Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blinky Bill

Tonight I read JE Blinky Bill & the Pelicans, and I was shocked to see Dorothy Wall refer to Blinky and Nutsy and their mother as bears. I realize most people in the world can't help but refer to koalas as bears (when they're really marsupials), but it doesn't matter what they look like, or even if you're 4th-grade teacher used the phrase; Koalas are not bears.

I asked JE to tell me what was wrong with the first sentence and straight away he noticed Dorothy Wall had called Blinky & Nutsy's mother Mrs. Bear. Good eye, lad. Good eye.

A couple of pages later Blinky & Nutsy helped a field mouse's sick friend who turned out to be a porcupine. I guess she must have got sick on the migration, because porcupines are not native to Australia; echidnas are, but not porcupines.

Dorothy Wall had only one valid defense, and my suspicions proved correct, but not enough to let her off the hook (good thing she's been dead for over 60 years or I'd give her a piece of my mind). Dorothy was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia when she was 20 years old. That means she darn well should have known better than to refer to koalas as bears and echidna as porcupines.

We're reading the second half of the book tomorrow night. I wonder what other faux pas Ms. Wall can make.

Improving WoW's PvP

There are two kinds of people PvPing.

There are those for whom PvP is a means to an end, and there are those for whom PvP is a reward in itself. Don't believe the second kind exists? Just take a look at this screenshot from Saylah's blog.

For the second group of people, you don't need to do anything. As you can see from the above pic, and as the old Tarren Mill vs. Southshore grudge matches of yesteryear attested to, people who PvP for PvP's sake will always find a way to slake their thirst for combat. It goes without saying (you know, we say that, but then we still always say what we're going to say anyway) if you add PvP and provide rewards to people who participate, you'll be satisfying both types of PvPers in one hit. Economy of motion FTW.

WoW started off with a great PvE game that allowed for world PvP if you wanted to do that sort of thing, but the initial focus was more on PvE. Then Blizzard realized that people were PvPing all on their own, and doing so with some frequency, and the Battlegrounds were introduced. Way back when, Alterac Valley was a real knock 'em down, grind it out, slug fest. Battles could last for hours, or longer. There are some legendary AV battles that lasted for days where the only people that got rewarded were those playing at the very end when one of the Generals was killed.

Lately PvP has become all about the ZOMG! EPIX! what with Blizzard feeling compelled to provide some sort of reward for people who PvP, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If people are playing your game and over time they can earn a reward, but that reward is just one part of a 6-piece set, most people will keep playing and try to earn all 6 pieces. When people have to pay to play your game it makes sense to keep them happy while taking their money, because happy players stick around longer, which means more money for you. But enough about that, on with the "improving PvP" bit.

So how do we improve PvP? It's simple. We make PvP death mean something. Alterac Valley is taking a step in the right direction with its "reinforcements" system. You win by destroying the other team's towers and by killing the other players. Funny that. You win a PvP match by killing the other team more than they kill you. It makes sense that if getting killed brings your team one step closer to losing, that you should do everything you can to avoid dying, right? And yet...many players in AV fail to grasp this simple concept. They rush headlong into battle and get burned down by 5 or more players, then they Rez at the GY, rush straight back into battle and get killed straight away again. Their death means nothing to them, in fact they think they're helping, but in reality each death brings their team one step closer to losing. So how can we change this? How can we make their death mean something more? How can we get players to support each other? How can we get players to buff and heal each other and do their best to prevent each other getting killed?

Answer: Consecutively longer death penalties.

Die once and you spend 5 seconds waiting to Rez.
Die a second time, wait 10 seconds to Rez.
Die three times, wait 15 seconds, and so on.

I can see a few raised eyebrows and a few people going "Ok, he's lost it. I thought the Permadeath idea was crazy but now he's really lost it."

Stick with me on this. You've read this far; what do you have to lose?

Obviously this is not going to help you if you're the one that keeps on dying. That's not how we're improving PvP. The consecutively longer death penalty is going to hurt your team for letting you die. Ok, that's a bit harsh. Your death might have been because you were the idiot who single-handedly attacked 5 opponents, then again, you might have just got Ambushed by a very deadly little Rogue. Mwah hah ha! Um...where was I?

Unfortunately...my idea relies on the average PvPer being intelligent enough to learn from their mistakes. And if you've done much PvP (at least WoW PvP) I'm sure you're nodding your head here. I'm sure you've seen it all, just as I have. My Rogue has done a lot of AV, but one of the most memorable was actually an AV we lost.

When our Offense smashed themselves against a strong Horde defense, a small group of us held on at Iceblood Graveyard while everyone else was forced to Rez back at Stormpike. While they were unable to break through the Horde offense and join up with us, they made for a formidable Defense and the Horde were forced to win by attrition, slowly reducing our reinforcements one kill at a time.

Meanwhile, down at Iceblood GY, we were having a hell of a time, much like Saylah did in her 7-hour WSG. We were fighting real people in AV. We were actually PvPing! We had a couple of Healers, some CC, and massive quantities of DPS, both Ranged and Melee. We held IB GY for the entire Turtle, and it took a while for us to finally lose, but we had a blast!

We may not have got much Honor but we did rack up the HKs, but what made the battle so much fun was we stuck together and worked as a team. Our Healers kept healing us and we made sure we killed the Horde before they could kill our Healers. We didn't need consecutively longer death penalties, because in our case, we were PvPing properly. By that I mean we were playing as a team and supporting each other, which is what (I'd like to think) consecutively longer death penalties would force people to do. Because if they don't play as a team and support each other, the whole team will suffer as more and more people stay dead longer and longer, and I think everyone reading this understands what that means.

In case you don't, I'll spell it out for you. The longer you spend dead the less resistance your opponents face, so they kill more of your team mates, meaning even more of you are spending more time waiting to Rez, meaning your opponents are facing even less resistance, meaning they kill even more of you and have an even easier time getting to their objective. So the team that supports each other, stops each other from dying, and kills more of the other team faster, will get more of an advantage the longer they continue to play as a team and support each other.

Tanks will actually have a viable spot in PvP. Being in the front lines they're the ones most DPS will target, but as Tanks, and with Healers backing them up, they're going to prove surprisingly hard to kill. That's when your Ranged DPS, supported by your Melee DPS, starts laying into their Melee DPS who are blindly focused on trying to kill your hopefully indestructible Tanks. Your DPS kills their Melee DPS, your CC takes care of their Tank (assuming they even have one), then you all rush their back lines and destroy their Healers and Ranged DPS. And unless they regroup after Rezzing and come back as a Team, their failure to play as a Team will see them get picked off one-by-one and as has already been explained, at this stage defeat is inevitable.

Consecutively longer death penalties. It's a crazy idea, but just crazy enough to work. Then again, given the way the average PvPer behaves in AV, I sort of doubt it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Going to the Dark Side

A few months ago the WoW Guild which I'd belonged to for over three years collapsed and I ended up rolling a Horde toon on the server where my sister and her family play. With me being in Los Angeles and them being in Australia, unless they log on before dinner I don't normally see them in-game except on weekends. But this isn't much different from my former Alliance Guild where most of my Guildmates reside in North Carolina or other east coast states. I'd log on at 9pm, being midnight their time, and I'd be just in time to say good night to most of them. My Horde Guild is pretty much the same as my former Alliance Guild, although perhaps reversed. Just as I'm getting ready to call it a night, my Horde Guildmates are getting home from work and logging in. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

One thing which never seems to change is the infamous Barrens Chat. The Barrens is a central area in Kalimdor where almost every teen-level Horde players finds themselves, and when they encounter Barrens Chat which is comprised mostly of Chuck Norris and Your Mom jokes ("Who would win if Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee fought? YOUR MOM!") most players level up and get out as fast as they can. But I've noticed another constant about the Barrens, particularly the hub town known as The Crossroads; Alliance players seem to be constantly attacking it. Constantly, as in you cannot even fly through the Barrens without getting an Alert Message that "The Crossroads is under attack!"

The Alliance-equivalent of Barrens would be Westfall, and while the Horde did attack Westfall and Sentinel Hill many times that I experienced, it was not the almost constant badgering that occurs in the Barrens. Alliance seem to be there every single day.

I think part of the explanation for the reduced Horde activity in Westfall is that the only Instance there is the Deadmines and only Alliance get Deadmines quests, whereas the Barrens has three Instances (two of which cater to level 25+ players) and a Neutral Goblin-run town, so there is an abundance of quests available for both Horde and Alliance players, but this doesn't explain why lvl 60+ Alliance players feel compelled to attack The Crossroads on a daily basis. I have a couple of Alliance toons on this same server who have been through Westfall, and it's definitely a one-sided affair with Alliance being the aggressor and attacking Crossroads far more often than Horde hitting Westfall.

This weekend I rolled a Blood Elf Mage but I decided I didn't want my Mage to have an Ostrich mount at 40. I decided the Undead's Skeletal Horse would be a far more appropriate mount, but to get the Horse I need to do A LOT of Undead quests. While I had done the Undead's starting area of Brill before, I'd never worked through the entire Undead side of the map and done all their quests, so this was also a way for me to satisfy my ""Explorer" side and get a bit more out of WoW.

While doing the Undead quests this weekend I noticed that, just like in the Barrens, there is frequent Alliance activity in Tirisfal Glades. Again it seems like this area is under attack at least once a day. I can understand the Alliance presence in Tirisfal Glades because the Scarlet Monastery (a very popular lvl 30-40 Instance) is located here, but that doesn't explain why Brill and other lowbie areas get attacked. Bored Alliance players, perhaps?

When WoW first came out Blizzard were very careful to stay away from painting Alliance and Horde as good and evil, even thought it is a game of Humans & their allies versus Orcs & their allies. What I find interesting is that the people playing the traditionally "good" side seem far more inclined to attack the traditionally "evil" towns, than vice versa. I'm not saying Horde don't attack Alliance towns and high level Horde players don't grief lowbie Alliance players, because they do, but in my personal experience it is the Alliance, or the "good guys", who are the aggressors in this War.

This is only in my personal experience, and is based on observations from just a couple of servers. It's entirely possible that if you play Alliance on a Horde-dominated server that Westfall, Darkshire and Goldshire are constantly under attack, just as The Crossroads is on my server. I've seen Horde attack and kill the NPCs at Sentinel Hill, and I've seen them tear through Darkshire and kick back in the Inn, knowing nobody currently present could defeat them, but these occurrences were few and far between, but again, maybe that was just on my servers.

Many Horde players say they prefer Horde because there's far too many kids playing Alliance. While the infamous Barrens Chat may be a good counter to that, the rebuttal is the almost daily sight of Alliance players descending on Crossroads and the almost constant alert "The Crossroads is under attack!" It could be argued that many MMO griefers are not kids but are actually bored 30+ y/old guys with far too much time on their hands and not enough to do, but if we change "kids" to "immature people" then it might still be true to say that most of the immature people are playing Alliance, Barrens Chat being the exception, of course ;)

*Disclaimer - I'm not saying if you play Alliance that you're immature. I played Alliance for three years and will attest that there are fantastic people on both sides of the game, and Barrens Chat is certainly a classic example of the immaturity level of some of the Horde players. This is my Blog and these are a just few of my observations, and remember, there are exceptions to every rule.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Road Rage: Where's a cop when you need one?

Answer: Right behind you.

Liz & I met up with Xinh and Natey for Xinh's birthday dinner at Craft Restaurant in west Los Angeles, and the dinner was excellent. We ate some great food, had great conversation, basically had a great time, then we came home.

On the I-10 we got into the carpool lane, and a little bit before the Del Mar exit I saw the car behind us flash his headlights (in my side mirror) which prompted Liz to hit her breaks. Liz was doing about 75mph but this guy was still tailgating us and seemed in an awful hurry to get past.

Now we're in the carpool lane which is separated from the rest of the I-10 Freeway by a non-lane. The non-lane is blacktop but it's not really a lane; it's cracked and dirty and cluttered with highway rubbish. So on our left we have the 3-foot high concrete wall that separates our eastbound carpool lane from the westbound carpool lane, and on our right we have, to all intents and purposes, the side of the road. I don't know where the driver behind us expected us to go, but he clearly wanted us to get the &*$%!!! out of his way.

Now I don't know about you but when Liz (& I) are doing 75mph and some jerk pulls up right behind us and tailgates us, then flashes his highbeam lights at us, we're of a mind to slow down. So Liz hit her brakes and dropped from 75 to 65, which of course served to piss this guy off even more. But that's why we do it, right? Not only weren't we getting out of his way, but we were going even slower! He continued flashing his lights, but began swerving back & forth from one side of the lane to the other, as if he might pass us on our left. No, no room there. Maybe on the right? No, let's try the left again. Now let's flash our highbeam lights again. Let's just be a real prick, shall we?

I had my phone out and was considering dialing 911 to report what was clearly a case of road rage. We had one pissed off driver behind us and we didn't know what was going on. The good thing about calling 911 to report a case of Freeway road rage is that 911 from your cellphone (in California) goes straight to the local CHP dispatch, the people you need when you have an emergency on the Freeway.

But the Baldwin Ave. carpool exit was coming up in a few miles and so Liz talked me out of dialing 911. Suddenly I noticed there was a CHP car passing us on our right...in the no-mans lane between the carpool lane and the rest of the Freeway. Then I realized that this was no ordinary CHP car; this was the driver from behind us. The asshole who'd been flashing us with his highbeam lights and swerving back and forth like an arrogant prick WAS A HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER!!!

Before you jump on me and go defending our law enforcement officers (Oh, they've got stressful jobs, dealing with the public, etc) I have a lot of respect for law enforcement. When I was a young lad, and even into my teenage years, I wanted to be a Police Officer when I grew up. What I have a problem with are assholes, and that's what this CHP Officer was.

So he pulled around in front us and sped on down the Freeway and at the Baldwin Ave. exit we saw him drive into the tunnel to the El Monte Bus Station. WTF? Seriously. What the FUCK? He's in a hurry to get to the Bus Station?

Let's run back over this, shall we?

We're doing 75mph when a car pull up behind us, tailgates us (sitting maybe 10 feet from our bumper) and flashes its highbeams, then swerves left & right as if trying to pass us. When it finally does pass us, it's revealed that the driver is an Officer of the Law.

Now if the officer was responding to an emergency call at the Bus Station, why not use his lights and siren? If he has to pass us, why not hit his lights & blip his siren and let us know that the asshole driver behind us is not really an asshole but a poh-lice officer responding to an emergency. But the asshole never did that. Not once did he make any attempt to identify himself as CHP; he just behaved like your typical asshole driver committing an act of road rage.

It's no wonder people hate the police, when the ones you encounter behave like immature, self-centered, egotistical assholes, as if they're not only the most important people in the world, but the only people in the world.

We were doing 75mph. He could have stopped us for speeding. He didn't do that because he was obviously in a hurry to get somewhere. But if he was in such a hurry and it was a bona fide emergency, why didn't he use his lights and siren? The answer: because he didn't need to. He's an egotistical prick who thinks that just because he's wearing a uniform and carrying a gun and driving a poh-lice car that he's more important than everyone else so everyone else should just get the fuck out of his way.

Some people make excellent police officers, others have no business being in law enforcement; tonight's CHP officer belongs in the second category.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Samurai Sudoku

I've been getting pretty good at Sudoku. I can do a lot of the hard/expert level Sudoku puzzles w/o a cheat sheet or penciling in "possible" numbers. Then I ran across a Samurai Sudoku puzzle. Five Sudoku grids with four of them each sharing one corner with the central square, making an X of interlocked Sudoku puzzles.

Well hey! I thought, that looks fun! And I'm getting pretty good at this game, how hard can it be?

So I printed out a puzzle and gave it a try, and it kicked my arse. I can usually tear through a Hard-level puzzle in 10-15 minutes, so a Hard Samurai Sudoku shouldn't take more than an hour, right? An hour later and I hadn't even completed one grid. I had a full 3x3 square here and there, but WOW! Is this thing tough!

If you're getting bored with regular old Sudoku, why not give Samurai Sudoku a try.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where did the weekend go?

Something happened on Friday...or maybe nothing happened.

Got up, got the kids ready for school...got back home...made Liz breakfast. Complained about the heat. No baseball game...ahh. JE's after-school Golf Class finished up with a putting tournament. He shot a 22 over 8 holes, or was it 23? He was 1 shot behind 3 other kids who tied for 2nd place. When they announced the older kids' scores, being the kids 8 to 15 y/old, JE beat out most of them. The kid that won first place in JE's group shot a 15, and that was the lowest score of the day among all the kids.

There was a baseball game Friday but we told Coach that JE had his Golf Tournament, and because there was a game on Friday that meant Saturday's game was canceled which freed up our morning so we were able to attend my Bureau's Beach Party. The kids were excited to be going to the beach...so were we. It's been freakishly hot this past week, and the weekend was no exception, so it was good to hit the beach and cool off.

I did a bit of swimming and took the kids into the shallows where they messed around in the waves. The bunny spent half her time getting splashed and running back out to Liz, and half her time running back in to me. About 2pm we finally dragged them off to a birthday party where we had to bribe them with mention of a swimming pool, so that meant even more swimming. Despite a liberal application of sunscreen my shoulders and neck are pink. Not quite red, but definitely the beginning of a sun burn.

In the pool the bunny had on her vest so she was bobbing around and swimming/paddling and having a great time. She went under a couple of times and choked down some water and came up coughing and spluttering. She kept grabbing for me each time she went under, then she'd push away from me, bob around, go under and come right back to me. So the last time she ducked under she came up spluttering, grabbed for me, let out this big long burp, and then punctuated it with the remnants of her lunch. Lovely. Lucky most of it went down the front of her vest so I don't think anyone else saw what had happened and I decided discretion was the better part of valor. Irresponsible of me as a parent? Yeah, probably. But what's a little vomit compared to what else winds up in a swimming pool inhabited by a large number of young children? I'm sure that wasn't the only bodily fluid mixed in with the pool water. Eewww! Yup. That's swimming pools for you.

I dragged a crying bunny out of the pool, crying not because she'd thrown up but because she wanted to stay in and Dad was using the S-word, as in Shower. Inside the in-laws house we started up the stairs when we heard JE crying.

"Why's ge-ge crying?" asked the bunny (ge ge is Mandarin for older brother. Hard G, repeated, so probably G-G rather than Ge-Ge)

"I don't know why he's crying," I said.

"Daddy," wailed my son. "Help!"

"Where are you?" I called back.

"In the toilet," was his reply.

By this time the bunny and I were at the top of the stairs but I knew JE was in the downstairs toilet, so back down I went. I opened the toilet door and there was my son standing in a pool of water with his bathers around his knees, holding a tissue to his mouth, and blood in the toilet. He was standing in water, ok? Water. I know he was in the toilet but he'd just come from the pool and he was standing in a pool of clear water. Trying to do several things at once he'd been filling a water pistol while also relieving himself...he was filling the water pistol at the sink! Good Lord! What's wrong with you people? Oh yeah, I was thinking it too. Heh heh :)

He'd spilled water on the floor, slipped and fallen and smacked his face on the toilet bowl, cutting his lip with his teeth. Bloody lucky he never broke a tooth, especially as they're his adult teeth.

So I have one kid with a bloody lip, and one kid with vomit in her swimming vest. I yell for Liz, then run outside and call to her again. Back inside I help JE get his bathers back up and we come out of the bathroom where the in-laws are coming down the stairs to see what the yelling is about. The MIL has the bunny in her arms. I say she needs a shower but the bunny has convinced the MIL she wants to go back in the pool and that's where the MIL is planning to take her. I repeat that she needs a shower but I'm starting to raise my voice so I stop to let Liz take over. She convinces the MIL that the bunny needs a shower and the MIL and I end up switching kids. She takes JE to get some ice on his lip while I take a crying bunny back upstairs for a shower.

Once everyone is cleaned up the birthday girl's grandmother stops by to tell us to come and eat with them. They're Indian (Asian, not Native American) and they've prepared some yummy Indian food so with no dinner plans we end up sticking around for an hour or two longer than we'd planned.

One of the guys at the party was wearing a Green & Gold Australian Cricket polo, which is a very eye-catching shirt, but as I didn't know the fellow from Adam I decided to listen to him before introducing myself, and either he'd been Stateside a lot longer than I have, or he wasn't a True-Blue Aussie. Liz noticed his shirt as well and she caught my eye and gestured towards him. I put my hand to my ear but towards this fellow and I think Liz got the point because she made a definite attempt to listen to him talk as well. She agreed that he didn't sound like an Aussie. There wasn't even a hint of the Aussie drawl.

Then the FIL appeared to say goodbye (they had a Church function to go to) and I was waiting for him to notice this guy's shirt because I just knew he wouldn't be able to help himself. I knew that as soon as he saw the shirt he'd make a big deal out of me being Australian, then he'd try to push the two of us together despite that we have nothing in common other than (maybe) having come from the same country (and I wasn't sure we did). But the FIL never noticed this striking Green & Gold polo and he said his goodbyes and left without causing a scene. Thank heavens the FIL is color-blind and so an eye-catching Green & Gold polo became just another grey shirt.

After eating yummy Indian food and some delicious chocolate birthday cake we finally got away ourselves and returned home, to a very hot house. Although it was after 8pm the temperature (according to our A/C) was 82-degrees. It was close to midnight before the house was remotely cool enough to consider going to bed.

When I got up the next morning at 8am the A/C showed the inside temperature was still in the 80s. Insane!

And yet Xinh came by and the three of us headed out to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Reserve to attend the local Renaissance Fair. We went to one out at Corona a year or two back and it wasn't too bad. It seems to have gone a lot more commercial this year, with a larger venue, a lot more vendors, and some more professionally put-on shows...and the Admission price has been jacked up now, too. It was $8 for parking just to get into the Recreation Reserve, then as we approached the parking area for the Ren Fair they advertised "Valet Parking" for an additional $10.

One of the cars in front of us stopped at the entrance to the Valet Parking area and appeared to be either asking the "attendant" about the Valet Parking, or perhaps people in the car were just debating whether or not to Valet Park. But they stayed there long enough that the driver behind him grew impatient and pulled out to drive down the Self Park road. We couldn't believe our eyes when the Attendant leaped in front of this car and stopped them. Seriously. When the driver of the first car is just sitting there and can't make up his mind if he wants to Valet Park or not, why not let the cars behind him go around?

Then in the very roughly marked parking area Liz started to pull in and park beside one car when another attendant tried to direct her in behind that same car. Uh no. We're driving an SUV. We're already committed to parking next to this car. To park behind that car we'd have to back up because our approach needs to be on an entirely different line. Liz just kept pulling forward and the attendant yielded. Smart lad. 200 lbs of flesh & bone stands no chance against 3,500 lbs of SUV.

But that wasn't the end of our parking attendant woes. On the way back out we exited the parking area right next to the Valet Parking entrance. We had a temporary Stop Sign in front of us, so Liz pulled up to a stop and was letting the oncoming traffic turn in front of us as they all headed for the Self-Parking entrance, but this wasn't good enough for the parking attendant. He literally ran out in front of us waving his flags, stopped in front of us then proceeded to wave every oncoming car through. The cars kept coming and the attendant just stood in front of us, blocking our way. Never mind that we were facing a Stop Sign; the attendant was determined to make sure we yielded the right of way. Finally he held his flags up and stopped the oncoming traffic then waved us through. I swear he was being sarcastic when he said "Thank you, Ma'am" to Liz as we drove passed. She was equally sarcastic when she replied "Whatever!"

So you may have noticed I didn't talk much about what happened between us parking, and leaving, and that's because not much happened. We got inside the Fair, walked around a bit and got very, very hot. We ate, drank, walked some more, decided we'd seen enough and were hot enough and it was time to leave. Poor Xinh had to pay full price to get in (and admission wasn't cheap) whereas before purchasing our tickets Liz and I were accosted by a woman trying to give us an internet ticket. For free. Was this for real? "Someone gave me several tickets in the parking lot," she said, "and this was an extra one." We looked at the ticket, it looked fair dinkum. What did we have to lose? Liz bought one ticket and we approached the gate. I noticed the buyer's name was on the internet ticket and quickly concocted a story about how I'd given my money to a coworker and he'd bought my tickets. This was also my backup story in case the ticket buyer had printed multiple copies and my ticket had already been used. Son of a bitch has ripped me off! Wait until I get to work on Monday! But none of that was necessary. Liz & Xinh showed their tickets, the lady scanned my e-ticket, and we were in.

We looked at some pendants but Liz wasn't too fussed over any of them. I saw quite a few men in kilts but no kilt vendors, and I was all ready to buy a kilt and fully prepared to strip down and don my newly acquired clothing, but nope, it didn't happen.

The Scottish Festival is next week, down in Orange County at the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds. It was supposed to be out at Pomona but the venue was changed at the last minute. I'm not sure if we'll go. It's cheaper than the Ren Fair, and Costa Mesa is going to be a lot cooler than Pomona would be. I don't know if the thought of me in a kilt is enough to convince Liz and Xinh to go...or perhaps it's more inclined to turn them off. We'll see ;)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Improv Everywhere's "Best Game Ever"

I think the Best Game Ever Mission was simply amazing.

Background: In 2007, NBC apparently worked with IE's Charlie Todd to shoot a few missions to create a Pilot episode for a television version of Improv Everywhere, which despite the popularity of Punk'd, Funniest Home Videos, and various other 'Reality TV' shows, was never picked up.

Best Game Ever illustrates how the ingenuity and spontaneity (if IE Missions could ever be said to be spontaneous) of IE's Agents, combined with the big budget of a network television station, turned an every-day Little League game into what is quite possibly the best game these Little Leaguers will ever attend in their entire lives.

Agents posing as fans arrived dressed in team colors, or went barechested with 'their' team's name written across their chests, and by the bottom of the first innings the normally empty stands of this Hermosa Beach, CA field were packed with Mudcat and Lugnut fans.

During the second innings 'vendors' appeared and began 'selling' Peanuts and Popcorn to fans and bewildered parents alike ('selling' as in giving away for free).

Hermosa Beach Little League's Commissioner was the only one in the know (other than NBC and IE of course) and he provided NBC with photos and stats of the kids which were used to make up Programs for that particular game. An IE Agent took the Programs and handed them out to the now very excited parents.

The third innings was when the game (& everyone) stopped and stared as the truck parked beyond the outfield wall opened up and a Jumbotron screen emerged. Yes, a Jumbotron at a Little League game. You think kids go nuts when they see themselves on the Jumbotron at a regular game? Imagine being a kid at a Little League game with a Jumbotron. Your turn at bat? There's you, at bat, on the Jumbotron! You just made a double-play? Quick! Watch the Jumbotron for the Instant Replay. Very cool.

NBC enlisted the help of their own sports commentator Jim Grey, and he and Agent Todd provided commentary for the game which was broadcast over the field's PA System.

There were team Mascots.

There was the Goodyear Blimp which flew over the field (on its way to another game) and displayed the message Go Lugnuts! Go Wildcats! on its LED screen.

And at the end of the it all there was a Press Conference run by two Agents posing as Journalists.

All of the Agents stayed in character which only helped to convince everyone that NBC really were doing live coverage of the game.

I'd just hate to see one of the kids come forward in 10 or 20 years time and sue NBC and IE claiming emotional distress, etc,. Yes, it was a prank, but unlike Punk'd and other hidden camera shows this one was not designed to piss people off but rather the opposite, to ensure that the kids and the parents really did have the Best Game Ever.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday's Ten Things...

that you're really good at. (Gacked from Xinher)

1. Procrastinating (also gacked from Xinher)
2. Archery
3. Navigation
4. Lasagna (both the making and the eating of)
5. Customer Service
6. Sudoku :D
7. Climbing
8. Editing & Proof-reading
9. Finding stuff on the Internet
10. Licking

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Going once, going twice...

We had our daughter's Preschool's Open House tonight, which includes dinner and a Silent Auction/fund-raiser for the Preschool. Last year we bid on and won a pair of Two for One Admissions to Legoland, only to discover we'd actually bought "Two For One" coupons. I tried to console Liz by telling her the money we'd paid helped support the Preschool so it was for a good cause, but she was still pissed that someone would "donate" coupons that they probably got for free from a hotel lobby. The Two For One Coupons were back again this year, but I think people learned their lesson last year and there weren't many bidding on them.

I noticed a nice, silver pendant in the shape of the pink Breast Cancer ribbon, it was valued at $15 but the minimum bid was just $7. As I looked at it I noticed a young girl hovering around me. I think I was staring at the pendant for too long and she could sense I was intending to bid on it.

"Is that your bid?" I asked her, and she confirmed what I'd suspected. Her relief was obvious when I told her I wouldn't bid on it and went back to perusing the other auctions.

When I found Liz I mentioned the pendant to her and told her about the girl who I'd chosen not to outbid. Guess who had no such qualms about doing so? I returned to the pendant and looked at the bidding sheet, and there beneath the girl's name was my wife's name and a current winning bid of $9.

Apparently the girl's father had told her she could only spend $7 on the pendant (valued at $15). "Too bad for her," said Liz gleefully, clutching her new pendant. "It's mine now. Mwah hah ha!" Ok, my wife isn't that bad, but when she wants something she's not one to let doe-eyed little children stand in her way.

The big drawcard was the Live Auction where various keepsakes involving the children's art work were up for bid. There was a quilt made up of silk-screened squares of drawings from one class, an apron with handprints of all the kids from another class, a serving tray with several hand & footprints permanently printed on it. The apron was from our daughter's class but the handprints weren't labeled. To the casual viewer it could have passed for a simple apron upon which some children have wiped their paint-covered hands. We decided not to bid on the apron but it went for far more than we'd have been prepared to pay anyway. Almost all of the keepsake items went for $100 or more, except for the serving tray which still sold for at least $50. Also up for bid were Front Row seats to the Christmas Pageant, and Front Row seats to the Graduation Ceremony (where your child graduates from Preschool). The Christmas Pageant seats sold for $30 or so, but one parent (or grandparent) bid $100 for the Graduation Ceremony Seats. As a Fund Raiser it sure beats trying to sell chocolates, or low-quality gifts that you're embarrassed to deliver to your coworkers.

Vincent van Gogh

I like this song a lot better than "American Pie", and no, I don't mean the movie.

While not the original video clip (and I'm not sure if there ever was one) this is still as depressing as all hell but not only do you get to hear Don McLean sing one of his (IMHO) best songs, you also view a selection of paintings by one of the most misunderstood artists the world has ever known...or not known, I guess that should be.