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Malik (11/17/08)

The Seahawks started yesterday by offering Arizona a large lead. It wasn't until about half way through the game that the Seahawks started to put up a real effort (as well as some points). In the end, even a come back, which was looking possible, wasn't enough. Arizona claimed victory with a small difference in score (a single drive could have reversed their lead). Worst of all, that final game winning drive came to the Seahawks...and the boys in blue had to just give the ball away with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

I'll keep this brief.

The offensive line, for Seattle, is a joke. Hasselbeck is lucky to have not been re-injured in the game. He was sacked and had to hurry too many times. This is how to break a good QB; by not defending him.

The offensive game should stop trying to force what doesn't work. If the run is not in the cards, then it needs to stop. Especially if it's third and long...and Holmgren needs to stop calling a run on every second down. If I can predict his plays, and I'm not earning a pay check doing so, I bet the coach (of defensive coordinator) of the the division leading opponent can too.

Defense? What the hell is that? It's obviously something the Seahawks need to pick up sometime. As a hint, if our center linebacker (Tatupu) is covering a receiver, on any play, then something is wrong.

At least the passing game didn't look beyond hope. With Branch and Hasselbeck not having played for over a month, they didn't look too bad. Now if only the Seahawks can build on that. In fact, the Seahawks should just focus on the offense and try to outscore their opponents if they want any chance to be better than 2-14 in a month and a half.

Lastly...I think I just need to quit watching. It's too damned painful to continue this charade...of course, I say that now but I sure as hell will be on my couch next Sunday watching the Seahawks make another attempts to be better than the Rams when the season ends.

Not to sound like a jerk...but at least Wahle is injured, so the Seahawks may escape some obviously stupid penalties now.


Malik (11/19/08)

Yesterday was pretty fast and frantic, so posting was only a pipe dream.

As for the new Rock Band songs, I downloaded most of them. I skipped the Metal three pack (none of the songs clicked with me, despite a mild enjoyment of Lacuna Coil). As for the rest, they are all pretty fun.

The Crooked-X song is worth a $1 price tag if you enjoyed either of their other two Rock Band tracks. It's nothing too technical, but it's still a good variety on their other songs.

Mission of Borneo is fun...but also frantic on guitar. Every one of their three RB tracks are full of some fast as hell strumming mixed in with a fast normal strum seen on songs like Blitzkrieg Bop. Overall, I think MoB is best played with a band, but could offer fun for any part.

The Dead Kennedys songs are awesome. There is no getting around it. If you like the Dead Kennedys to any extent, then you need this three pack. The guitar is fast, the lyrics are strong and powerful, the drums are insane, and I imagine the bass is probably pretty solid.

As for expert guitar, none of the songs are beyond hard, but none are easy either. The only exception being Holiday in Cambodia...which can be a mother f#@$er on guitar. With a fast strum and a barrage of alternating notes (Y->O->Y->O, etc), it can destroy a guitarist...or at least offer a bit of pain. It actually did destroy me at the end of the song when the alternating part didn't want to end. However, as a band it should be a bit better...assuming you're not concerned the entire song with saving the drummer. While nothing goes overly technical in any of the songs I downloaded, they will all work up a sweat on expert. Plus, it's good to see a bit more punk finding it's way to RB...even if it's Post-Punk wrongly called Punk like with MoB.

Today is the big XBox Live update. I'm always cautious of Live updates since there was one about two years ago that bricked a good number of 360s. Sadly, I'll have to get this patch early on so I can keep having scores updated to the RB2 leader boards. I just hope that I get it over with quickly, since I have no interest in the update beyond the Netflix abilities...which won't even come into play until Velveta gets her account all linked up (since she's the Netflix-er on my 360). Although, from what I've read, the RB2 installation may be worth looking into if I can free up about 7GB. Supposedly it's going to cut load times in half.


Malik (11/20/08)

This year saw a lot of the term "lipstick on a pig". I think it's appropriate since that's what NXE (the new 360 dashboard) feels like to me. Yes, it does have some good features, but I don't think they are really requiring the new dashboard to implement them.

NetFlix streaming is nice. I tried it last night and enjoyed what it could do. True, it would be a whole lot better with the addition of some good movies to the NetFlix streaming library. Most of the selection reminded me of the videos one could check out from a library in the 1980's; old, tired, and not worth the time it takes to watch them. I guess there is a few good items...but I'm not all that impressed and never really was with the NetFlix instant watch thing.

As far as how it works with the 360, however, is good. It streams pretty quickly and the buffering is nothing beyond what you'd see with smaller files found on Youtube. So, all in all, the NetFlix NXE features are good...but they could have been done on the old dashboard.

I cannot try the installation feature for games. This looks like another cool feature, especially from what I've heard of how it works with my precious Rock Band 2. It lowers loading times on most games, and greatly reduces them on a few major titles. However, if you're a RB addict, like myself, and love to download DLC, then you better have a HDD larger than 20GB. I have 0.1GB less than needed for RB2 install (around 9GB of DLC and RB1 tracks kills a 20GB HDD in a hurry). However, I doubt this also required the facelift found on the dashboard.

As for the rest of the NXE update; it's all crap or forced changes. The menu system is straight out of the PSP...but with major menus going up and down and sub-menus going left to right, instead of the opposite found on the PSP. Most things are now found in a cluster of sub-menus that feel clumsy. I mean if NXE was supposed to make things more user friendly...then why did we go from 5 menu blades to about six main menu screens loaded with potentially hundreds of sub-menus? The "potentially" is due to all games you have achievements for having their own separate mini-menu item. It's a huge clump of stuff that is not quick or easy to sort through.

As for the changes to the layout, there is nothing making this more streamlined than the old dashboard. If I am feeling generous, I'd say it's the same level of complexity for casual gamers and less for the standard 360 fans. However, being less than generous today, I can say it's overly convoluted for both sets of gamers. It is like lipstick on a pig...same old thing as the old system, but requiring more attention to detail (you want that lipstick to be on straight and not be smudged, right?).

The other big change is the avatar system. I don't know it and don't aim to. If I wanted a Mii, I'd be playing the Wii more. Since I don't, I skipped the avatar system completely. In case you're thinking, "but you have to make an avatar", you are wrong. When it brings up the forced "make an avatar" screen when you log in, just hit the guide button. It should all sort itself out after you hit either "b" or the guide button a second time.   Then again, I may make a quick and ugly as sin avatar to just not be prompted does get annoying.

Speaking of which, the guide button seems poorly utilized. The old use was simple and made sense. The new one is basically a system that brings up something like the old dashboard...but not. You get, for the most part, all the same features as the old dashboard, but with a few tiny pieces missing (like the bulk of the configuration options).

Worst of all, in my eyes, is what comes up when you use the guide button, try to delete a file, or do anything else that would bring up a prompt of some sort (like making a purchase or download). It's a box straight out of a DOS Shell application in the early 1990's (pre-Windows 95). While the NXE is trying to put lipstick on a pig, the new prompt box is putting shit-stick on a pig. It's ugly, feels out of place, and is so damned intrusive (like a warning message on Window). Most of all, considering Microsoft was trying to make NXE look so pretty, is that this seems to be defeated when these ugly as sin prompts come up. I would design better looking prompts in my days of trying to unsuccessfully learn Visual Basic.

That comment isn't me trying to sound like I'm better than Microsoft, because I was really bad at Visual Basic. It's actually me trying to explain that Microsoft, with their giant budgets, are worse than me at something so damned simple.

On other notes of interest;

NXE seems to like to occasionally freeze for up to a minute if you dick around on the friends avatar menu. Don't hit anything beyond the d-pad/left-stick, A, or B on that menu and you'll be fine. Otherwise, just grab a soda or a beer and it'll be back in a minute.

The frequent reminders of how much HDD space you have left is nice. So is the constant reminder of any messages or friends online in the top corner.

If you were foolish enough to spend money on an old theme, you're shit out of luck on this one. The themes will be mangled, but will show to some extent. If you only liked the middle of the images on your theme, then you'll do fine. Otherwise, I'd expect there's going to be a call for Microsoft to refund purchases of themes. Doesn't mean anything to me since it does say that once you buy it you're stuck with the purchase...but I could see people being annoyed with this change.

I don't know if or how this also effects gamer pics, since I don't care. My friends change their pics a lot, and I use free shit that I've only changed once (from the free monkey to the free RB2 guitar symbol). I think these pics still show, but not as obviously as the avatars...which I also care nothing about.

Most of all, I use my 360 to play games. I've watched a couple videos from my PC on the 360 and will use the 360 to stream a couple NetFlix movies. However, since subtitles tend to get cut off on my configuration (unless I want the video to be in a tiny "native" resolution), I don't use it too often. So, with games being important, I couldn't care less about what happens to my dashboard.

Still, with this level of change, I think Microsoft could have used doing the Hotmail approach. Hotmail allows for you to use an Outlook looking UI or the old simple UI. The 360 could use this same option of using the blades or the NXE system. The only good changes here are the installation (I think) and the NetFlix feature. With that in mind, the old system would work just fine.

Then again, in this modern era when the Wii is the best selling console, Microsoft will have to try something to win some casual gamers. Too bad for them it's not the dashboard that matters. That only matters when the casual gamers are fleeing the 360. When you need to attract them to begin with, the answer is what it's always been; making the console seem simple and fun from the beginning...not from the first time it's turned on. A purchase must be made before something like NXE would even come into play.


Malik (11/21/08)

I have finally decided to pick up the mic on some solo play of Rock Band 2. Nothing like beating more songs on guitar each day and then finding yourself back on medium difficulty and struggling to survive on a different instrument. More so, I just wanted to finally get some more of the challenges done, and this includes beating the different instruments. Bass was done for me a while back, but guitar (weirdly enough), vocal, and drums have remained mostly untouched on challenge mode.

Anyway, for the Rock Band DLC for this weeks announcement, it's pretty good and, once again, diverse. There's two three packs, a two song single set, and a single track.

As for the less inspired (but ideal for those who need their precious challenges...because who cares about fun when you can have challenge?), there's a single from Lamb of God (Laid to Rest). There's also a three pack from Yngwie Malsteen. I guess that second one would be the ideal for the people who think RB needs more finger destroying expert guitar charts. Afterall, Yngwie and guitar shredding are almost synonymous with each other. It'll also tackle some of the cheesy power metal needs, with speed, that people will point out as Dragon Force on GH3.

As for the stuff I'm excited about...there's two songs from Soundgarden (Jesus Christ Pose and Pretty Noose). I'm glad to see some more alternative coming from the Seattle 90's grunge scene since, until the Nirvana seven pack, it's been a less seen part of the DLC variety. Best of all, in my eyes at least, there's the long expected Killers three pack (Mr. Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, and Spaceman). This was expected for about a week and a half, but it's still good to see it is still really coming.

I have to say, even if Yngwie and Lamb of God are not my ideals for RB, it's awesome that Harmonix is keeping up the variety. There were too many times when the music selection was too limited (usually with metal, nu-metal, or metal-core) for a week. Times like this week and next week are great when almost anyone can have a shot at enjoying what's coming out for DLC.

My big surprise from this is that it means we'll have only four weeks left for the three (two plus the No Doubt pseudo-album) remaining announced albums for 2008. I would have expected one for next week just to space them out a bit more than averaging two in a single two week span. Oh just means December will be a great month for DLC opportunities.


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