Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Gibbing, All The Time

As the calendrical odometer turns over once again, a young lass's fancy naturally turns to zombie squashing. I first fell in love with Dead Rising, in January 2007, I think. We were in California for the Zombie Brother's birthday, and we spent about 7 hours watching the ZK play. The ZB kept gently suggesting that the ZK pay attention to the various missions, survivors, and so on. To each gentle reminder, the ZK serenely replied, "Dammit, Jim, I'm a PhotoJOURNALIST!" as he snapped yet another comedy crotch shot.

This was all in good fun, but it wasn't until the ZK picked up a framed oil painting, smashed it over the head of a zombie, and then proceeded to dance around, taunting the very frustrated zombie that could no longer reach him, thanks to the frame he was now sporting as a belt. Add a traffic cone on said zombie's head, and there is no higher art form so far as I'm concerned.

For his birthday (this would be March 2007), the ZK received a copy of DR from one of our more "thoughtful" friends. I believe the ZK's eloquent thanks went something along the lines of, "You bastard, you realize you've essentially just handed me a bill for $300!" (We, of course, did not have a 360 at this time.)

The $300 bill was paid sometime around my birthday in June. For whatever reason, though, I didn't get into the game until around Christmas, at which point I well and truly got into it. As any good game should, it made me angry much of the time. Choice phrases like, "Goddamn you, you dirty mother fucking clown, hold still and give me your sweet, sweet, chainsaws!" became commonplace in my home.

When I actually finished out the game and strove for the true ending, we just scrapped the rage meter altogether. We still maintain that the final two boss fights to get the "true" ending are the most punk-ass, po, po boss fights EVAH. They're linked, and they both involve doing things completely unlike the rest of the gameplay. The first involves manning a tailgun with an endless supply of ammo as your driver takes you in circles until you can blow up a tank. The ZK's sage advice for this fight comprised, "KEEP SHOOTING. FINGER ON THE DAMN BUTTON. YOU SHOULD NEVER NOT BE SHOOTING!" The second involves barehanded fighting on top of the tank you have just putatively blown up, and oh yeah, the tank is surrounded by the zombies that were completely absent in the previous fight. Beating or not beating the final boss is more attributable to chance than anything else. Not even top quality button mashing can save you, and you would be SURPRISED at how often button mashing has saved my ass. Lose to the boss, and you're back doing the fucking tank fight all over again, too.

BUT NO MATTER! It has been a year or so since I beat the game and got the true ending. Once you've done that, however, there are a number of highly classy achievements to gain, including Frank the Pimp (escort 8 female survivors simultaneously, bearing in mind that web of calls that you must and must not answer, the survivors you must and must not speak to, is slightly more complex than the US tax code for the self-employed), Clothes Horse (dress Frank in all available clothing in the mall, including some swell sundresses and disturbing little boy shorts), and Saint (save at least 50 survivors [there are only 54 total, you MUST sacrifice at least one to get one other, so really only 53, and every last one is a WHINY, STUPID IDIOT WHO CANNOT FEND OF A ZOMBIE WITH A SHOTGUN FIRED POINT BLANK]).

Before I picked the game back up around Christmas, I'd gotten most of the achievements, save Saint (just finished that one), Zombie genocider (kill a number of zombies equivalent to the population of Willamette, the suburb in which this particular Zombie Apocalypse is set), and Transmissionary (answer all calls from Otis, the incredibly odious security guard, who is constantly telling you not to cut him off like that, it's rude. WELL EXCUSE THE FUCK OUT OF ME, OTIS, MY FINGER SLIPPED OFF THE BUTTON WHEN ONE OF THE INEXPLICABLE ZOMBIE HOOKERS STARTED FEASTING ON MY JUNK!). Did Saint, FINALLY, and was working long and hard on the other two, hoping against hope that I could accomplish them simultaneously, because Transmissionary actually requires very little in the way of saving people or doing missions, so long as you answer the calls.

On my first try at Transmissionary, I gave up with about 24 hours to go because that fat bastard Ronald hadn't sparked a call about his food anxiety. I figured I'd just missed it somehow, and I devoted myself to squishing zombies for the rest of the game. With about an hour and 15 minutes of game time to spare, I saw the blessed "Zombie Genocider Achievement Unlocked." I drove carefully out of the maintenance tunnels, ran to the door of Paradise Plaza (which contains the door to the warehouse, security room, and helipad) . . . and got the classic "This Disk is Unreadable" error for which the 360 is famous. Mother. Fucker.

However, I checked my profile, saw that I was credited with the achievement (and indeed, every other achievement has been saved as it was unlocked) and figured I could just finish out the game from my last save, which had been about 5 thousand zombies or so shy of the Genocider level. Please note that doing genocider is really pretty boring. It involves driving back and forth through the maintenance tunnel, blowing up propane tanks and squishing zombies until the car you're in breaks down, getting into the next car, repeating, then stepping into a redrawn scene so that the cars will respawn.

On a practical note, I would like to know why we are not making planes out of whatever the fuck the shopping carts at the Willamette Mall are made of. Those bad boys can withstand a freaking propane tank exploding on them, and they can upend a goddamn refrigerated meat truck. A shopping cart like that can plan my castle onslaught anytime.

To continue . . . To kill 53,000+ zombies, you're talking about 4 hours of real time or so. Given that I'd already unlocked the achievement, I didn't see any reason to hit the total again, and I just ran around creatively squishing until I got an ending. Started a new game with a song in my heart, headed into the security room to pick up my real megablaster (the reward for the genocider achievement) and . . . nothing. Poking around online, I found that you have to finish the game with the requisite number of smooshed zombies in your pocket to get the megablaster. Yeah, shoulda checked on that before my ending overwrote my saved game. FUCK.

Moving on to the Transmissionary, I had several false starts there, as well. The walk-throughs helpfully tell you which survivors you MUST save, because they spawn later calls, and they all advise you to kill the other survivors quickly so that you don't end up with a full docket of missions, resulting in Otis not calling you for something. I'd already had the mysterious case of Ronald not being hungry once. When it happened again, I dug a little deeper and found that the two mutinous survivors and the wino won't mutiny (or ask for wine) without company, meaning you not only have to save a few other folks, you have to save a few other VERY SPECIFIC folks, thus ensuring that the mutineers have company in their rooms (the survivors assort themselves into 4 different rooms based on predetermined coding, and you can't herd them into other rooms).

SO, I aborted another attempt at that and decided to try once again for my megablaster. Sadly, I got knocked out by the raincoat loonies and was mistaken in my belief that I still had enough to time to knock out the needed number of zombies. I had a save at 48K, and try as I might, I could not get to the Genocider mark before running out of time.

Finally, I accepted that the Transmissionary and Genocider achievements were incompatible. I knocked off Transmissionary first, then devoted an entire 72-hr game to getting my goddamned megablaster. And, finally, after many "disk unreadable" tragedies and a lot of profanity under the bridge, IT IS MINE.

I've strictly been playing Infinity mode: Every nonzombie is a enemy, and in a award-winningly weird metaphysical turn that could only be brought to you by the Japanese, when you kill them, they turn into levitating cardboard boxes, which then explode, spewing forth weapons and food. The first enemy Frank encounters in Infinity mode is Otis, and it is difficult to convey the sense of satisfaction I gained from aiming my BFG at his whiny pinhead and reducing him to a steak, a push-broom, a mailbox, and a frying pan.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DysFUNction and Games

A post about my very first double-knitting project has been sizzling through my brain for months. However, the sizzle could not find its market until now, because this gift was for a baby who was only just born last week, and for maximum home-wrecking potential, I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

A friend of mine first piqued my interest about double knitting by sharing pictures of her first attempt. It was inspired by Games magazine and involved switching up the yarns for the cool photo-negative design effect that double knitting can have. Just looking at her creation, my dumb cracker mind was both befuddled and intrigued.

Having done Skully for my very first sweater (my very first non-rectilinear garment, in fact), I knew that a design was a Bad Idea, but that didn't mean I couldn't do a simpler double-knitting project. When I saw the Hoover Blanket pattern on Knitty, I realized that I could produce a double-knit item AND contemplate how to ruin my nation at the same time. Then I remembered that my nation had been pre-ruined for my convenience, so I could turn all my attention to knitting.

The Hoover pattern on Knitty has instructions for a double-knit one-color blanket or a double-knit 2-color blanket. My first issue was that I wanted a three-color blanket for nefarious purposes: You see, the new parents are a mixed marriage. Although they were both primarily raised in scenic State College, PA, one of them has an affinity for Herbie Cornhusker. (Personally, I decline to comment on whether this affinity is regrettable or not.) In fact, when the Zombie King and I were attending their wedding shower in SC, he spied the animatronic Herbie Husker in the hearth room, and before I could throw my body in front of him with a mighty "Nooooooooooo!" he had already pushed the button, very nearly queering the whole marriage deal for our friends.

No permanent damage appears to have been done at the wedding shower, but if anyone can fix that, it's an anthropologist hell bent on syncretism in college sports preferences. That would be me. I wanted a blanket that would be Penn State Blue on one side and Nebraska Red on the other. And, obviously, in the interests of peace, love, and understanding, the border needed to be white (cream, actually) in honor of the teams' shared color.

So the Hoover Blanket pattern was a good starting place, but I needed more help than that. I actually did the world's most clashing proof-of-concept swatch with some lemondrop Lamb's Pride Bulky, Bears Orange Mirasol Miski, and Noro Kureyon Kochoran in the lime-blue-grey colorway. PRETTY! The swatch demonstrated that double knitting was doable, if aggravating, and I decided to press on.

Time out for a postmodern aside: Chicagowench CLAIMS that somewhere in this time period, she warned me that I was essentially knitting TWO baby blankets. I remember no such warning. No such warning at all. Perhaps I could not hear her over my own Lost-in-Space flailing and shouting of DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! in her direction, because she was plotting something made entirely of crazy for her contribution to this child's early life. End of postmodern aside.

The most baffling thing to me about this whole double-knitting exercise at the gamma-irradiated swatch stage were these two parts of the pattern instructions:

"When working with two colors, double-knit, you must always move both yarns together. That is, both yarns should either be in front or in back of the work, never one in front and one in back."

Check. Understood. But then:
"*K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise* across row to border.
Turn and work back the same *K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise*."

Now, see above re: dumb cracker mind, but doesn't that mean that one lonely strand is moved aaaaaallll the way across the piece without being worked into it (because you're just slipping every other stitch, rather than doing anything with them). I pondered this for a while and was about to embark on something truly stupid until some uncharacteristically helpful spirit suggested I have a looksee at knittinghelp.com's video on double knitting, wherein I discovered that this slipping business is strictly for CHUMPS and SUCKERS, because you can just PURL those babies and not have any issues with sad, limp, and neglected strands of yarns. Rockstar.

From there, it was comparatively smooth sailing. Of course, it's just stockinette and garter stitch, which can be boring, but the contrasting colors and remembering to move the yarn back and forth correctly saved me from total boredom. I was also relieved to find that I could pretty easily fix any you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter errors when I moved the yarns improperly (usually just a matter of dropping and ducking stitches under the offending strand), although I did end up doing something monumentally stupid and more difficult to fix when I was trying to knit in the dark while volunteering at a Magnetic Fields concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music. (I do this all the time without fucking up much more difficult projects, so I'm going to blame the fact that I was ALSO trying to have a simultaneous conversation with another knitter about Firefly, Buffy, and the fact that Women & Children First has a monthly Buffy discussion, which I Did Not Know.)

The other difficulty I encountered with the project is that I am not nearly anal enough to responsibly handle a project that has 4 skeins of yarns going simultaneously (1 each for the body colors, plus 1 for each side of the border). When you add to my innate slovenliness to the fact that I knit the majority of this in the hospital during the ZK's month-long, life-threatening-illness-palooza, that is a metric assload of seriously tangled yarn under the bridge. My half-assed ways also led me to untangle just enough to make it through the row a lot of the time. This, in turn, led to some ugly-ass interfaces between the colored center and the borders. No problem, thought I! Wouldn't it be a nice little detail to have ACRES AND ACRES AND ACRES of applied I-Cord to mask that interface? ZOMG. It has been a while since knitting has brought me that close to seppuku. (But it does look really nice, if I do say so myself.) The other problem with the multi-skein nature is, of course, befuzzing. Before shipping off this baby, I shaved and lint-brushed it within an inch of its life, and STILL it has fuzzies, even if they are nanofuzzies that I can see.

Somewhere along the way, I did realize that red, cream, and blue ends up looking like the perfect blankie in which to swaddle your fresh batch of America baby, but by then I was so in love with the comedy gold of this blanket concept that I was happy to explain the premise with more zeal and commitment to the bit than wench's little man brought to his dragon-knight costume.

Just yesterday, I got my first picture of the bebe greatly enhancing the blanket's beauty. This was accompanied by a sly note from one parent noting that she clearly prefers the red side. Let the games begin!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Scandal! Child Labor Thrives in Knit-N-Gib-er's Home!

"Murfle," Chicagowench patiently addresses her son, who, despite an hour or so of morning quiet time devoted to WoW, is once again clamoring to play his "14 Guy." Moreover, he wants Chicagowench's "Guy," and his to team up, "After I finish doing something with my guy, I'll watch while you play yours."

"But I want to help. I want your guy and my 14 guy to . . ." he explains in something not quite slow, loud English, but dangerously close to it.

"No," Chicagowench continues patiently, "I have to finish . . . "

"But you can help!" Mr. Wench breaks in brightly and Chicagowench fixes him with a well-deserved glare. The Lad adds, sotto voce, "No, he really can help. At his level, he's a great meat shield."

"Right!" Chicagowench's eyes shine with avarice and bloodlust, "Murfle, your guy and my guy can do this together."

"Meat? Shield?" Matilda has the luxury of the high ground occupied by the geratric and others wholly forgotten by Western society who have never played an MMORPG, "This, my friends, will be noted in the godparent notebook."

Friday, November 30, 2007

"I think no matter what, playing Weezer in a jailhouse is a guaranteed way to get yourself a$$f@cked."

-From night one of Guitar Hero III

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

No matter who wins in the playoffs, you and me, we're swappin wives

OK, this post actually has nothing to do with wife swapping, and I've likely just earned us no shortage of trolls. Truly, it's a quote from a very old Daily Show.

So I'm in this swap, coffeeswap three, which combines two great tastes which so long as one is not dunked in the other taste great together: coffee and yarn. My answers are here, and yes, I am fully aware that this is a co-op blog with 3 other people, 2 of whom have witnessed me pre coffee which is truly a horror no man nor woman should ever have to endure. I fully anticipate their snark in the comments.

1. Whole bean or ground? Whole.

2. Fully-loaded or decaf? Leaded. High octane. Fully loaded. Sweet god, I shopped Ob/gyns until I found one willing to let me have a cup of coffee in the morning.

3. Regular or flavored? Regular

4. How do you drink your coffee? From an IV. No no no. Skim milk and sugar (sugar in the raw if I have it) from a giant 22 ounce mug.

5. Favorite coffee ever? Fair trade organic costa rican SHB.

6. Are you fussy about your coffee or will any old bean do? I'm a little fussy. We do go to defcon 1 if the fair trade bag is empty, and will press cheap beans into service. We have been known to ask Chicagoan friends to drug mule Stewarts ground down for us (beats the pants off of regular ground coffee). Chickory in my coffee is a crime against god and nature.

7. Favorite treats to have with your coffee? Biscotti. Heavy on the chocolate and almonds.

8. Anything else about your coffee preferences? Please not a very very very dark roast.

9. Yarn/fiber you love? Alpaca. Wool-silk. Cashmere (hah! yarn snob!). I adore posh yarns, am growing increasingly besotted with sea silk and soy blends, and can't stop petting the handpainted sock yarn at the lys.

10. Yarn/fiber you hate? Acrylic. Novelty yarns. Angora in quantity makes me sneeze

11. What's on your needles? A clapotis in regal silk (Artyarns), a diagonal lace wrap in silk rhapsody (artyarns), thuja socks in posh sophia sock weight, and a men's sweater in nashua creative chunk wool/alpaca is about to be started.

12. Favorite colors? Black, greys, browns, blues, purples. Think like a bruise or a smudge.

13. Allergies? Cats, olives, peppers, eggplant. Not that I think any of these things would be involved.

14. Anything you really love, really don't like, or just need to get off your chest? To whomever my pal is, thank you so much. (Angeltiger, Matilda, you pipe down. I'm being restrained here, on the 'need to get off of your chest' count. Be proud!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

I learned it from you, mom!

The scene: the mailbox.
The actors: one 4 year old boy, one yarn whore mother.

(mother pulls pink package out of mailbox)
"Mom, mom is that FOR ME?"
"No sweetie it's mine."
"Can I see what's in it?"
"Sure." Mom takes package in house, rips open- revealing two skeins of Emily from Posh Yarns. A small hand shoots out, fingers the yarn.
"Oh! Sock yarn! Are you going to make socks for me with that?"
"...how do you know it's sock yarn?"
(child graces mother with a look of 'lordabove, you are dumber than a sack of hair.')
"Mom. It is sock yarn weight. It's the right gauge. Trust me."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Going over to the dark side

So about this time last year, I promised myself I would learn to crochet before my 40th birthday. I'm not sure why that seemed important to me, but it did, and just like pretty much every other resolution I've ever made, I let it slip almost immediately after making it. Other than purchasing a few crochet hooks in likely sizes and a copy of the Stitch 'n Bitch crochet book, I did nothing at all to forward this particular goal. I'm really good at shopping for resolutions, but not so good on the follow-through. Hey, I had the book, I had the tools, I had the time. Just not right now.

But there it was, Wednesday night, with about four hours of my thirties left. I was bored and not in the mood to work on any of my current knitting projects when I remembered the stupid resolution. My past attempts at learning how to crochet had all failed, but I thought, eh, what the hell. I poured a glass of wine and got out some smooth, reasonably tightly-spun DK weight, a 4 mm hook, and the book. And I did it. I carefully read the instructions, managed to hold everything right, remembered to keep the yarn in my left hand, and finally had the conceptual breakthrough I'd been missing in every previous attempt.

I made a long and ugly swatch of single, half-double, double, and then triple crochet. As I felt confident I'd conquered each stitch, I threw in a row of slip stitch and moved on to the next. Wonky as fuck, my gauge wildly off, and oh, so very ugly, nonetheless, I had something that was recognizably crochet when I put down my hook with 45 minutes to go until my deadline. And I've been plugging away at it ever since. As it turns out, crochet is a lot of fun. I like working with the hook, I like twirling it around and pulling it through, and I love the feeling of slowly and surely mastering a new skill.

The only problem is that crochet? Has almost no practical application to my life. Practically every crochet pattern I have ever seen has seemed to be tragically ugly. I cannot imagine a sweater made out of this stuff. I can all-too-easily imagine toilet paper covers and granny squares in hideous colour combinations. Doilies. When I was learning to crochet in a circle, I was all pleased with myself and my progress until I put it down, looked at it, and realised I had just basically made a doily. A doily in claret DK Cashsoft, so it was like, a nice doily, but a doily all the same. Me. Crocheting doilies. I should probably seek help.

Rightly or wrongly, crochet feels hopelessly naff to me, and yet, I cannot stop doing it. Those twirls and loops are just so goddamn much fun to make. It's addictive. I have ordered copies of every issue of Interweave Crochet I can find in the UK, in the hopes that there will be something in at least one of them that I actually want to crochet, and am willing to be seen wearing. That's how much fun this is. Crochet isn't a problem, I tell myself. I just need the right pattern, and then everything will be OK. The right pattern will save me. I have to believe that.

If I fail in my search, should you happen to come across me, wandering the aisles of Hobbycraft, clutching petrochemical yarn in my hands, please do me a favour and KILL ME.