUH.” The game will also adjust your Mii to reflect what physical shape you’re in based on BMI. If you have a high BMI due to being well-muscled, be prepared to see yourself turned into El Chunko (like me in the pic above) after the BMI numbers are crunched. You also set a weight-loss goal, which can be adjusted every other week, I decided to go for ‘lose 4 pounds in a month’ which seemed reasonable.

Next you select either a male or female trainer to guide you through the exercises, and I have to say they’re just a teensy on the creepy side. I know they’re trying to be neutral in terms of skin tone and all that, but solid white skin and no lip movement when they talk makes them look like the lovechild of Commander Data and a store mannequin. We’re deep in The Uncanny Valley here, folks.

The game lets you pick from 4 categories: Yoga, Strength Training, Balance Games, and Aerobics. Not all of the exercsies are available from the start, however, as you accumulate minutes doing them, they are gradually added, which I presume is supposed to provide motivation. At this point, the game feels very similar to Brain Age and its ilk, but I like Brain Age, so I can live with that. The game also lets you pick exercises at will, and recommends combinations of exercises to work certain body areas, but you are under no obligation to follow them.

What I know about yoga can be put on the head of a nail, and the 3 stretching exercises I did were simple enough. The game encouraged me along, and even pointed out when I was doing certain things: “You aren’t leaning to your right as much as you were to the left.” Neato.

Strength Training was a bit tougher, mainly due to my lack of balance (insert irony here). I dropped off the board twice, and the game recognized that I had done so. I was a little disappointed to find that I couldn’t reduce the number of reps in order to compensate for my out-of-shapeness. To be fair, though, Eyetoy Kinetic had a similar problem, in that while the game attempts to adjust for folks that are very out of shape (such as myself) it doesn’t quite do enough, but I’ll just have to try harder tomorrow.

I figured I’d take a break and try out the balance games, and they are fun, much like Wii Sports or Wii Play. One involved bouncing incoming soccer balls off your head by leaning into them. This starts simple enough, but gets harder has other items that AREN’T soccer balls start flying in. I also tried a skiing game where you have to slalom through gates. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the controls yet, but it was fun.

Aerobics were also enjoyable and felt more ‘exercisey’ than the games. There was a hula hoop game where you swivel your hips to keep the hoops going and then lean forward in order to catch additional hoops that are thrown at you. Once again, my inexperience probably made it harder than it should have been, but it remained fun. Next was a DDR-ish step aerobics game which was also fun.

According to the game, I played for 30 minutes. I didn’t really break a sweat, but I felt pretty good afterwards as I went for my afternoon walk on the treadmill. I’m looking forward to using Wii Fit to warm up before doing my ‘real’ exercise, and I think it’s a good light workout in its own right.

“The Single Guy”

I currently work in tech support, and there are four of us total on the phones. We try to always have at least two people available to answer the phone. Two of the other folks have kids, and the other is going to school and is currently engaged. This makes me “The Single Guy.”

Being “The Single Guy” means when someone else has an early class, or has take a kid to some activity, or some other kid or school-related stuff to do, I always get asked first whether I can trade shifts. Apparently, being “The Single Guy” means whatever I happen to have scheduled for that day isn’t important; I can just cancel all my plans at the drop of a hat. If it wasn’t such a small group I would refuse, but then I become “The Selfish Single Jerk Who Won’t Trade Shifts Because He Hates Babies.”

I really hate being “The Single Guy” but given that I’m also “The Nice Guy” there really isn’t much I can do, except find another job. Needless to say, I’ve already started on that…

Well, it turned out I don’t have to swap shifts after all, guess I can add “The Lucky Guy” to that list 🙂