Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gaming: Buying Used Games is NOT Evil

I don't know how many of you follow the online comic strip, Penny Arcade, or keep your ear to the ground for the latest game-industry gossip.  For all I know, the only people who follow my blog are cooks and knitters who find my gaming posts boring.  But as a knitter, cook, and gamer, I follow all these things with more than a little interest.  So bear with me.  Gaming is making an appearance...

Today's Penny Arcade strip and news article tackles the subject of buying used games, and dissects a statement made by THQ's creative director Cory Ledesma.  Apparently, everyone I've listed above thinks that buying a used game somehow cheats everyone involved.  Since a good portion of my blog deals with how to tighten up your budget for something as necessary as FOOD, you can imagine how I feel about spending the full price for a game.

Here's the thing... buying a used game, no matter if it's from a chain store like Game Stop, eBay, or Gamefly, is not the act of someone trying to actively cheat the system.  There's piracy for that sort of thing.  Buying a game used is like two kids going to the corner store and pooling their money to buy a game.  You pay half, your buddy pays half, and you both get to play.  In the used game market, these two "buddies" never meet each other, but the principal is the same.  They're splitting the cost to buy a game that might otherwise never get purchased because the parties involved couldn't afford it any other way.

Yes.  Might never get purchased... that's what I said. 

If the consumer goes into a store to buy a game, which do you think he or she will buy... one they can get a portion of the value back on when they've completed it, or another game at the same, ridiculously high price that they'll have to throw away when they have no use for it any more?  And the person who buys all of their games used?  They'll never want to pay that ridiculously high MSRP either.  So that's one copy of the game that never gets purchased, and two consumers who will never experience your product.  They'll never rent it from Gamefly, because the game has been crippled for that market too.

So basically, Mr. Ledesma, when you snub the portion of the gaming community that buys used games, you're basically saying "If you can't afford our game at full price, I have no interest in having you as a customer".  And that basically tells me you're no better than those snooty shopgirls on Rodeo drive in "Pretty Woman".

Big mistake.  Huge.  I'm off to go shopping now...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Knitting and Weaving Extra: The Zoom Loom

In order to finish my Sherry Stole (Ravelry link... oh heck, if it's not an Amazon link, it's a Ravelry link in this post... I won't bore you with telling you where each one goes) I had to order three more skeins of the Sherry Shimmer Laceweight.  They finally arrived yesterday, and now I'm a mere 16" from completing it.  The silk/wool combo has made for a soft, yet I think fairly warm fabric, and the slight variations in color look really striking.  I'm also amazed at how quickly this 3x3 tabby weave is progressing.  If I get off this computer and get to my loom, I'm sure I could be finished in an hour or less.

Which leads me to start puzzling over what to do next.  On the one hand, I have a crap-ton of sock yarn.  On the other I have several spools (yes, huge spools) of Peaches and Creme cotton yarn left over from knitting a log cabin blanket.  I am torn as to what to try. 

I have many, many skeins of a Gypsy red sock yarn I had intended on knitting into the Wool Peddler's Shawl from the Folk Shawls book I've had for a couple of years.  But how much cooler would it be to weave one instead?  Especially since I'm expecting a new book, The Weaver's Idea Book some time today.  I've heard nothing but glowing things about the book, and its ideas on how to create new fabrics on simple rigid heddle looms like my Kromski Harp.

I also want to get these Watermelon Socks done so I can start in on the Nether Garments from Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac book.  You would not believe how absolutely NIPPY it gets here in coastal Texas in the late fall and winter.  Frost on the grass, see-your-breath, bitingly COLD.  I fully intend on finishing those puppies and wearing them like long-johns.  I might even make them with footies.  Heh.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Food and Budget: Back to School

I was just telling a friend that I think I've caught the "back to school nesting" thing I saw another blogger type about last week.  I know things are going to be crazy-hectic, so I'm getting the freezer and pantry ready for everything.

Over the weekend we went grocery shopping, spent way too much, and now I'm canning and preserving it all.  Between cooking, bagging, and storing meat in the freezer and making jams for canning in the pantry, I'm worn out!  I cooked several pounds of chicken thighs, stripped them of their bones and skin, saved the cooking broth, and bagged the meat and froze it.  I made a strawberry-raspberry jam, an orange marmalade, and salsa.  I canned all those over the weekend.  I'm thinking my electric bill is going to be huge!  Do you know how much water it takes to cover quart jars in a canner?  Then heat it to boiling and sustain that boil for over 15 minutes?  Oof.

I'm glad we did the school supply shopping early this year.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Television: Bitemarks and Brouhaha

You know you're watching too many vampire shows when you find yourself comparing and contrasting the bitemark effects.

I'm not sure I'm liking what's going on with "True Blood" this season.  Once again revealing the differences between female (book author Charlaine Harris) and male (HBO series writer/producer Alan Ball) writers, Alan Ball has taken a street-savvy-but-romantically-inexperienced Sookie Stackhouse from the books and turned her into a stupid, whiny woman who doesn't have the sense not to scream for help when she's in a house full of sleeping vampires and werewolves.  Get a female writer on staff, Alan, because you're being a chauvinistic dick.

Meanwhile "The Gates" has ramped up their own revelations of how their Vampire and Werewolf societies work and interact.  The police chief is now aware of the werewolf community... I wonder how long it will take him to realize what's going on with his wife and make the revelation to her as well.

"Covert Affairs" has emerged from its infancy and revealed itself to be a straight-up espionage thriller, without the distracting and annoying mystical trappings foisted on us by "Alias" or the constant (but still appreciated) comic relief present in "Chuck".  Piper Perabo has proved she can carry the drama and action required for this role, at least to me, and I now count the show as one I am eager to watch.  Since the show's cast is mostly a "who's-who" of actors from most of my past favorite sci-fi series, they had me half in the bag from the beginning, but it's nice that the production quality seems to be properly supporting such diverse and excellent talent.  I've had my eye on Christopher Gorham since his guest role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and lengthier role on "Odyssey 5".  Add in additional cast members such as Kari Matchett (Invasion), Peter Gallagher (Rescue Me), and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes) and you've got a pretty good recipe.

AMC's "Rubicon" is harder to gauge.  It's less a "flash in the pan" action thriller, and more a slow-burn conspiracy/intelligence drama.  The problem with this kind of show, the slow-burning kind, is that it will probably take an entire season to get really, really grippingly interesting.  The pilot led me to believe it would have at least one "Aha!  Aren't I clever for figuring it out too?" moment in each episode, but instead it's turned into a drama/documentary on the realities of intelligence analysis.  Rather dull.  It has enormous potential, but when it's this slow to find its gear, they may lose their audience and be off the air before things get good.

"Fringe" will be returning to the air on September 23rd, just a short month away.  I cannot wait to find out what happens with Olivia... and Olivia.  If you don't watch the show, don't worry, that's not a typo.  And I can't wait to see Walternate get his comeuppance.

School here in our district starts on Monday.  Expect my posts to start showing up at an earlier hour from now on, since the woogie will be back in school.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Knitting: Sock Craze 2010

The reason for my latest sock-knitting frenzy is no secret... I have a *lot* of sock yarn.  It seems I love the idea of knitting socks, but I was always so slow at it.  I found out, however, if I lay off the frou-frou sock patterns with the tons of lace, cables, and whatnot, I can actually finish a pair in about five days.

That's actually quite a difference.

So, it's been plain-jane sock knitting as of late.  I get to use all of those pretty yarns I just HAD to buy, and get functional, toasty socks in the bargain.  And seriously, I find most fancy sock patterns to produce lumpy socks with a lot of drafty holes in them, especially when it comes to heels.

Of course, I could always use the sock yarn on my rigid-heddle loom, but unfortunately I usually only buy enough for a pair of socks, and Knit Picks never keeps a color around long enough for me to buy more if I decide I need to.  Yeah, I'm a little frustrated by that.  It would be interesting to see how the Stroll Watermelon colorway would weave up in a shawl or scarf though.  As you can see by my newest sock project, the color repeats are extremely short.  I imagine that would weave up into a kind of crazy pink and green camouflage.

Or how it would look with Watermelon as the warp, and the Carnation pink as the weft?  Crap, now I want to hurry up and finish my stole weaving project in Shimmer Sherry just to try it out.  Which means buying more yarn.  Sigh.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gaming: The Secret is Out

Well, since the company themselves have spilled the beans, I think it's safe to at least name the title of the secret project/Alpha/Beta I've been participating in.  It's Age of Empires Online.  That's all I'm going to say on that subject for now.  My husband and I have wasted countless hours on Age of Empires and Age of Empires II... heck, just on Age of Empires in general.  To say this is an exciting project to be a part of is an understatement.

Meanwhile, we're still LotRO-ing it up.  See how I made it a verb there?  Classy.  As Lord of the Rings Online moves towards its Free-to-Play (F2P) model switchup scheduled later for this fall, maintenance days are getting longer and longer... I hardly got to play at all yesterday, since the maintenance downtime was from 7am to 1pm my time.  Look, you keep me off the servers for that long and I find other stuff to do.  I *did* log on long enough in the evening to do the Ford of Bruinen skirmish and earn my main character the last quarter of a bubble to ding over to level 57.  What I'm going to do with myself when I top out at 65 is anybody's guess.

Tomorrow:  Knitting, Weaving, and the sock craze of 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Food and Budget: Stocking the Pantry

Right now I'm in the planning stages for a mega-canning session.  Hubby goes through a small jar of pickled jalepenos every two weeks, which I find ridiculous, especially at the prices charged for a small jar.  Fresh ones are very cheap here, especially at our local HEB which seems to cater to the hispanic-american slice of our community.  However, I'm going to check on the local Kroger too, since the last time I was there they had a generous and diverse produce section.  While at HEB you can usually find many different kinds of fruits, like pears, pineapples and mangoes, there's usually only ever ONE variety of each of the more exotic fruits, and not necessarily the one best suited for my intended use.  Kroger had four varieties of just pears, and in large amounts... not just five pounds of each variety.  There were easily bushels-full of each, and that was just pears.

Anyway, my planned canning session will include:

Pickled Hot Pepper Mix
Vinegared Red Onions
Bread and Butter Pickles, assuming I can find appropriate size cucumbers.
Hot Sauce (he's a demon with that stuff too)

I will possibly do a batch of beef stew now that I have the pressure canner, but it depends on the beef prices I find.  I've also toyed with the idea of canning some green beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, but I'll be at the mercy of current prices and availability.  I'm not good at remembering what's "in season".  Usually I get the hint when I get in the store and see what there are huge amounts of and what's on sale, but that makes it difficult to do any pre-planning.

The problem is that you *have* to follow the recipes in the Ball Blue Book or you risk not having the right Ph to safely can foods in a water bath instead of a pressure canner.  And I don't know about you, but I'm not thrilled with the idea of having to test the Ph of a batch with little test strips just so I can tinker with a recipe.

I suppose I could put all the recipes on recipe index cards and cart them with me each time I go to the store.  These are the times I wish I had an eidetic memory (aka a photographic memory).  How much easier would it be to read the cookbook/canning guide, go to the store, and recall the ingredient list verbatim?  Sigh.

Do you think they'd complain much if I brought my book into the store with me?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Knitting: Sock Madness

I finally finished the Snowflake Socks (ugh).  That pattern was just a nightmare.  As I mentioned before, the errors in the legend key for the chart, topped with "snowflakes" that look like misshapen Xes made me nuts.  That and the mis-count on the mini-snowflakes and the wrapped stitches.  Blech.  I don't know why I bother making patterned socks.  They obscure the prettiness of the yarn most of the time.

I immediately cast on some plain old no-pattern socks in Knit Picks Felici Self-striping Sport sock yarn in the Chimney colorway.  Rust red, black, gray, and white.  The only pattern I'm going to put on them is ribbing for the leg... and this time I'm going to knit until the yarn runs out.  I have two inches of the toes done already.  I cast on from memory using the Turkish cast-on, increased until they were big enough, and will decide on a heel when I get to 6 1/2 inches long.

The Felici Sport is surprisingly luxurious and soft.  The last fingering-weight Felici I worked with a few years ago was skinny and hard... this has some "fluff" and softness to it.  It makes me look forward to using the fingering-weight Felici in the "Time Traveller" colorway I got (hello, homage to Dr. Who, how could I resist?) even more.

My stand for my rigid-heddle weaving loom arrived yesterday, but I have not de-boxed it yet.  There were also a couple of books so I got sidetracked. :D  Plus a new 16 port workgroup switch to replace our 8 port switch.  Hubby joked that pretty soon the microwave is going to be internet connected. 

But that's another post.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gaming: Secret Project

Mother... seriously, I tried contacting you two different ways on your birthday and no dice.  So HAPPY BIRTHDAY again.  Hopefully you get that one.

I'm still LotRO-ing, but I'm also taking part in an Alpha/Beta project that I can't talk about.  No, seriously, I can't.  Lets just say the company behind this product I was Alpha testing, and now Beta testing, has so much money that they could squash me like a bug if I break the non-disclosure agreement.

So you're stuck hearing about LotRO.

Our little family kinship had a goal this past week to max out everyone's crafting skills, and it was amazing how the three of us pulled together and got it mostly done.  There was a lot of running around, gathering ore and hides, and a lot of standing at workbenches and forges.  A few characters didn't complete their Supreme tiers, but we got a lot accomplished, despite the fact that Monkey Pants had band camp (and yes, there was a lot of eye rolling in the house about that) for two hours a day all last week.

This week's goal is to choose one character and increase their reputation with one of the in-game factions, whether it's the Elves of Rivendell, the Men of Bree, or what-have-you.  The gang seems less enthusiastic about this goal.  Personally, all my characters that needed to get into places that required reputation have maxed theirs already, but I was willing to gather mathoms and sashes to help my guys out.  MP is in a "don't feel like playing" mood this week, and Barronius likes doing his own thing, so we're pretty much just doing free-play anyway.

Edited to add:  I just heard a ridiculous statistic... over 500 games are scheduled for release between now and the end of the year.  AUGH!  Game companies are dooming themselves, trying to grab a piece of the Christmas dollar.  KNOCK IT OFF!  Really, you think anyone can pick *your* game out in that insane amount of noise?  Get real.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Food and Budget: Four days, 25 Meals

The Cookbook:  Fix, Freeze, Feast

The menu:  Mozzarella Meatballs, Chicken a la King, Basic Red Sauce (Large recipe), Mango-Cranberry Chicken

Friday:  Buy 10lbs lean ground beef, two whole chickens, eight mangoes, and tomato products for red sauce, plus extra ingredients not in pantry or freezer already.  Cut mozzarella sticks for meatballs, and freeze as per recipe.

Saturday:  Mix Red Sauce, pack and freeze or can.  Make own mango chutney and can per the Ball Blue Book of Canning.

Sunday:   Mix meatball mixture.  Stuff and roll meatballs to fill two cookie sheets and bake. Package half the meatballs with original sauce in recipe (half batch) and half the meatballs with extra red sauce from Saturday.  Slow-cook chickens and refrigerate separate from its broth.

Monday:  Pick meat off chickens and skim fat from broth.  Make Chicken a la King; package, label and freeze.   Make Mango Cranberry Chicken using homemade chutney and pre-purchased craisins; package, label and freeze. Take a nap.

Technically there are probably more than 25 meals in this recipe plan.  I ended up with six quarts and eight pints of red sauce.  The quarts are for big batches of spaghetti and lasagna, the pints are for pizzas and small batches of spaghetti.  I also tend to package meals smaller than called for in recipes since there are only three of us.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Huh, Wednesday's knitting post title promised something about felting, and then I just didn't mention it at all.  My mistake.  Rest assured (I know, you've been on the edge of your seat!) there is felting involved in the project and I should be running it through the wash some time this weekend.  Now, back to television...

Psych is back for the summer; its premiere kind of snuck up on me.  Needless to say, Sean and Gus are still hilarious as always.  I miss the little a capella 80's numbers they used to do at the ends of episodes, but maybe it's because I'm watching through Amazon and not recording USA's broadcast on my Tivo.

I'm a bit behind on watching "The Gates".  The Roku thoughtfully moves shows with new episodes up to the front of the list, but for some reason it takes a day or two.  I am thoroughly caught up on Warehouse 13, Covert Affairs, and enjoyed the second episode of Rubicon.

Warehouse 13 threw me for a loop this week.  Not only was there character crossover from Eureka (Fargo installing the new computer system was a nice touch) but a reappearance of one of my favorite actors from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Renee Auberjonois (and don't think I didn't have to look up how to spell THAT) as an addled former warehouse agent.  It looks as though he will be joining the cast on Eureka.  Nice!

As my husband would say, good to see he's still working.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Knitting: Cloaks and Felting

Still working on my daughter's LotRO cloak.  I've finished the main body of the thing, steeked it, and yesterday I picked up for the hood and got about a quarter of that done.  I really (seriously!) wanted to run pictures with this post, but it's a mass of black every time I take a picture... you can't see zip for detail.  Maybe once I start picking up and knitting the border, which will have some gold in it at least.

The cloak kind of took over as far as the knitting projects go.  I simply wanted to get it finished so I could know how much yarn it would take to make a full-sized adult version for the geeky mom in the family (yes, me).  The answer is... a lot.  It looks like the child size is taking up 12 50g skeins of sport yarn held double, and that is before I do the border with a mixture containing a second color.

My attempt at tapestry on the rigid heddle loom is not going so well.  The weaving part is fine, it's the stitch in my *back* every time I sit at the loom that's slowing things down.  It must be something about the angle at which I"m sitting, or the table height, I don't know.  I may have to spend that ridiculous amount of money on the stand for my loom.  I hate to spend that kind of money on about four sticks and a couple of bolts, but clearly my coffee table is ergonomically incorrect.  In some fashion.

And I promised the hubby I would weave some attractive pillow covers for the couch.  Hmph.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gaming: When economy translates

The funny thing about real-world economics (at least in capitalism, where I have more first-hand experience) and how it correlates to in-game economics in an MMORPG is that they are extremely similar in almost every respect with the largest, glaring exception being supply.  In MMORPGs, it is possible to create goods from thin air... almost.  Usually there is a resource to be harvested, or money for raw materials to be paid, but there are instances where stuff just... appears.  Critical successes on creating food ingredients in LotRO, for example, will result in a triple batch instead of a single... three balls of dough as opposed to one or critical success on polishing gemstones will get you three for one.  That's the only "thin air" example I can think of off the top of my head, the rest of the supply chain is in fact earned, through either time, work, or payment.

Players often treat the economics of an MMORPG like everything is "found".  But you're not taking into account the time it took you to run all around a map zone, looking for that Ancient Silver.  Don't sell yourself short.  If you only get an hour to play on a weeknight, and you spend half of that gathering materials, charge appropriately for your time.  Consider the wear and tear on your tools, your armor, and other gear as well.

Sounds like small business, doesn't it?  By all means, keep the game fun, but if the in-game economy is bothering you, don't contribute to its downward spiral by not taking your time and effort seriously.  If you put items up for auction, do research and charge appropriate prices.  Otherwise you might as well just sell it all to an NPC game vendor and be done with it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Food and Budget: Stocking Up and Back to School

Believe it or not, despite having just put up about 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce only a few months ago, I'm out again.  And that includes buying up pre-made jars of sauce that were on sale during the 10 for $10 sales.  Hubby likes the pasta (and I like the home-made pizza).  I'm going to have to hit the huge can aisle at the grocery store, buy some more canning lids, and make a huge batch.   I won't put it up in the freezer again... takes up too much space in our tiny freezer.  Unfortunately I have a lot of my cookbooks packed up while we're carrying out our mid-summer cleaning.  That's what would have been spring cleaning if I hadn't been such a procrastinator.

If you're like me, and you procrastinate, now is the time to buy canning supplies before they disappear for the summer.  School is starting soon, and you'd be amazed at how fast stuff disappears from store shelves now.  School supplies were picked over when we got there two weeks ago.... at Wal-mart!  A store famous for huge bins of crap had scraggly bins in mid-July, and school clothes in only the largest and smallest sizes.  I'm glad we didn't wait till next week.

Monkey pants has school function stuff this week... back to band orientation of some kind.  It's coming up faster than you would think.