Gamer’s Hangover 02.16.04

Quasi-random thoughts:

And it looks like John Kerry gets his own intern scandal to deal with. Apparently this was a known issue in party circles since the 2000 race (part of why he didn’t get the V.P. nod) but nobody had wanted to break the story until now. Between Clark’s off-the-record’ remark (Wes, your rhesus-like hollering about it only proves my theory; that you have NO idea what you’re doing) and Drudge pulling the trigger on the story it looks like the Democratic nomination just got a shot of tabloid power.

Of course, Clark was the candidate backed by the Clintons, and if The Carpetbagger wants to run in 2008, she can’t afford to have a Democratic incumbent to run against, can she? Was Clark just a guided missle for the Kerry campaign? Was all of this orchestrated by the Clintons? Did Kerry pull a Bill with an intern? John Kerry? The man with the sex appeal of a potted plant?

The main problem with Kerry in this position is that he doesn’t have anywhere near Bill’s charisma. Bill survived that mess largely because he had charm, something Kerry may have read about once. If this blows up to big, I don’t see him having the poise to successfully get the public to buy his recant.

Jeez, I need to stop listening to Limbaugh while I’m driving around at lunchtime.

But can you really blame me? It’s either that, bad Top 40 music, or I have to listen to Jim Rome “¦ that’s Jim Rome “¦ saying the same things “¦ over “¦ over and over “¦ with twenty second pauses between each phrase “¦ Rome “¦ same thing “¦ over “¦.

I guess that’s what CD players are for.

I’ve made a sort of peace with The Buster, given that I’ve saved a ton of rental money by moving to the Freedom Pass to rent my games. However, there are still times I need to rent additional games (like when I get behind in reviews and Panky threatens to send Lee up from Tulsa to break my legs). However, fair play for The Buster, they moved to week-long game rentals, which has helped the late fee situation immensely. Of course, I can still find a way to screw up a good thing, and I had an overdue game. The funny thing is this: I went in to pay the late fee and re-rent the game (I hadn’t finished my review) and the night staff (featuring the World’s Greatest Manager) told me to keep it until it was a week over due, because if I brought it back, paid the late fee, and re-rented it, it would cost me double what I’d have to pay if I just kept it for another week and paid the late fee. Entirely too logical for corporate folk, and apparently too logical for the day staff, who kept calling my house to remind me that I had the overdue game.

For those of you who missed it, the 128th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was on USA last week, as is the tradition every February. This year, Best In Show went to the Newfoundland, but amid a little controversy. You see, the Best In Show judge this year was the Working Group judge last year and awarded the exact same dog Best In Group last year. Of course, it could be that the dog shows that good, but I was pulling for the Sussex Spaniel, dammit, so I have to justify this travesty somehow.

In all seriousness, there IS a bias at that show, and a pretty strong one at that. Now, mind you that winning Best In Breed at Westminster is a big deal in and of itself. Winning Best In Group or even Best In Show is just gravy; really good gravy to be sure, but gravy nonetheless. But that’s no excuse to let breed prejudices rule the biggest dog show, and the second oldest “sporting” event in the country. To sum up my beef, one only need to look at how many friggin’ Poodles win the Non-Sporting Group. Every year it’s damn near a foregone conclusion that one of these overdone balls of fur will somehow be judged to be better specimens of their breed than any other dog in the group, if not the entire event. What makes this worse in my eyes is the obvious fact that the Poodles are the only dogs that aren’t shown in their natural state. True, there are long haired dogs out there that require some grooming, but that mostly comes down to a good comb and a little trimming, not the Edward Scissorhands-like sculpting needed to make the Poodle “show-worthy.” How can you judge the physical specimen that is a show dog when half of the damn thing is covered in a mountain of blow-dried fur and the other half is shaved barer than a porn star?

Poodles, for the record, are fantastic dogs. Their hair is naturally kinky and they don’t shed, which is a HUGE plus. They’re smart, graceful, and if you’re looking at Standard Poodles (as opposed to Miniature or Toy Poodles) they’re BIG. A pissed-off Standard Poodle is not something you want to mess with.

So I have no problem with Poodles, I just have the problem of knowing a little too much about probability, and the Standard Poodle has been bucking the Law of Averages at Westminster for a while now, as have the Pekingese in the Toy Group. Just so you know, the breeds I always pull for are the West Highland White Terrier and the Bassett Hound (we used to own a Westie when I was a kid, and my current dog is half Bassett — half Lab. One thing I’ve found out about the dog world: Labs will sleep with anything.)

Played Tony Hawk’s Underground for the first time last week. Pretty damn good. I was going to pick up Pro Skater 4 on sale but I think I’ll hold off until THUG drops in price. One problem though: After all the crap that Eric puts you through in that game, there’d be no follow-the-line event at the end if that were actually me (especially if I had already assembled a team with Tony Hawk and Chad Muska on it. Who’d need to prove anything to his candy ass?). There’d simply be a knee to the nuts, a hand removing the tape he stole, and then a baseball bat to the knees so he’d never skate again. Given the facts that he 1. Forgot’ to sign you up for the Florida meet, 2. Lost’ your McTwist over the helicopter tape, and 3. Left you to rot in a Russian prison, I don’t see how he could expect anything other than to wake up at the bottom of the Hudson River.

The Mexico national soccer (football, if you’re Misha) team beat the U.S. 4-0 in Mexico City last week, keeping them from qualifying for the Athens Olympics outright. While this isn’t surprising; Mexico is notoriously hard to beat on their own turf; what happened around the 25th minute was. Apparently some of the Mexican fans started chanting “Osama.” A bit of a stink was made about this with some of the media, but there are some things they don’t realize. First, soccer is the be all-end all of sports in Mexico, as it is in pretty much the rest of the world save Japan; so probability says you’re going to get some nutjob-level fans at any Mexico home game. Second, the U.S. has been on a bit of a streak against the Mexican team for the last couple years, including the U.S. team bouncing the Mexicans out of the knockout phase of the last World Cup.

So you have morons with a chip on their shoulder. Nothing more. I’m sure Herr Ashcroft will use the tape to try and justify some sort of search-and-destroy mission in Mexico (“But Mr. Ashcroft, you’re not Defense Director, you’re Attorney General!” “Do as I say!!”), but there’s really nothing to this other than a bunch of fans with really bad taste. I hope some of the more sportsmanlike Mexican fans at least beat the shit out of some of the jerks. Still, it could be worse. They could be Philadelphia fans.

And with that last line, Duracell prices jumped 50 cents a package.

As you read this, I have a week to go on the fascist phase of my diet. Next Tuesday I will eat “¦ probably exactly the same way as I’m eating today, but with a chocolate chip cookie after lunch and a trip to Red Beans’ for some jambalaya for supper. I’m saving my Bennigan’s/Spangle’s/Dairy Queen triumvirate until that Friday.

A couple of people have written in asking about “The Diet.” Now, I must admit that “The Diet” plan was purchased by a group of us, but there’s really nothing proprietary about the diet itself. I won’t even give which one it was because all decent diets operate more or less the same.

1. Eat five or six smaller meals a day, as opposed to three big ones (and endless snacking between those).
2. Stay away from breads, baked goods, sugar, or anything that will spike your blood sugar.
3. Drink lots of water (100-ish oz. a day) and cut back on your sodium intake
4. Exercise a little.
5. Wash, rinse, repeat.

These rules encompass pretty much every “brand” of diet I’ve read about in the last couple of years, from Atkins to Body for Life. The particulars are supposedly in the kinds of food you eat and the amount you exercise, but to tell the truth, they’re all pretty much the same too. Point is, there’s no magic combination that will make you lose weight. A little discipline will do more for your weight loss than memorizing the Atkins diet book cover to cover.

As a service, here’s the reasoning behind the 5 rules I listed above. It’s all backed by easily verifiable science, and there’s no magic or Ph.D. expertise necessary to understand:

1. The human digestive system was built more for grazing than three square meals a day. It processes a meal in about two to three hours. If the body has nothing to process, it will start to slow down the metabolism, because it thinks it’s heading into a food shortage. Similarly, if you eat too much at once, your body will burn some and store the rest as fat. The solution is to break the meals up into smaller meals and eat them every two to three hours, which leads to five or six meals a day (for me, personally, it’s 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. 6 p.m. and maybe one at 9 p.m.). This way your metabolism cruises along at a fairly constant rate and doesn’t feel the need to store any fat.

2. Breads, sugars, and other processed grains get absorbed into the bloodstream REALLY quickly. That’s why candy bars can make you hyper — you suddenly have a ton of fuel to burn. They’re also pretty dense in calories per unit volume, so you’re more likely to trip the store fat’ signal if you eat a lot at one time. There’s also a more sinister problem. If your diet consists primarily of these foods, your blood sugar will spike and then bottom out. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you ate 10,000 calories with your last meal. Your body will burn what it can use right now and store the rest as fat, and in two to three hours when you’ve burned through what your body didn’t store as fat you’ll go right back to being hungry again. This is how people can eat so damn much and still be hungry; their blood sugar is bouncing up and down like a Chihuahua on a trampoline.

So what do you eat? Fresh (or frozen) vegetables and lean meat. Some of the less sweet fruits are good, too. Rice is your staple carb, but baked potatoes aren’t bad either. I say baked potatoes, not baked potatoes drowned in cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Basically, you can’t go wrong with greens, turkey and chicken breast, grapefruit, and rice. For fruits, apples and (strangely enough) bananas are decent, but oranges not so. If you want to cheat without really cheating, you can get very low sodium sweet potato chips and find some sugar free cookies. We eat Joseph’s, a cookie brand developed by and for people with diabetes; we know it won’t spike or crash our blood sugar. The point is to eat foods that are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, evening out the high and low points in your blood sugar and NOT making you feel so hungry that you need to eat a frozen horse to be satisfied.

If you need a more detailed list of good vs. bad foods, e-mail me. The general guide is to eat your vegetables and your protein, and stay away from sugars. Above all else, EAT SMALLER SERVINGS, AND EAT THEM OFTEN.

3. Thanks to the miracle of food preservation and pre-production, we eat too damn much salt as a society. Your body needs around 500 mg of sodium a day for normal operations. Anything more than that and things go wonky. First and foremost, ingesting salt causes your body to retain water. So if you’re eating several thousand milligrams of sodium a day, you’re probably carrying around a non-trivial amount of pure water weight. The way to combat this is twofold: You limit your sodium intake and you drink more water. That way, your body stops trying to retain water and starts flushing it out, along with the salt you were carrying and a bunch of other junk. Yes, you’ll have to pee more often, but when you drop 10+ pounds the first week of your diet, you won’t mind.

The easiest way to limit the salt intake is to cook your own damn food. Roasts, turkey, chicken, they’re all pretty cheap and easy to prepare. A roast, a crock-pot, some fresh (or frozen) vegetables, let it sit all day, and you’ve got food for a couple of days on this diet.

4. The average number of calories your body uses each day just to keep you alive is in the neighborhood of 1500 to 2500, depending on your size and some other factors. Doing a little bit of exercise burns just a little more fuel than you would normally, and if you can keep it up, that little bit adds up. Also, a lot of people who aren’t really fat have pot bellies because they stopped trying to keep their stomachs tight. Even supermodels could have pot bellies if they didn’t do ab workouts. Toning your muscles, not just your abs, will make them look even better when the fat is stripped off.

I could get into the fact that muscle requires more calories in maintenance than fat, or discuss the workout philosophical differences between the Body For Life method versus the Fat-Burning Zone’ method of exercise, but the point is to do something aerobic a few times each week. Do what you want to do, but just keep doing it.

5. ANY good, healthy diet; and most of the other ones as well; will cause you to lose a significant amount, say 5 to 10 pounds, in the first week. After that, the excess water will be gone and you should settle in to losing 2-4-ish pounds a week. A lot of people get discouraged when the first week’s success doesn’t continue into week 2 and 3 and end up quitting the diet. The key to a successful diet is DISCIPLINE. Discipline in eating and discipline in working out. You have to have both to lose weight successfully. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to each a precise amount of food at a precise time each day and do a precise workout every day. That means you have some guidelines to live by, you stick to them, and you get back to them after those times that life just won’t let you keep your diet perfectly. Just today I got a call at 2:30 to go help install some servos to a simulator. I knew that I wouldn’t be back to my desk before 3, so instead of whining or going hungry, I had my 3 o’clock meal at 2:30. True discipline doesn’t abhor flexibility, it embraces it but doesn’t let flexibility become cheating.

Another thing about a good healthy diet. You never actually get completely off of it. If you’re doing it right, you’re coming up with a way that you’re comfortable eating every day. Even when the fascist part of the diet is over you’re not done.’ It’s more like you’re on parole. You get to have the stuff you really love, but most of the time you’re eating healthy, just like you were on the diet. It takes 3,600 calories to make one pound of bodyfat. That’s the equivalent of eating 2.5-to-3 1 lb bags of tortilla chips more than you burn in one day. Where people get in trouble is by eating 1/8th of a bag more than they burn EVERY day. After the proscribed fascist time (in our case, six weeks), if you can keep on the diet for five or six days out the week every week, it won’t matter what you eat on day seven. You won’t likely eat significantly more than you’ll burn, and the rest of the week will burn the excess of that back off anyway.

One VERY important bit: If you blow it, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on. Like I said, you have to eat a bunch of food to even gain back one pound. Chances are you didn’t do that much damage to yourself.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m doing. Eating healthy and often, and exercising. The payoff is that now I’m about 4 inches smaller around the waist, and in a week I’ll get to go into a restaurant on the weekend, be thin, order whatever I want and eat it, and know that because of the way I eat during the rest of the week, I’ll STILL be thin when I come back to do it again NEXT weekend. Hah!

NEWS

Resident Evil 4 — The FPS Horror Game
credit: Spong.com
So Capcom has now been hit with a leak regarding details on the upcoming Resident Evil 4. Not only are they saying the graphics are the best seen for the Gamecube yet (and some saying the best for ANY system yet, but hyperbole springs eternal) but they’re saying that gameplay will have the option of three different viewpoints: A wide, over-the-shoulder third person, a close-up over-the-shoulder third person, and a first person view. Yes, first person.

The plot has been exposed too. I could print it here, but that would be spoilers, and I don’t thrust spoilers on an unsuspecting public “¦ unless I want to. Here, I don’t; so if you want the spoilers, check out the link to Spong.

The ACC Even Wins In VIDEO GAMES. Can We Destroy Them Please?
credit: Gamedaily.com
Some schmuck “¦ what’s his name “¦wait a second “¦ David Muellerweiss from the seat-of-most-of-what-is-unholy Chapel Hill, NC (shared with Durham) won the first-ever XSN Sports Championship. Apparently his classload at UNC (I’m assuming he’s a student “¦ which is nicer than assuming he’s the dropout that he probably is) isn’t hindering him at all so flying out the L.A. to compete in six different XSN Sports titles to win a part of the $25,000 total purse was no problem. He ended up beating a Mr. Nat Barrick of Pennsylvania in a game of NBA Inside Drive 2004 to win the title. He should be counting his lucky stars that me and Berg didn’t enter in the first place.

Why am I so bitter? I have no idea “¦ other than he’s from UNC. Let’s move on before I get WAAAY too deep into Kansas state pride issues, shall we?

EA Assimilates Another Developer. Your Life As It Has Been Is Over.
credit: Gamedaily.com
EA has continued it’s Microsoftian assimilation of the console game landscape by acquiring NuFX, the Illinois-based company responsible for developing NFL Street. NuFX is also responsible for 15 other EA titles over the years, including NBA Live, March Madness, and FIFA. Yes, these were probably the same schmucks that decided Wichita State wasn’t big enough to include. They’re getting what they deserve in that case.

“After working so closely with EA for many years, it is a great opportunity for the team here at NuFX now to have all the advantages of being a fully integrated part of EA’s worldwide studio system,” said one of the people apparently keeping their job: Patrick Quinn, head of product development for NuFX.

Strategy And Sports. YES They Go Together, Bebito. And It’s By Sega. You MUST Buy It.
credit: Gamedaily.com
Actually, it’s not really BY Sega, it’s just going to be distributed by Sega Europe. And this probably won’t even reach stateside, but I hope it does because it looks quite interesting. See, Game developer Sports Interactive, makers of the Championship Manager line of games, split with Eidos and signed a five year deal with Sega Europe to distribute their upcoming games, including Eastside Hockey Manager and Football Manager 2005.

Mind you, in the divorce Eidos got the rights to the Championship Manager brand and has indicated it will develop new games for that brand in-house. Be warned.

Anyway, these sound like they’re more management and strategy based than what is widely considered “sports” games in this day and age, and it sounds fun. Maybe somebody who’s played can drop me a line about the particulars.

Yet Another Award Show Must-Miss
credit: Gamedaily.com
Finally today, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences has announced the nominations for the seventh annual Interactive Achievement Awards, the Fraggies. (Note: NOT the real nickname, but it should be.)

Proof that maybe Mr. Berg’s concerns weren’t totally unfounded after all: The leader in nominations is Electronic Arts (read: Miramax) with 29 nominations. They are followed by Ubisoft with 23 nominations and Sony Computer Entertainment America with 21.

My personal picks for the winners in each category (I’m not listing all the nominees. For that, click here.

Overall Game of the Year: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and will somebody tell me how SSX 3 got nominated for this at all, please?

Console Game of the Year: ditto, and ditto the second part too.

Computer Game of the Year: Dit. To.

Outstanding Innovation in Computer Gaming: Rise of Nations, since (to my knowledge) all of the rest of the games nominated are ports from consoles anyway.

Outstanding Innovation in Console Gaming: KoTOR again, and again with the SSX 3 nomination, and why the hell is the Eye Toy even being mentioned in terms of outstanding innovation? When you can play something as intricate as Pong with it, please let me know.

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, just because it’s the only one nominated that probably REQUIRES good sound engineering to play properly. And why the hell wasn’t Manhunt nominated?

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Grabbed by the Ghoulies just because it wasn’t made by Sony, Ubisoft, or EA.

Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: Tony Hawk’s Underground, because I don’t agree with the VGA’s that it was the game of the year, but I agree that it’s a damn good game and a step up from the previous versions.

Outstanding Achievement in Character Performance — Female: Tara Strong – Final Fantasy X-2, just because it’s the only one not named Enter the Matrix where characters might actually DO something.

Outstanding Achievement in Character Performance — Male: Michael Ironside – Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, just because that man deserves some gold. He was in “V,” for Crissakes!

Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Zelda: Windwaker. I need no explanation for this.

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time because I’ve seen the screenshots and the demos. The game hasn’t been in for me to rent yet.

Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Ditto.

Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering: ESPN NFL Football 2K4 and I don’t care that it wasn’t nominated. The others are either KoTOR or sequels.

Outstanding Achievement in Character and Story Development: Armed and Dangerous once again, not nominated, don’t care. Jeez, the same five games are being nominated for every friggin’ category? Did only five people know about this awards thing? Was there deadline somebody missed?

Outstanding Achievement in Licensed Soundtrack: THUG because the music actually fits the damn game, unlike Madden.

Console Platform Action Adventure of the Year: Viewtiful Joe, and yes, it WAS nominated, thank the Lord.

Console Sports Simulation of the Year: ESPN NFL Fooball 2K4 and no, it WASN’T nominated. ESPN NFL Hockey WAS nominated, so I guess I’ll back that.

Console Action Sports Game of the Year: NBA Street Vol. 2. Maybe the only time I’ll vote for EA today.

Console Fighting Game of the Year: Def Jam Vendetta and here’s to hoping that NWA:TNA game actually does get developed by EA Big (Okay, so it wasn’t the only time I voted for EA. Bite me.)

Console First Person Action Can We Break These Genres Up Any Smaller Game of the Year; Abstain. When things are so specialized that there are only two entrants, things are going too far.

Console Children’s Title of the Year: Backyard Baseball and don’t you forget it.

You know what? I’m tired of this. It’s the same five games almost every friggin’ time. I hate awards shows anyway. Sod em.

PIMP-LICIOUS

Pimp Coat: Berg for surviving the year, and I don’t mind being the grizzled veteran, as long as it’s a cool grizzled veteran like Ray Bourque. When I played for Wichita State, I was a decent offensive defenseman. Good passer, decent shooter.
See, I’ve always thought of the Kliq as a team. A group of guys working together for a common goal. We’ve compared ourselves to some of our favorite wrestlers in the past, and now I continue the comparing to a completely different region of stereotypes – hockey players.

Pimp Stick: Chuck, although he missed the obvious complaint with NFL Street: The fact that I liked it better the first time, when it was called NFL Blitz. (But I loved NBA Street Vol. 2. How does THAT work?)
It’s one thing to make a game where I shoot zombies, drive a sweet ass race car, or even win the Super Bowl, but I am deeply offended that EA has to coopt everything to the point that you can bet a MLB Toss game is in the works.

Pimp Boots: A-Will has a face! That’s worth some more boots, that and he obviously is wearing his out BURNIN’ UP the DDR pad. Damn, I’d be happy if I was that good at ANYTHING. (Anyone else notice that he vaguely looks like a young Sigmund Freud?)
So it looks like Sega apologized for its bad behavior, and promised to behave. Sammy also apologized for flying off the handle like that, and returned 1,500 shares of stock as a peace offering, but with a STERN warning as to not do announce games for the N-Gage again.

This week’s Ho Train:
Lee apparently shares my love of The Learning Channel and affiliated networks. Although I fall in the Trading Spaces/Junkyard Wars camp more. Paige Davis and Amy Wynn Pastor, kids. Two damn fine reasons for straight men to watch that show.
Lucard has forgotten more about RPG’s than I have ever known. All hail his dark spooky majesty.
L.C. discusses RPGs too. Why do I get the feeling he played Fallout with the strategy of “Kill everybody you come across. Bad guys, dogs, children, everybody.”?
Freddie gets his IQ on with some Dr. Mario. A classic to be sure, but most of the times when me and my pals tried playing it, we ended up turning it off and just playing chess instead. This comment has no point.
Misha MST’s an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto. Hmmm. Williams, Laflin as Crow, and Misha as Tom Servo. It just might work.
And let’s see how long Szulczewski (I just like typing his name) and I can trade pimps. And he brought up the one game I completely missed in my little commentary on vaporware a couple of weeks back. Read him, and don’t be “¦ well “¦ TOO frightened.

Next week. News. Whatever else. This week SHOULD have my reviews of March Madness 2004 and Armed and Dangerous.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory