The local Olive Garden has added these devices to the tables. My first thought was to be annoyed at the fact that this thing takes up a significant chunk of the table. Then I messed with it a bit – it seems to be mostly a neat idea with one think that’s a bit out of place in a semi-classy joint like Olive Garden.

Let’s look at the positive aspect first – you can order drinks or ask for your drinks to be replenished. This helps to alleviate one of the biggest sources of annoyance when out to eat. You also pay on this device so if you’re completely done and don’t need boxes, you can just pay and leave. While a place with good service that isn’t swamped shouldn’t leave you wondering if you should skip the check because you’ve been waiting over 15 minutes for the check, it does occasionally happen. Again – happy customers.

Now, let’s look at the weird aspect of it – you can play games … for money. I don’t feel that belongs at an Olive Garden – that belongs at a sports bar. It also leaves me wondering what’s the point as everyone has cell phones full of free to play games. Who’s going to not bring their cell phone to a restaurant and then proceed to play games on this device?

So I like some aspects of it and wouldn’t mind seeing it at all but the most upscale restaurants (where you’re never without someone two seconds away from tending to your every need – Hello Baltimore’s Charleston restaurant), but I question the pay to play aspect of it.

The Papermoon Diner

When Dan and Katie were last in town, they invited Scarlett and I out to the Papermoon Diner. If you’ve seen John Waters movies and wondered if that Baltimore still exists, it certainly has one enclave at the Papermoon Diner. If you’ve been to a TGI Friday’s or a Chili’s you’ve seen restaurants with crap on the walls.

Tchotchkes from Office Space
Tchotchkes from Office Space

Well, the Papermoon Diner takes that and filters it through a Baltimore sensibility:

What about the food? It’s also all slightly different takes on what you’re used to and I wouldn’t quite call it diner food. I guess diner food crossed with Americana TGIF-type food, but I think it’s all locally sourced. It doesn’t matter because the staff is pretty friendly to substitutions. While I was there I heard the person behind me substitute so much in and out of what she ordered, that she essentially created her own dish.

I thought the food was OK – it was hard to know ahead of time if I’d like it because of the slightly esoteric nature of the ingredients. But the social aspect of the visit was a lot of fun and Scarlett was overwhelmed by all the stuff everywhere.

September 2015 Video Games Report

The Witcher ( 2 hours):

Yeah, so the first video I recorded in September is missing the video game footage. Whoops! Either way, I finished The Witcher this month. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, this is another game I tried thanks to the Giant Bomb guys – specifically Vinnie. I thought the game was overall a lot of fun. I feelĀ  like the throughline of the story could probably have been done a little better. Even before I spent a couple months away from the game, I was only tenuously connected to how my actions were leading to anything being done other than being against the Salamandra. Still, the story was neat and the twist at the end was pretty crazy in a good way. I look forward to The Witcher 2, but I probably won’t get to it until 2016 due to some family stuff coming up over the next few months.

The Stanley Parable (2 hours):

This game hits incredibly close to home since I work in a cubicle farm. The devs have done an incredible job of mixing humor with despair and thriller elements. It’s last Bastion combined with Braid, but messing with FPS and exploration tropes rather than platformer tropes.

Tengami (2 hour):

This game is beautiful and, like a ballet, I’m not 100% sure of what the story was. Still, it was a very beautiful couple of hours.

Road Not Taken (1 hour):

In the video I mistakenly state that this is my first Roguelike. That was a mistake on my part – I forgot I’d played FTL for around 15 minutes. This is a game I’d looked forward to playing ever since buying it on a Humble Bundle. I enjoy the art style and the tone of the game. It’s also a great Roguelike for me to cut my teeth on (ignoring FTL which I played just to see what the fuss was all about) since it is puzzle-based and I do love me a good puzzle game. In the two playthroughs on this playlist at the time that I write this (there will be more videos if I play in future months) I haven’t even begun to take into consideration the crafting mechanic to solve puzzles. I’ve done it accidentally a few times, but I have yet to purposely combine a tree and fire, for example to create a tree that’s on fire.

Civilization 5 (30 min):


Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (30 minutes);

Scarlett loves the game and also loves trolling by pausing the game over and over again.

Team Fortess 2 (30min):

Long Live the Queen (15 minutes):

As I explained at the end of the video, I can see that there are some pretty complex mechanics at work here. I think that’s probably the source of the great appeal that many seem to heap upon this game.

Concerts 2015: Lionize and The Protomen

Concerts are certainly a funny bit of entertainment. When you go see a movie, you are going because you like the director or the actors or the idea sounded interesting. You see that movie and that’s the end of it. The same holds true for Broadway shows or Operas. But when you attended a concert, you have a few opening acts you probably don’t know. This is somewhat alleviated nowadays for the well prepared by a quick trip to Spotify or Youtube. After finally seeing The Protomen during last year’s Warped Tour, I was excited about seeing them in concert. My ticket informed me that I’d also be seeing Cowabunga Pizza Time and Lionize. Of course, the difference between concerts and other forms of entertainment is no accident. Opening bands are limpets on the bodies of larger acts, hoping to gain exposure to the fans of the main act. This works best when the organizer has paired up bands that work well together thematically. But, this is the obvious reason why you never know the time the main act is going on stage.

I tried to find Cowabunga Pizza Time on Spotify, but they weren’t there. I did find them on Youtube, but they were not my cup of tea. That worked out well for me because it meant I didn’t have to inhale my food in order to get to the concert on time. I looked for Lionize on Spotify and either through some error on that day or because they didn’t have the rest up yet, the only album I found was a reggae album. They sounded OK, but I wasn’t sure whether I’d bother catching their set. Luckily for me, I ended up getting to the club as Cowabunga Pizza Time was ending (yup, didn’t like their music live, either) and as Lionize was starting. I REALLY enjoyed Lionize.

Lionize lead singer
Lionize lead singer

I have a hard time explaining exactly what Lionize sounds like, but in my head there are all these connections to other bands that refuse to come to the forefront. The best I could come up with is that the band sounds to me like a great 1970s Rock band, probably because of the Wah Wah Synths they make use of. Because I knew I would have a hard time describing the band’s sound, but enjoyed them so much that I ended up buying the album, I asked the band for permission to post a couple tracks from their latest album (at the time – I think a new one’s about to come out), Jetpack Soundtrack. Here’s the song that I think best encapsulates their sound and what I’m trying to convey:

Last year I read How Music Works and it changed the way I viewed concerts. Part of the author’s point was that it is only in recent times that we expect musicians to sound like their albums when we see them live. Instead, we should cherish the live act for what it can give us – spontaneity and a connection with other fans. I hadn’t heard Lionize before the concert (at least not the songs on their set list), but I dare say they’re one of the few bands who sounds better live than they do in the studio. I don’t know if it’s the genre of 70s Rock or just the songs Lionize chose to play, but they lend themselves to riffing and solos that work best in a live environment. Some of the songs that sounded terrific live include Replaced by Machines and Amazing Science Facts.

Even though the thought of going to see a reggae band didn’t fill me with enthusiasm, one of my favorite songs from Jetpack Soundtrack the reggae-inspiredĀ Sea of Tranquility. It’s reggae-inspired in a similar way to how D’yer Maker by Led Zepellin has some reggae inspiration.

Of course, the main reason for my attendance that night was to see The Protomen.

The Hype Man
The Hype Man

When it comes to The Protomen, it’s really hard to say if I find it more enjoyable to listen to the CDs or attend a concert. As I said above, they’re two different things – as different as a book and its movie or TV show adaptation. But when it comes to The Protomen, each of their albums with original material (as opposed to their cover albums) is a concept album that tells an adaptation of the story from Mega Man. I had been hoping that in their own concert (as opposed to at Warped Tour) they’d go through one whole album as their set. Alas, the songs were random and contained both covers and original material. Yet, because of the intensity of the story behind the songs, particularly the one where Doctor Wiley riles up a crowd to demand execution of Doctor Light (The Hounds on the Act II album) are incredibly amazing when the entire club demands to know “WHAT WAS HER NAME?” Light up the Night is also particularly awesome (literally) in a club full of fans singing along and pumping their fists. I continue to hold out hope that when the third album in the Mega Man trilogy is released that they’ll do a special show in which they sing the entire trilogy. I also think that it would make a pretty great Broadway show – it would certainly be different than the usual fare.

Although it’s not exactly rare for me to discover new bands that I enjoy when I see the opening acts at a concert, it’s certainly a great treat and win for all involved. Lionize gained a new fan and I gained a new band to watch and see in concert – perhaps one day as the top billing. And I got to see the great stage show that is a concert by The Protomen.

Lionize music used with permission from the band.

Coming to Terms with “I’m Not Mad”

When I was growing up, I used to draw comics all the time. So when I heard about web comics I thought it was natural to create one of my own. Dan and I worked on I’m Not Mad for a few years, but it eventually fell off due to limitations in my ability to create female characters in Blender. When I got my drawing tablet (a Monoprice), I thought I might get back into it. But I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have the time commitment to get back into it. I will fulfill my desire to create by photography and blog posts. I’ve always been loathe to let go of URLs and taking stuff off the net, but we have The Wayback Machine. You can see I’m Not Mad at https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.notmadcomic.com

You’ll maybe see the models from the comic around as I may use them in some future projects, but this is the true end of the comic at this time.

Digikam 4.x and Baloo

Back when I was looking into doing all my photography on Linux I saw that whenever I would add a tag to a bunch of photos that it would crash Digikam. I filed a bug and was told it was a problem with Baloo that would be fixed in Digikam 5. I wanted my photos to have metadata that would be indexed in Dolphin and Baloo search, so I tried to deal with it as I moved to doing all my photography on Linux. But after it kept crashing as I worked on my July photos, I had enough. I turned off Digikam and Baloo integration and am no longer having crashes. Here’s what it needs to look like in the settings if you’d like to do this too:

Digikam Baloo Settings
Digikam Baloo Settings

Pacific Northwest Trip Part 6

Scarlett had been obsessed with Mickey and the Beanstalk so I HAD to snap the photo that heads up this post. But there were also some interesting things going on at PDX as I made my way home:

Bro Dogs + Burgers
Bro Dogs + Burgers