Saturday, June 30, 2007

Game review: Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition

I'm going to go on record and say with unconfirmed accuracy that I'm the first guy in my neighborhood (or in my case, my condo complex) to play Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition for the PSP. I picked it up at GameSpot tonight after I got off the air and just got through a 3-hour session taking it for a spin. My party died about a third of the way through the game, which was for the best...if they didn't kick the bucket, my battery would have.

It's a clean port of the 1987 title that started it all, but taking advantage of some of the hardware capabilities of the modern handheld system. You'll be prompted to firmware upgrade your PSP v.3.03, which takes about 2 minutes including system reboot.

Visually, Square Enix has put together a pretty rich experience - straight from the annals of 1989's original Dragon Warrior. The game has a very deliberate 16-bit feel to it, and despite the stereo audio capabilities of the PSP, the game's MIDI heritage is maintained. I don’t know about most people, but being a gamer from the 80's, I appreciated this.

While the graphics try to stay true to the original, the hardware acceleration makes the animation smooth, not choppy, and the characters don't awkwardly pixelate. There's no slowdown, even in the most motion-intense scenes. I found this to be a nice blend of the old with the new.

Like nearly all the FF titles, the game starts out with a simple premise, and you're forced to complete a pretty simple mission: beating some antagonist. Even at the low levels, you can go kamikaze on him without stacking your members' abilities. It'll take about 20 minutes without too much work get to and past that point. Only then does the hero's quest really "begin". And from there, it gets real hard, real fast.

The battle system is reminiscent of the original, which gets repetitive and admittedly frustrating given the number of times you get jumped out in the field when walking around the massive worldmaps. I was disappointed that the analog stick couldn't be used to navigate the group, because the arrow keys get pretty bothersome and polarizing for movement.

I'm sure I won't finish the game and I'll probably trade it in for a sports title this weekend, but it is a great time.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Jet City juxtaposition: what were the Sonics thinking?

Although I spent a brief time of my life (about 10 days) in Seattle and loved it - the food, the music, the people, the atmosphere, the culture, and yes, even the rain, there are some things I'll never truly understand about the Emerald City, especially in sports. The Sonics today drafted Texas frosh phenom Kevin Durant, but also traded 7-time all-star Ray Allen. Huh?

Jesus Shuttlesworth's certainly not the player he once was, but he's in the top 3 pure shooters the NBA's got. The logic in this deal I fail to see. Boston really got a the long end of the stick.

Granted, Allen's been offensively prolific since he got into the league and after being traded from Milwaukee was a force - but to already be Seattle's all-time leading scorer in less than 5 full seasons? That speaks volumes about how pathetic player retention is up there.

Keep in mind that this is the very same franchise that let go Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton in the prime of their careers. And the same city that for whatever reason allowed Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez - both guaranteed to get into Cooperstown on the first ballot - to slip away from the Great Northwest.

But lest we forget the pinnacle of front office buffoonery: the Golden State Warriors. Maybe it's the pressure from nearby Silicon Valley that forces management to force out top-quality ballers, but consider that several all-stars who never stayed in Warrior unies: Chris Webber, Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Latrell Sprewell, Mitch Richmond, Billy Owens, Gilbert Arenas, Sarunas Marciulionis, Antawn Jamison, Larry Hughes, and now Jason Richardson.

But getting back to the Sonics: wow. They're about to lose Rashard Lewis, and Ray Ray's now out the door. A real downer for the Seattle sports fan.

Utter embarrassment

So I'm listening to 80's On-Demand from BigRRadio.com this morning, and "Grease Lightning" streams through my PC's speakers. Any and every one of my co-workers, guests, bosses, the KUAM Kids, and general passersby stopped and laughed at my expense. Having done my tour of duty at Blockbuster in college, I've watched Grease more than any human being should ever have to.

Perhaps the most comical thing was my defense: "Hey - it's an on-demand station, I have no control over it...but if I did, I would have cued up 'Hopelessly Devoted to You.'"

You can stop laughing now, too.

'Love' songs redux

I was reminded of a past weekend creative project I undertook a few years ago, trying to compile any and all songs with "love" in the title. Ambitious? Certainly. Achievable? Debatably. Worthwhile? Undoubtedly.

- Depeche Mode – "Strangelove"
- Def Leppard - "When Love & Hate Collide"
- Book of Love "I Touch Roses" (OK…this is the band's name, not the song title, but it's a great new wave dance song)
- Erasure – "Chains of Love"
- Nazareth – "Love Hurts"
- Scorpions – "Lovedrive"
- Scorpions - “Still Loving You“
- Def Leppard - “Love Bites“
- Kiss - “I Still Love You“
- Kiss – "Love Gun"
- Tesla - “Love Song“ (these guys started gigging on Guam in the 80's! For realz!)
- Saigon Kick - “Love is on the Way"
- The Cardigans – "Lovefool"
- Pantera - "This Love"
- Motley Crue – "Too Young to Fall in Love"
- Kelly Clarkson – "The Trouble with Love Is" (Kelly and I have the same birthday)
- Dokken – "It's Not Love"
- Tonic – "The Way She Love Me"
- W.A.S.P. – "Love Machine"
- FireHouse – "Love of A Lifetime"
- Queensryche – "I Don't Believe in Love"
- White Lion - "Radar Love"
- Soft Cell - "Tainted Love"
- Queen - "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"
- Pat Benitar "Love is a Battlefield"
- J. Geils Band - "Love Stinks"
- Air Supply - "Lost In Love"
- Air Supply - "All Out Of Love"
- Air Supply - "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All"
- Air Supply - "The One That You Love" (God, this is getting ridiculous)
- REO Speedwagon - "Keep On Loving You"
- Foreigner - "I Want To Know What Love Is"
- Taylor Dayne - "I'll Always Love You"
- ABC - "Look Of Love"
- Robert Palmer - "Addicted To Love"
- Peter Frampton - "Baby, I Love Your Way"

Feel free to add to the list!

Performance-enhancing substances

In college, I'd ALWAYS crank Metallica's "Creeping Death" in my Celica's Alpine sound system en route to playing in a volleyball tournament. This was my ritualistic way of getting amped to just play all out and hold nothing back - a metaphysical metronome, if you will, to get me in the right frame of mind for a match.

I bring this up because last night while running/stretching out/warming up for a night of pickup volleyball, my iPod's playlist got stuck on "Prom Songs". And inexplicably, I didn't mind. Whereas in years past I'd get prepped to E-minor-laden pentatonics with dark and debauchorous themes so indicative of 80's metal, last night saw me get ready to the following notions:
And you know what? It helped! To my amazement I played pretty well last night. Maybe rather that getting all worked up, music did calm the savage beast. The oddity of it all made me laugh.

Cabbage Patch Kids, PS3...iPhone?

As a marketer, one thing that's always amazed me about product promotion is how nutty people get when a good's made available. I think I was in the 5th grade when the Cabbage Patch Kids craze forced people to nearly maul each other in toy stores, and the PS3 violence we witnessed in recent history is utterly unbelievable.

I'll be watching the events transpire tomorrow with the 6PM EST release of the iPhone. Now, I'm not one to wish ill will on anybody or exhibit schaudenfreude, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how crazy it gets when vendors invariably run out of units. With people waiting out in the cold for hours, it's a sure bet things will get dicey.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

iPhone envy

Alright...feel free to throw tomatoes - now. I'm jonesing to try out an iPhone. I've grown tired of quasi-web experiences with mobile browsers, delivering a less-than-realistic experience of desktop web sites. The lack of (or limited support for) Flash and/or JavaScript and/or true colors and/or screen real estate have worn me out. Plus the user interface, either being relegated to styli or scrollwheels is old hat.

So label me a hypocrite. I want one, dammit.

(Although one caveat remains: with Apple being true to its closed platform mantra, I can't built custom apps for it like I could the Palm or Blackberry. That's a bummer.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

No surprises here

I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Were I a betting man, I could have scored some major moolah off of a little friendly wager my co-workers and I had. Knowing the behavior patterns of KUAM.com users the way I do and how our audience tends to favor racier headlines, I told all my fellow reporters that a story we published about $400,000 of MaryJane found in Dededo would be the most read piece of the day.


Am I good, or what?

Transient witticisms

The muse is upon me this morning, so without waxing too poetic about any of them, especially after my diatribe on blocking, here's a look inside my brain.

Tatt potential

I've toyed with the notion of getting body art on a couple of occasions. Of course, I never engaged the temptation for a tattoo, but it's nice to look back on what might have adorned my flesh:
None are that impressive with today's Bruce Lee/nude Valkyrie straddling a dragon/dice/last name or neighborhood/Scarface culture, but each tells a pretty abstract, deep and humorous story about my personality...just the way I like it.

My story: a roofer's long road back

Last week, I made the decision to get back into playing volleyball. It's been about a year since I last stepped foot on a court, and about 5 years since I've last played meaningfully, outside of the occasional pickup game. I'm excited at doing something that for so many years gave me so much pleasure, allowed me to travel and make an infinite number of friends, and taught me so many valuable life lessons. But it won't be easy. The ravages of time and age have apparently had their way with my frail physique, and at a spry 33, I'm no longer at the point when I can just jump back into it (pun definitely intended) and be competitive.

I shared recently with Josie how, melodramatic as it may seem, the 900-square foot confines of a volleyball court are one of the few places on earth that I've ever felt truly free. That's my domain. My sanctum sanctorum. My Mecca.

My first night back saw little, if anything, to brag about. A couple good passes, a couple digs. No kills, no roofs. It's the latter that's driving me batty. Last night, I played better and I'm less sore than in my first outing - I put down a couple zingers I'm proud of, moved better, and got my floater to dance. But still again - no blocks.

In my opinion, the hardest skill to reclaim after you've been away for awhile is blocking. And as a middle blocker - dare I say one of the island's better MBs in my heyday - this is my bread-and-butter. I'd rather have 4 good blocks in a match than 40 kills. It's my job, and something I take pride in.

I L-O-V-E the feeling of looking across the net and knowing you've already psyched your guy out. Just knowing that you've gotten inside his head, that he's aware if he even tries and brings heat your way, the ball's never crossing. Hearing the gym erupt with a resounding "Ohhhh..." when he gets blocked. Roofing him so hard his girlfriend feels it. That's domination. That's a middle's mentality.

And damn it, I'm not there...yet.

But maybe that's the metaphor - of volleyball and perhaps of life: it would be unjust to come back and immediately start roofing the lights out of the opposition. Anything worth getting is worth working for and it would be devalued if it was too easy.

It takes a fair amount of skill to be a great blocker. Physical traits like height and quickness are certainly requisite, but it also takes intangibles like patience, discipline, timing and attitude. I've never met a great middle who didn't take pride in the craft of destroying the dreams of would-be attackers. The juice will be worth the squeeze.

All I know is that I'm concentrating on getting back to my proper playing form, and making progress every day. And when I get that first rally-ending roof....oh, baby. I'll be grinning the sinister smile that those of us who block for a living do.

Achievement. Victory. Catharsis. Vindication. Absolution. Glory. Freedom.

A wrestler's requiem - memories of Chris Benoit

I remember vividly the episode of "Raw is War" (back then still under the 'WWF' umbrella), the night after Owen Hart died. Being a TV guy, I appreciated the music and montages the company quickly assembled in his honor, and the emotional testimonials from his colleagues and friends. Since there was a live event to do the night after a pay-per-view, most of the athletes were visibly aching at the loss of their friend, and it was more than just a little noticeable in their matches. They all dedicated their work to their fallen friend, gone too soon.

That's the thing about professional wrestling as a sport/TV show - they have no reruns, no off season. Those guys bust it 12 months a year.

Last night while channel surfing, I came across Raw on USA Network, which had a similar requiem for the late Chris Benoit. Again, I found it to be a fitting and distinguished tribute to a man. Granted, the performers are in essence, actors, but trust me - there are some emotions you can't fake. I welled up just watching.

And then I came into work this morning and see this. My God.

The now-WWE is disputing some of the conclusions, but this is horrific. I'm not sure what to feel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My chemical romance

Sometimes you just see something expressed scientifically, and it's just so beautiful it makes you want to cry.


No "Pomp and Circumstance" here

With the recent slew of commencement ceremonies now firmly behind us for this year, my colleagues and I were racking our brains over what music to use for montages celebrating high school and college graduations for TV. This led me wonder what the best songs are.

Most classes, if not overly creative or possessing a deep musical catalog, use the flavor of the month. Which is timely and topical, but leaves little to the imagination in terms of meaning. I've heard "If We Go On Together" from The Land Before Time more times than I can count. My high school class had two songs when I donned the cap and gown in 1992: Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye" for the fellas and some church song I can't immediately recall for the ladies (I think it might have been Michael W. Smith's "Friends".)

And, for the record, while I was a major driving force towards using the track from the New Jersey hair metal gods, I knew the chorus would bring tears to me eyes...but the verses, if you listen, have NOTHING to do with the high school experience.

What do you think the best songs to walk the aisle one last time are?

Upgrading to DVD is becoming a pain

As is true with most products due to inevitable advances in technology - better hardware, microdevices, more sustainable platforms and formats - was that all my favorite VHS movies would have to be replaced with their DVD equivalents. I've had to upgrade the Dark Crystal. And the original Transformers.

But what's becoming a nuisance is that I'm even having to slowly replace all my guitar lessons - all my Metal Method tapes, and of course, Speed Kills.

God help me if these classics make it onto UMD.

KUAM's new reality show

Spend 5 minutes with me and you'll instantly grok that I'm not the biggest fan of reality television. Still, I appreciate and to a certain degree even envy those that have been able to exploit the medium. That having been said, we launched the first episode in our 3-part reality show modeled after CBS' "The Amazing Race" last night, to rave reviews.

In case you missed it, you can watch it via Google Video. I'm still not the biggest supporter of the reality show platform, but it was fun to make good TV. And there's an interactive component, which of course I always dig. A nice break from the monotony of hard news.

Enjoy...and stay glued for the rest of the series!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Scalability in the Web 2.0 Age

I've been working on some presentation materials dealing with application scalability in the Web 2.0 age, from the viewpoint of working with open and closed platforms. I've finally gotten around to uploading it, so feel free to grab it.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Celebrity axes I'd like to swing

I caught this amazing angel guitar off a Digg post, and I want it. Actually, I'd just like to shred on it a few times. I've got my Gibson 1976 Flying V, my cherry sunburst Les Paul, my strat. But there are several celeb models I'd like to play, if even given the opportunity:
How about you?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 29th's "other" big product

I realize that most of the free world (or at least that portion of it that AT&T services) is counting down the microseconds until June 29, when Apple will release the iPhone. That's fine and dandy for those of you in communities privy to things like Internet access that's truly highspeed and telecomm services that are truly low-cost.

I'm more looking forward to 6/29 because Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition comes out for PSP. I've always enjoyed the rich, deep storylines in the FF series. I won't be able to get iTunes, browse, get my e-mail or have a slick touchscreen interface, but I'll take what I can get.

Simple pleasures, man.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The most memorable sports moments (redux)

Since I've covered sports professionally as a TV anchor, columnist, radio talkshow host and blogger, a common icebreaker conversation topic is probing what I hold as most memorable moments in sports history. Here's what I think:

Most inspiring moment:
Most improbable moment:
Most impressive moment:
Most unbelievable moment:
Most nail-biting moment:
Most shocking moment:
Proudest moment:
Bravest moment:
Most amazing defensive play:
Most amazing offensive play:
Most disappointing moment:
The stupidest, most brain-dead sports moment I've ever witnessed:

Congrats to WAFF!

A special congratulations goes out to my colleagues at WAFF 48 News in Huntsville, Alabama for winning this year's National Edward R. Murrow Award for having the Best Small-Market News Web Site. It's a major achievement, so a well deserved pat on the back go to the crew who put it all together.

My station was privileged enough to have won last year, and the trip to the awards banquet in NYC is beyond memorable. Have a great time and keep up the good work!

On ringtones and the perceptions they create

They say you can learn a lot about someone by the ringtones they assign to those lucky enough to make it into their address books. Damn straight. I've been taking a bit of mental inventory into what songs/movie quotes/sound effects/bits of sensory accoutrement with which people use to associate me. And I'm now almost wishing I hadn't.

These days it's easy to get a ton of cool tones - RealTone, polyphonic, MIDI or otherwise. Download 'em, Bluetooth your faves, or rip your own. It's the underlying message that I find to be a trip. Friends of mine - good friends for that matter - have been nice enough to link me with everything from "The World At Home" (my newscast's TV theme song (obvious)), Bugs Bunny soundbytes...or The B-52's "Rock Lobster" or Janet Jackson's "Pleasure Principle" (huh?). I've yet to find the semantic match for some of the weirder ones, other than it being an arbitrary and moderately humorous selection. It's funny.

So I shudder to ask...how do you people come up with this stuff? As for where I might stand in your address book, audibly speaking, if it' s OK with you, don't get too creative - I'll be happy with the default "Canon in D".

Monday, June 18, 2007

First look: Safari for Windows

So I'm starting to mess with Safari for Windows this morning. I'm particularly interested, since the engine running the program is the very same upon which Adobe Apollo RIA apps and the iPhone's browser are based, to things like DOM manipulation, rendering speed, and AJAX compatibility (Gmail for some reason acts funny on some OS X boxes I've messed with in Safari). Some initial feedback: Overall, I'm very pleased. Nice job!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Great weekend for sports movies

To know me is to know how much I love sports movies. And tonight's a GRRRRREAT night for sports movies. There's "Summer Catch" on ABC Family (which makes up for an earlier programming snafu), "The Replacements" followed by "Remember the Titans" on TNT, a "Rocky" mini-marathon on Spike (the training montages still give me goosebumps, despite their corniness) and "The Mighty Ducks" on Cartoon Network (I know..."huh?"...but it works for me).

In ours, a society so top-heavy with reality TV crapola, it's nice to see some real choice when it comes engaging in the purest form of human drama I know of. Sports flicks always get me to well up...it's the telling of stories where anyone can go above and beyond themselves and do something, even if just for a fleeting moment, really great. Even the biggest misfit can attain glory. What's not to love about that? Sure beats the 24/7 coverage of Paris Hilton's jail stint.

God help me if "Brian's Song" or "The Champ" should come on tonight.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Downtime...yecch

If there's one thing that makes me nervous, it's web site downtime (especially my own). Twice today we've had spotty outages at work, the first time inexplicably because our server ran out of memory, the second (going on right now) is due to our host applying the latest Microsoft security patches.

Thank goodness this went down on a weekend and not when a major story broke. But I swear, this is the kind of stuff that makes me cringe. I wouldn't wish downtime on my worst enemy's dog or my biggest rival's pet bird. My stomach's still got a couple of knots.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So much for ratings, NBA

Wow. I haven't watched any of the NBA Finals, despite the (supposed) emergence of LeBron James. Primarily because they're playing the Spurs, who are really, really good, but dreadfully painful to watch ("The Sopranos" finale didn't help). But the relative coverage is just dismal:



I recognize the importance of throwing a no-hitter in Major League Baseball due to the scarcity of the event, but to just discard Game 3 of the NBA's grandest stage as an "this also happened" today piece speaks volumes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

KUAM's Two-Month Rule

I mentioned a couple months back how we at KUAM rewrote our own publishing metric by pulling off 1,000 posts to KUAM.com in 53 days...after having previously accomplished the feat in 72 just prior. Well, we're not going to break any records time time 'round, but we have completed another batch of 1,000 stories in 59 days. I guess I'm going to use a "Two-Month Rule" as our de facto performance baseline from here on out.

This is still 6x the capacity than when we first started publishing content online, so I'm happy. But more importantly, so are our users.

Communal pressure

One of the expansion platforms we've been considering for awhile at KUAM has been user-submitted video via the web. We've pioneered community images with our Familiar Faces service, but times change and static images fall inferior to moving video. We got the ball rolling before MySpace hit, so we had a fostered a thriving community before social networking was an actual term people glommed onto.

In short, management is becoming down with the YouTube movement, and wants to assimilate.

Keeping with the open source tenet of building on someone else's ingenuity, I find it hard to compete with YouTube, Vimeo - being the gold standard for viral video delivery, anything we custom build, no matter how integrated, will be comparably inferior. So during a meeting I was asked what, architecturally speaking, we'd need to incorporate user-submitted video. "Money, time, server space, memory," I simply replied. I built a .NET transport prototype that facilitates people submitting most major video formats from the usual range of devices (PCs, phones, PDAs), but it's a sticky wicket. We'll probably do it, though.

Many stations are conceding ultimate technical and marketing control and just building YoutTube channels. We've done the same thing. Twice, in fact.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Python destructors and sys.exit()

I'm hastily writing a object-oriented GUI app in Python 2.5 that logs keystrokes to a remote textfile. As such, I create Python's file handler object (file/open) in my class's constructor and keep it resident throughout the life of the app to properly handle keypress events. But wanting to be a good memory patron, I'm calling file.close() in the destructor, which technically is after a user could terminate the app by clicking an Exit button I'm handling via sys.exit().

I'm wondering if I might be introducing memory leaks or not managing open objects as well as I could, and possibly introducing dangling references. Consider the following:

def __init__(self):
   self.file = open('foobar.log','a')
def __del__(self):
   self.file.close()
def capture_password(self,event): #handles event logging
   print >> self.file,('Password:%s' % (event.char))
def terminate(self): # handles a 'Quit' button click
   sys.exit()

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

KUAM developing open source forum

I'm in the process of organizing a mini-conference here on Guam for IT professionals dealing with open source technologies. Basically, it serves to educate interested parties with active technology groups about OS developments and opportunities, and exhibits as case studies several aspects (good and bad) that my company has done with platforms like Apache, Ruby, Python, GNU/Linux, XML, etc. It's real-world knowledge you can use with local sensibility.

Some of the topics within my working agenda include:
I've already received e-commitments from several learned people to present alongside yours truly. If you'll be in town around the early part of July, we'd love to have you be a participant. Stay subscribed for more!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fragrance heresy

I was shocked to see that my all-time favorite cologne, Drakkar, didn't make the guy on AskMen's list of the top male fragrances. What blasphemy. At least I got Coolwater and Polo Sport working for me.

Some guys just never grow out of the 10th grade, I guess.

Gee, your code looks terrific

One thing of which I've always been a fan is organization. Beautiful engineering. Well-kept, as well as well-written, code. So, I've been going back into some older modules and refactoring components with better, more readable constructs.

As such, I've also noted my adoption timeline for various programming languages:

- 1983: BASIC
- 1997: HTML/JavaScript
- 2000: VBScript/VBA
- 2001: VB.NET
- 2002: C#
- 2003: XSLT, Java
- 2006: Ruby, Python, AppleScript
- 2007: C/C++, XAML, Flex

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