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Ramblings from the Marginalized » 2007 » November

November 2007

Pets November 30th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

Some of my long time readers may remember that I launched a site about cats many months ago. The site started well but then it stopped. I was unable to get good content for it so I just sort of let it hang.

A few days ago I decided to go in the lolcat direction and let me tell you right now that people love lolcats! The site is becoming insanely popular and I will be updating it far more often than I have in the past.

Feel free to check it out when you get a chance. Catfo.com.

Games November 28th, 2007 by Stephen

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 27, 2007 - In the first week of the 2007 holiday shopping season, Nintendo of America has sold more Nintendo products than at any other time in its history. This includes more than 653,000 Nintendo DSâ„¢ portable video game systems, 350,000 Wiiâ„¢ home systems and millions of games and accessories throughout the United States - and the season is just getting started.

Nintendo DS set a new all-time sales record for Thanksgiving week, eclipsing the previous mark of 600,000 Game Boy® Advance systems sold during the same period in the United States in 2005. Nintendo DS remains on track to be the top-selling video game system of 2007.

Nintendo's 350,000 Wii systems represent the highest one-week U.S. sales total outside of its launch week one year ago. Wii has been dubbed the must-have gift of the 2007 holiday season and has been placed at the top of numerous gift lists. Nintendo has repeatedly increased its shipments and its fiscal-year sales forecast for Wii in an attempt to meet soaring demand. Wii reached 5 million sold in the United States faster than any video game system in history, after only 12 months of availability there.

Both Wii and Nintendo DS have continued their yearlong momentum into the holidays without altering their prices. And both remain attractive values for shoppers: Wii has an MSRP of $249.99, while Nintendo DS has an MSRP of $129.99.

"As shoppers look for ways to maximize their limited holiday spending money, they turn to gifts that can be used by the entire family," says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Wii and Nintendo DS offer something for every member of the family. They're the most fun video game experiences at the most affordable price."

With higher gas prices and fuel costs, and the lukewarm expectations for the 2007 holiday shopping season, Wii and Nintendo DS might be just what Santa ordered: Thirty-five percent of consumers said they plan to spend less than they did last year, according to a survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association. Similarly, a USA Today/Gallup Poll showed that 25 percent of Americans expect to spend less on gifts this year than they did in 2006.

Note that the internal Nintendo of America numbers referenced in this release represent sales from Sunday, Nov. 18, through Saturday, Nov. 24.

Remember that Wii features parental controls that let adults manage the content their children can access. For more information about this and other Wii features, visit Wii.com.

Gadgets November 28th, 2007 by Stephen
Demron Full body Suit

MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ronald DeMeo, MD, MBA, president and chief executive officer with Radiation Shield Technologies (RST), today announced the company’s acquisition of Russia and Singapore patents for Demron, the world’s first nuclear radiation-blocking fabric. Demron will be exhibited during the National Institute of Justice’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Conference, which takes place Wednesday, Nov. 28 – Friday, Nov. 30, at the Harbor Beach Marriott, 3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Booth number: 28.

At the conference, Mr. DeMeo will deliver a presentation titled: “Anti-Nuclear Protection: New Technologies for Protection against Dirty Bombs” at 1 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, in room A.

Demron is an advanced radiopaque nano-polymeric compound fused between layers of fabric and manufactured into several lightweight, nuclear-blocking garments. Demron is used in full-body nuclear, biological, and nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) suits, tactical anti-nuclear vests, high-energy nuclear suppression blankets, medical X-ray vests and aprons.

“Demron is a liquid metal that feels like fabric and is cool to the touch,” said DeMeo, the surgeon who developed Demron. “It’s the world’s only full-body radiation protection fabric that shields against X-ray and low-energy Gamma emissions while providing full anti-chemical and biological protection. Demron is a lead-free, toxin-free, and PVC-free nuclear-blocking material that allows heat dissipation and resists chemical permeation and cracks.”

Numerous universities and government laboratories have confirmed Demron’s ability to block radiation. Demron has several U.S. patents.

Added DeMeo: “Demron is receiving extensive recognition in the United States, and we expect the Singapore and Russia patents will enable us to expand Demron’s market potential.”

Demron suits are made from a unique nanotechnology that surpasses the current NBC suits, which provide limited protection against radioactive particulate sources.

Games November 28th, 2007 by Stephen

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced the winner of the 2007 EA SPORTS™ Craftsman NASCAR® Challenge, Brandon Coppinger. After five intense rounds of virtual racing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Coppinger beat out his competitors and won the $10,000 Grand Prize and bragging rights as the #1 NASCAR 08 video game player in the country.

The 2007 EA SPORTS Craftsman NASCAR Challenge encompassed in-store and online tournaments across 11 U.S. cities, offering gamers and NASCAR® fans from across the country the opportunity to compete against some of the best. Last weekend the semi-finalists from the online and in-store qualifying rounds were flown to Miami to compete in a virtual head-to-head racing competition at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 18, and Brandon Coppinger emerged victorious.

“I’ve been playing video games since the first Nintendo came out, probably when I was about five years old, and the NASCAR Challenge has given me the chance to compete against the best,” said 2007 EA SPORTS Craftsman NASCAR Challenge winner, Brandon Coppinger. “After all my practice, I’m excited to be named number one and of course to be bringing home 10,000 bucks! I can’t wait to repeat my success again next year.”

Brandon Coppinger, a 21 year-old college student from Goodlettsville, TN, combines his love of NASCAR with his love of video games. Growing up, he went to countless NASCAR events and has transferred that passion into video games. He loves the challenge of playing NASCAR® 08 and competes against his friends on all the tracks that the game offers. He plans to apply the $10,000 prize money towards the purchase of a real-life Legends Car so that he can race at the Nashville Fairgrounds. Coppinger, who hopes to become a sportscaster one day, was especially thrilled that the 2007 EA SPORTS Craftsman NASCAR Challenge was announced by ESPN host Brent Musberger.

The 2007 EA SPORTS Craftsman NASCAR Challenge Finals took place during the Ford 400, the season-ending NASCAR® NEXTEL Cup Series event in which Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart (the NASCAR 08 cover athlete) and other celebrated NASCAR drivers raced at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. On the same day that Jimmie Johnson was awarded the 2007 NEXTEL Cup, Brandon Coppinger was named EA’s #1 NASCAR 08 player in the country.

“This year was the debut of the new EA SPORTS NASCAR Challenge, and we’re thrilled it was such a huge success,” said Brian Movalson, EA SPORTS Marketing Director. “We were fortunate enough to host the finals at Homestead-Miami Speedway in conjunction with the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and it was even more exciting to see our sixteen finalists share the NASCAR experience with the real race car drivers they look up to.”

“The virtual racing we saw at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a dramatic show and a microcosm of what it takes to compete and win in NASCAR—commitment, passion, practice, nerves of steel, and as Brandon Coppinger demonstrated, patience and consistency on the race track,” said Blake Davidson, Managing Director of Licensed Products at NASCAR. “We want to congratulate EA SPORTS and Craftsman for pulling off an exciting and competitive tournament, as well as all the competitors who participated.”

The EA SPORTS NASCAR Challenge is one of four Challenges from the EA SPORTS Challenge Series that also included regional tournament competitions for Madden NFL 08, NBA LIVE 08 and NCAA® Football 08, and have been taking place across North America over the last four months. For more information about the 2007 EA SPORTS Craftsman NASCAR Challenge please visit: www.easportsracing.com/challenge or www.craftsman.com/nascarchallenge.

Internet November 28th, 2007 by Stephen

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Spam Arrest LLC, which provides the popular SPAM ARREST software and services to eliminate email spam, finally won its five year legal battle against Hormel.

Hormel filed suit against Spam Arrest in 2002 before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Number: 92042134), the federal administrative court charged with overseeing the national trademark office, alleging canned meat consumers would confuse the SPAM ARREST trademark with the notorious SPAM mark.

This week, a panel of three judges found that Hormel’s trademark may be famous, but “that fame does not extend to computer software for filtering spam.” The 63 page decision noted that the SPAM ARREST trademark is “different in connotation and commercial impression” than Hormel’s.

Hormel filed dozens of similar actions against other companies using the term “spam” in connection with email, including Yahoo! (Number – 91120897), Earthlink (Number 91116405), and Google’s Postini subsidiary (Number 91166098). Most of those cases settled in favor of Hormel or were suspended pending the outcome of the Spam Arrest matter.

“Hormel retained several high priced expert witnesses in an effort to deprive Spam Arrest of its lawful use of the trademark,” said Derek A. Newman of Newman & Newman, lead counsel for Spam Arrest. “Spam Arrest successfully overcame that testimony, and now Spam Arrest is not only the first company other than Hormel to achieve a federal trademark registration with the term ‘spam,’ but also first to prevail against the processed food giant.”

“We are thrilled the court affirmed our right to continue using the SPAM ARREST trademark to identify the best spam elimination software available,” added Brian Cartmell, CEO of Spam Arrest. “Spam Arrest made a decision that we would not be bullied. Consumers are smarter than to confuse us with the source for meat called spam.”

TV Shows November 27th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

I know the writer's strike is going on but what is the deal with Heroes last night? Was the script written on the eve of the strike? The previous episode was so good so why did it suck so bad last night?

For example, we heard Adam tell Peter that losing your head is the one thing you can not come back from. I'm going to take that to mean decapitation because we clearly saw Claire's blood bring Noah back from the dead after getting shot in the head. No to mention Adam's death back in Feudal Japan when the gun powder tent exploded.

Oh wait; did I also forget how Peter came back from his fatal "glass in the head" wound brought on by Sylar? What about Claire waking up in the morgue after having a wooden spike removed from her brain? I think it may be that the blood is the secret sauce that keeps those Heroes regenerating and that if one of them were to lose their head they would regenerate as soon as the head was stuck back on their neck. Unless their body was allowed to decompose to the point where there was no more blood that is.

Speaking of Sylar, I'm taking the "tick-tock" noise we hear to be an indicator that he has his powers back. He was likely being fed the same pills Peter was on and the drugs have now worn off.

Why has he not killed Maya yet? Well, he does not need to. I think Sylar may have learned that he can gain more by having other Heroes on his side rather than by just stealing their powers.

What about Micah's cousin? Didn't she watch that wrestling show (among other combat arts)? Why didn't she go all "superfly girl" on those guys when they caught her in the house? Not only that but why did she not leave the house the same way she got in, out the WINDOW!!!

All I can say is "meh, why did I stay up to watch this?"

Nintendo and video games November 25th, 2007 by HMTKSteve

My first foray into the world of FPS (first person shooter) video games was Wolfenstein. A friend of mine had this on his 286 back when I was stationed in Germany while serving in the US Army. The game was fun but it wasn't real 3-D.

Next I moved on to Doom and its sequels on my 486. I used a Gravis GamePad when playing that game because it made the game play feel like what I was used to on the Super Nintendo. Even though Doom was not 3-D it was close enough for us. We made sure to invest in a null modem cable at the time so we could do some co-op and death-match battles.

I took a break from FPS games for a while and moved on to RTS (real time strategy) video games such as Warcraft. The one problem I had with these early RTS games is that some had a bug in them where the player on the faster computer would always be faster than the players on slower computers. Yeah, not much fun there. This bug was fixed but I never enjoyed the ever growing administration duties you had to deal with as the game went on.

After Warcraft I moved on to the mother of all time killers; Sid Meir's Civilization. I started out with the DOS version of the game and moved up to the Windows version. Ah, the days of the Chariot Rush brings back memories...

I think my favorite in the series has to be Civilization II: Gold Edition. I did enjoy Civ-Net but by the time it came out Civ II was already in stores. I wanted to play Civ multi-player but not the old style. I still break out Civ II when I have time to kill.

A few years ago I tried to get back into FPS gaming but I just couldn't do it. I never had a good enough mouse to play them on the PC and I always felt that dual analog stick on consoles just left a lot to be desired. They were good, but I always felt that the button placements were wrong or limiting.

Then I found Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. I had played the first Metroid Prime on my Game Cube and I liked it. As for the second one, Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii, partly because I had developed a bit of the FPS-nausea sickness. I did not know if I would be able to play the game at all without getting sick. (I had to play Metroid Prime in short stints to avoid getting too sick.)

After playing for a few hours I built up my tolerance and had a blast!

Sadly, now that I have completed the game (22:34 with 100% of items found) I am feeling empty inside. I visited a friend and tried out his Halo 3 game but I found the dual-analog stick control scheme lacking. The Wii has spoiled me.

On a dual-analog stick controller you have to keep one thumb on the stick that controls your movement and the other on the stick that controls your facing/aiming. The fire buttons are in easy reach for your index fingers but what about jumping? You have to take your thumb off of the aiming stick to hit the jump button. With the Wii-mote all you have to do is point it to turn, you are free to hit all of the important buttons while turning.

Think about that, with the Wii the second analog stick is controlled by your wrist rather than your thumb. It is so close to keyboard and mouse controls that it is downright scary!

I was thinking about buying an Xbox360 or a PS3 for the FPS games but now, I can't. I've been spoiled and there is no going back.

Kiosk Gaming

Games November 23rd, 2007 by Stephen
Mario Party DS

The newest edition in the Mario Party franchise is Mario Party DS. This game supports up to four players via local wi-fi (single cartridge download play) in a multitude of modes. There is a also a single player mode that you have to go through to unlock all of the boards.

So, how does it stack up? Is it worth buying? I'm going to cover the basics of the game and let the final decision reside with you.

Story Mode (1 player)

Something has fallen from the sky and broken into a pieces. It is up to Mario and friends to find all five pieces of the star crystal and put the broken crystal back together again.

The game begins with King Bowser inviting Mario and friends to his castle for a feast. While there everyone is shrunk down to the size of miniature dolls. It is now up to you to battle your way through five game boards to acquire all five pieces of of the Star Crystal.

After you win each game you will go one to a boss mini-game. Win the mini-game and you will be awarded a piece of the star crystal and move on to the next board.

Story mode is single player only so you have to win each game to fight the boss and proceed. The final board is not available until you complete story mode.

You will also earn Party Points for playing the game. These points provide you with items for your gallery and that's about it. Once you complete story mode you will also earn a badge for the character you played as.

Mario Party DS

Party Mode (1 to 4 players)

In party mode game play is much as you would expect from the Mario Party line of games. One player takes the role of host and all other players download the game via DS download play.

What is very nice about party mode is that the host can not begin a mini-game until all players have read the mini-game rules. I have had problems in the past where the player on controller one hits the "play game" button before all players are ready.

Party mode plays much as you would expect with Battle Royale, Tag Battle and Duel Battle modes.

Mini-Game Mode (1 to 4 players)

Don't feel like playing on the board but you just want to get in some mini-games? Mini-Game mode is just the thing for you. Between Free Play, Step It Up, Battle Cup, Score Scuffle, Boss Bash and Rocket Rascals you will be able to get in some quick mini-game action without having to worry about getting stars.

Puzzle Mode (1 to 2 Players)

Play six puzzle-action games, which include five classics from previous Mario Party games. This mode also includes the new touch-controlled Triangle Twisters, which has two play modes. In Frenzy Mode, players clear the field by twisting triangles so they connect with those of the same color. In Focus Mode, they twist them to build complex shapes, like turtles and pinwheels.


As you accumulate party points from game play (single player only) you will be awarded prizes that go in your gallery. Unlike in previous games you do not spend points in a store. Instead, as you reach preset point levels prizes will be awarded to you. Prizes will also be awarded based on game play goals.

So, how does it play?

A common complaint of the Mario Party games is that you can't skip over animations and that the game can drag while waiting for animations to complete. It's great fun when you first see the animations but, after the 500th play you would rather skip over the 30 second animation of a character being eaten by a plant. You still can not skip animations but the characters do appear to be moving faster on the game boards.

The mini-games all make excellent use of the DS. Some use the stylus while others capitalize on the dual screen format. There are even some games that use the touch screen as a pad of buttons. Rather than push A or B you will be tapping on buttons that appear on the lower screen.

Each of the five game boards offers a different brand of fun:

Mario Party DS

Wiggler's Garden: This is the first board you will encounter in story mode and it is also the easiest. This board takes place in a huge garden and the boss is a piranha plant. Stars cost 20 coins and the star space moves every time someone buys a star.

Toadette's Music Room: The second board takes place in a music room. Stars are purchased from musical notes that appear on the board. The price starts at five coins and maxes out at 30 coins before reseting back to five. Every time a star is purchased the music spot moves. A Hammer Bros. is the board boss.

DK's Stone Statue: While making his way to Bowser's castle DK ran afoul of Dry Bones and was turned into a garden statue. It is up to Mario and friends to win the board and defeat Dry bones to save DK. The star space never moves on this board and you can buy as many as you can afford at 20 coins each.

Kamek's Library: The magical library of Kamek is your next stop in your quest. There are magical teleportation spaces that will teleport you between the two boards. Stars are hidden inside one of three magic jars on the board. One jar has a star, one eats you up and another gives you coins. all jars cost 10 coins to open. When you gain a star all jars go away and three new jars appear on the board.

Bowser's Pinball Machine: The final board takes place inside Bowser's castle. Stars cost 20 coins and the star space moves every time you buy one. After beating the board you take on Bowser, defeat him and you win the story mode.

When preparing to play you can assign players up to three bonus stars and COM players can be set to easy, normal or hard. Completing story mode unlocks expert difficulty for COM players.

For characters you can use: Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toad, Peach, Daisy and Yoshi.

Mario Party DS

What's New?

Every Mario Party game released has a few changes made in the item selection available, this game is no different. As well as purchasable items there are also hexes you can acquire to place on board spaces.

Among items there are old standbys such as double, triple and halfway dice. You can also purchase a warp block and a star pipe, both of which teleport you prior to rolling your dice for movement. You can also purchase a snag bag that will allow you to steal an item from another player. The block sensor helps you find hidden blocks (full of coins) and the grab bag is an item that holds three items inside of it; star pipe, block sensor and a triple dice set.

Hexes are something new in Mario Party DS. These can not be purchased in a store but can be acquired by passing over certain spaces. When you use these you place them on a space on the board. When someone steps on them they are activated.

  • 10 coin hex: steal 10 coins from an opponent
  • 20 coin hex: steal 20 coins from an opponent
  • coin swap hex: swap coins with an opponent
  • 1 star hex: steal one star from an opponent
  • 2 star hex: steal two stars from an opponent
  • space swap hex: swap your board location with an opponent
  • star block: creates a block that can be hit for 1 to 3 stars
  • coin block: creates a coin block that can be hit for a lot of coins

If you land on a hex placed by you (except for the last two) you get some coins rather than the desired effect.

My Opinion

I am very happy with Mario Party DS. One thing that always bothered me about the Mario Party games is that when you play a mini-game everyone sees the same thing. With the mini-games being played on the DS screen only you get to see your screen.

The boards are fun and not too long. If you are not in the mood to play a full game you can play one of the mini-game modes and play as few as three mini-games at a time.

Not all is good in the game. The party points are fairly useless. You also do not earn any party points when playing in multi-player mode, which is the whole point of the game!

When playing with COM players you have to set them all to the same difficulty level. To do otherwise runs the risk of finding yourself in a 2 vs. 2 mini-game that you can not win because the difficulty translates into the speed at which the COM player presses buttons and you are stuck with the slow COM player!

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