Monthly Archives: March 2005

The Beginning

Wet asphalt.

My eyes tell me that the automatic sprinklers have stopped a few moments before my arrival. The runoff from the landscaping paints wet streaks across the freshly paved road to my office building. It’s September, and the air holds a crisp bite as the city begins its transition to its fall colors.

The smell, on the other hand, sends me, tells me that I’m back in grade school. I don’t know what month it is. In San Diego, the weather is the same all year. You end up with one, long nondescript season. Well, actually, it only has one description.

Partly sunny, partly cloudy, high of 73.

I’m attending a catholic parochial school located on an island just off the coast of downtown. I guess my parents sent me there to avoid my exposure to any unsavory elements. No doubt if I had attended a catholic parochial school in my own neighborhood, I would have become a bloodthirsty miscreant.

My school had an asphalt playground, really just a large parking lot with old cracked, yellow paint that marked off play areas. There was hopscotch, basketball, volleyball, four square, a numbered ring for cake walks, and even a court dedicated to that most barbaric and wonderful of grade school sports, dodgeball.

I remember the looks I got when Lourdes Rasay got hit with a volleyball in the face. I didn’t hit her with it, but everyone looked to me, as the other Filipino in the school, to defend her honor. I had a crush on her then, probably because she was the only one that looked even remotely like me.

Then high school hit, and so did the realization that she wasn’t all that great.

4 years later. . .

In 2001 Dean Kamen said he would unveil a device that would revolutionize our lives.

He released the Segway, the self balancing Human Transporter.

Four years later, the majority of us are still walking to work, riding bicycles, and driving cars. His Human Transporter remains on the fringe of our society’s commuting habits, and did little to no revolutionizing.

Which is unfortunate, because the Segway is a lot of fun to ride.

Yesterday, I had about five minutes with a Segway, on Rockville Pike between the White Flint Metro Stop and the L’Chaim Gallery. I saw the gentleman riding and asked him about his Segway. Turns out he rides the train all the way into the city, and then uses the Segway to get to the train and back.

I asked him about what it’s like to be the early adopter.

“There are stares,” he said, but for the most part he’s enjoying his commute. He notes that he’s only fallen once, and that was when he was showing off. “Want to try it out?” He asked. “I can put it in beginner mode. It will take you about 10 seconds to balance yourself out.”

I nodded. I asked about my backpack, and whether or not it would throw the balance off.

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied.

I’ve seen the videos. There are children in my neighborhood that have them. Now, here was the chance to try one out. I know it can balance. I want to believe that it can. I think briefly, “It only has two wheels. How can it balance?

I closed my eyes and reached for the handle bars. I hoped that the best thing to do was just get on the damn thing. I wobbled for about five seconds, and then I opened my eyes. I was upright, and the Segway was too.

It felt like I was on a stepstool. A wobbly one, maybe one with one leg just half a centimeter shorter than the others. I wasn’t moving forward or backward. After a few seconds the wobbling occurred with less frequency.

“Now lean forward a little bit,” he said.

I leaned forward and then I found I was moving. Not too quickly, since the Segway was set to Beginner Mode. In this mode, it focuses more on auto correction rather than forward movement.

He walked alongside. “The nice thing about beginner mode,” he said, “is that people can’t ride off with your Segway, either.” We laughed. I tried leaning forward more and more, but I never got any faster than a brisk walk. He would have been able to catch me easily.

The sky is partly cloudy, but for the first time in a long time, the temperature felt like Spring.

I steer a bit with the left handle. It’s very responsive. I stop moving and rotate all the way around. I begin to feel a bit disoriented, but as soon as I stop rotating, I feel fine.

There are major cracks and divots in the sidewalk, but the Segway’s large tires take them with no problems.

I rode (he walked) the length of the Nuclear Research Commission building. All too soon we’re at the end. I stepped off the Segway.

“Well,” I say. “thanks for the demonstration.”

“My pleasure.”

He turned around after fiddling with the keys and wheeled off at a speed far faster than I ever reached.

Now I had to walk the rest of the way to White Flint mall. Which was not a horrible thing. After all, it was a nice day.

After having ridden the HT, I feel that it is a fantastic application of technology. However, that innovation comes with a price tag to match. The upcoming model is listed on Amazon, just a penny under five thousand dollars.

That is a lot of money. But if you ever want to ride one there’s a Segway dealership in the Georgetown Park Mall. I may go at some point in the next few weeks, maybe hit Old Glory afterward.

I’m just going to be there to check it out.

The revolution is a ways off. Cities need to be built with bikes, Segways and scooters in mind. Legislation could ban Segways outright. Does America really need another way to avoid exercise?

Besides, the revolution needs a more attractive price point.


I buy a lot of games. A lot of them, I do not finish. They sit, languishing on the shelves until the oft prophesied gaming apocalypse.

So why play so many?

I always hope that the next one will be something that draws me in completely. Instead of playing the game, the game itself drives me to its completion.

I do not know what type of a game it will be, or who will develop it, nor when it will come out. I can only read previews and reviews and then hope that it will be good.

Personally, I do not ask for a massive paradigm shift in gaming. I do not seek an oscar winning screenplay. Nor do I request production monies on par with this summer’s “blockbuster action title” starring the male lead of the moment. I ask for nothing more than it be fun to play, have a story I enjoy, and have a decent presentation.

I am often disappointed when one aspect of a game falls short. For me, it makes the experience less than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, one part of the game will be so stellar that I will overlook other aspects and complete it anyway, but that does not happen very often.

The story of The Bard’s Tale, starring Cary Elwes, was well done and laugh out loud humorous. The combat however, was standard hack and slash. Near the climax of the game, the “innovative” summoning aspect of gameplay grew repetitive. But the story and dialogue (in particular, the dialogue between the The Bard and The Narrator) never grew old. The game had character and it deserves kudos for letting you just walk away from the final battle.

I have a very short list of games I have actually played to their endings.

But first let me tell you about God of War.

God of War is the very definition of sleeper hit. I had paid little attention to this title, considering that it looked just like every other action adventure title. It was set in Ancient Greece. I yawned, passed it over. Instead, I watched the release dates for sequels.

It never occurred to me that Sony’s internal development crew could take an original property and apply it properly to an existing, tired, overplayed genre. It never occurred me that it could spring forth fully formed from that development environment and be a good game.

I am not alone, because I think everyone was surprised.

God of War mirrors the mythology upon which it is based. It is violent and brutal. There are many maimings of mythical monsters and multitudes of mere mortals murdered. (Also, there are mammaries. But then, it is Ancient Greece, so it’s all in context. Right. Okay, maybe the mammaries were added for the titillation (Ha! Oh man, how many nested parentheses (probably more) can I put in?), but I forgive them that. ) This is an adult game that has not merely embraced its “M” rating, but has put that rating on the rack and stretched it to see how far it could go.

Ancient Greece, in the developer’s vision, is a savage, unforgiving place filled with danger. It is the kind of place where a man will rip off a gorgon’s head with his bare hands. The kind of place where a man can be tricked by the gods into killing his own wife and daughter. A place where the Hydra eats people on the open seas, minotaurs carry very large axes, and the undead walk the earth in Ares’s name.

So, a fun place to visit, but you would not want to live there.

Then they added a very well put together game on top of that vision, and the result is God of War.

It is like other games. You can use other games to describe what the game is like. It has some puzzle elements that are similar to Prince of Persia. It has a stylish combat system like Devil May Cry. The resemblances though, are only nods to the games that it stands on the shoulders of.

Even more important, this game is fun. I played the game on Hard difficulty, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It was challenging, and the game never felt like it was taking a cheap shot at me. There are parts of it which are frustrating. But they were only frustrating until I changed my strategies, which I feel was fair. I had to think about how to fight, literally fight, through the levels. Boss battles required some pattern recognition as well as timing. It was a welcome change, and as I mentioned before, it was entertaining and fun throughout.

Normal should be a breeze for most people who play video games.

The developers also took some time to add DVD style extras to the game itself, provided that you can unlock the material by defeating it on Hard difficulty. Watching the game evolve from a .1 release to its retail incarnation was intriguing. You can also view levels that never made it to the final version

There are a lot to good things to say about God of War, and a lot of people are saying them.

I’m just going to say that God of War is one of the best games I have played in many, many months.

And it is on my short list.

Here is to the next one.

I expect you to freeze

I was in the shower this morning, which was different from my usual routice. I usually take showers in the evening, before going to bed, but I had fallen asleep early.

I had just started when I had the nagging feeling that I should have taken one last night.

Then I remembered that my building was shutting off hot water for boiler maintenance.


Sometime this morning.

“And now Mr. Bond, if you would kindly take a shower.”
“I took one last night, thank you Doctor.”
“No Mr. Bond, I must insist, since this is a very special shower. At any moment the temperature can change from a pleasantly lukewarm 40 degrees celsius, to a near freezing 5 degrees.”
“Sounds refreshing. When can I expect the change to occur?”
“That’s the beauty Mr. Bond. . . You don’t know.”

On the plus side, I showered quickly, blew up Dr. No’s doomsday device, and still managed to get to work in time to flirt with Ms. Moneypenny.


When you wake up at seven in the morning on a Sunday to do your laundry, the rest of the world disappears.