Thursday, June 22, 2006

down in a hole

The game finished eleven hours ago, and I'm still mad about it. At least with the Bengals, or the Bearcats you can say to yourself "there's always next year." With this, what do you say? There's always... 2010? That's not good enough. Four years of buildup, of anticipation, for this? A tournament filled with poor performances from stars and terrible calls that determine the outcome of games. I think this may even top last year's Super Bowl for officiating blunders. What a horrible call to give Ghana a penalty shot. It happened right before half time, three minutes after the U.S. tied the score on a great play. The momentum they should have had going into the second half swung 180 degrees after that terrible call by the official gift-wrapped a goal for Ghana.

And Ghana, talk about a team I was disappointed by. Everyone wants to see an underdog make a good run in the tournament, and I loved their upset over the Czech Republic. But I don't think I've ever seen a team take more dives and feign more injuries to waste time than I did today. Calling their style cheap doesn't do it justice.

I take a small amount of comfort in Ronaldo getting back into form with a two-goal performance against Japan today. I look forward to watching Brazil destroy Ghana in the next round.

Oh well, here's to 2010. South Africa here we come. Hopefully...

Monday, June 19, 2006

a little bit of resolve

Before the soccer game on Saturday, Jess and I went down to Paul Brown Stadium for the Bengals' open mini-camp practice. We had a good time. It was fun to see the players out practicing and to get a look at new members of the team like Chatman and McNeal. Tab Perry looked impressive and I think he'll be making a much bigger impact out there this year. It was also nice to see Rudi looking good after his injuries last year. Chad had pulled his groin the day before, but he looked just fine. He made some very nice catches and naturally was standing out by wearing a pair of bright orange shorts in contrast to the black worn by literally everyone else. Kelly Washington did the squirrel after catching a pass in the endzone. Palmer was a no-show, but after the way he practiced during the week, I don't think anyone will complain about him taking a day to rest. We got to watch Anthony Wright, Doug Johnson, and Dave Ragone takes turns at quarterback, but there's no way to really determine how they'll measure up for a real game. Jess got some nice pictures, which I might post if she ever puts them online.

We found out that Chad Johnson has a book coming out: Chad: I Can't Be Stopped. It's written by Paul Daugherty of the Enquirer. I think it's hilarious. You can check out a sample chapter on the site.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

something got to turn out right

What a game. Exciting and disappointing at the same time. I can't believe the US managed to pull off the 1-1 draw against Italy after three ejections put the US down to nine men against ten Italians. After getting destroyed by the Czech Republic, the US played today like a completely different team and held on the whole time to force the draw. Keller did a fantastic job in goal, making some spectacular saves near the end to preserve the tie.

Had it not been for the two ridiculous cards, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have won. Italy's player got ejected first for throwing an elbow in Brian McBride's face. Yeah, that's what they make red cards for. But Mastroeni's foul should have only been a yellow card. Sure, he only tackled the player, but it was only from the side not behind and he was going for the ball when he did it. You don't just pull out a red card for that. There's also no way Pope should have been given his second yellow card. He made contact with the ball, then tackled the player. It shouldn't have even been a foul. We played so well the whole game, even after the terrible calls and playing almost the entire second half with only nine men. We even scored a goal to go ahead in the second half, but it was called off for offsides.
Considering the referees have already been criticized for the number of cards given out in games, I hope this official has done his last game in the Cup.

So we take one point from the draw. That's not the three points for a win we really hoped for (or should have had), but after Ghana's stunning upset over the Czechs, we still have a chance to advance with a victory of Ghana and an Italian win over the Czech Republic on Thursday (or a number of scenarios with a Czech - Italy draw).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

there is a game i play

The US team already has their backs up against the wall after an utterly pathetic 0-3 loss to the Czech Republic on Monday. Now every match is a must-win if they want to have a chance of advancing to the second round. Hopefully they'll go into the game Saturday against Italy playing like it's the do-or-die situation that it is. Brazil looked a little less than impressive in their 1-0 victory, but I think they'll pick up the pace. Ronaldinho and Kaka played well, but Ronaldo has been heavily criticized for his slow performance. I'm hoping I get to see them play on Sunday. I'll be following the England vs. Trinidad & Tobago game at work today (ESPN has a good online live matchcast that I've been using at work), and after Trinidad's great play against Sweden for the draw, I have to root for them to upset the Brits. Germany continues to dominate, and I'm probably not the only one who found the Germany beating Poland match ironic/amusing (insert history reference here).

Work is slow. We're going to get supervisor calls from the Convergys employees that took our jobs. I haven't taken any yet, but I know others have. Other than that, we just take random calls, mostly in Baby Care or Beauty Care (the two areas I know least about). I'm meeting with someone on June 29 to get the actual details on my severance package, so it will be good to find that out so I can decide what I want to do for later in the summer.

Spring quarter was one of my busiest between my job and heavy work load from one or two classes. I ended up doing a lot better than I expected, with a 3.8 GPA for the quarter. That's probably my highest yet.

Since we aren't planning on getting a land line for our new house in September, I'm in the market for a new cell phone and plan. My old phone has served me well (it's lasted over 3 1/2 years) but I should have retired the prepaid service long ago. With no land line, I'll want a cell phone with a good plan, voicemail, and good service. The problem is I don't really know what phone or service to go with. If anyone has any good phone, plan, or service provider recommendations, let me know.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

fall in love with the sound

FIFA's World Cup kicks off this weekend, and I'm one of the minority of Americans who actually cares. I'm pretty excited that the U.S. is entering with what is probably their best team ever, which says a lot considering the dark-horse run of the 2002 team to the quarterfinals. However, the U.S. is also in one of the two toughest groups this year, with Italy, the Czech Republic, and Ghana. Taking one of the top two spots from the Italians and Czechs will not be easy. We didn't get a lucky draw for the groups like the cake-walks awaiting England, Germany, and France. Plus, even if we get second in our group to advance to the next round, we'd most likely face Brazil. So winning our group is super-important, and will be extremely difficult. I'm also disappointed that I'll only get to see one of the U.S.'s first-round games, since the other two games are on cable, and are being played while I'm at work. But at least the games aren't on at six or eight in the morning like they were when the 2002 World Cup was in Korea & Japan.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

i saw the ocean meet the man

I finished Half-Life 2: Episode 1 over the weekend and, to no one's surprise, I thought it was great. I really can't get over how brilliant the idea of episodic content is for gaming, at least when it comes to single player first-person shooters. The game lasted for about five hours, where your normal full length single player game generally lasts six to eight hours. Certainly no more than ten. So you have at least half the length of a normal fps game for only $20 (or $18 if you pre-order it via Steam like I did) instead of a whopping $50 for a few hours more. Granted many full games also come with multiplayer, but Valve has that covered as well, because Episode 1 comes with both Half-Life 2 Deathmatch and the Source-engine version of the original Half-Life Deathmatch. Plus has several other great multiplayer games available on Steam like Counter-Strike: Source and my favorite, Day of Defeat: Source.

Of course all this is only leading me into a discussion of how brilliant an idea Steam is. Never have a seen as much support by a developer for their games than I have seen by Valve over Steam. Constant updates and new features. Plus they sponsor the release of great third-party games over Steam like
Darwinia and the SiN Episodes. These are games that are too small to garner the attention of a big publisher, but over Steam these games get the attention of millions of gamers.

But back to the actual game
Episode 1. Yes, here are some spoilers, but it doesn't matter because most of those reading this have not, and probably will not, play the game. It doesn't answer of ton of questions from Half-Life 2 other than how you and Alyx Vance escape from the big explosion at the end of the game. The rest of the game follows the two of you trying to escape City 17 before the Citadel core explodes. Alyx is with you for the entire game, and she's probably the best Non-Player (Playable?) Character ever put in a game. Once again Valve pursues an actual emotional investment between the player and the characters in the game, and they succeed here more than ever before.

The game requires a great amount of team work to get through; for example, there are pitch-black areas where Alyx needs you to light the way with your flashlight, which includes illuminating any zombies or headcrabs so that she can take them out. The game also features a good mixture of puzzles and action, and once again makes great use of the physics engine with the greatest weapon ever created, the gravity gun (and yes, the super-powered version of the gravity gun does make an appearance again). The game ends with you and Alyx finally getting out of City 17 and also with another enormous explosion in which your survival is questionable (but obviously you do survive).

There's a preview trailer for Episode 2 at the end, which will have some nice new environments now that City 17 is no more, including what looks like some very open areas in a wilderness. There's also been at least one new Combine enemy hinted at in Episode 1. There's also some added replayability in the game because of the option to turn on the developer's commentary. This feature first made an appearance in the Half-Life 2: Lost Coast episode that was basically just a tech-demo for Valve's new high-definition lighting. The commentary is dispersed throughout the levels, and features all kinds of insights into level design, story and character development, and how the developers try to keep the gameplay different. I think it's a great feature. Here's looking forward to Episode 2 in six months.

Monday, June 05, 2006

leavin' on a southern train

This weekend was a lot of fun. Jess and I went out Saturday for our four year anniversary. First we went to dinner at Prima Vista. I got spaghetti and meatballs (not what it was called, but that's what it was) and she got the salmon. The spaghetti was good, but there was too much of it, and that's all there was. Jess' was the better choice because the salmon was excellent, and it came with green beans and a pasta. Before that we had a really good appetizer of muscles in some find of tomato-oil sauce. Then we had tiramisu for dessert, which was delicious. The view of the city from the restaurant was really nice too, especially since we got to see the sun go down and the city light up. It was a really nice place, but definitely on the expensive side.

After dinner we went to Shadowbox Cabaret. We had planned on going to Go Bananas comedy club, but had to change our plans when we realized the show was 21+ only. I'd never been to Shadowbox before, but it was pretty good. The comedy sketches weren't bad. Jess had been there before, and she said the comedy was better than it had been in the past. As I'd been told ahead of time, the music was really good. I wasn't impressed by their opening theme song, but they played a lot of good covers throughout the night. Some great renditions of "No Excuses", "Tom Sawyer", and "Baba O'Riley" were among the highlights (the girl that sang "Tom Sawyer" sounded so much like Geddy Lee is was hilarious. Overall I thought it was a fun place. I wouldn't go there all the time, but not bad for a change.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

you probably think this song is about you

i finished my last long paper for my big history class and took an exam in another class yesterday, so i can finally exhale and relax. i only have two exams left next week, neither of which will be too difficult.

half-life 2: episode 1 comes out today, which means that once i get home i'll be shutting myself up in my room. i'll have to find some way to drag myself out again for class tonight. i also need to install my new 250gb hard drive. it will be so nice not having to worry about disc space or having to uninstall a game in order to install and play another one.

i'm really excited about our new house for next year. i really don't feel like spending three more months in our apartment. it's a nice place, but our house is better. and i hate the area. getting out of corryville is something i'm looking forward to the most. plus our apartment is just way too hot.

well i'm home from work now, and episode 1 is almost finished unlocking all the files...