Saturday, February 20, 2010

Things that are satisfying about Borderlands

(Note: I'm playing as Mordecai, the Hunter class (read: sniper), and Borderlands is the type of game to cause spontaneous markup in my writing.)

1. Pipping an enemy from half a world away with a sniper rifle.

2. Using that same sniper rifle, firing from the hip, to cut an enemy
in half
at close range.

3. Shock repeaters. Tiny little gun, tiny small-calibre bullets that
do hardly any damage... ...that can short out an enemy's shield,
causing it to shock him to death.

4. The first time you find a revolver, and discover it's essentially a
high-powered sniper rifle in a pistol.

5. Skags (combination wolf-boar-armadillos with Predator faces)
launching themselves at you, mouth open... Only to be shotgunned in
midleap and slide to your feet, dead as a doormail.("ROOOAaA-*boom-

6. Using exploding ammunition to snipe Crab Worm Larvae (which are the
size of a golf cart) and watching them go boom.

7. Psycho enemies; they rush when they can, or throw knives when they
can't. If the knives miss, they pull out a grenade, pull the pin, then
charge you for a suicide attack. Gets really funny when where you're
standing is more than 3 seconds away.

8. Rakk-hunting. Rakk are this game's Goddamned Bats. they circle, usually in pairs. If you hit
one of them by accident, they fly out of sight... Then you'll turn
around to see the entire flock swooping down at you screaming. If you
have a shotgun, you'll probably be okay. Where it gets awesome? When
you've denuded the flick and the stragglers dwindle to specks, firing
your shotgun and watching that speck suddenly drop.

9. Running outvof ammo, pulling back, frantically reloading; your
enemy rushes in, turns the corner to kill you... ... only to be hit
full in the face by the talons and beak of your trained hawk
Bloodwing. "Good boy! Someones getting a treat!"

There's more, but I'll stop there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Introspection & Gazing At Navels.

I love my wireless keyboard. Not just because I can operate the computer on the TV, but mostly because when I type quickly on it, it sounds like a typewriter. I have always loved the solid, clunky immensely satisfying *clunk* of typewriter keys. I even briefly flirted with the idea of buying an old one off eBay, just for the cathartic feeling of typing (I was held up by the fact that you can't buy ribbons for them anymore, and anyway, shipping would be a bastard).
Today is my first day on prescription pain medication. As anyone who's known me more than 5 minutes knows, I've suffered from headaches pretty much all my life. I hesitate to call them migraines, as what people have described to me as migraines does not fit what I get. More accurately, they're just really bad headaches, usually focussed at the base of my skull in two little knots. I have no doubt that things like stress or adrenaline bring them on, and they are occasionally resistant to medication, and often helped by physio. Lately, and by lately, I mean in the last fortnight, I have been having... different experiences. I'll go to sleep about 11:45 or midnight, then wake up roughly an hour later with a headache. A specific kind of headache, only on the left side of my head. For a moment, it'll feel like a minor thing, like you might have after just one too many beers the night before. But then as soon as you shift in position, it levels up.  If you'll forgive my purple prose for a moment, I'll describe the feeling: imagine a ball of lightning. Not a big ball, perhaps the size of a golf, or ping-pong ball. And it's spinning and roiling on the surface, kind of like the CGI Sparks in the Beast Wars: Transformers TV show. This ball sits just inside my left temple, and throbs. Then, in a motion I can only describe as similar to the lightning attacks in InFamous or Storm from Ultimate Alliance, it will lash out with lightning strikes. These strikes can hit anywhere along my head, but seem to like just behind my eyebrow, the sinus next to my nose, my upper molars, the hollow behind my jaw, and yes, the base of my skull. When they strike, they tend to march along a path, like an ellipses (you know, one of these --> ... ... ...) and then conduct off the bones in my face, before retreating again. The severity of these strikes can range from electric-shock-uncomfortable to body-wracking-painful. The first time it happened, it hurt so much I could barely speak. I have never hurt that much that I can remember. I tried to get up, but couldn't. I had to wait until the strikes died down, then lurched out of bed, staggering, really, up to the kitchen looking for some panadol. I also heated up a wheat-bag heat pack, and laid it on my face until the medication kicked in, and I could relax enough to go to sleep. The next morning, no pain. However the next night? Repeat scenario. This basically was three nights of last week. Only once did it carry over to the day after. Night before last, it happened again, just as severe as the first time. But it stayed. I had the same feeling all morning. I took more panadol (panadiene now, with codeine) but or once, the edge did not come off. No. Instead it got worse. And I was at work. Blurred vision, loss of balance... I at one pointed wished I could do something as dramatic as collapse so people could see how much I was hurting. Finally, after a "go to the doctor, you bloody fool" email from my loving wife, I did. Dr. Lentham, who I'd gone to before for my other headaches, looked on my file, and tried to offer my Cafergot. "You gave me that last time," said I. "The caffeine nearly did my head in." (see earlier post for caffiene related wackiness). So after hearing how bad it was, he prescribed Durotram XR (or tramadol hydrochloride to those playing at home) along with a huge pack of dissolveable aspirin. Instructions? Take one Durotram before bed. It will slowly dissolve over 24 hours, and take 3 aspirin when I get a headache, and 2 more if it doesn't help after 3 hours. I took the Durotram last night. I woke up at 1:00am with another lightning blast. Got up, took the aspirin, went back to bed. Did I mention that my brain tends to process the pain visually? Blame years of video games and TV. When it hits, I usually involuntarily picture marching lightning bolts raining destruction. Last night? It was raining fire. Odd, surreal, cartoon fire. I eventually got up and slept on the couch to spare Tanja my tossing and turning. This morning, I was wide-awake at 7:15 with the oddest feeling. I'm still in pain, but I feel like my head is numb. As I described on Twitter, it's like I'm standing between two white sheets on two clotheslines, looking West, while behind the East sheet is a huge grey silhouette (that would be the pain). There's a breeze blowing, and the sheets move and someties I get a glimpse of the grey in the corner of my eye (followed by a brief, but solid pain that, were it in a comic book, with have the sound effect "SPANG" like the glint of sunlight off a blade), but then it will fade back. And, if you'll keep to the metaphor for a moment, I don't want to turn, or move too quickly, because the sheets are barely any refuge. I feel fragile, like a spiderweb.
Also, if I may dirgress for a moment, I'm finding myself focusing on things too intently. Anyone who's known me for the afore-mentioned 5 minutes also knows that I doodle. A lot. Almost compulsively. It's a habit I picked up in high school, carried on to university, and worked into my various careers, be they retail, on-phone, or managerial. When I was on the phones, I could go through a pen in 5 days. As a symptom, I've also gained the habit of buying pens (usually gel pens of varying brands, I prefer 0.7mm points or above, rollerball better than brush) from newsagents. I have a huge pencil-case at work (which at one point 6 months ago, was raided and many of my pens stolen, which displeased me to no end). I usually have a few in my backpack, in case the mood strikes me. This morning, as I was watching The Digg Reel & iFanboy, trying to relax, I had grabbed the desk calender from the computer room and was using my Pilot Vpen (you know, the ones with the fountain pen nib?) to doodle. My usual subjects are stars, which I've taight myself to draw freehand, without interior lines, specifically what some people refer to as "<punk stars", but compounded with many layers, and random words being said around me or thought by me in block letters, usually serif, done in alternating outline and filled styles, though occasionally I'll like the look of certain letter) were being used, but I realised something: I was bringing my face closer and closer as I drew, the edges becoming sketchier and sketchier, like something out of a Spawn comic (ironically one of the discussion points on iFanboy). After a while I was not paying attention to the show, just watching myself draw. I had to shake my head to break my concentration. Is this part of the medication? I don't know.
And I still find it ironic that a potentially side effect listed for headache medication is "headache".

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


So I buy iTunes cards with some vague regularity. Let's say one or two at a go, maybe every 1-3 months. Usually I won't bother unless JB has some sort of deal like two $30 cards for $40. Most of the time I'll get one around the same time as The Word magazone and after I'm done with the magazine, I trawl through the reviews, make a list of the stuff I like and try to find it on iTunes. The reason for this is simple: most of the stuff The Word talks about isn't available to be pirated, so I stopped trying. Also, iTunes store is accurate, high-quality, and I know what I'm getting is the real deal.

Now I've been a pirate since Napster at university and am not averse to torrenting something if I'm not able to get it legally due to Coming-To-Australia-lag (I'm looking at you, Avatar: The Last Airbender, True Blood & Dollhouse). Conversely, I have the stance that when I like something created by the little guy (be it an iPhone App, or a podcast like TikiBarTv), I'll pay to help support them (like buying the Apps instead of jailbreaking, or buying merch for TBTV).

This leads to some interesting situations. Last month I had a $20 iTunes card. I read The Word, and found a bunch of tracks from Half-Man Half-Biscuit, Zoot Woman, Wintersleep, Hockey, and an oddball English Beat track. However, one of the reviews was for She Keeps Bees, a two=piece that drew comparisons to the White Stripes, which got my attention. Nowhere to be found on iTunes. So? Straight to PirateBay, where I found an EP and a CD. Turns out they weren't that impressive and I only kept a few tracks.

On the flipside of that anecdote, I bring you another: today, $30 iTunes card in hand, I looked up Kill It Kid, and bought two of their tracks, then, on Sam-from-work's recommendation, looked up Them Crooked Vultures. Quickly, I found 5 or 6 tracks I liked, then thought "Bugger me, I want the whole album." iTunes had it for $19.95 ($3 more than usual!) which gave me pause. I like the album, sure, but did I want to spend 2/3 of my rarity-finding-money, with half the magazine left to browse, on 1 album by one artist?

So I bought one single, then pirated the rest of the album.

Am I a hypocrite?

Also, here's a video from Zadi at Epic Fu, whose message about copyright I completely agree with.