Unplugfest 2k5

I think I’ll be largely unplugging myself this weekend. Cell phone off, limited computer checks beyond coursework issues, less gaming time, etc. Just enjoying plenty of time with family and friends.

I’ll probably have a big (for me anyway) announcement here sometime soon.

Oh, but of course I’ll make an unplugged exception for my shiny new iPod 🙂

Mount Washington

It was sunny and all around beautiful out today for what might be the last time in a while. I felt the need to do something outside, and settled on a trip up Mount Washington. The view of downtown from there (though at night) was ranked the #2 most beautiful place in the country a couple years back by USA Weekend. It still looks pretty during the day too.

Pittsburgh has these things called “inclines” that go up the big hill. There’s two of them, the Duquesne Incline and Monongahela Incline (or “The Mon” as locals know the namesake river). I rode the Duquesne, which has been in operation since 1877!

I took tons and tons of pictures. If you want to see them all, go here. But I’ve filtered down the best:

Inside the Duquesne Incline, looking out over Heinz Field and the three rivers.

Exterior view of a Duquesne Incline car. The Mon cars look very different both outside and inside.

View of downtown from the top of the Duquesne Incline. Imagine it all lit up at night.

There’s all these neat observation decks scattered around the top.

WordPress 1.5.1 RSS bug

The RSS problem I mentioned the other day was not limited to just me. The WordPress 1.5.1 upgrade had a major RSS bug. If I understand correctly, the RSS feed was only generated for 24 hours after a new post was made. After that, it just returned a blank page.

Official bug fix:

Replace your wp-blog-header.php in your root WordPress directory with this one.

I ran across this fix here. Thanks for the pointer!

More Gaming in Libraries

Over at Walking Paper, Aaron details his library’s initiative to build up a gaming program.

Exciting stuff! I’d love to work at a library that embraced programs like this.

A few thoughts that one of the comments brought to mind for me:

While I love the idea of library-sponsored video game tournaments, I would be reluctant to let patrons use library consoles online – keep the tournaments local instead.

I don’t think Aaron was suggesting allowing internet play, but just my 2 cents. My experience with Xbox Live has been that anonymity does bad things to people. A good chunk of players are unfortunately out there mainly to swear excessively and cause trouble for others.

If you allow the public online gaming privleges via consoles, this will become an issue sooner or later. One patron being unsociable (or cheating on a game) could easily get the account banned and ruin things for countless other patrons.

Star Wars vs. Hidden Peanuts

A while back I posted links to a couple of leaked Episode III images. As we approach the release date of the film, I notice more and more referrals to that entry from Google Image Search. They all go to the thumbnail of Darth Vader that I used. Today alone saw dozens of hits, a growth from one or two a day a couple months ago.

My rudimentary referral tracking unfortunately doesn’t capture the search string used to find the thumbnail. I’d be curious to know what it is.

Internet Librarian 2k5

Heh every time I get one conference trip ironed out another pops up that I want to get to.

Internet Librarian is the choice this time. It looks really exciting and interesting, plus I’ve heard nothing but praise for it from the LIS blogosphere.

With a little luck I’ll have a full time job lined up by then (after graduating in August), maybe even one that’d pay me to go!

The Force is strong with this one

Product Image: Lego Star Wars - Xbox
My rating: 4 out of 5

I’ve found myself with some unexpected free time this week, while classes spin up into full speed.

I decided to fill it with Lego Star Wars for the XBox.

This is a brilliant game, one of the best all-ages titles I’ve ever played. The concept is simple: What if everything in Star Wars were made out of legos? Crazy, I know. But it works in some strange indefinable way.

The game (also available for the PS2 and Gameboy) very faithfully recreates episodes 1 through 3. I managed to finish episodes 1 and 2 in a few days, but refuse to play the third until I’ve seen the movie. I still hold out vain hope that it will be good. But that’s a rant for another time.

LSW is not a hard game by any measure. You run around the levels as any one of a plethora of legoized Star Wars characters, blasting or light sabering your way through lego obstacles and enemies. I especially enjoyed how use of the force is implemented. Since everything is made out of legos, the force simply rearranges them into various helpful forms (or in some cases makes objects dance around amusingly while Cantina music plays). There’s a bit of puzzle solving involved, though nothing that will stump you for too long.

The game also boasts a surprising amount of humor, especially in the cut scenes. And being legos, the violence in the game is greatly toned down. Enemies don’t burst into splatters of blood and gore – they fall apart into their component legos.

Considering that the vast majority of Star Wars games have been somewhat less than great, Lego Star Wars is extremely welcome. It appeals equally to kids and adults, though there are a few levels that I can’t imagine a child getting through without adult help. I got very frustrated in the cursed podrace level, and I imagine it would be even worse for a young’un. Speaking of podracing, I’m now convinced it was only put in Episode I to provide an easy level design for every Star Wars game made since. And it has never been implemented well in a console game that I’ve seen.

Ahem. Back on track. If you don’t have kids of your own, LSW is probably a better rental than a purchase. While there is some limited replay value in unlocking some secrets once the pretty quick main game is complete, it isn’t overly compelling. But I do admit the prospect of unlocking and playing as Lego Darth Vader holds a certain allure.

RSS woes

I seem to be having problems with my RSS feeds on the site today…. they’re showing up blank. Are they working for anyone else?

Then again those of you who read my posts through RSS won’t see this if the problem is indeed widespread. Hmm, conundrum!