Monday, July 30, 2012

Full Sail University Calls Again

A lady from Full Sail University called again recently. She was looking for Mitchua Khan and when she launched into her disclaimer about recording the call for quality purposes, I set into a crazy rant about how she was working for the Feds as part of a drug sting. She eventually transferred me to her manager and I spoke to him in my normal voice and pretended to be outraged that his rep had said so many nasty, ugly things to me. When I asked the manager if he had listened to the call and he replied that he had, I knew he was full of it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Little Big Planet Karting (BETA)

I got into the public beta of Little Big Planet Karting this week. It's a kart racing game set in the Little Big Planet universe. Racers compete against each other by driving karts on themed tracks. The primary goal is to come in first, with the secondary goal being to grab special content in order to customize your racer, kart or headquarters. Comparisons to Mario Kart are going to be inevitable, but, so far, LBP Karting blows that game away. And it's nice to finally have a kart racing game on the PS3.

The biggest draw to LBP Karting is the user-generated content. Unlike Mario Kart Wii, LBP Karting allows players to make their own custom levels and share them with the rest of the world. When creating a track in the level editor, players have the ability to customize the track as well as weapons and the rules of the race. Racing against other players online has been a breeze and has been a lot of fun, but I'm hoping that LBP Karting will offer split-screen racing for off-line multiplayer.

So far, I've had a great time playing Little Big Planet Karting, and I'm pretty confident that, once it gets out of Beta testing, it's going to be an awesome game.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Review

I managed to find some time to catch The Dark Knight Rises over the weekend. It would be easy for me to parrot the professional reviewers and simply say that the movie was amazing. It was. But, it was also so much more than that. Nolan's epic conclusion to his Batman saga provides something we rarely see in superhero movie sagas: closure.

The Dark Knight Rises is a visually stunning, multi-layered film that is bold and emotionally thrilling. Comparisons to The Dark Knight are inevitable and Nolan wisely chose Bane as the villain this time out. Unlike the Joker, who challenges Batman's very philosophy, Bane is a pure bruiser who seeks to break Batman physically and emotionally. Tom Hardy plays Bane as a brutal yet articulate adversary. Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle had me worried, but her take on the character is refreshing and she has a lot of fun with the good girl/bad girl dance. She's obviously channeling a little Eartha Kitt in her performance, which is good, but a little goes a long way. Thankfully, she never went full purr. Bale, Caine and Freeman are, of course, as brilliant as ever and the introduction of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an aggressive, idealistic young cop adds a lot to the story. Unfortunately, the talents of Marion Cotillard are under-used so that she is practically wasted. I would have liked to have seen more of her character, but there's only so much you can fit into a story as complex as The Dark Knight Rises.

I do have a few issues with the film, but they are largely just nit-picks:

  • Nolan gives us a tale where Batman has gone into hiding for 8 years and Bruce Wayne goes into seclusion over the death of Rachel Dawes. While it does somewhat fit in with the Bruce Wayne that Nolan has given us, a man who dreams of a day when Batman is no longer necessary, the comic-book Batman would never do this. Nolan's Batman is more concerned with stopping organized crime while, in general, most (if not all) takes on Batman have him wanting to prevent the sort of street level crime that took his parents away from him. 

  • The Dark Knight showed us that the people of Gotham are generally good, yet The Dark Knight Rises supposes that the people of Gotham would rise up against the upper-class on the whim of a criminal who is threatening to detonate a nuke. It doesn't wash.

  • Alfred Pennyworth would never, EVER give up on Bruce Wayne. Period. Even Nolan recognized that in Batman Begins, so having this sort of rift in The Dark Knight Rises makes no sense. There's too much water under that bridge to allow a note from an ex-lover come between them. 

  • Matthew Modine? Really? UGH! 

  • There's no real sense about how much time is passing. Bane somehow finds the time to spirit Bruce Wayne across the globe to some prison and Wayne eventually escapes and makes his way back to Gotham (how? Wayne is practically bankrupt). Yet, the streets are still clean, maintenance is apparently still being done and Bane's equipment is still running on gasoline. 

All things said, I wish Nolan's Batman didn't have to end. He could have stretched it out for a few more movies or Warner Brothers could have given the reigns to another director and cast to continue forward with Nolan's vision. Thankfully, Nolan got to formulate a very satisfying conclusion to what will probably become the definitive take on Batman for decades to come. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tiny Mouse Begging For Food

We were having dinner outside at the local Meatheads burger joint when we noticed a tiny mouse practically begging for food. It was an aggressive little thing, having few few qualms about getting within stomping distance of several diners. Generally, the mouse would appear and would seemingly beg for food. After some bit of burger of fry was thrown in the mouse's vicinity, it would grab it, take it into the bushes and then re-appear to start the whole cycle again. I took a brief video of that cute little bugger. Have a look.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ghost Town?

"You're going to be disappointed", Jim said to us.

Jason and I were pretty adamant about visiting a ghost town we'd recently read about on the Internet. Supposedly, a town not too terribly far away had been abandoned for quite some time and had a pretty fair share of abandoned buildings. It sounded like a great idea for a day long road trip. Jim had been there before, though, and he said the trip wasn't worth it. We were determined to prove him wrong.

It took a while for us to get out there, and we stopped for lunch just a few miles from the old town, which looked like a smudge on the map. The locals at the nearby Burger King knew a little bit about the place. One old timer said that there had been a small airport connected to the place back in World War II and when that went under, it took much of the town with it.

We initially passed the place up. Had Jason not noticed the abandoned gas station at the turn off, we would have missed the entire place. Turns out that this supposed ghost town was still very much alive. Sure, it had become a tiny farming hamlet, but the town boasted a few nice houses attached to some farms as well as a newly built church. The Internet had lied to us! What's worse, we'd have to tell Jim that he was right.

It wasn't a total loss, though. We did get to explore an old gas station and an old mercantile building. The buildings were pretty well destroyed, though. Thankfully, neither of us stepped on any nails in the process. Some pictures are included below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Latest Science News Plus Coupon Codes

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of SciTech Daily for PayPerPost. All opinions are 100% mine.

Whenever I'm making the rounds on the Internet, one of my usual stops is SciTechDaily. Since 1998, they've been offering the latest news in science and technology. This includes news on biology, space, and a wide range of technological topics. Even though I'm in the technology industry, I have to say that I always gravitate towards the space articles.

I just recently read a very interesting article on Pluto and how astronomers have discovered a fifth moon orbiting it. This moon, designated P5, was recently discovered by the Hubble telescope in preparation of the arrival of the New Horizons mission in 2015. I had personally thought of Pluto and Charon as binary dwarf planets, but, as no such classification exists within the IAU, Charon is considered a moon of Pluto. The other moons are named Hyda, Nix, P4 and P5.  

There's a whole lot to discover at SciTechDaily, so if you're looking for the latest in Science News 2012, then SciTechDaily is the best site to visit.What's even better is that they now offer a range of very useful online coupons and promo codes which includes Vistaprint coupon codes for all of your printing needs. As if you needed another reason to visit the site.

But, don't just take my word for it. Head on over to SciTechDaily, read some of the articles and decide for yourself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Colorado Technical University

I got a call from a rep at Colorado Technical University recently. She seemed pleasant enough, yet also seemed to be pretty anxious to move through the call without any fuss. She asked if I had a high school diploma and I told her that I did indeed. In fact, I had recently purchased one at an estate sale, crossed the deceased's name off of it and wrote in my own. She didn't stick around much longer after that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mediacom Thinks You're Stupid

While in the middle of watching Hell's Kitchen last night, my Mediacom issued Motorola DVR box spontaneously shut off. Everything else in the room remained powered on. I had thought for a moment that one of the dogs had sat on the remote again. But, no. Attempting to turn the box back on with the remote and with the button on the DVR itself did nothing. The box had obviously overheated. So, I pulled the plug out of the wall and let it sit for a while. But, still, upon my return, the box would not power on.

I called Mediacom from my cell phone this morning and got connected with their automated customer service line. When asked for my home phone number, I went blank. I couldn't recall it. Nor could I recall my Mediacom account number. I just skipped through those options. I eventually reached a menu item that described my problem. And here's where it gets weird.

The recording told me to unplug my DVR from the power outlet. I couldn't do that because I wasn't home at the time. Still, I waited for about 30 seconds and pushed the * button on the phone to indicate that I had done as I had been instructed. Then, the recording said that Mediacom was pushing a program update to my DVR. But, not knowing my account information, how could they know which cable box to push an update to? And how would that work with the DVR power being off? Obviously, this was a trick concocted by the tech support douchebags at Mediacom to ensure that the #1 troubleshooting tactic was employed before escalating the incident further up the tier to an actual support engineer. Removing the power cord from the outlet is the cable-box equivalent of rebooting a computer.

Why would Mediacom pretend to push a program update in order to get you to unplug your DVR? Why wouldn't they just say "Please try unplugging your DVR and then plugging it back in"? Because they think you're too stupid to think of it as a possible solution and they think you wouldn't do it if you were simply told to. As a former computer support monkey, I can tell you that a large number of people calling in with computer issues would claim to have rebooted their computer when they hadn't just so that they could escalate the call faster. The tech support people at Mediacom were probably running into a similar situation with their DVR boxes.

In order to make sure people tried rebooting as a trouble shooting measure, my old tech support team often told customers WHY they needed to reboot (for example "Just to make sure there isn't a program hogging up all the processing capacity"). Mediacom would do well to follow this same approach. As it stands, they're only treating their customers like they're stupid, and that's piss poor customer service. Although, I gues that assumes the customer catches on like I did.

Frustrated with the whole process, I just hit "0" a bunch of times and got connected with a customer service rep. I explained the situation, gave her enough info to have her pull up my account info and told her I had already tried unplugging the DVR. She told me I could go to my local office and swap the DVR.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sneaky Dolphin Splashes Unsuspecting Kids

There are a lot of fun things to do at the Indy Zoo. During our trip last week, I was asked by one of the ticketing agents if my daughter would like to be a "Junior Dolphin Trainer" during the dolphin show. She'd get to help out the actual dolphin trainer by issuing a bunch of hand-motion commands to the dolphin. All for the low, low price of $10. I figured, if my daughter was helping the trainer out, shouldn't the Indy Zoo be paying us rather than the other way around? All kidding aside, I felt that the Junior Dolphin Trainer schtick was worth the money. The folks involved in the show go out of their way to make the kids feel important and special and all of the kids involved seemed to enjoy getting so close to the dolphins.

The dolphin trainer played a neat little trick on the kids during the show. The children were going through the hand motions and then turned to wave at the audience. The dolphin trainer had prepared for this and, as the children turned their backs to the dolphin and waved, the dolphin jumped up out of the water and splashed the kids. Have a look at the video below:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hanging Around At The Indy Zoo

We took a trip to the Indy Zoo earlier this week. I'd personally never been there before, and tend to think of Brookfield Zoo as the greatest zoo in the area, but, I was convinced to point the car towards Indianapolis for this trip because of the interactive features that the Indy Zoo offers. And they do offer some fine exhibits geared towards the "touch to learn" types. The weather was wonderful with a slightly overcast sky, making for a somewhat cool afternoon which was a welcome change from the triple digit heat that's been rampant in Illinois. We all had a great time.

Of course, I took a lot of pics at the Indy Zoo. Here's a smattering of what I shot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man Review

The should have called it "Mediocre Spider-Man".

At the very least, Amazing Spider-Man helped me get rid of the horrible, scarring memory that Spider-Man 3 left on my psyche. Despite being better than the last film, this current iteration of Spider-Man suffers from a number of issues, not the least of which is the muddling origin story.

Yes, once again, Amazing Spider-Man tells the tale of how Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and becomes a wise-cracking superhero with the proportionate strength of a spider. And, yet, this origin leaves out key aspects of what defines Spider-Man. Gone is the lesson of "with great power, comes great responsibility". Gone is Spider-Man initially using his powers for financial gain. Gone is the spider bite being the result of a random accident that could have happened to anybody. Instead, we are given a Spider-Man with a personal vendetta who becomes a bully when he puts the mask on. The life lesson that Uncle Ben imparts to him is simply about standing up for what is right. And we have Peter stumbling onto his powers as a result of trespassing in a spider lab. While this sort of origin may work with some other super-hero, they change the essence of Spider-Man himself and do a great disservice to the character. Certainly, the origin had to be changed enough in order to distinquish itself from the Raimi films, but, I think that it would have been more effective to start the movie with Spider-Man already somewhat established and just do the origin in random flashbacks much like Batman Begins.

While Peter Parker does have great chemisty with Gwen Stacy in this film, both characters are blurred so much, they are nearly unrecognizable to fans of the comic book. Peter isn't much of a science nerd. He actually seems like a pretty cool, although somewhat Emo guy. Gwen, of all people, is the superior science student where, in the comic book, she was much less of an intellect and more of an artist. The movie ruins the classic dynamic between the two by having Peter reveal his identity to Gwen, thus destroying the arc where Gwen loves Peter yet hates Spider-Man for his role in her father's death.

By far the greatest character assasination done here is performed on Curt Conners. Amazing Spider-Man turns him into a one dimensional villan. The movie ignores his family and their struggle to cope with the monster he had become through his haste in testing the syrum on himself. No, instead we get a mustache twirling bad guy being manipulated by a shadowy figure. Conners develops a solution that can regenerate limbs/organs with the side-effect of turning him into a Lizard. So, being a scientist, his goal is to gas one of the largest cities in the world to turn everyone into lizard-monsters? It's quite the leap and I don't think the push from Rajit Ratha (horribly played by Irrfan Khan) really worked to make The Lizard's actions justifiable

For once, can we have a Spider-Man who doesn't constantly take his mask off? Can we, just once, have a Peter Parker who doesn't display his powers to crowds of people?

I don't want to give the impression that this review of Amazing Spider-Man is entirely negative. Quite the contrary, there are some great scenes. Spider-Man's rescue of the boy in the car is probably the best scene in any of the Spider-Man movies. The action sequences are amazing and the whole movie is beautifully shot and well paced. There would be an spectacular movie here if the powers that be hadn't had the desire to Twilight it up.

Although I did enjoy it, I wouldn't say I was blown away by it either. I wanted to like Amazing Spider-Man, and, I do, but I just don't like it as much as I had hoped I would.

Monday, July 2, 2012

American Intercontinental University Online Calls

I got a call recently from American Intercontinental University Online. When I picked up the phone, I acted like I was freaked out and pretended that I thought that the lady on the phone was my mother. I told her there was puke EVERYWHERE and that I had no idea how to clean it up. The rep actually seemed somewhat amused.