One of my goals for this year is to be in good enough shape to be able to compete in the Tough Mudder that is occurring in October here in central Texas.  I put my money where my mouth is and signed up for it.  Now I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal and get myself in enough shape to run it.

For me it is more of a two-fold exercise; first, I have to get into that shape and second, I have to not die while getting into that shape.  As you might already know, being a Type I Diabetic means I have to be a heck of a lot more careful when exercising because I could end up having my blood sugar drop to dangerous levels and end up dying or in coma if I’m not very careful.  However, challenges are fun and interesting and proof that I can do it despite whatever is holding me back so I think it’ll be a blast getting myself into the right shape to do it.  Anyway, back to the task at hand: getting in shape.  I wasn’t in the best physical shape thanks to stress and some long hours at work and school but it wasn’t the worst shape I’d even been in.. and I’ve got nine months to get into that good shape.

I initially thought about doing P90X and Insanity again, but having done those I was into doing something a little different; perhaps going outside for a change, especially since the tough mudder is a 12 mile obstacle course.  I need to get some running into my routine.  Working out with my friends from work would help me get into a routine, however, I was really looking for something that could turn fitness into a game.  And that is when I was introduced to Fitocracy.

Fitocracy makes fitness a social game.  Sign up for it with your friends, follow each other and Fitocracy assigns points to the exercises that you do and scores you.  As you do more exercises you’ll level up (just like a real-life RPG!) and open up quests and achievements along the way.  I’ve found that the more exercises I do the likely I am to look and see that I’m really close to finishing another quest so I go ahead and muscle ahead and complete the few exercises that I need to complete the quest.  Hopefully way before the Tough Mudder date I’ll be in great shape and I’ll be able to run through Tough Mudder like Arnuld through bad guys in Commando and I’ll look a heck of a lot better than I have in a long time (I don’t look that bad now, but you know, it always helps to look better :)).

The Mars Volta

Recently, I’ve been on a Mars Volta kick listening to all of their albums again (and waiting for the new one. Noctourniquet, showing up on March 27).  My first exposure to them was through Amputechture (the one with “The Street Fighter” cover as Pitchfork so eloquently put it) which I bought on a whim. The initial reaction I had was WTF I have no clue what is going on here.  But, the more I listened to it more the more I was able to follow the jams and the music and really liked it.  I then began to pick up all the older albums, starting with Deloused in the Comatorium, then Frances the Mute, followed by The Bedlam in Goliath, Octahedron, and finally Tremulant.  I still need to get the Frances the Mute single, but I just haven’t yet.

After listening to them a whole heck of a lot, I’ve decided the best way to introduce someone to The Mars Volta through their full length albums is Deloused in the Comatorium.  Followed by Frances the Mute, The Bedlam in Goliath, Octahedron, and finally Amputecture.  Deloused and Frances both provide a more coherent story than the other albums in my opinion.  The Bedlam in Goliath is very heavy and Octohedron is the ying to Goliath’s yang so they go together in my mind as a full album.  Finally, Amputechture is an album where they really go all over their map in their musical experimentation which could really turn some people off if it is the first thing you hear of theirs (at least from what I’ve heard and seen).  As a nice list I’d get their albums in this order:

  1. Deloused in the Comatorium
  2. Frances the Mute
  3. The Bedlam in Goliath
  4. Octahedron
  5. Amputechture

If you’ve never heard of The Mars Volta, hopefully this little primer will give you the power to jump into the wild and fun world of their music without wondering WTF is going on.  And if you are already a Mars Volta fan, you’ll give me some feedback on what your favorite Mars Volta albums are.

Get Lamp

Get Lamp is a documentary about the text adventure / interactive fiction games such as Adventure, Zork, and the like.  It discusses the past, present, and future of the text adventure.  As one review mentioned, there is an awful lot of focus on ex-Infocom employees and not too much on the other companies.  I’d say it was bad that most of the people interviewed were ex-Infocom, but at the same time, if you’ve got a limited amount of time and need to get a good feel of the history, go to them.  I enjoyed listening to all of the people, however, to me, the best stuff is on the second disk – especially Chris Crawford‘s discussion on interactivity which I think a lot of game designers should be forced to watch.  One thing I wish that was added was information and interviews related to interactive drama.  Interactive drama in my opinion is where the merging of the interactive fiction and games are headed and it would have been nice to have some interviews with those in the field (although it is mainly academic right now).

I really loved it and can’t wait to actually see the other documentary I bought from the director on BBSes.

1/16/12: Reworded some sentences since  it could be read that I hated the film, but also liked it.  For the record: I loved it and found it very interesting.

Swing Your Sword by Mike Leach

Now, I know this book has been out a while; but, I just now got around to reading (and finishing it in a day).  First off, I think Mike Leach has brought a lot of good to college football: from an innovative offense to actually making his players graduate and even though I’m a Texas grad, I always loved watching Tech play (and occasionally beat Texas and our stale offense powered by Greg Davis’ patented low-powered East-West offense).  It’s a shame that they fired Leach because I used to know the game with Tech would be a great game.. now, it just stinks (even with Texas being terrible, it still isn’t a good game).

The book starts out with Leach talking about his upbringing and he throws in stories here and there and it rambles around; much like I imagine any conversation with Mike Leach would go (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).  He then talks about all his college coaching jobs and his various offensive philosophies and how to best run a football program.  Then, he also goes into detail about the whole Adam James scandal and you can probably figure out which side of the fence I fall on for that.

I can’t remember quite how long the book was other than the fact it took me one night to read it, so I’m going to say about 250 pages.  I found it well worth the time spent reading it, and it is an interesting book written by an interesting coach who is probably more interesting than the most interesting man in the world.

Drive Angry

Drive Angry is an absolutely amazing homage to the 70s revenge flick.  Too bad the movie going populace didn’t understand that simple fact.  Of course it is cheesy!  It’s supposed to be.  If you don’t like the first five minutes of the film – you’re not gonna like the rest.  It starts out with three rednecks in a truck being chased by Nick Cage’s character through the streets.  He catches up to them, causes their truck to flip over and proceeds to dispatch them in a bloody and mean way.  It’s over the top, bloody, violent, and honestly, a little funny.  I love it.  It’s completely stupid and awesome.  Throw in Satanic cults, breaking out of Hell, hot chicks, lots of gun play, fast cars, wrecks, it’s got a little of everything awesome and it is completely a 70s revenge flick.  It just happened to be filmed within the past few years.  If it had a bit more of a nihilistic streak and all the characters dying in the end, I’d rank it up there with Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (just kidding, or maybe not 🙂 ).

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Another Elder Scrolls game and another weekend that just disappeared without any notice that I was spending that much time playing it.  Other than the fact the game crashed on me three times in less than two minutes when I first started playing it, it has been basically rock solid only crashing one other time.  And this is pretty amazing, since Bethesda always seems to make games that come out buggy as crap and you have to live through all the crashes until you can get four or five patches that fix the crashes.  So I’m hoping this time I don’t see as many updates since it appears they’ve actually spent some time play testing and attempting to crash the game.

Now that I’m done telling you that the game is actually stable from the first time you put it in (amazingly) let me tell you about how great the game is.  First, if you haven’t bought it, go buy it.  It is basically game crack.  You’ll sit down to play it for ten minutes and play for 10 hours.  I haven’t lost this much time in a game in a long time (except for maybe Uncharted 3, but it isn’t near as large as Skyrim).  I’d find myself running around just looking for stuff in the game world.  The world is massive compared to Oblivion (which I thought was really freaking huge), although the cities aren’t near as complex as previous games; which is both good and bad.  The one thing I’d really love to see them do is figure out how to seamlessly load zones so there will be less loading screens.

I don’t want to go into the story and all that jazz since every other review has talked about its open world, do anything, say anything (with John Cusack), etc. world.  It is a blast and you’ll find yourself playing it and losing time.  Trust me.  I lost a weekend to it and I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface of the game.