The Conan Lorebook

Making the world safe from mediocrity.

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Movie Review: Juno

Juno is a fabulous movie, clever dialog and real depth to characters.  I don't want to say too much about it, as I can't do it justice.  A great soundtrack and songs accompany us through the journey.

There are some instances of language, and, as anyone who's seen the previews will know, the lead character is a pregnant teen.  But the movie has a tinge of realism to it, and smartly deals with a lot of issues facing teenagers.  I joked with Jodi that any teens that went to the show may have learned some lessons, likely against their will.

Pat's Rating system:

  • How much would I pay for the movie? I would be willing to pay theater/popcorn prices to see this again, so let's say $15-20 or so.  I'd probably buy the DVD too.
  • How many times would I rewatch it?  I'd be more than happy to see this in the theaters again.

Game Review: N+

N+ is the new hotness on XBox Live Arcade, created by metanet software as a sequel to their flash game, N.  Lauded as a paragon of substance over style, it is a hit with game reviewers all over.  It has a laughably small download size: 13MB. 

The game prizes control and level design over fluff like graphics.  The biggest problem with the game is that the control feels heavy, and the level design is tedious.

Obviously, they're trying to make it feel "physics-y", where the character has weight and momentum, but it only occaisonally comes off that way.  If you aren't making a gloriously long leap after a run, the character just feels sluggish.

As to the level design, I have to admit that I was only playing the demo, and there are something like 200 levels in the full game.  But they were often merely passable, not clever.  When I see a long corridor of 40 deathtraps that I have jump one by one, stopping each time, I am not enjoying it.  And when I die halfway down that hallway, I'm not only not buying the game, I'm deleting it.

N+, you're just going to have to try a bit harder in the fun department. 


Pat's Rating system:

  • How much would I pay for the game? Maybe $3-5, if I'm bored.
  • How many times would I replay it? Do I really have to finish it?  It has people hooked, but I just can't see myself trying the same level over and over again like I can with Puzzle Quest.  Multiplayer is supposed to be fun, but that's not enough justification.

Caveat Emptor?

OK, so I've gotten far weirder and far more nefarious email offering money. This one was for real, and is in reference to the game contest for which I made some art . The contest ended on March 1st.


The bottom line is that they've canceled the contest "due to a lack of participation." The only reason I joined in the first place was because the deadline originally was two weeks and no one else had apparently joined. I spent a good 80 hours or more of professional work on a very nice game level, so it wasn't free money. They soon stretched that deadline to over two months. And now, six days after the contest ended, they've called it off.


They offered a $500 consolation prize, which is a far cry from the $2500 that was promised to the winner. On one side, a bird in the hand is definitely something to consider. On the other side, it ticks me off that a company like Turbo Squid is doing this.


Caveat Emptor.



The Shape of Things to Come

For you video game-hungry bros out there, I think you'll like this video. It comes from last week'sGame Developer Conference and is a tech demo of the latest version of the Unreal 3 engine -- the earlier version of which brought us Gears of War.


Since I'm in this type of biz, I totally geeked-out and wished I could have this tech to play with right now. Unfortunately, the price tag is about five zeros out of my league. As gamers, it's a very cool preview of things to come: Soft-body modeling (makes things like a "Blob" or Jell-o), realistic interaction with water, materials which break apart like their real-life counterparts, large crowds, ambient occlusion (fakes shadowing under places that are almost always dark, like armpits, under ledges, etc) and more. Very, very cool technology.


Watch the presentation here:

Wedding Stays

A little bluebird told me there's a good chance of getting an RV for the trip from Bloomsdale/St Louis over to here.  That's great, and I hope it works out and everyone can make it.


We'll send it with the invitations, but hotel info can be found here:

To get the special rate of $74.95+tax per night, ask for the Demart-Forhan group. Each room comes with a microwave and fridge. Normal prices are $79 weekday/$83 weekend night plus taxes.


Here's the location of a nice RV park, right on the Chesapeake Bay, and only about five miles from the hotel:

Prices for this are $42-44 per night. (ouch). At least it would be scenic (hopefully!). 


Yes, I know all those are crazy--but that was the best deal we could find that didn't involve roaches. 


I've mapped all three locations on Google Maps: A) is the RV Park, B) is the Ramada Inn and C) is the Liriodendron, where we'll be having the ceremony and reception: Google Maps


We hope we'll get to see everyone! 


Pat's Favorite FireFox Extensions

Here are all of the best Firefox Extensions I use. I do stay on Firefox 1.5 for most of my browsers, so some of these may not be available for 2.0 and greater. These are presented roughly in the order of how often I use them.


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XBLA Undertow mini-review

So I finally played some Undertow over the last couple days... seems like a pretty nifty little game, with some very nice graphic effects. I enjoy "territories" game types (ala Halo 3), so this one is mostly right up my alley. Mostly.



1. Really nice graphics

2. Fast and furious gameplay

3. Character selection and upgrade

4. Cool powerups

5. Multiple ways to traverse the map



1. I have a really hard time figuring out how to switch my character in the base

2. Do I have any control over how often my teammates spawn, where they spawn, and what kind of characters they are?

3. Very limited life, and no way to ram people, so the bigger ships seem almost useless.

4. No real strategy for the solo game; it's just jump in guns-a-blazin'. And why don't my teammates protect our bases more? It's not like my one character can be everywhere at once.

5. Could the story mode have any more cheese in the cut scenes?



 I like the game, and would really enjoy playing multiplayer to see if it improves some of the strategy limitations. I got mine free on XBLA so it's a great value overall, but would I have paid for it? Hard to say.

A Grand Debate: Full-time vs. W-2 Contractor vs. 1099 Contractor

I want to discuss (for my own sake and decision making) the most common options available for employment in office jobs like mine, and eventually produce a pro-vs-con list on each. Feedback is encouraged and welcome. The three options are full-time employee (referenced hereafter as FTE), W-2 Contractor(W2C), and 1099 contractor.

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40 Things for 40 Years

So, Jan 10th started like any other day: Wake up, cruise the Internet, work and ponder all the things wrong I've done in my life. The could-have-beens; the still-may-bes.


I did not expect much for my birthday. Between the holidays and wedding preparation, we barely had time to get each other Christmas gifts. In fact, our Christmas consisted of going over to the local Best Buy and asking each other what he or she would like. Not very romantic, and not what we would have preferred. But as I mentioned, we had a lot on our plates.


So, it was a small surprise when Sara came home bearing a medium-sized wrapped gift. It was an even greater surprise when I read the bumper sticker on the outside (which she created), which read "40 Things for 40 Years".


My love... the love of my life... had gone out and bought forty items--from the practical to the edible to the enjoyable. Each package was wrapped, and each had a little paper with an age-related quote on them.


A 4-pack of rechargeable batteries, two wiper blades, a six-pack of socks, a six-pack of Killian's Red, two movies on DVDs, candy, gourmet coffee, an XBox Live points card (for buying games or movies via XBox Live) and more.


It was one of the sweetest things ever done for me and the thought of all the effort that went into it during a busy time for us makes me a bit maudlin.


Thank you Sara. <3





Hello and welcome!

Just a short time ago, geologically speaking, our little friend Eric was born.  He was the runt of the litter, but grew up hale and hearty.  Always good with children, the family thrived under his constant care, supervision and carefully planned destruction of toys of his younger siblings.  He was bestowed the title of Monkey Extrodinaire a short few years ago.


Happy Birthday, Eric!



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