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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Miss USA Drops the Soap -- Takes Up Porn

She's already nailed the cheesy dialogue -- and now former soap opera villain Kelli McCarty has decided ... she just wants to be nailed.

Launch photos

The former Miss USA 1991 -- yeah, she was a frickin' beauty queen -- has quit the mainstream acting biz for a shot at a career in "adult entertainment."

McCarty, who played maniacal Beth Wallace on "Passions" for seven years, is now a "Vivid Entertainment" girl -- and has just wrapped on her first XXX feature, "Faithless," in which she plays the lead character to a very very supporting cast.

So, why the career move? Here's the explanation -- "I enjoy acting,and I really like sex ... so this was the perfect opportunity to combine two of my passions."

Metallica's "One" - All Solos By One Guy Acoustic

Why Men Should Marry Rythmic Gymnasts

NES Contra - Jungle Jam on the guitar.

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By vertexguy

his is my rendition of the Contra jungle theme on guitar. The classic nintendo (NES) game had some killer music scores so I took it upon myself to take them out of the 8-bit realm. All tracks, including the backing were played by me. Hope you all like it :)

10 Things you didn't know about Halo Wars Xbox 360

Release Date: 03/03/2009
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ensemble

The 1UP Network previews games with the philosophy that people want to hear our honest opinions on titles before they are released. If a game looks really promising, we'll pass on our excitement. But if a game needs work, we'll let you know. Here are our Halo Wars Xbox 360 previews.


Lead designer David Pottinger writes about design changes, what goes on behind the scenes at Ensemble, and fashion.

No. 1 -- Vampires are better than Gorgons

Creating a strategy game based in the Halo universe gave Ensemble the chance to take a rich franchise and flesh it out in new ways. As huge Halo fans, this was awesome for us. And as designers, this was required. The Halo shooter games have put a lot of different units in the universe, but a strategy game has different needs: We have specific unit roles that need to be filled, and we have to have enough units of each type to ensure that even the basic strategies have multiple options.

When we originally spec'd out the Covenant, we gave them a ground-based, antiair unit called the Gorgon (above left) -- a bulbous, biped walker that used heavy Needlers to rip apart thin-skinned aircraft. Once it was in the game, though, we realized that we'd created a recognition problem: was the Gorgon a vehicle or infantry unit? We intended for it to be a vehicle, but the legs were causing problems, since we also said that "anything with two legs that walks is a dude." The final nail in the Gorgon coffin? The Covenant already had too many ground vehicles; we needed more air units.

Enter the Vampire (above right): a flying, antiair unit armed with heavy Needlers. Once we picked an appropriately "ethereal" name, its unique ability became obvious. The Vampire has the Stasis beam that can prevent enemy aircraft from moving; once upgraded, this beam can drain health from the target and heal the Vampire.

No. 2 -- "December Madness" hits Ensemble

We have a lot of fun with various pools and tournaments, for events like fantasy football or March Madness. Back during the Age of Empires II days, we started doing tournaments at the end of the game's production. By the end, most folks are playtesting 24/7 anyway, so they get pretty good at the game. Well, by our standards, anyway -- it's a complete myth that most developers are great at their games. Sure, we have a professional balance team that's astoundingly good at playing our games, but frankly, most of us kinda suck.

Our tournaments have gotten progressively more intense and organized. For Halo Wars, we've got actual trophies, are giving away Xbox 360 consoles and Halo Laser Tag sets, and so on. Karen McMullan, one of content designers, has even gone the extra mile this time to prepare Ensemble December Madness brackets. Everyone can put in their brackets to try to predict the winners in each game; we've got 29 teams, so it should be a challenge to get them all correct.

No. 3 -- A soft spot for the Cyclops

The Halo universe has a lot of ranged combat units. That makes sense; it's sci-fi, after all. Strategy gamers want more options, though. When we looked at the UNSC unit list, we quickly realized that the UNSC was severely lacking in hand-to-hand power. Spartans can do ranged and close combat, but we needed another type of fighter more clearly oriented around melee damage.

We bounced around for a while on what the actual unit would be. We tried the lore-accurate Mark1 armor suits -- a precursor to the more modern Spartan armor. In practice, they were just too close to the Spartans and not distinguishable enough in-game. We had to make our new melee unit stand out more, so we ended up with a lumbering mechanized suit that couldn't be confused with the Spartan at all: the Cyclops.

The Cyclops can beat the crap out of anything around him, though his mobility's limited by his speed. In Halo Wars, that's not enough; he has to have a unique ability. In fact, that's where his name comes from. We've got a lot of fond memories of Age of Mythology -- there's a lot of that game in Halo Wars, actually. One of our favorite units from AOM is the Cyclops. He's a big, hulking brute that can pick up enemies and hurl them for extra fun. Thus, the Halo Wars Cyclops takes his name and ability from his Age of Mythology ancestor. Beating your opponent's Scorpion tanks with the Cyclops is a lot of fun, but there's an extra "in your face" element if you can then throw those pieces of debris for extra damage.

No. 4 -- Fun with names

Most developers work in a few nods to friends and family in their games. We're no different. A sample of the "inside references" within Halo Wars:

--We know there are a fixed number of Spartans in the Halo universe, but they're not all named. With Halo Wars introducing a few more Spartans to the lexicon, we had to come up with new, unique names. One's a nod to our lead campaign designer, Jerome Jones.
--One of our Skirmish maps called "Fort Deen" (above) is named after one of our senior designers, Tim Deen.
--My kids are named Andrew and Thomas. They're young boys and, as such, like pirates a lot. The achievement "Alas, Poor Andrew Thomas" is awarded once you get the first skull in the campaign. After all, what's more pirate-y than a skull? And it's a goofy Shakespeare joke, to boot.
--The achievement "Big Al's Scooter" (awarded for a quick Skirmish win) contains the nicknames of producer Chris Rippy's two kids.

No. 5 -- "The Magic Y Button" fixes failed abilities

For a long time, we had the mantra that Halo Wars was "playable with only the left stick and four face buttons." That was good. I really love simple statements like that. At that time, the mapping for the four face buttons was as follows:

A: Select (in various forms)
B: Cancel (cancel selection, menus, powers, etc.)
X: Move/Attack
Y: Leader Menu (for transporting, powers)

Unfortunately, we had a problem: We wanted to put in an ability system for the units. We knew that'd be fun, but we didn't have a good button for it. As such, when we tried it, the system just didn't go over well. No one used the abilities enough to justify the gameplay bandwidth we'd allocated for them. We tried a few things, but we ended up cutting unit abilities out of the game entirely.

Almost a year later, we kept circling around the abilities idea again, because the game really needed more to do in combat. But we knew we were out of buttons, and we didn't want something as cumbersome as remappable buttons or modifier buttons (e.g., right trigger + X). Abilities needed to be simple and fast.

The "big fix" came when we decided to undo one of our assumptions. We moved the Leader Menu to the D-pad and put unit abilities on the Y button. Now we had something close to a primary and secondary attack with X and Y. Shooter fans "got" that. Awesome. Plus, it tested through the roof. The game instantly got more fun, and everyone was using abilities.

We did lose the "left stick plus button" thing. In hindsight, it would've been nice to save that, but players just don't use the Leader Menu as much as they use abilities. It made more logical sense to put the unit abilities on the Y button, even if that meant sacrificing one of our mantras. Plus, it was just a lot more fun.

Electric sidemen: a look at Microsoft Songsmith

Product: Songsmith
Retailer: Microsoft
Price: $29.95 (6 hour free trial)
Platform: Windows Vista (recommended) or Windows XP SP2
Requirements: 1GB or more disk space, 64 MB video memory (128 MB recommended), PC Microphone

Microsoft Songsmith lets users create music in a novel way, by attaching a microphone to a Windows PC and singing into the mic. The Songsmith software automatically builds an accompaniment that matches the rhythm and tonality of the voice input, so that instantly, the vocals are augmented and transformed into a music composition. Reviewers around the Web are calling it "reverse karaoke," but a much better phrase would be a "musical sketchbook." You start with a tune in your head and Microsoft Songsmith helps craft that tune into a defined product, complete with chord progressions.

Don't go into Songsmith expecting Bach-like counterpoint melodies or highly complex accompaniments, though. Songsmith creates backdrops to your tune, typically with the kind of chord strumming you might add on a piano or guitar, and a percussion track for good measure. Most importantly, it does this without human intervention, and without having to sit down and figure out the chord sequences by hand. After spending some time evaluating it, I found that the program works better than I expected.

Here is the backing track it built as I sang from a Google News article on Fiji. (Google News is a great source of lorem ipsum placeholder lyrics.) As you can hear, the software automatically spaced out the progressions and included a couple of measures at the end that finished out the accompaniment.

By building this music to match my melody, Songsmith was able to take a single musical idea and expand it into a fuller, richer audio experience. My tune transformed from a bare outline into a performance.

Backing track (take 2) from Ars Technica on Vimeo

Creating Songs

If you watch this Microsoft Songsmith ad, it's a little misleading. The ad suggests that you record while listening to pre-existing background tracks, the way you would with Apple's Garage Band. Yes, you sort of can do that, and I'll tell you how in a bit, but that's not the typical way in which you use the software. In Songsmith's default mode of operation, you record the song that's in your head while listening to a percussive beat. Only once you're finished recording does Songsmith come up with chords to match your melody.

Song Starter

Songsmith's default procedure for building songs starts by asking you to make several choices before you even start singing. You load what's called the "Song Starter," which is an interactive dialog. This dialog lets you choose the overall style and tempo for your new piece. You can choose from genres such as California Soft Rock, Dance Pop, or Funk.

By default, Songsmith plays a sample track to give you a flavor of how the style works. Listening to these clips may make you think that you're supposed to improvise around a set chord progression, but the clips are there just to give you an idea of how your song will be styled. Once you make a selection, you are prompted to set a tempo and then the interface goes completely quiet.

After selecting the style and tempo, you enter the recording session. Here, you can click the record button and start creating your song. Songsmith provides the beat and you basically sing to that. By default, you're given two measures as a lead in, although you can adjust this in the program options. The style you've already chosen determines the rhythm and time signature that you'll be using.

Once recording starts, you just perform your song, however you like, and then click the stop button when you're done. Songsmith then calculates your accompaniment and instantly plays it back. When I tested this, there were no perceptible time lags to speak of; the algorithm was fast enough to be unnoticeable. I pressed record, sang, pressed stop and boom, there were the results.

Top-Earning Dead Celebrities -

Kurt Cobain

Earnings: $50 million
Occupation: Musician
Died: April 5, 1994
Age: 27
Cause: Suicide

Click to zoom
© Val Bochkov

Will Kurt Cobain sell cars? Perhaps. The Nirvana front man's music could start popping up in some unexpected places now that his widow Courtney Love has sold a 25% stake in his band's song catalog to Primary Wave, a New York music publishing company. Primary Wave, which paid a reported $50 million for its stake, has already struck a deal to feature Nirvana music in an episode of CSI: Miami. Now it is considering licensing the music to certain marketers. Meanwhile, Nirvana's recording catalog sold 1.1 million units in the U.S. in 2005 and is on track to come close to that total this year as well, according to Nielsen SoundScan. -- Louis Hau

Click below on each face to see their earnings

Motorist beats 98mph speeding charge - by buying back his car and proving it can only manage a top speed of 85mph

By Claire Ellicott

It is hardly the boy racer's vehicle of choice.

About 14 years old and with 130,000 miles on the clock, the Honda Civic driven by

Dale Lyle was barely capable of reaching the speed limit.

So when he received a ticket for apparently driving at almost 100mph on the motorway, he told magistrates the mobile speed camera must have got it wrong.

Prove it, they said. He did . . . but it wasn't easy.

Mr Lyle, 21, who has a clean driving licence, had already sold the car to a friend for £600.

He had to take out a bank overdraft to buy it back.

Enlarge Dale Lyle

Dale Lyle, who was accused of driving at 98mph, holds up the test certificate which proves his 14-year-old Honda Civic has a top speed of 85mph

Then he had to pay an independent driving expert £600 to test the 1.3litre Civic's top speed at a circuit in Bedfordshire.

The result was as expected. Even when driven flat-out, the Honda could still only do a top speed of 85.4mph in fourth gear and 81.3mph in fifth.

Next, Mr Lyle obtained the mobile speed-camera footage of his alleged offence - travelling at 98mph on a 70mph three-lane carriageway of the A38, near Plymouth, on December 13, 2007.

The three-minute film shows three other cars in the frame at the same time, he said, which he believes means his vehicle was mistaken for another.

Mr Lyle could have faced a maximum £1,000 fine and a six-month ban for the speeding charge.

test report.jpg

He said: 'The video evidence the CPS sent me was just appalling. They are just picking on innocent motorists. It makes you wonder how many people say, "Fine, give me the points", when they are not guilty.

Eventually, his hard work paid off, and the Crown Prosecution Service informed him the case had been dropped.

'I'm really glad I fought the system and won,' he said. 'It's shocking how hard it has been for me to prove my innocence.'

Mr Lyle, a finance worker, from Staple Hill, Bristol, recalled his feelings when first served with the prosecution.

'I was in total disbelief when I opened the letter,' he said.

'I've never driven my car over the speed limit, let alone at 98mph. It's such a small car I wouldn't feel safe.

'I told the magistrates that the car was ancient and that there was no way it will do that speed.'

He intends to return to court to seek compensation for the £1,200 he spent proving his innocence.

The CPS said: 'We came to the conclusion that there was no longer sufficient evidence to provide a prospect of a conviction. Recompense is a matter between the defendant and the court.'

French Artist Predicted The Future In 1910 With Paintings

The National Library of France (BnF) has an amazing collection of prints from 1910 which depict life in the year 2000. They are credited to Villemard. Though some of these may seem far off, for being created in 1910, it's quite amazing how close some of these came.

Flying FiremenThe National Library of France (BnF) has an amazing collection ofprints from 1910 which depict life in the year 2000. They are credited to Villemard.

There's speculation that they were included with "foodstuffs" of the era, much like the German postcards we looked at back in April.

Car ShoesThe BarberThe Avenue of the OperaA Curiosity
I wonder if the "curiosity" referred to is the horse as an uncommon means of transportation, or the extinction of all animals as referenced in the 1900 Ladies' Home Journal article we looked at a while back.The Electric Train From Paris to BeijingA RescueSpeak to the Caretaker
This image clearly takes its inspiration from another French futurist, Albert Robida, and his book The Twentieth Century.Sentinel Advanced in the HelicopterCyclist ScoutsPhonographic MessageOne For the RoadLady In Her BathroomHeating With RadiumHearing The NewspaperCorrespondence CinemaCars of WarBuilding SiteAt SchoolA Festival of FlowersA Chemical Dinner
It's amazing how long the idea of synthetic food has been with us. Before starting this blog I had assumed that the idea started with the Jetsons.Airship On The Long CourseThe TailorFlying Police