November 21, 2011


The Hunger Games

Last night I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy, and I LOVED them! Its such an amazing series, I couldn't put the book down until I finished at 3:45 in the morning.

Now I can't wait for the first movie to come out next year. (They just finished filming it right here in Charlotte.) Some friends of mine have said they spotted some of the cast of the film like Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz. The movie trailer looks awesome!

These are up there with some of the best books I've ever read. They have everything: its amazingly suspenseful, its full of interesting (and deadly) technology and characters, and it has not just one, but several tragic love stories. Although it's classified as young adult fiction, the themes are very mature and the story is very dark. The characters really grab you and you feel for them, right up the last sentence.


November 20, 2011


Reedy Creek Adventures

Yesterday I went with my friends Amy and Nora to an awesome park, and I can't believe I'd never been there before. We hiked for around 3.5 hours or so then went out for dinner and to this cool store where I got these really cool zombie key covers (pictured below).

The weather was perfect for hiking. I love the sound of walking threw fallen leaves.

(walking up to the pond)

(Nora and Amy hanging on to a tree by the pond)

(I thought it looked interesting how the leaves just below the surface by the pond's edge transformed into the little cirrocumulus clouds reflected on the surface)

(at first glance this sign was alarming because the manhole cover was obscured by fallen leaves)

click here for more pictures



Never pay Full Price for HDMI cables again!

HDMI, ethernet, audio-vidual cables are not cheap if you buy them in most stores. That's were they make a lot of their money. The margin on high-end electronics is very small, and stores might even take a loss on selling them, hoping that the customer will buy all the needed accessories where they can make up the difference and then some.

I found a place just outside of Charlotte that sells only cables. You can get a 50-foot ethernet cable for around $5 there (I had to buy some for work). Just recently I stopped buy to pick up some HDMI cables and I just can't believe how inexpensive they are.

As a reference, in one last weeks sales circular I saw a 6-foot HDMI cable on sale for $29. Well yesterday I purchased (5) 6-foot HDMI cables, and (3) 10-foot HDMI cables, all for $30. They didn't come in flashy packaging, but they all have gold-plated connectors, and are capable of providing 3d. Why do I need 8 HDMI cables? A: they make nice stocking stuffers ;-)

Check them out:


November 19, 2011


Best Video Games of All Time -- Top 10

Video games are becoming more like movies in terms of quality and production value, and in terms of expected revenue and the pressure to succeed. One of the most anticipated video games of all time was just released, Modern Warfare 3, and in its first five days earned over 750 Million in sales. The first two Modern Warfare games are two of my favorites (I'm hoping the third will go on sale soon).

I don't play video games a lot, I don't have time, but I do enjoy them. When well crafted, a video game can be a work of art, such as in the case of Ico, one of the most visually astounding and moving video games I've ever experienced playing, and its not that well known as compaired to games like Modern Warfare. So I thought I would make my own Top 10 list for video games, of all time. It's not going to be easy because there are so many great video games to choose from!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
The first time I ever played it was in this terrific arcade right on the boardwalk at Ocean City Maryland. (Ocean City Maryland is awesome by the way! Arcades, pizza, the beach and the ocean, haunted houses, doughnut shoppes, boardwalk fries … what more could you ask for!) I was of course at the time a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the cartoon show, which I watched after school every day. I also loved the movies. So stumbling across this arcade game was a dream come true. Althoguh I never had enough quarters to get past level 3, but it was so much fun! TMNT was later ported to the NES in what was one of the best games ever to transfer from the arcade to that 8-bit system.

Contra (NES)
I spent hours playing this as a kid, but I could never get past the fourth level even with the infamous cheat code: up up down down left right left right B A start.

Super Mario Bros 2 (NES)
The first time I ever played SMB2 was on a cruise ship, and it was built into an arcade cabinet. I'll never forget starting the game, falling through the door in the sky into a dream world, so different than the original Mario Bros, and subsequent Mario games (due to the fact that SMB2 originated as totally different game in Japan and was turned into a Mario game for the US). Right from the beginning, as your character falls through a door in the sky, it really felt like walking through a door into another world.

Super Mario Brothers 3 (NES)
After playing SMB1 and SMB2 the whole world was excited for the third game of the series. I still remember the epic marketing campaign leading up to that game. And ti was worthy of all the hype, it's definitely the best game, in my opinion, ever released on the original NES.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA GENESIS)
Of all the Sonic games, Sonic 2 is my all time favorite. I remember being so excited for this game. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was an amazing platform game, beautifully designed, and so much faster than the competition (Mario). Sonic 2 really impressed graphically and visually even more than the original, and thought the sonic games that followed on the Genesis were also stunning visually, I think that Sonic 2 is the best, I particularly loved the Aquatic Ruin Zone for its colorful and lush visuals. If I had to choose just one Sonic game to play, it would be Sonic 2.

Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion (SEGA GENESIS)
There was a period of time when an older family friend of mine had to do a project for his religious education; that project ended up being babysitting me for one day a week for a few months. As a nerd who loved video games and movies, this was awesome, because it meant that we would do one of 3 things: rent a classic scary movie (such as The Blob) from our local video rental store “Acme Video Rental and Fireplace sales”; going to 'Aladdin's Castle' the arcade at the Mall; or staying home and playing video games. And my friend David had a lot of video games, he was the only person I've known who owned a TurboGrafx-16, as well as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. We played a lot of great games … but my all-time favorite was a The Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse. The visuals, the gameplay, the music and sound effects were amazing on this game.

Street Fighter II (Arcade)
Arcades in the 90s were full of 1-on1 fighting games, and Street Fighter II was one of the first to get it right. It's main competitors were the Mortal Kombat series, and the Fatal Fury series, both excellent competition. I still remember going to the 7-11 just around the corner from my house growing up and putting a few dollars worth of quarters into this machine. Numerous re-makes of this game were released in the years to follow, with new characters being added, and improved sound and graphics. SFII was later re-released on most of the home consoles as one of the best arcade-to-console ports ever.

GoldenEye (N64)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was just released, and I'm really excited to play it. Both of the first Modern Warfare games are, in my opinion, some of the most enjoyable first-person-shooter games ever created. But these games, and the many others FPSs out there (Halo, Battlefield, etc.) owe something to the FPS game that really opened the door to genre, which was GoldenEye for the Nintendo-64. By today's standards its very limited with no online capabilities, and dated graphics. But in its day it was a smash hit and the first FPS to really appeal on a large scale.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Some days I think this may be my all-time favorite video game. It's one of the few that I've played multiple times to completion. The graphics (for the time), the music, the story, the adventure, are worthy of being considered “legendary.” There is no question to me that this was the best game in the 16-bit era and I have yet to play a Zelda game that compares to the fun of this fantastic game! Although this game could qualify as a top-down RPG, since it featured a real-time battle system its really an action-adventure game; very similar to The Secret of Mana which would come out two years later (itself another great game). A Link to the Past is one of the best video games ever created.

Ico | Shaddow of the Colossus (Sony Playstation 2)
These are originally two separate games but they share a spiritual connection as they were produced by the same game developer (and they have just been re-released together as a collection in HD graphics) so I'm combining them with this one rating. Even if they were listed separate, these two amazing games would have to each be on this top-ten list … Ico, for starters, when it came out was unlike anything before. Beautiful graphics, that pushed the PS2 to its limits, and game-play that really brought the player into another world. As Ico you awaken as a captive in a labyrinthine castle, as you escape you discover a princess and the whole game is about leading her to safety, while avoiding these creepy shadowy creatures who are bent on capturing her. (One of the novel aspects of this game is that instead of being concerned with out own health level, you're concern is to keep the princess safe as you both escape.) the castle you explore is massive and to escape you must solve multiple puzzles that are truly challenging. In Shadow of the Colossus, you are a young boy named Wander and to save the life of a young woman you must travel through a massive world and battle massive creatures called Colossi. As with Ico, the graphics are stunning, and the game-play is unique and enthralling. The game world consists of a huge explorable landscape, most of which lacks any conflict. One of the wonderful aspects of the game is the implementation of Argo, the horse Wander uses to travel more quickly across the landscapes. Eventually as you explore the elaborate world, you come across the gigantic creatures called the Colossi who each have a secret weakness which you must discover and exploit to defeat them. In this way, each of these creatures represents a puzzle to be solved. Both Ico and Shaddow of the Colossus are beautiful games and represent the best that video gaming has to offer. It would seriously be worth buying a Play Station 3 just to be able to play the Ico and Shaddow of the Collosus collection pack.

The Orange Box | Portal 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
The Orange Box is most likely my all-time favorite video game – or rather – collection of video games. TOB contains five separate games; including Half Life 2 and two follow-up episodes, but the real gem of this collection is a little game called Portal. What makes Portal so unique is in the way it takes the idea of a FPS and turns it into a puzzle game. The player is equipped with two guns that each fire circular “portals” into particular surfaces on the walls ceiling and floors. These corresponding “portals” are connected in that if the player walks or falls through one portal, the come out through the other portal. Example, if you need to get across a large pit, you fire one portal to the bottom of the pit, and one on the wall behind you, then leap into the chasm, picking up speed as you fall, then you go through the portal you left on the wall behind you and are launched across the chasm to the other side. Seeing/playing is believing. The story itself if very funny and entertaining, as are the characters. The sequel, Portal 2, picked up right where Portal left off, and was even more delightful/hilarious to experience, with more surprises than I wold have expected. Together The Orange Box and Portal 2 are tied for first place!

Honorably mentions: Super Metroid (SNES), Donkey Kong Country (SNES), Blaster Master (NES), Bubsy (SNES), Earthworm Jim (SNES), Bonk's Adventure (TG-16), Secret of Mana (SNES),


November 4, 2011


Zombie Race

Last weekend was just before Halloween and on Saturday I ran in a zombie race. Basically all the "Humans" were let loose and shortly after the "Zombies" started chasing us. We had to find a "Keys to Humanity" in each of 4 safe-zones in the woods. It was pretty fun. Below is a picture of the team I ran in with my friends Allison and Amy, and our new friend Nora, Amy's new roommate. (Allison and I were in matching clown costumes.)