Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Geeks: born or made?

My recent post on WarGames made me wonder something: Are geeks born or made? Certainly when I first saw David Lightman and his computer skills, I thought it must be the former. No way, no how, was I that smart. Now that I've had a bit more experience in life than I did when I was nine, I think it leans in the other direction.

I believe that a fundamental quality of geekiness is curiosity. I have learned far too many things to list by hearing a random line in a movie or on TV and going to look up related topics on the Internet. Add books to the mix and I easily double that. And let's not forget the great conversations I have with my friends and coworkers which spark their own round of net questing. I know other geeks who are not quite as varied in their geekiness, but they all tend to have the quality in common that they are curious about one thing or another. My husband has been a sports geek most of his life. He could care less however about one of my geeky passions: cooking.

If we are born with any part of geekiness, it would be the curiosity. The additional element, the knowledge, is certainly made. I am not a geek just because I own a computer. I am a geek because I have read many books, magazines, and articles on the Internet about computers. I am a geek because I can tell you exactly what parts are inside my computer AND give you reasons that I chose them. I was not born with any of this knowledge. I had to take the time to learn about the things I was curious about. I continue that habit today.

If you are on the outside looking in at geekdom, take heart in that you can come in and be welcome any time you like. All you need to do is cultivate your curiosity, and take the time and effort to learn about the things that interest you. Come to the geek side... we have cookies! :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shall we play a game?

Recently I read the article "The 10 movies you shouldn't watch online" and it reminded me of one of my favorite 80s geek flicks, WarGames. If you've never seen the movie, go watch it, online, big screen TV, 13 inch CRT, whatever :) Then come back and read the rest of this post! The remainder of this post may contain movie spoilers... but if you followed my instructions, that should not be a problem ;)

I remember when I was a young geek being totally fascinated by the things David Lightman could do with his computer... things I could only dream about doing. I thought he must be some sort of super genius, disguised a high school student. I couldn't imagine how anyone learned to war dial. On a good day I could make my Apple II Plus play "Math Blaster!", and that was about it. Now I'm a little wiser about the skill level of David's antics, but I still think it's a really fun movie.

The technology in WarGames is of course quite dated. I don't know anyone who still uses a modem, much less an a modem with an acoustic coupler. However some of the fundamental theories still hold today. David breaks into the WOPR by finding the programmer's back door, which was password protected with his son's name. Passwords are still one of the places many systems are vulnerable because many people use words or numbers connected to themselves in their passwords. The address of the house I grew up in would make a poor password. Anyone with decent detective skills could find that out. Later in the movie the WOPR determines what the missile launch code is using a brute force attack. Brute force is too slow for most encryption methods these days. It is however a valid algorithm solving technique in a number of situations.

My favorite line from that movie is still the title of this post. I think WOPR stole the show! :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lunches part 3 - the packing

This is the last of the general posts in my lunch series. If you have been enjoying this series too much for it to end, do not fret! I will return with a number of posts on specific lunch topics. For today though, the subject is packing.

I would love to have an assortment of cute bento boxes. Every now and then I go surfing the net and debate spending the money to get something like this:

I haven't though, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have more exciting things to spend my money on (video games!). The other is that I would feel like I needed to take extra care if I bought special boxes. I think that would get on my nerves sooner or later. I don't have a problem microwaving or dishwashering a cheap plastic container. If I kill it, I kill it. If I ruined a $20 Hello Kitty box, I would be sad.

So instead I have an assortment of reasonably priced (if boring) plastic containers. Some are Rubbermaid, the rest are Lock & Lock. I have an assortment of sizes, ranging from 1 cup to 2.5 cups. All are watertight. Glass and metal containers are readily available for people who do not want to use plastic.

The Lock & Lock containers are my favorite because they have two sections each. I often pack one of the smaller ones with two different vegetables (potatoes and carrots, for example). For the larger ones, I'll put something like curry one one side and rice on the other. Or pasta on one side and vegetables on the other. The small sections are removable, so I could pack two things that need different microwaving times. If anything is particularly liquidy, it does tend to creep over the barrier unless I use a strategically placed piece of plastic wrap (Basically over the whole container under the top. Just lock the flaps over it.)

I get my cute factor from my lunch boxes. I have two Hello Kitty lunch boxes, and one Kung Fu Panda box. All of them are insulated, so my lunch will stay cold for a few hours. I also have a Hello Kitty water bottle :)

Food safety is one of the most important considerations when packing lunch. In my insulated lunch box, something that comes out of the fridge will stay cold for a few hours. If lunch is going to be late, I take the food out and put it in the fridge in my office. If that were not available, I'd pack reusable ice pack with my lunch. Anything that I'm microwaving is probably being heated for the second time. That means after that reheating I either eat all of the food, or throw away the rest. If I think I only want half my lunch, I only microwave half of it.

I also use zip-loc bags and plastic wrap as needed to pack up lunch. My lunches are not waste-free. I try to find a balance between convenience and not using tons of plastic. One thing I rarely use anymore is aluminum foil. I discovered Press N Seal wrap about a year ago, and never looked back. You can pack moist things in it, without them leaking all over the place. And it works far better than foil in the freezer.

One last thing: learning to pack lunches takes some practice and some experimentation. Be careful about keeping things watertight. (When in doubt, put the container inside a zip-loc bag. If nothing happens, you can always reuse the bag later.) Pack food snugly, so if containers get turned on their sides, your food will stay more or less in place. If something squishes easily, be sure to pack it in a ridged container (not a baggie). Soon you will learn what packing strategies work for you, and if you are careful, you can avoid any lunch disasters in the process! :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mmmmm, chocolate :-)

I am quite excited this weekend that I get to try out a new chocolate cake recipe. This one is special in that one of its ingredients is sourdough starter. I think that makes it the geekiest cake recipe I've every baked :)

A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water, which has yeast growing in it. Back before yeast was available in handy little packets, starters were the standard way to leaven bread. Now most people find packaged yeast much more convenient. However you need a starter to get a traditional sourdough flavor, and that's what drew to them.

Those of you who know what sourdough bread tastes like, and what chocolate cake tastes like, are probably wondering how those two could have anything in common. The answer is in the lactic acid in the starter. Lactic acid grows right along side the yeast in a sourdough starter. They actually have a bit of a symbiotic relationship. The lactic acid metabolizes the maltose in the flour and water mixture. As it's churning through the maltose it produces glucose. The yeast eats other sugars, including the glucose! (The yeast produces alcohol... but trying to drink from your starter is not recommended ;) )

The lactic acid gives sourdough its distinctive flavor. It's also a great way to add acid to a cake. That in itself is not unusual. Many cakes use buttermilk or sour cream as one of the ingredients, not so much for the taste, but for the acid. The acid makes the cake more tender. This recipe uses sourdough starter for the same purpose. Once the sugar, cocoa, and other ingredients are added, the sourness should fade into the background, if not disappear completely. I'll find out which one this weekend! :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tis a king's bounty I be seeking.

Of late I have been playing King's Bounty: The Legend, which is the 2008 sequel to the original King's Bounty from 1990. To put it succinctly, this game has all of the questing and fighting as in the popular Heroes of Might and Magic series, without the castle building. Heroes is one of my favorite series of games, and playing King's Bounty is ranking high on my geeky fun meter. I would like to share with you some of the fun I am having with the game. This will not be a traditional review. (For that, try metacritic.com.) This will be an introduction to the game told in the voice of the main character. Warning: the next few paragraphs contain spoilers from the first few hours of game play.

My name is Christian Tyler, paladin of the realm. Today is a important occasion. I have just completed the last tests of my skills, and I face my master to find out what position I will be awarded in the King's service. My hope is that I will be given noble and honorable service. Ahh, I must quiet my thoughts now and approach my master.

[Master] You have done well Sr. Christian. I am please to have had you among my students. I know you will serve the King with great honor and success. Is it therefore my recommendation that you receive the position of Treasure Seeker.

Treasure Seeker? Is he serious? I was quite startled by his proclamation. I struggled to pull myself together as I spoke: "Master, I .. I am honored by your words. Do you truly feel that Treasure Seeker is the correct position for me? I long to use my skills in battle."

[Master] You will see plenty of battle as a Treasure Seeker. Not all would give there treasures up willingly. Go now and speak with the King.

And thusly I was sent on my way. The King gave me a sack of gold to hire an army, and charged me with a series of tasks. The tasks ranged from the sensible to the absurd. (Can not some messenger deliver this missive to the King's brother?!?) My initial army was depressingly small, as not many men were willing to follow someone with so little experience. Soon however my leadership abilities were proven and I able to hire a mass which fit the tasks at hand.

All was going well when the King sent me to retrieve a chest from a mage tower in a neighboring land. The journey to the tower was fraught with peril. Sr. Christian does not give up however, and I valiantly fought my way through. Upon reaching the mage tower I spoke with the mage in charge and asked for the Chest of Rage (in the name of the king, of course). He handed it over... and the world stopped. I fear I do not remember anything from that moment. When I was once again myself, the infuriating mage explained that the chest bonded to me. The Spirits of Rage inside the chest are now mine to command, if I can convince them to play along. You see, binding of the chest does not control the contents within.

I returned to the King only to tell him that the chest was safe, but could not become part of his royal treasure. That is, unless he wished me to remain there with it. The King did not appreciate my joke. I of course forgave his royalness's lack of humor when he explained that an evil mage had taken up residence on a far away island. I was to fly there at once and see that the mage was removed. (Fly, you ask? In my journeys I aided a Dwarf in fixing his flying machine. We would be there in no time.) If I'd had more time to think about it, I might have wondered if the kind was merely trying to see the end of my life come sooner rather than later. My death was the only thing that would free the Chest of Rage. Do not shame me for thinking such things of the King. I have learned much in my time in the world.

When we landed on the island I approached the evil mage and demanded that he return with me immediately and face his judgment, or face it at the hands of my army. The mage did not seem perturbed. He raised his hands to the sky and called upon his evil minion to remove us from the premises. Knights do not cower in fear. I admit however my heart did skip a beat when what fell from the sky was a giant...

---
Did Sir Christan ever learn to control the Spirits of Rage? And exactly what did fall from the sky, which made Sr. Christian tremor in fear? To find out those things and many more, my fellow geeks, you will have to play King's Bounty for yourself. Good hunting!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Geeks guide to online discounts

With all of my posts about the economy, my faithful readers may feel that I am against shopping. That is not true! Shopping is one of my favorite recreational activities! Yet it is not something I can do in unlimited quantities, so I attempt to extend my fun by getting the best prices I can on many purchases. This has two benefits:
1. I get a blast out of looking for deals online, and the looking makes my shopping experiences last longer.
2. If I pay less for the things I buy, I have more money to buy other things.

So where do I go to find good deals, you ask? My first universal catch all e-store is amazon.com. I often go there first to get a good idea of what prices something is going for. I also buy a lot of books through their 4-for-3 deal, where if you buy 4 books, the lowest priced one is free. They extend the deal to movies and other items from time to time as well. Regular Amazon shoppers will also recognize that they change their prices regularly on many items. Make a wishlist and track the price of a few things over a month or so. They change prices weekly, sometimes more frequently like that. Websites such as MyListWatcher.com will watch your wishlist for you, and let you know when a price drops below the target price you have set.

In addition to Amazon I shop at a number of online e-tailers. I am also on the emailing lists for most of these places. I often have something in mind that I want, but I'm willing to wait for a good deal before I buy. This lets me keep an eye out for a sale, free shipping, or some other bonus. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not do all my shopping online. E-tailers which have a brick and mortar location will often email coupons which can be used in-store as well. Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Best Buy often do this, as well as a number of other stores that I can think of. To keep my email manageable, I have an address which I use specifically for online shopping and for receiving emails from retailers. Personal emails from my friends and family go elsewhere.

A number of sites also give discounts or list coupons for online and in-person shopping. Fatwallet is my favorite of these. They offer a percentage of cash back on purchases from many e-stores. They also have a lively forum where members post links to all sorts of deals and coupons. Last year I got a great tip that costco.com was selling the GPS I was interested in for $100 less than everywhere else from a Fatwallet forum.

Lastly, it's a great idea to check out major purchases at as many places as possible before pulling the trigger. Last fall my husband and I shopped for a HDTV for 3 months, before finally buying one on black Friday. We looked at TVs in a number of stores. We read about HDTVs online in general. We also searched online for reviews and comparison information about the models we were considering. The work paid off and we got a great TV, for a good price (particularly after we went back and got a further 10% discount through a price matching policy). We are still very happy with it today. And all my friends forgave me for talking about nothing but HDTVs for three months! Okay, I'm joking. My friends are geeks. They ate the HDTV talk up too! :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Geeky Grocery Shopping, Round 2

Get fed! Feedburner's up and running for Long Live Geeks. Not that you couldn't get fed before, but now it's cooler :)

I just looked at the feed version of this post, and the example spreadsheets did not come through. They look great on the original version though.

Now for a different kind of feeding, we're revisiting the geeky grocery shopping method I discussed in an earlier post. This time with pictures!

As I mentioned before, Cyril (my husband) works in Pittsburgh, and we live about an hour a way. That makes stores that I'd like to shop at, such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods, much more convenient to him than to me on a regular basis. So we worked out a way for me to write effective (re: detailed) grocery lists, without a huge hassle. The result is a Google Docs spreadsheet which stores the master list and can easily be used to generate a current list.

Here's what the master list looks like:

We set up columns for each useful category. The critical column for creating current lists is the Quantity column. A formula in the second page uses that column to generate the current list. Any item with a quantity of 1 or greater automatically appears in the list. The current list also sorts by store1, so the items to purchase are in a big block for each store. I doubt everything would make it home if they were all mixed up :) Here's an example current list, with a list of stuff for Whole Foods:

If you would like to make your own geeky grocery list, you are welcome to start with mine as a template. A viewable copy may be found here. You do not need a Google account to view or export the spreadsheet. Unfortunately Google docs does not have a feature to let people copy a publically viewable spreadsheet to another Google doc, so you'd have to export it, then use the export to make your own Google spreadsheet. Just in case anything goes wrong, the only tricky part is the cell A2 on the current list. That's the one which has the function in it which pulls the items in from the master list. It looks like this:
=sort(filter('Master List'.A2:H100;'Master List'.G2:G100>0);5;TRUE)

If you want to make any changes, keep in mind that A2:H100 is the range in the master list which it will copy to the current list, but only when the cells in column G (of the master list) have a value greater than 0. If you need more than 100 items in your master list, change every "100" in that formula to 200, or something greater.

It is ingenious solutions such as this to common household problems which make me believe that one day geeks will rule the world! :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

What did they expect?

According to this article consumer spending is down by 2.8% for October. This is the biggest decline on record, going back to 1992. (Prior to 92, the Commerce Department used a different methodology, and presumably cannot compare those number to today.) What I really want to ask these people is: Did you think anything different would happen?

I've already stated that I think using consumer spending as a measure of the health of the economy is a foolish thing to do. It seems to me they are measuring the amount of credit people are able to get as much as anything else. So now that credit is tighter, jobs are becoming less secure, and everyone is generally bummed out about the economy, did they really expect people to go out and buy big screen TVs? The answer is probably so. People like to shop when things look bad. It's called retail therapy.

I however think that people choosing to save money in the face of this difficult economic time is a very responsible thing to do. Sure I could go out and blow my emergency fund on new toys, but it would be better for me to let it sit there in case I have a real emergency. And further still, for me to add extra money to it here and there so I'll have even more financial security. If the majority of the companies in America can't survive in an environment where people individually make healthy financial decisions, then there is something wrong with those companies.

We are the little guys at the bottom of the great financial pyramid. We need to keep ourselves healthy or the whole thing topples.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The food!

This is my second post in the lunch series. The topic of the day is: the food! :)

Traditional bento lunches are 1/2 rice, 1/3 veggies, and 1/6 fish or meat. I do not follow such a strict pattern, but I do aim to get all three in most lunches. I also aim for a variety of foods. I don't want to eat the same things day after day, and I don't want a huge amount of one thing in any given day. I should also mention that I have access to a microwave at lunch, which expands my options a little. My first food strategy is variety.

My second lunch strategy in relation to food is to use some preprepared foods, some easy to prepare foods, and some foods from my freezer stash. I don't buy a lot of frozen foods, but there are a few I like. The tamales from Trader Joe's are delicious. I also look for frozen appetizers, like dumplings or spanokopita, which go well as part of a lunch. Most of the food in my freezer I put there myself. Currently I have: chicken and noodles, meat sauce (for pasta), tom kha gai, and one last piece of quiche. I also freeze packets of rice and side items when appropriate. I could easily fill a post with freezing info, and I probably will in the future. But for now here are a few tips:
- Foods which are moist freeze better than foods that are dry. Chicken and noodles in broth, yes. Grilled chicken, not so much.
- When you're cooking something that's a good freezer candidate, cook a few extra servings. It's easy to build up a freezer stock that way.
- Try out freezing by freezing one or two portions of something, before going for big batches. I found out that some things did not freeze so well after freezing 5-6 meals worth, and that was a lot of wasted food.
- Finally, cook and freeze foods you really like! If you didn't like something the first time, there's not much incentive to go back to it later.

The third option for foods is things that are easily prepared. Fresh fruits and veggies come into this category for me. Often in the morning I'll cut up a piece of fruit, steam some veggies, or make a small salad. Yogurt cups, cheese and crackers, and leftovers are also easy to pull together. Speaking of leftovers, lunch is a great place to eat leftovers.

My third food strategy is to plan what I'm going to pack for week when I go grocery shopping. I divide a piece of paper into 5 segments, Mon-Fri, and write down what I think I'll eat each day. Okayokay, I'm a geek, I actually made a table in Word, which I print out 3 to a page and cut up. And I annotated the table with notes about what days I eat lunch at noon, and what days I have to eat earlier or later, as that effects what I pack. (If I have to eat early or late I often split my lunch into 2 parts.) I don't stick 100% to the plan, but at least I know I'll have something for each day. We usually grocery stop every weekend, so I do one week at a time. If I knew I was going to go two weeks between grocery trips, I'd plan two weeks of lunches.

The fourth strategy, pick things I really want to eat! If I pack something that's just "okay", I'll drool over the cookies and ice cream at work. While I am a bit of a dessert junkie, the moral of the story for me is that if I bring healthy foods which I really like to eat, then I'm happy with my lunch. If I try to convince myself to eat something not so tasty for one reason or another, lunch will not be satisfying.

One thing I've found after bringing my own lunches for a while is that I have a mental list of meals that I like to eat. As I plan my meals for the week, I typically pull a couple from that list, and try some new combinations. I will feature some of my favorite lunches in future posts. For now I hope this has been food for thought ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wii Fit Anyone?

My Wii is home! It came back to me late last week. I am totally impressed with Nintendo's repair service. The total cost, with shipping, was just over $82. I sent it off on Wednesday and it got back to me on Thursday of the following week. And the best part of all: I did not lose any save files at all! They replaced the drive in my original Wii. I had backed-up the Miis on a remote, and moved as many of the save files as I could to a SD card, but some of the files refused to move. I figured I was going to lose a few things. It didn't happen though :)

I got home today and decided nothing would suit me better than a little Wii Fit. The balance board is by far my favorite Wii accessory. I'm a regular reader of the Balance Board Blog. And I can't wait for more games to come out that make use of it.

The funny thing is, I almost didn't buy Wii Fit. At the time it came out, I'd just gotten a new bicycle. I was riding most afternoons, and I couldn't imagine wanting to do more exercise type stuff. It turns out that Wii Fit has been one of the games I've logged the most time on, on the Wii. At first I focused on the balance games. In particular I *heart* the game in which one must roll the balls (playfully decorated with Miis) into the holes on the table. I smiled every time one of my friends dropped in. I quickly branched out to the other parts of the game and I find many of those to be enjoyable as well.

I found that the Wii Fit addresses most of the barriers in the way of me exercising. I find it far more entertaining than doing workout videos. (Been there, don't want to go back.) I do not feel like I need to get all dressed in workout clothes or have a lot of energy. Many of the activities are just a few minutes long. I can do 1 or 10 of them. If I'm not feeling too energetic, I'll pick a handful of easy ones. If I'm in the mood for a more vigorous workout, I can get that too. Although I will say that if you're currently a gym rat, a Wii Fit workout would probably be trivial.

Like all great pieces of software, it also inspires me to make a wish list for the next version. I would like more activities. Even more versions of the activities this one has. The step aerobics for example could have 10 or more versions instead of 3. I would also like a way to set up a workout with several exercises in a row. Currently after each exercise you have to go back to the menu and choose the next one. I would like to be able to choose several exercises and go from one to another without interruptions. These things would be gravy though, the meat's already there. I continue to enjoy the game I almost didn't buy :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Celebrating Geekdom

geekdom

Main Entry: geekdom
Pronunciation: \ˈgēk-dəm\
Function: noun
Etymology: I just made it up.
Date: 2008

1: the realm containing all things geeky

You think I can get Webster to add that to its dictionary?

Three weeks, 14 blog posts, and we're off and running. Now I just need readers :)

I started this blog with the idea that I have lots of ideas and not enough people to share them with. Oh don't get me wrong, I have friends, a husband, family, lots of people around me. But they don't want to listen to me talk all the time. And even if they did, I wouldn't want to do all the talking. I have great conversations with my friends, and that takes input from all sides.

What I find myself doing here though is a little bigger than I imagined. I find myself celebrating geekdom. See, the problem with being a geek is that we tend to exist in our own little worlds. (I suppose that's the problem with many groups of people, this is just one in which I have personal experience.) We tend to hang out with our geeky friends, sharing geeky ideas. When asked about our specialty, we may find ourselves sharing ideas with other people. In my case I also teach, so I share much of my geeky knowledge with my students. But we don't often come out and say to the world: I know way too much for my own good, and I have an opinion about everything! Probably in part because the world wouldn't care, but that's besides the point ;) (It also helps to be able to laugh at yourself if you're a geek :) )

As this blog develops and I continue to celebrate my own little geekdom, I invite all of my future readers to come in and say hi. Leave me a comment or seven. Pop in with your own geeky musings. And we'll build this geekdom into something to be reckoned with!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bento love

This is the first post in my lunch series, which I've fondly titled: How a geek likes to eat. Future posts will discuss the process by which I put together lunches. This first post is going to focus on the most important ingredient: inspiration :)

I just love the idea of bento lunches. The idea is to take small amounts of a variety of foods, pack them in a pleasing way, and then have a wonderful meal to go. Bento lunch packing theory discusses everything from nutritional choices, to creative packing, to the pleasure of opening a beautiful bento at lunchtime. If I had someone to do the hard work for me, I would like nothing better to open a one of these artfully made bentos every day. Or at least something with a geek flair such as Darth Vader bento. While I might enjoy eating them, I'm not willing to take too much time away from my other geeky pursuits. I need an everyday lunch solution that I can get together with a minimum amount of prep work.

My inspiration for the speed bento is Lunch in a Box, a blog written by a mom who prepares bentos for her son each morning. Her goal is pack great lunches for her son, while utilizing left overs, quick food fixes, and other speedy techniques. Her lunches still end up looking better than the average sandwich, and yet it seems like something I could emulate.

I also find inspiration in the foods I like to eat. One of my lunch packing goals is to have a lunch I'll enjoy every day. If not, why go through all the trouble? I could could buy lunch, we have a cafeteria at work. Much of the time they offer something suitably healthy. But work lunches have their way of becoming rather mundane after a while. It seems like the same foods were showing up over and over. I really like a handful of things that they serve (love the cabbage rolls!), but much of the rest of the time I was just eating work food because it was there and I was hungry. That does not please my geeky sensibilities. I want to enjoy every bite of food that I put into my mouth. That means bringing my own food, and not relying on the luck of the lunch gods.

So at the beginning of this year (The beginning of the year being the end of August, did I ever mention that I teach at a university?), I embarked on my new lunch journey. My inspiration being the bento, and my desire to feed myself well. And my goals being to accomplish that ... at least most of the time :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time Flies

The old adage is true, time flies when you're having fun :)

Friday night I had the opportunity to play Guitar Hero World Tour with my husband (Cyril) and our good friend Geoff. We had a lot of fun! We made a band with chars for all three of us. Geoff already had a character. Cyril and I made ours when we got to his house, and Geoff was nice enough to let us join his band, the Gaussian Elimination.

I started out on drums, and after the first set switched to the mic. Cyril and Geoff played guitar and bass, using one World Tour guitar and one from the original Wii version of Guitar Hero. The new guitar has some extra features, but the old guitars are still functional with World Tour. The first set I sung was from a backwoods Louisiana bar. Being from the south, I felt right at home! In particular I wanted to play that set for the second song, Willie Nelson's On the Road Again. I've loved that song since I was a little geek. We made it through that set, and unlocked one with began with Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. Having sung Bon Jovi (Wanted Dead or Alive)in Rock Bandbefore, I thought this song would go rather well. I was wrong. World Tour was quite a bit less forgiving on the vocals, even on easy mode. Lucky for me we got Blondie's One Way or Another shortly thereafter, and that was much more compatible with my voice. I also had good luck with Paramore's Misery Business. I didn't know half the words. I still don't. But I managed to make enough noise in the right notes to fool the game! :)

After that I switched to bass, while first Cyril then Geoff took turns at the vocals. Cyril's shining (re: hysterical) moment was when he sang Freak on a Leash by Korn. I didn't know he was so talented! :) Geoff does not look anything like Pat Benatar, but he did an amazing job with Heartbreaker. Encores are a mystery until the set is over. Some went better than others. We found it particularly amusing when Geoff got Survivor's Eye of the Tiger as we had heard him perform this on Rock Band last time we played. He totally rocked that one :)

All in all we had a great evening. A little before midnight Geoff mentioned that he needed to get up a little early the next day, and I could not believe how long we had been playing. Both Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band are great games when you've got a group of people together. Or I should say, a group of people with good spirits about these things :) We all had our moments of joy and those which did not go so well. (I should NOT try to sing Allman Brothers.) But it doesn't really matter when I'm dissolving into fits of giggles half the time :)

I do have one piece of advice for future World Tour players. If your singer has just put a piece of candy in her mouth, do NOT rush to start the next set! I almost got too hysterical at that point to finish chewing at all, much less in time to start singing! :)