Monday, November 30, 2009

"You have chosen... wisely."

The year was 1991. Maybe 1990. We had a sweet new computer with one of those speedy 386 processors inside them. It had a whopping 2MB of RAM, twice as much that was considered necessary for people not calculating trajectories of Scud Missiles. A color monitor. 256 colors, about 240 than previous generations of machines. Seething with power.

My father brought home a game that one of his coworkers had given him, copied from the original, as game publishers hadn't yet taken draconian steps to make their games difficult to pirate. It was so graphically intense that it had to be carried on FOUR floppy disks! One whole disk with its vast 1.44MB storage could only contain a fourth of the visual and audio adventure! It was one of those games that was made to capitalize on a recent blockbuster film, before such games were immediately assumed to suck. Indiana Jones, and the Last Crusade!

Indy Game Title Screen

My sister and I sat and stared into the screen for hours trying to puzzle things out. This was made more difficult by the fact that on our first time through the game, we didn't find the Grail Diary left behind. Eventually we figured things out, puzzing through the catacombs, talking our way past the Nazi gaurds that infested castle Brunwald, flying and inevitably crashing the biplane.

The problem was that after we crashed the biplane, we attempted to steal the car (see the movie, its in there), the game itself would crash. The last disk that was copied was corrupted. Disheartened, we moved on with our lives, playing other games, taking up other hobbies. We found the strength to laugh again, even knowing that our quest for the grail was lost.

Over dramatic? Certainly, but if you ever read a book 90% of the way through and found the last 30 pages ripped out, you can imagine what this was like.

Years later, I move to Wyoming, buy a big powerful computer (like, a lot more than 2MB RAM), and when I realize I have to go at least as far as Evanston, maybe Rock Springs to pick up proper games, I discover Steam. Not content with their first game Half Life being the Game of the Year and all, Valve Studios set out to dominate the digital download and distribution of PC games. (yay, alliteration!)

I looked through the offerings of the steam store, and it looks like they acquired quite the back catalog. Even old games, like ones from Interplay and LucasArts... and then I saw it. an almost 20 year old game now only cost $4.99. The price of closure.

I download and install it. A few days later, The Grail is mine. At last, my own digital crusade comes to an end.

Choose Wisely

By the way, I mentioned before that when this game was first published, game developers didn't put layers of copy protection and CD-Keys on their games to prevent piracy. But they DID have measures meant to stop people from passing around copies of their games. Inside those huge textbook sized boxes that were industry standard until about 2000 or so, the publishers dumped all kinds of manuals and supplemental paperwork into those big boxes. Things like maps, histories of the game world, and often, as in the case of The Last Crusade, handwritten "Journals" written in persona of the game's characters.

In this instance, it was half of Henry Jones Sr's Grail Diary. Most of it was fluff, but interesting fluff. But in order to keep pirates at bay (pun unintended, but welcome) the games themselves referenced this documentation in important ways. To find out which grail was the wise choice at the end, I had to read a few pages from the handwritten "Grail Diary" to find out which one it was. I remember playing Battle Chess and Carmen Sandiego and having to type in entries from their paperwork and manuals. the xth Entry on page y. Things like that.

And now, John Williams will play me out:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IT Dept Chili Showdown, Year 2

And this time it's personal!

No, really, for the organizer, it is. You see, last year he asked us not to turn up the heat too much to spare our co-worker the brunt of a Capsaicin Assault. Our coworkers in turn complained that the chili was too weak, thereby painting the IT Department as a bunch of pansies who like wussy chili.

This lit a fire under our even tempered organizer, so he in turn, asked us to light a fire inside them, all but demanding we make people cry.

So the night before I've been humming the Canyonero song from The Simpsons, replacing the word "Canyonero" with "Habrenero". Like the two I chopped up and put in the Chili. I chopped a third one and bagged it up, in case the fire cooks out too much from the first two.

What's shriveled, orange, and makes people cry, eat more than one and you'll wish you would die? HabanerooooOOOOOOoooo... Habaneroooo...

Also, I used stew beef and a chopped pork roast for meat in the hopes that whole cuts would improve the texture. Added one or two hours before serving was a few chipotles and one more chopped Habanero to drive the heat home. Also the cumin and chili powder weren't added until here, as well.

So, how'd it go?

We'll our mission to add the heat back into the competition was a successes. The tough guys enjoyed it, and the more heat adverse people flocked to two or three entries that weren't punishing on the tongue.

We had nine entries this year instead of six. All of them were about evenly matched, unlike the year before where the quality between the top half and the bottom half was a wide as a trench (recap of last year's bottom three: Watery, Tomato Sauce with Beans, and Mediocre Town).

The voting was fairly evenly distributed, and I secured 2nd place for my name again: "Chili for Smart and Good Looking Folk", the 1st place winner in the name category was "Meat Your Maker."[sic] This year the prizes were thematic, and I won a bottle of Blair's After Death Sauce. Mmm Mmm! In the future, I think I'll be using more habaneros for my chili. That turned out pretty well.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Forbidden Breakfast

When I was a kid, my mother had it in for sugary cereal in our house. Occassionally, a box of Cocoa Pebbles would slip by, and Honey Nut Cheerios were allowed in moderation. But Count Chocula and Lucky Charms were rare (Mom fought the war on cereal marshmallows like nobody's business) and she put her foot down whenever the subject came up about that sugary breakfast abmonination: Cookie Crisp.

"Cookies for BREAKFAST? They'll be robbing liquor stores to feed their crack addiction by the time they're 18!"

But as I've noted before, I have the advantage of living far far away from Mom. (Love you mommy! :-) So on Monday morning, after years of denial I finally had a bowl of the stuff. It was... pretty good. I guess. Not as good as the Pebbles or Count Chocula, but pretty good. And really, Ma? Those "Cookies" are just sweeten bits of corn puffs, as are the "chips". And I have no urge to rebel against authority, so I think it turned out OK.