Saturday, August 25, 2007


In keeping with my regular updates on the weekly Trivial Pursuit game, Greg and I lost to Jay in Genus 5 last Sunday. We blame bad rolls, trying to get two pie-pieces and hitting the center, as we were up six pieces to three, and then Jay rallied to win the game in a finish that would have made Seabiscuit jealous.

Yesterday (technically, seeing how it's after midnight, so we're talking about the 24th of August) was Danimal's birthday. Is, was, I'm not sure what the terminology is, exactly. I posted something about it briefly several months ago, but it all runs together, and I don't remember when it was. I remember it well, but I don't remember when. Funny how memory does that; how you can't remember the specifics beyond an event itself. But I heard Floyd on the radio today, and Danimal loved Pink Floyd, so I figured I'd throw "Eclipse" up as a title for the post.

Tonight was karaoke night, and I contemplated singing a Pink Floyd song, but I wasn't entirely sure whether that would be apropos, so I didn't. This is to say nothing of the fact that "Wish You Were Here" would have made half of the bar cry in volumes that would have drowned the city, much like the rain yesterday. Also, I think that Roger Waters-era Pink Floyd is done best by a pair of singers (at least where karaoke is concerned) with one singing falsetto. I probably won't be able to find anyone to sing with me on that one, sort of like how Danimal was the Chef to my Eric Cartman when I would sing Cartman's version of Styx's "Come Sail Away".

My vacation has been greenlit and it starts Tuesday after next. I'm very excited. I'm oddly looking forward to spending a day in Omaha, somewhere in middle-America. The last time I was in Omaha, I was thirteen years old, and my family's Ford Explorer broke down for some odd reason, and we spent four of the longest hours of my life in that city (only called a "city" by Nebraska standards, because we know better, out here in civilization).

Okay, here's an example of how much Omaha sucked: We're stuck in town and so I go to the local comic book store, and that day they're having a signing by one of the great comic book writers (no, not Alan Moore, since I didn't say the great comic book writer). I see this in the window, and I'm like, "Holy shit," so I go in, and there's like four people in the store, including the owner, who's behind the counter, and the writer, who has a table in front of him, and nobody asking him for his autograph. So Neil and I strike up a conversation, and we end up talking at length about how America, by and large, is a very cool place to drive around, but Nebraska is like this void in the universe where culture just ceases to exist, like the inverse of the Field of Dreams. If You Build It... Yeah, it's fuckin' Nebraska.

The shop owner, with five people in the store, said it was a pretty busy day.

So, in honor of Neil, I'm going to Lebanon, Kansas on my way back, and I'm going to see the geographic center of the contiguous United States of America, because no one else ever did.

Totally getting off the subject, Bioshock for the Xbox 360 is a great game. Okay, it's great for the first three or so hours, which is how far I've gotten in it. The level design isn't the best I've ever seen, but the art direction is absolutely fucking amazing, and the story unfolds in much the same manner as Monolith's F.E.A.R., in that you can completely miss out on the plot if you don't just sit down and listen to some tape recordings now and again. Skipping those basically turns the game into your standard shooter, which I'm sure the Halo crowd will enjoy for the next thirty days or so, but the fact is that the game essentially takes place in a deep-sea version of Galt's Gulch.

No, seriously, I'm about to get all literary, here. It's a videogame that deals with objectivism. It's not nearly as heavy-handed as Ayn Rand ever got, nor does it repeatedly refer to any of the main characters as slender (yes, that's a crack at Ayn Rand's lack of adjectives with regard to Dagny Taggart), but the art direction, particularly in the opening fifteen or so minutes of the game, is very reminiscent of the covers of the Signet Fiction versions of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, with one of the background characters essentially taking the role of John Galt.

I can't really make any judgments as to how much of the game is derivative of Ayn Rand's writings, given that I haven't played through the game in its entirety, nor was I ever able to make it through Atlas Shrugged (since I made a deal with the book and said, "Ayn Rand, if you call Dagny Taggart slender one more time, I'm going to throw this book out the window, and so she did, and so I did), but I've been seeing some distinct parallels to objectivism in general withe regard to the establishment of ... whatever the undersea city's name is.

It really is a very good game, though. If I were to break it down to its component parts, I'm sure there's a little bit of Fallout, some Max Payne, a whole lot of Deus Ex, and more than a bit of F.E.A.R., none of which are less than stellar games. At no point does Bioshock necessarily steal from these games, but it certainly lifts gameplay concepts with the promise of enhancing the genre and thereby paying homage to the originals.

Seriously. It's a game that's worth the sixty dollars. It's rare that I'd ever say such a thing, but it's true. The last game I liked this much for the 360 was probably Dead Rising, and its only flaw was that it was the hardest game I've ever played in my life. Dead Rising, though, wouldn't have been enough for me to want a 360 of my own. Bioshock very nearly is. Another few games like this, and Microsoft might get $350 of mine. Of course, they've had eighteen months, and this is two games that I've truly adored, for a system that costs more than my yearly car-insurance bill.

Anyway, I've found my write-up on the opening band for the last Small Shiny Things show I went to, so hopefully I'll get that up before I go on vacation.

Oh, shit, I got sidetracked. So, anyway, Omaha, somewhere in middle-America: One of my regulars at work told me that he'd been there recently, and that they have a really good zoo and a surprisingly good jazz scene. Now, I don't know much about jazz, but I know i totally dug the Ken Burns documentary, so I could totally go for a night in Omaha for that. This is to say nothing of the fact that the city apparently also has a movie theater that, like the Normal Theater downstate, shows nothing but classic films. A few days ago, they were running The Wild Bunch, which pissed me off to no end, since I really would have liked to have seen that.

Anyway, I have to be at work in five hours, so I'm going to go. Hopefully I'll have a bit more to report on on several subjects before I leave for vacation.

Happy birthday, Danimal.

AIM: therbmcc71

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lecture 03: Orbiter Sub-System Design

So, the coolest thing in the world on iTunes is this whole iTunes U thing, in which you can listen to lectures from schools and courses you might never be able to afford or get accepted into. I'm currently listening to a 44-hour lecture course on Aircraft Systems Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, because the entire course centers on the space shuttle. So I've been doing some reading, as well, because you never know when there's going to be a pop quiz, and I found out something pretty interesting:

The space shuttle always takes off from Cape Canaveral. Okay, everyone knows that. However, it doesn't necessarily always land there, as sometimes weather or other factors make it so that the space shuttle will land at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Fine, whatever, that's not terribly shocking. To get the shuttle from California to Florida, it has to be blown on the back of a specially configured Boeing 747-100. It's been this way for almost thirty years.

But here's the kicker: That 747, when flying from California to Florida, gets 125 feet per gallon.

AIM: therbmcc71

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hot, Hot, Hot

So today, because I'm extremely tired and I don't feel like coming up with my own material, I'm stealing it from comments left on other people's blogs and products I found on Amazon, because I found them terribly entertaining.

Actually, there was a bunch of potential candidates for this first one, but this particular comment was the one that stuck out, because it made me actually stop, try re-reading it, and I still went, "What...?" Enjoy:
I’m a stakeholder in the Wal-Mart chain. Their four Wal-Mart store in my area, over the past five years I have seen the quality of the merchandise dementias. The customer service at Wal-Mart is disappointing, it’s like the employee have not been train in customer relations. The stores always crowded with mechanic and junky looking. As I stated I’m a stakeholder, but if I do not have to go in a Wal-Mart store I do not; I go to a Target store first. The customer service is better and the quality of the merchandise is much better.
And then here's a couple of five-star reviews for the first Left Behind book. This first one's by Ted M. "Ted", and it's a doozy, as can only be written by someone who would be hailed by Sean Hannity as a member of the intellectual elite:

I am not normally a reader of novels. I mostly read fact books and books of that nature.
I have never really liked books like that. I have even read many and had trouble paying attention to them.

This book is different. It is the very firs novel I read from cover to cover in less than 3 days.

It is the incredible Christian story of the Rapture and the chronicle of how God will take all of his true followers to heaven before the last days to spare them from the horrible things that will happen.

There are more books in this series and it is one of the bestselling Christian series of all time.

This book gives an important message that the last days are approaching and that Jesus Christ is returning soon.
And here's my favorite review of all time, for the same book. Also (clearly) five stars:
I just dun finished this here book. Now I'll tell all ya fellas that I aint too much on book learnin or readin words but I was goshdanged by this here book. It's just like I always dun knew it was gonna be. The Lord Jesus God gonna come down here on this Earth and be a whuppin up on all those people that aint right like christians. That includes all the dirty muslins and the stoopid aytheists (can't never be spellerin that word correct-like). Anyways I only hope the Lord God Jesus's repersentive on Earth, George W. Bush, can a get this here 'pocalypse a comin soon enough. Theez damn books are a goshdamn sight better than a watchin Jerry Springer or beatin up ma kids like I usually be doin'. One of them stoopid revewers said this here book was a ritten at a sixth grader level. Well thats a bunch of spit and possum vittles. I dint even finish the fourth grade and I'm a readin it just fine. Ima just hopin somebody gonna make nifty cartoon out this here book. YEEEEEHAAAAWWWWW!!!! PRAISE JESUS!!!!!
I tell ya, I live for this shit. This is the kind of idiocy I just don't find in the world I live in. Okay, granted, the last one's probably a fake, and a very good one at that, but with regard to the first two entries, I can totally see these posters' mothers pulling a Chinatown and eventually confessing, "She's my daughter AND my sister!!!"

AIM: therbmcc71