Posted inNews

Pillow Talk

Pillow Fight NYC

A site called Newmindspace organized Pillow Fight NYC this past Saturday, February 24th. Hundreds of people met at Union Square in New York City for the express purpose of participating in a giant pillow fight.

Pillow Fight Springfield anyone? ;-)

Posted inNews

Hail to the Chief

Chief IlliniwekWell, it was inevitable. And now it’s official…

Chief Illiniwek will perform for the final time at the last men’s home basketball game of the season on February 21st against Michigan. (If anyone cares to donate tickets, lemme know. ;-))

I have mixed feelings about this issue… As a U of I alum, it was always a thrill to watch Chief perform at half-time, and then join thousands of other fans in singing the Illinois Alma Mater “Hail to the Orange”. On the other hand, the tide has been turning against Chief for the past few years, culminating in the recent demand from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Nation to return Chief Illiniwek’s regalia originally provided to the University 23 years ago.

Opponents of the Chief are celebrating this announcement as a victory over racism on campus. I don’t know if those people are just spinning the issue as much as possible for their own political gain, or if they’re actually naive enough (bordering on stupid) to believe that the absence of the Chief will make each and every racist asshole at U of I change the way he thinks.

Racism has been at the heart of this controversy for the past twenty years. However I believe the decision made by the U of I Board of Trustees had absolutely nothing to do with race or intolerance. The Trustees caved on this issue for one primary reason… Money.

The NCAA ban on schools using what they call “hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames” is preventing Illinois from hosting post-season tournament games. So far, this ban has only affected non-revenue sports like tennis and soccer. However, a disappointing basketball season will almost certainly result in Illinois being passed over for March Madness and instead accept an NIT bid instead. In the NIT, schools host their own home games, so the University would stand to lose a huge amount of money if those games were forced to be played elsewhere. It’s a simple issue of economics, not a leap forward in race relations. That’s unfortunate (pardon the pun), because the chance was there to do so much better.

Chief Illiniwek - Photo Credit Adam Nekola DailyIllini.comI don’t understand why compromise never seemed to be a viable option. If the portrayal of Chief’s dance was inaccurate, let’s change it and make it right. If the costume or headdress is not what Illinois-area tribes would’ve worn, let’s do our best to make it authentic. This could’ve been an opportunity to work together to resolve a volatile situation. Instead, it just shows that political correctness is a function of who controls the money.

And eventually, when all this controversy is a footnote in the history books, no one will have cause to remember the Illiniwek indians at all.

Now that’s shameful.

Posted inTechnology

Y2K’s Annoying Little Brother

Millenium Bug CartoonRemember the hoopla and hype surrounding the dreaded “Millennium Bug”? Well, we may be due for some inadvertent time-travel once again…

Two years ago, Congress decided to extend the period of daylight-saving time in an effort to reduce energy use. (More daylight -> Less power used for lights and heat.) However, some of the techno- gadgets that surround us at home and at work were originally programmed to auto-switch to DST on the old date, the first Sunday in April. So, you better double-check that VCR/PVR before recording that episode of Battlestar Galactica on the second Sunday in March (the new start of Daylight Saving).

Read more about this issue and some of the available fixes in this ZDNet article.

Posted inMusic / On The Web

BNL Video or YouTube’s Greatest Hits?

The new Barenaked Ladies video is out for the song “Sound of Your Voice”…

An entertaining video, but I already have so much BNL material in this blog, why include this also, you may ask?

The schtick of the video is that all of those people became “famous” as a result of videos published on YouTube. I consider myself to be a serious Internet geek, and I have to admit that I only recognized about half of the YouTubers featured in this video. So, I thought I might do a little research (i.e. a bunch of YouTube searches) and present for your browsing convenience the comprehensive list of the videos that made these people the pop culture icons that they’ve become. Enjoy! ;-)

Posted inGames

Lord of the Rings Online: One Game to Rule Them All

Lord of the Rings OnlineLord of the Rings Online totally frakking rocks!!!

Whew! I’ve been dying to say that for weeks now.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a beta stress test for LotRO about a month ago, which ate up more than 15 hours of my time that weekend. I have since been invited to participate in the remainder of the beta phase for the game, which is scheduled to be released April 24, 2007.

A Non-Disclosure Agreement prevented beta participants like me from discussing the game publicly… Until yesterday that is, when game developers Turbine announced that the NDA had been officially lifted. Yay!

So now I can tell you how much I’ve been enjoying this game. I’ve played a number of other massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and can already tell that LotRO is going to be one of my favorites. With two more months of beta to go, LotRO is generally as stable (possibly even moreso) than some other games available now. <cough>

Character creation doesn’t stray much from the standard MMO formula. You can select your gender, race, class, and name, as well as customizing your appearance. You get to play one of the good guys in the War of the Ring: human, hobbit, dwarf, or elf. Each choice you make is accompanied by all the appropriate Tolkienesque lore to get you into the spirit of the game.

The newbie instance demonstrates immediately how much time and love the developers have put into the game. The graphics are lush and fluid, the sound is immersive, and the user interface is clean and attractive.

As with any MMO, the game is all about leveling, which happens at a satisfyingly swift pace for the first ten levels or so. The grind does manage to remain interesting, partially because you are running around in the same world as Frodo, Gandalf, and the rest of the gang. You even get to participate in the epic storyline in the form of special quests that come along every four or five levels. In fact, I already ran a quest for Strider, who I found holed up in the Prancing Pony in Bree. How cool is that? (Tolkien geeks are probably the only ones who truly understand that last sentence. ;-))

Of course, the game isn’t 100% solid yet and there are certainly some minor performance and design issues that I’d love to see addressed. But with such a terrific start, I can’t wait to see what else the fine folks at Turbine have in store for us.

Finally, any discussion of MMOs has to at least mention the 7 million pound gorilla that is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. With that many subscribers and a major expansion published just a few short weeks ago, I don’t see how any other MMO is going to be able knock WoW off the top of the list. But if anything can, it might be Lord of the Rings. I know I’ll be doing my part to overthrow the evil empire. (Mordor, not Blizzard. ;-))

If you happen to be on the Meneldor server anytime soon, send me a /tell (“Deck” – level 16 Human Captain). See ya in Middle Earth!

Posted inToys

Let It Snow

Springfield experienced blizzard conditions for most of the day today. Here’s the snowdrift that is currently my driveway…

(The first shot is a little misleading… I was trying to get an artsy-fartsy low angle shot, but that just made the drift look like it’s nine feet tall, instead of nine inches or so. ;-))

However, I was able to travel around town today with little trouble because of a shrewd purchase I made months ago when it was sunny and 80-something degrees…

I love my 4-wheel drive Nissan Xterra! :-D

Posted inSports / WTF?

Fighting Illini – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

University of Illinois Fighting IlliniThe Good

After a very shaky start to the Big Ten season, the Illinois men’s basketball team has put together a decent 5-2 run in the past seven games, marginally improving their outlook to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. Of course, how well they play in the final five Big Ten games will determine their fate.

I will continue to do my part, though… I’m not the only one who has noticed that the Illini play better when I don’t or can’t actively watch the games. As soon as I turn on the game, they commit a turnover or do something else stupid. It’s all my fault. ;-)

The Bad

For the past 22 years, any true fan who has ever attended a University of Illinois basketball or football game has thrilled to hear public announcer Jim Sheppard rally the fans with spirited calls like “It’s a Threeeee!!!” or “First Down ILLINI!!!” in his signature booming voice.

However, on December 7, 2006, the University’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics informed Sheppard that they will “go in a different direction” after next year’s football season and Sheppard’s 22-year run will end.

WTF?!? I can’t believe the U of I would basically fire Sheppard without any better reason than “a different direction.” This Daily Illini article discusses the situation and I think echoes my opinion that Illinois is way off the ball here.

The Ugly

Coach Ron Zook and the Illinois football program should be celebrating a tremendously successful recruiting season, earning what experts are calling a top 15 recruiting class nationwide. Unfortunately, that very success is causing some losers, uh, I mean some coaches who lost recruiting battles, to bitch and moan privately, and not so privately. The New York Times published a literary masterpiece earlier this week titled “Illinois Has Rivals Fuming About Its Recruiting Coup”, which seems to have ignited this controversy with its less-than-balanced coverage of the story. For a more news-worthy study of the situation, I suggest reading this Chicago Sun-Times article instead.

Now don’t get me wrong… If there’s proof that Illinois did something illegal in recruiting these kids, punishment should be swift and appropriate, and then we’ll all move on to the next scandal. But I haven’t heard anything so far that even remotely resembles a shred of proof. If this turns out to just be sour grapes, it’ll give me even more reason to dislike a certain holier-than-thou midwestern university that has been named as the driving force behind these vague accusations. After all, having your very own national television deal isn’t enough of a competitive recruiting edge, is it? No Doubt about it. :|

Posted inNews

Got Milk?

According to this article on Ars Technica, recent measurements by an X-ray observatory from the European Space Agency has revealed that the universe contains nearly one and a half times more calcium than predicted.

To my old college roommates who might be read this and think to blame me, I proclaim my innocence… I don’t drink nearly as much milk as I used to way back when. :-P

Posted inTechnology

Amazon + TiVo = Thumbs Up!!!

Amazon Unbox on TiVo

and TiVo announced today a new service called Amazon Unbox on TiVo. While the name may be less than inspiring, the service itself sounds very cool…

“Amazon Unbox on TiVo” will allow TiVo subscribers to purchase or rent videos from leading movie studios and television networks at Amazon Unbox and download them directly to their TiVo’s “Now Playing List” to enjoy on their TV.

This is currently in beta to a limited number of TiVo subscribers. Go to the TiVo site to sign up to be notified when more news about the Amazon Unbox with TiVo service is available.