Mar 30, 2009

Star Wars Minis

I've resisted to almost a fanatical, zealot-like level anything that smells like Dungeons and Dragons for most of my entire life. It's not that I don't respect the game, or the people that play it, I just have fundamental differences with the system itself. I know part of it has to do with my objection to having a human (susceptible to all of man's motivations and flaws) be the supposed objective dictator of a game.

But the biggest issue I have with it is the dice rolling. I hate dice rolling. Hate it hate it hate it. It introduces an element of randomness that has never seemed to click with me. After all, most tabletop games, even many video games (think %hit in Diablo) all require some kind of randomness to make the game enjoyable. But in many such cases, the randomness is streamlined or handled behind the scenes and you're left to focus on a fun - if challenging - gaming experience. The die, to me, just serves as a physical reminder of how little control you have over things despite any preparation or forethought you put into your actions.

Why do I ramble on about this? Because I think I've found a game with some of these elements that I've grown rather fond of: Star Wars Miniatures.

While the rules are a little complex to comprehend at first, once you get the hang of it you're left with a relatively simple, yet maddeningly deep, gameplay that requires good squad building, good field tactics, and yes even a little luck to win.

The characters span the entire Star Wars timeline, and you build a squad within one of 9 different factions: Old Republic, Republic, New Republic, Rebel, Sith, Mandalorian, Imperial, Separatist, and Yuuzhang Vong. There are "fringe" pieces that can be added to any faction. Each piece has a point cost, and squads are built to meet a certain point limit. Better characters, like Darth Vader, typically cost more points than weaker characters, like a plain old Stormtrooper. After that, you play the pieces on a game map and fight it out.

And come on... this is Star Wars here. I'm no fanboy, but what man honestly didn't love the movies? Well, episodes 4, 5 and 6 anyway...

The game plays like a cross between Magic: The Gathering and D&D - while only retaining the best of both. Building a good squad is key and requires much of the same thinking needed in building decks for any collectible card game. You try to combine pieces together in a squad in such a way that it maximizes the strengths, while balancing out the weaknesses.

Dice rolling does happen a lot over the course of a game. However, the impact of the randomness is severely lessened by the sheer depth of the game mechanics:
  • Commanders have effects that help boost the odds and probabilities of a favorable outcome.
  • Force users have the ability to actually re-roll a die they're not happy with (by using some of their Force).
  • Even tactically, certain matchups naturally favor one side or the other; Jedis, while generally fantastic in melee combat, can't shoot and can have a tough time getting across the map if a squad of good shooters is gunning them down.

Though I've only scratched the surface of it, with this depth you really do get the sense that if the win/lose outcome of a game comes down to a long-odds dice roll, your squad was either outmatched from the start, or you played a solid hand badly.

Great game, and a lot of fun.

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G.I. Bunnies

God bless the Japanese.

I really had no idea what the heck this was when I first watched it, but I was intrigued. After about 5 minutes of Wikipedia research, it's an animated series based off of a Japanese Manga called "Cat Shit One" (which was changed to Apocalypse Meow here in the states). The whole series is a Vietnam war story, only instead of people there are animals.

It's both cute and disturbing at the same time - which is about par for the course in Japan.

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Mar 27, 2009

The Legend of Princess

Courtesy of VGCats, I found this fan-made 2D arcade Zelda remake, The Legend of Princess.

If you liked any of the Zelda games, this is a must play. The sprites are well detailed, the music is a fresh remake of the classic Zelda melodies, and the gameplay is just fun. Think Zelda 2 (NES) on super steroids. And while it's only one level (of decent length), you can change the equipment you roll with each time - varying the strategies and difficulty each go.

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Mar 26, 2009

LED Sheep(le)

You know what they say about farmers and shepherds who are bored and lonely...

...they make epic LED sheep projects. Right?

In a fantastic display of patience and creativity, the Baaa-Studs - their name, not mine - went to Wales to herd sheep in really cool ways. Knowing firsthand how difficult it can be to get even two seemly-rational humans to agree on something, I'm incredibly impressed at how well these guys coordinated the animals' movements (especially in the dark).

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Mar 25, 2009

Photoshop Flailing: Fun with Chuck Schumer

I was turned onto an article by my one of my friends over on Twitter, that had an unintentionally humorous photograph of Sen. Chuck Schumer. The article can be found:

So I thought it to be my civic duty and mess around with the photo - take a look below at what I came up with. Click on any of the images for a higher res version.

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Mar 24, 2009



Click for a larger view of this monstrosity.

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Mar 23, 2009

Best minute I've spent watching Youtube EVER

Kill Bill volumes 1 and 2, while not cinematic masterpieces, have all the makings of a classic "guy movie" - babes, fights, blood, swords, ninjas (kinda), and David Carradine. Like my teacher always said, you write what you know... and Tarantino knows campy guy movies.

But what happens when you condense all of it into a one-take, one minute synopsis? Well, it translates pretty well, actually. You lose some of the sass and that awesome, gratuitous fight scene with the Crazy 88's, but you also cut out a lot of the BS. See for yourself:

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Mar 20, 2009

The many skills of Napoleon Dynamite

Numchuk skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills... and social networking skills? One delusional hippy person seems to think that Napoleon Dynamite is wiser than most when it comes to social networking.

Taking the Napoleon Dynamite angle (which seems admittedly a little forced) out of this article, it does have some great tips on how to get the most out of social networking services that are out there. Simple, common sense stuff that many people either forget or choose to ignore - like showing genuine interest in others, being interesting yourself, and making sure social networking doesn't take over your life.

Well, 2 out of 3 for me ain't bad at least.

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Mar 19, 2009

Mailing it in.

I've had a lot to do these past few days, and my sleep schedule's a little wonky. So I'm mailing it in today.

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Mar 18, 2009

A License to Thrill

Below is a video of the characters in the N64 Goldeneye getting down, using some sort of glitch that would make a game model go haywire. The video was taken from a Japanese version of the game, which may have had the glitch. No copy of the game I ever played showed this much... liveliness.

I have no idea why this video makes me laugh as hard as it does. Every time the added music cuts (which is appropriately silly and Japanese) I just freaking lose it.

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Mar 17, 2009

An experiment in crowdsourcing (and Twitter)

I recently posed a question to Twitter, and am posting it here to preserve it.


In the past 24 hours, I randomly got followed by 50+ new people, mostly marketers. Considering I had only 70+ followers prior to this, it's a pretty significant jump. In the past I've normally taken a stance where I only follow people who I find interesting and, in all honesty, most of these people aren't terribly interesting to me (sorry marketers).

This said, I wanted to see if I could get Twitter to make this decision for me. After all, who knows Twitter better than the Twitter collective?


I'm asking all interested in weighing in on the matter, do I:

  • Follow them back, thinking "the more the merrier"?
  • Continue to be selective in who it is I let into my friend feed?

If you'd like to respond, leave a comment here or Tweet me (@JonBaker).


I'm very interested to find out the results of this experiment - not only to understand what people's thoughts on the matter are, but how collaborative my little slice of the internet is.

I'll make my decision based on everyone's input in 24 hours time.

What the hell is Twitter? Is it contagious?

Regular readers of this blog, if you don't know what Twitter is I highly recommend you take a look at it. It's an interesting way to communicate, stay up-to-date with other cool people and above all it's fun. If you join up, give me a follow at, and I'll follow you back (trust me, you're more interesting than the marketers).

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Mar 16, 2009

Master the Internet

Surfing the youtubes, I came across a hilariously bad commercial for an internet teaching system. I have to believe, for the sake of my faith in humanity, that this was created purely as a joke. Thankfully, many indications seem to support this view (the funny or die logo in the bottom right, the 555-xxxx number), but I also know that sometimes there is no limit to human stupidity.

Regardless, this is good for some lulz. Find out how you too can master the internet and find your way to "technology heaven":

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Mar 13, 2009

Internet Citizenship-ery

Saw a couple of sage words by the inimitable Stephen Fry, regarding his general thoughts of most things technological. One such blurb that really got me thinking was the idea that the internet is a city. He makes, I think, a fair claim that there are many wonders and attractions, useful information, and even seedy areas that mirror the way a city is laid out.

While he goes on further about how this city should and shouldn't be used, my mind was fixed on the virtual city idea itself. If we all live part-time in this virtual city, then aren't we inherently citizens of it?

And if we're citizens, what does that mean? Certainly, the rules here in the internet are a little more lax than those in the real world - pants, for example, are not a requirement to interact with others on the internet. But is there a base set of rules or an inherent code of conduct (law?) that we're observing? Or is this still largely an untamed frontier?

Truth is, I don't think there's an easy answer to that question, nor should there be. Depending on which corner of the internet you're residing in, what is "appropriate behavior" varies greatly. This only really becomes an issue when you try to merge one set of behavior expectations with another radically different set; like if I decided to use Wikipedia the same way I would Twitter, or when one's college drinking photos out on Facebook get found by real-life professional colleagues (none of me, but I've heard horror stories...).

I think the internet has become, more than anything, a tool to express oneself. This doesn't mean you need to be actively expressive, simply going to the sites that interest you is a form of expression (as captured in traffic hits, which in turn typically means advertising revenue for the visited sites). But from what I can tell, this expression is the one inalienable right we as citizens of the internet are afforded.

And it's one I'm increasingly appreciating.

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Mar 12, 2009

Shotgun content 6

Holy crap, I've been working on that rejected iPhone commercial this evening and before I know it, 2.5 hours have gone by and I don't have a lot to show for it. Drawing iPhone apps on an iPhone are more tedious than I could have imagined. I am, however, very pleased with the quality thusfar, so I'll call it a wash.

As a result, I'm just going to blast you with some crap I saw on someone else's website content and call it a night.

  • Been coming across a lot of 8-bit goodness lately. This latest installment is a medley of a bunch of rap songs as performed using NES sounds. For a full tracklist and more info, check out the site here. If you'd rather just hip-hop right to it, download the track. It's like someone went back in time and created an 8-bit Grand Theft Auto and then made a medley of its sound track.
  • The Daft Punk console is pretty freaking awesome. Not only do you get to play around with the lyrics to Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger... I've been overlaying Daft Punk to a bunch of songs I've been listening to. This further reinforces my belief that all the world needs is a little more Daft Punk.
  • Keeping in the music vein, ThruYou has got to be one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. Someone took a bunch of Youtube clips, spliced them together and created new music from them. The amount of time to make something this good boggles my mind.
  • Vince from Shamwow is now also hawking the Slap Chop. The reason I link it is because in his promotional video he actually says "You'll love my nuts."
  • I don't know if you've been following this whole John Stewart, Jim Cramer feud, but Jim Cramer has agree to come on the Daily Show tomorrow. I want them both to have a soundclip board ready to play during the interview.

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Mar 10, 2009

Epic Megaman rap is epic

No wait, it's actually beyond epic. It's bepic.

This fan-made rap narrative of the entire Megaman 2 story, with a random addition of Protoman. The remixes are awesome, the lyrics are hysterical, and the overlay of actual gameplay and sprite manipulation is well done. It may be NSFW, but it's worth your time if you have any love for the Blue Bomber.

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No Heroics

Readers of this blog and/or followers of the Fair Use Law podcast know that I'm a big fan of superheroes. I was recently turned onto British superhero comedy "No Heroics". My bias towards capes aside, this has got to be one of the funniest, most original shows I've seen in my life.

This show takes place largely in a bar, The Fortress, where the city's superheroes do whatever it is superheroes need to do after a hard day of fighting crime. The story follows the life of four superhero friends who frequent this bar often:

  • The Hotness - Controls heat, he's an egotistical bumbling everyman. Take Simon Pegg (most notably Shaun, from Shaun of the Dead), make him self-centered and put him in a superhero universe. Searching for fortune and fame, he often finds himself getting the raw end of things.
  • Electroclash - Controls machines. Parents are some of the most revered capes in the business. A borderline sociopath, she uses her lineage to help her just drift by in life.
  • Time Bomb - Can see up to 60 seconds into the future. He's a Spanish gay superhero who quit the business after a career in torture, violence, sex and drugs eventually got to him.
  • She-Force - Super strength. She-Force is your stereotypical "naive British" character (there a term for this type of character?). Innocent, loyal and really looking out for the rest of the band of screw-ups she's friends with, she's really just trying - unsuccessfully - to find a man to settle down to a normal life with.
The premise alone on this show is noteworthy. Superheroes, those mythical god-like people we revere and look up to - the superman's, batman's and x-men of this fictional world... acting human. Struggling with common struggles. In this world you see superheroes mowing their lawns with frustrating equipment, waiting impatiently in line at the ATM, and taking public transportation to the scenes of crimes.

But the writing in this show is really what makes it shine. The show itself, much like the characters contained within them, is very dry in nature - like it's trying to take itself seriously in an absurd world. The show's execution is reminiscent of The Office (the British version, not the American version).

Speaking of the characters, all are well-developed and play off each other insanely well. The Hotness, when not being verbally abused by bar bully Excelsor, takes further verbal beatings from Electroclash, his former girlfriend. She-Force is often the voice of reason for others, yet she is woefully naive when it comes to her own love life. And on the other side of this spectrum lies Time Bomb, whose dark, dark, dark, past produces some of the darkest comedy I've ever seen and subsequently doubled over laughing at. Take the following scenes he's at group therapy for example:

The only negative about No Heroics is that the entire series was only 6 episodes long. Also, it's likely never going to come stateside.

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Mar 9, 2009

Bizarro Japanese Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Japan, as a nation, has the uncanny ability to take anything that Western culture has created and either make it more awesome, or ruin it forever. In this case, I'm not sure which they've done.

What you'll see below is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, mixed with elements of the Power Rangers, magic fairies, Japanese culture and a metric crapton on hallucinogenic drugs. Or, as it's more commonly referred, Mutant Turtles: Anthology of Superman Legends.

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Mar 6, 2009

Hats of +5 manliness

Have you ever wanted to look like a Viking, lumberjack, grizzled old man or pirate but just not had the facial hair or rugged good looks to act the part? If so, I've got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is, you have issues.

The good news is there is a site catering to your needs and is able make you look slightly (read: very) ridiculous in the process. I'm talking about Beard Heads:

A Beard Head is a winter giant wool hat that covers all but the front of your face. Then, for good measure, they attached a giant wool "moustache" to the front of it to give you that extra manly appeal. Perfect for those manly tasks like drinking at sporting events, saving children from burning homes, or even arm wrestling a bear.

I just wish I had found these earlier in the winter season...

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Mar 5, 2009

Super Mario Brothers, as viewed from 1988

Found this youtube video of an Inside Edition piece from 1988 about the then-latest craze, Super Mario Brothers. There's a lot to love in this video: the nostalgia, the fact that it's hosted by Bill "We'll do it live" O'Reilly, the "game councilor" with the huge mullet, and even Howard Phillips.

Being a gamer myself and growing up with Mario, it's actually interesting to see an outsider's perspective as Nintendo took gaming by storm.

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Mar 4, 2009

Quick Thinking

I gave a speech today for Toastmasters entitled "Quick Thinking". The speech completed another requirement in the "Humorously Speaking" manual, and asked that I started and ended the story with an amusing story. I was impressed on how it came out considering I realized I had to write and give a speech only an hour and half before the meeting.

The speech itself can be found after the break. Please forgive any spelling/grammar mistakes, being a speech (which are typically delivered orally), I decided not to fret over any of that with the time crunch.

An officer was being questioned by a defense attorney and the attorney wanted to press the officer when he said he trusted his fellow police officers with his life. The attorney asked the policeman on the stand “Is there a place where the police change into and out of uniform every day?”. To which, the policeman said that there was. The attorney then asked “And do you have a locker in that place?”. The policeman said he did. The attorney then asked “And do you have a lock on your locker to secure your stuff?”. The policeman said he did. Finally, the attorney then asked “Well, if you trust these men with your life, how come you need to lock your possessions during the day?”. Thinking quickly, the cop replied “because we share our building with the court complex and sometimes lawyers are known to walk through that room.”

Bobby Unser, a famous NASCAR racer, once said “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” While that is sage words to live by, you don’t always have an opportunity to prepare. Like when that officer was being grilled, things can come up that you didn’t originally expect. And when you can’t prepare, quick-thinking can help fill that gap in a pinch.

Quick thinking, as I define it, is any successful action taken towards a situation you could not or did not plan for. Are your sales clients irate about something that you couldn’t have forseen? A little quick thinking can help find a solution and smooth things over. Are you about to rear-end someone who slammed on their brakes in front of you? If you were alert and thinking quickly, you could have moved onto the shoulder instead of slamming on the brakes. A Toastmasters speech catch you off guard, and you’re scrambling to prepare one prior to the meeting? If you’re thinking quickly, you can come up with some relevant self-referential topic.

So how can you improve this skill? First, keep your mind sharp. This means make sure you get enough sleep and that you’re free of unrelated stress and distractions. It’s tough to think of anything at all when you’ve been up for 24 hours straight, and if you’re mind’s elsewhere it won’t be focusing on the situation that just arose. If you’re mind is sharp, then it will do its best thinking.

Additionally, practice, practice, practice. It’s kind of ironic that the answer to unpreparedness is preparation, but that’s exactly the idea: preparing for the unprepared. The more you think on your feet, the better you get in doing so. I recommend trying to do brain teasers, crossword puzzles, Sudoku as quickly as possible. Strategy games such as chess also require you to think quickly to adapt to the current situation. The more practice you get, the better you’ll be when you need to think quickly.

I do want to emphasize, while this skill is versatile and can help in a pinch in any number of situations, there is no substitute for being prepared. Therefore, I’m not recommending you live your life only getting by on your quick thinking, but I do recommend developing this skill and it can come in quite handy for those times where life gets in the way. I’ll close my speech with another anecdote that highlights the benefits of quick-thinking:

One time when I was much younger, my family took a trip to Maine. Like all families do a few times a day, we needed to eat because we were hungry. We stopped in at a local diner and were ordering food. Now, I have two sisters, Amy and Sarah, who were sitting at their own table. Sarah, being quite unladylike, broke wind rather loudly… to the point that everyone in the room heard it and stopped what they were doing to understand what it was that just happened. My family of course realized it immediately, and my Mom shouted “Sarah!”, followed shortly by my father shouting “Sarah!”. At which point, Sarah slapped Amy on the arm and shouted “Sarah!”. At this point, Amy nearly cried as everyone in the diner looked at her, believing SHE was the one who committed the faux pa. Sarah’s quick thinking had gotten her out of an embarrassing situation, much to the chagrin of my sister Amy.

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Mar 3, 2009

Happy Up Here

Courtesy of the Norwegian artist (group?) Röyksopp, "Happy Up Here".

I haven't been able to stop watching this video for the past few days. Not only is the song oddly catchy, but the art direction is refreshingly unique and it involves Space Invaders (!). It's like they knew exactly which parts of my brain to stimulate to produce joy.

Happy Up Here from Röyksopp on Vimeo.

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Mar 2, 2009

Photoshop Flailing: When Superpowers Go Wrong

This evening, I was playing around with Photoshop again - something I hadn't done in a while. The photoshop contest seemed interesting enough, and I used the opportunity to photoshop "When Superpowers Go Wrong". Click on any of the below for the higher-res version.

I think the Juggernaut qualifies for the HOV lane by himself:

The new 2010 Toyota Juggernaut mid-sized sedan

When Multiple Man needs to use the restroom, how does he determine who goes first?

The answer to this riddle is known only to Zen masters. And Multiple Man.

This is footage they show in Superhero education classes.

Remember: Obey all posted speed limits, and please don't drink and run at supersonic speeds.

This picture I actually didn't submit, as it turned out someone else beat me to the punch with the idea. But I like the way it came out nonetheless.

"Okay, can you read from the line you didn't obliterate?"

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Mar 1, 2009

Fair Use Law Episode 13: "I didn't know an episode of this podcast could have negative downloads"

Episode 13 of the Fair Use Law Podcast has been released for your enjoyment.

This and all previous weeks' episodes, as well as show notes and other inanity, is now up for your enjoyment at:

As always, you could subscribe to our podcast out on iTunes:

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