Day 244: Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

My nieces and nephew introduced me to Plants vs. Zombies years ago, but I never understood the hype … until last week.

After downloading the Android app, I quickly got sucked into protecting my home from all sorts of zombies. I learned how to plant sunflowers to generate sunlight that I needed for more powerful plants. I learned the ecstasy of a last-second save at my doorstep. And I learned the agony of having my brains eaten by my undead friends.

While it’ll never satisfy my board game cravings, Plants vs. Zombies is a fine way to fill up some free time … or stay up past one’s bedtime, as yours truly did last night.

Day 243: Coins for Games

Soon to be growing soon: my humble games library.

Soon to be growing soon: my humble games library.

As I wrote back on Day 13 of this year, I keep my spare change in a jar. When it gets filled up, I take it to my local Coinstar and convert it into an Amazon credit. Coinstar normally charges about nine percent to count your coins, but it waives this fee if you opt to take the Amazon credit.

I usually cash out about $60 from the jar, so after I visit Coinstar I’ll be working my way through my Games Wish List. It’s nice not having a bunch of coins lying around; I’d much rather have a bunch of board games lying around.

Day 242: Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

My wife and I finally got around to seeing Straight Outta Compton today. We’d tried to see it on opening weekend, but ran into a sold-out theater.

I’m still somewhat amazed that a movie about Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, et. al., could be so popular. N.W.A. and the West Coast gangsta rap artists were a huge part of my late teens/early 20s; the music was always present at parties and in our cars during road trips. I expected the movie to be a modest hit.

But to think their story would be a box office smash? No way.

I liked that they didn’t clean up any of the lyrics for the movie because they’re still hard-hitting to this day, especially in light of Ferguson and other violence. Like N.W.A. and the world it it portrayed, the movie isn’t perfect. Straight Outta Compton covers a lot of ground, but doesn’t always cover everything well. Thankfully, the stumbles are few and far between.

The actors were well-cast, particularly O’Shea Jackson, Jr., playing his father, Ice Cube. It was surreal watching him on the big screen: he looks and sounds just like his dad. It was easy to get caught up in the movie, reciting lyrics I haven’t heard in years.

It seems like a lifetime has passed since those times, but the music and the story endures.


Day 241: Let the Season Begin


My fantasy football league held its 16th annual draft today. It can be summed up by the photo above. Good eats with good peeps.

It was the best of times with the best of men.

Day 240: Gaming Goal


Sushi Go!, one of the 10 new games I've played in 2015.

Sushi Go!, one of the 10 new games I’ve played in 2015.

I just realized I hit one of my yearly goals. It was my fifth goal, added on Day 100 of My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015: Play 10 new board games.

As a reborn gamer, I’ve had a lot of fun becoming reacquainted with the board game hobby. The best part is that my wife and stepdaughter enjoy a few of the games and my nieces and nephew always ask to play Sushi Go or Love Letter whenever they visit.

Gaming is so much better when it’s with family.

For years, game night meant an hours-long session of poker with my buddies. Typically no-limit hold ’em, but if there were enough hardcore players in our group we would have a long mixed-game session. I loved playing Omaha Hi/Lo, Badugi, and other variations of poker.

Today, though, I find myself opting for hours of board gaming over gambling. One of the best decisions I made this year was buying Pandemic. It was my gateway game and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was nice that it was solo-friendly since I could log in a few solitaire games after my wife had gone to bed.

My stepdaughter immediately took a liking to it as well, so that was a terrific surprise. I treasure the time we spend together and what better way than trying to save the world from being laid to waste by a super virus?

Here’s my list of 10 games I played for the first time this year. I’ve listed them in order of preference, so my #1 game is Pandemic, etc. I’d recommend any of these games for anyone’s collection.

  1. Pandemic
  2.  7 Wonders
  3. Ticket to Ride
  4. Love Letter
  5. Sushi Go!
  6. Zombie Dice
  7. Tsuro
  8. Castle Panic
  9. Mille Bornes
  10. Moose on the Loose

Day 239: Fantasy Football Draft Day

Fantasy Football.

Fantasy Football.

My favorite holiday of the year (my fantasy football league’s annual draft) is this weekend. Like the other owners in the league, I’m excited and definitely not studying as much as I should. I know Jordy Nelson’s done for the year and Aaron Hernandez is still locked up, but beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what players I’ll be targeting for my team.

I’ll print out a cheat sheet tomorrow and check the NFL’s injury list before our draft begins. It’s what I’ve done for years now and I’ve had some success; last year I dominated the league before falling in the championship game.

Of course, fantasy football stories are about as exciting as bad-beat poker stories or the one-that-got-away fishing tales, so I’ll spare the details of my almost-championship.

The one thing I think about every year is how the league has evolved. Actually, the players more so than the league. We’ve pretty much kept the same scoring system, roster positions, and rules the entire time. There’s a core group of us that includes my brothers and close friends who have been doing this for 16 years.

It’s cool to see how each guy has changed over time. There have been weddings, divorces, babies, and other real-life happenings and it’s nice to know we can always meet up once a year to talk trash about each other’s teams. We’re all basically the same guys we were back in 1999, but I’d like to think we’re all older and wiser.

Well, older, anyways.


Day 238: Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Currently streaming on Netflix is Metro Manila, an excellent film about a family trying to escape poverty in the Philippines.

Driven by economic despair, a rice farmer moves his wife and two children to metro Manila, where he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities the city will provide. He and his wife quickly discover that predators of all types lurk in every corner of the slums they live in.

Lead actor Jake Macapagal is outstanding as Oscar Ramirez. He’s the moral center of the film and has a quiet dignity about him that stands above the chaos of the big city. John Arcilla is solid as Oscar’s co-worker/mentor Ong, a grizzled veteran with a secret that will change Oscar’s life. The character Ong reminded me of someone who could easily be found in a John Woo heroic bloodshed movie.

I’ve written about a few of the movies on the AFI 100 list this year and Metro Manila reminded me of The French Connection in a few ways: it captured the grittiness of Manila, just as The French Connection did with New York. Both movies were smack dab in the middle of a world full of moral ambiguity.

Day 237: Grilled Squid

Grilled Squid at Gerry's Grill

Grilled Squid at Gerry’s Grill

It’s been five years since I’ve been to the Philippines and one of the things I miss the most is the inahaw na pusit (grilled squid). Today, my wife and I happened to be in the Artesia area so we had an early dinner at Gerry’s Grill.

Gerry’s is known for its grilled squid and I loved it the Philippines. Their restaurant in Artesia is one of two in the U.S. (the other in Northern California) and I’ve had it bookmarked on Yelp for a while.

The interior reminded me of the Gerry’s I’d been to. We tore into the grilled squid as well as the tuna steak and wolfed down the garlic rice.

The verdict? While not exactly like the Philippines location, it’s close enough in flavor that I’ll be back soon.

I’ve also tentatively started to plan my next trip the mother land.

Day 236: Mango Sticky Rice

Mango sticky rice.

Mango sticky rice.

My family and I stuffed ourselves silly at our favorite Thai restaurant, which meant we could treat ourselves to one of our favorite desserts: mango sticky rice.

The sticky rice, the delicate mango, and the sweet condensed milk all add up to a dish full of heaven.

Day 235: Couch Potato

Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead

With the Galaxy hosting the New York City Football Club, Tiger Woods in contention at the Wyndham Championship, and the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, my Sunday was booked solid.

Unfortunately, Tiger quickly dropped out of contention, but that allowed me to get out of the house after the Galaxy game. The Galaxy looked like MLS Cup contenders again, thanks to Robbie Keane’s continued MVP form and Giovanni Dos Santos’ all-around excellence. Although I missed out on the game today (I tried to buy tickets after Gio had signed, which meant that it was already sold out), it was still fun watching the Galaxy dominate the game and I expect to go to the StubHub Center later this year for another championship game.

Fear the Walking Dead is on right now as I type this, but my wife and I are both finishing up some work before AMC reruns it. I hope it lives up to the hype, but I still prefer binging on shows 2-4 episodes at a time so we’ll probably watch tonight’s pilot before taking a few weeks off to stockpile episodes.

Nothing says couch potato better than zoning out on a bunch of zombie shows.