21 November 2006

Childlike Wonder

My kids rule.

No really, they do. I know... every parent says that about their kids; and they're absolutely right. They're always doing humourous and wonderful things; often times to the causing of pain in a parent's gut from laughing long and loud with youthful abandon.

Here are some recent antecdotes of cool and funny things my children have done (another can be read here...):

  • Mandi, our Kindergartener tested at a 3rd grade level plus 3 months in reading - Those of you that know her probably aren't surprised. She rocks.

  • Brennan is excelling in mathematics and spelling - Those of you that know him wouldn't be surprised either. He rolls.

  • Kimmie, well... let's just say she's been up to some very interesting things:

First, I came home from work the other day and Gwen told me that Kimmie had spoken her first four-word sentence. Can you guess what it was?!
"Go away now, Mommy."

The other night we were at the dinner table. You know those burps that just sneak attack you and their out (barely managing to refrain from extra projectile surprise) by the time you've realized it hit? Yeah, you know the ones I'm talking about. Well, my beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, sweet, prim and proper wife had the joy of belting one of those out that night.
Kimmie's response...
"Good girl!" *clapping as she says it.*

Last night we were saying our family prayers together. When we gather for family prayers, we usually let all of the kids have a turn, followed by Mommy or Daddy wrapping it up with a prayer of our own.

Nearing the end of our prayers, we got a phone call. It was a call I needed to take. As I left the room to answer the phone, Kimmie knelt down on the floor to offer a prayer of her own.

Kimmie is a very thankful sort:
"... thank you for Mommy, for Daddy, for Brennan, and Mandi, and Kimmie ... and TV, aaaaand hawk-a-let (chocolate), and [insert favorite cute non-articulate jabbering] here ... aaaaand for nose, and ear, and belly button... aaaaand diaper, and poop."

It's the little things that make us happy... and what a good lesson in being grateful. We should all be grateful for our poop, really... cause you know, if you couldn't, well, let's just say our insides ... it wouldn't be pretty.

20 November 2006

TrackMania Tournament and TrackMania United Thoughts

Well, I was knocked out of the tournament on Friday night; coming in with rank #372... not too shabby considering I only had 2-3 hours per track and those hours were scattered. For not having as much time as I'd have liked to get the groove I wanted, I feel pretty good about how I did.

Despite my grumblings about how it was a persistence contest where he/she who had the most time on their hands wins, the tournament was still an awful lot of fun to be a part of.

Every night at 10:00pm my time, qualified racers from around the world all jumped into the PlayLinc server lobby and eagerly awaited the new track meant to torture with technicalities. What I loved is that playing in the tournament wasn't much different than playing on my two favorite USA servers for all my TrackMania Career... "KOFS 440 (the server formerly known as 440 Mods and Boost)" and "Air Time."

Those servers always kept fresh, new and challenging tracks; which attracted some of the best racers around the world constantly. The thing that makes online play in TrackMania so special is the camaraderie between racers. Whenever a new track is encountered on these servers, the racers all anxiously try to be the first one to "solve" the track. Then it's a race to see who can get the best time.

As the racers figure out parts of the track, they openly share information with each other on how to better take the track. It was no different with this tournament. Mind you, there was $40,000 in cash prizes hanging in the balance; but the contestants still shared tips and tricks they'd find on the tracks through the rounds of competition I participated in. It truly is a wonderful community in the world of TrackMania.

Needless to say, my heart wasn't broken as bad as it could've been when I didn't make it past Friday night in the competition. You see, TrackMania United was released to the public Friday (well in France and some other French speaking countries...) but as mentioned previously, 10,000 copies were sold online and myself (That One Guy), Dan (Tsam314) and Jarin (Thundr) all scored copies; and were more than eager to take it for a test-drive.

And that's just what we did. Three-and-half adrenaline-filled turbo-boosted dirt-spewing hours of pure pleasure. United combines all the previous goodness packed into the existing TrackMania games and steps it up a notch.

One of my favorite parts is the new track block we lovingly call "The Engine Killer." This is a red-block of doom that when driven over, causes you to coast to the next checkpoint. As if it were only that easy. No, curves and other things that cause you to lose momentum stand between the Engine Killer and the next Checkpoint.

We played this really awesome track that has two Engine Killers... one that happens just before a huge run of turbo pads that launch you off a platform over a huge pool of water that you must skip your car like a stone over to a grassy area, navigate a sharp turn and still make it to the finish gate. (Video and screenshots to come...)

The new scenery is awesome, the improved Stadium environment (from Nations) is insanely cool (especially the dynamic lighting) and the game is just too much fun.

I recommend anyone that hasn't tasted the goodness of all things TrackMania, try TrackMania Nations. You'll be hooked too, and find yourself purchasing them all. (You'll have to wait for United in the USA until February or March, unless they have some of the 10,000 copies left -- personally speaking, I think they won't stop with 10,000 but we'll see.)

13 November 2006

TrackMania United - FNG Will Play Before the USA Release

Alright I admit it. I am an ABSOLUTE TrackMania JUNKIE. I learned today that the game I'm so eagerly anticipating... "TrackMania United" is to be released this year only (on November 17th!!!) in France, Australia, Canada, Belgium and Switzerland (French parts). For all other territories, it will be released in February/March 2007.

I also learned that they aren't leaving their TrackManiacs outside of these areas high and dry. They are offering 10,000 copies to be purchased online and pre-downloaded for the first addicts that get to them.

I'm proud to say that I'm downloading mine as we speak. I'm hoping that more of the Friday Night Gamers will score copies as well, so we don't all have to wait til next year to play.

Check out the Trailer and you'll get glimpse (that doesn't quite do it justice) of the festival of fun that is the world of TrackMania. In TrackMania United, we get the best of all TrackMania worlds combined... all pieces of all track styles are available in one game. If you thought the tracks were insanely cool and creative in the previous TrackMania games, wait until you see what gets brewed when desert and snow are mixed in one, and more!

It's a good thing I have the TrackMania Nations tournament to keep my mind occupied until I get my key for United... hehe... and if I lose in the tournament quickly; I'll have something to help me get over it quickly. *Cackle!*

Got Vroom?! Check out TrackMania today...

07 November 2006

TrackManiacs Reunite

The Friday Night Gamers have been addicted to TrackMania Nations since we learned of its existence early this year.

The crew and I played it consistently for over six months. We took a three-month hiatus after Nadeo decided to change the ladder system and chased a lot of the cool people we used to race with away. Luckily, devoted fans have continued to make excellent tracks and the game still rocks as hard as ever...

We picked TrackMania Nations up again a few weeks ago. Shortly after we discovered Verizon, Nadeo and PlayLinc" are hosting a $40,000 TrackMania Nations Tournament!

Since we got denied on the Electronic Sports World Cup qualifier competition (See the "USA Players Get the Shaft - FNG Denied Opportunity to Prove Themselves") post on the FNG site... we're ecstatic we get a shot to compete.

After spending a lunch hour at work practicing the official PlayLinc qualifier tracks a week ago; I finally got an opportunity to sit down last night and attempt to qualify for the tournament.

To qualify, one must earn a Gold Medal on each of six highly technical and just-as-challenging tracks. Times to earn medals are set by the track creator racing the track before putting it up on a server. The folks that created these tracks made the times very competitive and difficult to reach.

I'm happy to say that it took me an hour tonight to qualify all six tracks. (Well, according to PlayLinc's tracking system of how long I played, it was 59 minutes 46 seconds. Good enough for the girl I go out with.)

You can watch Qualification Status and Rank for the tournament. If you'd like to see my results, enter: That_One_Guy for the player name. Results won't update until 9:00am Mountain Time (give or take 20 minutes.) If it shows silver medals, check back later... those are from Halloween night.

Despite the fact I qualified, my ranks are quite low compared with everyone else; though the times between my rank and number one are probably within one second or so. Needless to say, I know I'm going to get my trash kicked at the actual tournament... but that's alright, cause I'm in it for the thrill of being in a sponsored video game competition again.

The last sponsored competition I participated in was in 1990 when the Nintendo Powerfest came to Salt Lake City. Wow those were golden times. You may mock me if you like, but that is one of my fondest memories. I still to this day have my "NWC Semifinalist" hat (beaten to a pulp, but I still have it.)

And I'm still bitter that had I been one year older (I was 17 at the time,) I could've gone to the finals (my Semifinal score was better than the 18+ contestant that made it to the finals.) Instead I got spanked by the 12-13 year olds that play all day long. Serves me right as I was competing in the Semifinal round on the Sabbath...

So now, I have the chance to get it handed to me again at the TrackMania tournament starting November 16. It will be a good thing I won't make it to the finals there either, since the Finals are again on the Sabbath... *sigh* Ah well, maybe one day I'll get lucky and be good enough to win a competition that ends on a Saturday.

Wish us luck anyway; we're going to see how long we can manage to stay in the competition. Good luck to the rest of the FNGers trying to compete. At last count, Dan (Tsam314), Jarin (Thundr) and Tyler (beuchety) are all working on qualifying. The gauntlet has been thrown...

02 November 2006

Trick or Treat

The ladies in my life: my beautiful wife, Gwen; my soon-to-be 6-year old Mandi; and my soon-to-be 2-year old daughter Kimmie are all chocolate freaks.

Kimmie is especially known for spreading her chocolate love all over the place when she consumes it; especially all over her hands and face.

After the jubilee, she comes to flaunt it in my face by showing me her chocolate hands... usually getting some on me, which is alright because then I get to share in yummy goodness too.

That is, until tonight. Being as it is only two days after Halloween night and having buttloads of chocolate all over my home, it's natural to see Kimmie with chocolate fingers all-day-long.

Tonight is extra special. I'm sitting at my computer, checking some email and talking a friend through getting two computers networked together so he can play some network video games with his buddy.

Kimmie comes down in her usual flaunt style... chocolate all over her cute little hands... waving them at me to pick her up and help her get cleaned up. She gets the usual dab of it on my fingers and as I go to lick it off; I don't taste the sweet sensation I'm used to tasting.

Needless to say, the friend was immediately and without warning put on hold (phone dropped to the floor;) my toddler and I make the world's fastest dash upstairs where I promptly unload her on my wife (giving her the 10-second cliff notes summary of how my adorable angel-baby has stuffed her hands down her diaper to find treasure... and then haul my sorry tainted mouth to the bathroom for an emergency "chocolate" evac (otherwise known as a good toothbrushing.)

Needless to say, I won't be using that toothbrush ever again. Nor will I be licking the chocolate off my hands that my ever-so-sweet and cuter-than-cute daughter so lovingly shares with me... EVER... AGAIN.

Moral of the story: Next time someone tells you to eat $#!Z... I don't recommend it.