Gotten an Unassisted Score of 500,000 In Bejeweled Blitz (66/366)


“Colors must fit together as pieces in a puzzle or cogs in a wheel.”
~
Hans Hofmann


When Nick and I were in Singapore a few years ago, I discovered Bejeweled Blitz, a highly-addictive puzzle game that you can play for free on your computer, on Facebook, that of course also has an inexpensive iPhone version so you can play anywhere, anytime. Funnily enough, because we were in Singapore for Nick’s work, although I had a laptop, I didn’t have a mouse, which hindered my ability to play the game, which caused me to purchase the app.

Fast forward to 2011. While I still liked the game, I didn’t play it as much. There were several updates to it and neat additions, and though I still played, I didn’t play that often. I had gotten my brother into the game in 2010 or so, and he was regularly scoring higher than I was (he and my friends Maddie and Alesa are the absolute dominators of that game!). Also, “Words With Friends” (a version of Scrabble) came out. Between WWF, crazy work at the store, and Nick’s INDT project, I lost my enthusiasm for Bejeweled, even though I really like puzzle games. Then late last year, The Sims came out for the iPhone! I used to LOVE The Sims game on the computer, and though it was a serious time-sucker, I just had to download it. I played that game as I always had on the computer, building my houses, neighborhood, town buildings, etc., but I kept thinking about the joke about Sims-crazed people whose Sims had great careers, relationships, and hygiene statuses, while the computer player hadn’t seen the sun or taken a shower in days. And then I started INDT 2012. I decided The Sims had to go. I also quit “rematching” in Words With Friends. With those two changes, I’d have plenty more time (or at least, less excuses to be wasting it!). But now what kind of game could I play really quickly when I just needed a break? Aha! Bejeweled! My old friend.

I started playing again, and to my surprise, I had gotten better. Not heaps better, but noticeably so. That was cool. One of the additions to the newer versions was a “Daily Spin” where you could get coins to later cash in for “Boosts”, like “extra time” or “mystery gem” that could help you score higher in the game. They also added special “Rare Gems” that were really highly priced, that gave you super bonuses. All those extras are really cool when you’re trying to get a high score. Lately though, since as I said I feel like I’ve been getting better at the game, I’ve decided to not use Boosts or special gems for the most part, just to try to keep getting better.

Tonight, I decided to have a quick game before dinner – of course, it would have been way cooler if I had video of the game being played, but I didn’t know this magical event was going to happen! It didn’t feel too different from any other game – except that for some reason, I was seeing the combos easily and I was relaxed (sometimes I go mad trying to make combos as quickly as possible – kind of like how everything goes wrong and you can’t even put your coat on correctly when you’re in a rush to get out the door!). I got the “Blazing Speed” bonus twice during the game (which boosts your points every time you make a match), but I’ve done that a few times before, so that wasn’t a huge thing – I just thought, “cool!” … but then when the game ended, I looked at my score … 538,600! Holy Guacamole! If you play the game, note I was so surprised, it took me a second to register and get the picture snapped – I got it only after all my multipliers had been cashed into coins (if you don’t play the game, I’m sorry. We’re total Bejeweled dweebs.). Just in time!


I even shared it on Facebook. Ha ha ha!

Anyway, this was super fun. I couldn’t believe it. Over 500,000, unassisted! Again, I don’t think there will ever be a day when someone like one of the Bejeweled masters I mentioned above won’t be able to just decide to play on a whim and blow my score out of the water (ha ha ha!), but it’s fun to see your name on the leader board and, even if it’s only for a little while, at the top spot. And I hit my own personal record! Awesome!

Related Links:
Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook
Bejeweled Blitz for iPhone

Been a Mo-Cap Model (64/366)


“I’m a model, you know what I mean? And I do my little turn on the catwalk.”
~
Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy


A while ago, Nick bought a Kinect device for the XBox and has been having fun with it (he totally gets down on Dance Central). Recently though, he read about people writing programs that allow you to use your Kinect to do motion capture. Since crowd sim is something Nick is really interested in (he’s been working with Massive and loves it), of course he wanted to see how this worked. Today we loaded up Brekel Kinect, I got to be a mo-cap model!

We started out by just letting the Kinect read where my limbs were – arms out, bending, nothing too difficult for it to read:


I had to try to move slow so it could keep up with me – this was actually the beginning of an awesome breakdance wave (ha ha ha!):
Pasted Graphic 10

It had a little trouble reading me when I wasn’t facing it (of course) but it actually did pretty well:


It basically lost me when I tried a jump:


But all in all, it did a really great job, especially considering how my clothing blended in with my background:


This was totally cool. With Nick at
ILM, a place that has revolutionized Mocap technology, and knowing they have state of the art, multi-million dollar facilities there just for that purpose, it’s so neat to know you can do at least a very primitive, but still awesome version of it in your very own home for a fraction of the cost. Andy Serkis, watch out!

Related Links:
www.brekel.com
Kinect Sensor with Kinect Adventures and Gunstringer Token Code
Xbox 360 4GB Console Bundle with Kinect
Dance Central Kinect Game

Played Valve’s First-Person Puzzle Game "Portal" (61/366)


“Cake, and grief counseling, will be available at the conclusion of the test.”
~
Ellen McLain as GlaDOS from Portal


Portal is a video game made by the company Valve, and it is a first-person, puzzle platform game. It was introduced in 2007 as part of a three-game pack called The Orange Box. Nick says when he bought The Orange Box, it wasn’t for Portal, but for Half Life 2 (like most people, probably).

Portal was later acclaimed as one of the most original games of 2007, and it has become a cult classic. Our extremely talented friend Kirk even wrote a musical in homage to it (we went to see one of his pieces last year as one of Nick’s INDTs of 2011). So although I’d heard about the game and knew it was supposed to be cool, tonight I thought I’d play it see what all the fuss was really all about.

When you first start the game, you are in what appears to be a lab, but there’s no one around. It’s pretty creepy. You can walk around, can look up, down, left right, etc., and you can also jump a bit. Though you’re “alone” (you can’t see anyone else around), there is a computerized voice that comes over the intercom, giving you information and sometimes making snarky remarks (turns out that’s GlaDOS).

The object of the game is to solve the puzzles in each level. The twist is that they’re life-sized, and “real-life” puzzles, as it’s played in the first-person. For example, there’s a “1500 Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super Colliding Super Button” on the ground, and an “Aperture Science Weighted Storage Cube” in the corner. You’ve got to pick up the cube, and drop it on the button to get to the next level. When you leave your “room” at the very beginning, it’s through a “Portal” doorway. You find later in the game that there are “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Devices” or guns that can create portals, and you get to use them. That’s where the real fun comes in.


There’s so much more to this game, but I don’t want to give it away (yes, to those select few who STILL haven’t played the game … I know, I’m late). The thing I really do have to share is how much ANXIETY I experienced playing Portal for the first time! When you know what to expect, I think it’s probably not so bad – but for me (especially since I specifically asked Nick NOT to tell me anything), I was pretty freaked out playing it, until I had cleared at least 10 levels. By then I just wanted OUT. Ha ha ha! But after knowing more about the game, I really want to play again. I realize in that way I have an unfair advantage compared to the more adventurous Portal explorers who went through the game as intended when it first came out, but give me a break here – the last games I really remember playing that were anything close to this was back when games were not first person – like
Super Mario Bros. 2. The closest thing to Portal I can think of that I’d played was Intelligent Qube – a different kind of puzzle game, but still third-person. I looked them up: Super Mario Bros. 2 was released August 1, 1993 and Intelligent Qube was January 31, 1997. Both almost 20 years ago!

Related Links:
The Orange Box (XBox)
Portal 2 (XBox)
The Orange Box (PS3)
Portal 2 (PS3)
The Orange Box (PC)
Portal 2 (Mac/PC)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo)
Intelligent Qube (Playstation)

Gotten Licensed to Help Lovebirds Take the Leap (60/366)


“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.”
~
Alexander Smith


When Nick and I got married, we thought about having our best man, our friend Will, also be our officiant, but ended up deciding against it because we knew being the best man was already a tall order, and didn’t want to have to add the stress of the ceremony to his to-do list. A good friend and pastor at our church was able to officiate our wedding, and that was important to us. Will is not a pastor, but he’s been ordained to officiate weddings, and has performed several. Our cousin Mark has also been ordained to officiate weddings, and has performed several as well, including those of some of our other family members. So cool.

While it’s kind of a joke on TV, like the Friends episode where Joey is the officiant for Monica and Chandler’s wedding while wearing an army uniform, or Barney on How I Met Your Mother (the hugest womanizer on the planet in the show) performing Lily and Marshall’s ceremony, in real life it is a fantastically beautiful thing to have the person who officiates your wedding ceremony to be someone you know, love, and respect. While for many people that person is their pastor or a reverend at their church, for many others who aren’t affiliated with an organized spiritual group, the idea of hiring an officiant (who neither person knows) is a formality that can feel strange. Why should someone who you have no history with be the one who facilitates the ceremony in which you and your partner in life celebrate your love and union?

So today being Leap Day, I thought what better way to celebrate this special extra day than to get my officiant’s license, to be able to help people in love take the leap into life together?

I went online and looked at the various choices there were for officiant certification. Universal Life Church was one of the sponsored results, and I when I visited their page, I could see why – they had tons of merchandise for sale. I mean, a LOT. It was actually kinda creepy – they had robes, stoles, ceremonial communion cups, and even “Sanctified Mountain Spring Holy Water”. You could buy a “Dr. of Divinity” Certificate, or a “Dr. of Metaphysics” Certificate, or for just $13.99, you could even make up your OWN clerical title. Everything you need to start your own cult. Some of the more amusing items for sale were the “Minister’s Car Kit” complete with license plate frames, a bumper sticker, window clings, and a “Ministerial” parking hanger and placard, but the crowning glory was this, a “Jedi Knight Certificate”:


As I was writhing this post, I found that talk show host
Conan O’Brien was even ordained through ULC:
http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TBS/cvp/teamcoco_drupal_embed.swf?context=teamcoco_embed_offsite&videoId=19313

While of course, I was tempted by the calling to be certified as an ordained Jedi Knight (for only $10.99), American Marriage Ministries seemed like the best choice – they weren’t all about selling crazy stuff, they had a lot of good information on performing ceremonies, and even had tailored instructions on what you need to provide to the local government offices depending on what state you’re in.


In some states, you need a Certificate of Ordination to show the local government offices when your name appears on the marriage license as the officiant. If you need this, you can buy one from AMM, but I appreciated that they make it clear that you don’t need to buy anything from them unless your local offices need this documentation from you. Some states also require a Letter of Good Standing from the organization that ordained you, so they have those available as well.

I liked that if you needed them, you could purchase these items individually according to what your situation is, and that the AMM site didn’t seem to be about merchandising as much as it was providing information about performing weddings. They do also have special packages that include all the documentation you might need, plus marriage certificates for the couple to keep; until Nick and I got married, I never realized that unless you have your own special marriage certificate to fill out along with the legal form on the wedding day, you have nothing “official” to take home with you (the marriage license gets sent in to be processed). Unless you request (and pay for) a copy of your legal marriage certificate, the only one that exists is the one on file at your County Recorder’s Office (how romantic).


After filling out their short information form and clicking the “Ordain Me!” button, I became ordained to officiate weddings. I am now on the registry as such on the American Marriage Ministries website. Crazy! But really cool.


Happy Leap Day! May the Force be with you.

Related Links:
TheAMM.org

Posted a Public Video of Myself on the Internet (57/366)


“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”
~ Bruce Lee


Alright alright, let’s not get excited. If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ve probably seen a video or two of me already. They’re nothing special. But the main differences between those and what I’m writing about today are: 1. Those videos are edited, just parts of the longer footage. I can cut out whatever I want and put it together how I’d like to. 2. The fact that this blog has a small readership. We only have 133 “likes” on Facebook, and for the most part, we know all of the readers personally (thanks for your support! Tell your friends!).

Today was the deadline for people participating in the CrossFit Open who weren’t getting their performances validated by an affiliate to post their scores for WOD 12.1 … and post their VIDEO SUBMISSION documenting their performance. This means I had to take video of me doing the WOD, uncut and unedited, and post it for the world to see. Over 55,000 athletes are registered for the CrossFit Open, and they’re not the only ones with access to the site. Millions of people all over the world now have access to a video of me schlogging through 7 minutes of burpees.



When I
registered for the CrossFit Open, I didn’t realize we’d have to validate our scores with video. I mean, sure they’ve had the video submissions since last year, but I always thought there was some sort of category where you may not be getting scores validated at an affiliate, but instead of having to post a video, that maybe you could submit your score basically just as “unvalidated” so you could see how you’ve done against all the other athletes competing. You know, just for fun. Although I thought it would be embarrassing to put my scores out there for the world to see, I hadn’t bargained for having to present 5 different, lovely videos of me struggling through these Open WODs. But video of 12.1 is now up for everyone’s viewing amusement. And I just need to get over it, because there are four more.

If you get a chance, visit my athlete page, and click on the TV icon next to my score total under the Leaderboard near the bottom of the page:


to see a page like this with the video, and give my video a “thumbs up!” Thanks!


Related Links:
CrossFit.com
Games.CrossFit.com

Registered for the CrossFit Open (54/366)


“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.”
~
Colin Powell


As I wrote about yesterday, the CrossFit Open has begun, and the first WOD is being performed all over the world today. The CrossFit Games site keeps a leader board with scores from all the athletes participating, and the Open WODs are posted each week on the Games site and on CrossFit.com. Usually, Nick and I perform the Open WODs, but we’d never actually signed up for the Open. We always just kind of try to compare our scores with whatever’s been posted. We always figured we’d only really want to register if we thought we ever had a shot at going to at least a Regional competition, much less the Games. The only problem with not registering is trying to figure out how your standing would change based on your varied scores throughout the Open, as a really crappy score on WOD 1 would be tempered by an awesome score in WOD 2 and so on. This year, I decided, “What the heck,” and thought I’d register for the Open.

The registration is pretty simple, you just input your information:


And enter your age, gender, and location, so they know what region to put you in for competition classification:


Pay the registration fee, and you’re all set! Now my embarrassing Open WOD scores will be posted for the world to see!


The neat thing about registering for the Open is that I’ll be more inclined to give each WOD my all, and maybe even repeat some if I’m not happy with my original score (each WOD is posted on Thursday, and scores must be in by that Sunday to be official). I’ve never done THAT, either. Yuck!

Related Links:
Games.CrossFit.com
CrossFit.com