Thank You Kotaku November 30, 2010Posted by Maniac in Site News.
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Kotaku posed up an “editorial” today on the exact same subject I covered about three weeks ago, only I did a much better job. When I say I did a much better job I mean that I actually had an article about the topic they covered and they simply just took a similar (but inferior) title and asked their commenters to contribute.
I contributed to the discussion, as in I contributed the link to the very article I wrote three weeks ago detailing what they claimed to detail, exactly what was real and what was fantasy between the initial Kinect announcement video (back when it was called Project Natal) and the Kinect that Microsoft released this month.
My site has recieved a tremendous amount of hits and my article has gotten a ton of positive support since then. I can’t tell you all who have visited the site and those who promised to bookmark and home page it how much I appreciate that. Enjoy the site guys, it’s safer here.
GameStop Pre-Orders DLC, How’d They Do? November 30, 2010Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I’m sure many of you have seen the commercials that have been running non stop on TV since last week about the Halo Reach Map Pack. GameStop, in a new move, has been promoting pre-order of the map pack in their stores, and for incentive they’re offering a pretty sweet exclusive avatar item, a flaming Mark V helmet.
Now, in the real world, digital purchases actually go faster if you do them from home so you can get them either immediatly or the very second they’re released. Going out to a store to buy something is slow and cumbersome, it always has been. You have to get in your car, drive to your destination (and enjoy all the red lights and heavy traffic in the process), wait in line behind all the customers in front of you, place your order (time to do so depends on how much the clerk actually knows about what you’re buying), scan your member card (every store’s got one these days), pay, and then finally drive home (again with the traffic and red lights).
So what is your incentive to drive out to a store to buy the very same thing (and pay the exact same amount) you could buy directly at home? Well, there is the incentive for people who don’t use a credit or debit card, and who don’t have any spare MS point cards lying around. There’s also the Mark V flaming helmet offer, and that’s the big one.
How did GameStop do? Well, despite e-mailing all their members on the 18th and starting a national advertising campaign on the 19th of November, GameStop didn’t actually allow pre-orders of the Halo Reach Map Pack until the 22nd of November. That’s a pretty big problem, espessially given the fact that the content came out TODAY on the 30th. You only had about seven days to preorder the content. Also, you had to buy it up front in full, no minimum payment option like with physical games. Third, you had to be a member of their rewards program in order to preorder, and we all know how I feel about that.
Well the codes were e-mailed out at about 3:12PM EST today, some time after the content was released to Xbox Live. Anyone buying directly from their house would’ve gotten it much faster. Of course the Map Pack codes were not actually e-mailed out, just the code for the flaming helmet. If you want the code for the map pack you have to log in to GameStop’s Power Up Rewards website and navigate through it to find where your code is buried. Of course if you never bothered to register your Rewards card online, you’ll have to do that and set up your online account and games list before accessing the site.
Meanwhile I’m pretty sure anyone who wanted to buy it online had probably been playing on the maps for at least a few hours. Also, It’s not like they’re going to run out of physical copies of a digital download, kind of defeating part of the incentive to pre-order. Well, for those who contributed to GameStop’s experiment, enjoy the helmet, guys!
Disney’s Epic Mickey Collector’s Edition Unboxing November 30, 2010Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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Maniac cracks open the highly anticipated Wii exclusive game Epic Mickey and finds an injured Mickey Mouse. In a nice twist, the CE revolves around the all important physical content. It’s great to find a well priced CE these days that isn’t 90% DLC!
I’ve been really looking forward to this game release for about a year now. I’m a big fan of Warren Spector, as he has the distinction of being one of the few developers who ten years ago earned the title of “God”, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a game developer.
Director’s Note: Mickey Mouse is recovering from his injuries in shipping and appears to be okay. He has taken up residence on my desk. I don’t think he would’ve been injured if he hadn’t been packed UPSIDE DOWN
Conquering the Dragon’s Lair Challenge November 29, 2010Posted by Maniac in Site News.
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A good friend of mine wants me to take a road trip up to New Hampshire with him within the next few months. The destination is the Funspot and American Classic Arcade Museum. The place has plenty of information on it online, including a whole list of the classic games they have at it.
What immediatly drew me to the place is wikipedia listed Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace as games they have to play among the dozens of other classic games at their disposal. I LOVE these games, but I have never once played the original arcade versions of either. All of my experience playing these games have come from their respective iPhone and Blu-Ray Disc versions. That said, while I haven’t played either of the games since Dragon’s Lair iPhone broke after the release of iOS 4.0
After the popularity of my recent Laserdisc article, and the fact I seem to succeed so well whenever I just make a random promise and try to make good on it (like the successful week of editorials) I have decided to spend the next few weeks training my mind and my body to play Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace to perfection. My goal will be to beat the entire game on just one credit!
I will post up my self appointed rules later on, probably on a Vlog or something.
Of course there will be plenty of pictures and video taken if we go. The place is listed in Guiness as biggest arcade in the world. I’m really exited about this, I dusted off my Dragon’s Lair Blu-Ray and tonight after just 4 plays I was able to get through the whole game with just two lives lost. That said I was pretty rusty when I first started playing again last night, requiring at least a half-dozen continues. I do remember the sequences, I’m just really rusty. Space Ace is going to be a lot harder, it has longer sequences and they will randomly flip. Back in April I could beat the game on the highest difficulty, but I tried one playthrough last night on the iPhone on the easiest difficulty and was traumatized by how bad I had gotten.
The arcade doesn’t have Dragon’s Lair II, and that’s fine, since I’ve never trained myself on Dragon’s Lair II. I learn on the iPhone versions and Digital Leisure has not yet released Dragon’s Lair II to iPhone (although they’ve been promising it for a year now).
The Laserdisc Revolution November 26, 2010Posted by Maniac in Histories.
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A few dots appear on a screen and maybe a few dashes, some of which may or may not have color to them. Beeps and bloops come out of the speaker. Insert twenty-five cents please. In the early 1980s, that’s what you would call a game.
But gamers were about to get something more. A new storage media, one capable of displaying full motion video, was on gaming’s horizon, and it made most other games look like antiques in comparison. They used laserdiscs, a new technology for home video display which at the time was light years ahead of what VHS and Beta were capable of. Any individual second of a movie could be called upon the disc with very minimal seek time and no need to rewind or fast forward. For a long time, programmer Rick Dyer had been trying for years to find a format capable of producing an interactive game. He started with cash register paper on a mechanical machine, a great idea but one that couldn’t be mass-produced easily. The laserdisc format was perfect to make the next generation of arcade games. All that was needed was a piece of hardware attached to it which was programmed to take a user’s response and compare it to the correct solution to get the player through each level.
The machines themselves consisted of a built in controller with a stick capable of eight possible directions, and one attack button making for a total of nine possible input options for any danger moment. A standard definition monitor displayed the images off the laserdisc, and sound could be output in 2-channel stereo. If the user could correctly survive the sequence, they would make it to the next. If they couldn’t, the user would fail and would have to replay it.
Dragon’s Lair, directed by film veteran Don Bluth, would become one of the first arcade games released which would make use of this technology. Released in 1983, The arcade cabinet was also designed to be easily adaptable to any future game release. Within no time at all Dragon’s Lair became a cult classic. While usually arcade games would take months to recoup their cost to their arcade owner, Dragon’s Lair paid itself off in a matter of weeks, unheard of in the arcade market. The fascinating graphics and challenge of Dragon’s Lair provided its player with the incentive to keep playing.
Built on top of Dragon’s Lair’s hardware, Bluth and Dyer’s studios created the next game to take advantage of the laserdisc arcade machines, Space Ace and released it around a year later. Fortunatly for the arcade owners, Space Ace could be bought in full or as an upgrade package (which was much less expensive) to convert an already existing Dragon’s Lair cabinet. This is almost like what a home player could do by just swapping out the cartridge in their Atari 2600!
But there was one thing that not even Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace could outrun, and that was the gaming collapse that it had found itself in the middle of. By 1983, the greatest crash in gaming history had begun. The flooded market of games could no longer sustain itself and even the biggest companies were going out of business. While Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair were doing well in sales, the arcades that were displaying them and the publishers that funded them were going bankrupt and closing down. The problem was that they were single handedly holding up a market that was not just on the decline, but ready to burst. By the time their third game was nearly complete the money just evaporated and the company was forced to lay off all their employees. It was expected to be a temporary inconvenience, but it lasted for years.
Dragon’s Lair II would finally see a new investor five years after the entire staff had been laid off and the Bluth Studios had moved to a different country. The arcade market had become an entirely different beast all these years later, and a new champion of the home gaming market reigned supreme, and it was Nintendo. Graphics were now better, and since more games had been using the technology in the meantime, the initial wow factor of a laserdisc game was gone. The arcades would need to evolve again or lose to the home video game market.
Technology may have improved but the games have always stayed the same. The resolution may have changed but it still takes the same moves to progress through sequence 13 and save Princess Daphne. However, the games have stood the test of time. Dragon’s Lair has been ported to over a dozen different formats over the past 25 years ranging from the early PCs to iPhone, to Blu-Ray Disc. The players are in many cases those very same players who put down 50 cents back in 1982 just to try to make it to the last screen. Playing it again brings them back to the time when the Arcade was the King and the Princess was not in another castle.
The Game That Defined My Childhood November 25, 2010Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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For me, my memories are tied deeply into what was great about the times. Growing up, I had very little to enjoy, until I got to high school. But for me, that high school experience was tied into one great game, Metal Gear Solid. In fact, I can’t even look back onto anything I did back in 1999 and 2000 without thinking about what part I was playing in Metal Gear Solid.
The year was 1999. I was a freshman in high school, and for the first time in ten years I was enjoying my schooling. I must’ve chosen the correct high school to attend for me because I was quickly becoming one of the most popular (or at least well known and well liked) students in the school. I wasn’t being bullied and I had tons of friends and peers. I wasn’t dating, but that was because (you’ll hear this common theme a lot) every girl I met already had a boyfriend (by the way this hasn’t changed, where do you single women go anyway? Do you hide in caves? Do you even exist?).
I wrote all this to set the stage about what was going on for me at that part of my life, and my point is I was really enjoying it. My computer skills were sharpening every day now that I had access to computers. Because of the power of PCs at the time, I hadn’t owned a game console since the original NES, and although my sister had her own Sega Genesis, all we really played on it were Sonic the Hedgehog games. When I loaded up my first true PC game in December 1996, I knew that the consoles at that time couldn’t hold a candle at what was really possible, and I swore off consoles as unnecessary.
Then Metal Gear Solid was released in the US. The game that would forever change the gaming landscape. The perfect blend of story and gameplay. The merging of graphics and style. It went beyond what the best movie could offer. In short, the game was perfect.
It was 1999. I couldn’t get to a single gaming site without reading someone talking about its impact on the gaming revolution. I was visiting websites daily with the latest tips and rumors about what the game included. I learned how to unlock secret items after each play through.
I couldn’t take it any more. I had to play this game with a copy of my own. I betrayed my PC roots and I asked for a Playstation for my birthday with a memory card. I figured with my leftover birthday money I could get my own copy of the game anywhere. But I was wrong, every store I checked did not sell it, and this was back in the day where video games were kind of hidden in stores who would rather profit selling clothes and shoes. An Electronics Boutique (now GameStop) was still a year or two away from coming in my area, and stores like Best Buy would take even longer.
I got the game because a friend came through for me. He told me a store near his house was selling it and offered to buy it for me, and to his credit he took the fifty dollars I gave him and gave me a brand-new sealed copy of the game the next day. I could not have been happier that Thursday to finally have my own copy of the game to play! I booted up the game the second I got home and started without break making my way through the game. I wanted the Stealth Camo on my first playthrough, but pretty soon after doing what it took to get it, the game made me feel such an intense remorse for my actions. As Snake put it, “In the movies, the hero always saves the girl…” That line made me cringe at my actions and hate myself for what I had done. Only an expertly written story presented by professional actors could have gotten emotion out of a guy who was raised on first person shooters. Since then, story had always won out with me.
I made it as far as one kid could make it in one night, the second Sniper Wolf battle before calling it quits for the night. The worst part about it was for that entire weekend I was forced to endure a wilderness survival training program. For three days I slept on the ground, learned how to climb mountains and trees and ate trail mix and bagels. All I wanted was to get back home not to just eat normal food and sleep, in a bed, but to finish the game I had started and bring it to conclusion. In hindsight, a lot of what I did there was pretty much what my character was doing in the game, but I was so caught up with wanting to go back and finish my fight with Sniper Wolf I didn’t give it much thought.
The night I got back from wilderness survival school I loaded up my save and picked up the game where I left off. Before long, Otacon and Snake snowmobiled off into the sunset and the stealth camo was mine. I really had grown to like Otacon as a character, he was the classic nerdy type who when thrown into a fantastic situation could hold his own. I wondered, after reading the stories of the previous Metal Gear games, if we’d ever see him again in a future sequel. I had the game finished, and I had a whole week of classes to look forward to.
One year later, on May 12th, 2000, I was sitting at the computer in my Honors Sophmore English Class when I loaded up IGN.com for the first time in my life. I heard that something called E3 was happening in Los Angeles, and the latest rumors up to that point was that there might be a premere of something Metal Gear related at that show. No sooner did I log into the site when IGN posted up a camera feed of the first trailer of Metal Gear Solid 2. The computers at school had no sound but thank you Japan for subtitles! Even on a high-speed T1 connection the download was taking forever, so I wasn’t looking forward to downloading the video off my 56k modem at home. However, the first subtitled line sealed the deal for me. “This is Snake, Otacon do you read me?” I could not have been happier my favorite character was returning, working alongside Solid Snake to bring down Metal Gears all over the world. That Friday was one of the best days of my life. My cousin was the first in my family to get a PS2 and also got one of the first copies of Metal Gear Solid 2. I think I played it more than he did. It wouldn’t be until 2005 when I finally bought myself a PS2 (and boy was I suprised to find my old PS1 memory card still functioned just as well as the day I first got it) and all I can say is thank you so much Konami for the Metal Gear Solid The Essentials Collection.
Whenever you come up against adversity in your life, I leave you with this. The words of Otacon after the woman he loved, Sniper Wolf, was killed. I can’t think of any better words to describe how one is to live their lives through anything.
Otacon: “Snake! What was she fighting for? What are you fighting for? What am I fighting for?”
Snake: “If we make it through this, I’ll tell you.”
Otacon never asked him again.
GameSpy: The Lost Network November 24, 2010Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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As the rest of internet was just gaining it’s foothold as a gaming portal, they already had a site. When Microsoft announced they had the first ever cross-platform console multiplayer service, they had developed the definitive online game server browser, which was what gamers used to play on their favorite Quake, Hexen and Quake II servers. It was called the GameSpy program and it revolutionized the upcoming PC multiplayer gaming revolution. With the Internet no longer a detached series of BBS boards, and servers no longer needed to be accessed by directly dialing your friend’s computer, GameSpy offered the best option for selecting a multiplayer server to play a game on.
In 1999, GameSpy branched out and created their own gaming site and became the definitive location for gaming news and editorials. They had Dave Kosak, known as “Fargo” as a staple of the site. Every Friday he would write a new Planet Fargo, providing the tagline “Your Parents are Wrong” and covering the hilarious side of being a gaming journalist. He published political editorials written by Solid Snake to plead with Senators to “please stop making the Metal Gear”, he moved into a mall for a whole week hoping to be the first person to own Diablo II. But the greatest article he ever wrote was the research thesis on the heuristics to making a kick ass LAN party. He also worked with other GameSpy members like Chris “shaithis” Buecheler, because as we all know, in comedy, you must have a straight man to make the funny man funnier.
The domination started with the Planet Sites. Starting with Planet Quake, a news website for all things Quake, the site quickly became the definitive site for Quake news, mod updates, and commentary. Others would soon branch out, like Planet Unreal and Planet Half-Life. Then it started to go a little crazy. Pretty soon there was a planet site for everything, Planet Vampire, Planet AVP, and Planet Anachronox were just a few sites that took shape among the dozens more that popped up. There was even a Planet Daikatana (I’m not shitting you).
Then there was the E3 presence. They dominated it. The proud few who freely contributed their time to operate their planet sites would get free invites every year, no questions asked and no reason needed to that year’s E3 in order to cover the show. They had a local headquarters set up in the center of the show, not only to court other developers but to provide a lounge area for their contributors to kick back and relax after checking out the show floor. They also had David Lawrence streaming a live video webcast (unheard of at the time!), interviewing the major game developers and getting previews out to people unable to attend the show. Anyone at the show was welcome to sit and watch the live stream as it was being broadcast, or just hang out at the makeshift GameSpy HQ for a massage and some Tony Hawk.
GameSpy was on top of the world and it was looking prosperous for everyone, and then they made the decision to merge with their biggest competitor, and it would bring about their destruction. By 2005 the company merged with IGN. Slowly the greatness from the site started to leak. Loyal Planet contributors were no longer being asked to go to E3. One by one the sites stopped being updated, yet their domains were still being renewed. Since they were no longer supporting their Planet Sites, each individual Planet site would basically run until the contributor lost interest, and since they would not be taking on any new people, once the site’s contributors stopped (or the site broke), it would mean the end for the site. For a while it was a network lost in time (2005 to be exact), a monument to a once great revolution. Not too long ago, the DNS entry broke on most of them, and nowadays if you try checking out one of the sites, it’ll incorrectly redirect you to a random 404 page.
Nowadays GameSpy has become just a blip on the radar of the internet. Microsoft and Sony both use their own personal networks to handle multiplayer with their own first party server browsers to play, making the need for a third-party game browser unnecessary on a console. On the PC side, the side where they dominated for so long, most game developers have migrated to more comprehensive developer tools which integrate into the game and act as DRM, like Valve’s Steam or Microsoft’s Games for Windows initiative. Fargo left the site in early 2009, but some of his old articles are still accessible. The really old ones require some serious digging with Google.
As a former GameSpy contributor, early GameSpy adopter, and frequent Planet Fargo reader, I felt a serious connection with the company that goes beyond what I can type up on this page. The one token I kept was the letter written for me to serve as proof of industry identification, signed by Dave “Fargo” Kosak. I have it framed and it will always hang on my wall, an honor not even my College Degree has. It got me into my first E3, an experience I will never forget.
Tron’s Legacy November 23, 2010Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Ten years ago I was at a LAN party being held by a bunch of Open Source Users in my area. Let me tell you something, Open Source guys REALLY know how to have a LAN. Every few months, the Southern Connecticut Open Source User Group converted the computers in their offices to a Red Hat distribution that contained only one program, Unreal Tournament. They also had a full projection system with surround sound able to broadcast whatever they wanted. Since having a virtual camera on the match playing on the projector usually made everyone sick (it did, I asked) they would instead play classic movies which were staples of nerd culture. One night in 2001, this was how I was first exposed to the movie Tron.
I’m ashamed to say that for a movie made in 1982, which has been considered by most of my compatriots as the movie which ignited the digital revolution and inspired gamers the world over, gamers who would later become game makers, I had not seen Tron until I was 16 and knew nothing at all about it. I think I remembered seeing a few previews for it playing occasionally on the Disney Channel back when it was a premium service channel back in the early 90s, but the previews could not do justice to what the movie truly was.
This was the most imaginative depiction of the world behind the computer screen I had ever seen before. Kevin Flynn was the guy I wanted to be at 16 years old, a cocky self-taught computer genius and he had something happen to him that is an unfortunate reality of such a cutthroat business, his work was stolen from him. But he wasn’t going to take it sitting down, he was going to do everything he could (legal or otherwise) to prove he was the original designer. He just had no idea that he was tangling with an artificial intelligence capable of putting him on the game grid he created. Now the best gamer in the world is forced to play the games he created from the inside or die. What an epic concept.
Within no time I picked up a copy of the 20th Anniversary DVD for my own personal home theater collection. I think I watched the movie so much I wore the DVD out, even the second disc with the feature length making-of documentary got a lot of play.
Then in 2003 I went to my very first E3. Twenty-one years after the release of the original Tron, I caught a glimpse of what was going to be (what I believed at the time) the closest thing to a sequel the movie Tron was ever going to get, the Tron 2.0 video game made by Monolith Productions (who later went on to make F.E.A.R.). All of the staples of Tron were in place in the game, the art style, the actors. I could play on a lightcycle match or match discs against viruses and intrusion countermeasure programs. When I got the final version of the game, I played through it at least three times. I hoped Monolith would have made a sequel (they never explained who F-Con’s CEO was), but they never did.
I’m eagerly anticipating the Blu-Ray. Director Steven Lisburger has confirmed to the press and fans that he has finished the 2K digital restoration of the movie, and knowing that the movie was made to be viewed on 70mm film projectors could make Tron’s BD release the next major industry staple.
Then this came out.
Bring your Encom Group 7 access badges, Tron Legacy comes out December 17th. Flynn lives!
I Game, I’m Healthy, Live With It November 22, 2010Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I read a question recently on the Halo Waypoint forums that a user asked the group how they kept healthy and kept up with the gaming lifestyle. While I’m sure he was just asking for tips on how to keep fit and meant nothing disrespectful about it, it reminded me of all the times in my life I’ve heard people tell me if I kept playing games and didn’t exercise I’d be stupid and unhealthy. Well, you’re reading this article off of a webpage I designed and maintain myself, so I’m not stupid, but believe it or not, I am actually quite healthy as well.
If there’s a smaller slightly-less annoying sister to the “all video games are evil and will make you violent” crowd, it’s the “video games will make you fat” crowd. I’ve had it with these completely false prophets who claim to know more than I do about my own body’s health. They claim that by not constantly doing repetitive physical activity instead of sitting for hours in front of a screen interacting with a game, coupled with a high-fat, high-calorie and high sugar fast food diet is driving this entire country into becoming an unhealthy overweight lot and only by allowing them to pass laws to protect ourselves from…ourselves because we’re too dumb to know what’s good for us (and they somehow do), can we become healthy, happy people.
Allow me to remove all the bullets from their points right now. At 26 years old I am 5 foot 9 inches tall. I weigh about 135 pounds and have weighed around that much since I was about 15 or so (give or take about five pounds here or there). I do not exercise, other than regular human movements, (walking from place to place, going up and down stairs, etc) and my only recreational activities as of late (other than posting up here for all of you fine people) are watching movies, TV and playing video games. My blood tests are perfectly fine, with no trace of diabetes. I have perfectly fine health expectancy.
Now you’re probably going to say I probably don’t eat very much. That’s not true, I eat and I eat plenty. Since I can’t cook, a lot of what I eat is either ready-made ramen noodles, or food I can buy on the go (oh no, fast food). However, it’s not all bad. Since my mother can cook, she does make me dinner occasionally (and she makes ingredients from scratch) so I eat about a fifty percent good, fifty percent bad diet.
If half of what “health” experts said was true, I should be a 400 pound diabetic. I’m not. I’m sure you can see me in any of my videos, other than the fact I grow facial hair faster than Grizzly Adams I’m a healthy individual of average build. Do they have any explanation for that? Well I do.
The reality behind weight gain is actually all about the amount you eat on a regular basis. The human body is quite adaptable. If you regularly eat the same amount of food at around the same time, you will not gain any weight. It is only when you throw a wrench into the works and heavily alter your eating habits by eating larger portions of food than you usually do, that you will start to gain weight. Also there’s been concerns that stress and other emotional factors can affect weight gain, as the chemicals your body produces during these periods can affect the rest of your body. This is usually why crash dieting is a bad idea, it’s unhealthy and harmful to your body. Also any kind of physical activity you’ll do on a normal basis will maintain your body weight. A lot of college students or city inhabitants will walk (a lot!) daily, and by continuing to do this activity their body weight is maintained. If it’s stopped, the body will react and you may gain some weight, but it again will eventually even back out. Also, many health experts and doctors believe genetics plays a lot in the factor of weight, although it is a debated topic.
The nanny brigade won’t tell you any of that. Maybe they should write it all down. Granted, I don’t drink or smoke, but that’s a separate can of worms.
Week of Editorials Coming November 21, 2010Posted by Maniac in Site News.
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Even though the time it takes for me to produce a video has decreased tremendously, the time it takes to upload a video has increased exponentially. It is still taking me literally half a day to upload one single part of a video up on YouTube, and if the video fails I’ll have to wait until the next day.
But I’m not deterred, and I’m not only skilled in making YouTube videos. I’m also one hell of a writer. So I’m throwing my hat in the ring for this upcoming week. I have a bunch of stuff I have written up and I want the world to read them. Starting Monday, there will be a whole new editorial on a whole new subject each day. I have a ton of ideas and unfortunately only a few of them have been actually written down.
So stay with me will you?