Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Boys Names Ending in "N"


On the week my oldest son's fifth birthday, this animated chart is of particular interest. Unknowingly we went with a popular one the first time around. We picked Kaden because we wanted something that worked in English and Arabic. Kinda sorta, well it didn't exactly shake out that way, but we're cool. More recently we picked a name that peeked in 1890 and we're cool with that too.

SauceThe meteoric rise of boys' names ending in 'n'

Friday, February 21, 2014

Richmond. Judged.


This map popped up all over my social medias last night. It is wildly accurate and wicked funny.

Sauce: Judgemental Maps

Back to the Track

After a successful inaugural run on the Advanced 10k Training Team last year. I came back this year with a fire in my belly. Last year I learned that I love track training and speed work. More so than any distance training that I'd ever done. Unfortunately snow has kept us away from the track for most of the our training so far. Two weeks ago there was a break in the weather and we went out for the first time. I ran hard and at the front of the pace group the whole night. Then it we got snowed out again last week. Remember the snowpocalypse that wasn't? Thanks Wxrisk!

In any case this week was short sleeve weather and I showed up prepared to run just off the front and take it a little easier. We finished our strides and just as I was noticing that one of our two coaches hadn't made it out, I heard the coach that was there call my name. I looked around a bit bewildered at first. Of the 40 plus people on our sub team (45-47:00), maybe 4-5 people know my name. The second time I got called, I made my way up to the front of the group to find that the other coach had nominated me to the lead the front pace for the night.

Baaawhhaaaatttt?


I am awful at setting and holding a pace. It is part of the reason I do training teams. I got a Garmin 220 a week ago to start working on it. I'd run twice with it, but not on the track yet. I mashed buttons wildly after agreeing to the task put to me. I got the GPS up and running and we were off like a flash. For the first 200m I was out ahead of the group. Adrenaline pumping I assumed the rest of the group was just starting slow. Till I heard the cries of "Too fast!". I looked down at my watch and I was running at a 5:50 per mile pace. I was supposed to be between 6:25-35.

I popped my chute and faded back to the group. After that I worked with the other front regulars and had a much more consistently paced evening. I owed it all to them and told them so, but still got thanks at the end of the night. It was not as bad as I assumed it would be and made me think about coaching some year that I want to take it easier.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best Games of 2013

2013 was another year for wide variety in my late night gaming. Miles wide in fact and mostly inches deep. I think I prefer it this way, even if my bank account is worse for wear because of it. I decided to separate out the games I played on the toilet tablet and keep them for another post on another day though. Below is my top 10 proper games of the year 2013. Below that is all the other stuff I played too.

1. The Last of Us
This year I finally realized what I value most in video games. I want story. The game play has to enjoyable enough to engage me, but mechanics never make me say wow. The Last of Us was somewhat flawed in it's combat mechanics and had puzzles that eventually grew tiresome, but the story never let up. Zombie stories The characters and their relationships were top notch. The arc that is told is a roller coaster of tragedy, but not without it's moments of hope. The ending was something I've rarely seen in any medium and certainly not a video game. 2013 had loads of great games, but Last of Us easily stood above them.

2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Video game mechanics rarely are in support of their story. At best they do their damnedest to no detract from it, but many times they outright betray the story being told. Brothers was one of the first games I've seen where the two went hand in hand from start to finish. Controlling two characters (siblings) with a single controller is awkward at first. My thumbs learned to work in tandem though and as they did the two characters on screen also learned to work with and support each other. In a game without dialogue Starbreeze managed to tell one of the most enjoyable stories in a game this year.

3. BioShock Infinite
I was a bit skeptical about a third game in the Bioshock-o-verse after Bioshock 2 was such a let down. Infinite was by the same team as the original though.Would offer up very little in direct relation to the games setting and told a brand new tale with new characters. The story opening was incredibly strong. Slowly introducing it's world through character and environment. At some point the combat sequences became a bit dull and tedious though. The story lost it's way, but not for long. By the end it was back on the rails and presenting not only insights into Rapture, but the entire universe the game exist in. Really cool stuff.

4. Far Cry 3
In a year where I played more open world games than ever before, Farcry 3 stood above the rest. As with most open world games it's good story was not in the main plot, but in the tales concocted through it's "living" environment. "Oh man, I was sneaking up on this base. Cataloging it's defenses and plotting out my approach. When a pack of wild dogs burst from the trees and started attacking the guards. I threw out my plan and jumped into the three way fight". The game is jam packed with moments like that. All on a sprawling and beautiful island system. There is loads of meaningful side missions to go on, a crafting system worthy of emulation (see: Assassin's Creed 4) and one of the best acted villains video games have ever seen.

5. Gunpoint
I've been following allowing with Gunpoint's development since early 2011. Before it had great art and a smooth jazz soundtrack. The core concept stands up on it's own just fine. 2D stealth and puzzle mechanics. More specifically rewiring the electronics in the building you are infiltrating to remove obstacles. The light switch. You know, the one that turns on lights. Now it opens the door you wanted to sneak through or better yet short circuits a socket next to a guard and murder him.  If it was just that it would be a good time, but it also has the art and soundtrack mentioned earlier. Plus a story that is worth reading and interactive dialogue that is pretty damn humorous. It's a great game. I just wish there was more of it, I completed it right at three hours. What you get in that three hours though feels like a new experience in gaming. Maybe? Or maybe it is just Elevator Action evolved. It is a marvelous little game either way. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

6. GTA V
The single player in this game is far and above any other GTA story on offer to date. The up and coming criminal to king pin tale is out. They'd done it enough times and done it well where it would have been passable this time through. What they offered up instead was leaps and bounds beyond what they already did really well. Following three established characters from the start meant working with in the confines of their lives and personalities. You aren't meeting new NPCs every hour so you can play errand boy again. It works really well. The loses it's head of steam about 3-4 hours from the end, but the plot was still paced masterfully by comparison to the rest of the series. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

7. Don't Starve
Klei Entertainment, makers of Mark of the Ninja (ma jam!) made ma new jam too. Don't Starve is a 2D-ish (it's a 3D engine with 2D assets) open world game in the vein of Minecraft. That is to say it is a survival game where the environment you are in provides the materials you'll need to survive. What makes the game intriguing beyond being another open world survival game is the amount of trust placed in the player. The game opens with an unnamed man who instructs you to find food before night fall and poofs away. From that point on there are no instructions. The tool tips provided for left and right clicking different things in the world are all you have. What is good for you and what can kill is a trial by error process. The reward is mastering the consistent systems in the world, not starving and ultimately thriving. Bonus contentGreat article and video about Klei. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

8. Tomb Raider
In 1996 my second computer or maybe third whirled up the original Tomb Raider on it's bite sized hard drive. It was the same time frame as the Nintendo 64, so polygonal platforming was still in it's larval state. I have great memories of that game. The new game is a reboot, but doesn't evoke memories of that past though. You don't raid any tombs per se, but that is because Crystal Dynamics is too busy doing their best Uncharted impression. Which, as it turns out I wanted way more Uncharted, so good job guys. It's an action movie in video game form, with better combat than the series it apes. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

9. The Stanley Parable
What this is, is hard to describe. It's a game for the PC that spawned from a source mod in 2011. That much is easy enough. What the game actually does though is much harder. It is not a puzzle game, as much as it is a mind fuck. Most "gamers" have played enough games to know the tropes, language and mechanics of a modern video game. This one turns all of that on it's ear. It constantly breaks the fourth wall and does so in clever and humorous ways. You explore the ins and outs a world that is masterfully narrated and never what you expect it to be. You should play it and will love it when you do. Very much like portal, but not like it at all, it's strange and wonderful. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

10. Saints Row IV
Earlier this year I caught up with Saints Row: The Third, a game that I should have made time for in 2011. It was an absolute blast. What started as a GTA clone turned into a goofy parody of the videogame world. Often breaking the 4th wall and throwing out reality and tired tropes in favor of fun. The fourth game in the series actually started as a DLC pack for the third and then ballooned into it's own game. It stands on the shoulders of the third (engine, mechanics and world) and then breaks all of it's rules. Your character is now super powered. Gliding through the air, sprinting at the speed of light and leaping over buildings. There is no need for a car or even guns later on, but the game manages to stay balanced and challenging even as it gives you loads of power. The humor is the main course still though. Eliciting consistent small giggles and even the occasional belly laugh. Totally worth a play through, though you may be better served playing the third installment first. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

11. Call of Duty: Ghost
12. Prison Architect
13. Sleeping Dogs
14. Metro: Last Light
15. Hotline Miami
16. Magicka
17. Orcs Must Die! 2
18. Spelunky
19. Card Hunter
20. Guacamelee*
21. Papers Please!*
22. Gone Home*
23. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
24. The Wolf Among Us*
25. Max Payne 3**

* played it once or twice and was not hooked enough to return to it
** actively disliked playing this piece of crap

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Raps of 2013

I made the bold resolution to try and listen to more than just rap in 2013. Well that went sideways real quick. I ended up doubling down on rap and was mostly rewarded for it. 2013 was a great year for rap and below are my top 10 albums. Below that are albums I need to spend more time with before passing judgement and further still are the disappoints of the year.

1. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels
From front to back Run the Jewels is a work of perfection. It is supremely rare to find an album where every track could be a single. EL-P and Killer Mike balance each other well and reign each other in from the mild hang ups I've had with their solo work. Album of the year hands down.

2. Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
I slept on the Clipse through the early aughts, much to my dismay. I think it is fair to say that it is never too late to discover Pusha T though. MNiMN has some insanely good beats and raps. I can't wait for King Push.

3. Spark Master Tape - The #SWOUP Serengeti
I still have no clue who Spark Master Tape is, but that had zero impact on the number of times I spun this tape. The beats and raps are grimmy as hell and I loved it.

4. Problem & Iamsu! - Million Dollar Afro
This tape came out of no where for me and I ended up banging it all summer. It has a distinctly West coast feel, during a period in rap where styles are blending together more and more. Bumpin' bass and a feature from Juvenile, who knew I wanted more Juvenile?

5. Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
Even though it came out in late 2012 I found myself returning to VLaDR all 2013 long. It has great mellow tracks with indie rock bands I have very little familiarity with, but also bangers like the video above.

6. A$AP Rocky - LONG.LIVE.A$AP
The follow up to my far and away favorite tape of 2012 was a bit of a let down. Not so much that it didn't make this list though. Plenty of good tracks, but a few stinkers too.

7. Action Bronson - Blue Chips 2
Action's follow up tape with Party Supplies is loaded with over the top party tracks. But didn't even contain his best track in 2013. Taken as a whole though, Blue Chips 2 kills it.

8. Tito Lopez - Y.O.U
A great radio clip of Tito Lopez from last year got me up on his mixtape from this year. From the opening track (above) all the way through he really shows off his rap talent. I just wish I liked the beats a little more.

9. J. Cole - Born Sinner
The internet hip hop hype train left me way behind on this album from J. Cole. I dismissed it as hype for most of the year and was then surprised by most of it this Fall. A lot of the tracks are hit and miss for me, but over all I dig it.

10. Trinidad Jame$ - Don't Be S.A.F.E.
This tape came out in the fall of 2012 and I dismissed it out right. Some how the Goldeneye 64 laced beats of All Gold Everything ended up getting trapped in my head though. Turns out the rest of Don't Be S.A.F.E. was pretty good too.

Needed More Time
Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
Isaiah Rashad - Welcome To The Game
Travi$ Scott - Owl Pharaoh
Nipsey Hussle - Crenshaw

Disappointments
Kanye West - Yeezus
Trinidad Jame$ - 10 Pc. Mild
Flatbush ZOMBiES - BetterOffDEAD
Ka - The Night's Gambit

Monday, December 16, 2013

Weekend Review: Post Thanksgiving 2013 Blow Out!

Every weekend there are new sights, sounds, and taste to consume. There are other sensory inputs that tickle my brain too, but saying there is stuff to feel sounds creepy. This is a weekly journal of my weekend endeavors. Enjoy!

Work has been hell of busy, but I've been doing a lot...Everything must go!

Games
Orcs Must Die! 2
I dig tower defense games, but they are usually top down, mobile and solo affairs. Orcs Must Die! takes the tower defense concept and puts into the third dimension. Instead of towers you place traps and control a war mage that is part of the battle as well. The controls are a lot like playing WoW and by that I mean I jump unnecessarily every two seconds. The later levels get hard and thankfully there is two player coop to solve for that.  It is part of the latest Humble Bundle (which tomorrow). You get the first game too, which I might up playing as well.

Magicka
I jumped on this game when it first came out in 2011. It was awkward to control (but fun), quirky in it's presentation and a good laugh to play coop.  The initial group didn't make it far. I'd call them casual gamers and mean it in the nicest way possible. I tried to continue playing it on my own, but the game gets brutally hard pretty quickly. Jump to this month in this year. The most recent Humble Bundle came with Magicka and all it's DLC. I got Skip and my brother to get copies and we've been playing it every night. The challenge for three players is perfect. We struggle through boss fights and laugh our asses off when we blow each other up.

COD: Ghost
This franchise feels like it is on it's last leg. It is the tenth proper game in the series that remains a cash cow, so they keep making one a year. The multiplayer is still fun, but it might as well be a map and gun pack DLC. Save the fact that the leap frogging developing cycle sees gaps in the feature set every year. They made a huge deal out of the pick ten system in BLOPs 2. It was going to revolutionize the game. So of course Ghost made their own watered down/less good version this year. I still enjoy playing COD with my buddies, but there is nothing new or special about it anymore. Titanfall can't get here soon enough.

Tilt to Live 2
Tilt to Live was the first mobile (smart phone) game I spent an extraordinary amount of time with. The longest a game would take, if you were really crushing it, was 3 minutes tops. You control an arrow that is trying to avoid and destroy red dots. It plays a lot like Geometry Wars, but replace the dual sticks with tilting your phone. Your next high score is only a game away so keep playing forever! Or as long as you are in the bathroom. Sadly the follow up game doesn't introduce enough new stuff to make me want to play it like the first. That or I had my fill the first time around. If you've never played it, give it a shot. If you played and liked the first, this is more of the same.

Max Payne 3
The matrix and more importantly the public's introduction to bullet time came in 1999. Sadly the movie tie in games that followed were shit. In 2001 Max Payne released with a gritty noir story and game mechanics that captured bullet time in a way that was fun. Not a small feat. The sequel that followed in 2003 only added to that formula. Nine years, a terrible movie and a troubled development cycle later and Max Payne 3 came out. Gone is the noir feel, the semi understandable story and the bullet time. Cover mechanics killed what made the first to games distinct. Now when you jump out from cover and slow down time you will very likely land on the ground and get shot to death. Without interesting game play one would hope the story did some heavy lifting. Nope, the story has got better things to do.

Music
Clipse 
After really digging the new Pusha T, I went and bought all three of the Clipse albums. I was late to the party, but now understand were all the admiration comes from. There is some incredible music to be unearthed here. A lot of Neptunes produced tracks that I was already familiar with, but didn't know were Clipse songs. Bravo!

Action Bronson - Blue Chips 2
My first listen to Action's new mixtape was mixed bag of good tracks and some stuff that was really off putting. I stuck with it though and it grew on me in the past month. Party Supplies produces tracks that are just plain fun. The result of which is Action taking that fun vibe and putting together raps that are creative and light in their flow. A great pairing. Starting out thinking I'd remove it from my phone and taking a turn to liking it has been great. It is somewhere in my mixtapes of the year now.

Reading
Storm Front (Dresden Files)
It is a bit daunting to start up long running fiction series. The Dresden Files will be up to fifteen books next year. Thankfully the first book is only 300+ pages, which for me is only 8 hours of audio. In audio Storm Front plays a bit like a radio narrative. The first person hardboiled P.I. story blended with the super natural (magic) world played great in 20-40 minute chunks. I can't wait to start the next one.

Avengers Arena
Another great comic recommendation from Ethan. AA stands on the shoulders of Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, and Hunger Games to tell a similar story in the Marvel universe. It is a silly premise that is well executed. I wasn't familiar with any of the characters on offer, which I think made it better. The characters get quick, but meaningful introductions and then are set to surviving and killing each other. The writing is on point and it looks great too.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Weekend Review: Nov 2nd & 3rd

Every weekend there are new sights, sounds, and taste to consume. There are other sensory inputs that tickle my brain too, but saying there is stuff to feel sounds creepy. This is a weekly journal of my weekend endeavors. Enjoy!

Sawbones
Last years late September weekend review, included a podcast called Satellite Dish. A show about television from a husband and wife duo I was already familiar with. The show was rough around the edges and inconsistent when TV was inconsistent. Which was often. Thankfully the pair is back with a new podcast about medical history. This time around the humor is still very high and they have the content to match it. Focusing every week on a new subject they poke fun at often wild path that we have taken to get to modern medicine.

Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
Probably the biggest gap in my hip hop knowledge and appreciation is the Clipse. Their music is a total blind spot and they are from Virginia Beach. After just under a month of listening to the fantastic debut album from Pusha T, I am bound and determined to get up on the Clipse now. It is that damn good. Lots of great featured artist and an all-star listing of producers and beats. I posted the song Nosetalgia back in September and the full album lives up to it's potential.

Cycloramic
It is extremely rare these days for me to be surprised by technology. I'm increasingly becoming a cranky cynic in the space, especially when it comes to phones. Sure I will get a wow moment from the latest Boston Dynamics video, but what is surprising about more cores and higher megapixels? This weekend I saw something that actually blew my mind. If only a little. Cycloramic is an iPhone app for the 5 and 5s. It takes panoramic photos/videos and can do so completely hands free. Set your phone vertically on a smooth surface (e.g. dinning room table) and it will use the phones vibrate feature to rotate it around 360 degrees snapping photos along the way. What you get is less impressive. There have been apps for stitching together panoramas for years now. The novelty of seeing your little phone come alive however is totally worth sharing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend Review: Oct 26th & 27th

Every weekend there are new sights, sounds, and taste to consume. There are other sensory inputs that tickle my brain too, but saying there is stuff to feel sounds creepy. This is a weekly journal of my weekend endeavors. Enjoy!

Gravity
I've never had a fear of space before. It is such a foreign concept, so abstract when presented through the lens of a book or television, that it never really occurred to me. Gravity is a fictional take on space that presents story first, but also uses visual effects and sound to make the vast emptiness of space tangible. Bullock and Clooney do a great job in their roles, but the third character is outer space. We saw the film in 3D and for the first time I felt like it actually added something. More stunning spectacle than zero calorie novelty. It was amazing and deserving of the stellar reviews it has received.

The Stanley Parable
What this is, is hard to describe. It's a game for the PC that spawned from a source mod in 2011. That much is easy enough. What the game actually does though is much harder. It is not a puzzle game, as much as it is a mind fuck. Most "gamers" have played enough to know the tropes, language and mechanics of a modern video game. This one turns all of that on it's ear. It constantly breaks the fourth wall and does so in clever and humorous ways. You explore the ins and outs a world that is masterfully narrated and never what you expect it to be. You should play it and will love it when you do. Very much like portal, but not like it at all, it's strange and wonderful.

Boson X
I've spent a surprising amount of time with the endless runner genre. Almost exclusively on mobile devices. Subway Surfers has been my on again off again sweetheart for a year now. So when a new kid shows up on the block I'm willing take a look. Boson X sets you running down the center of a particle accelerator, represented by swirling polygonal shapes. You jump left and right to keep moving and collecting enough research ("collisions") to discover a new particle and finish the level. It is harder than most runners and very akin to Super Hexagon in it's pace and sometimes brutal difficulty.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Review: Oct 19th & 20th

Every weekend there are new sights, sounds, and taste to consume. There are other sensory inputs that tickle my brain too, but saying there is stuff to feel sounds creepy. This is a weekly journal of my weekend endeavors. Enjoy!

American Gods
Loved this book. I got a recommendation from Ethan a while back. Then I went looking for a new book last month on the NPR list of Top 100 science fiction/fantasy and saw it again at number ten. #10 seems like a lot of hype and thankfully American Gods lives up to it. The premise, story and prose are all top notch. Fantasy in a modern setting is more of a genre Crystal enjoys, but this hit on all cylinders for me. I really enjoyed guessing at who the Gods were before they were revealed. I listened to this in audio and it was a full cast production. It add even more to the tale. Best book I've read this year.

GTA V
The single player in this game is far and above any other GTA story on offer to date. The up and coming criminal to king pin tale is out. They'd done it enough times and done it well where it would have been passable this time through. What they offered up instead was leaps and bounds beyond what they already did really well. Following three established characters from the start meant working with in the life already live, not meeting new NPCs every hour so you could play errand boy again. It worked really well. It lost it's head of steam about 3-4 hours from the end, but the plot was still paced masterfully.

GTA Online also came two weeks after the single player. It was much less polished. There is a lot not to like. Poor UI design, lots of loading screens and tons of grinding. If you can peel away the bitter rind though, there is a juicy center worth playing. The co-op is good, but really short and not repeatable. The racing is really fun and earning XP and cash to put into nicer car mods is rewarding.

Tabata
In late Spring of this year I heard about a type of high-intensity interval training called tabata. It boils down to eight exercises (e.g. planks, burpees, etc.) performed for 20-25 seconds with 10 second breaks in between. A set of eight is called a tabata and you usually do 4 to 5 tabata in a session. A full session will kick your ass. I've never wanted to quit something physically more than I tabata every week. I introduced it to Crystal in June. We were into it for three weeks till a knee injury at Jumpology put me out of commission. Last month I signed up for a tabata class at work. It was like starting all over again and now I wasn't hand picking the exercises that made it easier. I love and hate it. It is challenging in a way that cycling and running have never been. When I finish it is massive sense of accomplishment.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eminem - Rap God


I stopped paying attention to Eminem a long while ago. I kind of know what he is. That doesn't mean what he does is any less impressive. The beat on Rap God is good, but it takes a major back seat to his incredibly impressive writing and ability to spit fire on a song.

Miles Logged

Books Read

Recently Finished:

The Wise Man's Fear
Dynasty of Evil
100 Bullets Vol. 07: Samurai
Batman: Batman and Son
100 Bullets Vol. 06: Six Feet Under the Gun
100 Bullets Vol. 05: The Counterfifth Detective
100 Bullets Vol. 04: A Foregone Tomorrow
100 Bullets Vol. 03: Hang Up on the Hang Low
100 Bullets Vol. 02: Split Second Chance
30 Days of Night
100 Bullets Vol. 01: First Shot, Last Call
Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street
Uzumaki, Volume 1
Runaways vol. 1: Pride and Joy
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 2: Dallas
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
Batman: Hush, Vol. 2
Atomic Robo Vol. 4: Other Strangeness
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