Lifetime Subscription Realms

At launch, I was a big fan of Free Realms.  It was a nice looking, well crafted game, and it was free.  I played it a few hours a week right up until they moved the velvet rope.  Originally, some professions were fully open up to level 20 and other professions were closed unless you paid.  I really liked this because it allowed you to see the game from the bottom to the top, at least in part.  The new model allows you to get up to level 5 in every profession, with further advancement behind the pay wall.  Because of the switch, I quit shortly thereafter, because frankly, even though I was enjoying it, it wasn’t worth $5 a month to play.

Right now and until August 2nd, SOE is running a special, $30 lifetime subscription for Free Realms.  Due to a few freebies and other gifts I’ve gotten over the last year, I had accumulated 2800 Station Cash points, and the store said I could buy the lifetime subscription for 2999 points.  I cracked open the wallet, bought $5 worth of points and bought my lifetime membership.

Sadly, this means that Free Realms technically doesn’t belong in the Freeloading category anymore, so this will be my last post on this game under this heading.

I think the game is totally worth $30.  Especially if you have kids.  Sure, there are still many items in the cash shop, and so your spending days may not be over, but the game will have no fixed costs, which is nice.  And you can always dole out Station Cash as allowance and/or rewards.  Personally, I like the game for the same reason I still like Puzzle Pirates – I like short arcade-style mini-games, but I love that doing them contributes to an overall game and world.  Sure, I could play Bejeweled or other matching games over at Popcap or on Facebook, but they don’t earn me anything.  In Free Realms, when I do well at mining I get ore which I can smith into weapons that I can use in my fighting professions and so on.  Plus, I like running around in huge worlds and seeing stuff.

Now, the only issue I have with Free Realms is their silly 1024 x 768 minimum resolution limitation that prevents me from being able to play on my 1024 x 600 netbook.  Puzzle Pirates is still the winner on that device…

Movie Round-Up: September 11th, 2009

I skipped last week because A) I was at Dragon*Con, and B) I hadn’t seen any of the movies.  The funny part is, all three movies (All About Steve, Extract, and Gamer) are ones I wanted to see.  I’ll catch them on DVD for sure.  Anyway, on to this week…

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself:

I’m a big fan of Taraji P. Henson, but even she can’t get me excited about a Tyler Perry movie.  Nope.

Sorority Row:

A remake of sorts of The House on Sorority Row.  Now I love me some scary movies, but I do prefer them at home, where its quiet and I can have the lights off and cuddle under a blanket with the wife and help her hide from the really scary stuff.  I got a pass to see this one at a screening, but I had a work emergency and was unable to attend.  So I guess I’ll be waiting for the DVD.


Bring a jacket.  No, seriously.  For one, temperatures outside are dropping a tad, but it’ll be weeks before theaters adjust their air conditioning properly, and also this movie does a really fantastic job of showing you the coldest place on Earth.  If you are even mildly suggestible, the movie is bound to make you shiver.  The story here is about a US Marshal, played by Kate Beckinsale, who handles the law in the region and is just days away from leaving when someone finds a body.  Essentially, this movie is an action/mystery film following the Marshal as she tries to find out who did it and why, all under a deadline and the threat of an oncoming storm.  Overall, it was a good solid movie that I really enjoyed watching.


If I were to rate this movie on its visuals alone, I’d gladly give it an “A”.  However, once you include the bland, unsurprising and ultimately disappointing story, this movie can’t be given more than a “C” … or to go on a numeric scale, 9 is a 5 at best.  Most of this has to do with how it ends, which is fairly lame and mildly confounding.  It doesn’t make sense.  Two things people should know before going to see this film: 1) It is not for kids, really, it is not. Don’t take them, they probably won’t enjoy it.  2) Lots of advertising is tagging this movie as a Tim Burton film, and technically it is, however, he did not direct it and he didn’t write it, he only produced, and the result is that 9 is missing Burton’s touch.  If I hadn’t seen this for free, I’d be demanding my money back.

Movie Round-Up: August 7th, 2009

A Perfect Getaway:

I like horror movies, and this one looks to be a pretty suspenseful tale about people hiking through the jungle with some other people who might be killers.  I’m sure there will be a twist.  As always, I’m not sure I’d spend my hard earned $10 on it, but it might merit a matinee, and at the very least a priority spot on my rental list.

Julie & Julia:

Would it be gay to admit that I kinda want to see this?  Could I make up for it by saying that its mostly because I really like Amy Adams?  In any event, this looks to be a fairly decent girly flick about someone getting their groove back or something like that.  I imagine theaters across the country will be packed with groups of women out to get their girl power on.

G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra:

Meanwhile, next door to Julie & Julia is where you will find all the guys this weekend.  I mean, its G.I.Joe.  It doesn’t even have to be good to make a truck load of money.  Any guy who ever owned some of the action figures will no doubt be willing to part with $10 to see it on the big screen.  And what guy doesn’t want to see Scarlett, Cover Girl and The Baroness in the flesh?  I got a chance to see a screening of this one, and it didn’t disappoint from that perspective.  This film has so much fan service, with characters and vehicles and lines and back story elements, that they almost forgot to have a plot.  Its there, but its pretty blatant, with no real twists or turns, this movie telegraphs its punches all the way through.  Still, it is an enjoyable ride.  Better than Transformers, in my opinion.  I just wish they’d chosen to focus on a smaller set of characters and one strong story with one or two subplots instead of trying to cram in everything.  But hey, if you are a fan, go see it.

Excited about a phone

Over the years I have owned a number of phones and played with many more.  At the end of the day, Palm’s phones, particularly the Treo line, were the ones I liked the most.  With its mixture of PDA and phone capabilities along with other random things it can do, Palm’s phones were solid.  If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of the iPhone.  Much like I’m not a fan of the iPod or the iMac or iTunes or pretty much anything that comes out of Apple.  When it comes to MP3 players I have enjoyed my Zune very much and want to get a larger one to hold all my music.  And while I have seen a number of very nice applications pop up for the iPhone, none of them yet have made me even consider buying one.

On the other hand, Palm announced their new phone, the Pre, today.  Some of the innovations they’ve come up with on their new webOS make their company name apropos as I felt like putting my face in my palm, like the fact their apps are built using HTML, javascript and other basic web tools.  According to Palm’s blog, the people from Pandora made note that it only took them three days to write up a webOS version of their application as opposed to the months it took them on other platforms.  Flipping through the screenshots of applications looks beautiful, and easy to use, and then to cap it all off there is a slide out full QWERTY keyboard instead of just an on screen one.

And the best part yet, its a Sprint exclusive phone which means that if I decide to get one at some point down the road I don’t have to change providers to do it.

About the only thing that could get me more excited would be for Palm to announce that in addition to phones they’ll also be putting their new webOS on netbook-like devices (and not cancel it this time), because really, the greatest flaw of the netbook is that it is a small laptop, when it would be much better to approach them as a large PDA.

Dragon*Con 2008: Day Zero

Before one can go to the Con, one must pick up one’s badge.  This is one of those cases where getting there as early as possible is a fantastic idea.  We didn’t get there so early.  Well, we did, sort of, but we checked into our room and unpacked first.  We shouldn’t have unpacked.  It took an hour and a half to get our badges.  But I hear the wait got up to be over two hours.  Saturday morning will be worse.

But, we got checked in, got our badges, and all is right with the world.

In previous years, Thursday night had always been more about getting a head start on Friday.  You got your registration, your room, and you prepared for the weekend.  Some people and groups would meet up for drinks and that sort of thing, but not a whole heck of a lot.  In recent years that has been changing, and this year Thursday night was Fan Party Night.  As I walked around the host hotels, I saw many large gatherings, but nothing beat the fan group from Battlestar Galactica who met up on the 10th floor of the Marriott.  They we big and loud and pounding shots.  Sadly, having to work in the morning I left early.  I hear there were push up contests and other revelry until quite late.

Next year…

Odd Thomas

So, I’m not really a fan of Dean Koontz. I read a couple of his books years ago and something about his writing style just didn’t click with me. Sadly, that has not changed with Odd Thomas.

I picked up the book because it was in the bargain bin. Books-A-Million had some UK versions of a couple of his books reduced for quick sale, so I picked them up to give him another try.

Lets begin with the titular character, Odd Thomas. No, Odd is not an adjective, it really is his first name. Fitting since Odd has the ability to see dead people, occasionally have prophetic dreams, and to see dark shapes he calls bodachs which don’t appear to have any affect on the world but do seem to gather and thrive off violent deaths. And predictably enough, he sees dead people, has a prophetic dream, and notices and unusually large gathering of bodachs in his small town of Pico Mundo.

Was is a bad book? Not really. The story was engaging enough, and the characters were well defined enough, and the appearance of Elvis Presley in places in the book made me smile. But… I don’t know… something about the manner of the telling of the tale just left me… dry. With a really good book, it makes my eyes hurt. I am mildly in need of reading glasses. Regular book print held at reading distance for lengths of time will cause my eyes to hurt, even give me a headache after a while. I can counteract this by looking away from the book and focusing on something distance for fifteen or twenty seconds every five minutes or so. If a book is really good, I’ll forget to do that, and after an hour of solid reading, when I look up, my vision will be blurry and my eyes will water and hurt. Odd Thomas didn’t do that for me, not even close.

I was certain the book was going to end one of two ways, and Dean Koontz didn’t surprise me, although at least it was the better ending of the two I imagined. There is a sequel to this called Forever Odd, and I might pick it up, but I’m in no rush. It was good for a read, but nothing I’d overwhelmingly recommend.

Stuff on the Net

I keep watching this and it just gets better every time I see it. Good fan films are awesome.

Lum the Mad clued me in on the next big thing in Chinese online games. The funny thing is, while this is the first game that comes right out and says that the goal is to be just like everybody else, that idea is not new… every MMORPG seems to follow that mantra.

You know, when you go to the movies, the policy is that they don’t sell tickets to R rated movies to kids under 17, however it is not the law. But some government stooges would like to make selling “mature” themed video games to minors illegal. Support better parenting and stop the government from doing it for them.

So those are the things that stuck with me this week…

Dying of the Light, and Fevre Dream

I’ve been a fan of George R.R. Martin for a long time, ever since I picked up the first of the Wild Cards books that he edited and managed. A couple years ago I picked up A Game of Thrones, the first of his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, and was simply amazed.

Thanks in part to his success with the Ice and Fire books, they have reprinted some of his earlier novels. I’ve just read two of them, ‘Dying of the Light’ and ‘Fevre Dream’, and both of them are very good.

Dying of the Light takes place on a rogue planet, Worlorn. When this frozen planet was found to have a path near a grouping of stars that would thaw it out, the planets of the fringe decided to have a festival. They set up 14 cities, and for ten years, five approaching the stars and five moving away, they held this festival. Now, seven years past the festival, the planet is closing on being too far from the stars. The light is fading, and the world is growing cold. This is where Dirk comes to find Gwen, an old flame, who has sent him a message for help. Abandoned by most of the worlds after the festival, Worlorn is now the residence of a few hundred people who didn’t wish to leave, and Gwen and her team studying the interactions of the plants and animals brought to Worlorn that should have never met. Gwen has a new man in her life, two of them in fact, and they belong to a culture that is steeped in tradition. And its the traditions of those people, the Kavalars, that pushed them all down a dark path.

I have to say that I was wary of the book at first. I love sci-fi films, but sci-fi books have often left me cold. Some times this book was a bear to read, trying to keep in mind all the alien terms used throughout and trying to understand them all by their context. In the end though, I did enjoy it very much. It was a good read.

Fevre Dream was altogether different. If someone had slapped the book in my hands and said I would enjoy this book about Steamboats on the Mississippi, I’d have called them a liar. But George has put together quite an excellent novel. The story is of a river boat captain, Abner Marsh, who’s had a string of bad luck, resulting in all but one of his boats being destroyed. He’s approached by a strange man who offers to pay to build the best boat on the river, all Abner has to do is take him on as a partner and never question his bizarre habits. So begins the friendship of Abner and Joshua York, a man who sleeps by day, lives by night, and has a fondness for a wine of his own private stock… a vampire.

Martin’s take on vampires in this book is very interesting, and his characterization of Marsh and the rest of his crew is fantastic. And without ruining it, this book is home to one the most fascinating and yet slowest chase scenes I’ve ever read. I devoured this book much more quickly that I expected, and in the end I wanted to hear more, even though there was no more to tell. I highly recommend it to just about anyone.

Classical Metal

From the first time I heard them I was a Metallica fan.

When I heard Fade to Black, I found that music could have a message without being a folk song. Hard and heavy (with meaning), the song stirred me… and the world. Newspapers actually covered the song, and its effect on its listeners.

They continued to make music, and I continued to be a fan.

Then one day, I heard a song being played that had a familiar ring, but seemed odd… different… good.

I sought out this music and stumbled onto something I had once joked about ("Heavy Metal Elevator Music… the songs of Danzig… on pan flute!") but had never thought would be anything I would consider amazing.

Apocalyptica. Their first album was a collection of Metallica songs played on four cellos. Simply unbelievable.

Since they have done more covers, as well as some original music. All of it stunning for the simplicity and complexity of playing music with cellos while retaining depth.

If you haven’t, check them out. I highly recommend them.