Since my Xbox is on the fritz and being repaired for the second time I do more reading about video games then playing.  This is a pretty good blog on the state of the video game industry.  If you search in his archives there is a particularly interesting series of posts regarding a game called Bioshock which is quite extraordinary.  What makes the game different is that you actually get to make moral choices during the game that impact what occurs.  The game is set in a underwater 1920’s era ‘utopia.’  Apparently it is a combination of literary themes from the works of Ayn Rand and Dostoyevsky.  I’m currently reading “Atlas Shrugged” partly in an effort to more fully appreciate aspects of the game.  The moral choice shows up after you defeat one of these lumbering giant guys dressed in a diver suit called a ‘big-daddy.’  Big daddies always travel with ‘little sisters’ who are these really creepy looking little girls with giant syringes.  After killing the big daddy you can grab the little girl and use her to gain more credits to tweak your powers or you can free her and turn her back into a real girl (but you get less credits this way).  It’s pretty unique in that you have to realize the game is going to reward you or punish you in some way otherwise the choice wouldn’t be there.  Just imagine having to think about the moral application of making mario jump on that turtle…you mass murderer.

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I purchased an Xbox 360 back in November of ’06.  Within the first month it started doing weird things, namely telling me that various games were “dirty discs” and could not be read.  I did the usual thing and would restart the machine and usually the problem went away.  The error came up a lot more frequently with my copy of Gears of War but seemed to go away after I replaced that game with a different copy.  After those initial snafus, things worked more or less great until about a month ago.  I had bought Bioshock and was really enjoying it when my Xbox started going crazy.  After numerous freezes while playing I finally got the “red ring of death” and the machine was dead.  I called customer support and got them to mail me a box since Microsoft extended their warranty by 3 years because of this exact problem.  I was annoyed that my Xbox was going to be gone for over 3 weeks right after I purchased a really fun game, but I figured all of the annoying little problems would be fixed and that would be it.  I was so wrong. 

 Last week I got my “refurbished” Xbox back from the repair center.  I plugged everything in and even set up the wireless and it all worked.  I was hopeful at this point.  As soon as I put Bioshock in the disc tray and turned it on I heard a horrible scratching sound and the screen froze.  I pulled out my disc and discovered that it had been scratched by this “new” Xbox and of course the machine was flashing the dreaded red ring at me all over again.  I was pretty angry at this point and called the customer support people.  I got some guy named Seamus who honestly seemed as surprised as I was.  I told him what happened and tried not to take out my frustration on him as I know how much it sucks to be in customer support.  He apologized and talked to some supervisor who offered me a free game for my trouble.  A free game is great but they offered me a choice from 4 games, none of which retails for more than $20, additionally I don’t have a working system to even play the game on, so it’s pretty useless.  Now I have to wait for the box to come in the mail, to ship it back to TX to get fixed and hopefully get my Xbox back before Thanksgiving.  Thanks a lot Microsoft. 

If you ever are considering buying an Xbox 360, do your homework.  I think the new breed of machine may be more reliable, but there’s a reason the company took the hit on the chin and extended everyone’s warranty by 3 years because of this problem.  The Fedex guy even said that my xbox was the 3rd getting shipped out of his store THAT DAY!  There’s obviously some fundamental hardware problem in the first few generations of the machine that Microsoft is not owning up to and they are putting their customers through this ridiculous repair rigamarole to try and hide it.  They should really just send out new, current generation machines with quality hardware.  My old battered PS2 is still kicking around and I never had a problem with it. 

So my brother turned me onto Lifehacker.com which is a blog that offers links to a lot of utilities that supposedly can streamline your daily routine.  I’ve had a lot of down time recently and have read through them and there are definitely diamonds in the rough, but there’s a lot of rough.  Take for example this genius idea: a website that allows you to keep track of food expiration dates.   You would have to be beyond obsessive compulsive to use this site.  Can you imagine someone going to the grocery store and them coming home and typing each product into this website to make sure that their canned peaches hadn’t expired?  What’s wrong with opening the carton of milk, smelling it and either tossing it or using it?  The amount of time and effort it would take to catalogue your food and then track it and remember to check this website each time you were about to cook would completely nullify any potential benefits the utility could offer.  This is dumb. 

MacawAngry Monkeys. Click image to expand.So I’m taking some inspiration from Ricky Gervais’ award winning podcast and putting up some interesting monkey news this week (As an aside, if you have never heard his podcast go download it immediately, it is hilarious).  Apparently in India roving bands of monkeys are ravaging the city.  The link will tell you how to fight off monkeys or at least not get bit if you are so inclined.  Apparently one method the city officials are using is chaining larger monkeys in front of buildings to scare off the smaller monkeys.  This technique reminds me of an older Simpsons episode where Bart finds some eggs and takes care of them only to realize they are an invasive species of lizard when they hatch.  The lizards multiply rapidly and destroy the town until the city council suggests bringing in some type of bird to eat the lizard, which itself would necessitate bringing in some sort of ape to eat the bird and so on and so forth.  Long story short, I wish I had a monkey used as a watchdog in front of my building.  I would talk to him at lunch.

This may be just as funny as “Blades of Glory.”  I also think the acting skill of the little girl is quite comparable to that of Jon Heder.  Check it out: Funny.

Have you seen the new Reebok ads? This is an example: Basically reebok is encouraging people to be mediocre and not try too hard. I remember when they used to hire pro athletes to use their products because people looked up to them since they were exceptionally good…don’t worry about that anymore A 10 MINUTE MILE IS THE SAME DISTANCE AS A SIX MINUTE MILE! Except you’re slow and likely overweight and you tell people you are a runner and no one would ever know based on looking at you because you putz along at a 10 minute mile.  This ad campaign was created by the same group of people that equate running a marathon with jogging 5 miles at 12 minutes per and then walking the rest, after which they reward themselves with a trip to Outback and feast on the blooming onion.

I’m all for encouraging people to start running and I recognize that many people may never run faster than a 10 minute mile, but that doesn’t mean you should actively encourage them not to dream big. The other ad in this campaign that I’ve seen says “if you’re can’t have a conversation while you run, you’re running too hard.” I’d like to change that to “if you can’t have a conversation while you run, you are actually getting a decent cardiovascular workout.” Seriously Reebok? Howsabout as an alternative you actually run a lot so you get to the point where you can run a six minute mile easily and have a conversation while doing it? That would blow some minds. And we wonder why America is obese it’s because Reebok’s new mantra is “I am what I am.”

Basically that title says it all. I moved a few days ago from Cambridge to Brookline with a detour to South Boston to get a truck and then another to Back Bay to get my girlfriend and all of her stuff. If anyone is contemplating moving in the near future do not rent from U-haul or Budget. U-haul sucks based on prior experience and they have awful trucks. Budget on Saturday, the 31st of March, a moving day for a slew of people, had one person working. I arrived at the rental place at 9:05 and there were 4 people already waiting in line for trucks. There was no one behind the desk. The one semi-obese guy who was working was in charge of having people fill out all the paperwork, run it through a DOS based computer that had a dial up modem for credit card checks and then he had to go out and explain operation of the truck. I felt bad for him. So roughly an hour later I get up to the front of the window and request my 16′ truck only to be told all they have is a 10′ truck despite my explicit request and confirmation on the 16 footer the day prior. With no other alternative I take the smaller truck. Awesome. The goal of they day was originally to have done both apartments in one trip to Brookline. That did not happen.

I have a friend who is a huge DeNiro fan. Back when I ran cross country in high school he used to spout out Raging Bullrandom lines of Deniro dialogue, at odd times and I still remember him repeating this phrase multiple times, while I sat there just thinking he was a nutjob. Turns out this is actually from the movie “Raging Bull.”

Fun Fact: Deniro gained over 60lbs to play the corpulent older version of boxer Jake LaMotta. It is truly disgusting to see his giant sweaty belly later in the movie. Renee Zewellegger in “Bridget Jones,” this is not.

Anyways, the movie was entertaining if a bit long. Apparently at the end of his career, the Raging Bull became a sort of stand-up comic / lounge act who had basically alienated everyone in his life.

I wasn’t blown away by the film but it was certainly better than the day’s earlier viewing of the cinematic masterpiece “Crank,” which featured a hit man poisoned with a synthetic chinese cocktail that forces him to continually engage in activities that produce adrenaline or he will die.  These activities include: reckless driving, taking drugs (coke, epinephrine, caffeine, “haitian shit”), getting in fights (many), public sex, loud music, and riding helicopters.  The supporting cast included a gay, cross dressing informant who is brutally murdered (spoiler…oops for those of you planning on seeing this) and a girlfriend completely oblivious to her boyfriend’s darker side.  Run, don’t walk, to see this movie.

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