amethyst73: (Default)
When I was a teenager, I really thought for a while that I wanted to be a marine biologist. I spent hours and hours at the New England Aquarium as a kid, staring into the various tanks watching the inhabitants. From the ponderous, blind-looking giant groupers to the starfish and sea urchins that you could reach into the tidal pool tanks and hold, they were all wonderfully mysterious and totally awesome. I wanted to hang out with them and get to know them better.

...Well, most of them. The moray eel always made me a little nervous - it always seemed to be looking straight at me when it gaped that wide, dangerous-looking grin. And watching one too many National Geographic shows about sharks convinced me that it really would be just as well to pursue my fishy interests on land from behind a nice thick sheet of glass.

Enter Endless Ocean, a scuba-diving sim which has quite successfully fulfilled these requirements. Simply exploring beautiful environments and petting pretty fish is really fun. )

Oh, by the way: Don't ask me what a polar bear is doing in a tropical sea. Our best guess is that the Manoa Lai Sea surrounds the island settled by the Swiss Family Robinson.
amethyst73: (Default)
Today's been really very nice.  We've been home, for starters: while the mattress on the floor at my parents' house works okay for about a week, there's nothing quite like one's own mattress with nice fuzzy flannel sheets to give one a good night's sleep.  We were both so tired that we went to bed around 8-8:15 local time last night.  Woke up around 6, dozed and lolled till, oh, 7:30 or so.  So that was good.

We've done a good combination of "distinctly useful" and "just fun/pleasant" things today.  The combination of having company coming tomorrow and being in a somewhat messy environment for much of last week inspired us to do a fair amount of cleaning.  I tidied the dining room and coffee table (though the coffee table could stand more), cleaned much of the bathroom, and thoroughly vacuumed the  dining room and living room rugs.  The huz cleaned the stovetop and went through a pile of stuff on the kitchen table that's been collecting for quite some time.  We went ice skating for the first time in a bit over a week (last time was Saturday of last weekend), we both played our Wii games that we're working on (one star for the huz, and unbepuzzlement on various paths in Hyrule Castle for me), we've done computer stuff, read, and I even lay down for a while this afternoon after skating.  I beat Golem at card dueling in Chocobo Tales too.  Oh, and we've spent time with the kitties, which is both fun and useful.  Tazz is dozing on my lap even now.

The more I play FFF:CT, the more impressed I am by how generally kid-friendly it is.  Sure, the little chocobo hero is generally saving the world from a nasty demon book-thing, but how threatening is that when the method of saving is to play lots and lots of little games?  Especially when the worst that happens when you lose a challenge, either in a minigame or a duel is.. okay, fine, you lose, try again?  Even in a card duel, if you lose, you lose all your HP and the duel is over.  But the 'real world' chocobo avatar is just fine.  It doesn't die; there's no Game Over.  Golem (or whoever) just stands there and waits for you to challenge him again.  Eventually, you must beat him to advance the plot, but it's entirely likely that there are several mini- and micro-games for you to wander off and beat in the hopes of changing the local environment (usually to access a new area), rescuing one of your chocobo buddies, or gaining a new dueling card with which to improve your deck.  It's true that some of the games are kind of tough.  The microgames are set up in such a way that if you get some moderate number of points, you get an okay sort of dueling card; if you get a much higher number of points, you get a rather cooler card.  For most of the microgames, it's not hugely difficult to get that first level of card.. but of the many many microgames that I've come across, I've gotten the second level card all of twice, and there are two microgames where I haven't managed even the first level.  All these games are short, no more than a couple of minutes, and almost all of them give the sense that if one tries just one more time, one could beat battle level five or achieve the hardest trial run.  Just one more try, really!  Frighteningly addictive, but straightforward in terms of its structure to play for five or ten minutes and then shut it off again - a really excellent setup for a portable system.  Very very good investment, this.
amethyst73: (mii)
I
 think I've just received the most exciting piece of news I'm likely to hear this week:  Okami, a flat-out gorgeous adventure game for the PS2, is FINALLY confirmed to have a Wii port in progress!!!!!

This is a game that Wii owners have been dreaming about pretty much ever since the console was initially released, because one of the main actions in the game is painting.  Having tried to 'draw' a circle using an analog stick, I can tell you that it's pretty darned clunky.  But the IR functionality of the Wiimote is absolutely perfect for such actions - take the 'sketching food items' minigame in Rayman Raving Rabids.  Consciously or otherwise, Okami must have been dreamed up with such controls in mind.

One of the best parts of the news?

We're not going to have to wait forever for the port!  It's currently scheduled for Spring 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can you tell that a new game has suddenly sprinted to the top of my Wii Games We Must Acquire list?  :D  Squeeee!!!!!!
amethyst73: (mii)
Link was exceedingly dense while wandering around Snowpeak earlier.

Number of times he attempted to carry a cannonball past the rotating ice-dragon creatures in cages, or throw the ball up to a level spot, or similar, before realizing there were holes in the cages through which he could bash the creatures: More than I care to remember.

But once I noticed the holes, boyoboy, progress!  I've got the (erhm) key to the bedroom.. and while the map shows no boss, I cannot believe that There Is No Boss There.  There's also another chest which I haven't gotten to yet, which I'm assuming is the second heart piece (since all the other chests are gone now, and I have one but not two heart pieces from Snowpeak).  It's the one on the second floor of the main hallway, which I'm sort of assuming will involve the three chandeliers.  If only I could reliably make that dratted ice skeleton fall off the stairs and die, life would be considerably simpler with regards to solving this puzzle!

And, still in Zelda-land, the huz and I ran an experiment last night.  He did some Librivox recording stuff in the office with the door closed, and I played Zelda in the living room on the lowest audible volume setting (and kept my mutterings quiet).  No videogame noise on the recording!  Huzzah!  So now, while I will probably often choose to stick audiobooks on my Shuffle and do cross-stitch while the huz records, just 'cuz that's something I don't actually get to do very often, I know I have the option of game-playing!  Eeeee, excitement!

Meanwhile, we sold Super Monkey Balls back to the local Gamestop for a surprisingly reasonable amount, and put the credit from that towards a used copy of Super Paper Mario.  The huz played all of chapter 1-1, and has gotten his second Pixl in the town in chapter 1-2.  It's huge fun to watch.  Pretty graphics, if stylized, and the flipping from one dimension to the other is a real hoot.  (Giant Mario is - not to pun - an even bigger hoot.)  The dialogue so far is really very clever, and the play is pretty straightforward.  One minor blow to Nintendo, though: there's NOTHING in the manual (and I think, similarly, NOTHING from Tippy, your hint-Pixl that you start out with) about how to enter a pipe.  The huz would have gotten really frustrated had I not had a moment of insight there in the middle of chapter 1-2.

Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, we downloaded Wave Race 64 the other day, based on my vague but month-long desire for a racing game just to have something different that was a good pick-up-and-play-a-few-minutes game, and on the IGN review of it.  It's fun!  I'm not even vaguely competent yet at doing any of the tricks (barrel rolls and flips off the ramps, doing a handstand or facing backwards or standing up while riding), but I have mostly gotten over the initial difficulty I had with oversteering.  Just playing around in the practice area is a lot of fun.  We both think that IGN went a bit overboard in claiming that the water physics are still the best around, though.  They're fine.  They're quite nice.  Amazing, I'm afraid they just aren't.  But at $10, I'm not going to complain.  :)
amethyst73: (Default)
Not bothering to friend-lock this.  No emo here, and I'm guessing that relatively few people outside of friends read this LJ anyway.  :)
Dad: Still there (not really surprising).  Not that much has happened yet as far as I can tell.  He has appointments for two things on Tuesday: one thing that Mom said was an EKG, but I think *must* be an EEG, and one with the neurologist - which had been set up some time before - to review the results of the neurological testing he did back in July.  And his regular psych comes back from vacation this week.  Talking to him today he seemed pretty depressed, which Mom confirmed when I chatted with her.  Sigh.

Me: Doing better now.  I've adjusted to The New Normality, such as it is: he's where he is, I call him every couple of days, and call Mom every night and try to help her de-stress.  My appetite, which had largely left, is back to basically normal, and I've had three good nights' sleep in a row now!  Also, played significant Zelda on Saturday... there, I *must* be feeling better, right?  ;)  Time spent working with pencil, paper, and 3 coins to do the second part of the Snowpeak Block Puzzle: approximately 1 minute.  <grin>  Admittedly, one of the blocks happened to be in the perfect spot when I decided that a real-world copy would be useful.  But still!  I'd seen references to Snowpeak Ice Block Puzzle in many different walkthroughs and kind of assumed it was a difficult puzzle.  ..Unless there's another ice block puzzle somewhere in the mansion, which is entirely possible...

Weekend: Mostly very cool so far. 
    Yesterday we went to see the world premiere of a musical version of Jane Austen's novel Emma.  It was very very very good!  Folks in our area, you should go see it!  Folks not in our area, hopefully it will be making its way to a stage near you sometime, and you should go see it when it does!
    Today I did church in the morning, and we've done mostly useful stuff today.  Sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, downloading Wave Race... ya know, useful stuff.  ;)
    No particular plans for today.  Get haircuts, pay a visit to GameStop and get rid of Super Monkey Balls (and possibly pick up something else - the huz has a hankering for Super Paper Mario), make soup, clean the bathtub.  And do nice things together.

Sound like a plan? :)
amethyst73: (mii)
When I came home from work this evening, the huz was sitting at the Wii.  "Wanna see something?" he said.

He turned on the screen and woke up the console... and I watched with pride as the Ganodorf from Zelda: Ocarina of Time threw curses down on all and sundry.

In a matter of mere months (he bought and started the game the day it came out on the Virtual Console), the huz has beat Ocarina of Time!  (Took three tries on the final battle sequence, but I bet most people take multiple tries.)  Congratulations, oh huz!!!!!
amethyst73: (mii)
The Wii has seen a number of plastic holders for the Wiimote and nunchuck, most of them so far in the steering wheel and gun-like configurations.  Maker Camy has designed Zelda-like Master Sword and Hylian Shield holders for the Wiimote and nunchuck, respectively.  They somehow manage to look both entirely goofy  - maybe it's the miniaturization of the shield, which would protect your fist and little else in a real-life bout - and moderately cool.  Video below:
amethyst73: (mii)
Zelda: Almost done with the Lakebed Temple.  I found both pieces of heart (8 heart containers!  Yeah baby!), and have only to unlock the boss door and find out what that's all about.  I expect an interesting cinematic once I've got the third and final Fused Shadow given what the last district spirit showed me.  Point of pride: No looking at walkthroughs on this one!  (Yet.)

Rayman:
Completed another day, this one with a warthog race as the final task.  Maybe it was because I'd done a decent amount of practicing on the course over the last month or two (the huz completed that day some time ago, and thus opened up the day's tasks in Score mode), but I'm still rather proud of the fact that I managed to win the race on only my third try - and didn't have to get the huz to win it for me this time.  :)

Wii sports: Well, er.. this is kind of a dis-accomplishment.  I did a fitness test the other morning for the first time in ages.  And because I wanted to have a bit of a workout, I used the nunchuk, which allows the boxing minigames to be used in the test.  I did not expect all three tests to be boxing games!  Because the controls on the boxing games are kind of iffy, "Oh no!  You've added 46 years to your score!"  At least it should be pretty easy to lower it from the current 73 years or whatever the dreadful score was.

Super Monkey Balls: The huz played the regular game for a while, and realized during the irritating boss stage of World 2 why it was so frustrating: the camera angle changes to focus on the boss rather than staying fixed behind the player.  As a result, it's MUCH more difficult to control the angle of the stage than it should be.  Rrrr.  We also played a few of the minigames... and ya know?  They really aren't as well done as Rayman, for the most part.  Some are pretty decent (the driving game, darts, frisbee golf, the birds).  But many more are thwarted by poor instructions (we never did quite figure out how to control the adjunct ball in Monkey Target; the spearfishing one, the bowling one), are really really really dumb (fruitbasket and Rock Paper Scissors), really poorly implemented (fencing), or just plain bad (trombone).  And while the colors are bright and the mood hyper, the overall execution feels unpolished and/or flawed.  We're guessing that this one got pretty good reviews due to the fact that it was one of the better offerings for the system at release time.

Looking forward to: probably Super Paper Mario at some point, possibly Super Mario Galaxy, definitely Rayman 2.  Possibly Wii Fit, because the balance board looks like it's going to be a super peripheral in the future.  I see a snowboarding game, and I *definitely* see a full-blown Dance Dance Revolution game with simultaneous balance board and remote-nunchuck action. 
amethyst73: (mii)
Went back, got heart piece and lots o' cashola.  Notes of interest:

• When you complete a dungeon (beat the end boss and exit via Midna's mini-warp point), you lose Ooccoo.  Sad sad.  Mildly sadder is: if you then re-enter the dungeon, Ooccoo does not appear to be in residence anymore!  Let's hope that whatever you want to do is something that can be reasonably achieved in a single play session.

• All the monsters are still present in the dungeon.  (Surprise surprise.)

• I (accidentally) used the fairy that I'd found during the end boss fight.  Just for ha-ha's, I checked the area that the fairy had been in the first time.  It had regenerated, being a Pot Object.  [evil grin]

• There's a chest in the dungeon that clearly isn't meant to be accessible till Link gets the hookshot.  But you know?  Two of the first three rooms are annoying enough that I'm not certain I'm interested in going back in yet a third time, just to pick up what's probably just a money chest.

• Bomb arrows = verrrrry useful if you want to dispose of a closely clustered group of nasties.  Boom!
[evil grin again]

Time to see if there's anything else to do in the village, and then mebbe get on to some plot.
amethyst73: (mii)
Things not done:
hedge trimming (due mostly to still-healing sprained finger)
lawn mowing (ditto)
general cleaning (laziness)

Things done:
OSH shopping trip (doorknob, paint, assorted gutter bend and extension pieces)
listening to more music
helping install new doorknob
generally kicking back and relaxing

My goal for the holiday weekend in Zelda was to find and defeat the mid-boss of the Goron Mines dungeon.  (Having found the mid-boss for the Forest Temple kinda difficult, and having required three tries to deal with him, a weekend seemed like a reasonable guesstimate for the next one.) 

Somewhat to my surprise, I completed this goal Friday evening.

I found - and defeated - the boss of the dungeon earlier today.  Whoa.

Now I need to go back in and open all the money-chests and such that I didn't bother with earlier 'cuz my wallet was totally full.  (Link was able to go on a shopping spree after completing the dungeon and is now feeling poor.)  Plus there's a heart piece that I missed!  Hope Midna doesn't mind that she's going to see the inside of the dungeon again.
amethyst73: (mii)

I think next time I spend serious Wii time, I might do Rayman instead.  Just for a change.
amethyst73: (mii)
That was, I think, the most surreal item-quest I've ever been on.

Evil spirits not like bridge.  Evil spirits stole the bridge and put it somewhere else.

Midna sez: Find The Bridge.  Oh yeah, and this is how warp points work.

After some totally clueless wandering around, found the bridge (set on its end, looking a little like a ladder).  Midna then bamfed me and it off to where the bridge was originally built.  I was appropriately impressed - Midna's strong!

But... a bridge.  A bridge?  Totally weird and surreal.
amethyst73: (Default)

Food/restaurant:
The Bean Scene Cafe may be physically convenient to the Mountainview Center for the Performing Arts, but boy are they sloooooooooooow.  We ordered around 6:20 or 6:25.  There was one order ahead of us, consisting of two dinner crepes and a salad.  It should not have taken nearly half an hour for the single guy who was there to put together that order plus our two sandwiches.  There are several places nearby which would probably take an equivalent amount of time to get to, acquire and order food, and return to the MVCPA by showtime which we will investigate next time around.

Theater:  We went to a show that was part of a local New Works theater last night and saw Equivocation, by Bill Cain.  It was very good: Will Shakespeare is asked to write a play about the 'true' (well, official, anyway) story of the Gunpowder Plot.  There's lots of reference to recent/current events (Robert Cecil, the Prime Minister, cannot produce the 36 barrels of gunpowder because the powder has been dispersed - after all, together those barrels could kill a lot of people.  Old weapon of mass destruction, ya know) and the writing is almost Shavian in its witty and biting humor.  The second act tends to drag a bit, and will likely be the focus of future rewrites.  Perhaps we'll get to see it in its final form in a year or two!

Zelda happiness: Finished the Forest Temple earlier this afternoon!  It took a lot of tries to successfully use the monkey-swing, but once in the room I beat the end boss in only one go! 
Now, admittedly, I drank all three doses of healing that I had with me.  And after every cycle of defeating the two sub-creatures, the boss just kind of stood there and didn't do anything harmful while I attempted to deliver bombs to its  head.  And I had to hunt for heart-pots later on, and I had the huz looking on and offering very helpful advice... but I did it!  And I have a fourth heart container!

Rayman sadness:
The huz had been working on day 11 (I think) of Rayman, and had essentially just completed a somewhat nasty task... when the console crashed.   This is one more reason to dislike games that won't let you save any time you want to (or at least, any time that you've completed a task, but not a day.)
amethyst73: (Default)

IGN has a pretty amusing Top list this week: they chose to determine the 25 Worst instances of game box art.  There are several apparent categories: too much flesh (male - e.g. Rambo), too much flesh (male+female - mostly consisting of heroes'n'heroines dressed in their Brassieres Of Protecting), plain old Bad Art (e.g. Wonder Boy, Mega Man, several others), inclusion of odd elements that have - presumably - minimal amounts to do with the actual gameplay (like the Appalachianesque banjo player on the cover of the space war game Phalanx, the bizarro baby face on the cover of Super Bust-A-Move)...

.. and finally, the "What were they thinking when they came up with the game concept?" cover: Ninja Golf.  A clear winner. 

As a side note, I'd never seen the box art for the home console release of the original Pac-Man (heck, I'd never seen the art for, much less heard of, most of the games listed, and I'm sure that's for all the right reasons), but I thought it had a certain charm to it.

I've now logged over 5 hours (yeah, woo!) of gameplay on Zelda: Twilight Princess and so I feel like I can make some early comments on the game.   
In non-gaming stuff:

- The boxes that arrived at work had everything!  And there was even a packing slip enclosed!

- The little lilac bush in our back yard, which has never had more than one spray of flowers on it (and more often had none at all) has FOUR SPRAYS of buds!!!  *happy joy dance*

- I bought myself new ice skates!  I'd been using my mom's old skates for a while.  Said skates were probably 20+ years old, and had no support in the boot above about the height of a pair of dress shoes.  Not useful when you're trying to do 3-turns and mohawks and stuff.  I'll probably spend the rest of the current session of skating classes just getting used to them, but it'll be a good thing overall.

- We had a lovely time hanging out with friends this past weekend, and listened to several chapters of At The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald driving to the meeting point and back.  Delightful story.  But do move along, sir.  There's no religious symbolism to be seen here.  ;)
amethyst73: (Default)

Good thing: The nausea that accompanied my migraine last night (and which might have been caused by same) is completely gone!

Bad thing: The migraine isn't gone yet.  Give it another day or three.  (catagon, I'm gonna try to make it to rehearsal tonight!)

Good thing: Link rescued the kid in the forest earlier today, and didn't even have to go into a dungeon to do so!

Bad thing: Playing Zelda for half an hour was probably not what the migraine needed to get better.  But I was bored, dangitall.

Good thing: I can use the computer at least *some*.

Bad thing: But not for more than oh, half an hour or so.  So I can't really write anything more interesting than this post.  (I've got a Karl Jenkins post in the works, though.)

General thing: Hugs all round to everyone who's having a sucky time these days.  There seems to be something just going around in the 'bad karma' department.  May everyone's week improve!
amethyst73: (Default)
1. On Monday, I had my first voice lesson in a couple of weeks.  My teacher was able to lead me into keeping my throat open and relaxed while singing, even the high stuff.  It felt like a new door had been opened.  Then on Tuesday, when I was practicing, I found a Really Useful image to think of when I breathe in: Not only am I thinking down (with my diaphragm), but I'm thinking back (to stretch and relax the larynx - this part has the lovely side effect of elevating the ribs in my back too!) and also up through the back of my head (to help generate the lift and space I need to get the resonance that I want).  When it works, it feels like it really works!  Everything's open, free, relaxed, not forced... Hopefully I'm doing things right, and not screwing things up.

2. Last night I got to have my first rehearsal with our new choir director Matthew.  Working with him really is wonderful!  He's challenging us: last night consisted largely of: read through a piece with piano accompaniment once, or twice in one case, and then he'd have us try it a capella.  Great fun, as far as I'm concerned.  :)  And of course he's a marvelous musician, and huge fun to work with.  It was a lovely evening, ending with drinks and dessert after rehearsal.  (And we're doing a piece this Sunday that I actually felt the need to take home and learn (at least for one transition spot).  Novel, what?

In other news: I am now the proud holder of the first Gold Medal in the household for a Wii Sports training exercise!  (in the Golf: Hitting to the Green exercise, if anyone cares)  Yeah, boring life I know.  ;)
amethyst73: (Default)

It's looking a little unlikely that I'll be able to do an 'attempt at good writing' post this week, due primarily to a lack of time.  Work is being busy: I'm doing the usual round of wet-lab work, and now that I've figured out how to call SNPs without developing a migraine, I'm trying to do more of that too. 

This week is also concert week for the community/university chorus that the huz and I are in.  The schedule for the week runs like this: regular rehearsal Monday night, dress rehearsals Tuesday and Thursday nights, concert on Friday and Saturday nights.  We're performing Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time, which I made a very brief reference to awhile back.  At some point - hopefully sooner rather than later - I intend to write a 'good writing' post about it.  But for now, suffice it to say that it's relatively modern, that Tippett really liked writing angular, non-melodic stuff (about Kristallnacht, in this particular instance), and that the piece was pretty difficult to learn.  In last night's dress rehearsal, it was clear that parts of the chorus still don't know chunks of it terribly well.  Sigh.

On the Wii front:
Rayman: I cheated the other day and got the huz to win my warthog race for me.  I'd spent more than sufficient time working on the Day 3 trials and wanted to save my game already.  (The one serious issue we have with Rayman is that the game WILL NOT SAVE until you have completed the last trial of the day.  We both feel that it ought to save after every successful sub-trial.  The huz, happily, passed the trial on his first go.)  But this morning, I was myself finally successful in breaking the time barrier!  Yay!  So now I don't feel like a cheat anymore.  I also finished the maze game in Day 3 in just barely the allotted time this morning.  So, double yay!

Sports: I now hold medals in all 3 tennis exercises and in all 3 golf trials, as well as one each in the baseball and bowling ones.  Neither of us has gotten a gold medal yet, but it's only a matter of time.  :)

Zelda: I've determined that if I spend too much time either playing Zelda: TP myself, or watching the huz play Ocarina of Time, I get dizzy, then motion-sick.  So at the moment I'm trying to figure out what my maximum 'safe' time is for watching or playing.  15 minutes of continuous watching from the couch (figuring that if the screen takes up a smaller portion of my visual field, it won't get me so sick so fast) is perfectly fine.  I'm looking forward to trying 20 minutes of play from the couch later today.  :)
amethyst73: (mii)

So now that we've had the box for a few days, what do we think?  Stil totally awesome.  (Anyone who happens to be in the area *must* come visit and play.)

Plan A (going to Fry's and claiming someone had given us the games we didn't want) failed, because a senior manager recognized the games as having been sold as part of a bundle, and therefore required the receipt and whole system to return.  "Gosh, my friend didn't tell me that..."  But Plan B (going to Target sans receipt) worked!  I picked up copies of Zelda (which I knew we wanted) and Rayman (which I vaguely remembered as not having abysmal reviews), and we've looked at both.

And before I get to actual content, go watch this.  It's a Mac-vs-Windows-like mock advertisement comparing the Wii and the PS3.  WARNING: Do be careful of your environment when you watch; there is much rubbing and jiggling of (clothed) female body parts.

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