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Sunday, August 27, 2006

7:26 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Merge for the kill. [via]
An impressive Devastator custom.

Monster Hunter 2 garage kits.
1/6 scale.

Cultural impact of Japanese toys.
"... [Japanese] toymakers with few resources began making toys out of the tin cans and other metal refuse discarded by Occupation forces. Ironically, the clever designs were so popular that they were eventually exported back to the United States--in effect reselling the Americans their own trash." Two books to add to my reading list.


Friday, August 25, 2006

10:24 PM - Elsewhere on the web

A toy wiki that's off to a good start.

Saint Transformers.
A YouTube video. The Saint Seiya OP sequence faithfully reenacted by Transformers.

Guild Wars Nightfall screenshots.
The game will be released on October 27.

Ooh ah Cantona.
A YouTube video. "'66 was a great year for English football. Eric was born."


Thursday, August 24, 2006

11:33 PM - Elsewhere on the web

BusinessWeek discovers the otaku.
Descriptions include "fringe group", "freak", "bizarre", "obsessive", "cult-like", "eccentrics" and "fanatics".

"... a bullet-shaped vibrator that attaches to the iPod and pulsates in time to the music." Song in my head: Quiet Riot's Cum on feel the noize.

Childbirth complications in the modern age.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

5:36 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Michael Bay, your Transformers designs really suck.
Oh wait, sorry.

Computer Gaming World Museum. [via]
A tribute to a gaming mag that made gamers think about their hobby and consider the bigger picture at a time when other gaming mags didn't do either. The museum consists of covers and tables of contents but there are a few articles, and the eventual goal is to make available scans of the first 100 issues.

Rabbit flu. [via]
I already knew my rabbit was a badass but I have newfound respect for her now that I know she can kill me with minimal contact. Very ninja-like. Seriously, though, according to the BBC's Q&A: "Vets urge pet owners not to worry, the bacteria is extremely common and usually harmless, but they say bites or scratches should be treated with caution."


Sunday, August 20, 2006

8:37 AM - Elsewhere on the web

"First reborn Christian on Eternia."

That's just Prime. [via]
Michael Bay, your Optimus Prime sucks ... oh wait, sorry.

Five firewalls for Windows XP. [via]
"ZoneAlarm is the best freeware choice, and can be readily upgraded to a full version later on. PC-cillin has the best all-around protection and sports a collection of nice bonus tools."

DIY Lightbox. [via]


Saturday, August 19, 2006

5:58 AM - Elsewhere on the web

The Iron Legion.
A group shot of various Iron Man figures.

Downloading YouTube videos.
I can't use YouTube's interface since I prefer to surf without JavaScript turned on so this is a welcome workaround. Incidentally, I use Media Player Classic to play the downloaded FlashVideo files.

Monster Hunter 2 trailer.
The Monster Hunter games have some damn cool cinematics --- this remixed fan-compilation has the intros (along with a few in-game scenes) set to a Sonata Arctica song --- and the latest game in the series has the best of the lot. The first half of this trailer is a thrilling action sequence.


5:58 AM - ZoneAlarm'd

I've been using ZoneAlarm, the free version of Zone Lab's firewall, since version 3.x and I've rarely had reason to complain. Oh, I've complained but I've rarely had a good reason for doing so.

Since upgrading to the latest version, 6.5.731, however, I have had a serious problem. I've thrice had the firewall's TrueVector service shut down on me (a Windows message informed me it had to shut down and was dreadfully sorry about the inconvenience) while uTorrent was active.

This was heart-stopping since it meant my poor old PC was defenceless against intruders. Why, someone could gain access to my PC and, I don't know, dump high-quality pornography featuring beautiful uninhibited women on my harddisk or something. That would be horrible, just horrible.

I should clarify that the only times these TrueVector crashes occur are when I'm using uTorrent. Users of uTorrent and other BitTorrent clients have reported similar problems but these reports aren't that widespread so troubleshooting is a bit difficult.

I've done some testing on my own and limiting the number of connections for torrents in uTorrent to 100 seems to prevent the problem from occurring.

(I also enable ZoneAlarm's Game Mode -- right-click on the ZoneAlarm icon in the system tray -- and set it to "Automatic Deny" to prevent any other program from gaining Net access while uTorrent is downloading/upgrading. This shouldn't make a difference but what the hell.)

Since doing this, I haven't had any TrueVector crashes in over 20 hours of using uTorrent but I'll admit it might be a little too early to tell if this workaround actually works. I'll just have to monitor my hard disk regularly for hiqh-quality pornography, I guess.

It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.

Update 24/8 I've had one TrueVector crash since limiting the number of connections. I'm going to disable uTorrent's DHT feature and see if that helps.


Friday, August 18, 2006

2:36 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Dungeons and Dragons Tactics preview.
A PSP game featuring turn-based combat, D&D 3.5 rules and co-op play.

Nextwave # 7 preview. [via]
I have got to get this comic.

On doujinshi.
Wired: "Japan seems to understand that creativity doesn't fall from the sky. It needs nurturing, inspiration, tools and skills; and it's no problem if your inspiration is something cool someone else did first." Tired: "If and when Japan does become a major exporter of its unique brand of 'cool'..." Newsflash: it's already happened, sister.

"Give me money" in different languages.
The list is probably meant for destitute Guild Wars players on international servers but I expect transnational politicians will find it useful as well.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

1:40 AM - Elsewhere on the web

A Keybots Banning Burn review.
This Bandai line is clearly aimed at a young audience -- think My First Interchangeable Robots -- but I'm impressed by the fan-creations on the above site. Check out the review of Rai Shan Maoh, too. In Japanese.

Robot love.
"Doesn't this remind you of anything, Kup?" "Nope. I've never seen anything like this."

Monster Hunter Portable fan-art.


1:40 AM - Taking stock

Hunting wyverns in Monster Hunter Freedom requires planning and preparation, and the inventory system plays a key part in that process. I've often failed a quest simply because I neglected to pack an essential item or sufficient quantities of an item.

Like the rest of the game, the inventory system is quirky. There are 20 slots for 20 different items and there are limits for individual items. Just to complicate matters, these limits differ from item to item. For instance, you can carry a maximum of 10 potions but you can only carry one pitfall trap at a time.

It is possible to work around these limits and a successful hunt often hinges on doing so. For instance, pitfall traps, which temporarily snare wyverns, are a combination of nets and trap tools. Since you can carry a maximum of two trap tools, you can potentially have up to three pitfall traps in total (though not simultaneously). The key word is "potentially" since the success rate for creating a pitfall trap is 65 per cent.

This is where the books of combos come in. When stored in your inventory, the books improve the chances of combining items. I would strongly recommend packing Book of Combos 1 through 3 whenever you're planning on combining pitfall traps since these dramatically lower failure rates. The downside is these three books take up three separate inventory slots.

There are certain areas and situations in the game that require strict inventory management. Take, for example, the Smoke Clad King, a four-star village elder quest to kill an Azure Rathalos, an even tougher variant of the challenging Rathalos.

The quest takes place in volcanic areas which means you'll have to pack cool drinks to avoid your health being gradually depleted. As the Azure Rathalos is capable of poisoning you, you'll also have to pack antidotes. In addition, the Azure Rathalos recovers its health by sleeping in area 7 and you can only awaken him by using throwing knives since his sleeping spot is inaccessible.

You'll quickly find yourself running out of inventory slots and you will have to make some hard choices about what to omit. Leave behind the wrong items and you might find yourself ineffectually swinging away with a blunted weapon or gasping and wheezing as your stamina runs out during a hunt.

If you do happen to forget an essential item, consider abandoning the quest. This will dump you back at the Kokoto village with all the items you had at the start of the quest, saving you the trouble of acquiring those items all over again.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

3:08 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Lego Optimus Prime.
A transformable fan-creation.

The Dymaxion.
"Imagine a car that seats eleven passengers, turns on a dime, has excellent fuel efficiency, and cruises happily at 120 miles per hour." It was built 73 years ago.

General Robotix HRP-2m Choromet. [via]
This slick walking robot is 35cm tall, weighs 1.2kg and costs 498,750 yen.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

3:08 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Disguise: retro toy reviews.
Suzumura Kenji's got some brief reviews of toys from the 80s. It's nice to see pictorials of toys I've only seen in catalogues. In Japanese.

Guild Wars Nightfall preview.
It appears campaign three will be released at the end of October and will be preceeded by a PvE preview on September 1.

Glen Cook wiki.
The Black Company series is well-regarded by some fantasy fans but it didn't do much for me. I have had enough after reading the first four books but I would still recommend picking up the first book if only for its cynical, gritty and downbeat take on might, magic and morality.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

1:52 AM - Elsewhere on the web

A Rockstar-style Bible game.

Sony Mylo.
Some of its features overlap with the PSP's but I'm intrigued by this primarily because of its built-in keyboard and text-editing capabilities. The battery life looks good for a handheld as well ("... 45 hours of music playback, around seven hours of chatting and web surfing ...").

The upside of Columbine massacre.
"... excuse me if it took a horrible massacre to make ordinary people realize how horribly detrimental their actions are."


Thursday, August 10, 2006

12:00 AM - Elsewhere on the web

Gi-ant ro-bo-tto! [via]
Okay, it's not technically a giant and it's not technically a robot. But it's a start. The Hyper Hybrid Model of First Gundam is a 1/12 scale assembly kit which takes about 4 hours to put together and will stand 150cm tall, weigh 35kg and have 14 points of articulation when completed. It costs 350,000 yen and is targetted at adults 20 to 40 years old.

Custom Microman Mortal Kombat figures.

Toy car authority passes on.
"Lillian B. 'Lily' Gottschalk, who gained acclaim for the scope of her antique toy collection as well as for her definitive book on the hobby, has died. She was 84 ... When her husband became ill with cancer, the Gottschalks decided to sell most of their collection ... The two-day sale brought in more than $1.5 million, then a record for a toy auction. Fourteen of the 715 toy vehicles sold for more than $10,000 apiece."


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

11:01 PM - Stikfas

"Pac-Man hand!"

Stikfas Alpha Male Indian

A photo of a Stikfas Alpha Male Indian figure.


Friday, August 04, 2006

11:42 PM - Elsewhere on the web

Hasbro designer on Transformers Titanium.
"And certain things came to mind that would be appropriate for die-cast ... But certainly, Transformers was at the top of the list that would be a perfect translation into die cast." If the interviewer wasn't so sycophantic, he could have cheekily asked why Alternators are all plastic.

The trouble with fleshlings.
Personally, when I sit down to watch a show about Transformers, I want to watch actual Transformers instead of target demographic stand-ins.

Doomsayers are early this season.
The key thing to remember is this: the doomsayers were saying the same things last season before United started their late charge last season. It was too late as it turned out but even with an ever-increasing injury list, even without Keane and even with a makeshift midfield, United managed to make the critics sweat for a bit. Write off the Red Devils at your peril.

Megatron the Mural.
Other graffiti in New York: Spider-Man, Space Ghost.

Best CRPG endings.
Scorpia lives!

Troubles of a junior salesman/ninja.

Japan to build moonbase.
Moonbase? No, no! Where gi-ant ro-bo-tto? Make gi-ant ro-bo-tto! Must have gi-ant ro-bo-tto now!

The differences between girls and boys ...
... extends to their toys. Something clearly evident to all but a few odd individuals back in the 70s. Side note: the Baron-Cohen quoted in the article isn't this guy but they're related.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

1:43 AM - King of the Heavens

My hunting adventures in Monster Hunter Freedom continue.

I finally managed to slay Rathalos after umpteenth attempts. I felt like a superhero, World Cup winner and a rock god combined when the wyvern slumped to the ground.

The Attack of the Rathalos is an urgent village elder quest available when you've cleared every three-star quest and you need to complete it in order to gain access to the four-star quests.

The quest is a toughie for a variety of reasons but mostly because of the time factor. Fifty minutes will just fly by as you're hunting the Rathalos. The problem with Rathalos isn't its offensive or defensive abilities; its most aggravating characteristic is its cowardly nature.

This is not a brave creature despite its majesty and size. It may be dubbed the King of the Heavens but Gutless Wonder would be a more apt description. It has an annoying tendency to fly off at the most inconvenient moments -- for instance, when you have the upper-hand -- and on top of that, it heals itself as well.

You'd think it didn't want to die at your hands.

There's a GameFAQs guide specifically for hunting Rathalos which I found useful and I'd like to add my two cents' worth of advice.

I had planned to use Pitfall Traps to snare the wyvern but unfortunately, wily ol' Rathalos was on to me and flew away as soon as I set a trap. This happened twice and my attempt to combine my last Net and Trap Tool failed.

I was not pleased.

I had no way of keeping the Rathalos stationary which meant I had almost no chance to use the Small Barrel Bombs and Large Barrel Bombs in my inventory.

So I did it the old-fashioned away: repeatedly bashing it on the head.

This is easier said than done since the head is the business end of Rathalos. It has a painful bite for close-quarter combat and a powerful flame breath to blast you at range.

With experience, however, you'll not only be able to anticipate his attacks but you'll be able avoid them and counter with a few swings of your own. Try to curb any impulse to mash the attack buttons. Launching into complex attack combos is not advisable since it leaves you vulnerable.

There are those who would recommend wielding a Great Sword for its high attack value but I found it much too unwieldy and cumbersome a weapon. I much prefer the sword and shield combo and thus relied on the Poison Axe to hunt Rathalos. The Poison Axe only has an attack value of 224 but it's good enough. It's also capable of poisoning targets but in my experience the chances of poisoning the target are so slim as to be negligible.

For defence, I would suggest using a Piercing Helmet for the head and Velociprey gear for the rest. The overall defence value of this set is low but the skills conferred are useful.

Piercing Helmet confers the Auto-Guard skill which automatically guards against attacks with your shield as long as your weapon is drawn. Be warned, however, Auto-Guard doesn't activate if you're attacking yourself or if you're hit from behind.

The Velociprey gear, meanwhile, negates knock-outs which is critical since you cannot afford to be seeing stars when Rathalos is in the area.

You'll be provided with a few Paintballs (two, if memory serves) but you may need a few more since they wear off after about 15 minutes or so. I've failed numerous attempts in this quest because I just couldn't locate Rathalos before time was up. I've also been left frustrated when I've missed with the Paintball so pack extras.

Happy hunting!


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