August 20, 2007: Um, yeah

Today was an exceptionally “nothing” day with nothing extraordinary happening at all. I went to work. Dominica went to work. Oreo went to daycare. It rained all day. It’s been raining. It is so cool that we are able to have the windows open instead of using the air conditioning.

I got paged out (after getting paged out both Saturday and Sunday) at six in the morning today and I was so busy that I had to work from home until ten.

I refuse to bore you with any further details. Don’t forget, tomorrow is Min’s birthday!

August 19, 2007: Going to the UK

Finally a chance to really sleep in. I have been dying all week from a total lack of sleep. I’m not exactly caught up yet but at least I am on the path to sleep recovery. The whole family slept in until around ten this morning.

Today is the ultimate lazy day. We decided that we aren’t going anywhere all day and are just going to stay in the apartment and relax. Pretty much our day involved watching the seventh season of Full House. Dominica did some shopping online and Oreo was extremely snuggly and spent almost the entire day on the love seat with me.

We ordered in Italian from Nino’s and did a double order so that we would have both lunch and dinner delivered in a single shot so that we wouldn’t have to worry about it later. Now that is lazy.

I think that I forgot to mention the other day but on Friday Dominica and I bought our airline tickets with British Airways to travel to the UK in late November! Neither of us has ever been outside of the US and Canada so this is a really big deal for us. We are going to be in the UK for nine days.

Our current plan is to fly into London and stay there for several days. We will be heading out on November 16th from Newark and will arrive in London early in the morning on the 17th. We are hoping that we will be able to sleep on the plane since we got a seat upgrade and we have power at our seats. That means that I can put in ear plugs and turn on my CPAP and just might be able to get to sleep. That would be awesome.

Our first several days will be in England. I am not sure what we will do for the first weekend but that is our chance to go see the English countryside so we might do that right away. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I will be working from Canary Wharf in Greenwich. (Here is another great shot of Canary Wharf from Flickr – and one more.)

On either Wednesday night or Thursday morning we plan to hop the train and head north to Scotland where we should be able to catch the ferry that runs between Scotland and Northern Ireland.  We will get ourselves over to the Green Isle on Thursday and on Friday I will work from Belfast’s White Star House famous as the building site of the Titanic.  Here is another good picture of White Star House.

On Saturday we will travel back to England and on Sunday we will fly back to New Jersey.

I got paged and had to work for a couple of hours this evening.  Nothing too major.

August 18, 2007: No More Wii

I went to bed early last night which worked out really well since I got paged out at a little before four in the morning! I ended up working for four hours before Dominica or Oreo even got up.

Once everyone got up I went to give the Wii another try and discovered that the piece of junk, being just six days old, had completely died already. It fires up but cannot read any discs anymore. If you put anything into the drive it just makes awful sounds and crashes. I thought that the unit was shoddy before but this is ridiculous. This is the first video game console that I have ever had die on me and I have had many over the years. Never before have I been so unhappy with a video game purchase. Avoid the Wii at all costs. I had hoped to not have gotten this one but Dominica really wanted it to play Trauma Center so we got it. Big mistake.

We thought about going to look at another apartment today but decided that the location wasn’t as good as where we are now and that the prices were not low enough to make moving worth it so we decided against that. We called Target and they had just gotten another shipment of Wiis in this morning but they were going fast and they were not willing to hold one for us even though we had the broken one in hand so we packed up the Wii and ran to Target as quickly as possible to get our unit exchanged. Target had five left when we arrived and they didn’t give us any hassle about exchanging the broken one.

After Target we went to the Shannon Rose for fish and chips.  It was a hot day but we ate outside and parked the BMW right next to where we were eating so that we were able to have all of the windows all of the way down and Oreo was completely comfortable temperature wise and was able to watch us eat and we were able to keep an eye on him.

We hit GameStop on Route 3 and picked up Wii Play (the boxed version with the free additional Wii Remote) and a used copy of Rayman’s Raving Rabbits.  With this we pretty much own any game that anyone could want for the Wii.  Reviews that I have read list the games that we have (minus Wii Play which has horrible reviews) as everything worth owning on the Wii.

We came home and hooked up the new Wii.  So far, this one seems to be working.  We played through Wii Play (yes, we played through the entire game) in about half an hour.  It might be a good game for very small children or young children who need a gentle introduction to how to use the Wii controller.  But for anyone else the game is insanely boring and simplistic.  This highlights one of my biggest complainsts about the Wii – that the strange controls are so complex that the casual gamer and the simplistic games available for the platform aren’t appropriate matches for the system.

The one interesting thing about Wii Play was its Eight Ball game which is  a very simple pool game.  Like everything else on the Wii the graphics were blah but what really stood out as being cool was the incredible physics modeling used in the game.  Using the Wii Remote as a pool cue is actually a very good interface to the game too.  Unfortunately because it is a part of Wii Play the eight ball game lacks a lot of what it should have but we have learned that pool and billiards on the Wii could be a lot of fun.  So we are on the lookout for a billiards simulator for it.  So far, Pool Party is the only game that we have discovered existing and we have not seen it in stores yet.

If you buy the boxed set of Wii Play you get a free Wii Remote which is a $40 in a $50 set making Wii Play itself only $10.  Possibly worth it.  Especially if you anticipate small children using the system regularly.  Wii Play alone used was $30 – an extremely bad bargain.

We also played a little of Rayman’s Raving Rabbits which is cute.  It doesn’t knock your socks off and it is very depressing that this is listed as one of the absolute “must haves” for the Wii but it isn’t a bad game.  The real fun of Rayman is in being a multiplayer “party” game with lots of simple to play games included.  We only played a few but can see using it when people come over.  Not the kind of game that you buy the system for but definitely a good choice for people who want to have the system ready for when some friends come over to visit and you are tired of board games.

We hooked up the Internet again and got the new Wii set up like the old one was with our weather and news channels.  We took the time to go online and buy the Opera web browser for it (an additional $5 or 500 Wii Points) which allows us to use the Wii to surf the web.  Which sounds funny but it is very handy for casual browsing in the living room.  We also set up our Wii mail so that we can send and receive email from other Wii users.

We ordered in Chinese from Golden City and watched Full House season seven.  Oreo was being ultimately snuggly and pawed at me until we brought him up to sit on our laps while we watched the show.

Overall we took it pretty easy today.

August 17, 2007: Why Wii?

My plan had been to sleep in this morning a little as it is my late day at the office but I ended up having to log in from home so that I could work for several hours before even being able to head to the office. So much for a light morning. It was so late by the time that I was heading to the office that I was able to walk over to Food for Life and get breakfast while I was waiting for my car to get brought around.

I didn’t get caught late at the office today but was there until six which is good for a Friday for me. It was a busy day and I had to skip lunch due to the volume of work that I had coming in all day.

I got home and Dominica had already ordered in pizza for dinner. We watched some of the seventh season of Full House which Dominica had picked up the other day while out shopping and then we played the Nintendo Wii for a little bit. This was my first opportunity to actually get to play the Wii and not just watch Dominica play it.

My first impression of the Wii is that it is incredibly difficult and unintuitive to just pick up and play – this is not the system for casual gamers that they toute it to be. People who have not played a Wii before will have a difficult time just picking it up and having it do anything that they would want it to do. The system does not register input from the controllers easily or accurately and often does very unusual things based on the accelerometer in the remote which is very difficult to predict. Because of the strange and limited input devices all of the games for the Wii are based around the controllers and the only games that appear to be really suited to them are either extremely simplistic or extremely violent because of the remote’s feedback capabilities making this a system very poorly suited to the younger set to whom it is often marketed.

The first game that I tried to play was Wii Sports. It took a bit of time and several tries to get the game to work as the Wii’s DVD mechanism is shoddy and apparently doesn’t read the discs very well. And, unlike a normal computer, instead of just telling you that it can’t read the disc it brings up the “black screen of death” and forces you to pop out the disc, power off the Wii, wait and start back over at the beginning. This process is long and frustrating especially because the console is supposed to be easy to use for casual gaming. That is exactly where it fails the most.

After hooking up the component video cables that Dominica managed to buy today for the Wii the graphics are definitely better now that we can set it to 480p rather than 480i output but the image is still very far from impressive.  This video system is another example of how the Wii fails to be appropriate for casual gamers as it is much more complex and confusing to hook up component video (five cables) rather than HDMI (one cable.)  I tried playing Red Seel and we noticed that the graphics, being analogue, are all messed up – just with that one game – and don’t fit onto the screen.  Talk about poor testing.

Overall the Wii is a sad and embarrassing piece of junk from Nintendo.  I can’t believe that they let this thing out of the door.  But nothing compares to the horrible selection of games for it.  So far nothing that I have seen or played on it makes me want to spend any time with the thing.  Wii Sports is silly and boring.  Possibly fun for a few friends, once in a while, if you have a large living room to play in which we don’t.  Red Steel is hard and crashes too often.  Zelda crashes and might be okay.  I have looked online and can’t find any games that picque my interest at all – not available now or announced to be coming for the system.

My recommendation is stick with the PS2 if you are considering a Wii.  It is cheaper, better and has tons more games.

August 16, 2007: Exhausted

Oreo and I slept in until after seven thirty this morning. Oreo has really missed me over this past week and was very snuggly all night. This morning he was sleeping beside me with his head on my stomach. He did decide to get up and leave, though, once Dominica made him his breakfast.

I got situated at the computer and sat down to work just before eight. That is when I realized that my access card for the office stopped working and that there was nothing that I could do remotely. It took a little while before I found out if anyone was familiar with the issue but no one was so I started getting ready to head in to the office so that I could pursue getting my access fixed.

If Dominica doesn’t manage to get Oreo to daycare it really impact my day. His daycare is in the opposite direction of the way that I have to go so I had to drive way up to Wallington to drop him off before being able to head for the office which meant that I drove right back past the apartment. The car was also low on gas so I had to fill up before coming in to. So much time was wasted doing all this that I decided I should kill off lunch as well so I swung into McDonald’s on the McCarter Highway and ate lunch in the car on the drive into the office.

It was around eleven when I actually got to the office. I was feeling pretty tired today but perked up a bit after getting some much needed caffeine into my system.

I went home at five thirty and actually had a pretty busy evening.  One of my machines has a bad network interface card and I had to deal with that as it has been causing me all kinds of headaches recently.

Dominica put on the first season of The Fall Guy and we watched a few episodes of that while I worked.  Dominica also played just a little bit of Zelda on the Wii so that we could see it.  It looked okay but nothing special – for a PlayStation 2 from several years ago.  For a modern console the thing is downright embarassing.  I can’t believe Nintendo let that thing get out the door.  I did some research on the Wii online tonight and so far we own every single game that I could even imagine being any fun on the Wii plus one that Dominica likes that I can’t imagine ever wanting to play – Trauma Center Second Opinion.

The one thing that was really impressive about the Wii is that all I had to do was tell it to turn on its wireless, select the access point that I wanted to use and put in the passphrase for it and instantly we were online and a few minutes later we were updated to the latest firmware.  Surfing the web is very easy but the resolution of the Wii is so low that it isn’t nearly as useful as it should be.  We also discovered that the Wii needs another cable to make it even approach looking any good so we have to go buy that now too – and of course it is a special Wii cable and nothing normal.  Dominica did set up some channels like the weather and news and that was kind of interesting.  But overall I think that the Wii is completely unimpressive.  But I haven’t had a chance to actually play it yet either.

We ordered in dinner from Nino’s and made the mistake of getting the white pizza because it was AWESOME and we both ate way too much of it.  That pizza is really amazing and we will be getting it quite often now, I am sure.

I was able to finally get to bed around eleven.

Weight Lost So Far: 32 lbs