Monthly Archives: December 2011

Top 3 of 2011

Since everyone else is doing their Top [X] of 2011, why not? Some things didn’t come out in 2011, but that’s when I read/saw/played them.

Books

 

Since getting my iPad, I’ve read more books than I usually do in any given year, and I’m happy about that. These were all digital purchases.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Non-gamers might not find this one as interesting, but I absolutely loved every minute of it. I like the fact that the author knows games, and it’s obvious he holds a deep fondness for them. His OASIS is the perfect computer system, and anyone who loves MMOs will understand the appeal.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.…

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

I almost didn’t read this, because I tend to have a dislike for long paragraphs unbroken by dialog, and that makes up the first couple of pages. But the story significantly picks up the pace, and I could barely put it down once I got into it. I’ve read a lot of YA dystopian fiction this year, and this is my favorite by far.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice.

Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

It’s hard to say how much I love this character. He’s completely amoral, highly sarcastic, and easily annoyed. Think Gregory House, if he could raise the dead and had fewer ethical qualms. I would gladly read any story he was in, and I hope the author is able to write many more Johannes Cabal books.

Runners Up: Divergent by Veronica Roth and Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard

Games

 

Minecraft

I avoided this game for a long time, even knowing millions loved it and friends raved about it. The graphics were a real turnoff to me. But a friend convinced me to try it, knowing my love of sandbox games, so I took the plunge. I came up for air the first night six hours later, bleary-eyed but eager to play more. I convinced Joe to play it, and now two months later, we’re still playing almost every night. We have a server with a handful of friends playing, have added some of the biggest and best multiplayer mods, and I’ve probably put more hours into our world than I have every game combined in the last six months. Oh, and I found a gorgeous texture pack to apply to the graphics.

Skyrim

If you know games at all you know this one. It’s the fifth installment of the Elder Scrolls series. It’s an open-ended roleplaying game set in a fantasy world of elves and dragons and magic. It’s easily one of the best-looking games out, but more importantly, it’s an exciting, sandbox world where you get to decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. I’ve only put in about three dozen hours (for the reason, see entry above), and I’ve only just touched the main quest line. Some days I just get in and read a few of the in-game books. Other times, I go out until I stumble upon a cave or dungeon or house and just see what’s inside. I put literally hundreds of hours into the previous Elder Scrolls game, and I expect to do the same with Skyrim.

Everquest 2

I’ve mentioned before that Everquest 2 is the best theme park MMO out, and I stand by that. Their latest expansion, Age of Discovery, is filled with content, including a new dungeon creator that allows players to make dungeons for others to complete. And the items for those dungeons are found from drops, giving you even more reason to go out questing. I’ll go back to this game in the future.

Runner Up: Fallen Earth

Movies/TV

 

I watch so little TV and movies that I’m lumping these together.

The Wire, Season 5

Finally finished the show up. This is quality TV the likes of which you rarely see on screen. It’s not always easy to watch. Characters you like often do terrible things. The good guys aren’t always easy to identify. But even when the focus is on the politicians, the show still holds your interest. It feels real in a way no show has ever felt before. Oh, and it’s surprisingly funny. Laugh-out-loud funny.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

I heard about this one mentioned by Candace Havens on Twitter, so when we were looking for a movie to rent one night, we decided to give it a try. Watch the trailer and see for yourself. I’m always worried with comedies that all the funny parts are in the trailer, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this wasn’t the case with this movie. It was genuinely funny, and the two heroes are dumb but sweet.

Psych

I won’t pretend this is the greatest show in the world, but I enjoy watching James Roday and Dulé Hill as the heroes of this comedy detective series. The two work well together and have great comedic timing. I’ve been watching some episodes of The West Wing, and it’s funny to see how different Charlie Young is from Gus. I think Dulé Hill is an underrated actor, and I hope he keeps working for a long time.

Runner up: In Plain Sight


Protect a censorship-free Internet

Short post before the holiday weekend. SOPA is on hold for now, but it’s important for people to understand why it’s such a terrible idea. Watch this four-minute video to understand why if SOPA passes, a censorship-free Internet may become a thing of the past.

 

I have a suggestion for all the search engines and DNS providers: hold a week of protest in which you remove every site for every company and organization that supports SOPA. Remove them from search engines. Cut off their DNS. In other words, show them exactly how it would feel to be banned from the Internet.


Has it really been so long?

I didn’t intend to go three weeks between blog posts, but two long vacations and a Minecraft addiction sort of made time run away. Yes, I’m still playing Minecraft. A lot. As in, I only have 30 hours in Skyrim since release because the rest of my time has been spent in our world. This is a game with so many endless possibilities, it redefines the phrase.

Several years ago, we visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and climbed the dunes. In many parks, you’re expected (and sometimes required) to stay on designated trails, both for your safety and to protect the park’s resources. The Dunes aren’t like that. You’re free to go anywhere, take any route. It was exhilarating.

Do we take this really high dune now, since our ultimate goal is the highest dune in the park, or take that downward path, knowing it only means more ascending later? Do we travel along the top of this dune to that spot further from our goal and then ascend, or take this shorter path that requires more climbing? Sometimes we picked wrong (like in that picture, where we were sure it was a gentle rise when we headed for it. The sand really plays havoc with your depth perception).

Just as I love forging my own path in real life, I love doing it in games. Minecraft hands you the tools to do whatever you want and then steps back and says, “Go for it.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 487 other followers