Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bizarre Holidays! Part 3!

Hey, we're back with another installment of Bizarre Holidays!

In case you missed "Bring your child to work day" a few weeks ago, you have another chance to do something like it.  Monday the 29th is "Please take me children to work day."  Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think it's the same thing at all..

I'm not sure what the origin of this one is, but the 30th is Meteor Day.  Take cover in your fallout shelter.  You do have a fallout shelter, right?

For all you Canadians out there, July 1 is Canada Day. I have no idea what that means, but I'm sure Wikipedia does.

Boy, is 2009 going fast.  I still write "2008" by accident now and then.  But nothing serves to reinforce how fast it's going like this Tuesday, which is "Second half of the year day."

Wednesday is the perfect day for those with amnesia or senility.  That's right, folks, July 2 is "I Forgot Day."  Just... don't be celebrating that one when you get called into your boss's office.

My favorite holiday of the week is July 6, "Take your webmaster to lunch day."  I guess I'll be taking myself to lunch. How fitting, then, that July 6 is also National Fried Chicken Day.

See you next time!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crappy feather

On my way back from running today, something caught my eye. It was a white and gray feather on the ground, in a sparsely grassy area.

Upon a closer look, I noticed that there were 3 or 4 pieces of, um.. cat feces on and around the feather.

I can only assume that the neighborhood cat bully beat up a bird, took one of its feathers, and pooped on it as a warning to all other birds not to mess with him or her.

Bizarre Holidays! Part 2!

Okay guys, it's back.  Bizarre Holidays!

Tomorrow, June 22, is National Chocolate Eclairs Day.  I am totally getting up early to eat some donuts before (or at) work.  It's also Stupid Guy Thing Day.  Hey, none of my guy things are stupid.

Tuesday the 23rd is National Columnists Day and Take Your Dog to Work Day!

The 25th is National Handshake Day.  Shake someone's hand.  Just don't forget to wash your own.

Friday the 26th is Forgiveness Day.  So be the better person and forgive someone this week.

After bestowing the forgiveness, celebrate Decide to be Married Day on the 27th.

See you next time!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not creepy, but tons of fun

The Creeps! $0.99 In-depth review

I have to admit it.  I'm finally getting tired of Tower Defense games.  I did a review and strategy feature on a few of them several months back, and since then I really haven't played much.  That is, except The Creeps!  Now, I'm not yelling at you.  The exclamation point is actually part of the name.

What's so different about The Creeps! that gives it such longevity?  Well, several things.  Read on. If you saw my reviews of Tap Defense, Fieldrunners, and 7 Cities (post 1, post 2), you'll know that different companies are pretty good at developing new and interesting approaches to the same old (new?) tower defense genre.  Fieldrunners and 7 Cities both contained two game types: one that ends when you beat all the levels and one that keeps on going until you lose all your lives.  The Creeps! does one better: it has 3 gameplay modes!  Okay, now I am yelling at you.  But let's go back a bit and talk about the game itself.

The Creeps! is a tower defense game.  And like all other tower defense games, you have enemies moving along the screen attempting to get to a goal.  You place towers, which cost money and come in different varies, to destroy your enemies before they get through.  If you let too many enemies get through, you lose.  Simple.

In The Creeps! you are the intrepid defender of... this little kid's bed.  He's creeped out because there are monsters literally coming out of his closet to get him.  Yeah, I'd be scared too.  The monsters move on a set path to the bed, where the kid's head is poking in and out from under his covers.  A recent update to The Creeps! from its creator, Super Squawk Software, adds some new towers and maps, adding to the longevity.  Now there are several graveyard maps, Mars maps, and undersea maps.

Regular maps can be played in Survival Mode, where you play a map for a certain number of waves and then you're done.  They can also be played in Endurance Mode, where you play an unending number of waves... well, unending until you die of course.  I'll get to the third mode in a bit.

The cool thing about The Creeps! is something I hadn't seen in any previous tower defense game: the ability to target certain enemies.  When it gets crazy, sometimes it's good to be able to tell your towers who to fire on, especially when one monster is just about go get to his goal.  With other games, you just have to rely on the game's A.I. to decide who your towers want to kill.  But that's not all.  The Creeps! features other inanimate objects that sit on the map that you can target with your towers.  There is some delay time in between waves of monsters that you can spend to get extra points and money from destroying these random objects.  They include trees, headstones, rocks, coral, and other stuff.  When these obstructions are destroyed, you can build towers in their place.  In harder levels, this adds an extra element of strategy in that you cannot win w/o clearing out most or all of these objects - there simply would not be any room to place your towers otherwise.

The above is especially important in the new and cool mode that Super Squawk added in the newest update.  It's called Doorbuster Mode.  As I said before, enemies come from the possessed closet door and move along a path to get to the kid's bed.  In Doorbuster Mode, your main goal, aside from destroying enemies, is to destroy the door from which they come.  The door takes a long time to destroy, so you need to get your hits in in between waves of enemies, and you need to upgrade your towers accordingly.  In some doorbuster maps, you cannot even place a tower close enough to reach the door until you've destroyed enough inanimate map objects.  Lots of fun.

I've written this much and haven't even talked about the enemies and the weapons!  I'll go through those really quickly.  The enemies as well as all the surroundings are really cartoony and colorfully drawn.  The game is fun to look at, really.  In the Mars and Graveyard maps (of which there are plenty), enemies include ghosts, zombies, vampires, mummies, and other horror film staples.  The sound effects, especially the sounds the enemies make when they die, are superb and hilarious.  I especially like the vampires saying "Ow, zat hurts!"  You really have to hear it for yourself.  In the underwater maps, you encounter creatures like sea urchins, eels, crabs, tiny whales, and snail-like things.  In all maps, every once in a while you'll run into bosses, which are simply larger versions of the regular enemies.

The towers really go along with the cartoony theme of the game.  Your main weapon is a toy ray gun that shoots blue laser beams.  There is also a boomerang, which homes in on enemies and causes explosion/splash damage.  The tower I like a lot from a creative and stylistic standpoint is the glue bottle, which is this game's version of the "goo tower" that slows enemies down.  I mean, it's a freaking bottle of glue!  How cool is that? Anyway, we also have a flashlight, which is kind of like a lightning/tesla tower, and a paper ninja star.  Ooh, those paper cuts hurt.  All regular towers can be upgraded up to a third level, which makes them faster and do more damage.

There are also super towers that work for a limited time only before needing to recharge.  These include a UFO that does massive damage to whoever it's hovering over, a giant black widow that does super glue effects, a tornado that can carry enemies backward or just keep them in one place for an easy kill, and an oil can that allows you to muck up the path that enemies travel along.  All these super towers cost a lot of money but can really be game changers. They also make use of the iPod touch or iPhone's accelerometer.  You tilt your device to control their direction.

The Creeps! is good enough for me to ramble on and on about it in this post, and at $0.99 it's really a no-brainer for anyone interested in Tower Defense.  If you didn't think the others were for you, you may want to reconsider and try this one out.  I believe there is also a Lite version.

One year out

I went to the UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement last night. Yeah, it's that time of year again. This means that it's already been a full year since I graduated (from the school of Engineering, not the aforementioned one). The ceremony was pretty darn good, despite having to sit in the nosebleed "yellow seats" and not being able to see anything.

It did feel a little awkward though, to hear the first two speeches, one by an apparently fantastic community icon who received the UCLA Medal last night, and the other by the UCLA Student Body President. Both were women, and both very well spoken and energetic, but I got the strange sensation that I was at a political rally rather than a graduation ceremony. Now, I have nothing wrong with motivating "young people" (ugh, I hate that term but it's the most appropriate one here) to become active in shaping their community and nation, but I would expect such a widely-attended event to be a little more neutral. That's all I'll say about that.

The keynote speaker, Brad Delson of Linkin Park fame, was very, very, very good, and that's 3 "very"s more than I had expected. He was well spoken like the two ladies, and, being a fellow UCLA grad, albeit class of '99, was able to throw in familiar references to early Rieber dinners (I'm not sure which dining hall is open early these days) and late night Puzzles runs for good measure. When finding out he would not be able to keep the "honorary" cap an gown, he decided to take it off to reveal a custom UCLA basketball jersey and shorts underneath, with the number "09" and the name "Keynote" on the back. Then he played an exclusive, never-before-heard (and hopefully never again heard) acoustic guitar rendition of Britney Spears' "I'm not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." I must be getting old because I didn't recognize the song until it was practically over, and all the kids knew what it was almost right when he started. All in all, Mr. Delson gets an A for the night, and was much, much more engaging than the boring guy who spoke at my boring graduation who broke his promise not to be boring in the first 3 boring minutes of his boring speech.

Anyway, being back at UCLA always gives me a weird feeling now. I've been back there several times for various reasons (mostly, but not all being basketball games), and I'm really seeing the campus in a different light. Before attending UCLA starting in 2003, I mostly identified the campus as "that place w/ the cool student store and the historic Pauley Pavilion." Yeah, UCLA merchandise and basketball. That's all it was. When I started attending, I got more familiar with the entirety of the campus. As much of my time was spent going to class or doing homework, the place just made me think of work. No matter how much fun I was having, there was still that feeling that I was there to go to class and to get a degree. Come to think of it, that might have been the wrong approach.

Lately I've been thinking back to what the college experience was like. A lot of the specific factual knowledge that I gained in classes in order to survive my exams has all but gone away from my brain. What's left is just the capacity for critical thinking and the desire to dig deeper when things don't make sense. College is about the experience, and college courses are all about learning how to learn because in the end, you won't be valued for your useless knowledge about obscure topics, but rather how you can apply what you've learned about approaching problems and situations in life. I think if I had kept this in mind, I would have studied differently - possibly more efficiently, and also less. And I would been able to allow myself to have more fun when not studying or going to class.

I'm one year out of college, and UCLA is now, along with its other purposes, a place of memories. My mind no longer associates the campus with me having a massive things-to-do list. Now the studying and classes and test taking are all in the past, and I am able to relax and have more fun when I go back. But the thing is, I just about never go back there just for fun, making this new state of mind pretty much irrelevant. "Stop and smell the roses" is cliché but so true. Too bad you can't go back in time and smell the roses of the past.

One year out, and I'm realizing I missed out on college because of the classes, and because of my mindset. Well, at least we'll always have Ackerman, and we'll always have basketball.

...after they're done with the Pauley Pavilion renovation, anyway.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bizarre Holidays! Part 1!

Here's the first installment in a new series: Bizarre holidays! Here I will just list some interesting holidays that, for whatever reason, are not widely observed. Enjoy.

June 1:
-National Go Barefoot Day! If you're at the beach, you're probably already observing this one.
-Dare Day. I dare you to eat an entire pie. In one sitting.

June 2:
-Leave the Office Early Day! Yeah! I'm totally doing this one. And you can tell my boss too.
-Yell "Fudge" at the cobras in North America Day. If you see a cobra, be sure to pass this message onto it.

June 3:
-Repeat Day. Repeat Day.

June 4:
-Hug Your Cat Day. Also known as Get Violently Scratched Day.
-Applesauce Cake Day. I've never had Applesauce Cake. Is it good?

June 5-6 (First Fri/Sat in June):
-Donut Day. Yup. Sweeet.

June 6:
-Doo-Dah Day. Yee-haw!

Information courtesy of: