Sunday, December 31, 2006

Virtual NES Delivers Amazing Retro Freenis

vNES is an online Nintendo Entertainment System emulator with a staggering number of games available. I don't see how I am going to be able to pull myself away from this amazing free gaming goodness. I've played emulators before, but I like that this one is online. I needed to download a Java update to get it to work, which I found here.

Via Joystiq, which presents the vNES as a good way to demo games you might be considering for the Wii Virtual Console. I have mixed feelings about the VC, mainly because I think it is overpriced, but I do have five games on it already. More thoughts about that later.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Freenis: Best Of 2006

Don't take my word for it. Take Jay is Games word for it. That kickin free games site has a best-of-the-year feature with lots of gaming goodness. If, like me, you gotta be at work today, make sure the boss isn't looking and try some out. You can even vote for your favorites. Explore and be happy.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

First Post FROM The Wii

The Wii's new web browser launched on the day I left town (and my Wii) for Christmas. I'm back now, and exploring the browser. I'm making this blog post from my Wii, in fact.

Typing with the Wii remote takes a long time. I've also had the browser freeze up twice, both times at gmail. Still, browsing the web from the Wii is a fun novelty for now. Time will tell if it is useful.


Friday, December 22, 2006

I'm Happy Because Of The Squid (Not Christmas)

I'm travelling for Christmas, so postings might be a bit sparse. But in the airport this morning I saw on the waiting-lounge TV that scientists in Japan pulled a live giant squid to the surface. I felt excited and awed by the world in a way that I have become increasingly out of touch with as an adult.

Last year, the same Japanese scientists took pictures of a live giant squid at close to one kilometer below the surface. I thought that was exciting. Here, the many-tentacled creature is right at the surface! See for yourself here.

Unfortunately, it died soon after it was captured.

[UPDATE: Here's some video from Japanese news--note the stirring music.]


Monday, December 18, 2006

Xbox 360 And The Deal That Brought It Into My Life

Check out the white-on-black console porn. On top is my newest addition, the Xbox 360. Sometimes I feel guilty about being such a giant consumer, but the itch is finally scratched (y'all knew I was joking before, right?). I know some friends are uncomprehending, but I was a good boy and waited until I got a nice deal on this. The wife has been very patient. Maybe I love her even a little bit more. There's a lesson for you, ladies: Don't be like this guy's chick (who is apparently making her beau shed a truly amazing game collection in order to buy her a gaudy hunk of compressed carbon).

Anyway, if you are interested in getting a $100 rebate on the 360, expand this mofo.

Here's reason 1,023,657 why I love the web: I never would have snagged a 360 for 25% off without it. First, I see this post at joystiq for a rebate offer if you buy a 360 at Micro Center. I think, $100 off is a pretty great deal, especially considering that I had told myself early on that I'd wait for a price drop before getting one. But then I think, what's Micro Center? I've never heard of this store. So again, internet to the rescue. Checking out the store's site reveals that there is a location out on Strong Island. I check the Long Island Railroad's schedule (online, natch) and discover it is a half hour trip. Better yet, Google maps shows me that the store is less than a mile from the train station. A $10 round-trip ticket and two hours later, I'm back in Queens, spraying Locust blood in Gears of War.

How did we function without the web?


Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Freenis: Goldbergian

Nerds: recall dominoes. Recall the game Mousetrap.

Do you know Rube Goldberg? Do you like little parts working together? Then you'll like Armadillo Run. You can play some tutorial stages and free levels if you download a demo. It's fun.

[via boingboing]


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Guitar Hero Zonks Tiger Zumaya

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya injured his arm by playing Guitar Hero. His injuries kept him from playing in this year's ALCS.

The Tigers asked Zumaya to stop playing the video game, and he did. Zumaya then pitched pain-free during the World Series, and went 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three appearances.
Umm... Good thing that problem got solved and Tiger pitching returned to form for the World Series.

I've played my share of Guitar Hero, yet apart from occasional, very slight soreness in my fingers on my left (fretting) hand, I've had no pains or problems. Now, with the Wii, it's a different story. My right arm is still recovering from a frenzied Wii Sports session on Monday.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Awesome Dolphin Gone Forever

The baiji, a species of river dolphin native to the Yangtze River, has been declared "functionally extinct" after a six-week expedition set up to find one of the animals failed, according to an AP report and the expedition's official website. Another story about the expedition appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week (in syndication here). Scientists put the blame on overfishing and shipping traffic.

River dolphins are amazing creatures. First, they look awesome. Second, they inhabit this curious little niche--relatives of ocean-going dolphins that evolved to life on the lazy river. Third, according to scientists, baiji are "shy and nearly blind." Finally, around the world they inspire some cool legends, often sexual in nature. According to the WSJ, the baiji is featured in an old Chinese "love story, where it turned into a beautiful woman like a mermaid." The pink river dolphins of the Amazon have inspired folk tales in which the dolphins turn into men at night, seduce human women, and impregnate them. (Interesting gender differences between those myths.)

Enough fun, though. I was really sad to read this news. Such a great, interesting animal gone forever because of what people do. Even if one or a few individuals turn up over the next few decades, the baiji is effectively lost. There are certainly not enough to constitute a sustainable population.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Planes On A Treadmill

Boingboing has a post up that gets the pedantic science nerd in me going. I’ll need to reproduce it almost in full so you can understand. It begins:

David Pogue at the NYT has presented this classic airplane on a giant treadmill problem, and people are arguing about whether or not the plane would take off or not.

Here’s the set-up from Pogue, quoting someone else:
”Imagine a plane is sitting on a massive conveyor belt, as wide and as long as a runway. The conveyer belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction. Can the plane take off? I say no, because the plane will not move relative the the ground and air, and thus, very little air will flow over the wings. However, other people are convinced that since the wheels of a plane are free spinning, and not powered by the engines, and the engines provide thrust against the air, that somehow that makes a difference and air will flow over the wing.” (Here’s Pogue’s original post.)
Continue if you like such thought problems.

Boingboinger Mark Frauenfelder has his say:
I say yes. Let's assume the friction in the wheel bearings is negligible. Putting a plane on a treadmill is like putting it on an icy lake. When you fire up the jets, the plane is going to shoot down the lake and take off just like it would on a runway.

Some commenter then disagrees. But I have to say I’m a bit surprised this is a problem for anyone, really. Jets generate thrust by expelling hot air, which pushes back on the plane in a simple demonstration of Newton’s third law of motion. It shouldn’t matter what’s happening with the wheels; they don’t supply any power in our example. They just let the plane roll.

Now, if the plane sped up via power from the wheels, like a car with wings attached, sitting on a treadmill that matched the rotational speed of the wheel would be a problem. But the plane speeds up by pushing air out. Maybe the wheels would be spinning twice as fast as they would be if the plane were not on treadmill, but so what?

Think of it this way: the plane could be disconnected from the ground all together. Say it has a rotor blade like a helicopter’s that suspends it above the ground. The jets will still push the plane forward. To me, this doesn’t seem hard to understand at all (see? pedantic nerd), so I am surprised this issue generates a lot of online discussion.


Monday, December 11, 2006

25 Days Of (Free) Christmas Gaming

Before I totally get off my recent music kick, I wanted to point out an interesting little analysis my friend Jeff did of the top and bottom of the reviewing pile. It has always bothered me that re-issues get rated so highly--critics luxuriating in the safety of hindsight and received wisdom. I gotta say it: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, not a 10.

Now back to games. Here's some decent Christmas freenis: Nintendo has set up a little advent calendar called Mission in Snowdriftland, featuring the platforming adventures of Chubby Snow. Guide the big-headed snowman through a new level each day, collecting snowflakes and dodging baddies. Who knows what will happen on Christmas day? Maybe you will celebrate the birth of Chubby Snow Jesus by giving or receiving some Nintendo products?

[via joystiq]


Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Freenis, Wu Edition

No games this time. I've got music on my mind as of late. Spooky, tense tales of mayhem lie at your fingertips here. The Wu-Tang Clan gives you more than 200 assorted tracks (demos, remixes, etc.) at their official Wu-Tang Corp. website.

Oh, Dirty, how we miss what the fuck your gun do.

[via Salon]


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Meshuggah Will Rock You

Meshuggah is one of my favorite bands currently bringing rock to the masses. Here's the video for their chart-topping hit "New Millennium Cyanide Christ." I've never embedded video from YouTube in my blog before, so I wanted to give it a go. I dedicate this post to my man TZ down in NC.

[Thanks, Marc!]

And since this is YouTube, I give you the real jackassery, as well.


Twilight Princess Glitch Nearly Leads To Wii Murder!

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii is an amazing game. It is a long game, an adventure that requires 50 hours or more to finish. It is also a game with a glitch that caused me to become stuck almost 40 hours in with no recourse but to restart.

Let me state this plain: I played for almost 40 hours, the game screwed up, and now I have to restart if I want to finish it.

When I first became trapped, I thought I was just stuck, that I needed to solve a puzzle to continue. I resorted to looking online for tips, and that's when I discovered what seems to be becoming a notorious Twilight Princess glitch. Amigos, I will tell you this: DO NOT SAVE IN THE SKY CANNON ROOM! And keep multiple save files.

I was boiling mad for hours when I figured out I had to restart. My Wii is lucky that it is not a heap of broken plastic and electrical components this morning. The honeymoon period is over, Wii.

[UPDATE: 12/12/06 This is for the unlucky gamers who are coming to this post after getting stuck themselves. I just talked to Nintendo about this glitch, and they say there is no trick to get out, and no fix is available. Don't believe tips you might read elsewhere.]


Monday, December 04, 2006

On The Popularity of The Aspidistra

I tell myself that I blog for myself. I tell my wife that, too, when she complains about too many videogame posts.

But see that counter down there on the right, below the links? Would I really be counting visitors if I was only blogging for myself? No, of course I want as many people as possible to read what I post. Maybe a fuller description of how I blog is that I decide what to write about based on my own interests, but I hope you like some of the same things and otherwise get seduced by my coverage of the things you didn't know you liked, and in the end you love me.

Anyway, this is all a way of saying I’ve been relatively pleased with the traffic over the past couple months. I’m no engadget, but I’m doing a lot better than might be indicated by a recent statement from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, who suggested that the average blog has only one reader. (That has to be rhetorical, right?)

Alas, as the wife suggests, the videogame posts rarely bring readers. Here are the top five posts that bring people to The Aspidistra, with some examples of real search terms.
1. dog humps cat
2. wii shopping channel
3. skepticism must be a component of the…
4. hobbes vs. rousseau state of nature
5. manpanzee

Honorable mentions: religious idiots, Freud haters, how-to-make: hovercrafts


Friday, December 01, 2006

A Muscle Myster-Wii

I’m no 90-pound weakling. I’ve never been very muscular, but I go to the gym regularly. I lift the weights. I do my push-ups and pull-ups. Sure, I’m probably tucked closer to the weak side in a normal distribution of adult male arm strength, but I’m in shape.

So why is my right biceps sore? Over the past few days, I’ve been struggling with a small mystery: I’ve noticed that the half of my biceps closer to my elbow is just a bit tender. I’m not doing anything new at the gym. I’ve not lifted anything particularly heavy, or carried anything unwieldy recently. So what’s different?

The answer hit me this morning: It’s the Wii! I feel a bit wussy making this confession, but I believe using the Wii-remote has made my arm sore. And I haven’t even been playing Wii Sports, which encourages spazzed-out flailing, all that much. I’ve mainly been playing Twilight Princess. I’m slightly amazed, but I think making all the little sword swipes, just shaking and stabbing with the Wii-remote as I sit on the couch, has engaged my biceps in a way that my regular life does not.

That controller sure does promote immersion. It has immersed me in un-manliness.


Friday Freenis: Terraforming Edition

I had to do some digging for this one--wait, that's a pun you'll understand if you play the game. Seriously, though, I played this a couple of weeks ago and had to dig around on the web for a while to find it again.

It's a free flash game called Grow Cube. I would describe it as a cutesy, terraforming puzzle game. I recommend just jumping in and learning how to play by experiment. One thing I love about these little, free puzzle games is how I can go from baffled to understanding by exploring and experimenting.

[via kotaku]