Sunday, October 7, 2007

DDR System for Nintendo Wii - Hottest Dance Party? Maybe.

This kid is just ridiculous!!!

The biggest issue with transitioning to a new game system is always having to purchase a new library of games to use with it. The Wii somewhat solved that problem by launching a Nintendo based system that would play Gamecube games AND offer you downloadable Super Nintendo games, all of which can be played with alternate Nintendo controllers. While this is a great money saving option, none of those games take advantage of the wireless controller feature that is the big draw of the Wiii system. It seems they debuted the system with a limited number of available good games, so now it's a waiting game for the new releases. I bookmarked their DDR game and waited eagerly for it to premiere, because I was a huge fan of the DDR system for Xbox, but then our Xbox broke, and I had to decide whether to replace it with a refurbished unit, or just switch to the Wii game and buy new pads.

I was really expecting the Wii DDR system to have wireless controller pads, but they are not wireless, however, they thankfully have super long connecting cables - much longer than the Xbox DDR controller pads. This is great because the Wii unit is so small and light that I was concerned about stepping on the cord and snatching it off the stand, something that we came dangerously close to doing with the Xbox, but with these long cords, that's no longer an issue.

The game itself is available as a bundle with one controller pad - and you are not able to view the pad before your purchase because they're both packaged together - so I'll tell you now that that pad is one of the deluxe ones, its not the cheapie bottom grade generic pads that you can buy separately. I was really leery of this because I had the cheap pads with my Xbox system, and while they worked, they slipped all over the floor! And the sales clerk at Gamestop couldn't help me with my decision because the Wii ddr game was new and she had not even seen it herself. In fact, she couldn't even tell me where or how to get extra controllers as the game only came with one. I told her, I can't go home with one pad! There will be a fight! So I went home and did some searching until I found where other people mentioned using the old Gamecube controllers (from Mario DDR) with the Wii system, and they said they worked fine. I returned to the store and bought the game with one controller, then bought two universal controllers that were Gamecube compatible. However, as I said, the pad that came with the DDR game is deluxe so it is really nice, it sticks to the floor, has a nice cushion to it and overall great feel under the feet, and the two universals I bought are cheap and crappy, so now there's always a fight over who's going to use the "good" pad! Since I'm kind of stuck with these, I'm thinking of putting them on eBay, along with the whole Xbox system.

Anyway, on to the game. If I had to choose between this one and the Xbox version - I prefer the old one. For several reasons:

The control panels of the Wii game is set up with way too many layers, far too many clicks necessary to get to what you want. You know when you put the game on, you want to get started quickly, not stand there and go through three minutes of set up EACH TIME. It doesn't appear to save your settings from session to session, so each time you start to play, you have to go through the same setup. Because its for the Wii, it defaults to using Hand Signals which you would use with the wireless controllers. Nice feature, but I'm no J. Lo so I'm doing fine just keeping my feet on the beat, I'd fall over if I tried to bring my hands into the game, so I turn this feature off each time. The problem is, you have to click through several screens to turn it off for EACH player. There's Options, Hand Signals, then Player 1 (or 2,3,4), then the On/Off screen, and then, believe it or, Confirm!!! And there's NO option to just globally make these changes for all of the players, and there's usually myself and two of the kids playing, so we have to do this for each player. There's also two other special features that are active by default, one of them is Freeze Arrow, where the arrows will intermittently freeze on the screen and throw you off your steps if you're not prepared, and then Gimmicks where it suddenly shoots crazy things at you during play and you have to react using the hand controllers. We turn both of these off, they're just annoying and may be more appealing to the younger crowd. And again, there's no Global "Off" so you have to run through these controls for each player before you can start.

The features I miss from Xbox are the ability to turn the background dancers either completely off, or adjust the brightness and contrast of the background graphics so they aren't so visible. There's no such option here. Maybe I'm just too old but all of that colorful movement behind the colorful arrows is just too much for me! I can't concentrate on MY steps because sometimes the arrows blend into the scene behind them. Another thing I don't care for is that the dancers are not doing the same steps as we are - they are virtually jamming all their own, doing real dancing, not DDR steps. I liked seeing them do exactly what I'm supposed to do because it helps especially on the difficult combos when you can see how they do it and then duplicate it.

Beyond that, on more than a few songs, if you have your settings on Beginner, you get literally no steps. This has to be a flaw with the game, because really, you get like 10 steps for the whole song and all of the steps are for your right foot. I did it while talking on the phone. Later on, we encountered this same thing with an entirely different song in Beginner mode, little to no steps.

I don't expect it to be exactly like the Xbox, considering they're two different companies - it may be more like the Mario DDR game which I've never played, but they sure should have studied the other versions on the market and incorporated the best of them into theirs.

Overall, its still a lot of fun if you're into DDR at all. I'm not crazy about the music though. Like all DDR soundtracks, it's primarily covers of popular American music done by unknown artists, but the dance mix isn't particularly "hot" as the title suggests. The Xbox system had a lot of uptempo techno and party music with a nice blend of Japanese artists - that's where I got that Daiken Ki song that I included in my favorite workout songs. If you've ever been in a Japanese night club or listened to Japanese dance mixes on a cable channel, you know the stuff will get you moving and sweating. It's a tight mix of techno and disco with infectious lyrics, even if you don't know what they're saying, you find yourself repeating it. I just found that to be a lot more fun to move to than slightly tepid covers of Ciara and Usher!

What do I like about the Wii DDR? Well, I did praise the long cables. The option to choose dancers and their outfits, well, I could take that or leave it but my kids spend a great deal of time customizing them like they're really going someplace. What would be really cool is if they could somehow integrate your Miis into the DDR game and let you dance with them.... Sony, work on that! Other than that, I'm awfully glad to at least have it available, because I used to play DDR practically daily until the Xbox broke, and I realize that the Wii is still pretty new and they're building their games library, so I hope they improve on the features with later releases.

If you've never played DDR before, the home versions are a terrific way to workout - they're fun and addictive and you WILL sweat within minutes. It's no wonder I read stories of people losing as much as 70 pounds using these things, but those are generally teenagers playing it for hours a day. At least one good hour a day will get your heart pumping and be equivalent to a good cardio session. The big DDR machines in arcade centers are the best, but if you want to spare yourself the embarassment of being outdanced by a 12 year old, get the home version, available for most video game system consoles for under $100.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cranberries - the new raisin?

Are cranberries the new raisins?

I know they're not new, but it seems like lately they're popping up everywhere. Maybe it has to do with the impending Fall season? I'm sure the California Raisin board is fuming now that the Cranberry Council has stepped up their game! Okay, I don't know if there's really a National Cranberry Council but when I searched, I did find several statewide cranberry councils! That must be fun, sitting around tasting cranberries all day, talking and writing about them. What else could they possibly do?

Recently, I've tried oatmeal/cranberry cookies, white chocolate/macadamia/cranberry chip cookies, Cranberry Morning cereal. And I've got my eye on some trail mix with almonds, granola, sunflower seeds, and cranberries in place of raisins. Cranberries taste wonderful both dried and fresh, and even in juice blends. Why did I just have a vision of a turkey wrap with hot mustard and dried cranberries inside? I must be hungry, except I'm not.

Let's compare about a serving of each:

Raisins - 299 calories, 0g fat, 0g cholesterol, 11g sodium, 79g carbs, 4g fiber, 59g sugars. Your biggest boosts with raisins are in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, although that high level of natural sugars may wreak havoc with your diet if you're trying to avoid sugar. Although natural, it will still give your blood sugar a rush!

Cranberries - 308 calories, 1g fat, 0g cholesterol, 3g sodium, 82g carbs, 6g fiber, 65 sugars. Not a huge source of any necessary minerals, but it does have one thing that raisins don't - Lutein, a beta carotene that seems to be popping up as an added benefit of a lot of vitamins and supplements. I noticed recently that quite a few are redesigning their packaging to tout their addition of Lutein, which is purported to be important for overall vision health.

Years ago, I might have scoffed at that, but lately my vision seems to be not quite as good as it used to be - so I may have to start increasing my beta carotene intake!

So its a tradeoff, looks like they're pretty close in nutrients, but cranberries are less sweet than the raisins and have less sodium and slightly higher fiber. If you're somewhat bored with raisins, try cranberries in their place for your favorite recipe. That seems to be what they're pushing on us anyway! But if you don't care for cranberries, these Cranberries are pretty cool too - and no carbs! I haven't listened to them in ages, but since I used the word cranberries at least 15 times in this post, I feel like hearing them again....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kimkins former cover girl speaks out

Everyone, if you haven't already, please be sure to visit Christin's blog and view her touching and heartwrenching video where she discusses her health problems due to following the dreadful Kimkins diet. If this isn't a death knell to that Kimkins organization then I don't know what is. What else does it take to convince people that Kimmer aka Heidi Diaz is the devil personified??? Christin was the Woman's World cover girl, one of the real so-called success stories and not some pilfered photos from across the internet as are most of Kimkins' other Before and After phonies. Christin's photos are what Heidi used to sell Kimkins and pimp it across the nation to unsuspecting dieters. And now Christin has not only left the company and disavowed any connection to them, but she's come forward with very personal and intimate testimony about how much she damaged her health by following this diet and listening to this criminal, Heidi Diaz.

If that's not enough, then go read Kimkins Survivors for more tales of illness and trauma brought about by this diet. It's too real to ignore. There are those who proclaim that they are doing Kimkins safely - "safe Kimkins" means NOT doing Kimkins, so basically aren't you just doing Atkins? Who are we kidding here? Why would you pay someone to do Atkins? Especially someone who obviously hasn't dieted successfully in their own lifetime?

What is really fascinating about all of this is to consider what kind of psychological disorder one must have in order to pull this kind of scam. Does she get some sort of sick thrill out of making other overweight women suffer? Did she subconsciously wish she had the will to do a diet this strict, or any diet for that matter? Was she trying to do to them what she wanted someone to do to her, or perhaps what was done to her which resulted in her hair loss and thyroid problems? Or was it all just for the money? She saw an opportunity to run another scam and she went for it? I hate to think it was that simple but watch any news program and you'll see similar or worse stories of man's inhumanity to man, people committing wicked and vile acts against each other just for the money, so unfortunately, it is indeed possible. However, the fact that she targeted other women who were for the most part in the same boat as herself, and she deliberately mislead, manipulated and nearly destroyed them, that just speaks to a deeper psychotic problem of which we haven't even scratched the surface. We can trumpet that she's crazy until we're blue in the face, but its obvious that imprisonment alone won't fix Heidi. We need to dissect her (figuratively and literally) and get to the root of this mental deformation, and figure out how to cure it in our society. Maybe its just a symptom of everything else that's wrong with our world today, everybody is after a buck at any cost.

It's funny that one of Heidi's associates, Jeanine Baltinger aka TippyToes, was also recently exposed as deliberately passing along a sugar-laden, diet stalling dessert recipe to a forum member who innocently requested a recipe for a low carb snack. Jeanine, overweight herself, gleefully revealed to someone else that she was doing this on purpose and wanted to see the victim's weight "blow up". Who would do this to another person? It appears that this type of behavior and desire to do harm permeates the entire Kimkins company and its not clear if Heidi infected those who work for her, or if that kind of evil heart just a prerequisite to be on her staff.

Whatever the case, I don't mean for this to become another antiKimkins blog, however, I don't mind reporting on it as I see fit because its such an important warning and I definitely want to help spread the word. So I'll occasionally drop an entry here about the continuing efforts to bring down the Kimpire, and I encourage you all to stay up to date on this and help get the news out to your friends and loved ones, because Friends don't let Friends do Kimkins!