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September 29, 2009

Halo 3: ODST

Here it is, folks: My second published game review, a little over 300 words long. Click on the picture below to download a PDF of the page.

The Cairns Post 29 Sep 09, page 15

The official site for Halo 3: ODST is here.

Massive thanks to Jesse Kuch and The Cairns Post editorial team for the opportunity!

September 25, 2009

Official Promotional Material

The campaign for 2008/09 Employee of the Year has officially commenced:

Vote #1

Created by A. Simpson. Authorised by P. Cockrem for the Farq Australia Party.

September 13, 2009

Heavy Gear Going Again

I mentioned on Friday that I'd been getting rid of my Heavy Gear books. Well, I've just re-listed all of my remaining Heavy Gear books on eBay. They're Buy It Nows, so if you're not interested or can't meet my price, please pass the word on to anyone you think might be. If they don't sell and you'd still like to take them off my hands, let me know!

September 10, 2009

The Nerd Report: September '09

Late last year, while talking with Vickie about What I Wanted To Do With My Life, I had the idea of starting up a sideline helping people fix computer problems. I haven't done a great deal with the idea since I suggested it; I put a couple of flyers up and got some sporadic work from a mate of mine, but that's about it. The next stage is to do up some more flyers to be placed strategically in the local area, but I keep putting it off or talking myself out of it; the only real reason is because it seems such a big step outside my comfort zone.

I'm way overdue to do a rebuild of my PC. Windows XP is doing some really odd stuff, and I think the only way to fix it is back up what I need and reformat the bastard. My flirtation with Linux continues, although it hit a speed bump when the latest distribution of Ubuntu (9.04) decided it couldn't play sound. I have no idea why and the bug report I filed hasn't generated any real interest. I want to dedicate a weekend to getting the rebuild (XP, Ubuntu 8.10, then see if the Windows 7 RC1 code I got a couple of months ago is still valid) right, though, and we've wound up with other plans lately – the last weekend I dedicated to it, I couldn't find a critical part until I finally looked in the place I'd put it (which seemed logical at the time). So sometime before Christmas, one hopes.

Onto games. As you, dear reader, have probably noticed, I've once again been selling off chunks of my tabletop RPG collection, which now occupies roughly half a shelf. At the moment, I'm slowly divesting myself of my Heavy Gear collection, something I'd never see myself doing a few years back. But in all honesty, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not at all interested in the kind of play the rules advocate, I reckon the odds of me ever getting a bunch of people together to run it again are slim to none, even though it's the one game Vickie would probably like me to run again. Me, I'm still holding onto a little hope for a working Primetime Adventures campaign, but I'm in no rush.

My video gaming has picked up quite a bit, though. I tool around in Paradise City every now and again, although some of Burnout Paradise's lustre has worn off since I nailed most of the single player achievements. I also love cranking out Guitar Hero: World Tour, mainly to play Stan Bush's free-to-download 2007 re-recording of the anthem of eighties Transformers fans, “The Touch”. Dawn of War II and Team Fortress 2 have kind of fallen by the wayside; if I'm playing on my PC, I'm more likely to try and crack a new high score on Bejewelled Blitz.

But by and large Halo 3 is once again my draught of choice. There's something about its multiplayer gameplay I just like. Throwing down on the Social Slayer, Team Slayer or MLG playlists really does it for me, and I enjoy improving my skill with Halo 3's signature weapon, the Battle Rifle. I'm nowhere near as clan-oriented or competitive as I was last year, though; I stepped down from the PMS Clan, started hanging out with some ex-PMSers on the Xecutive Order clan forums, drifted away from them for a while and am now back with them socially. I doubt I'm ever going to organise or participate in a competitive ladder team again, and I don't really mind. But I'd still like to get my Highest Skill up above 22. I'm even trying to help a friend improve her ranked skills in the game.

I even got really nerdy a few weeks ago by taking Monday, August the 31st off work to watch the live stream of the third Major League Gaming Halo 3 tournament for 2009, in Dallas. I've been following MLG since I followed a link on Halo developer Bungie's website to footage of the first 2008 tournament. It's fun going back now and watching the footage that introduced me to MLG, especially as it features a player whom I've been pretty much following since: David “Walshy” Walsh, probably one of the first Big Names in the tournament circuit. Back then, he was on a team called Final Boss, which he'd captained for a few years, even as far back as MLG's original Halo: Combat Evolved tournaments.

Since the beginning of 2008, though, he moved from Final Boss to another team called Instinct, and just recently from them to Carbon, which came very close to nabbing the Dallas tournament. Walshy's not only a good payer, he's witty and cheeky in the pre-game interviews. I just like the guy, so I follow him from team to team, and I hope he and the rest of the fellows on Carbon do great things together. The matches are always fun to watch, and there's still something amazing and surreal about crowd of people chanting a Halo 3 team's name just like fans of any other pro sporting team.

All this talk of Halo brings me to the next Halo game coming out; Halo 3: ODST. For the first time ever, I'm going to wander along to its midnight launch in town (I've got the limited edition with the bonus controller pre-ordered at EB Games, which means I get to unlock Sgt. Johnson as a playable character in the game's “Firefight” co-operative multiplayer mode). I still have to go to work the next day, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; the entertainment editor and I are talking about turning it into an article! Fifteen months after my first and thus far only video game review published in a paper and I'll hopefully not only be doing another one but also reporting (Me! Reporting!) on a local digital entertainment event!

Anyway, to finish off, let me make a few random shout-outs, see if any of them are reading this: To my XO mates Tw1sted, MacGrandma, Retro, Clueless, Pesky, Princess and Kitten; to my PMS/H2O peep ObiJeff; to my TFO buds Hang Man and Cerebral; to Arwen, Bzerk (you snipe-teamkilling bastard, you), Rogue, Alcuras, Blown, Delirious, Franki, Seraph, Podge and StealthE: You all rock!

The Big Catch-Up Post: September 2009

You know, it's amazing how – not addictive, that's not the word I'm looking for – no, how criminally easy Facebooking is. Now, I know all you futureheads out there have probably ditched Facebook like it was MySpace and are tweeting away like crazy or somesuch, but I don't even do any of the funkier stuff like send Facebook posts from my phone and I still feel like I'm blogging without, you know, blogging. It's a good chunk of the reason why my last sizeable post on IMAGinES was, let's see... Yep, around a month and a half ago.

Out of interest, you futureheads, what are you using as your preferred social communication tool nowadays? Is it all about the Twitter? Does Facebook still come in handy for inviting people to parties? Should I have not closed my MySpace down?

Anyway, I'm going to try and bring you folks back up to speed on what's been going on at Chez Serenity lately. (Yes, we call our house Serenity. I have to tame some photos and show you exactly why.) I'll probably have to refer back to my list of Facebook posts as I go.

In a late April posting I mentioned that we'd inherited another granddaughter from down south. I'm glad to report that after a rocky first few months here, Amanda has settled in, is renting a house with some family friends and has at least two jobs in the local hospitality industry. Yes, concurrently. We're pretty darned proud of her. Oh, and we've hipped her to Firefly and (I hope) the new Battlestar Galactica. I'm adding the last half of Season 4 of that show to my Christmas list!

In that same posting I mentioned that Vickie had joined the Biggest Loser Club. I'm glad to report that since then Vickie has lost over twelve kilos and is only four away from her goal weight. She's been pulling clothes she never thought she'd fit into again out o the wardrobe! I've benefited too, having shed seven kilos (putting me below 70 kilos total); Vickie has told me to add some muscle or else. New clothes for both of us! On other health matters, the swine flu plague appears to have passed us and those closest to us by, thankfully, although we've both had the usual run of winter sniffles. Work's had a few down to it, though.

Back in May Vickie and I resurrected the vegetable bed up the back of the garden, and in an effort to keep it safe from lumbering dogs, we put up a fence all the way around it, which was quite exhausting. Vickie has been keeping us supplied with all manner of goodness from it, from tomatoes and chillies through lettuce and celery to basil and parsley. It's doing it a little tough at the moment due to a spell of warm, dry weather, but we're doing our best (okay, Vickie's doing her best) to keep it fruitful (and vegetable-ful).

My last post of any substance was at the end of July. I hadn't mentioned that my birthday had been and gone; fun was had at the Salthouse on the Friday beforehand with a whole heap of people, although the party on the natal day at my place was a bit of a fizzer. My birthday policy from here on in is a night out at a decent bar on the Friday closes to my birthday – probably the Salthouse unless it closes between now and next July, that place is a fantastic venue to hang out and sink a few – and a lunch / dinner with family and close friends on the weekend. Sit-down lunches and dinners with lots of people suck because you can't circulate, and you wind up with people sitting down the other end of the table talking only to each other about their iPhones (yes, Paulie Boy and Jimmy, I refer to your heinous behaviour at Buckin' Mex last year).

Things have got interesting on the literary front. A new cafe opened in the middle of Cairns. It's called the Ever After Cafe Bookstore, and its owner, Nick Roberts, is as keen on hipping people to good literature as he is to selling good coffee; they sell quirkier new release books amidst an eclectic collection of second-hand stuff (to which Vickie and I have contributed). He and his mother Mary also run a book club which meets at the cafe every last Thursday of the month, and Vickie and I have made some great new friends there (here's a shout out to Sophia, Cass and Dan; Sandy and Sam; and, of course, Nick, Mary and me mate from London, Gary). As it's two minutes' walking distance from work, it's become my favourite hangout, not to mention the unofficial client-meeting venue for my colleagues!

In terms of actual reading, I seem to have veered toward the romantic fantasy genre of late. I blame the novel Warsworn by Elizabeth Vaughan, which I reviewed for work; it led me to the first and third books in that trilogy at the library, and I then wound up buying Dagger-Star and White Star -and boy, am I hanging out for the next one, Destiny's Star. At the end of June I paid $4 to borrow Stephenie Meyer's Twilight from the library (one of their Hot Speed Read books; I got through it in a handful of days), then reserved New Moon; a friend loaned me Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. Maybe I'm getting all soppy – or maybe I'm just the same old sucker for happy endings I always was. Still, while I liked the Twilight series, they were slow enough that I'm in no hurry to see the movies at all.

Oh, yeah, and I remember making cryptic allusion to a writing endeavour at the end of February. It took me until early August to really start doing something about it, but I'm confident enough in both my work thus far and my future progress to let you know that, yes, I'm writing more Slamdance. I'm working on divorcing it from the world of the original Bubblegum Crisis entirely, and Telstra's pending takedown of all the 10MB personal websites it's hosted since the early 2000s, mine included, may well help there. I'm fiddling with some new ideas and new spins on directions I've wanted to take it in for ages. I circulated a couple of chunks of it amongst friends recently and have been working on incorporating their feedback into a revised short story which I want to have ready to read at the next book club meeting in two weeks (yes, we do the odd bit of reading there, too). Will there be a happy ending for everyone's favourite big red cyborg and those he loves? I certainly hope so.

If you're interested in reading some of it, let me know, but I want feedback from everyone who I send stuff out to, and I'll be keeping the numbers low at first.

Writing, I've discovered, needs discipline, but not just to start; stopping writing can be just as much a problem. Last night I wound up churning out about 2,000 words and as a result spent most of my time in front of the computer and ignoring Vickie. And I was on a roll; had I not needed to sleep I probably could have kept going all night. So I'm hoping the goal of having something ready in two weeks will help me learn how to cut off writing and make enough notes on where I was going to go so that I can pick it up again the next day with little trouble.

August also saw our fifth wedding anniversary. I took the day off work and we had a lovely night out at a restaurant owned by a couple of good mates of ours. It was great! Here's hoping for another fifty more!

And most recently, the Cairns Amateurs, the biggest of Cairns' two Big Annual Race Days (I am, of course, talking about horse racing), rolled around a couple of weeks ago. As they were only serving half-strength drinks (and I was really serious about being able to drive safely home this time) I didn't get anywhere near as hammered as I did last time, but had jut about as much fun. Oh, and check me out. Hot or what? Oh, don't worry; you should see Vickie in the Little Black Dress she bought a few weeks ago – at least, if I can talk her into wearing it again. Wow!

I've got more to blog about, but it's mostly nerd stuff, so I'll put it in another post.