Monthly Archives: February 2012

Zombies, Run!: First Mission Review

I used to run occasionally, but that was a year ago and the most I’ve done since then is to stare at my running shoes before quickly throwing a towel over them to hide my secret shame.

So keep that in mind as I review the first mission of Zombies, Run!.

As I mentioned before, the beginning of the mission has a three minute introduction in which there is no running. If you’re anything like me and you want to stay grounded in the game’s universe, I recommend using this as a warm-up period. Do some stretching.

This is especially important if you’re like me and you can’t run more than ten minutes without fainting. I wasn’t able to run long enough to make it to he second checkpoint, which meant I had to sit through the introduction again the next day.

I also recommend holding onto any items you find until after you complete the first mission. The game gives you information for all the buildings in Abel at that point giving you a better idea of where you should put everything. At this point, I don’t see how the base plays a part in the game. It just seems like a neat graphic for your runner to come home to.

My initial problems with the accelerometer are not as bad as I thought. It does settle down after a while and stops counting off paces when I stood stock still. The main problem with the accelerometer is the that the zombie chases are disabled. This seemed like the funnest portion of the game when I first heard about it, but it’s only available if you have an iPhone.

There’s also no way to input how long one step is. So while you know if you’ve gone 1000 steps, you won’t know how long that really is in miles or kilometers unless you’re willing to crunch the numbers yourself.

Aside from the nitpicks, Zombies, Run is a great app. It got me out of my chair for the first time in over a year and I actually look forward to running the next day, if only to find out what happens with Sam and Runner Seven and the doctor lady whose name I can’t remember. The voice acting is serviceable at its worst and considering this is an independently funded and designed game, the voice acting is, for the most part, pretty good.

They’re going to implement for free content over the next few monhs, including repeatable supply missions. I want to see how the storyline develops over the next couple of missions and I want to see how the supply missions will be handled.

The story drew me in and gave me a reason to keep running, even when I was flagging. For whatever its flaws, it does what it’s supposed to do: make running fun.

Dylan Charles

 

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Last Season

At times, I feel like I’ve crashed a funeral. Every article I read about this upcoming season, there are the same words whispered over and over again in somber tones.

“The collapse” “Last September” “2011”

It’s a spooky repetition. There’s a shadow over the start of this season and for someone who’s just now entering the story, it’s ominous. I hear snippets of information. Players talking about those dark times. Hanging their heads. Others are angry. There are those who aren’t there anymore. who paid the price for what happened and who didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

To me, after ingesting 160 years of baseball history in two months and from an academic distance, I see it as one bad season out of 100. While I know what happened, in general if not in detail, I didn’t experience it. I don’t know the regret and the sadness of the fans who had been following the team all season.  Everyone else actually experienced it and felt it.

It’s the difference between studying the game and actually following it. It’s ab0ut becoming emotionally invested in a team. This emotional distance is a large part of the reason why I’ve decided to do my best to watch as many of the Spring Training games as I can.

The Red Sox and I need to have a bonding experience.

Dylan Charles

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Zombies, Run!: First Impression

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that at one point, I was doing some running. You might also remember that I stopped talking about it. A lot of that has to do with the fact that running bores the absolute dogs out of me. I can’t keep doing it every day or every other day without some kind of constant impetus and my own good health is not enough of one.

So I got excited when I heard about Zombies, Run!. It’s an app for the iPod and the iPhone (scheduled for Android for a Spring release date).  It’s the zombiepocalypse and you’re Runner 5. You go out and scavenge supplies for the tiny community of Abel. The difference between this and any other zombie game is that you actually run to get the supplies. As you run, your device uses GPS or the accelerometer to keep track of how much you’ve run. You pick up supplies, dodge zombies and try and complete the mission before you’re eaten.

I started playing it today using my iPod and I had a few issues.

Since an iPod obviously can’t link up to a satellite, I have to use the accelerometer, but it looks like either the software or the accelerometer is way too sensitive. I’d be standing still and notice that I was continuing to run in game. I ignored that and just kept going. Since at this point, it’s not tracking stats yet, it doesn’t really bother me if it’s not completely accurate.

The second issue is the storyline. The first couple bits of plot don’t really feature a lot of running, so I was running while my character was in a helicopter. It was only after I’d gone a few blocks that the radio operator told me to get as far away from the zombies as I could. This is a bit of nitpick, but it kind of took me out of the story a bit. I wish I’d known so I could just have sat on my ass and made helicopter noises for the first part.

I’m going to run through the first two missions before I write up a full review of Zombies, Run!, but I’m tentatively enjoying it. It got me to run a mile for the first time in almost a year, so that’s good.

More later.

Dylan Charles

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The Hellion

There are players where it’s almost impossible to see them as anything but legendary: Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig. Even in their flaws, they’re almost more than human; Babe Ruth’s love of excess and Ted Williams’ temper.

There is one player who goes beyond legend though, in every way. Ty Cobb set almost 120 records, plenty of which are still unbroken almost a century later. He was the best at bat. He was the best on base. He was the best in the field. He was ferocious, relentless, fearless, untiring, unwavering and almost unbeatable for the 20 some odd years he played baseball. Even in his twilight years, he was one of the top players.

He was also the most vicious, vile men to play the game. He never stopped fighting the umpires, the other players, the owners, the fans. He beat one fan brutally, despite the fact that the man had no hands. He took on three muggers single-handedly and beat one to death with his pistol. He hated African-Americans. He railed against integration. He beat one black groundskeeper and then, when the man’s wife intervened, he beat her too.

There is no way to measure the amount of contempt and admiration he managed to garner during and after his career. He spiked other players and spiked the umpires. He stole home 35 times, a record that hasn’t even been approached.  He was sneaky and underhanded. He was a master tactician. He would play so hard that he would bleed and then he would play some more.

He was, with no exaggeration or hyperbole, the greatest baseball player to ever play in the major leagues. He was also, once again with no exaggeration or hyperbole, one the worst human beings to ever play the game.

It is my belief that an angel was ejected from Heaven and sent to Hell, but, on the way down, he decided to play some ball.

Dylan Charles

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The Park

One of the most surprising things that I’ve read through-out my spring training, was that, prior to Henry, Werner and Lucchino buying the team, there was a lot of talk about abandoning Fenway and building a new park elsewhere.

To me, even before I started my whole Baseball Project, this was unthinkable. Leave Fenway? But…it’s Fenway! It’s one of those places people think of when you say, “baseball.” It’s been around almost as long as the Red Sox have been around. It’s been the home to Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and that Yaz fellow. You can’t leave Fenway.

Since I’ve never been to a major league ballpark and since the season is still a ways out, I decided to take advantage of the Fenway Park Tours. After all, what better way to get acquainted with a ballpark than when it’s completely empty? When it’s full of screaming fans and vendors and balllplayers and reporters and crew, you don’t really get to appreciate it. You miss out on details that are going to be obscured by the excitement of the game.

But a ballfield without players is such an odd thing to see.

The view from the Green Monster.

The history of Fenway is apparent from the moment you walk through the gate. There are dates everywhere; marking the first series the Red Sox won (1903, which was also the first World Series ever) and the years they won the American League pennant. There are the old bleacher seats that have been there since 1934 and they show it: There’s no leg room. There’s no room between you and your neighbor. And, as our guide pointed out, there are no cupholders.

Everything has a story attached to it. There’s the red seat out behind right field, where Ted Williams’ home run landed, the longest homer hit in Fenway. There’s the Green Monster, where Carlton Fisk’s homerun safely landed after he willed it there.

The Green Monster in all its glory.

Fenway is both one of the oldest and one of the smallest ballparks in the major leagues. It’s crammed into a tiny space, surrounded on all sides. Fenway represents Boston, in the way that Boston embraces its past and the future on the same street corner. History and progress in one square block. To me, a newcomer to the game and its history, it’s unthinkable that they even contemplated building a new park.

I can’t wait to see it in action.

Dylan Charles

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Making a Sandwich

To some, a sandwich is a quick and easy lunch. Put something between two slices of bread and bam, you’re ready to go.

Those people should never be trusted, either inside the kitchen or out.

The Sandwich is something that can rise above and beyond its ingredients. In no situation is the term “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” more applicable. To make a Sandwich right, you have to work at it. It takes preparation. Time. And the willingness to get your hands dirty.

There is no “perfect sandwich”. A vegetarian would not be happy with one of my…creations. But there are ideal sandwiches for each individual. I made such a  sandwich today.

Since I ate my sandwich too quickly for it to be photographed, let me paint you a picture….with words.

First layer, bread. Then yellow mustard and a mild cheddar, sliced thin. Next, a layer of bacon, with some more, thinly sliced cheese. Then some roast beef and turkey. Another layer of cheese. Next, add a second layer of bacon. More cheese and mustard. Bread slice.

The final step involved frying the whole kit and kaboodle in bacon grease.

I’m not writing out this recipe so that you can make it yourself.

I’m writing it here to brag.

It was delicious.

Dylan Charles

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The Obsession

I’ve started to mentally break up The Baseball Project into segments. The first segment is, obviously, Spring Training. For the last few weeks, I’ve read, watched, absorbed and analyzed nothing but baseball. I’ve watched Ken Burns Baseball. I’ve read baseball books about the various players. I’ve read articles about the up-coming season. I’ve even started watching this TV show from the early ’90’s called “Talking Baseball

Every bit of free time I have has become devoted to baseball, in one form or another. When I think about writing something, I always have my baseball on hand, so I have something to play with while I think. I think about going to Fenway constantly, which I can’t believe spellcheck isn’t recognizing right now. I’m trying to calculate how many games I’ll actually be able to attend, once the season starts. And that’s the thing, the scary thing; the season hasn’t even started yet and it’s already started to take over what and how I think.

I’ve had (another) nightmare about Ty Cobb. How many nightmares can a person have about Ty Cobb before that’s deemed an abnormal thing? I’m at two. And he SCARES me. I haven’t even read his biography yet, though it’s on my kitchen table. Waiting. Waiting for me.

On the one hand, I’m worried for my mental health. I have a constant stream of ERAs and WHIP’s and OPS flying through my head. So many numbers and so many names. I have the whole of baseball (almost two century’s worth) and I’m trying to cram it all into my brain in a two month period.

And you want to know the scary thing?

I’m loving it.

Dylan Charles

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The Numbers

.406 56 714 1.82 511 61 73

I knew there were numbers in Baseball. That’s kind of Baseball’s thing. It even has its own math associated with it. But, holy moley, I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed.

For the pitcher alone there are dozens of stats that you can follow. There’s the pitcher’s ERA (Earned Run Average), which measures how many runs he lets in per inning played. Simple enough. BUT, there’s the Adjusted ERA (or ERA+), which measures the pitcher’s performance based on the ballpark he’s pitching in. Since ballparks aren’t created equal, some of them favor pitchers and some favor hitters. If a pitcher does poorly in a ballpark that favors the pitcher, his Adjusted ERA will fall below 100.

So for his ERA, the lower the better. For his Adjusted ERA, the higher the better.

Moving on, there’s WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched), which measures hits AND walked batters. It’s a more rigorous stat than the ERA and counts every batter that gets to base, not just the earned runs.

There’s the pitcher’s win/loss record, the complete game stat (number of games where the pitcher was the only one to pitch), balks, blown saves, innings pitched, pitches thrown, strike-outs, wild pitches, hits allowed and home runs allowed.

And this is just for one position.

I’m in danger of being overwhelmed here. So many numbers being thrown around (ha! pun). But I will march through the numbers by golly. By the time I watch my first major league game, I will know what’s going on.

Or die trying.

Or…more likely, be kind of confused occasionally.

Dylan Charles

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The Hat

As part of my baseball learnin’, I wanted to buy something that would mark me as a fan of the Red Sox. You can’t really call yourself a fan until you wander around with a clear label identifying yourself as such. That way, if you see someone wearing a, say, Yankees cap, you can loudly yell, “Yoah grandmothah sucks wicked eggs, ya hoosier!” and then the game is afoot and then there will be a tussle!

I decided on a hat, because I don’t really want to have to wear a parka all through Summer to indicate that, yes, I follow the Red Sox and, yes, I am incapable of planning ahead. A hat is perfect. It works in all seasons. It’s visible. And it can be taken off rapidly if you’re about to run into a huge group of Yankee fans.

Browsing the large selection of hats on the MLB website, I found one and I immediately fell in love with it. It’s chic and has pretty colors and it has style. Look at it!

I’ve become obsessed with it. It glimmers in the virtual shop window like some kind of…hat glimmery thing. I want it. I want to show off my (extremely) new-found allegiance. I want to get into tussles. I want to brag about something I have absolutely no control over. And then…and then…a jersey! So I can show which player I choose to represent me!

“Why yes, I DO consider myself the Dustin Pedroia of retail, how did you know?”

This might, just might, be in danger of turning into a major illness. Is this how it is for all sports fans? Does it all start with a hat?

Dylan Charles

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Outside the Fence

I have a tendency to stay away from groups. I try not to belong to things. It’s equal parts introversion and orneriness. If you’re on the outside, you’re free of the constraints of that group. You don’t have to meet every Wednesday night and discuss Russian literature. You don’t have to speak some weird, hidden code language with indecipherable jargon. No commitments, no obligations, no nadda.

At school, I stayed away from extracurricular activities. No latin club for this cool cat! I never went to a major sporting event in either high school or at UNC. I tried to stay away from cliques at school and work.

Part of the point of the Baseball Project is that I’m finally, grudgingly, acknowledging that it can be fun to be on the inside. When I watched the Superbowl in a bahr with a bunch of other yelling Patriots fans, it was fun. I mean, it was depressing as hell that they lost, but that was also good. Not the losing, the being depressed.

As weird as it sounds, I’m looking forward to the wins AND the losses of following the Red Sox, just because it’ll mean I’m part of a group, willingly too!

Dylan Charles

 

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