Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I prefer 'Man-Child,' Thank You

This article just drips with self-important hyperbole. Mid-twenty young men are the epitome of irresponsibility, living as perpetual teenagers because they can, avoiding all those nasty things like marriage and children, yada yada yada.

As a mid-twenties male, this ruffles my feathers just a bit. I could cite examples from my own life to explain why her generalizations are pure rubbish, but I think one point will do it nicely.

She laments the number of young men who aren't married and makes it out to be a problem with the men.

News flash, Kay: This means that there is an equally large number of mid-twenty women out there who are not married.

In large part, the move away from marriage is due to my generation's antipathy towards it; most will simply cohabitate and call it a day. Still, the women will have some similar reasons to men for not being married aside from a lack of desire to do so. Many would rather focus on their careers, or perhaps have found themselves so picky that there really isn't a suitable man out there.

Whatever their reasons are, if the young men aren't getting married, Kay, then neither are the young women, and they have to take credit for their own prolonged adolescence as well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

First Impression: Metroid Prime 3

Yes, I am always behind the curve, even for me. I picked this game up at Christmas and just got around to starting it. Still, I've only put about 2 or 3 hours into the game, and I already have quite a bit to say about it.

I'll start with the good. People who praised this game's control scheme were speaking profound truths. I love the mouse and keyboard, but the wiimote pulls a very close second when it comes to controllers for first-person shooters. I've played Halo 3, and I spent every moment wishing I had a mouse. I don't feel that at all when I play Metroid Prime 3, and that is very noticeable.

Of course, the scheme is only about 95% awesome sauce. There are a few things that could have been done better. The "scanning visor" mode is clunky and awkward, especially when you're trying to identify the thing that is currently shooting you in the face. It's not terrible, but it could have been better.

Okay, now the bad. The game plays exactly like a first-person Legend of Zelda with lasers instead of swords. This is not a good thing. Each area is designed the same way Zelda dungeons are, except that you have absolutely no rhyme or reason as to the actual design of the place you're in. Why would all of these people have door locks that can only be opened by bombs and can only be reached by going through small tunnels? Yeesh.

I don't know the story of the series overall, as I never played any of the earlier entries, but the writing so far is about on par with Twilight Princess. The story, in whatever sense it's there, is simply whatever shuttles you along to the next dungeon. When you're in a "dungeon," suit upgrades are located exactly where you need them, again in spite of rhyme or reason.

Here, however, is the worst party that I've seen so far. At some point early in the game, you get knocked out during a firefight. You wake up one month later. Normally a month long coma would be a big deal. So what happens? You wake up still in your power suit, except some technicians tells you that they've been experimenting on you for the last month and hey! Check out your snazzy new powers! All right, back to work with you!

Um, so did they at least take you out of the suit to treat your wounds? Or did they just leave you in there while doing their experiments? It's both a terrible plot hole and extremely creepy to boot. Nintendo, what were you thinking?

So, only a few hours in and my overall thoughts? Fun to play, as long as you're not thinking terribly hard about it.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Earlier today I was listening to Fear the Boot, a podcast about tabletop roleplaying games. One of these days, if I ever get around to updating my blogroll, I'll add them to the list. The episode I was listening to revolved around religion in roleplaying games, and it's an interesting topic.

In DnD, you can play as a cleric. The cleric is dedicated to his or her deity, and gets all of their divine spells from said god. However, most clerics don't sit in the temple and preach but go out into the world on wild adventures. There's really no comparison to anything you might find today.

The humorous thought this brought to mind is the "favored weapon" system, wherein each deity favors a certain weapon, which allows the clerics who worship said deity access to that weapon. This makes me wonder . . . what would Jesus carry?

I can humorously imagine my pastor carrying a sawed-off shotgun around because it was Jesus' preferred firearm. But in seriousness, what might that weapon be? I can think of three possibilities:
  • Sword - Jesus did say that he came bearing the sword.
  • Spear - Lance of Longinus, anyone? I guess Jesus wouldn't remember spears too fondly, but I can imagine them having some sort of significance.
  • Whip - Jesus did clear the moneychangers out of the temple courtyard with one. Perhaps he was skilled in its use.
Anything I might have left off? Add your two cents.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Some geeky thoughts

This post will probably increase my dork factor by a large magnitude, but what do I care? All four of you readers can judge me as much as you want.

Earlier last year, I was reading Shamus Young's synopsis of his Dungeons and Dragons campaign as he wrote it on his blog. It sounded neat, like something I might actually enjoy. So, back towards the beginning of the fall semester, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. I actually have two games going; in one I'm the game master (Note to my players: Don't follow that link above, I'm using his campaign as my basic outline), while in the other I'm just a player. I've never played an RPG aside from video games, and those have almost nothing in common with their tabletop brethren.

The point of this post isn't really to talk about the games themselves, but more to talk about the things I've learned since starting.

First and foremost, I can understand why people have a hard time picking up the hobby. Bad press over the years and obnoxious, stereotypical fanboys already stack the cards against it, but most people don't have a soft spot in their heart for reading text books. When you first start out, you typically have a lot of rules to learn. Now, that's not to say that you can't do it in easily digestible bits; nobody starts out learning chemistry with the equations for electron behavior. Still, it's intimidating. Ideally, you'd have someone who already plays introduce you and hold your hand through it.

But that directly contradicts my next thought: There's really a lot of people these games should appeal to. Dungeons and Dragons was spawned by The Lord of the Rings, and that's pretty popular since the movies. Even if fantasy isn't your cup of tea, most people have a fictional genre they love (historical, sci-fi, horror, etc.), and there's an RPG out there that would probably fit that bill.

I realize that some people liken it to being an 8 year old "playing pretend," but I like to think of it in other ways. It definitely gives aspiring actors/actresses an outlet for practicing their craft in their spare time. Writers also get to put their skills to use. If you've ever watched a movie or played a video game and thought, "Oh, I wouldn't have done it like that, I'd have totally done it differently," well, these games give you a chance to play that out. Did you ever read those "choose your own adventure" books? It's a lot like that, except instead of a book you get a live narrator.

Hm . . . I have more thoughts, but this post is getting quite lengthy already. Perhaps I'll add more in the future.

Retro Review: Evil Genius

So, usually I like to post a review of whatever game I've been playing lately, but this one seems to be reaching a little. Evil Genius was released in 2004. I was actually playing it when I started the blog, but I wasn't writing about video games back then. Being as old as it is, the game is probably hard to find anymore, but I'd still recommend getting it if you see it.

In the game you're, guess what, an evil genius bent on world domination. Using your wealth and endless supply of minions, you build up a base and commit vile deeds around the globe until you've effectively cowed all the governments of the world.

While that might sound out of character for me, it's all very cartoony. I'd say it has a "James Bond" style to it, but it's closer to an "Austin Powers" theme. This shows through in the music, in the artwork, and the general structuring of the game. It's really quite fun.

The game is essentially a base-management simulation. You have to structure your base in certain ways and order your minions around in others to make everything work just right. Build essential operations too far apart, and your minions might collapse while trying to perform essential tasks. Build too many, and you might run out of money. Steal too much money, and the forces of justice will hassle your island home non-stop. It's a delicate balance.

I enjoy the game a lot. I suppose that's obvious, since I'm playing through a second time. It's very easy to lose several hours to the game and not realize you did so. The downside is that the game can be brutally frustrating at times, even on the simplest of settings. Towards the end of the game, the difficulty ramps up considerably, and even the most cautious of players can find themselves quickly swamped.

Don't let that dissuade you from pulling the game off the shelf, however. It's a lot of fun. I would say that system requirements shouldn't be a problem, but I'm not sure who I'd be kidding with that. Despite the simple graphics, the load times are ridiculous and even my relatively beefy system gets choked up every so often. Still, it has theoretically low system requirements, so go ahead and pull it out of the bargain bin if you find it.

Anthropogenic . . . volcanoes?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm no climate scientist. When there's talk about "global warming" or "climate change," I politely decline to give a definitive statement because I have no idea who is speaking from solid data/principle and who is speaking from the wrong end of their digestive tract.

However, one thing I will say is that I don't think we should start spending billions of dollars trying to solve a problem that we don't really understand and might not even exist. Nothing involving the climate/ecosphere/Captain Planet is ever as simple as it might seem.

Case in point: This recent article from Science about the discovery of active volcanoes underneath the West Antarctic ice sheets. I've read about that ice sheet's regression as proof of anthropogenic global warming. Now it looks like some of that (How much? Good question.) may be due to a volcano. Unless someone is willing to blame the volcano on carbon emissions as well, I think it's safe to say that we might not understand what's at work there as much as we thought we did.

But what do I know? I'm no climatologist.

Depends on the meaning of "straight"

In the last post, Jen and I had a discussion in the comments about why I don't support John McCain. As reference for my remarks, I posit some articles: This one by Ann Coulter, and if that isn't your style, this one by the Washington Times.

So yeah . . . McCain won't be getting my endorsement. I bet he's just crushed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Still Not Dead

This is going to be one of those cliche (I had the right character in there for the 'e', but Blogger was choking on the special character, so now it's just a regular letter) posts about why I haven't been posting much lately. I wish I could tell you it's because I've been off fighting for the resistance against the zombie menace, but I don't think that one stands up to scrutiny for very long.

The long and short of it is that the other things I've been busy with in life haven't been worth blogging about. School's out, so my "science intake" has decreased dramatically. I haven't played any new video games in a while, even though there's a couple burning holes on my shelf. Even my standard surfing has been rather dull, as the news is quite preoccupied with the presidential primaries.

Me, I don't feel like writing about the primaries. I wanted Fred Thompson, but his chances in the race are slim at this point. Right now the "leaders" are John McCain and Mike Huckabee, both of whom are unacceptable choices to me as well. At this point, Mitt Romney is the "fall back" candidate for me. All the news analysis in the world won't change that, and I've no intention of writing about the primaries on here just so I can explain to people why their preferred candidate doesn't work for me. (I'm looking at you, Paulbots)

So there you have it. By all means, don't stop coming by. I'm certain the writers block will crumble at some point soon.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Diminishing Returns

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not quite dead. December being what it is, what with all the holidays and people returning to town and new video games and what not, you tend to become distracted. Or rather, I tend to become distracted.

In any event, I spent New Year's Even in Chicago with some old friends from ISU, and it was quite a lot of fun. What didn't hurt was that our gracious host had purchased this some months ago:

Yes, that is a BIG television. Seventy-three inches, in fact.

On the one hand, I'm quite jealous. Who wouldn't love having that behemoth taking over their living room, the envy of cinephiles everywhere?

On the other hand, there comes a point at which it's not very helpful to have a larger television. We spent a good portion of my time there playing Halo 3 on this monstrosity. Even with the HD hook-up for the Ecks Bawks, there was still pixelation in a lot of the graphics. Don't even get me started on what the Wii graphics looked like . . . it wasn't as good looking as it was on smaller televisions. Our host still has his old N64, and he's said that it's all but unplayable on that television. I can only imagine.

He doesn't own an HD/Blu-ray DVD player, so normal DVDs suffer from pixelated quality as well. Even HD television, the ideal medium for such a TV, starts showing problems around the edges at such a size.

This makes me curious what the best TV size is. At what point does a larger screen start impinging on visual quality?