Random Tales of Total Geekery

1000 hours to Guitar Hiro!

Posted by Q on December 29, 2009

Wise man say, if ya gotta play the blues, play it electric

Wise man is right of course. Wise man is also a mean S.O.B

I am yet to come across an instrument more unforgiving than an electric at full throttle. Amped up, this is the single toughest muscle memory workout ever. If you get it right though, nothing beats the sweet drag of a bend-tap-vibrato

An acoustic on the other hand, makes you sound good, is more forgiving on technique errors and is generally easier to lug around, on account of being about umm a couple of kilos lighter 😛 the big mistake which almost everyone does is to go for a 22 fret full length acoustic. A 3/4ths is just as good. Infact better for the shoulder, easier to lug around and hell, even sounds better. I had chanced upon some Taylors at a mall in Bangkok; blow me away! Great thing for strums.

On the other hand, playing too much acoustic makes you a lazy player. That Bb note sounds just the same whether you accidentally mute the A or not. On the electric, it is the difference between…umm Layla and lynching.

Which one to play?

I guess everyone tries their hand at an acoustic first. The 2% of those who successfully struggle through the necessary atonal strumming for the next 4 weeks, then basically figure out what they’d like to play. And then they buy the electric.

On the other hand, people snap up a guitar hero plastic button mash guitar and are shredding away to glory in about umm 2 minutes flat 😉 So, it is a tough world filled with choices

In my view, which is pretty much the only thing here, an electric is like that girl who wouldn’t even look at you, the one-in-a-million shot; the acoustic is that cute girl next door, who likes you, but you gotta work for her and the Guitar hero plastic-plex is that tramp you see down the street. Sure you can make White Wedding your bitch in about 5 minutes, but is it really?

Real men game only on a PC. The rest are wimps 😀


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Dungeons, Dragons & Level Up

Posted by Q on December 28, 2009

There’s a bunch of turn-based strategy games which are very close to my black gaming heart. You know, apart from Civ IV. ‘Cuz that’s …(splutters); It’s not all has speed, will kill (in StarCraft). It’s the one with the grey cells. And time. And…anyway, this is not a post on Civ IV. It’s on this bunch of AD&D clones masquerading as gaming nirvana.

Right, onwards then! King’s Bounty: Armored Princess vs Heroes of Might & Magic V

(Also featuring a guest appearance by Jeane D’arc)

Hero Level 1. Check. Slugfest. Check

Okie, so the plot is fundamentally this. There is an <insert Old Kingly Dude> who is in <insert trouble in fantasy land> and only this <insert chick> can save him. So you get the ginormously entertaining task of leveling up your hero from level 1 to level XX till the time she can play the endgame Boss.

You can make her a Warrior or a Paladin/Mage specialist.

Plus you get to play with cool characters, which are of three types:

  1. Le Big Mac (The ones with the highest HP)
  2. Le Mage (Magic Attack ++)
  3. Le Shock Troops (die, f*cker)

Both Games are so nearly identical that it is not funny. Monsters are the same. Levels are the same. Ditto Abilities, spells, dragons and the lot. With one special difference – King’s Bounty has a real-time adventure map, while Heroes has a turn-based adventure map. What’s the difference you ask?

Umm, adjusted for gameplay, about 40 hours, give or take

Seriously, the turn-based adventure map turns me off so much that I haven’t even looked at my hero recently (I am at a shiny level 30 in Heroes V, King’s bounty is at a more sobre 23)

Other than that, ’tis pretty much a le AD&D affair. Which is fun. For people who like it anyway.

Speaking of D&D type games, isn’t it time Lveel-5 released a PC port of Jeanne D’arc. Or any other game for the PSP/PC. Pretty please? For my money, it’s one of the best in JRPG’s out there and (more importantly) it’s on a platform that I own 😉


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My 2 year review of Sony Reader (PRS 500)

Posted by Q on December 27, 2009

Yes, my scratched, scrapped, scraggly, schmaltzy beloved Sony Reader (PRS 500) is attached to the left. Look at it, ye beauty!

It’s been nearly two years going on the road to e-ink. Now, we have more e-ink readers than what you can throw a rock at; Amazon, Astak, B&N, iRex, Plastic Logic, Sony yada yada…all of ’em are vying for that disposable $350 in your pocket. Some provide wireless delivery (kindle), some have just put an extra x in sexxy (nook), some are just fighting to stay relevant (iRex). Even Sony, has unveiled a veritable lineup of e-ink readers for different budgets and needs (505, 700, 900, 600, 300). But I am here to tell you that in case you ever take up e-ink reading, you might not want to go much beyond and old PRS 500 itself (provided you can snap one up on ebay). So here’s my (2 year delayed) review of the mighty Sony reader

In one word, it’s been like.no.other

Battery Life

Yes, that 7500 page turns on one full charge is just marketing crap. On the other hand, the battery life is insanely long. Easily lasts me 1 week on full charge (even after running continuously for 104 weeks). More importantly, the battery will last you 1 week, regardless of whether you’ve actually done any reading or not. It’s not so much a deal-breaker if you ask me, but it is always better if you know what you’re getting to avoid having a case of buyer’s remorse.

Contrast this battery performance with any other handheld/lap-held electronic device after a couple of years of usage. Exactly the same, I’d say. Over a period of time, your battery drops to about 50% of its sustenance time anyway. (I just made up that stat, though I dunno why)

The Books

Kindle’s made its living by selling access to ebooks rather than the device itself (which, frankly, is an ugly mother of god). Which is all fun and easy if you consider that most people around the web don’t have the time, effort or energy to look beyond email. (As an aside, that’s pretty much the reason Yahoo! is still alive). Which is all fine, until some smart cookie will figure out that now more than ever, there is just so much free fiction floating around the web that ebook access is not even a problem right now. And the free fiction is from established authors and publishing houses. And it is legal. And it is New. We are not talking Arrgh, shiver me timbers language here (hint: piracy) or Project Gutenberg, we are talking solid Bank of England encrusted Gold Bars level of authorized free fiction. Did I mention that it is free?

For people who want to jump to the e-reading world, freebies are just getting better by the day. And it is getting easier to convert them to the format of your choice (reader dependent). And it’s all thanks to a guy who doesn’t even work for Sony – a dude named Kovid Goyal and his free ebook library software – Calibre. Even though Sony does natively support rtf’s, pdf’s , txt’s et al, it is just way much more convenient to simply convert everything to LRF format and be done with it.

The Screen

Yes, the 8 shades of gray does feel like crap (initially). And yes, you do get used to it. Don’t know why people get worked up about it. The only problem is that somehow, I’ve never been able to read through particularly densely written prose on the reader (Thomas Pynchon, I am looking at you). So, I still had to buy a physical copy of Gravity’s rainbow (which I still haven’t been able to finish…which kinda defeats the argument anyway)

The screen flash, you stop noticing maybe 3 pages into your Matthew Reilly thriller 😀


aka, clunky buttons.

Well, there is just about no stopping on ergonomics, is it? One could argue and make the case for page turn buttons to be bigger; placed on the left, on the right, on the top & bottom; navigation via joystick etc. Having used (read: conditioned) this thing for over 2 years, I am not pretty much comfortable with buttons to the extent that they seem ok. But definitely, Sony is not Apple. So there, I said it. Bring on the mythical Apple tablet and we shall see

Lack Of Backlight

Big problem. I never anticipated that I’d end up reading so many books in bed. And end up with sleeping with all the lights on. I even bought an external light solution, the verilux light thingumajig. But.It.Doesn’t.Help. Sony, we’ve got a problem on our collective hands. Get us some backlighting please. And not that halfway-there, halfway-anywhere glare of PRS 700 please

Online store

Check #2 above. Never used the online store. I am a bad cookie, what can I say 😛

Support for EPUB

Another format war. Yawn! Hey did you know that Blue Ray won the battle with HD-DVD (cue for more yawning). Seriously guys, the ebook market has been fucked so badly with format issues that consumers don’t even look at it anymore. They know that there is one stage between the book of their choice and the device of their choice. And as I said in #2 above, there’s Calibre

Summary comments

I think The PRS 500 proved to be every inch a reader I expected it to be. There are still features in the device which I’ve never used (support for audiobooks, black & white comics) and I don’t see that changing in the future as well. While not as Flash Gordon’ish an iPhone/iPod touch, I think it fits in very neatly with my ebooking needs. I don’t see myself upgrading, but if I ever do, I’ll go for the PRS 300 edition which @ $200 and 1″ shorter than the current reader sounds like the ideal solution

Also, it is very relevant to look at an emergent market which wasn’t quite there when the Reader was launched…which is the netbook market. At screens which are about 3-4″ larger than the current crop of ebook readers and the obvious versatility of a computer, it’ll be very interesting to see how these two stack up as reading devices. My vote however still would be on dedicated e-readers.

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The incredible time sink known as Armored Princess

Posted by Q on December 26, 2009

King’s Bounty: Armored Princess (henceforth KB:AP) is the kind of game that gamers (RPGers esp.) liken to Farmville on roids. Not that we’re discussing that 32-bit monstrosity here (just so that we’re clear, I do not condone playing farmville, fafville, fishville… whatever. Anyone Caught doing that shall be banished to the legions of snickety kids dual-tapping their way through Petmaster XVII on their Nintendo DSi’s). Anyway, back to our topic.

I’ve been playing KB:AP for about close to 15 hours now. Here’s what hardcore gamers would do if I showed them a screenshot like this





I will still persevere. Maybe cause I am a sucker for wasting away my time. Or maybe ’cause games need not be all about me all alone, a box of ammo shells by my side and plenty of cover.

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Most Heard Sounds of 2009

Posted by Q on December 25, 2009

And so it begins again, a top 5+ list of albums I heard in 2009. Please note that most would classify as indie efforts or breakthrough artists yet to achieve mainstream success. I mean there are just so many freakin’ reruns of Pink Floyd that one can hear. (Edit. – quite a lot actually, you moron. You even play it on the guitar for crying out loud*)

Anyway, away from these pesky editors and their penchant for penny-counting newsprint,

5. Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

Putting the scream back in the cream that is your brain after one session with the crashing cymbals of this monstrous concoction of sound and science-fiction. (Wow, that was so gonzo, eh?)


Who Can This Replace In Your Playlist ™ = That empty space in your black heart where your crush for Ian Banks/Neal Asher lies




4. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America (2006)

I haven’t heard their 2008 effort Stay Positive, but if it’s anything like B&GiA, it’ll be akin to going to a nightclub, swilling a ton of booze, snorting coke, passing out, passing in and finally crashing the dance floor, in between making out with the bouncers. Their music has the same kind of drugged frenzy that is mostly seen in certain species of African tree-climbing monkeys when confronted with lonelycat18 in the comfortable environs and loose morals of urban America. While they’re in heat++. You know. Just saying

Who Can This Replace In Your Playlist ™ = Hey! Which part of cat-monkey make-out did you not understand? This band will blow your socks off (Edit.-especially if you’re a cat)




3. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (2008)

Take Pearl Jam’s Last Kiss, rip out the Eddie Vedder guts inside, and put in some Springsteen vocals, run it through the faux E-street sound system and put in more popular media references than all the editors of Wikipedia at one place and you get the concoction that is at the heart of the ’59 sound. And then you wish that maybe those morons could have asked Springsteen to front this song for them. And then you realize that they’ve done just that. In Hyde Park. At London. (Them effing blimey limeys). And then you basically watch that YouTube clip forever

Who Can This Replace In Your Playlist ™ = Springsteen? Get real dude! All ’em clones wait for The Boss Strikes Back Album© Till then (looks furtively around), it’s a pretty good experience. But definitely beats the crap outta Pearl Jam




2. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (2005)

Okie, so here’s a well kept secret from y’all from the world of sex, drugs, Rock ‘n Roll R Us. If you’ve ever grooved out to Beyonce’s eay la eay la…do me a favor and stop reading this blow. Like right now!

If you’re still there, do yourself a favor and put on the Bleeding Heart Show. Hear that drum timing. (Again…you did not the last time) and the strains of eay-la, eay-la. Now go dump that Beyonce CD. That’s a good boy!

More than anything, Twin Cinema shows why drummers are there on rock bands. I mean apart from scoring the groupies. And you know. Other stuff. The drumming throughout the album is insane. Like I wanna jump into a moving truck insane. Like I wanna high-dive insane (Caution: Children, do not attempt). Like lemme buy this freakin’ $1000 Rickenbacker insane.

Who Can This Replace In Your Playlist ™ = Think the Doors with the intensity of Deep Purple



1. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

Blast from the past. Like a really old blast. It’s not so much a blast as a sensory experience. Like someone stringed you in 6 strings and is twanging one chord after the other. Like the twangs are somehow coming from within and not without…like…WTF! I am rambling

Ok. (deep breath) Have will, will write. Now then, Joni Mitchell’s Blue is a Classic, any idiot reading NME will tell you that. What that idiot will not tell you is that unlike other hacks who simply attach classic to every second album out there, this one’s like a grand-daddy of classic. It’s this blog’s version of awesome. It’s from the left field, lefter than that point on the compass; it comes out of nowhere and sucker-punches your belly full of crap from all the love songs of the yore. Gotta stand up a different man, I tell ya!

Who Can This Replace In Your Playlist ™ = It’s pwn the fuck outta your Johnny Denvers’, Bryan Adams’, Boy Band-girl Band dynamic



And so, we are at yet another blog post™. Wow! 3 in three. We’ll call this ongoing effort the 10 for ’10 series. Onwards, young padawan!


+ I am going out on a limb here with a top 5 list. Am not sure if I can even name 5 new albums I heard this year at all. Unless you include Rock On! ~sindbad the sailor…yeah yeah yeah~

*Henceforth referred to as FCOL (pronounced fuck-all. Not that it means anything; I just love the rhyming on this one)

++ Don’t believe me, huh? Check out this monkey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUzLa_khi5s

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TBR Pile & economics

Posted by Q on December 24, 2009

Among other things, the TBR of January ’09 had me purportedly reading the following

  • Alan Furst – The Foreign Correspondent
  • Brent Weeks – Night Angel Trilogy
  • Don Wilson – California Fire & Life
  • Donald Thomas – Sherlock Holmes & The Voice from the Crypt
  • James M. Cain – The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy Of Dunces
  • John Levitt – New Tricks
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Breakfast Of Champions
  • Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Malcolm Lowry – Under The Volcano
  • Matthew Woodring Stover – Heroes Die
  • Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Tobias Buckell – Sly Mongoose
  • Walter Jon Williams – Implied Spaces


Well then, in the 12 months since, I’ve managed 5 out of the 14 luminaries mentioned before. Which is a pretty decent strike rate (35% whereabouts). Putting on my 65%-rated economics hat, I can comfortably predict that people only really enjoy fruits from 35% of the total money that they spend on enjoying in the first place. I dub thee, the marginal happiness law

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Top 5: 20/20 in WASD

Posted by Q on December 23, 2009

Everybody has a college gaming story to tell…days spent unkempt & unwashed in front of a 14″ color CRT. You Single Person Shooter chaps, you! Squirreling away those ammo & medi packs. And reloading. Fuck! Sniper!! Duck!! OR those classic RTS tactics, more wood = more Eagle warrirors = Monetuzma is a happy camper. And those (groan!) technology trees.

Ah! Happy times. And all without PixelShader 5.0 or whatever. But Beer, Pizza, grubby keyboard & grubbier system specs are still on!

However, we must speak of the evil still to come. The decade is upon us. Have-blog, must-do-lists. Click-whoring traffic and all that. So without further ado, ta-da (okie, wait for it…)

Top 5: 20/20 in WASD*

aka Top 5 Games which made Q the gamer he is (pretty sucky, akshually)

1. Project IGI


And, as the Eagles sing, here’s where it all started. The gaming i.e.. Honestly. Yeah yeah, I know…it’s supposed to be Quake or Doom or Diablo or whatever. But this is my story and I am sticking with it

But anyway, on 20/20 vision, it’s a pretty generic shooter. With the out-of-control Russians as the enemies, (Yes, I know, ve should let Boriss know!!). A voice in the ear guide. Fairly difficult (Edit.-then!) and an insanely tough boss fight (Enya/Anya, I forget the name)

The tricky bit was that there was no way to save game. Yes, no save game. On a final boss mission which was nearly 1 hour long. The only freakin’ way to beat the boss was to modify the .cfg file of other NPC’s so that they won’t bleed your ass so bad. Alternatively, you could sit at your computer for a really long time. Either way, your call

Would I still play it™ = Fuck! No!!


2. Max Payne


To the game which introduced bullet-time to the world, you don’t just say Yeah! I liked it, you might too. You say which rock were you freakin’ plodding under, to have never heard of Max Payne.

Would I still play it™ = Hell! Yeah!!

(What? Waiting for a review??)




3. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin


Move over sneaky kids. (sounds of sneaky kids moving)

The grand (clone) dad of all stealth shooters is here!! Yes, I am looking at you Thief (n), Splinter Cell (m), Solid Snake (k). With this concept of ratings after a kill and multiple ways to make that kill happen…mark me for the AAAaaaAAAaaaAAArrrghhh category (yes, I know it’s the name of a new parkour game n all, sue me).

I mean, I got Ninja as a rating. How cool is that 😀

Would I still play it™ = Maybe! Blood Money’s on the money too!!



4. Serious Sam


Sorry, but I need to borrow that AAAaaaAAAaaaAAaaaAAA from before. (Yeah, I know, scraping the sad barrel of borrowed creativity)

But hey! This is Serious Sam guys. The one with THE B-F-G**. Serving Plutonium cannon balls on a platter since 2001©

And those enemies, from the skeletal dogs which don’t seem to get hit by bullets (only ‘cuz their bodies were only skeleton and no tissue and NOT because I am a crap shot), to those massive bulls massing their massiveness in Luxor and the final boss battle (which was pretty tame, or maybe I had toned down the difficulty a bit. Memory fails me at this point)

Would I still play it™ = Dude! I bought Serious Sam (freakin’) HD!! How much more gaming manliness can I exude!!!


5. Call of Duty


Russian or No Russian, CoD set THE benchmark for smarter AI’s and WWII shooters. Which takes cojones. And game design. And something else also+. I have no idea what, but it is still awesome++

Squad-based shooters have been around for some time (Operation Flashpoint, I am looking at you), but making it into a cohesive single player experience was where CoD made its bucks.

On a related note, wtf was the difference between CoD & Medal of Honor? Don’t ask me

Would I still play it™ = I got no reason to, right? There’s practically no difference between CoD 1/2/3. Unless we get to modern warfare and start killing civies in airports and all that


And Cut. It’s a wrap!!

Okie, so we’re all done with the nasties for FPS. We still have to do the best of decade list, which looks at, you know, the actual game, rather than what I remember from the game. And also, that very short retrospective on RTG/TBS (preview – there are just 3 games there). Till then, keep sniveling for medipacks!


*WASD is the default movement control keyset of any FPS, but you already knew that, din’t you? Alas for the fleeting moments of artistic cleverness 😦

** B-F-G = Big Fuckin’ Gun

+ If I knew that, i would be running Infinity Ward, wouldn’t i?

++Hey! Did you realize that you almost made through an entire retrospective review without reading the word “awesome” anywhere. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I am that good 😀

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Posted by Q on December 14, 2009

Legend has it that playin’ the Blues  needs some serious satanist mojo!

that being so, where do i sign up? 😀

On a related note, time to get these much-neglected bunch of blogs off the deadpool. Thinking of doing some decade retrospectives. the SFF ones will be over at the PhotonsWithCharacter blog.Keeping my fingers crossed for that

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The Boy Least Likely To

Posted by Q on April 4, 2009

As much fun as pelting Susie Derkins with Water Balloons

Candy Pop...Ur doin it right

Via Pitchfork

Sounds like a lot of bright colors thrown about with abandon! Go ahead & listen!

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Look what the IRC Cat dragged in this week…

Posted by Q on March 11, 2009

Okie, this is more like last week’s releases. But that’s ok, cover pr0n is always mucho appreciato 😀

Usually IRC dumps are 90% Torquere & Cousins/Project Gutenberg and 10% recent fiction. The trend continues this week; a few notables though

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