Feeling Creative?

Date Tue, November 11 2008

I have pondered reviewing Oscar Mayer Deli Creations for some time now. For whatever reason, I kept discounting it in my mind as something which was not quality review material. Yet, every time I have one I think “this is so good, I should review it.” So I will, if for no other reason than it is so good that I cannot help but spread the love.

I have had the Ham and Cheddar sub sandwich from Deli Creations several time now and it has never been a let down. Originally, I think I tried one which my husband had purchased for lunch as he tried them first. I would dare say I felt in love with this treat which is indeed “hot & melty” as the package describes.

At first look it seems to be a bit overpriced (which is is) and the ingredients are neither expensive or hard to find. Each box contains ingredients for 1 sub sandwich: meat, cheese, condiments and sub bread. The bread is actually more of a roll and is Harvest Wheat. The meat and cheese vary by sandwich and in this package contains oven roasted ham and cheddar cheese. The ham and cheese come in very generous portions. The ham and cheddar sandwich comes with Grey Poupon Country Dijon or mayonnaise packets.

Deli Creations provide a microwave tray on which you build your sandwich. For vegetable lovers, it may seem a bit stark but I have also been a meat and cheese lover. There are 8 or so small pieces of ham which it both higher in quantity and quality than you would find with those individual sandwich packets of meat. The cheese is also exceptional in quality. It’s real. As someone who despises imitation cheese, I was certianly impressed. The cheddar comes in a plastic rap and is one slice which is the length of the sandwich. Add your sauce – I use mayo – and microwave it for 1 minute.

True to its name, the cheese melts wonderfully. Although the idea of microwaving a meanwhile might sound odd, it tastes delicious and it is perfect warm. I think it would be difficult to create a similar sandwich from scratch and achieve comparable success.

This little sub is surprisingly filling and tasty albeit pricey for what it contains. I believe that price pays for a truly delicious snack. This sandwich is more than just a sum of its parts. While you can make a ham and cheese sandwich and might even have some success replicating it but the way Oscar Mayer does it with Ham and Cheddar Deli Creations never fails.


Date Sun, November 9 2008

Well, I am still having trouble using my custom domain with blogger. In the meantime, the site will be located at http://blog.reviewsbycole.com However, it will eventually be moved to the main domain. I hope.

For anyone who can be of help – I am getting the error “another blog is already hosted at this address” when I try to publish through my custom domain. I know this is not true. I know the DNS settings are correct because I pinged the domain and it is posting to ghs.google.com. I have contacted Google via the “magic” form but have heard nothing. I tried the Google Apps workaround but it doesn’t seem to work anymore.

Any help is welcome.

Say what now?

Date Sat, November 8 2008

I find it kind of funny that often, when I reach for a pen, I pull out one of the AIU insurance pens from Misawa. It’s one of those promotional pens they give you and it’s quite bulky and we have a couple. Seeing it reminds me of Japan and how I miss Misawa. Funny – I never thought I’d say that.

Lego Batman

Date Fri, November 7 2008

Let me start this by saying I have not really enjoyed any other games on the XBox. For the most part, they are not my style so for me to even consider playing a game is pretty shocking. I was attracted to Lego Batman because the Lego concept is cute and I enjoy the idea of Batman. My husband, of course, is also a Batman fan and we mostly picked it up to play together.

I was excited to play this game and still enjoy it but have become increasingly frustrated by certain pitfalls. First, though, the good.

The characters are adorable. The ego design interprets Batman’s stealth and masculinity and even shows the female characters and their curves adorably. We play with and against well known names like Batman, Robin, Catwoman and the Joker and see figures which may only be known to more serious fans such as Nightwing and The ManBat. I think this allows casual and hardcore fans alike to appreciate the game.

Every character has the ability to fight in a meelee style and the villains have a special power which doubles as a weapon and is generally required to beat the levels. For instance, Poision Ivy has a chemical cloud that grows flowers, stuns people and makes door operators fall in love with her. Mr Freeze can freeze people or liquid. The Bat crew can also use batarangs as well as a sort of grappling gun. Furthermore, certain characters are super strong (Mr Freeze), can double jump (Poison Ivy) or can walk in toxic waste and there are different BatMan and Robin suits which can also be worn by Nightwing and Batgirl which allow the gang go swim, plant bombs, break glass, and use technology among other tools.

Although released after The Dark Knight, it has nothing to do with that story. The plot is interesting enough without being too in depth. The entire story can be played as a hero or villain from the Batcave and Arkham Asylum, respectively. The overall story is broken into 3 levels on each side (hero vs villain) and each episode is made up of 5 levels for a total of 30 levels and 2 bonus levels. The levels are counterparts to each other. That is, each level is played from both the side of the heroes and of the villains; although you do not fight the heroes as the villain so it is not the same level as the other time. Villain levels generally show the villains plotting before the faceoff with the Bat crew. Of course, each works up to a boss at the end of the episode and the episodes altogether create a larger story.

Gameplay is fairly basic (as are the controls, thankfully). and you start each level in story mode. You break people and stuff which are made out of Legos. You also build things with Legos like levers and vehicles to accomplish goals. In between this, you drive around in little cars, boats, trucks or motorcycles, control robots and helicopters, walk on tight ropes and ride in giant mech-like robots.

The breaking and killing result in dropped coins, call studs, and hearts for health. Each character (you and a friend can play) has optimum health at 4 hearts and “dies” when the hearts run out. This results in the scattering of some of your studs – a loss of money. At certain times, Ryan and I would find ourselves stuck and we searched for the solutions online. Although this only happened 2 or 3 times, for a game that is made for 10 year olds, this could be an issue. After beating story mode, you can play in free mode which allows you to select your character and the computer assigns additional characters you can switch to.

Besides beating each level and the game itself, there are smaller accomplishments built in. By collecting enough studs (how many varies by level), you can achieve Superhero or Supervillain and get a piece of the Super kit (collecting all superkits unlock the extra bonus levels). By accomplishing certain feats players can get minikits, of which there are 10 for each level. Gaining all these minikits results in a reward of studs. Also, you can collect red bricks which unlock additional abilities and tools like a minikit detector and stud magnet. However, extras are routinely unlocked as you complete the levels ad you will soon find yourself able to purchase suit upgrades, characters and other abilities.

As you unlock different abilities and characters, you can go back and play the free play on levels which you have already played in story mode. This helps you get more studs and complete the game. After playing each level, you can see how much of the game is completed by percentage and this includes beating the levels as well as finding all the red bricks, minikits and making superhero/villain as well.

Now for the bad. The really bad. The thing that makes this game so frustrating: Camera Angles.

From my understanding, this has been a problem for all the Lego games. Basically, you have very little control over the camera, so little that you might as well not have any. This results in your character being far from the screen and difficult seeing where he is or what he is doing. Because of this you will experience any number of these issues:

  • getting stuck in a corner
  • falling off ledges and dying
  • walking to your death (because you cannot see where you’re walking)
  • missing your target when you jump
  • difficulty climbing ladders
  • walking into the enemy, bullets, toxic slime and any other potentially fatal substance
  • having to move blindly through the game
  • using a special ability when you are trying to build something
  • being pushed off ledges by the computer when playing 2 player

Overall, the camera angles result in a lot of unnecessary dying not because of a lack of skill but because you cannot possibly judge where you need to be, are going or what is around you. This seems to cause a lot of trouble when player multiplayer (and sometimes when playing alone) because the camera tries to focus on both players but sometimes this is not feasible. Unless you stay close together which can sometimes kill you, it’s difficult to see.

Another, albeit lesser issue, I have is when playing multiplayer. You have a computer player as well and sometimes this person stands directly in your way so you cannot hit your target or jump where you need to. Often, you must kill your sidekick in order to get him out the way. And, although he does fight the enemy, he doesn’t do it very well so you wind up doing the brunt of the work. Lastly, there are times when you each must pull a switch and getting the computer player to do so is usually a hassle.

Because we play this game on the XBox 360, we can unlock XBox achievements which add a little more excitement to the game.

Nonetheless, I enjoy Lego Batman overall. I like how the elements of each character – both hero and villain – were brought in from the history of Batman. I thought that the characters were cute, the weapons were fitting and the story made sense. However, the camera angle causes enough frustration that it could cause a person to not want to even finish the game. I think if that issue were solved, this game would not only be more fun, but easier as well.

Helpful Hint: Items which are blue and/or sparkly can be blown up with Batman’s demolition suit or run over with larger vehicles.

Here Kitty Kitty

Date Thu, November 6 2008

I recently purchased and read Two Cats, Three Tales a collective of the first The Cat Who.. novels by Lillian Jackson Braun. This collection contains The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern and The Cat Who Turned On and Off. Overall, I enjoyed these stories although they were a bit dated and short.

Chances are, if you’ve ever been to a bookstore then you’ve seen one or more of the books in Ms Braun’s series which originated in the late 1960s. It’s hard to not know of this New York Times bestselling author. I had first ran across these books several years ago but just got around to picking up this edition less than a month ago.

The main character of these stories is on Jim Qwuilleran who was once a major crime reporter in New York City but is now working columns which are strange to him: first art and then interior decorating. Although crime is no longer his official duty, he finds himself unable to investigate strange crimes that occur to individuals associated with the cultures he finds himself writing about.

In the Cat Who Could Read Backwards Qwilleran accepts an apartment from the much hated art editor of the Daily Fluxion, the paper for which Qwilleran works. Qwilleran finds the critic interesting if not strange and is quite taken by his cat whom Qwilleran calls Koko, a super sharp Siamese who can read backwards. Soon after, the director of an art studio which the critic seems to favor is found dead by his attractive wife, followed by a suspicious falling death of a local artist who calls himself a “Thingist” and headed up by the unnerving death of the critic himself. Qwilleran quickly finds himself investigating what he sees as three related deaths with the help of Koko who helps him unearth clues others have missed to reveal the mystery.

In The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, we find Qwilleran the new owner of Koko and in new digs as well. Qwilleran’s boss soon informs him that he will be working the Fluxion’s new interior design magazine and while Qwilleran initially wants to refuse, he accepts the position. Everything seems to go off without a hitch and Qwilleran is soon interviewing a local man with quite the collection of jade. However, immediately after the release of the new magazine, the collection turns up stolen and Qwilleran and the Daily Fluxion wonder if they painted a blueprint for the burglars. Furthermore, the collector’s wife has also died, apparently from natural causes. Meanwhile Qwilleran and Koko become friends with their new neighbour who soon turns up dead after Qwilleran features his apartment in the magazine. Once again Qwill and his cat Koko take a deeper look into a mystery where everything is not as it seems.

Lastly, The Chat Who Turned On and Off starts with Qwill needing a new abode, once more for himself, Koko and the new addition to their small family: Yum Yum who was once the cat of the jade collector’s wife. Qwilleran and his cats take an apartment in Junk Town, the area where upper class residents with too much time spend too much money on antiques and other junk. He soon finds himself on the case of an antique dealer who met an untimely death with a chandelier. As Qwilleran tries to write a prize winning piece about the Christmas spirit in Junktown, hs is met with another mystery when his new landlady’s husband also meets his demise. Will Koko aid Qwill in the investigation this time, or has his cat lost the crime solving touch?

I found these novels to be extremely quick and easy reads and spent only about a day on each of them. I didn’t find any parts of them to be especially boring but I did note that they were a bit dated and came off as the sort of family friendly reading material you might associate with Nancy Drew. Similar to old Nancy Drew novels, there were a few instances of words and opinions that could come off racists to Mexicans and blacks.

The mysteries themselves were all fairly complex and interesting but not entirely suspenseful. I never really found myself on the edge of my seat or biting my nails although I was enjoying reading.

Kim Qwilleran is definitely a likable character if not the most interesting one. He is fairly easy going and easy to appease with few enemies, although the culprits are not usually his biggest fans.

I think these novels show their age by how tame they are. Modern mysteries are much more suspenseful and not so family friendly. Still, they make for a good light read and, all things considered, have done well when it comes to standing the test of time. I would probably read more novels in the series based on my experience with Two Cats, Three Tales.

What Time of Year Is It?

Date Thu, November 6 2008

I am totally of the school of thought that the Christmas season does not officially begin until after Thanksgiving. Of course, I am a huge fan of Halloween and want it to last longer. Still, I understand how much easier it is to get your shopping done sooner rather than later even if it takes away from the holiday spirit. However, I do not understand why Best Buy and Wal-mart have to be playing Christmas music already! It is not even a week into November. While some people may be shopping for sports gifts early, even they don’t want to hear Christmas music yet!

I feel like my mom when I complain about things like this but has the world gone crazy?!

Odor Be Gone

Date Wed, November 5 2008

If you have had any trouble trying to access the site lately, it’s because I am having some issues moving to my new domain. This is also why I have not yet done so. Don’t worry, it will happen in time!

Domain Name Registration from Namecheap