20 December 2008

More NHL09

I guess it's not something that is readily fixed if you play a lot of games, like I have. Inevitably the game announcers are going to repeat themselves enough that it gets annoying.

Let's see, when someone misses high, "he had to shoot high because he knows he's playing a butterfly goalie". Excuse me, McLean is a stand-up goalie.

"They're taking really poor shots. I would have thought pass before taking a shot. You have to wonder if their confidence is really low." Umm... we're leading 12-1. I don't think our confidence is all that low.

It's unfair that computer goalies can leave their net by so much, while McLean can't. Behind the net, all the same. But if McLean wants to move in front of the goal line for a really loose puck? Nope.

19 December 2008

McLean Called Up.

Just a short update to help minimize my NHL09-withdrawal pains induced by the holidays.

To my surprise goalie Kirk McLean was quickly recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs to the Montreal Canadiens. I think I've figured out why he was sent down to Hamilton in the first place. After each game you're graded in three categories; if you're average grade is poor, or if one bottoms, ta dah! You're sent down to the AHL.

Playing goalie is tough. Picard doesn't really care how many goals against are scored because he's practically still guaranteed to come out of the game on the plus side. Goals against, however, are anathema to McLean's statistics and hence his career success.

McLean's job is made worse by the fact that on average he only earns 27xp per game used to improve his stats. This mean it takes playing 10 games to improve one of McLean's stats by... one point. Picard, however, earns 60-70xp per game and is able to improve every 4-5 games.

McLean's job is made even more difficult because his D-men insist on passing the puck through his crease. The last game McLean had to save 2 shots from his very own D. This is just plain wrong.

Oh yeah, one of McLean's "stretch goals" is to have 7 shutouts this season. Is the coach out of his hockey-lovin' mind!? In the last minute of every period, my D-men are guaranteed to leave a forward parked in front of my net waiting unmolested for a one-timer from the corner.

And the coach repeatedly saying, "you have to keep the puck out of the net", has to be one of the most annoying things I've ever heard. Does coach not think I know that?

One last thing for now: The Curse of the Announcer. Every time the announcer says how great you're playing, you're soon going to have to make some spectacular, impossible save to not prove him wrong.

17 December 2008

Credit Cards

I'm relatively responsible with credit card use. My policy has always been to have two, one VISA and one Master Card, and that's it. During my sojourn in the Washington D.C. area I've mainly used my Amazon.com VISA and American Express cards for all my purchases.

Anywhoo, in preparation for leaving the U.S., I've been closing my credit card accounts. It was at this time that it hit me how many credit cards I actually had. Seven. Seven?! Let's see... oh yeah, at Best Buy I wanted their 0% financing when I bought my computer. Circuit City... that's right, 0% financing for my flatscreen television. You get the idea. Credit cards for single purchase use. I wonder if many customers are like me, and if so, how can the stores make any money? Though I guess since they're store credit cards they make their money from the purchase itself, and any profit from credit cards is gravy.

I discovered that many credit cards now have an automated closing option via telephone. Very nice.

I was planning to close all credit cards except the oldest (tip: keep your oldest credit card to better your credit score) until I contacted Amazon.com VISA. With Amazon, run by Chase, owned by Capital One, I spoke to a person, a friendly associate who upon learning I wanted to close the account promptly offered me incentives to stay. Lower interest rates on just about everything, a bonus of 1000 points to put me up for another $25 Amazon.com gift certificate, more ways to earn points.

Hmm, well... I guess I don't have to close now. I'll wait until I get that $25 gift certificate.

16 December 2008

Fallout 3

Lest you think I'm fixated on NHL09, I've also been playing Fallout 3 on the Playstation 3. With Resident Evil 4 fallen by the wayside (no ammo) Fallout 3 has taken its place.

Fallout 3 is an open-ended role-playing game played in the first person. Why did I buy a first person game? A few reasons:
  • I like RPGs.
  • The idea of seeing a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC -- an area I've lived for almost 6 years -- is very appealing.
  • The V.A.T. system. The V.A.T.S. in the game lets you pause the action and select your shots at any time. I only wish I could switch weapons in V.A.T.S.
Fallout 3 is open-ended; I've already spent hours just on side quests. Fallout 3 feels like it will be another huge game like Twilight Princess and Okami. Dungeon crawling and monster shooting is reminiscent of my AD&D high school days. At times it can get visually gory, but at night and with the customary dim lighting of abandoned buildings I hardly notice. Sometimes.

Random thoughts:
  • One thing I enjoy is using my sniper rifle. It's surprisingly fun to try to discover enemies without being discovered in turn and to take out tough monsters in one shot. From the shadows I once cleared out an entire super-mart filled with raiders, using single shots with my sniper rifle. Extremely satisfying.
  • I had to learn to think out of the (my) box. At one time radscorpions were my nemesis (they're still tough) until I discovered the utility of land mines. Mirelurks are annoyingly well-armored and I avoid them with a passion. But now I'm itching to take them on again, utilizing some apt load-screen advice. In your face, mirelurks! Arlington Memorial, here I come.
  • So far feral ghouls thankfully are easy kills. I hope that remains true throughout because they're quick, ugly, and they freak me out.
  • Radroaches gross me out, which means I have to kill them, but they're not worth the price of a bullet and I don't want to get close enough to use a baseball bat. Dilemma.
  • Actually, many of the enemies in the game gross me out.
  • Duck and cover, but don't cover so much that you can't shoot. Despite the V.A.T.S giving you a respectable percentage of success you often will shoot the covering object in front of you instead. Irritating.
  • While specific ammo may temporarily run low, ammo in general is plentiful (if you have the caps, and multiple guns), a far cry from the annoying ammo-deprived Resident Evil 4.
  • Once I was ambushed as I exited a Metro station. I almost died. Next time, I saw them first and threw a couple grenades their way to soften them up.
  • Once I exited a Metro station and immediately was engulfed in a fire fight only to realize no one was shooting at me. I left without knowing who was fighting who, and why (though I do have an inkling, now).
  • On my first visit to Megaton, no one would talk to me except to say that they were watching me and not to "try" anything. Very unfriendly and suspicious people. Then I discovered the sneak mode, and realized I'd been using it the entire time in town. Now they give me food and ammo for free.
  • Once I saw a sheriff gunned down from behind. I took his stuff. Then I killed his killer and took his stuff, too.
  • My natural inclination is to play the good side of the Force -- that doesn't mean I don't want to be paid for my efforts.
Fallout 3 is so far a great game and another I highly recommend, excepting children.

Credit Score Update

I posted earlier about using a free online credit score calculator rather than paying for it and about wondering how accurate the calculator was.

Several weeks ago when I still thought I had to buy a new car, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for my credit score. Guess what? The MSN credit score calculator was accurate. My true score was smack dab in the middle of the MSN credit score range.

A new way to rebel against credit monitoring agencies who profit from a product wholly derived from my history. Gotta love it!

The Land of Tim Hortons

Despite how great it is to live in the Washington DC area, I've always thought one thing is sorely lacking: Tim Hortons. Sure, there are locations in the U.S. but none even remotely near were I live. Disappointing, right?

Anywhoo, a few weeks ago I was in Hamilton, Ontario -- I know! The very city that ushered in the dawn of a new coffee, right? -- and I stopped at a Tim Hortons near my hotel. To my surprise Tim Hortons only takes Master Card.

Strange, right? Most places, if they take credit cards, take both VISA and M/C, and maybe American Express (which you can, despite what commercials say, leave home without), to boot. So why only M/C? I wonder if they have cheaper fees or something.

This odd tidbit (tidbit, get it? Hah, I even amuse myself) leads to a slight tarnishing of Tim Hortons. Since I don't have a M/C, which actually is in violation of my which-credit-cards-to-own policy, and only had U.S. cash I was going to cancel my order. The cashier looked surprised and said, amused and smiling, "We take American money".

Now, when a store says that they take U.S. cash I've always assumed that meant they calculated the current exchange rate. Am I wrong? Well, in this case I was. Tim Hortons took my U.S. cash at face vale, at a 1:1 rate. Eh?

The coffee barely made up for my irritation.

12 December 2008

NHL09 Bug

I've found one annoyance or bug with NHL09. When goalie Kirk McLean was first called up to Montreal, his very first game could only be simulated. Why? I don't know. Even worse, when McLean was sent back to Hamilton, his first three games were automatically simulated. What the heck?

What is the function of this tidbit of frustration? What purpose does it serve?

It's some kind of Twilight Zone irony when game designers stop people from playing their game.

What could have been floating around in their quirky little minds... Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?

11 December 2008

Dr. Horrible

For those that haven't seen this, here's a link to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. This video stars Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a villain aiming for world domination... and love.

Harris is great in this video. I've always liked Harris since Doogie Howser, MD, and he currently stars in How I Met Your Mother.

The Sing-Along Blog is divided into 3 acts, with the entire video about 40 minutes or so. There are single 30 second commercials between the acts.

My only quibble is with the ending, but I won't say why because I don't want to spoil it.

Anywhoo, if you have the time take a look -- it's very funny.

10 December 2008

McLean Sent Down to Hamilton

Goalie Kirk McLean (10-0-0) has been sent down to the Hamilton Bulldogs for "more seasoning".

I don't understand the GM. McLean has a better GAA than Cary Price; McLean also has the most wins and the best save percentage of any Montreal Canadiens goalie.

Ugh. It's late December and the Canadiens have made their way up from last in the league to 6th in the Eastern Conference. I really hope the Canadiens can manage to hold a playoff position so that McLean will still have a chance for NHL post-season success.

07 December 2008

McLean Update

Kirk McLean is going to have a more difficult time carrying the Montreal Canadiens than Picard with the Vancouver Canucks.

The difficulty is in the number of starts. McLean (5-0-0) wins one game, then Carey Price (4-16-3) loses the next two.

A few observations about game play as a goalie.
  • I find the "High" camera view the easiest to play. I found "Low" to have poorer depth perception.
  • In "Rookie" there is a blue arrow indicating the direction of the puck. In the beginning I just concentrated on centering McLean on the arrow but I eventually realized that made me react to events rather than anticipate them. Keep your eye on the puck!
  • Because the camera is behind and slightly above the goalie, when the puck is close in front I can't see the puck because the goalie is in the way.
  • Ovechkin has a mean slapshot.

Trapezoid Rule

If you're a hockey fan then you're probably aware of the trapezoid rule, where when behind the net a goalie can only touch the puck within a trapezoid shaped area. This rule was established pretty much because goalie Martin Brodeur is too good at his job.

I suspect Brodeur has mixed feelings about having his very own official NHL rule: the rule acknowledges Brodeur's excellent puck handling but at the same time prevents him from handling the puck.

I wonder if the NHL will retire the trapezoid when Brodeur retires.

I digress. The original intent of this post was to complain about the trapezoid -- goalie Kirk McLean (NHL09 Montreal Canadiens) pounced on a loose rebound to the side and was penalized 2 minutes for being outside the trapezoid.

What the heck!? The puck was definitely in!

Stupid ref.

06 December 2008

Introducing Kirk McLean

Currently LW Jean-Luc Picard is the points leader by a 30+ point margin and goal leader by a 50 goal margin at the mid-point of the season where the Vancouver Canucks currently lead the league. With Picard starting the Canucks have won 29 straight games.

Picard averages 3.5x goals and 4.6x points per game. His highest points in a game was 13 (7 goals, 6 assists) and Picard's most goals in a game was a triple hat trick.

Posting all this is not so much to brag (I'm playing the Rookie/easy level, after all -- speaking of which, after playing 75 games Picard becomes "Pro". Is that Pro as in the next skill level? That would be neat) but to provide some info as to why it's become a trifle boring; there's no challenge anymore.

I don't want to start all over again because I've played almost 50 games with this player -- it would be a waste. Plus, Picard is a sure fire way to Stanley Cup success, a fail safe in case other avenues fail.

So... I'm turning elsewhere to indulge my competitive spirit... to an alternate NHL universe where stand-up goalie Kirk McLean joined the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL for the 2008 season. After 10 games (10-0-0) with a 2.42 GPG and a 93.5% save percentage McLean was called up to the Montreal Canadiens.

Calling McLean up so early must partly be due to the fact that after 16 games the Canadiens are rock bottom at 30th in the NHL -- McLean's first game in a Canadiens uniform will be to put an end to an 8-game losing streak (the Canucks, by the way, currently are 1st place in this NHL-verse).

I hope it's been the Canadiens goalies Price and Havlak that have been leaking and not the D-men. McLean at 19 is unusually young for a NHL goalie -- I wouldn't want him to be emotionally scarred after being crushed in a poor game.

Can Kirk McLean revive the flailing and failing Montreal Canadiens?

02 December 2008

Eddie Murphy, in Absentia

I was browsing Amazon for blue-ray discs and I saw that Coming to America (1988) had been released on BD.

Here's the provided list of actors on Amazon: Arthur Adams, Leah Aldridge, Don Ameche, John Amos, Louie Anderson, Paul Bates, Vanessa Bell, Ralph Bellamy, Stephanie Clark, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Mary Bond Davis, Allison Dean, Victoria Dillard, Frankie R. Faison, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Birdie M. Hale, Arsenio Hall, Helen Hanft, Shari Headley, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Notice anyone missing? I'll forgive you if you've never seen this movie, but guess what? The main star of this movie, the actor that portrays the character around which the movie is based, is missing.

Where art thou, Eddie Murphy?

Even stranger, let's take a look at the description of the Trading Places (1983) BD on Amazon:

Denholm Elliott, Dan Aykroyd, Maurice Woods, Richard D. Fisher Jr., Jim Gallagher, Anthony DiSabatino, Bonnie Behrend, Sunnie Merrill, James Newell, Mary St. John II, Bonnie Tremena, David Schwartz III, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Tom Degidon, William Magerman, Alan Dellay, Florence Anglin, Ray D'Amore, and Bobra Suiter.

Even if you've never heard of Trading Places, one guess as to which actor is missing. That's right... Eddie Murphy.

Not to diminish their contributions, but someone took the time to include actors such as Mary St. John II and David Schwartz III yet failed to include the actor in the lead role (co-starring with Dan Aykroyd)?

Am I the only one that thinks this is odd?

Anywhoo, I submitted Eddie Murphy's name for both BDs. Nevertheless, being the most recent inclusion Murphy's name won't even show up on the main product page of a movie he's the top -- or sharing the top -- billing.

Oh yeah, though I've never watched Shrek the Third, shouldn't Mike Meyers at least be one of the only five voice actors listed on Amazon's main page for the BD?

Guess who else isn't listed. Eddie Murphy.