Monthly Archives: July 2007

Some days you just can’t win

I had one single nice customer today. One.

It’s so nice to be back at work again after my vacation.

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Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires

First of all, I would like to say that the only other game in this long-lived series that I have played is Dynasty Warriors 4, and that was a while ago, so think of this little piece of writing as a first impression of a long-lived series of games based on a very tumultuous and fascinating part of Chinese history. Now, I liked Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires. There is something very appealing about single-handedly taking on entire armies and plow your way through them like an unstoppable tank. I’m Achilles! Or possibly Bruce Lee.

The co-op mode is one of the most fun ones I have seen in any game yet to date — though that might just be because when we played DW4 the TV we had at the time was far to small to be able to handle the split screen. The only thing that annoyed me a little bit is that although there were two people playing, only the one whose profile was signed in at the time gets gamer points and achievements, not the person holding controller 2. I’m pretty sure that the technology is available to make it possible for me to get my points and badges. Just store everything player 2 does on the hard drive (anyone owning a 360 without a hard drive isn’t going to care about achievements anyway), and then when I sign in to my profile, let me access that data and upload it. Of course the game will not let me do that. In order to get any credit at all to my gamer profile for the many hours I’ve spent playing this game, I am going to have to do it all over again. Alternatively, we’ll just have to buy a second 360 and hook it up to the TV upstairs, buy a second wireless adapter to that second 360, and buy a second copy of the game, and then we can do the online multi-player co-op mode, and I can get my achievement badges and points that way. Makes perfect sense… right? No, not really.

Apart from that major drawback, major in my mind at least, it’s not a bad game. The Empire mode, with the policies and assignments, is well done and at the same time very simple to figure out and master. The many options, along with the random natural disasters and the ability to search and recruit new generals from conquered regions is all fun. As far as strategy games goes, this is a good one, though perhaps a bit limited.

In addition to the strategy elements, there is of course the fun hack-n-slash part. Whenever your ruler moves to invade a neighboring province you fight the battles out with a maximum of three generals and three lieutenants of your choosing. In single-player mode you control one of the generals, in the co-op mode we played Player 2 takes control of one of the other two. You are placed at different starting points on the map, and then have to work together to achieve the objective of the battle. The objectives are simple and very consistent: Beat up all the enemy generals, take all their supply bases, and take control of their main camp. The game play is similarly simple, a number of simple button combinations that leads to a number of similarly simple but very cool looking attacks that make your enemies literally fly across the battlefield. It’s fun.

Long story short, if you’re after a strategy game that lets you chop, hack, and slash at your enemies, a game that is exactly what it seems to be, no more and no less, then this is a good choice. However, if you want a game with any form of story whatsoever, or with voice acting that raises above the abysmal, you should probably look elsewhere.

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There Can Be Only One

Last week day off work… and here’s what I have spent it on. There are six whole seasons just waiting for me to watch them all!

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The Glory That Is Laziness

Among the most exhausting things I have done so far today was to blow my hair straight after I showered, and to search for, and find, my awesome fancy shoes. In addition to that, I have played video games, watched Highlander, and I have wasted countless hours aimlessly surfing the internet.

In addition to all the above, I also found the time to read The Book. It was better than I expected, and I am of course very proud that I was right about both Snape and Dumbledore. I always enjoy feeling smart.

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Children, and things that prevent them

I am finally back home, after a trip that can only be described as hellish beyond words.

To begin with, the large amounts of stress created by the fact that my wallet was stolen from me day two of my honeymoon, made everything a little less bearable than it otherwise would have been. Obtaining the necessary paperwork for me to travel through Europe and back into the U.S. was difficult and stressful in and of itself, despite the great help and assistance that both Swedish and American embassy employees gave me. The lady working at the Swedish consulate in Malaga was likewise extremely helpful and friendly, and if not for her the paperwork hunt would have been a lot longer and far more painful than it ended up being.

The U.S. embassy in Stockholm was likewise very helpful, the passport control officer in Philadelphia was understanding and generous, and the long and short of it is that we ended up getting me home, on time, for a lot less money than we expected. Very nice. The actual travel was less so.

First of all, every single one of the five flights we had to take was delayed for some reason or other. The first one was late leaving because it had been late arriving. Thunderstorms had delayed its take-off, leading to the delay. The thunderstorm was still very much active as we were about to land, and by the way, flying over the Alps is unpleasant. There was so much turbulence the little trays with food was literally flying all over the place, passengers of all ages were either crying or throwing up or both, and overall, it was just nasty.

We were so late coming in to Frankfurt that the airline actually rescheduled us for an early morning flight the following day, since we were not going to make the connection we had scheduled. We landed, got off the plane, and went to the airline ticketing counter to get our new boarding passes and information about which hotel they were putting us in, only to be told that they were holding the flight for all passengers off the one that just landed, and we had to go to the gate immediately. We ran, we made it, we got to our destination about an hour past midnight.

Then, after around three hours of sleep we got up and ran to the passport authorities to obtain an Emergency Passport so I could travel home, checked in, had breakfast, boarded the plane, and were on our way.

You are now wondering what all this has to do with children. Don’t worry, I am getting to that. Here it is: Parents all over the world, if your child is less than seven years old, you do not belong on commercial flights. I don’t care how urgent it is, either resign yourself to not travel anywhere you cannot drive during those seven years, or invest in heavy tranquilizers. This goes double if your little miracle is two or younger.

To phrase it differently, what exactly where you thinking, taking your two-year-old on a trans-Atlantic flight? Don’t you know that’s at least eight hours in an airplane? Don’t you know your little miracle gets tired, scared, bored and frustrated? Don’t you realize that when that happens, he screams?

If the mother of the blond wailing siren on the 10:20 flight from Stockholm to Philadelphia on the 23rd of July reads this, the fact that your kid screamed for 6.5 of the eight hours should be a clue to you that you should never, ever take him on an airplane again. The fact that passengers around you were commenting, loudly, on how irritating your little horror was, and were joking openly about suffocating him with their pillows or throwing him out the emergency exit, should have made you realize that it was a mistake to encourage his squeals and screams by wiggling his toys for him and by chasing him up and down the aisle in a game of tag.

For the record and for those of my readers who know me well enough, I would like to point out that there were several other passengers saying these things as well. I was far from the only one.

I also doubt that I am the only one who would pay decidedly higher air fares, if the airline could guarantee me that they will bar children below seven from entering the plane unless said little monsters are heavily sedated the entire trip. Whichever airline thinks of this first is going to make a fortune, if they can just avoid being sued by offended parents who are incapable of realizing that that not everyone is as enamored by their little babies as they are, and who are stupid enough to think that their children are being discriminated against.

And here is the thing: It’s not the babies. It’s you. A two years old little boy does not understand enough, and is not matured enough, to deal with eight hours on an airplane in any other way than by crying until someone he trusts saves him from this horrible place. No matter how annoying he might be, he is ultimately not the one responsible for the aggravation and insomnia he causes the other passengers–his parents are. And those parents need to realize that they and their babies do not belong in an airplane that will not land for the next eight hours. Do not travel with little children. Other travelers will bless and thank you.

Unfortunately there was a child like that wailing little horror on four out of the five flights we took to get home. The fifth flight was the one with the unpleasant turbulence, and there is a huge problem when a flight that has flying trays and vomit is the best out of five. Because of the turbulence and screaming children we traveled for a total of 38 hours, and only managed to sleep for three of them. Taking a nap is impossible with a screaming toddler three rows behind you.

Fortunately, I will not have to go through that again for a very, very long time. I am looking forward to enjoying being home, and staying home. I have traveled before, many times, but never had such bad luck and unpleasant circumstances as this time.

One of the very few drawbacks of home was highlighted for me as I stopped in a grocery store on the way home from replacing my stolen drivers license… this state is prude to the point of stupidity. For a number of reasons, at least one of which should be obvious, condoms were on my shopping list. Apparently they are considered restricted merchandise, and because of that the store puts a little block on the steel bar they hang from, to prevent you from taking the box off it. On the little block it says to see a sales associate for help in purchasing the restricted product.

Now, I am a married woman, with the rings and paperwork to prove it, and I doubt that anyone who knows me would describe me as narrow-minded, shy, or easily embarrassed. However, I do have some standards, and if I wanted to announce to a random stranger that I plan to have lots of sex in the near future, I could simply walk up to him or her and say that.

Never the less, determined to play by the rules, and always happy to make someone else more uncomfortable with a situation than I am, I found the nearest sales associate, a young man who looked to be in his early twenties, and explained that I wanted to purchase condoms and that the sign on the shelf said to see a sales associate for assistance in getting a box.

The sales associate in question looked like he couldn’t decide if he was embarrassed or amused, eventually settled for amused, and followed me back to the shelf and asked me which ones I wanted. I replied, “that one, the Magnum XL”, and sniggered inwardly when he instantly stopped looking amused. Boys and their insecurities…

I wonder though… last time I looked, the large number of unwanted teenage pregnancies was actually a real problem in this state. Would it not be in the best interests of the entire community to make it just a little bit easier, and less embarrassing and difficult, to purchase a pack of condoms?

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July 14th, 2007

I take you to be my husband,
to share with you sorrow and joy,
to be faithful to you,
until death parts us.

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Taking off

I leave very soon, to go on a long trip. It is geographically long in that it goes across the Atlantic Ocean. It is a long trip in that I will be gone for nearly three weeks. I have no idea whether I will have internet access or not while I am gone, so there maybe no updates or posts at all here for the next three weeks. (As opposed to the four or five I could get done in that time if I had internet access.)

With any luck, I will have lots to talk about when I return.

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