Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Dates and the cars that take us there

To say that I love cars is a complete understatement of a real, verifiable fact. I dream of finding that rare, vintage hot rod that only needs a little wrench time and some paint (because who wants to love someone else’s color) to be the last truly awesome ride I will ever need. The reality of the situation is simple though: I (more than likely) have many years of car buying and selling ahead of me.
I have had a sick amount of vehicles in my day. My very first ride was a 1972 Chevelle Malibu. I remember her as a sleek sexy ride. She was obviously old when my Grand Father gave her to me in 1992 with the instruction that I had a few years before I was going to be driving and I should use that time to restore her. 2007 (that would be 15 years later) saw me finally selling her, unrestored, since I didn’t want to leave her in storage while I spent my time over seas.
I actually let the Malibu go very cheap. I had offers over the years while the old girl was running that ranged from insulting to outrageous. I sold her to a man and his son who planned to rebuild her together. Somehow it felt right. One day I will either find her again or another big bottomed lady like her and I will let the Chevelle ride again.
I had  three or four vehicles before I really fell in love with a car again. My uncle sold me a truck as I was going through my divorce. My little brown 84 F150 was a total beater. I didn’t ever really plan to fix it up, but I certainly drove the tires off of it. I loved the truck and so too did my father. So much so that when I found a bright yellow 83 F150 I bought it for him. A year or so later my brown truck died and I scrapped it. Old Yellar is still kicking around, though the time has finally come that I have to decide if I will sell it or fix it up. Dad put it to thought and decided to buy himself another old truck instead of working on the truck. I have to admit getting 10 years out of a $700 investment is probably more than my money’s worth.
I loved the trucks enough that I bought two more of them.
The Bronco was my dream car. It had a 351 Windsor that could pull an ornery elephant around. It was fast and powerful. It had performance exhaust and sounded amazing. I could sum up it’s best feature in two words: Convertible truck! Had it only got more than 6 miles to the gallon I might have kept it.
I bought the F150 as an attempt at NOT fixing up the older trucks. It had a built 302 and thanks to my lead foot I found out the bad boy was super quick. I loved it until I had a fender bender and had to sell it to pay off the damages.I still miss those two trucks.
The Bronco did give me something wonderful: a 1994 Izusu Trooper. She has given me about 7 years of good service up until recently when the seals have all started leaking. My spark plugs have all fouled out and my cute, sporty SUV that got nearly 30 miles to the gallon now barely sputters out 10 mpg. Which is why I found myself in great internal debate on the fix it up or sell it front.<
I priced an engine overhaul kit. I have looked for rebuilt engines. Ultimately the price of fixing up the mechanical portions of the engine is almost worth more than the Trooper. So I have found myself in a very unhappy position of trying to figure out what to do with my truck. So I talked to my Mom. I talked to my Dad. I talked to my old boss from the parts store. I even passed the time chatting with a few of my customers about my ordeal.
Riding along with my wife I finally blurted out all my anguish about my dying Trooper. I laid out all my confusion and all the alternatives that I saw. I tried to lay out all the logical reasons to do one thing or another. Half way through my rambling the wife gets this cute almost shy little smile. So I asked her what I should do and she smiled and replied,”Baby we went on our first date in that Trooper. We have to keep it!”
That gave me my answer. While we really didn’t go out for the first time in the Trooper we did take it for our first real date. The fact that my old truck is special to my wife makes it worth keeping.
The first time we “went out” wasn’t in my Trooper. Ashley has just bought her new Hyundai and even though she was with her ex at the time she took me for a spin in it. We left the store and had a really nice ride (one of the few times I haven’t driven) and after 15 minutes or so we ended up back at work. We sat in the car and chatted for a few. I got out as she ran inside to buy something (probably cigarettes). She left with her boyfriend (who had shown up while we were gone) and I was left thinking about the really nice girl with the cute little car.
Our first “date” we ended up meeting up at O’Charley’s. I was actually so nervous I couldn’t manage to eat. After she ate and I fumbled to look like I was eating we sat for a while in the Trooper and talked until I attempted a horribly awkward first kiss. It was brief and fleeting. It also gave me cold chills. We talked for a good while and then did the whole kiss thing right.
On our first “real” date I picked her up in the Trooper and we took off to find something to do. We hit Broadway and almost immediately got pulled over. I had a headlight out. I got a nice ticket and we laughed as we struggled to figure out what to do next. I hadn’t bought the Monte Carlo yet. After a little talk we ended up playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe for most of the rest of the night.

The Trooper did play a huge role in the beginning of our relationship. I guess the old girl is due repair. If nothing else it will make me smile turning the wrench and thinking of the good times the wife and I have had in the Trooper.

Monday, May 2, 2011

To UMD or not to UMD.

The future of PlayStation Portable is ditching the UMD. I was slightly surprised at this move given the “failure” of the PSPgo. I own a PSP 1000 and a PSPgo. I had the PSP long before I got my PS3 and was very happy to find that the PSP was made triply useful by the PS3 and the introduction of the PSN store. So when Sony rolled out the PSPgo I was stoked.
Many of the titles I was spending time with were PSone Classics or PSN releases intended downloaded to the PSP. The PSPgo has a nice small stature and fits easily into my pocket. It didn’t bring anything new to the PSP experience for me, but it did make my portable gaming a little more portable. To be quite honest, it was a little less embarrassing to tote the PSPgo around with me particularly if I were to duck into the bathroom. The larger unit stuck out of my back pocket and simply advertised the idea that I was engaged in the stall. The PSPgo was a little bit of a victory in that department.
Which was all good until Final Fantasy Dissidia released. My PSPgo has a 16gb built in memory and I spent a little extra cash and put a 16gb memory stick duo. Still with massive download sizes not to mention the time it takes for said game to download my impatient nature just had me buying the UMD. The NGP isn’t going to have the UMD drive, but from what I have gathered there will be some form of memory stick drive that we can purchase. This is where I think Sony is making a mistake.
Psone games played on my PS2. So when I saved up the cash to spring for the new system I already had an entire library ready to play on the new system. I expected the same for PSone and PS2 games on the PS3. Although legend has it that some systems sold initially did have this ability, neither of my PS3s have. So I got rid of my PSone because both the PS2 and the PS3 will play the discs. I still have to keep a PS2 to play Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X2 along with a few of my favorites like Shadow of the Colossus (although as I understand it ICO and Shadow will be released on the PS3 in November) Hint hint Square-Enix re release X and X2 for PS3.
So when I got my PSPgo I knew I couldn’t pop my UMDs in and play. I hoped and prayed for Sony to do something awesome and offer a few free downloads for existing PSP UMD owners. This did not happen, but for the most part all of the games are available for download for the same price of the UMD and again that big chunk of memory and download time. Frustrating but not a fatal flaw.
So when NGP rolls out I already know I cant play my UMDs on it. Although my UMD library is quite considerable (including a UMD porn flick, I just couldn’t resist) it will fall into the realm of no longer supported media. The NGP is supposed to be able to play PS3 games which just might make it all worth it. NGP will play PSone classics according to all the releases I have heard and should be able to handle downloads for the PSPgo and PSP. I can only hope for some PS2 releases for the NGP along with some consideration for those of us who have been loyal UMD buyers. It won’t happen, but we can wish.
In the past month I have bought 4 new UMD games. Final Fantasy Disisidia Duodecim was a worthwhile follow up to the original. God of War Ghost of Sparda looks great and plays like a cross between God of War III and God of War Chains of Olympus. I bought 3rd Birthday which also prompted me to snag the PSN download of Parasite Eve. Hint, Hint Square Enix and Sony I need Parasite Eve 2. Final Fantasy IV the complete collection was must have for me. I played the After Years through on my Wii but it didn’t have the same feel as the original Final Fantasy IV and left much wanting even with the Wii Classic Controller. Somehow I think the UMD copy will bring it all together.

With that much brand loyalty it is super disappointing to hear the UMD going the way of the dinosaur. It could be argued that I would have been better off with PSN downloads of the games. Somehow though the digital copy just isn’t the same. Besides FFIV the Complete Collection and 3rd Birthday gave me character skin downloads for Dissidia. Plus my game shelf likes being fleshed out! Until the NGP hits I think I will stick with my UMDs and resent Sony a bit for not keeping things going. A good compromise would be a NPG with a UMD drive in addition to all its other features. Unrealistic, sure, but a man can wish

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seeing things the Way they are...

My blog thus far tells lots of amusing little stories. That is a big part of who I am. I am the eternal narrator. When I played games (usually) by myself as a kid I didn't really play with my legos as a kid. I built things and then I told a story in my quite little voice giving my little smiley faced lego men (and I didn't have lego women) dialogue. To this day I feel better when I am telling stories, fact or fiction, and that is the big part of why I blog when I do blog.

There is another aspect to the writing for me. I write my posts in an attempt at human connection. I think everyone craves that on one level or another. I want validation that other people feel the way I feel. Sadly even with a facebook account, twitter, and a blog I don't get it. That is the biggest reason why my blogging has fallen into a funk. Oh my I just admitted I am needy. Which is a big part of what is on my mind.

I love my stories. I also love other people's stories. I have my favorite authors all lined up on my bookshelf. Benjamin Hofff ranks high on that list. The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet have been a good influence on me in a lot of ways. If you aren't familiar with Winnie-The-Pooh I just have absolutely no way  of helping you. Taoism  on the other hand may not be a super familiar subject for everyone. Mr. Hoff explains it using A.A. Milne's characters from Winnie-The-Pooh and The House on Pooh Corner.

Both books deal with the principals of Taoism in a simple straight forward way. Pooh is a great example of the power of uncomplicated thinking. Pooh can fix things that great thinkers like Owl and Rabbit cannot because he sees things as  they are. Piglet as we all know is a Very Small Animal. While he is scared and frightened most of the time when the rubber meets the road, as it were, Piglet finds he has the courage to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Find the books and read them. They are smart, funny and enlightening, if you have any inclination to improve your happiness or the way you think find them and read them.

It put me in mind of how silly the world operates. For example, the USA is supposedly founded on the idea of religious freedom and the equal rights of all human beings to be free. Now we are starting  to call Easter a spring celebration and Easter Eggs Seasonal Spheres. If this is supposed to be a country that allows all religions, races, and creeds to coexisist then we should do just that. Instead of getting rid of all the proper names for things we should just stop being all politically correct and trying not to offend anyone and instead ask that everyone be equally understanding of one another. In fact, it would seem to me that might mean a more broad and enjoyable life for everyone. It also might get us more federal holidays.

It seems to me that we as people are trying to take away all the rough edges that make one race or religion of people different from one another. That is the wrong way to go. Instead we should all make way for one another. I, personally, wouldn't be opposed to my work place allowing a devout Muslim a time and place to pray at work. In fact, it might offend me if they didn't. I might want to join in and learn something. A little prayer never hurt anyone. I certainly have enjoyed the chances I have had to try things differently than what I was raised with. In the end those ways may not have been mine but that didn't make them right or wrong. Recycling in Germany was done very right and we as a country could take a major lesson in that arena.

Being politically correct seems like the right path, but in all reality it is Satan's plan in action. We are taking the Christ out of Christmas and the East out of Easter....oh wait that was Jesus too. When people in the States are starting to object  to an Easter bunny we might have lost our way. Next thing you know the Spring Chicken is going to be making his rounds handing out candy while Santa Claus comes around to bring presents to all the kids because it is cold out. For those of you that do not know the rabbit and the jolly old fat guy aren't religious symbols.

Come to think of it maybe they are the real religious symbols for our country and time. Perhaps the real face of our celebrations secular and otherwise are commercial inventions bankrupt of all religious, moral, and ethical value. The department of human services will be arresting parents who refuse to buy bad kids presents for the winter holiday. Police will start citing people who make insensitive remarks about celebrating Christmas or Easter.

<step down off soap box and take three deep breaths>

We all need to take a lesson from Pooh Bear and put the complex bullshit that we call valid behind us. For me I think I am going to go find a jar of honey and try to learn to be that kind of Bear. Happy Easter everybody. No matter how you celebrate or why Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Replay

I am a creature of habit. Every year I reread the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since I first picked up my leather bound “complete” edition back in 2000. An interesting side note to that statement of fact is before 2000 I had never read Douglas Adams at all. Sci Fi has never really been an all encompassing genre for me, I suppose. I also normally reread all the books of the Dresden Files annually. I was reading and rereading Harry Potter when the fancy struck me each year, but my initial distaste for the ending of “Year Seven” a.k.a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows killed my Potter lust more definitively than Daniel Radcliffe’s proclivity towards nude performances on stage.
My habits don’t stop with books. I have watched Firefly beginning to end at least once or twice a year since I discovered it. I don’t really ever seem to get tired of My Name is Earl. Most of all I replay good games as often as I can. Up until I asked my wife to marry me I still had all of my original game systems. I had an NES, an SNES, a Sega Master System, a Sega Genesis, a Sega Dreamcast, a PSone,an N64, about 4 PS2s (most of which didn’t work anymore), a PS3, a Wii, a PSP, a DS, and several Gameboy Colors and Advances.
Once the fiancee (now wife) moved in, it became clear to me that cleaning, clearing out, and updating the house were a necessary evil. She never once asked me to get rid of anything. My massive collection of Magic: the Gathering cards all of a sudden didn’t seem nerd chic. They just felt like junk cluttering up my house. All those systems both hooked up and not were still cool to me, but I figured out that I could get all (or most) of the games on the next gen systems and if I could condense 10 to 20 systems with 30 or 40 games each down to 2 consoles and a handful (pun intended) of hand-held systems so much the better.
This year I have started out early in my Final Fantasy series play through. Nearly every year I start out playing the series through from beginning to end. Almost each year the list of games in the series that I consider to be relevant and worth playing grows.
Last year I got caught up in the “original” or first Final Fantasy on by Blackberry Curve. Honestly the game was the best offering I found on the Blackberry. I spent lots of breaks at work with a Warrior, a Black Mage, a White Mage, and a Red Mage. I was always a sucker for mages. The game was great as ever even with the awkward trackball controls.
This year I have already plowed through Final Fantasy I and II Anniversary Editions for the PSP. I am working on the third installment on the DS. Honestly there is something more…childish about the DS and it makes it less comfortable for me to play in public particularly in the break room at work where I get at least 20 minutes a day of my gaming time. My PSP and PSPgo somehow seem more sophisticated and sleek no matter what game I am playing. Aside from all of that I still have the DS for the fact Nintendo is where Square founded the Final Fantasy series and it still puts out a fair amount of hits on it. The first U.S. release of Final Fantasy III came on the DS which will pretty much insure I will always have the system in my game library.
Each year my Final Fantasy series play through gets a little more complicated. I used to have to play Final Fantasy IV on the SNES where it masqueraded under the ever convoluted name of Final Fantasy II. That forever cast Final Fantasy’s continuity into confusion that requires long explanatory dialog like this one.Now I can play Final Fantasy IV on the PS3 (from my PSone copy of Final Fantasy Chronicles) or with the fairly nice remake on the DS. For the After Years sequel story line right now we all have to boot up the Wii and download several files from the Wiishop. … at least until April 19, 2011 when Final Fantasy IV the Complete Collection comes out on PSP! I am absolutely thrilled because the UMD will un-tether me from the Wii and let me play the entire saga through in one shot. So that is completely complicated because I will easily managed to finish III before April.
That is unless I stop for a Dissidia break. Dissidia 012 releases March 22nd. The game is touted as a revision and addition of the last game without really advancing the story line. I dropped my $5 at Game Stop as soon as my guy there told me it was adding Tifa from VII and Kain from IV. Again I try to play these things in order enjoying their non sequential goodness, but Dissidia is a fighter in the spirit of Final Fantasy. It stands alone for me and will easily fill the gap.
A week later I am faced with a major problem. The 3rd Birthday is being released for PSP. It is the 3rd game in the Parasite Eve series. I am such a Final Fantasy geek from the days of the NES and the SNES that I have fallen in love with a few of the Square Enix spin offs. Chronotrigger is by far the greatest of these. Secret of Mana broke my heart by not showing up in any remakes thus far. I love remakes and get really excited when no installments come out. Parasite eve will see some sales and some replay from me. I will pick up 3rd Birthday on March 29th and hope to get to it by Christmas.
Final Fantasy V will have to be a play at home experience. I will grind through the adventure to defeat eXdeath (no joke that is the villian’s name) with Bartz (who was once named Buttz) on my PS3 with my little PSone Final Fantasy Anthology disc faithfully guiding me along. I won’t even curse Square for not giving me a portable option…much. FFVI will still probably see me couch surfing. VI is probably my favorite Final Fantasy installment. It is everything great about the game without too much innovation that later installments suffer from.
Final Fantasy VII is where things get painful for me. Last year I only made it to IX before the year ran out because I played through Crisis Core, watched Last Order with subtitles, Playing VII with the guide and spent the time getting the Ultima Weapon and the Black Chocobo and then following up with Advent Children and then Dirge of Cerberus. That might well sound like heaven if you really love Final Fantasy VII. For me it was the worst game until Crisis Core was released. It was really nice to see that Cloud really was a wanna be. Zack is a great character. Cloud pales in comparison. Zack would never have let Aerith die. Of course, with Aerith spoken for and Zack still around to make Sephiroth his bitch Cloud might finally have gotten up the stones to bone Tifa….
Damn it. I hate the emo nature of Final Fantasy VII. I hate Barett. If it weren’t for the fact that at the base of it all the story of the game and the game play is amazing I would never have to admit I was a fan of Final Fantasy VII. I just wish the cast were a little less…wimpy. Well except for Vincent Valentine… for a mock Frankenstein’s Monster that dude is harsh. to steal a voice from Kevin Smith.

All this talk of VII has gotten me dreading plowing through the games. Good thing Mortal Kombat is bringing back real brutality with Kratos added to the crew on the PS3 this April. I am going to kick Milenna’s ass again on the demo. I will talk Final Fantasy more later. Besides the wife will play Mortal Kombat with me. Take that Cloud Strife!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The sounds of love for Valentine’s Day

Last year for Valentine’s day I went all out for my fiancee. I planned ahead in my gift giving and got very thorough. I will admit I was trying hard to impress. My plan was simple. I would buy my little lady a gift from each of the major categories of the love inspired holiday: Chocolates, Flowers, Jewelry, a card, a stuffed animal. I did each of those things a little special. I bought her a gold dipped rose… First off, I like it. It is a rose DIPPED IN GOLD! Secondly, it won’t rot and have to get tossed. I bought her two dozen chocolate dipped strawberries: One dozen milk chocolate and one dozen white chocolate. Strawberries happen to be her favorite fruit. I bought her another piece of jewelry:the Jane Seymour collection… well I double dipped and bought the earrings and another ring. The bear and the card were less special and specific but I picked out a very well written card and the bear was cute.
My plan this year was pretty simple. I intended to buy her another gold rose, and maybe a silver rose as well. I like silver better than gold myself. (although my wedding ring is titanium) I doubled up on my order of chocolate covered strawberries. I got her an extra special card. I bought her a couple things online that I know she will love (but that I can’t blog about now and ruin my own damned surprise). Then wifey threw a wrench in my plans.
For Valentine’s day this year she wanted a stereo for her car. I actually started to object and then I realized it was a pretty damned nice gift. First, it isn’t cheap, no one wants a cheap or thoughtless gift, or worse a cheap and thoughtless gift. Secondly, she will use it every day, unlike say the gold rose which is hanging out dusty in our curio cabinet. Finally, it quite simply is what she asked for. Everybody likes to get what they want.
So with my plan firmly in place I set about shopping for a car stereo for the wife. She had the factory system installed in her Elantra, and making an improvement was not exactly a difficult task. The only catch to that is I know the “do it yourself” brand of stereo installation that I prefer is never a seamless process.
I started out searching online trying to find the specs for what would fit in the Hyundai. I have never had a Hyundai. In fact, riding in Ashley’s Elantra has been my only interaction with the company. I think they a simply engineered, efficient and well running little cars. I actually like the boiled down to basics approach to the car. Though the idea of putting a stereo into a compact car isn’t fun for me at my size.
Within five minutes of searching I came across the Crutchfield website. (www.crutchfield.com) They have a cute little tool called Outfit my Car. The principal of which is simple : You input year, make, and model and it only outputs equipment that can work with your vehicle. I am nowhere near naive enough to believe that I could simply plug and play anything except original equipment, but now with everything “done” I have to say that the Crutchfield actually was a big help.
Once I had zeroed in on a few places to shop ( bestbuy, crutchfield, and walmart.com were all I searched) I decided I better talk to the wife a little more about what she wanted in her new system. I asked the question direct and she looked at me like I had lobsters crawling from my ears. So I got specific. “Baby what do you want your new stereo to do,” says I..
With a sceptical look from my beautiful bride she replies,” Play music.”
” Yes, baby, I figured that, but do you want it to play CDs, USB, have bluetooth, play an ipod…”
“I want it to be pink,” says Ashley in the tone and demeanor of a caring mother explaining something to a completely inane and stupid child.
And my heart sank…
No where that I have seen offers a search engine that gives an option for “pink face plate” or “lights up pink”. I shopped around on Crutchfield until I found a cute little Sony that seemed to have a pink lit set of buttons. The wife came home from work and I presented my find. She agreed with me. I picked out a receiver that was sold with a pair of 6 inch speakers. The price was very fair. The included install instructions were damned near priceless. If you can buy from the Crutchfield do so…. and if they suggest buying an extra install kit or anything else, listen to them and buy it. I didn’t and it was a little… creative getting everything installed.
Honestly, I am kind of proud of the way things turned out. After 4 trips to town: 1 for butt connectors, 1 for speaker wire and more butt connectors, 1 for a book on the Elantra, and 1 for new 6 x 9 speakers. my Dad and I managed to finish up the install. The wife seems pretty happy and as soon as I get this spell checked and posted I have every intention of making her a mix…. usb drive. Wow that is a neat new thing. No longer a mix tape or a mix CD but just a mix of files from me to her.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone. I hope you are all as happy in love as I am.