Tuesday, December 14, 2010

College Saga

Entertaining, to say the least.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Death Angel: The Space Hulk Card Game

Death Angel is a card game based on the world of Warhammer 40,000.  Warhammer 40,000 (40K for short) is, at its core, a tabletop miniatures game, that has spawn video games, novels and various other media.  The full background of the universe is beyond the scope of this post, and you can read up on the series from the above links if you are not familiar.

What I will go in to is that humankind's technology has stagnated somewhat (even though they have technology far above modern time), and the Imperium of Man is always on the lookout for older technology.  One source of relics of the past are giant, floating masses called space hulks, which are a combination of space station and older star ships that have been fused together to form living areas.

These hulks usually have nasty surprises waiting for visitors -- creatures called Genestealers, from a race of aliens called the Tyranids -- think about the xenomorphs from the movie Aliens, but far more bad-ass.  They infect species to call fleets of their brethren to harvest planets...but that is another item that is beyond the scope of this post.

Exploration of these space hulks are dangerous, and thus the Imperium of Man uses Space Marines to explore them.  Not just any Space Marines, but cream-of-the-crop, bearing Tactical Dreadnought Armor (Terminator armor) to protect themselves.

It doesn't always work.

There was an older board game based on this exploration called non-so-coincidentally Space Hulk (and a limited re-release recently), and was known for being extremely one-sided, and Space Marines died quite quickly.

Anyway, the card game version is similar, in that you explore a space hulk, and try to get out alive.  Each player assumes a team of two marines from the six teams available.  Depending on the number of players, they may control more than two teams.

Each turn, players play an action card to determine what their team will do: Attack, Support, or Move + Activate.  These actions allow all the team members to do something.  The only problem is, you can't play the same card in consecutive turns, so planning is imperative.  It is a good think that this game is a cooperative venture, and everyone gets to plan among their groups.  Each turn an Event card is drawn to affect (usually hinder, but sometimes help) the marines, and spawn Genestealers throughout the group.

There are a total of five locations (counting the initial location) that marines have to survive through.  Once they do and complete whatever the text is on the final location, they win.

Easier said than done.  Often, Genestealers will spawn in the most inconvenient of areas.  In the game, the marines are presented in a column, and face either the left or right of the formation, with some terrain cards sparsed in certain portions of the formation.  This is where the Genestealers spawn, and can sometimes be behind the marines, which makes it a lot harder for them to survive an attack.  If a swarm (group) of Genestealers is too large, the marine will undoubtedly die.

My friends and I have a blast with the game, however, the number of players also increases the difficulty exponentially.  In the ten or so times we've played a three-player game (where each player gets two teams), we've won approximately twice.  Compare this to the six two-player games that have been played (each player gets two teams), we've won about two times.

Some items of strategy to keep in mind:

- Doors are your friend.  If at all possible, try to put some Support Counters on the door when you can: this will reduce the number of Genestealers remaining in the formation when you move.  The Red team is crucial for this, as its Move+Activate card allows them to put two Support counters on the door instead of one.
- An action card allows ALL members of a team to do that action.  This is highly important, as one attack could mean the different between succeeded and having a marine die.
- Protect the heavy hitters.  There are three particular marines that are crucial for survival.  One is the Red team member with the assault cannon (the one with three attacks); second is the holder of the flame on the Purple team (the one that destroys a number of Genestealers equal to the die roll); and third is the wielder of the lightning claws (using its attack card, can automatically slay up to three Genestealers in range, but has a chance to die himself).  Try to keep these ones toward the middle of the formation to exploit their ranges.  Put Support tokens on the flamer-holder when you can, in order to exploit its mass-kill effect.
- Terrain cards can only be activated once per turn.  That is, the Door can only be activated once per turn, and the same goes for terminals.
- You can't spend Support tokens from marines that are facing away from a swarm in order to survive its attack.  If you are rolling to survive from an attack from a swarm, you can normally spend a Support token to re-roll if you are facing the swarm; you can't do this if the marine is facing away.

If you are a 40K fan, it is highly advised that you pick up this game, and I'm glad I did.  I might have to pick up another copy, as my cards are getting worn.  It's available from Fantasy Flight Games, and the official website for the game is here.

Hudson Hawk

I have a very eclectic sense of humor.  So it's no wonder that Hudson Hawk is one of my favorite movies.  It came out a long while ago, and as you can see, since Bruce Willis has a much younger look to him.

Eddie Hawk was a famous catburglar, and finally got caught.  The movie opens with him getting out of prison -- then being blackmailed to go back into the business stealing some items related to a "gold machine" created by Leonardo Da Vinci (referenced in the prologue to the movie).  Highjinks, slapstick, and and one-liners ensue.  Eddie and his partner don't use a watch for crimes.  Instead, they sing songs to keep the time, and his partner often tests him on songs and their lengths.

Sadly, the movie bombed in theaters.  I really would have liked to have seen a sequel, or heck, even a TV show based on it based on the earlier years of our dynamic duo, but with bad ratings, it will never happen.

This is at least the second Bruce Willis movie that makes note of "Reindeer Goat Cheese Pizza" (the other being The Last Boy Scout).  I didn't realize it until I bought the special edition DVD earlier this year that Sylvester Stallone's brother is in the movie (one of the Mario Brothers).

It takes a specific sense of humor to "get" the humor, and I thankfully (?) have it enough.  I can quote from the movie, much to the chargrin of one of my friends who saw it for the first time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Please me!"

Sometimes you have to have a little bit of good-natured fun with your job.

This one comes from when I was teaching in Japan, at my first Junior High School.  I don't remember where I was exactly in the building, but I believe I was eating a piece of candy or chocolate.

One of the second-year (equivalent to eigth grade) girls saw me: a cute girl as kids go; probably has turned into a dynamite beauty now (but that's besides the point).  She stuck out her hands expectantly, and said in English:

"Please me!"
Now, I know what she was asking for (as well as you, reader), but as I said, you have to have a little good-natured (or is this evil-natured?) fun with the job.  I chuckled and naturally replied (in Japanese):

"I'm sorry, but you're a little too young."
She tilted her head to the side, obviously confused by my answer.  Then I had to explain what the phrase Please me" meant in Japanese.  She nodded, and I think she got the joke.

So, at my second Junior High School when a middle-aged male teacher did the exact same thing to me in regards to a cigarette, I had to reply to him (in Japanese):

"Sorry, but I don't like men in that way."
He gave me exact same confused look, and I had to explain the point to him.  He, and two three other teachers nodded, one of the few times that a non-English teacher learned something from me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laserdisc Games

Many out there might not know about Laserdisc games.  In the mid eighties (it also had a revival in the very early nineties), a new genre of game came out.  The first one was called Dragon's Lair.  The whole game was basically an animated short (or movie).  The whole game was controlled by a Laserdisc player, along with a regular processing unit.

What would happen is that the game would play an animated sequence, and you would have to react to it by using the control stick and any buttons.  If you put in the correct move, the animation would continue; if not, you would be taken to a "death scene," lose a life, then replay a certain scene.

Though critically panned, these Laserdisc games were wildly popular back in the day.  Some used footage from Japan anime series, such as Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (renaming it Cliffhanger) since creating footage was a massive undertaking: not only in manpower, but also in funds -- remember, this was before the age of computer-aided animation, where everything needed to be drawn and colored by hand.  A few games were also created in Japan, such as Time Gal, or Road Avenger.

In the late ninties, the games came back for a brief time, prodded by Sega's Time Traveler holographic game.  This brought out the abandoned Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp, as well as giving a revival of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace.

Maybe you couldn't really call them games: the general critique was that it wasn't a game, but rather a movie where you hit buttons.  In reality, that was the truth, and without luck, you tended to spend a lot of money getting to the victory sequence, which was often very brief. 

Many of them made their appearances on home computers, and console video game systems.  Dragon's Lair was the most prolific, being the most popular, but some of the Japanese ones made their way to the Sega CD system and even the original PlayStation.  Some were also ported to DVD systems, but a little unwieldly, since DVD players weren't really made to play games.

A number of years ago I made a small program in Visual Basic that would allow you to make your own Laserdisc games, and will be uploading it in the near future to my website. Check the Downloads section of my website for the program.

Getting Older...

I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm most-certainly not getting any younger.  For those of you "youngsters" out there, there is a bad thing about getting old.

No, it's not the aches and pains (which I'm starting to get).

No, it's not losing your hair (which I am starting to do).

No, it's not getting cranky (sometimes I am).

The bad thing about getting old is: looking back on the things that you should have, or could have, done.

Everyone has their moments in which they say "If I could have said 'that' back then," or "I should have done 'that' when I had the chance."  THAT'S what is bad about getting old.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I remember buying this way back when, when I lived in Ft. Mead, Maryland.  I wasn't as sophisticated back then, and didn't really know how to clear the game.  Eventually I did, with a lot of guesswork.  My dad also enjoyed playing it every now and then.

The reason I bring Metroid up is that some things, even innocuous things, can give one the willies decades later.  I've only actually played through the last stage a handful of times.  The reason being is...

...the music of the last stage FREAKS ME OUT.

I don't know why, but it just does.  Maybe not at first, but when those near-invincible Metroids start popping out, it was panic city.  Add the music in the background, and it was an absolute nightmare.  Eventually, I conquered my uneasiness and handed Mother Brain its...um...brain to it, and finished the game.

But even to this day, the music still gives me the chills...

It Was an Uneventful Saturday...

...until 11:00 PM.

I had finished up playing some games at a friend's house, and was going to take another friend home.  I had to take a leak, but the friend that owned the house was using it.  So, I just decided to use the bathroom at the other friend's house when I took him home.

And would you know it, a block away we hit a train going by, and must have hit it just as it got there.  So, my friend and I were just chatting while waiting for the train to go by.  I still had to take a leak, and was getting a little antsy.

Then my friend says, "Hey, is that a cop car on the other side of the tracks?"

I could see under the train a little bit, but couldn't see for sure.  "Maybe," I answered.

Well, the train finally ended and we went over the railroad tracks.  Sure enough there was not one police car going by, but two.

We thought nothing much about it, and I continued on.  Got through one intersection, and had to stop at another.  Once the light changed, I turned left and got about five-hundred feet when I saw a police car behind me, with its lights flashing.  I slowly pulled over to the side, thinking that he was going to go around me.

He didn't.  I stopped the car and thought, 'Okay, so what's going on?  Did I look like I was driving drunk [I wasn't]?  Is one of my tail lights out?  Are the tags expired?'

Anyway, I rolled the window halfway down as the police officer walked up to the side of the car.  I could see another one in the rear-view mirror, standing next to the police car.  I didn't freak out or anything; just wondered what I was stopped for.

"Yes, sir?"

"Good evening," he said.  "Where are you going?"

"Um, taking my friend here home."

"Where does he live?"

"Near the mall."


"Near the mall."

"Where we you coming from when you passed over the railroad tracks?"

"From a friend's house."

"Do you know the address?"

"Not off hand."

"Could I see your license and registration?" he asked.

"Um, sure."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wallet to get my license.

As I handed it over to him, he said: "I'll be honest with you.  There was a shooting in the area.  The reason I pulled you over is that your car matched the description of a car leaving the scene."


"I don't think you had anything to do with it."  He took my license back to his car for about three minutes.  I could see in the rear view mirror that there wasn't one but TWO police vehicles there.  He didn't take my registration, but I was sorting it out anyway, just in case.

A little while later, he came back, handed me my license and said, "Okay.  You're good to go."  He went back to his vehicle, and both made U-turns and disappeared.

"Wow," I said.  "Me, of all people."

My friend got on my cell phone and told our other friend to completely lock up the house.  I dropped him off, and now that I think back to it, didn't have to take a leak anymore.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pizza Hut Buffet

I'm not a big fan of Pizza Hut (I usually have Dominos, Papa Johns, or some from a local place that give big pizzas).  Every now and then, for a change of pace, you try something different.

Back when I was unemployed for a while, I went to lunch with my father, and decided to hit Pizza Hut for the buffet.  It was about forty-five minutes until the buffet ended, so we had the time.

As we ate, around twenty minutes later, a woman asked us if we wanted any cinnamon breadsticks -- as many as we wanted.  We turned the offer down, since my father and I don't eat many sweets.  We came to the conclusion that they were trying to get rid of it, since they couldn't legally still sell it after the buffet had ended.

We went up to pay the bill, and my father asked "What are you going to do with the leftover pizza?"  The gentleman at the counter said, "Throw it away."  My father offered to take some, and the gentleman handed him a couple of those personal-sized boxes, and we took what we wanted.

Apparently, this isn't uncommon, and the story has been confirmed by a friend of mine who used to work as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut.  However, the policy depends on the manager.  So if you go in about a half hour before the buffet ends, you may be able to take some pizza home with you as well.


Slot machines are very different in Japan than they are in the U.S.  You are probably familiar with those "One Armed Bandits."  Somewhat similar in design, the "plunger" (arm) is pressed to make the reels spin, and you hit the three buttons.  I'll talk a little more about them in a later post, but here's an example (as you can see from the woman playing).

Anyway, the real reason for the post is the song, called Distance, and animation from the bonus round of "Osu! Banchou" 押忍!番長 (literally Yo! Gang Leader), featuring the character named Misao.

The video for it is also included on the Osu! Bancho -- Todoroki Mix CD.  The song and non-vocal versions are located on the Osu! Bancho Soundtrack CD.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Your head will hurt when you start playing this game.  I don't mean as you play this game; rather, your head will start hurting when you first encounter this game.

From the Wikipedia article about Set:

Several games can be played with these cards, all involving the concept of a set. A set consists of three cards which satisfy all of these conditions:
  • They all have the same number, or they have three different numbers.
  • They all have the same symbol, or they have three different symbols.
  • They all have the same shading, or they have three different shadings.
  • They all have the same color, or they have three different colors.
The rules of Set are summarized by: If you can sort a group of three cards into "Two of ____ and one of _____," then it is not a set
Given any two cards from the deck, there will be one and only one other card that forms a set with them. One example of a set would be these three cards:
  • One red striped diamond
  • Two red solid diamonds
  • Three red open diamonds
In one game, the dealer lays out cards on the table until either twelve are laid down or someone sees a set and calls "Set!" The player who called "Set" takes the cards in the set and the dealer continues to deal out cards until twelve are on the table. If a player sees a set among the twelve cards, s/he calls "Set" and takes the three cards, and the dealer lays three more cards on the table. It is possible that there is no set among the twelve cards; in this case, the dealer deals out three more cards to make fifteen dealt cards, or eighteen or more, as necessary. This process of dealing by threes and finding sets continues until the deck is exhausted and there are no more sets on the table. At this point, whoever has collected the most sets wins.
A friend introduced the game to a group at a regular family game night at a now-defunct comics and game store I used to go to, and for everyone who didn't know the game, their heads actually started to hurt.  The key to Set is to let the rules sink in -- approximately one week should does it; not even playing during that week.  The next time you play it, you'll start to get it.  It won a Mensa award, and you by all means don't have to have the Mensa-level I.Q. in order to play it.

You can pick it up at various hobby stores, online, and even at Borders.  There are also many variations and other games at The Set Company.  There's also a version for the mobile phone that you can download.

Interactive Fiction

You know, many years ago, before the ages of 486s, Pentiums and all of that magnificent graphically enhanced computer sets, there was the old computer, running on MS-DOS, one in which graphics were hard to program, and computer users had to rely on something called their "imagination" (gasp!).  They didn't have graphics to illustrate a majority of things (and if they were, they were the size of what you would call Windows icons nowadays).

Text was very easy to display in older programming languages (as it is today), and thus became the core method of displaying worlds.  This is where the term interactive fiction jumps into the mix.  Almost like playing a novel, you controlled your actions in those worlds by typing actual commands like take sword or open mailbox (as you can see from the picture on the right).

The most popular of those games was the Zork series, filled with humor, puzzles to make you pull out your hair, and treasure-hunting to end the game.  Ah, those olden days.  There were many of these types of games in the early days of shareware, such as Beyond the Titanic, and some even tried to put role-playing elements into them.  The creator of Zork, a company by the name of Infocom, also created a slew of other interactive fiction games, such as The Lurking Horror or even Leather Goddess of Phobos (hubba-hubba!).

Interactive fiction still has a small but dedicated following.  Many of the games that were released many years ago can be played on the internet; one site that you can play most of the older ones is Play Infocom Adventures Online, which also includes the interactive fiction version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

If you're interested in programming your own interactive fiction, try the Inform 7 programming language that is incredible in that you create the game based on sentences constructed in English, rather than various commands used in conventional programming languages.

I had an interactive fiction feature about half done in Inform 7, and really should get to finishing that up some time in the near future.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


One of my favorite movies.  Starring the late Jimmy Stewart (you may know him from the annual "It's a Wonderful Life" movie during Christmas), it's a comedic and touching movie about preconceptions.  Based on the play of the same name.

Elwood P. Dowd has a friend, and from the above picture, you can probably see, it's a rabbit.  The movie centers around his sister trying to commit him to a mental hospital -- and mistakes and hilarity ensue.

I ran across this movie during a sleepover during high school with a bunch of friends with the drama club.  The next day, just about everyone had gone (minus me, another friends and the girl's house we were all staying at).  So, her family had rented the movie from the base video store, and we (the three of us) watched it, and I absolutely adored the movie.  I hunted it down on VHS (this was before DVD, mind you) and finally got a copy of it back then.  This movie also represents one of the very few times I my life that I have walked into a video store, saw it on the shelf in DVD format, and picked it up immediately.  If you've ever seen the movie (or plan to) I had memorized the monologue that Elwood does in the alley of the bar.

You can pick it up rather cheaply at various stores, or even check Amazon (which reminds me, I should start an affiliate account).  I also need to pick up the stage play script...

Where Have I Been?

Well, that's a good question.

It's been over three years since I've returned from Japan (July 28th, 2007)...just in time for the world economy to start taking a tumble.

At any rate, I've simply been doing what everyone else is doing: staying alive, going to work, and spending time with friends.

I know a lot of everyone out there thinks that Japan is some sort of magical wonderland, but it's not: if anything, it's just like any other country out there, but also has its own unique issues (which I'll blog about at later intervals).

Overall, I'm just living my life the way that I choose: at least within the bounds of the law.


Well, I've decided to set up a blog. Let's see if I can actually update this on a regular basis.  As everyone who has encountered me knows, that may be wishing for too much.

Anyway, this blog will hopefully have enough to keep y'all entertained while you're here. I'll try to put reviews of items, info on old movies, role-playing games (boy, some stories I could tell you), card games, and generally commentary.