Monday, February 08, 2010

Sorry Folks.

I started a Facebook page and been using it as my new blog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

KISS


LOS ANGELES, CA & BENTONVILLE, AR (August 17, 2009) KISS and Walmart announced today that SONIC BOOM—the bands highly anticipated CD, and its first new material in 11 years—will be sold in the U.S. and Canada exclusively at Walmart and Sams Club retail locations beginning October 6. SONIC BOOM, produced by the bands Paul Stanley in Los Angeles, is the centerpiece of a three-disc set that also features a completely re-recorded greatest hits CD as well as a live DVD shot in Argentina during the bands recent, record-breaking KISS ALIVE 35 South American tour. The CD set will retail for $12, with pre-orders starting in September on Walmart.com.

KISS' Gene Simmons says, "SONIC BOOM"
may be the best new record we've done since Destroyer! It is Rock And Roll Over meets Love Gun. The worlds biggest retailer had better get ready for the hottest band in the world and hire more cashiers before October 6th!

Stanley continues, "Through all of the albums that are considered our classics, we tried to always find ways to give our fans extras that went beyond just the music. Besides our making the best KISS album in decades, Walmart has made it possible for us to include a bonus CD with 15 of our most famous songs and an additional live DVD, shot during our recent concert in Buenos Aires. So in every sense, SONIC BOOM is the ultimate return to classic KISS form. You wanted the best, you got the best!"

In celebration of the albums release, KISS announced today a special KISS ALIVE 35 show at Detroit Rock City's legendary concert venue, Cobo Arena, on September 25. This historic structure, which is slated for closure, has hosted KISS concerts on numerous occasions, not the least of which was the series of shows that were recorded to become the KISS ALIVE! album. Tracks made famous on KISS ALIVE!—including "Rock and Roll All Nite", "Deuce", "Black Diamond", and "Hotter Than Hell"—are well represented on the greatest hits disc included with SONIC BOOM. The Detroit show, which will live another 35 years in KISStory, features opening act Buckcherry and goes on sale to the public at 5 pm EDT on August 21 at Ticketmaster.com.

Walmart, one of Americas largest music retailers, is finalizing its exciting plans now for its in-store and online destinations for KISS fans surrounding the launch of the new album and tour, and will host various KISS products in addition to their music in its stores this fall. More details on Walmart KISS activity, announcements regarding album pre-sales, sweepstakes and KISS appearances will be shared shortly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Battery-powered TVs useless this storm season

PRICE OF GOING DIGITAL

An option to convert portable analog sets to digital:

• Winegard DTV battery pack: $15, winegarddirect.com

• Venturer-brand converter box: Target, $50

• Six D-batteries: $10

• Passive antenna: $10-$20

Small or older portable TV sets that do not have an external antenna input will not be able to receive digital signals. A few options to replace your old set:

• Dynex 7-inch LCD portable analog/digital TV: $150, bestbuy.com

• Accurian 7-inch LCD portable analog/digital TV: $150, radioshack.com

• Haier 7-inch portable handheld LCD HDTV: $150, radioshack.com

• Coby portable 7’-inch widescreen LCD TV: $140, amazon.com

• iView portable 7-inch widescreen TFT LCD TV: $120, amazon.com

Other resources:

• DTV Help line : 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322).

• For more information and to find a local support center visit: www.dtv.gov

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Singer Yusuf Islam plays first U.S. show in 33 years


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With a wry nod to his problems with American immigration authorities, British folk singer Yusuf Islam performed his first U.S. concert in 33 years on Monday, treating 400 fans to classics from his youthful days when he was known as Cat Stevens.

The 60-year-old musician treated the invitation-only crowd to an hour-long set that included such hits as "Peace Train," "Wild World" and "Where Do the Children Play?" as well as a selection of tunes from his new album, "Roadsinger."

Looking professorial with his full gray beard, checkered shirt and sleeveless jacket, the bespectacled singer sprinkled his performance with lighthearted banter.

"I bet you thought we'd never make it," he said at the outset, later explaining that he was referring to his 2004 deportation from the United States after his name appeared on a "no-fly" watch list designed to weed out suspected terrorists.

Islam, who became a Muslim in 1977 and abandoned his pop star life, ran afoul of authorities who alleged he supports charities that ultimately funnel money to terrorist groups.

Islam denied the allegations and has frequently spoken out against terrorism. He has since returned to the United States on several occasions.

But he encountered bureaucratic difficulties on his current visit. An unspecified work-visa issue forced him to cancel a planned May 3 show in New York, leaving Los Angeles as his sole American date.

He has said he plans to perform a handful of shows around the world to promote "Roadsinger," only his second mainstream pop release in three decades. But no dates have been announced beyond the American pair. It was not known if the New York show would be rescheduled.

Islam last performed in the United States in early 1976, by which time he was becoming disenchanted with his pop career amid declining sales. After a London show in 1979, he focused solely on his family and faith.

He made a tentative return to the pop world in 2006 with the album "An Other Cup," and promoted it with an intimate London show that was filmed for a DVD.

Monday's show at the El Rey Theater, which was organized by the record label, was also filmed. Accompanied by a four-man band, Islam sang and played his acoustic guitar. A number of celebrities attended the show, including Irish actor Colin Farrell and singers Josh Groban, Chris Isaak, and Michelle Branch.

Many songs were greeted with standing ovations. During the two-song encore, they cheered the line "Look at me, I am old but I'm happy" from "Father and Son," and clapped along to "Peace Train."


Thursday, April 30, 2009

FACT CHECK: Obama's job, deficit claims are iffy

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama turned the page on 100 days in office with an iffy boast about job creation and claims of fiscal prudence that are hard to square with his spending.

Obama spoke with abundant confidence about his chances for achieving the big-ticket items on his agenda despite economic calamity:

_His assertion that his proposed budget "will cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term" is an eyeball-roller for many economists, given the uncharted terrain of trillion-dollar deficits the government is negotiating.

_He promised vast savings from increased spending on preventive health care in the face of doubts that such an effort, however laudable it might be for public welfare, can pay for itself, let alone yield huge savings.

_He pitched a remedy for Social Security's long-term crisis that analysts say won't fix half the problem.

Obama held a prime-time news conference Wednesday and addressed citizens at an Arnold, Mo., high school, using both events to review progress at the 100-day mark and look ahead.

A look at some of his claims:

OBAMA: "We began by passing a Recovery Act that has already saved or created over 150,000 jobs." — from news conference.

THE FACTS: This assertion is dubious on several levels. For starters, the U.S. has lost more than 1.2 million jobs since Obama took office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if Obama's stimulus bill saved or created as many jobs as he says, that number is dwarfed by the number of recent job losses.

But Obama's number is murky, at best. The White House has not yet announced how it intends to count jobs created by the stimulus bill. Obama's number is based on a job-counting formula that his economists have developed but have not made public. Until that formula is announced — probably in the coming week or so — there's no way to assess its accuracy.

Whatever the formula, economists who study job creation say it will require some creative math. That's because Obama has lumped "jobs saved" in with "jobs created." Even economists for organizations that stand to benefit from the stimulus concede it probably is impossible to estimate saved jobs because that would require calculating a hypothetical: how many people would have lost their jobs without the stimulus.

___

OBAMA: "We must lay a new foundation for growth, a foundation that will strengthen our economy and help us compete in the 21st century. And that's exactly what this budget begins to do. It contains new investments in education that will equip our workers with the right skills and training; new investments in renewable energy that will create millions of jobs and new industries; new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses, and new savings that will bring down our deficit." — news conference.

"I've personally asked the leadership in Congress to pass into law rules that follow the simple principle: You pay for what you spend, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does." — in Missouri.

THE FACTS: While the budget does set a roadmap for achieving the president's goals, it says nothing about how to pay for his health plan, expected to cost more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. And while the deficit, under the plan, would drop to $523 billion in 2014, it achieves it with unrealistic assumptions, such as projections that spending in Iraq and Afghanistan will amount to only $50 billion a year.

___

OBAMA: "Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. ... That wasn't me." — in Missouri.

THE FACTS:

Congress, under Democratic control in 2007 and 2008, held the purse strings that led to the deficit Obama inherited. A Republican president, George W. Bush, had a role too: He signed the legislation.

Obama supported the emergency financial bailout package in Bush's final months — a package Democratic leaders wanted to make bigger.

To be sure, Obama opposed the Iraq war, a drain on federal coffers for six years before he became president. But with one major exception, he voted in support of Iraq war spending.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated Obama's policy proposals would add a net $428 billion to the deficit over four years, even accounting for his spending reduction goals. Now, the deficit is nearly quadrupling to $1.75 trillion.

___

OBAMA: "I think one basic principle that we know is that the more we do on the (disease) prevention side, the more we can obtain serious savings down the road. ... If we're making those investments, we will save huge amounts of money in the long term." — in Missouri.

THE FACTS: It sounds believable that preventing illness should be cheaper than treating it, and indeed that's the case with steps like preventing smoking and improving diet and exercise. But during the 2008 campaign, when Obama and other presidential candidates were touting a focus on preventive care, the New England Journal of Medicine cautioned that "sweeping statements about the cost-saving potential of prevention, however, are overreaching." It said that "although some preventive measures do save money, the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not."

And a study released in December by the Congressional Budget Office found that increasing preventive care "could improve people's health but would probably generate either modest reductions in the overall costs of health care or increases in such spending within a 10-year budgetary time frame."

___

OBAMA: "You could cut (Social Security) benefits. You could raise the tax on everybody so everybody's payroll tax goes up a little bit. Or you can do what I think is probably the best solution, which is you can raise the cap on the payroll tax." — in Missouri.

THE FACTS: Obama's proposal would reduce the Social Security trust fund's deficit by less than half, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

That means he would still have to cut benefits, raise the payroll tax rate, raise the retirement age or some combination of these measures to deal with the program's long-term imbalance.

Workers currently pay 6.2 percent and their employers pay an equal rate — for a total of 12.4 percent — on annual wages of up to $106,800, after which no more payroll tax is collected.

Obama wants workers making more than $250,000 to pay payroll tax on their income over that amount. That would still protect workers making under $250,000 from an additional burden. But it would raise much less money than removing the cap completely.

___

OBAMA: "My hope is that working in a bipartisan fashion we are going to be able to get a health care reform bill on my desk before the end of the year that we'll start seeing in the kinds of investments that will make everybody healthier." — in Missouri.

THE FACTS: Obama has indeed expressed hope for a health care plan that has support from Democrats and Republicans. But his Democratic allies in Congress have just made that harder. The Democratic budget plan that Congress passed Wednesday gives Democrats the option of denying Republicans the normal right to block health care with a Senate filibuster. The filibuster tactic requires 60 votes to overcome, making it the GOP's main weapon to ensure a bipartisan outcome. The rules set by the budget mean that majority Democrats could potentially pass health care legislation without any Republican votes, sacrificing bipartisanship to achieve their goals.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Windows Movie Maker

Forum

13 BlackBerry apps for the social networker

Though the iPhone gets much of the attention when it comes to mobile apps, RIM recently launched its BlackBerry App World to compete with Apple. I've been using apps from that store (and a few other Twitter clients that can be downloaded online) that bring social networking to the social networker. Some are better than others, but they're all worth trying at least once. And they're all free!

Link

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kinda hard to imagine

That I haven't been blogging about American Idol or the new Star Trek movie or anything else. I have definitely put all of my blogging time into my new geocaching blog. Sorry. I'll try to post more often here. Don't hold your breath. And go to my geocaching blog.

Colbert gets a treadmill, not a room, on ISS

They chose the eighth most popular response? What the ? I know Serenity had the most votes after Colbert's write-in votes. - Marc


NEW YORK — One small step for NASA, one giant running leap for Stephen Colbert.

NASA announced Tuesday that it won't name a room in the international space station after the comedian. Instead, it has named a treadmill after him.

NASA earlier held an online contest to name a room (or "node") at the international space station. With write-in votes, the name "Colbert" beat out NASA's four suggested options: Serenity, Legacy, Earthrise and Venture.

On Tuesday's "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, astronaut Sunita Williams announced that NASA — which always maintained it had the right to choose an appropriate name — would not name the node after Colbert.

Instead, Node 3 will henceforth be called Tranquility, the eighth most popular response submitted by respondents in the poll. The node's name alludes to where Apollo 11 landed on the moon — the Sea of Tranquility.

NASA and Colbert compromised by naming a treadmill used for exercising in space after Colbert. NASA, itself an acronym (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), often names things so they spell out something fun. And that's what they did with the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).

Sophisticated treadmills are crucial for living in space for long periods of time, as astronauts do on the space station; they help keep astronauts fit and their bones from losing strength. Williams ran a marathon on one while living at the space station in 2007, jogging in place to coincide with the Boston Marathon.

The COLBERT treadmill is a new version that will be operational in August, NASA spokesman Mike Curie said.

"We don't typically name U.S. space station hardware after living people and this is no exception," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, said, adding: "We have invited Stephen to Florida for the launch of COLBERT and to Houston to try out a version of the treadmill that astronauts train on."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Revealing the secret to rounding up rodeo bounty

By KEN HOFFMAN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

March 9, 2009, 4:38PM

I have a basketball hoop on my garage. When I have nothing to do, I go outside and shoot free throws in my driveway. Thousands of free throws ... for free.

Yet once a year, I go to the carnival at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and pay $2 to shoot one hardly free throw. It’s stupid, I know. But I do it because I can make that shot.

I win!

Sure, I win a big stuffed animal that I wind up giving away to a kid on my way out of the carnival. But a win is a win.

I love the carnival games of skill. Yes, skill. Those days of squashed basketball hoops and 100-pound milk bottles are long gone. All of the games at the carnival are on the up and up. They’re fair. Difficult — that’s why you get a prize if you win — but fair.

Fair enough, so I figured I’d start at one end of the carnival and play every game — all 25 of them — until I won a prize. Helping me was Tony Fiori, marketing director for Ray Cammack Shows, the company that runs the whole carnival, from games to rides to cotton candy to cleanup, for the rodeo. Fiori has been with RCS for 25 years. He can win a stuffed animal with his eyes closed. He knows all the tricks and angles on each game.

Here’s the real scoop, though. There really aren’t any tricks of the trade.

You want to win a prize? Just throw the Ping-Pong balls and hope they land in the floating fish bowls. Good luck.

OK, here’s a tip from Fiori. Throw them nice and soft and aim for the fish bowls in the middle. Thanks, Tony.

You may have heard that the economy is a little shaky. Tickets for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are down about 4 percent from last year. But business on the carnival midway is up 5 percent. Fiori said people are staying home instead of taking a spring vacation. And there’s one thing that is guaranteed recession-proof — a guy will always try to win a stuffed animal for his girlfriend. It’s caveman stuff.

This year, for the first time, rodeo guests don’t pay $2 or $3 directly to carnival workers at each booth to play a game. Instead you buy a Fun Pass card, any amount you want, and play until the scanner blinks broke. Then you can reload the card and continue trying to knock over milk bottles.

My first game was Whac-a-Mole . Surprisingly, this is Whac-a-Mole’s first appearance at the carnival. The rodeo version has a twist. You play against other people — high score wins a prize.

I had only one opponent. I beat a 9-year-old girl, 150 to 130. Take that, pow! (Don’t worry, Fiori made sure the girl won a prize, too.)

Next was the Basketball Toss — pretty much a free throw. The balls are pumped up pretty well and the rims are super tight and slightly smaller than regulation. But it’s a makeable shot. I swished it on my fifth try. Hey, it was windy.

I got a stuffed monkey’s head sticking out of a big yellow banana. It was the biggest prize I’d win all day.

“Here’s how it works,” Fiori said. “The bigger and better the prize, the tougher and harder the game. That’s only logical. The carnival really isn’t in the game business. We’re in the merchandise business. It’s a simple formula. For every $10 we take in, we give away $2.50 in prizes.” Here’s another way to look at it. About 8 million people visit a Ray Cammack carnival each year across the country. The company gives away 1 million prizes.

You know that game where you shoot a BB gun at a piece of paper with a red star on it? Knock out the red star completely, and you win an expensive bicycle. It’s the best prize on the midway.

It’s also the hardest prize to win. Again, only logical. And that’s where my carnival winning streak ended. You get between 100 and 108 BBs each time. That’s simply not enough BBs for me. It would take me until next rodeo to shoot out that star.

Between my fourth and fifth try, the booth attendant told me, “Rambo never wins.”

I have no idea what he meant. I’m Rambo?

Fiori’s tapped my shoulder and said, “What you do is keep going in a circle.”

I told him, “I know that, but how do I win at this game?”

He said there are marksmen in each city that wait all year for the carnival — just so they can win bicycles. It’s like early Christmas shopping for these Deadeye Dicks.

“We don’t bar anybody from playing, but we do post a limit on how many times a person can win a certain prize per day,” Fiori said. Yao Ming is welcome to shoot free throws for SpongeBob SquarePants toys. But he can win only two per day.

I didn’t win a bicycle. I didn’t win a stuffed turtle at the Milk Bottle Toss, either. I threw my best stuff at those milk bottles and never got all three to topple. I’d get two over and nudge the third, but it just wouldn’t fall.

I checked — all the milk bottles weighed the same, about three pounds.

Woody Allen tells a joke. When he was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, a violent hurricane hit Coney Island and wiped out buildings, the entire boardwalk and all the rides and all the games. The only thing left standing — those three milk bottles.

I did win the Water Fun Gun game on my second try. I was Steady Eddie and keep a constant stream pointed at the target. I won a stuffed snake.

I didn’t win the Pool Hall game, either. They set up four balls on a pool table. You break them and then have to sink all four balls in a row, calling your shot, without scratching. The game, and the table, were on the level. I just stink at pool. I gave it six or seven tries and cut my losses.

Mini Basketball was a snap. It’s a game for children. I tossed it underhand, granny-style, and won a little stuffed dog.

I popped four balloons in a row in Balloon Bust, a children’s dart game. Fiori told me to throw the darts gently. I followed his advice. He said carnival workers practice these games in the morning. They know what they’re doing.

Here’s one game where a little trick is involved. You have to throw a Wiffle ball at a wood target and have the ball drop into a plastic clothes basket below. It’s called Bank-a-Ball. The target says “One In Wins” across the top.

Lean in all the way to the yellow line, and aim for the “n” in “In.”

I won another stuffed dog.

My buddy Reg “Third Degree” Burns tagged along with me on the carnival midway. He loves the corn dogs at the Juicys booth between Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome. But mostly his job was lugging all my stuffed-toy booty.

My most humiliating moment was the Hi Striker game. That’s the carnival classic where you lift a huge, heavy sledgehammer, like the one Gallagher uses to smash watermelons, and hit a target, sending a light beam up to rate your strength. Top score is 150. My best was 110. I’m not good at manual labor, such as hammers. I mean, I can put up a picture, but swinging a sledgehammer is not my line of work.

Fiori hit 133. Some scrawny kid who looked like he weighed 120 pounds scored 138. It’s got to be technique. If it’s not, I need to start juicing.

I had to call for a ruling on the Beer Bottle Bust game. You have to break two glass bottles with baseballs. I shattered one, then plunked about five bottles apparently made from bullet-proof glass. They wouldn’t break.

Finally one bottle spun off its perch and tumbled to the floor, where it broke. I claimed that, while my fastball didn’t do the damage, it did cause the bottle to eventually shatter. Fiori ordered the barkeep to give me a prize. Probably to stop my whining.

I wound up winning prizes at most of the games.

By the time I was done, my arms and Third Degree’s arms were full of stuffed animals. I gave away all the prizes to kids as I left.

Fiori said stuffed animals are still are the most popular and winnable prizes at the carnival, but soon the carnival will offer expensive bounty like iPods and computers and cameras. But to claim a prize like that, you will have to accumulate points — lots of points — like at Dave and Buster’s or Chuck E. Cheese’s. There will be a ticketing system and redemption center at the carnival.

But until that day, the stuffed monkey I won at Basketball Toss remains my prize possession.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

More free on-demand audio with Muziic

by Matt Rosoff

I love covering music software because the pace of evolution is so fast. I guess everybody's looking for the next billion-dollar business (after iTunes) to help replace declining CD sales.

Last week, I blogged about Spotify, a free and legal music player that offers a massive library of music on demand. Unfortunately, Spotify's library has some big gaps because of legal disputes with rights-holders, and it's not available in the U.S.

A couple days later, software developer David Nelson contacted me about Muziic, a company he started with his dad--he's 15(!) and has gone from public high school to online private high school to pursue this project. After checking it out for a few days, I think it's got just as much of a chance of revolutionizing how we listen to music as Spotify does.

More here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Crayon Physics Deluxe is a 2D physics puzzle / sandbox game, in which you get to experience what it would be like if your drawings would be magically transformed into real physical objects. Solve puzzles with your artistic vision and creative use of physics.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

So you scored a Wii! Now what?

Congratulations on your new Wii! This is the third straight holiday season that the Wii has been a hot commodity. You're a lucky guy/gal/family.

Three years ago, Nintendo's future looked shaky. Their Gamecube was an also-ran next to sexier gaming platforms like the Playstation and Xbox. Nintendo was banking on being unchallenged in the handheld market, but Sony was gunning for them with the sleek new PSP. With so much of the game development for Nintendo's hardware being internal first-party stuff, it looked like the company was going the way of the Sega. Which was not a good thing.

Then the Wii came along and became a household word. Believe it or not, before the name had been rammed into our head by hearing it several hundred times, usually on mainstream media broadcasts, many of us thought the name was silly . "Wii?" we laughed, "Are they kidding? No one's going to take that seriously? Ha ha ha. So stupid. Wii?"

Those were the days. Who's laughing now? Hopefully you, jumping around your living room and looking silly playing Wii Sports. But before you go any further, there are some things you should know.

What to avoid?
There's a lot of trash on the Wii. A lot. Several metric tons of it. Basically, this is the absolute worst system for impulse buying. The gold Official Nintendo Seal on the back of every game was originally created to distinguish the good stuff from the junk. Now it's just a rubber stamp. The irony is that you're statistically more likely to end up with a stinker if you grabbed a random game with the Official Nintendo Seal on it. Pound for pound, your new Wii is probably the system with the greatest proportion of bad games on it.
(Even though I just used the word "statistically", I haven't gathered any data for this. I base this purely on my gut feel and the fact that I had to play all the way through Red Steel for a review.)

So four points to keep in mind:
1) There is no multiplatform game worth getting for the Wii instead of one of the other systems. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada. If you can, always opt for the PS3 or 360 before the Wii. Except maybe for Bully (see below).
2) For Pete's sake, don't fall for Wii Fit. It's terrible. Just go outside and jog or something.
3) If you don't know this already, avoid direct movie tie-ins like the plague. They are all bad.
4) Shooters don't work very well on the Wii. There are a few designed specifically for the Wii, but this simply isn't the console system for that kind of game.

What to get
Here's where it gets tricky. I'm going to divide everyone into two groups. Raise your hand if you know who this is:
Okay, everyone who raised your hand, you're in group B. Everyone who didn't raise your hand, you're in group A. Group A, keep reading. Group B, skip down to "But I'm already a gamer". By the way, Group A, that was Shigeru Miyamoto, the guy who pretty much invented your Wii. He's a pretty cool dude. Also, don't listen to the disparaging remarks those guys in Group B might make, particularly about your new Wii. A lot of them say mean things out of a sense of insecurity. Don't mind them.

Okay, two points really quickly:
1) Keep in mind the Wii isn't just a Wii. The entire catalog of Gamecube games is backwards compatible, meaning you have a library of hundreds of inexpensive games, many of which hold up very well. You can find cheap Gamecube games on eBay or at garage sales. Don't feel like you always have to shell out money for new releases.
2) Get Excite Truck.

Beyond that, it all depends on what you like. Here are five sure-fire recommendations, regardless of age, ethnic group, religion, nerdiness, and manual dexterity.

1) For a platformer, you can't beat Super Mario Galaxy for easy, laid-back, varied, colorful fun. It's one of those great irresistible Nintendo games. If you're looking for something that's not so kiddie-oriented, get over it. If you're still looking for something that's no so kiddie-oriented even after I've chided you, then download Lost Winds from the WiiWare section. It's short, sublime, and as beautiful a game as you can play on the Wii.

2) For a puzzle game, Boom Blox is pretty much the niftiest thing to take advantage of the Wii's controller. It's a bunch of physics-based (don't be scared of that word, which just means things fall over different ways every time) minigames with blocks, but there are also cute little animals to give it some personality and a level builder for anyone who might be inclined to actually create stuff. This is as nearly universal a videogame as has ever been made.

3) For maximum silliness, get WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Make sure you check that all those words are on the box you're getting, because otherwise you might end up with the wrong thing. Be sure to play with a friend, because if there's one thing sillier than looking silly, it's looking silly when there's no one there to see.

4) For an action game, get Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It's simple to play and everyone loves (non-prequel) Star Wars. But here's a situation where the Gamecube backwards compatibility is a great help. For a slightly less goofy take on an action game that also happens to be Star Wars, the second game in the Rogue Squadron series is still great. Look for a copy of Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II. Again, make sure you get all those words right. You don't want to end up with the terrible third game in the series, which has soul-killing jumping puzzles on Dagobah.

5a) For an open-world-style Grand Theft Auto game, you'd normally be out of luck because the Wii can't do the fancy next-gen stuff generally required for the latest open-world games. But you're actually in luck, because there's Bully (the Wii version of Bully is a rare instance where the Wii version is preferable to the supposedly fancier Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions). Also, whereas the previous five recommendations (don't forget about Excite Truck!) are entirely kid-safe and family friendly, Bully might be about kids, but it's definitely not for kids.

5b) If you've got kids, for your open world game, you should probably get Animal Crossing for your open-world needs. It's not much of a game, but it's a great way to share a virtual space among members of your family. It's peppered with activities and the most violent thing you can do is chop down a tree. However, don't feel compelled to get Animal Crossing: City Folk, which is the recently released Wii version that adds almost nothing new. Instead, if you can find a cheaper copy of the original Animal Crossing for the Gamecube, you'll be good to go.

A lot of folks might try to push you into getting a Mario themed game, probably Super Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Those are both pretty good, but they're both for specific tastes. You can get around to that stuff later.

Okay, now I'm going to let those other guys who knew about Miyamoto back in. Some of the following stuff won't necessarily apply to you, but feel free to stick around in case you're interested in taking your Wii ownership to the next level. Also, don't tell those guys what I told you, especially the stuff about Super Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. They wouldn't understand.

But I'm already a gamer!
Okay, first of all, don't panic. Rather than scramble around looking for the gift receipt, let me run a few titles by you that might make your Wii worth keeping, and that will even give your next-gen systems a run for their money.

1) Beach Spikers, for the Gamecube, is one of the best party games I've ever played. It's a volleyball game that has all the accessibility and all the challenge of the original Virtua Tennis, but with some really sweet volleyball twists. Anyone can play competitively after a few tries, and you can even manage some teamwork and devious shots with only a modicum of practice. It's not even terribly salacious; I don't think there's anything bigger than a B-cup in this game. Unfortunately, you'll need four Gamecube controllers. But this is easily a good enough reason to keep Gamecube controllers in the house.

2) Zack and Wiki is the Wii equivalent of those old Sierra adventure games. It's slightly kiddie, but only in look. The puzzles are insidious and gratifying. They're even better when you try to solve them with a friend. This is absolutely a game worthy of an old school PC adventure gamer. It's a wonderful brain tickler that will appeal to fans of Braid, King's Quest, Roberta Williams, Japanese stuff, and episodic games.

3) Pikmin 2 is every bit as good as that nifty Overlord game, which was similarly puzzle based and involved lots of followers swarming around at your feet. There's a Wii-specific Pikmin coming out later this year, but why wait when you can get a copy of this Gamecube game for peanuts? This is also a great variation on console-based real time strategy games, with its own style of resource management and combat.

4) De Blob might seem like just a weird platformer, but it's slightly more than just a platformer. It's got a lot in common with Jet Set Radio and Katamari Damacy. Don't pass this one up if you're interested in some cool level navigation, a spirited combination of music and visuals, and lots of exploration and replayability.

5) Personally, I think light gun games are a little goofy, mainly because I can instead play first person shooters with a mouse and keyboard. But if you want something like a shooter for your Wii, you're probably better off trying Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. It works very well with a straight-up Wiimote and even has a mild RPG system to encourage you to play. Plus it's great in co-op.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Webcam

Tutorial: Create a Stop-Motion Animation Movie using Digital Camera or WebCam

Blog that explain it simply... The reader comments are worth checking out too.

How do I Record-Film Stop Motion? Check out this site's other links too.

Cool Things to do with a webcam (or two)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to Retone a Photograph with GIMP

Have you ever looked at old, very subtly sepia-toned black and white photographs and wondered how you can get the same effect with your own photographs? It is easy and fun to copy black and white tones from one photograph to another with GIMP, the renowned free and open source image editor. Here's how.

How to Make a Portrait Style Photo in GIMP

If you have a photo that isn't very interesting, then you can easily make it into a soft-focused, dreamy-looking portrait-style photo. Here's how to do it in The GIMP.

How to Make a Simple Animation in GIMP or Photoshop

Have you ever wanted to make a little animation without learning Flash or even getting it? Well, now you can!

All you need is a program that can control the layers. "The Gimp" is recommended because it's free and easy!

How to Animate Clay

Clay animation is an obscure yet amazing art form. In the following ten steps, you will learn how to turn a ball of clay into a figure of your choice. Then you will animate the figure and create a short clay animation video of your own. This form of animation is most often called "Stop-motion animation" because that is what it is. You are animating something that can't move.