Monday, December 31, 2007

Virtual Villagers - Chapter 2: The Lost Children

Somewhere in the Pacific, there was a beautiful island, called Isola, where lost villagers made their home. The castaways explored their small part of the island and knew every corner. Only a mysterious cave had not been carefully explored. One day, two intrepid villagers ventured into the dark recesses and discovered an opening behind thick vines. Curious, they pressed through and after falling down slippery rocks and a steep waterfall, they landed on a new part of the island: the west side! They emerged to find they were not alone... children ... dirty, hungry-looking children. Who are they and where are their parents? Uncover more answers about the mysterious native inhabitants of the island. Explore the west shore of Isola!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!

We finally played Wii Sports this afternoon (the kids have been playing Lego Star Wars the Complete Saga since getting it).

It is alot of fun!! Tennis was good, bowling is fun, golf is good but difficult but the boxing was a workout!! My youngest beat us all at least twice! We didn't try baseball. There is also training and a way to check your Wii Sports age. Good times.

Fallen Sword

Currently with 1,128,675 registered players, Fallen Sword is a highly addictive, continuously evolving massively multiplayer roleplay game where you join thousands of other players across the globe in a world of fantasy and adventure. Traverse vast areas ranging from the Misty Mountains of Krul Island to the Undying Lands. You will encounter countless creatures such as Dragons, Zombie Kings, Undead Warriors, Giant Scorpions. You will also be able to engage in combat with other players, stealing their gold to improve your own character.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'American Idol' to Premiere on Jan. 15

Who will be the next Jordin Sparks...or William Hung? American Idol fans will soon find out, as Fox has announced the schedule for the first several months of the show's next installment.

The seventh season is set to begin with a pair of two-hour segments that will run over two consecutive nights, Tuesday, Jan. 15, and Wednesday, Jan. 16. Episodes presenting highlights from auditions that were held in San Diego, Dallas, Omaha, Atlanta, Charleston, Miami, and Philadelphia will then air twice weekly, every Tuesday and Wednesday, through Feb. 6. The Hollywood round will air on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, with the top 24 contestants named on the latter show. The first performance episode, featuring the 12 male finalists, will air on Feb. 19, with the 12 female finalists taking the stage the following night; a live telecast revealing the results of the season's first vote will air on Feb. 21. And the top 12 finalists will perform for the first time on Tuesday, March 11. Mark your calendars!

The Showboat Drive-in Theater

Tonight we took the boys to their first ever drive-in.

We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks and I am Legend. Alvin was OK, my youngest really liked it. Legend was good too. I thought The Omega Man was better. But Legend was still good.

I hadn't been to a drive-in since I was a teenager. I saw Logan's Run and about the first 10 minutes of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

This place was OK and I thought the food prices were very reasonable. The tickets were reasonable as well, $5 for adults and $4 for kids and we got to see two movies for that price.

Coupon codes for 1,000s of online stores

RetailMeNot.com is an easy way to find online coupon codes. Enter these codes at the checkout page of participating merchants for instant discounts.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

WooHoo!!!



What did I get for Christmas?

Well I got a Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Game game, Firefly The Official Companion Volume Two book, Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume 1 book, a couple of gift cards and dough, candy, a WD External 250 GB hard drive, a CPU and memory upgrades, and, drum roll please...

A Lyon by Washburn Idol Electric Guitar Pak

It is a very beautiful black guitar.

I just need three more things to go with it - a stand, a distortion pedal (this one?) and lessons.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tonight on Craigslist

WII Sellers - $1


Reply to: see below
Date: 2007-12-25, 1:16AM CST


I hope you all had to eat your WII's
greedy bast*&ds!

Merry Christmas!!

-----

I didn't post that but it is my sentiment as well! - Marc

Revealed: The seven great "medical myths"

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Reading in dim light won't damage your eyes, you don't need eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy and shaving your legs won't make the hair grow back faster.

These well-worn theories are among seven "medical myths" exposed in a paper published Friday in the British Medical Journal, which traditionally carries light-hearted features in its Christmas edition. Two U.S. researchers took seven common beliefs and searched the archives for evidence to support them.

Despite frequent mentions in the popular press of the need to drink eight glasses of water, they found no scientific basis for the claim.

The complete lack of evidence has been recorded in a study published the American Journal of Psychology, they said.

The other six "myths" are:

* Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight

The majority of eye experts believe it is unlikely to do any permanent damage, but it may make you squint, blink more and have trouble focusing, the researchers said.

* Shaving makes hair grow back faster or coarser

It has no effect on the thickness or rate of hair regrowth, studies say. But stubble lacks the finer taper of unshaven hair, giving the impression of coarseness.

* Eating turkey makes you drowsy

It does contain an amino acid called tryptophan that is involved in sleep and mood control. But turkey has no more of the acid than chicken or minced beef. Eating lots of food and drink at Christmas are probably the real cause of sleepiness.

* We use only 10 percent of our brains

This myth arose as early as 1907 but imaging shows no area of the brain is silent or completely inactive.

* Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death

This idea may stem from ghoulish novels. The researchers said the skin dries out and retracts after death, giving the appearance of longer hair or nails.

* Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals

Despite widespread concerns, studies have found minimal interference with medical equipment.

The research was conducted by Aaron Carroll, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, and Rachel Vreeman, fellow in children's health services research at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Star Trek writer finally over the tribble-ations

David Gerrold sets aside anger and goes back to work on the Enterprise

By any reasonable definition, David Gerrold is a major figure in science fiction. He has published some 50 books and won many of his genre's highest awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula. John Cusack and Amanda Peet starred in Martian Child, which was inspired by his novella The Martian Child and opened in November.

But Gerrold seems destined to be forever remembered as the guy who gave the world the alien race of cute, lovable, rapidly breeding fluff balls known as tribbles.

You know, tribbles — the star characters of The Trouble With Tribbles, probably the most famous episode of the original Star Trek. Initially broadcast 40 years ago (on Dec. 29, 1967), the segment was Gerrold's first professional sale. Most Trekkies love it.

For Gerrold, that's been a mixed blessing.

"I wouldn't call it frustration," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Northridge, Calif. "But I kind of like people to notice that I've done other things. You have a billion people who know Tribbles and only half a million who know my novel The Man Who Folded Himself, which is one of my better-known books."

Tribbles are as much a part of Star Trek lore as Klingons, phasers and the transporter room. One reason is that Gerrold wrote his episode when he was 23 years old and unknown.

His example inspired myriad fans who hoped that they, too, could become part of the show.

Another reason is that Tribbles was the first comic episode of Star Trek. One of the series' best-remembered moments occurs when William Shatner as Captain Kirk is buried in an avalanche of the mewing, puffy title critters (which were actually sealed pouches of synthetic fur stuffed with bits of foam rubber).

"I think the episode worked because it was so coy," Gerrold said.

And yet he has been conflicted about Star Trek since the 1970s, when he appeared at numerous conventions and wrote two nonfiction books about the show, as well as two episodes of the Star Trek animated series (including a Tribbles sequel).

"Doesn't anybody ever want to talk about anything else besides Star Trek?" he complained in a 1978 interview he conducted with himself for Science Fiction Film Classics magazine. "There were 79 episodes of the series; there were 55 different writers. I was only one of them."

He said his disillusion grew when Gene Roddenberry, the show's creator and executive producer, asked him to compose the writers' and directors' guide for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which had its premiere in 1987.

"I wrote the first-draft bible," Gerrold said. "I did a lot of the heavy lifting. And then Gene, because he had to have his name on it, wrote the second guide, which was effectively mine, shortened."

The tension worsened, Gerrold said, when in 1987 he came up with an episode called Blood and Fire, about a deadly disease that he envisioned as an allegory for the AIDS crisis. The script was purchased and then shelved.

Following a series of skirmishes, Gerrold quit the show and sued for his share of earnings from its bible. "Gene, when he rewrote history, said the settlement was $25,000," he said. "I won't say what it was, but the taxes on it were more than that."

Roddenberry died in 1991, and Gerrold was sour on his legacy for years. In 1996, in an afterword to a paperback edition of his friend Harlan Ellison's original Star Trek teleplay, The City on the Edge of Forever, Gerrold wrote: "'Star Trek is the McDonald's of science fiction; it's fast food storytelling. Every problem is like every other problem. They all get solved in an hour. Nobody ever gets hurt, and nobody needs to care. You give up an hour of your time, and you don't really have to get involved. It's all plastic."

Around that time, though, the producers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine created Trials and Tribble-ations, a sequel that incorporated and enhanced much of the original footage. Gerrold makes a cameo appearance as a red-shirted USS Enterprise crewman in that episode.

At that point, Gerrold says, he decided to change his attitude toward Trek.

"There was a moment — I don't remember when it was — where I finally got bored with being angry and just stopped," he said. Since then he has offered enthusiastic commentary about Star Trek on the Sci Fi Channel and on various DVDs.

Things came full circle this summer when he was in Ticonderoga, N.Y., directing Blood and Fire for the fan-produced Internet-based series Star Trek: New Voyages. Set in the original Star Trek universe, the segment features new actors playing the parts made famous by Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and other members of the original cast. Blood and Fire is scheduled to appear early next year at startreknewvoyages.com.

"It was the most happy, joyous, passionate group of people I'd ever worked with," Gerrold said. "I said: Rule No. 1, let's have fun, and rule No. 2, let's have a great Star Trek movie."

For the record Gerrold is the proud owner of about half a dozen tribbles. And no, they're not breeding.

In case of an emergency, 'ICE' can be a lifeline

Cell phone entry may help a hospital locate victim's loved one

Carolyn D. Allen recently programmed a little more comfort into her cell phone, just in case of an emergency.

Previously, she had, for example, "husband-John" listed in her phone's address book so emergency personnel could call him if necessary. Now, she has "ICE-John."

Allen is among a growing number of people who are putting ICE, or "in case of emergency," telephone numbers in cell phones that could assist emergency personnel in case of an accident or illness.

"It's nice to know that they (emergency personnel) know exactly what to look for," she said. "They know to look for 'ICE' rather than husband, son or daughter-in-law."

The practice requires a person to program ICE before a relative's or friend's number in the phone. If a patient is unconscious or nonresponsive, a paramedic or emergency room worker will look in the phone's address book for an ICE number.

ICE is known worldwide. In Houston, however, it is only slowly catching on.

"I think the ICE thing is very, very important," Allen said, "and I think it needs to be publicized more."

Emergency personnel in Houston are aware of ICE. But Houston paramedics don't use it as much as hospital emergency room workers.

Dr. David Persse, medical director of Houston's Emergency Medical Service, said most of the time patients are able to speak to paramedics. And if they are unconscious, he said, paramedics usually don't have time to look at cell phones because they are busy tending to the patient.

Also, Persse said a phone call from a paramedic tending to a person's loved one could cause panic.

"If you get the phone call from the paramedic that an ambulance has been called for your loved one, unfortunately they tend to get very excited," Persse said.

"We worry about them getting in the car and speeding down the road to go to the hospital or to show up at the scene and getting in a wreck on the way."

Persse said a better practice is to have emergency room personnel make the call.

Shannon Rasp, spokeswoman with the Harris County Hospital District, said workers at Ben Taub General and LBJ hospitals are trained to look for ICE numbers if a person is nonresponsive.

'A great lifesaver'

Steve Peardon, Ben Taub's director of nursing, said the hospital uses the numbers to contact relatives of victims of trauma or motor vehicle accidents who arrive with no identification.

"If there is a cell phone, our staff is trained to look for the ICE (number)," Peardon said. "We will go through the wallet. We will go through anything that's available that might have a phone number. ... But very often we find the use of the 'in case of an emergency' in a cell phone is a great lifesaver for the person as well as for us."

According to published reports, ICE was conceived in 2004 by a British paramedic who had years of frustration trying to reach relatives of people he was treating.

His initiative gained worldwide attention after the bombings in London, and information about ICE spread by e-mail.

ICE is placed before the names of people who should be contacted. For example, ICE-Dad, or ICE-Mary.

Seniors get assistance

In Houston, Marlene Matzner, director of OASIS Institute, a national nonprofit designed to enhance the quality of life for older adults, said the organization is asking its clients to put ICE numbers in their phones. She said people are told about ICE while attending OASIS computer or cell phone classes.

"Along with teaching them how to use the cell phone — whether it was the camera, whether it was programming — we make sure there was an emergency number put in," Matzner said.

Allen, who teaches a computer class at OASIS, said she had numbers in her phone identified as husband, son, daughter and daughter-in-law, but not as ICE.

"It's such a great thing for firemen, and policemen and emergency people," said Allen, an author and freelance writer.

No one in a recent class knew about ICE. But they said they will program the numbers in their phones.

"I'll go home to get the phone manual out and figure out how to do it," said Jake Mooney, who plans to program ICE numbers in his phone as well as in the one carried by his wife, Betty.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wii all scream

Houston - (read Houston Chronicle blog here with comments from readers including me)

It seems the Nintendo Wii is this season's must-have/can't-find gift for kids, teens, parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends -- you get the picture. But, unless you have some sort of sweet hook-up, it's not as simple as strolling into Target and picking one up. How are you planning to secure your Wii? What obstacles have you encountered? Any tips for those out there who waited this long (tsk, tsk)?

Does anyone in the Houston area know where to get a Wii?!?!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Desperately seeking a Wii

Ever wanted to know what it's like to get laughed at for a whole day? Try finding a Wii this week.

That was my task Tuesday: to comb the San Francisco Bay Area for one of Nintendo's elusive video game consoles. And let me tell you, the results were not pretty.

All told, during a long day of driving through Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties, I hit 10 different retailers in person and called 2 others, all in hopes that I might be one of the lucky few who stumbled onto the opportunity to fork over $250. And how many Wiis did I find? Read on.

I began my morning driving through a raging downpour to the Best Buy in Marin City, a few miles north of San Francisco. I actually remember thinking that getting to the store early and in the middle of a near flood might mean I'd be alone in my quest.

But this is the week before Christmas, and the Wii is the hottest could-be gift around. So when I walked over to the video game department, a woman was already asking a salesman if the store was out of Wiis.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

As she left, I wandered over to make sure I'd heard properly, and indeed, the salesman confirmed that the store had sold out its most recent shipment of 40 Wiis in 30 minutes on Sunday.

"I don't think we're getting any more before the holiday," he said.

With that, I hopped back into my car and headed out to Lake 101--I mean Highway 101--and drove north, to San Rafael, where I knew there was another Best Buy and a Toys "R" Us.

At the Best Buy, I passed a stack of several dozen Sony PlayStation 3s for sale, a $399 bundle that included a Blu-ray copy of Spider Man 3.

Still hopeful about Wiis, I nonetheless asked a salesman if they were out of the Nintendo devices.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "We had a shipment on Sunday, but that's the last one we're getting."

Fine, I thought. But he must have some idea how to get one, right?

"The only thing I heard was that GameStop (stores) on (December) 21 are taking preorders and that they're guaranteeing delivery before the end of January."

Ooh, I thought. How great would it be to get a coupon for a future Wii on Christmas Day? Let's spend the whole day playing a coupon!

Well, fair enough. But as I started to leave, it occurred to me that maybe some people who had come to this Best Buy to get a Wii might feel pressured to grab some form of video game system to ward off the anger of disappointed kids on Christmas Day.

So I asked if anyone was buying PlayStation 3s since plenty of those are available.

"Not a lot," the salesman said. "But I'm sure some are, definitely."

It looks like Sony has some thanking of Nintendo to do.

Back to the car I go and a quick jaunt down the frontage road to the San Rafael Toys "R" Us.

There, it's more of the same. No Wiis: there was a shipment last Sunday, and it sold out immediately.

Once more I asked for advice on how to get a Wii in these dwindling pre-Christmas days.

"Call everywhere in the world every single day of your life," the salesman, who looked exasperated at being asked again about Wiis, told me. "If you really want one, that's the only thing I can say."

OK, I thought. Enough of this Marin nonsense. I'm headed into the City.

The first stop in San Francisco was a GameStop store in the Mission District.

I walked in and asked the clerk at the counter if they had any Wiis.

Hopes lifted, dashed
He paused for a moment, as if pondering the question. My heart leaped. My hopes rose. Half a second went by. Then another.

And then the body blow: "No. I don't even know why I had to think about it."

Argh! What was this guy trying to do, give me a heart attack?

So, what did he suggest, I asked?

He told me about GameStop's preorder campaign, but he had a warning.

"You're going to have to line up early for it," he said, "because it's been all over the news."

At this, I was dumbfounded. I've been to plenty of midnight madness-type events where rabid fans of things like iPods, Xboxes, and yes, even Wiis, line up for hours for the chance to be among the first to buy something. But I've never heard of having to stand in line to preorder. I think this, finally, may be the proof we've been waiting for that civilization has officially lost its mind.

The next place to give me a brief moment of hope was another GameStop, out near the ocean in San Francisco. There, a harried salesclerk told me the store didn't have any Wiis, but that it's worth checking in every day, because UPS deliveries arrive at noon.

Not a chance, dude!
I asked her if that meant there might really be more Wiis this week. But she had no sentiment for my plight: "I don't know. There's really no way to know."

In other words: not a chance, dude!

After a quick stop at another GameStop--sorry, no Wiis--I hit a Target in Daly City, Calif.

The verdict there? A clerk told me the store had gotten a shipment of 185 Wiis on Sunday. And guess what? They were gone in an hour.

By now, it had become abundantly clear that last Sunday was the last, best chance to get a Wii anywhere in the civilized world. Of course, you hear stories about finding impossible-to-find products tucked away on a back shelf in a five-and-dime in some backwater town. But I didn't see this happening here, especially after a quick call to Nintendo revealed that it appears only huge retailers like Best Buy, Target, GameStop, Sears, Circuit City, Toys "R" Us, and Kmart were getting the machines.

But I was committed to this project and there were still at least two more stops on my journey.

First up, a Circuit City in Daly City, 11 miles south of San Francisco.

There, the Wii section of the store looked like it had been ransacked by crazed holiday shoppers, what with scattered accessories and games and a general sense of having had all the meat picked off the bones.

It was clear there weren't any Wiis, but when I asked a salesman, he told me he thinks they'll be getting more on Sunday. Maybe call ahead to be sure, he suggested half-heartedly.

Holy cow. Could this be the place? Should I get in line now and wait?

But something didn't seem right. Why would this one Circuit City be getting more when every single other place I'd visited had told me they probably wouldn't be?

I asked another salesman.

"No, I don't think we'll be getting any more until January," the second clerk told me. "Sorry about that."

I thought so.

Twist the knife, why don't you?
I decided to make one last stop, at another Target, in Colma, Calif. As I walked in, on the sales brochure in the entrance way, a little tease, surely intended just to twist the knife a little more: Wiis for sale, just $249.99.

But of course, not a Wii to be found in the store. Guess what? They sold out on Sunday and wouldn't be getting any more before Christmas.

I bet you're as surprised as I was.

With this, I hopped in the car and pointed wearily toward home. My last chance, I thought, was to call a couple of Sears. Maybe, just maybe, they'd have a Wii available, and if they did, I'd make my way there, no matter how far I had to go. But, alas, not a Wii to be found at two different Sears.

So, after 62 miles of driving and nine store visits, I came to one final conclusion: there's simply no chance. If your kid is demanding a Wii for Christmas and you haven't procured it anywhere, you could actually go on eBay, where there are some to be had for a premium. Whether you'll get it in time is another matter. Or, you could take the kids to a retailer and let them play on one of the demo units.

The other option? There are plenty of PS3s available. Let me give you directions to a store where you can find one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To the Wii scalpers: I understand. Now stop it. - $250

Posted on Houston Craigslist tonight ( no, it isn't my post)


Reply to: sale-514840785@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-12-19, 10:58PM CST


My husband and I are decent, hardworking people. We go to work. We pay our bills and taxes. We vote. We take care of our child. We save for retirement, emergencies, college. We also manage to put aside a little extra each month so that at Christmas we can finally treat ourselves to something like, oh say, a Nintendo Wii. And we also put in the effort of finding a very obliging babysitter and standing in line at two different stores at some God-awful hour on Black Friday, to no avail. And the quest continues. So please believe me when I say that we REALLY want a Wii. Also believe me when I say that I applaud you on actually managing to procure one. I get it that we could all use some extra money around this time of year, or any time of year for that matter, but seriously, you’re pissing me off. If you don’t want a Wii, don’t take them away from the rest of us just so that you can scalp them to the people in line behind you. Yes, it’s easy money. But STOP IT. Seriously, it’s for your own sake. I’m a nice person, but I really wouldn’t discount the possibility that at least somewhere out there, there is one person desperate enough, crazy enough, and poor enough to respond to your ad, bash your brains in, and then make off with this game. Is it worth the risk? We’ve saved up our $250. Step out of the line and just let us buy our own damn system. For your safety. For our sanity. And I know that this isn’t going to change your mind about anything, so let me close by re-directing my attention. To all you people out there who are actually rich and able to afford $450 - 900 on this thing, more power to you. To the vast majority who AREN’T able to afford it but just haaaaaaave to have it noooooow, either for yourself or your snot-nosed little brat, you deserve to be taken advantage of. It’s called delayed gratification, you fiscal idiots. You do realize that if you just keep your panties on for a few months, there WILL come a time when you can just walk into a store and buy it for (gasp) $250, right? In the meantime, get a hobby – like posting rants on craigslist.





Tuesday, December 18, 2007

GAMESTOP ANNOUNCES HOLIDAY WII RESERVATION PROGRAM


Exclusive One-Day Program Helps Customers This Holiday Season

GRAPEVINE, TX, December 18, 2007 – GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), the world's largest video game and entertainment software retailer, announced today an exclusive, one-day reservation program to assist customers wishing to give the highly sought-after Wii this holiday season. Only on Friday, December 21, 2007, customers can reserve a Wii console for pick-up by January 25, 2008. Reservations must be made in-person at any GameStop or EB Games location in the U.S., including those in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

While many store locations will have Wii in stock for immediate purchase during the holiday season, quantities are limited. As such, GameStop is offering this exclusive reservation program to provide peace of mind to shoppers that may not be able to locate a system in time for the holidays.

A limited number of reservations will be available at each store and only one reservation can be made per household.

The reservation process requires payment in full at $249.99 plus tax, to guarantee delivery in January. Customers will receive a custom-designed DVD case emblazoned with a Wii and the iconic Mario character wishing a “Happy Holidays! Your Wii is on the Way!” Inside the DVD case is a guarantee slip that provides gift-giver guidelines and an explanation of the gift receipt.

When the reserved Wii console arrives, the gift-giver will receive a telephone call indicating that their system is available for pick-up. Consoles must be picked up at the store location where the reservation was placed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gorram Wii

I missed getting a Wii this morning by about an hour. I set my alarm at 6 am but just didn't get up, hey it's Sunday morning. I did get up by 7 but by then it was too late. I went to two Targets and two Best Buys but they were already out.

I'm gonna have some disappointed kids. I'm sorry.

Oh, while waiting in line at Target this morning, I started talking to the guy in front of me. He had no interest in the Wii, he and his wife were there just to make money off of reselling them. Jerks.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shatner Trek Cameo Possible?

Roberto Orci, co-writer of director J.J. Abrams' highly anticipated Star Trek movie, told SCI FI Wire that there's still a possibility that original star William Shatner may appear in the movie, though that's less of a possibility than before. The film is currently in production.

"There are two things," Orci said in an interview in November. "One, from our point of view, we are still hoping to find a way. Secondly, one of the difficulties that was brought up and discussed with Shatner when we all met him and pitched him ideas is that Trek fans are sticklers for their canon. [And,] unfortunately, Shatner's Capt. Kirk was killed in Star Trek VII [1994's Generations]."

There was no such problem bringing back Shatner's co-star, Leonard Nimoy, as an older Spock, joining a cast of new actors to inhabit the roles of the Star Trek crew. But Kirk's death complicates the matter of bringing Shatner back, said Orci, who wrote the screenplay for Star Trek with his Transformers partner Alex Kurtzman.

"The difficulty there is not just ignoring that or explaining it in an unsatisfactory way merely to get him back in," Orci said. "So that is the struggle: the rigors of canon and not phoning it in just to have a cameo." Still, it could happen, he said. "From my point of view, it's a very long shoot, and things change. It's just whether we can figure it out." Another possible problem: The ongoing writers' strike prohibits members of the Writers Guild of America--which includes Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams--from making any changes to the script until the strike is settled.

For his part, Shatner has not been shy in expressing his disappointment at not being cast in Star Trek. "How could you not put one of the founding figures into a movie that was being resurrected?" he told TV's Extra last month. "That doesn't make good business sense to me!"

In any case, Orci had nothing but praise for Chris Pine, the actor who will play the young version of Kirk.

"Chris Pine has two things which are very difficult to find simultaneously," Orci said. "He has the maverick nature of an extremely motivated, cocky guy who doesn't play by the rules, who is intelligent enough and can command sufficient respect to be an astronaut. Remember, these people are all astronauts!"

But Pine conveys the intelligence of a starship captain, Orci added. "It's difficult to find a good-looking guy who you would believe can fill the old Kirk shoes of getting into a fistfight while also having a Ph.D. in astrophysics," he said. "That's a tough one, because you need that, as he has to face the intelligence of Mr. Spock [played in his younger years by Zachary Quinto]. Chris has a great sense of humor but is also able to get serious on a dime, to step in and out of leadership while being fun." Star Trek is slated for release on Christmas Day 2008.

A Year Later, the Same Scene: Long Lines for the Elusive Wii

SAN FRANCISCO — Linda Beattie is trying desperately to pay Nintendo $250, but the company is not cooperating.


Two weeks ago, Ms. Beattie went to a video game retailer in the Bay Area in search of a Wii, Nintendo’s intensely popular video game machine. She timed her visit to correspond with the arrival of a U.P.S. truck that she had heard would be making its regular stop at the store, hoping it might deliver some consoles. She was out of luck.

So Ms. Beattie, 44, a permit expediter and not a stalker by trade, followed the truck to the next store, where it did drop off a handful of Wiis. She bought one, but store policy would not let her buy a second for a friend, so she quickly called him.

“He came from another game store that he was staking out,” Ms. Beattie said. “He got there two minutes too late to buy the last one.”

Shoppers across the country have similar stories. With the Wii, Nintendo has created a phenomenon that recalls crazes of Christmases past: Cabbage Patch dolls, Furby, Tickle Me Elmo. But in this case it is happening for a second consecutive holiday season. Nintendo has been unable to keep up with demand, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars in potential sales.

The Wii, with an unusual remote control that players wave to manipulate action on the screen, has attracted a broad, unconventional following — from young children to mothers and even the elderly. It has put to shame the frenzy over another much-hyped gadget, the iPhone, which prompted long lines at its debut in June but was readily available on store shelves the next day.

The demand for the console has prompted creative buying strategies, early-morning camp outs and recrimination against Nintendo for failing to produce enough machines a full year after the product’s release.

Jim Silver, editor in chief of Toy Wishes magazine and an industry analyst for 24 years, said it was unusual for an in-demand product to remain so hard to find for so long. The must-have toys of other holiday seasons, like Furby, stayed popular into a second year but became easily available.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Mr. Silver said. “By a year later with hot items, inventory usually catches up.”

The Wii is more expensive than those other toys — $250 — and is attracting not just eager-to-please parents but also adults like Ms. Beattie who want it just for themselves. “I know 6-year-olds that love it and 50-year-olds that love it,” Mr. Silver said.

The unsated demand is costing Nintendo more than face. Estimates from industry analysts and retailers indicate that the company, which is based in Kyoto, Japan, is giving up $1 billion or more in sales in the ever-important holiday retail season, not including sales of games for those unbuilt consoles.

“It’s staggering,” said James Lin, senior analyst at the MDB Capital Group in Santa Monica, Calif., who estimates that Nintendo is leaving $1.3 billion on the table. “They could easily sell double what they’re selling.”

Between the Wii’s debut last November and this Sept. 30, Nintendo sold 13.1 million consoles. It ships 1.8 million a month worldwide — a third of those to North America — up from one million a month earlier this year.

When it comes to its planning, Nintendo says it has not done anything wrong.

“We don’t feel like we’ve made any mistakes,” said George Harrison, senior vice president for marketing at Nintendo of America.

He said there was a shortage because the company must plan its production schedule five months ahead, and projecting future demand is difficult. He added that there had been a worldwide shortage of disk drives that had hurt Nintendo as well as makers of many other devices.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Mr. Harrison said of the demand, but he acknowledged that there could be a downside. “We do worry about not satisfying consumers and that they will drift to a competitor’s system.”

At least one of those competitors is pleased with Nintendo’s supply problems.

“I’m happy that the Wii seems to be running out of hardware,” Howard Stringer, chief executive of Sony, said at a news conference in Tokyo this week. He noted that in November, the PlayStation 3 from Sony outsold the Wii in Japan for the first time.

Sony and Microsoft, which sells the Xbox 360, have both been caught off guard by the popularity of Nintendo’s console, which is less powerful and complex than their machines. The Sony and Microsoft consoles are widely available, while buyers tend to wipe out supplies of the Wii in a hurry.

Nintendo sold 981,000 Wiis in the United States in November, its best month yet, while Microsoft sold 770,000 Xbox 360s, and Sony sold 466,000 PlayStation 3 consoles, the market research firm NPD Group said Thursday.

At the Nintendo World store in Manhattan, which receives daily shipments, shoppers line up on the sidewalk every morning for their shot at buying a Wii. There is a vibrant secondary market, with scalpers reselling consoles in store parking lots and online.


And while some people say they will keep searching for a Wii, others are giving up.

“I’m frustrated and I’m not going to try anymore,” said Betty Sapien, a San Francisco homemaker, who recently visited a handful of stores, including Best Buy and GameStop, to buy a system for her 9-year-old daughter. “They should have it well supplied. They know it’s going to be a big Christmas present, and it’s been a year” since it went on sale, she said.

Another shopper, Yvette Marchand, a Bay Area elementary school teacher, said, “I’m not proud of this, spending two hours running from store to store.” She spoke as she was standing last week outside of a GameStop. She said she had been to several stores, like Best Buy, where she arrived at 7 a.m. on a Sunday — too late to get a console, because others had lined up at 5 a.m.

“I’ve also been to Target,” she said, but when she asked for a Wii, she felt like the employees were mocking her. “I’ve received the smirks and the laughs.”

The GameStop chain, which accounts for around 23 percent of video game sales in the United States, said it could double or triple its Wii sales if the shelves in its 3,800 North American stores were fully stocked.

Bob McKenzie, senior vice president for merchandising at GameStop, said the company had stopped telling its stores when to expect their weekly Wii shipments. When word gets out about a delivery date, he said, “then people start doing crazy things, like putting up pup tents.”

In front of some retailers like Best Buy, where people have lined up to buy a Wii, the lucky few who manage to get one offer to resell them at a premium to those too far back in the line.

Colin Sebastian, an industry analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said that on eBay, around 86,000 had been offered for sale since Dec. 4, with the average selling price about $320, 28 percent higher than the retail price.

Industry analysts suspect that Nintendo is intentionally keeping the supply low to maintain a buzz. If so, they say, the company risks permanently losing customers, because gift givers might not buy a machine in the new year.

“Nintendo is afraid that if it makes too many Wii, the boom may crest too quickly,” said Masayuki Otani, an analyst at Maruwa Securities in Tokyo. “It doesn’t want to satisfy all demand right away.”

But working in Nintendo’s favor is the fact that it has succeeded in further broadening a video game market that had already begun to expand beyond teenage boys and 20-something men.

Ms. Beattie, the truck chaser, said she and her friends, all in or near their 40s, have made the Wii a central part of their social time.

“We used to play poker,” she said. “Now we have Wii parties.” Because she’s self-employed, Ms. Beattie has continued to hunt for Wiis for her friends who have less flexibility at work: “They can’t leave their job when the U.P.S. truck comes.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

189!

Back in September I decided that I needed to change the way I eat and lose some weight too.

I weighed about 213 in late September.

This morning I was at 189. Pretty excited.

My goal was 185. Now I'm thinking 180 might be better.

GameStop to sell Nintendo Wii rain checks

NEW YORK — To deal with frustration among holiday shoppers hunting for its Wii game console, Nintendo Co. and retailer GameStop Corp. are launching a rain check program.

"We expect this to be a great way for consumers who desperately want a Wii to have something to put under the tree," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said today.

The rain checks will be available at the regular Wii system price, $249.99, on Dec. 20 and 21, and will entitle buyers to get the Nintendo console before Jan. 29. Fils-Aime said "many tens of thousands of rain checks" would be available.

Grapevine-based GameStop regularly takes deposits on hot software titles before they launch, which means it has the infrastructure to deal with rain check program, Fils-Aime said. The company is working with other retailers, like Wal-Mart Stores and Best Buy Co., to push out inventory from the supply chain to shelves as quickly as possible before Christmas, he added.

The Wii has been a startling success for the Japanese company, selling more than 6 million units in the U.S. since it was launched a little over a year ago. In November alone, 981,000 were sold in the U.S., according to NPD Group. That compares to 770,000 Microsoft Xbox 360s sold, and 466,000 Sony PlayStation 3s.

However, Wii sales have been constrained by supply, with units selling out minutes after going on store shelves. Nintendo has repeatedly denied rumors that it's creating an artificial shortage by not increasing production to match demand.

"I get personal calls from people wanting to know why we don't just manufacture more. Believe me, if it were that easy, we would," Fils-Aime told reporters and analysts on a conference call today.

"Production depends on components from a wide array of suppliers. If only one can't increase their capacity, then we can't increase ours," the executive said.

After Nintendo raised production twice since April, production for the worldwide market is now at 1.8 million Wiis a month. Fils-Aime held out no hope of an imminent increase.

"We'll keep producing at that level for quite a while," he said. "When will we finally meet demand? There is no way to answer that question until we finally meet it."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Writer Reveals Trek Details

Roberto Orci, co-writer of director J.J. Abram's highly anticipated Star Trek movie, told SCI FI Wire that the tightly guarded story for the upcoming franchise reboot depends heavily on the appearance of original series star Leonard Nimoy.

Orci (Transformers) added that the movie will explore Trek history that hasn't been mined before and confirmed that the story will take place before the events of the original series.

"There were many, many elements of the story that we had talked about just theoretically if ever Star Trek were to come back," Orci said in an interview in November. "There was lots of stuff we wanted to do, and that was a blessing. Normally you don't have that much investment and research for a project you get hired to do. If you are a fan of [classic] Star Trek, there is a lot of unexplored history. With the original series, there was so much that could have come before it. It felt like it has been The Next Generation and The Next, Next Generation for so long, it seemed like a fresh thing to go back to the source and to go back to what happened before it."

The crux of the screenplay involves the appearance of Nimoy in his iconic role as Spock. "I think a lot of people were speculating that we must have had multiple ideas [for the script]," Orci said. "The truth is that we took a gigantic gamble in terms of the movie we wanted to do, and it was essential that we had Nimoy. Frankly, I didn't understand any other way to do it. We didn't have a Plan B. I think that would have shown that we didn't have a true, singular vision of what we wanted to do, so it was essential for us to get Nimoy. It was a gigantic gamble, and I can't even believe that J.J. supported that kind of a gamble, but I think he understood it was the way to do it and a way to get the blessing for Star Trek, to show there is continuity for the spirit of what it was before. So when Nimoy said yes, not only as a fan was it a relief--if that didn't work, I don't know where we would be!"

Orci, who previously tackled a beloved franchise with Transformers (which he co-wrote with partner Alex Kurtzman), said that adapting Trek was even harder because of the dedicated fan base watching every move.

"The dangers are that now you are opening up yourself to the fact that the fans know what you know about the characters," Orci said. "They have their own ideas about what should be done and what is right for the franchise. So the goal with this movie is twofold. One is to make sure that the fans--who have been the stewards of the continuity and who are some of the most savvy and intelligent fans of any franchise ever--that they be satisfied with anything that has the name Star Trek on it. But, more importantly, the goal is really to introduce casual fans and people who don't know Star Trek at all to this universe and to connect it to today. ... The goal of Star Trek ... is that if you don't like sci-fi or know Star Trek, this will bring you into the world." Star Trek opens on Christmas Day 2008.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Homemade Go Board

This page has instructions for you to make your own.

American Go Association

Go is... an ancient board game which takes simple elements -- line and circle, black and white, stone and wood -- combines them with simple rules and generates subtleties which have enthralled players for millennia. Beyond being merely a game, go can take on other meanings to enthusiasts: an analogy with life, an intense meditation, a mirror of one's personality, an exercise in abstract reasoning, or, when played well, a beautiful art in which Black and White dance across the board in delicate balance. But most important for all who play, go is challenging and fun.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Harry!!!


Harry Chapin would have been 65 today. I still miss ya Harry.

Commodore 64 still loved after all these years

(CNN) -- Like a first love or a first car, a first computer can hold a special place in people's hearts. For millions of kids who grew up in the 1980s, that first computer was the Commodore 64. Twenty-five years later, that first brush with computer addiction is as strong as ever.


"There was something magical about the C64," says Andreas Wallstrom of Stockholm, Sweden.

Read more here.

art.c64.jpg

Millions of Commodore 64s were sold in the 1980s.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Physical therapists prescribe Wii time

Read about it here.

Merry Kissmas


Kissmas Promo

Watch 27 hours of KISS on VH1 Classic starting tomorrow night at 8 PM CST.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Here's a fun game: Try to buy a Wii

As shopping season kicks off, store-stalkers turn to Internet

A year after the Nintendo Wii started out a distant third to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 in the video game hype wars, the tables have turned.

Savvy shoppers are resorting to special tactics to track down the hard-to-find Wiis, which have benefited from a year's worth of word-of-mouth marketing to remain at the top of wish lists as the holiday shopping season formally kicks off today.

Although Nintendo of America spokeswoman Anka Dolecki said the company will have twice as many Wiis available as it did at the product's launch last November, desperation is likely to grow as demand is expected to match supply between now and Christmas.

As of Wednesday, Wii shelves were empty at Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, Toys R Us and GameStop stores, according to WiiTracker.com, which updates supplies at online retailers. Wal-Mart had the consoles in stock but only as a bundle with games and other accessories for more than $600. The console alone retails for $250.

Nintendo has sold more than 5.5 million units in the United States over the last 12 months. Local stores say they will get more shipments before Christmas, but they don't know when or how many.

Employing new techniques

While many shoppers will rely on the store-stalking technique they used to find elusive Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo dolls of holidays past, they're also turning to the Internet. Sites like WiiTracker.com, WiiHunter.com and OuttaStock.com monitor online inventories at major retailers.

And of course Wiis are available through various classified ads and online auction sites — for premium prices.

"I check Craig's List at this time of year at least 10 times a day," said Valerie Bergeron, a personal shopper in Houston who is currently on the hunt for three Wiis.

"If you waited this long, you're going to have to pay," she said. "That's pretty much the bottom line."

Or get lucky. And there are some ways to increase your odds when seeking Wiis or any other items that might emerge as hard-to-find must-gets. But just like in Las Vegas, the odds are against you.

Houstonian Elaine Gayle calls every area Best Buy store at least once a week. She not only checks whether they have any currently in stock but also when the next delivery is expected and whether they'll open it that day.

"Basically, I stalk them," she said.

Her boyfriend recently got lucky at a Wal-Mart store. There weren't any Wiis on the shelf, but he took the extra step of asking a clerk whether they had any in back. And they had one. The couple is still looking for two more before Christmas.

Gayle is doing all the right things, said Greg Rundell, general manager at the Best Buy near The Galleria.

"The relationship you build with the staff is going to help," he said.

Jennifer Castillo has been using similar tactics at area Target stores.

"I've been stalking Target on a weekly basis," said the Houston mother who wants to buy a Wii for her two sons. "I've been to multiple Targets in the last two weeks."

A waiting game

A clerk at one Houston Target said the store is more likely to have Wiis available on a Sunday because that's when its inserts run in the newspaper.

Castillo also enlisted the help of her sister, who lives in a smaller city in Michigan. She's hoping there will be less demand for the Wii there.

Bergeron said she has beaten the odds and found hard-to-find gifts by going to big-box stores in smaller towns, but it still requires luck. Small-town stores may have fewer competing shoppers, but they're also likely to have a wee Wii supply to begin with, she said.

Knowing a store's delivery and advertising schedules can help, but unless a shopper has enough free time to hang out and wait for the UPS shipments, it's still going to come down to luck, said Rundell.

"It's really hit or miss," he said. "We're going to have an ad (timed to a delivery) in December. We just don't know when it's going to be."

Or you can follow personal shopper Bergeron's other tip: "Hire a personal shopper."

20 ways to make $100 more a month

Sometimes, all you need to bridge a budget gap is a few extra bucks a month.

If you've cut your expenses as far as they'll go and your gimlet-eyed employer turned down your request for a raise, moonlighting can be the way to make those ends finally meet.

Star Trek Online (working title)

This massively multiplayer online game immerses you in the world of Star Trek. Now you can explore the galaxy, defend your bases and ships, and play as your...

Star Trek Online dev beamed up by mystery buyer

Nintendo shortage Wii-lly hurts company

Posted Dec 03 2007, 08:13 AM by Kim Peterson


I was shopping at a Best Buy in San Jose yesterday and snapped this picture: Stacks of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. When I asked where the Wiis were, a saleswoman gave a small snort and shook her head. The store was out.

It's a common scenario across the country, and in other parts of the world. A year after its release, the console that many expected would be in third place has become a hit of such proportions that people still line up overnight to buy one. I've had a Wii since its launch, and spent a good chunk of the weekend playing "Super Mario Galaxy." This console definitely holds up over time.

Wii mania is in full swing right now, with the system selling for $400 or $500 on eBay. And while it's great to be making the must-have gift this year, Nintendo execs are rightfully bemoaning the missed opportunities the shortage is creating.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime recently said the high demand is keeping the company from its goal of selling the Wii to non-traditional gamers, such as women and 40- and 50-year olds who aren't video game fans.

"They aren't going to sleep outside of a store overnight or visit a retailer five or six times," he said. "It is literally a missed opportunity."

Fils-Aime was more critical in another interview: "A shortage benefits no one," he said. "We're disappointed. This was all about how we didn't accurately estimate demand. We need to be more bullish about the potential for the Wii."

So there it is. Nintendo didn't have enough faith in its own system, and is paying the price this holiday. The company is cranking out 1.8 million consoles per month and says it simply can't produce any faster. CEO Satoru Iwata has said that one bottleneck after another keeps popping up on the production line, and that slows everything down.

It's a huge misstep, with Microsoft and Sony happy to provide an alternative for frustrated parents who can't find a Wii. Sony CEO Howard Stringer is practically gloating these days. "It's a little fortuitous that the Wii is running out of hardware," he said recently.

If Nintendo is helping competitors sell consoles, something is seriously out of whack. Fils-Aime is right to be disappointed. The Wii is on a lot of Christmas lists, but this is not a holiday Nintendo should be proud of.

America’s 10 Best Outdoor Towns

McCall, Idaho is one of the top 10 locations. I thankfully went there twice and loved it. I would move there in a second if I could. - Marc

From Alaska to Maine, these spots offer a walk on the wild side for fans of everything from windsurfing to fly-fishing. You can even try the luge.

For MSN City Guides

In choosing the “101 Best Outdoor Towns: Unspoiled Places to Visit, Live & Play” (The Countryman Press, 2007), authors Sarah Tuff and Greg Melville researched access to national and state parks, major bodies of water, hiking and mountain biking trails, and ski and snowboard terrain; population; affordability; and such downtown resources as gear shops, brewpubs and coffee houses.

This top 10 is adapted from the book; these towns have not only back doors to some of the country’s best adventure terrain, but also lively, livable communities that are dedicated to playing in and preserving the great American playgrounds.

McCall, Idaho
Glance inside the garage of a McCall local, and you’ll start to get an idea of the head-spinning selection of adventure sports here. Those fly rods are for fishing the Payette River, the Horse Thief Reservoir, and dozens of alpine lakes that speckle the next-door wilderness (Fly Fish McCall, 208-634-1324). Those chalk bags are for the rock climbing routes and bouldering problems surrounding town while the hiking boots and mountain bikes help tack the 2.3 million-acre Payette National Forest (Gravity Sports, 208-634-8530). That quiver of cross-country, alpine and backcountry skis is for gliding, carving and climbing in the terrain of nearby Brundage Mountain Resort (800-888-7544), Tamarack Resort (866-649-6903) or Jughandle Mountain (Winter Carnival is a premier event here). And that snow shovel helps clear the yearly 300 inches of snow for a path to a craft beer at the McCall Brewing Company (208-634-1010).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Add an image to your blogger header

Add an image video tutorial

Another tutorial

Background Image for Blogger Header

Background image for the Header

Ease of adding a picture banner or image to the Blogger Header

How to make a Custom header using Layout

HOW TO MAKE A CUSTOM HEADER IN BLOGGER BETA USING LAYOUT

Customize Your Blogger Header

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How to add Picture to Beta Blog Header.

To add a picture to a Beta Blog Header...

Free Games

Free Games is a Directory of Free Games available on the Internet.

We play, review and rank all the free games listed here to help you find the free games you are looking for.

Don't pose the kids, Geddes says

Everyday moments are the most precious ones

Anne Geddes' images are iconic — tiny preemies cradled in large hands, cherubic faces peeking out of flower pots, chubby-cheeked infants dressed as sunflowers and ladybugs and bumble bees.

A bit of advice to shutterbug parents, though: Don't try to replicate her work at home. It's tougher than it looks to tuck a sleeping infant into a watermelon.

"My images are created in a careful and professional environment, with a very experienced team of people, and some can be deceptive in terms of the degree of difficulty involved," she writes in her new book, A Labor of Love (Andrews McMeel, $50). The autobiographical narrative is illustrated with images from Geddes's childhood in Australia, candids and portraits of her own family and behind-the-scenes snapshots of her 25-year career photographing babies.

With the holiday season approaching, parents are sometimes tempted to arrange children into complicated, posed tableaux for the family Christmas card. But Geddes, whose portfolio includes shots of nearly 10,000 babies, suggests snapping them in a relaxed setting.

And use a real camera — not a cell phone.

"Call me old-fashioned, but cell phones are for making telephone calls," she writes. The file sizes captured by most phones are too small to enlarge as quality prints. She recommends investing in an inexpensive digital camera and using it often so your children get used to having their pictures taken.

But don't make them the sole subjects of every shot. Make sure you're frequently in the frame, too. Your kids will thank you, Geddes advises. "Try to include yourself as often as possible in images with your children, because when they are older they'll also be very interested in how you looked at the time."

You won't be sorry, she writes. "You only have one chance to record your lives together when they were small, and you will never regret any photograph that you take, whether it has significant artistic merit or not."

An excerpt of tips from A Labor of Love follows:

• Always have your camera on hand and your battery charged.

• Aim to keep your images as simple as possible. A simple image will invariably have the most impact.

• Be aware of your light source. The best times to photograph outside in natural light are early morning and late afternoon, when the light is softer and more flattering.

• Try to use elements of scale in the image, such as hands or everyday objects. Newborn babies grow very quickly and within even a few weeks can look quite different.

• Don't use flash unless it is absolutely necessary (and by that I mean that you are surrounded by complete darkness. Even then, try to go without).

• Always be aware of what is happening in the background of your photograph when you are composing your image. The background is often overlooked, resulting in trees or poles growing out of heads. Try to keep your background as simple as possible.

• Avoid asking your children to pose for photographs, or that's exactly what they'll do. Just let them be themselves and you'll love the image even more.

• Beware of deleting images too soon after you have shot them — give yourself a few days and then revisit them. If you still feel the same way, then go ahead and delete. But you may change your mind about something that you thought was insignificant at the time ... I know I have.

• When photographing babies and small children, try to get down to their eye level. It will help you to see from their perspective.

• The simple little everyday moments are the most precious of all.

• You can never take too many photographs of your children.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Favorite Foods for Losing Weight

Why does the concept of weight loss conjure up images of, frankly, unappetizing foods? Why do carrot sticks always spring to mind?

The answer seems to lie in the common delusion that to pare pounds you have to barely eat, and the calories you do eat should be no more than required by a mouse. But researchers are repeatedly finding that food quality is more important than quantity when it comes to weight loss. Combined with adequate exercise, your meals can be regular serving sizes. The food just needs to be, well, wholesome.

“We’ve lost sight of that word—diet,” says Kristina Campbell, runner up in a recent weight-loss challenge held in Phoenix, Ariz. “Diet used to mean what your food is for the day, not losing weight.”

Below, Kristina and clinical nutritionist and author of Dare to Lose, Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., pinpoint some essential healthy foods for anyone who wants to lose weight and/or retain good health.

1. Yams and sweet potatoes.

Great diet foods because they’re low on the so-called glycemic index, says Dr. Lieberman. The glycemic index measures the values of various foods based on how quickly they break down and are absorbed into the bloodstream. The slower the digestion, the lower the score, the better the food is for regulating blood sugars, insulin, and overall metabolism—all of which affect fat deposition.

2. Oranges, apples and grapefruit.

Dr. Lieberman recommends these particular fruits because they contain high levels of the soluble fiber pectin. Fiber slows digestion, helps eliminate toxins stored in body fat, and gives you a feeling of fullness.

3. Killer sandwiches.

To lose 40 pounds in 21 weeks, Kristina relied on plenty of hearty sandwiches stacked with vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and onion, as well as deli meats – but always oven-roasted turkey over anything vacuum-packed. For bread choice, Kristina suggests anything brown with lots of seeds and heavy grains you can actually see, because less-milled ingredients contain much more fiber.

4. Cereal

They can be a little hard to find, but low-sugar cereals packed with protein and fiber are hitting the market. The Kashi brand is one of the best, says Kristina. “I eat my cereal with skim milk and blackberries or raspberries, which contain about 8g of fiber per cup. That’s like three or four slices of bread!”

5. Salad

“If you eat a salad, make it valuable,” suggests Kristina, also a former five-star chef from New York City. “Get field or Asian greens and add a yogurt dressing. Plus you need a ton of vegetables and some good lean protein, like grilled salmon.”

6. Quiche

Quiche made with egg whites and just a couple of yolks is one of Kristina’s favorite protein sources. She also tosses in a little low-fat cheese, broccoli and spinach.

7. Yogurt

And other dairy goods that come in great-tasting, low-fat products.

8. Almonds

Nuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats—the good fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to lower cholesterol. Fats are as necessary to a healthy diet as protein and carbohydrates. “I recommend that 20 percent of calories come from [healthy] fat,” Dr. Lieberman says. Small amounts of nuts are a good starting point.

9. Peanut butter

Likewise, nut butters are a great source of those healthy, monounsaturated fats. Kristina likes unsalted, all natural brands of peanut butter. But almond or cashew butter is considered an even healthier option (especially if you’re allergic to peanuts!). Enjoy your favorite, but in moderation.

10. Hummus.

AKA pureed chickpeas, garlic, and a little lemon juice. Great with whole-wheat pita bread or organic corn chips.

11. Salsa.

Another favorite for dipping, and a homemade batch is easy to make. Fresh salsa is simply tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Now, tell me, what could possibly be unhealthy about that?

Eat Your Way Slim in 20 Simple Steps

The real secret to healthy eating? Good habits.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Make a beeline for popular Wii

If you missed out on buying a Nintendo Wii during the holiday season last year and have it on this year's list, you had better start shopping now.

Even before holiday shoppers invade, retailers can't keep the still-popular game system (price starts at $250) in stock a year after its debut. And the Wii is the top-requested game system on holiday wish lists, according to a new Weekly Reader Research survey of 1,000 8- to 17-year-olds for retailer Game Crazy. The Wii was on 32% of wish lists, the Sony PlayStation 3 on 19% and Microsoft Xbox 360 on 17%.

"Our recommendation: If you see one now, buy it," says Brian Lucas of Best Buy.

An imbalance of demand and supply for the Wii confounds retailers as well as consumers. "We don't always know when and what we will get," says Circuit City's Jim Baab. "When we get inventory from Nintendo, we put it out and it generally sells within a couple of hours."

Nintendo, which has sold more than 5 million Wiis, recently increased the number of units expected to be shipped worldwide by the end of March to 17.5 million from 16.5 million. "Consumers are going to have to stay on top of it, but we have definitely ramped up," spokesman Perrin Kaplan says.

The demand for the Wii recalls that of the PlayStation 2, which after being launched in 2000 also remained elusive more than a year later, says NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier. "The Wii is going to be in short supply this holiday relative to the strong demand," she says.

This year has marked a reversal of fortune for Nintendo. Its previous GameCube system came in third in worldwide sales to Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox. For most of this year, the Wii has outsold the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Only in September, thanks to the release of Halo 3, did the Xbox 360 outsell the Wii (527,800 to 501,000, according to The NPD Group).

Nintendo's momentum also extends into handhelds, selling about 4.5 million DS systems ($130-$150 each) this year, more than any of the console systems. "These systems are highly entertaining but relatively intuitive," Kaplan says. "That is what really fits into global lifestyles right now."

Nintendo's competitors, particularly Microsoft, are now courting the same family and casual gamers attracted to the Wii. A new $280 Xbox 360 Arcade version comes with games such as Pac-Man and Uno. Also just out for Xbox 360: Viva PiƱata: Party Animals ($50), the trivia game Scene It?($60) and a free new feature to limit a youngster's time on the system.

"Microsoft is livid that Nintendo has taken the lead in the console wars with a technically inferior but more-fun-to-play system," says Geoff Keighley, host of Spike TV's Game Head. "Microsoft has struggled to make the system appeal to a broader consumer. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero III will help, but both of those titles are also available on the PS3."

Sony also hopes to woo shoppers weary of searching for Wiis. Last week, Sony chairman Howard Stringer said PS3 sales had more than doubled since Oct. 18, when Sony reduced the price of the 80 GB PS3 model to $500 from $600. This month, it also began selling a $400 40 GB model. "It's a little fortuitous that the Wii is running out of hardware," he said.

Determined Wii shoppers may want to look online — and be ready to loosen their wallets. Amazon is not selling any Wiis directly, but on Monday, about 90 third-party sellers were offering new and used Wiis starting at $460; eBay has similar prices.

Bundles were listed in stock on Walmart.com starting at $677 (with seven games), with delivery by Nov. 29. The Wii is out of stock at GameStop and Electronic Boutique websites, but each is taking pre-orders for new systems with five games (starting at $585) expected to ship Dec. 17.

But supply is not guaranteed. "Our stores will have them from time to time, but we are encouraging people to shop early because this year there are going to be a ton of kids of all ages with the Wii on their wish lists," says Chris Olivera of GameStop. "Consumers are just going to have to be very diligent."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

He wants last laugh against Clinton bid

Businessman from Texas targets candidate through Web site humor

DALLAS — When Hillary Clinton complains about the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, she's talking about people like Texas businessman Richard H. Collins.

Collins, a community newspaper publisher and online education entrepreneur from Dallas, has raised millions of dollars over the past three decades for Republicans such as conservative icon Jesse Helms to establishment favorite Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The charismatic heir to a family real estate and insurance fortune is a longtime donor to the Media Research Center, a Virginia-based group that documents what it sees as liberal bias in the news media. He counts GOP uberstrategist Karl Rove among his friends.

"The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is alive and well and flourishing in Red State America," boasts Collins, "and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Such Texas-sized bravado may serve Collins well in his latest political venture: a Web site designed to defeat the person that many on the right consider the most dangerous liberal in America, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

The site, called StopHerNow.com, describes the New York senator as "a confirmed left-wing radical" and "experienced political chameleon" who is attempting "a massive makeover campaign" to appear "mainstream."

That's the kind of blow-torch rhetoric conservative groups have used in recent elections to make Massachusetts rapist Willie Horton a household name and to sully 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's Vietnam War record. But Collins' group is offering more than the same old smash-mouth politics.

At a time when more young people get their political news from satirists such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from network anchors, Collins is betting that humor will be a potent weapon against the Democratic presidential front-runner.

"While there is a place for negative advertising, we've heard so much of it that we're almost immune to name-calling," Collins said. "But we're always eager to hear a new joke. Humor can be an effective political tool."

In an election that Collins expects to be tough and close, he's hoping to turn the tide against Hillary Clinton one joke at a time. There are limits, though.

"No profanity," he said. "Chelsea is off-limits. No gay-bashing. And Bill's womanizing is OK, but we don't name names unless they're public knowledge."

Collins, a fourth-generation Texas political activist, is the great-grandson of a state senator, the nephew of a congressman, and the son of the first woman ever elected to the Dallas City Council. To launch his project, he's anted up $400,000 in seed money, but he hopes to raise up to $4 million in outside donations.

The Dallas businessman has company on the anti-Hillary bandwagon.

Citizens United, run by the creator of the 1988 "Willie Horton" ads against Democrat Michael Dukakis, is preparing a documentary on Clinton. The Hillary Clinton Accountability Project has taken the Clintons to court on behalf of an estranged Clinton fundraiser. On the Web, AgainstHillary.com spews anti-Clinton vitriol, and more than 563,000 people have joined Facebook's "Stop Hillary Clinton" group.

Amid hundreds of incoming verbal missiles from critics on the right and left, the Clinton campaign has launched its own "Fact Hub," to present her side of the story.

Democratic activists are convinced that the anti-Hillary zealots will create more sympathy than antipathy for the target of their venom.

"She doesn't fit the stereotype of the unreasonable, radical woman that these Swift Boat types have created," said former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, a Clinton friend for 35 years. "The reality is that their spending money has become a plus for her campaign."

Undaunted by Democratic darts, Collins and his merry band of Hillary hunters is convinced that their made-in-Texas site will avoid a sympathy backlash simply by being funny.

"Everybody loves a good villain," said Collins associate Kameron Bell, a baby-faced, 25-year-old Texas A&M graduate with short blond hair and a wicked sense of humor.

But Bell knows she has to be careful as she tries to transform the former first lady into a modern-day Lady Macbeth.

"It's easy to be mean," Bell said. "It's hard to be funny. It's even harder to be funny and clever."

StopHerNow tries to be funny by using stylized, Jetsons-like cartoons to make its political points.

Its centerpiece is "The Hillary Show," featuring Clinton as an acerbic talk show host with screaming sidekick Howard Dean. The "Target Room" includes current political foes including former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

"Nice hair, pretty boy," the faux Hillary declares.

For Thanksgiving, StopHerNow.com has added an interactive video game dubbed "Whack a Turkey." Players score points each time a Pilgrim-suited Hillary wields a mallet to bonk celebrity turkeys on the head. Guest turkeys include Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Edwards, Republican hopefuls Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, President Bush and — for twice the points — Bill Clinton himself.

Collins acknowledges that some Republicans remain skeptical of his approach.

A few, he says, don't understand the satirical humor. Some feel that Republicans need a positive vision for 2008 and not just negative campaigning.

And still others fret that attempts to ridicule Clinton will further energize fired-up Democrats.

The defiant Dallasite doesn't buy any of it.

"Hillary has used the woman-as-victim routine throughout her career," he said. "She claims she's a woman. We say she's the front-runner, no different than anyone else."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

House's Morrison Joins Trek


J.J. Abrams, director of Star Trek, told TV Guide that he has hired Jennifer Morrison (TV's House) for the cast of the reboot movie.

"She is indeed in the movie," Abrams told columnist Michael Ausiello. "And she is most excellent!"

Last week, Morrison was spotted outside one of Trek's Hollywood soundstages, sparking rumors that she had quietly come aboard the ensemble alongside Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Heroes' Zachary Quinto.

Abrams won't say what role Morrisson will play but denied rumors that she would be Yeoman Rand, the role originated by Grace Lee Whitney.

Mmmmmm Jennifer Morrison. :-)

Wii Rules!

LOS ANGELES -

Not every parent whose child wants a Nintendo Wii this holiday season will be able to get their hands on one. Instead of Tickle Me Elmo, this year parents will stalk the aisles of retailers and surf the Web in hot pursuit of the tiny, white "waggle box." The $250 kid-friendly console has already been on the market for a year, and more than 13 million are already in the hands of gamers.

"Nintendo (other-otc: NTDOY - news - people ) is making as many Wiis as it can," says IGN GamerMetrics analyst Nick Williams. "There's a limited supply, a continuously high demand." Though Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Xbox 360 sold more units than the Wii in September due to the launch of "Halo 3," analysts predict the Wii will be back on top in October, selling as many as 450,000 units.

The Wii has made headlines for entertaining the elderly at retirement homes and putting motion-based controllers in the hands of many non-gamer moms. But the system has also delighted very young children because of its easy-to-grasp style of play and lack of button manipulations. Many parents, understandably cautious about putting 6-, 4- or even 2-year-olds in front of a videogame console, seem to have warily endorsed the Wii because of its anti-couch potato imperative and shallow learning curve.

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In Pictures: Great Games For The Wii

1. Wii Sports

Why parents like it: It gets the kids off the couch and swinging for the fences, together. This is the game that created the initial Wii buzz. And if it has managed to please even octogenarians in retirement, chances are that youthful 30- and 40-something parents will enjoy a few rounds of virtual tennis, golf, baseball and boxing, too. As with all Wii games, remind kids to wear the Wiimote wrist-strap so they don't put a crack in that new flat-screen TV.

Why kids want it: Wii Sports comes bundled with every new Wii system, so if your kid has the console, he has this game, too. If he wants a Wii, it's mostly so he can play this active game in the living room with his siblings and friends.


2. Wii Play

Why parents like it: It's a good deal. For the price of a game, you also get a second Wiimote controller (the Wii comes with only one). This bunch of mini-games--including target-shooting, fishing, table-tennis and an I Spy-type game for spotting your own avatar, is ideal for the very youngest end of the Wii's fan base.

Why kids want it: The second controller--it lets two players engage in all games, not just this one. Older siblings are willing to play together with younger ones on these simple-to-learn gestural activities.

3. Super Mario Galaxy

Why parents like it: This first-ever 3D, outer space Mario game is tough to maneuver for new gamers. But the appeal of the classic plumber franchise is great, and kids will clamor for it anyway, perhaps hoping that an older family member (Dad? Mom?) will show them the ropes, such as how to jump across that widening interplanetary chasm without plummeting. And that electronic theme music? Pure nostalgia for parents.

Why kids want it: What kid doesn't root for Mario? The game has the highest rating for Wii--a 97--in reviews round-up site Metracritic.com. It is bright, polished and provides hours upon hours of entertainment.

4. Carnival Games

Why parents like it: Like Wii Sports and Wii Play, "Carnival Games" is a collection of quick, simple-to-learn mini-games that require movement and are devoid of violence. Rounds of miniature golf, test-your-strength hammer slams and milk-can tosses last mere seconds, quieting the usual gamer whine of "Mom, I need to get to a save-game place," right before bedtime.

Why kids want it: Just like a real carnival, players earn tickets redeemable for cheapo prizes. In the game, tickets can be used to buy accessories to dress up players' avatars, like a ninja mask or pirate outfit.

5. Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party

6. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Why adults like it: For parents who happen to be fans of the six-film series, a game where everyone from Obi-Wan to Han and Leia are rendered in Lego blocks is pretty funny stuff. Tongue-in-cheek Star Wars humor fills the game, and violence is kept to a minimum. When characters "die," their Lego parts simply break up into bricks and reform. No flesh wounds to worry about.

Why kids want it: Light saber action. Even kids who aren't yet old enough to watch the movies--which can be legitimately scary--know enough to want to wield a Lego-cartoon light saber, and the Wiimote is the perfect proxy.

7. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Why parents like it: Some won't. The game contains mild sexual imagery, a devil and the occasional bad word in song lyrics. But parents willing to trust their children with a soundtrack that includes "Anarchy in the U.K.," by the Sex Pistols and even play along with them in multiplayer mode will be amazed at the ease and agility with which even 7-year-olds can pluck the plastic guitar's buttons. Parents can play lead guitar while the kid plays bass or rhythm, which usually requires only one note at a time.

Why kids want it: Guitar Hero has been a best-seller on several other videogame consoles, so if a child wants the game for her Wii, she's probably played it at a friend's house on Sony's PlayStation 2. Wailing on Alice Cooper's "School's Out," during winter vacation has an edgy appeal.

8. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games

Why parents like it: The game is mercifully easy to play. Each Olympic event (environments are based on the official venues of the Beijing 2008 games), including the 100-meter dash, archery and even Judo, requires only a very easy-to-grasp skill: shaking the Wiimote really, really fast. Kids will succeed here with little help.

Why kids want it: This is the first game where Mario--the most well-known Nintendo character--and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog team up to play together. Sega doesn't make consoles any more, but Sonic is still a favorite character. Better yet, kids can insert their "Miis" from Wii Sports into this Sega game to swim and run against Sonic and Mario.

9. Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure

Why parents like it: "Zack and Wiki" is primarily a puzzle game, requiring logic skills to help a pirate boy uncover 16 missing pieces of a famous pirate's body. But the game isn't creepy. Even still, Capcom seems to hint that parents should play this game alongside kids: It comes with an unusual player mode that lets people interact with the game by pointing at the screen with a controller and hinting at how to solve a problem, without actually spoiling the game for the main player by taking over the action.

Why kids want it: They may not want it yet. That's because they don't know about it. "Zack and Wiki" is unlikely to be on many kids' wish lists because it isn't part of a well-known franchise. Third-party publishers have struggled to get traction for their original games on the Wii, but this one is worth watching. Tell them this will be something that the rest of the neighbors don't have yet.

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And although older gamers might find it limiting, the Wii's online functions are currently limited to a Web browser and sharing avatars. Instead of pairing players with random gamers around the world in chat rooms like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo's system encourages multiplayer action in the living room.

"We hear all the time from parents that they take a look at the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller or the Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people ) PlayStation 3 controller and they get instantly intimidated," says John Davison, co-founder of What They Like, a start-up that in mid November launched a Web site called Whattheyplay.com devoted to helping parents learn about videogame content.

While Microsoft's Xbox 360 team aims to make its machine as family-friendly as possible--on Nov. 8 the company announced a new feature called the "Family Timer" that allows parents to set automatic game-over times before bedtime--Xbox 360 thus far hasn't positioned itself as the child-friendly game platform.

With so many veteran Wii owners and wanna-be Wiisters hinting at which games they'd like to unwrap in December, parents must now take on the daunting task of vetting their kids' wish lists for age-appropriate and appealing titles.

Fortunately, the nature of game development for the Wii platform has evolved some bedtime enforcement techniques of its own. Some of the most in-demand and kid-befitting games are played in bite-size two-minute chunks.

With titles like Nintendo's own "Wii Sports" (which comes with every Wii), Sega's (other-otc: SEGNF - news - people ) "Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games" and Take-Two Interactive's "Carnival Games," kids choose from among several mini-games that don't elicit refrains of, "Mooooom, I need to get to a place where I can save my game before I quit!" With mini-games, mothers can graciously grant the kids one more round of Wii baseball or one last ring toss--and still pack them off to bed on time. These games last literally only a few seconds, or a couple of minutes, at most.

Beyond the quick mini-games, titles like Capcom's "Zack and Wiki," LucasArts' "Lego Star Wars" and Activison's (nasdaq: ATVI - news - people ) "Guitar Hero III" are perfect for playing together with friends, and especially with older relatives. These three games allow adults to take on the role of guide without spoiling puzzle-solving and discovery for kids, and their tongue-in-cheek jokes should keep parents entertained.

Not sure your kid is mature enough to battle it out with Guns 'n Roses' Slash and a rock-and-roll devil in "Guitar Hero III?" Some aren't ready for the content, but don't worry about their ability to get the hang of the game. "Little kids are very good at "Guitar Hero" because they have no nostalgic point of reference about how 'Sweet Child o' Mine' should sound," says Davison. "I've seen 5-year-olds play a perfect game."

Which Wii games should parents avoid? Well, there are obvious no-nos, like Take-Two Interactive's "Manhunt 2," a horror game about a murderer that Target (nyse: TGT - news - people ) won't even stock on its shelves. "Metroid Prime 3" and "Resident Evil 4" also glorify shooting things up. Other innocuous titles, like the ever-popular "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," and "Super Paper Mario," are simply too difficult for most new gamers.

Some of the most anticipated new Wii games just won't be out in time for this year's holidays. "Wii Fit," "Super Smash Bros. Brawl," and "Mario Kart" are all expected in early 2008. That will, of course, give kids something to covet for upcoming birthdays.

The best way to find out which games are most appropriate and most enjoyable for your child is, of course, to play along. But many parents don't. A survey conducted in October by AOL Games and the Associated Press found that 43% of parents say they never play games with their kids. About 30% said they've joined in, but never for more than an hour.

Meanwhile, another survey by the NPD Group found that between the ages of 6 and 8, kids form videogame-playing habits that will determine how "serious" they'll be about gaming as big kids. "This appears to be a critical age at which to capture the future gamers of the world," says NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

Parents of young children can either withhold game machines, play along with a watchful eye, or look the other way. Either way, the Wii will be impossible to ignore.