Friday, December 23, 2011

Metroid: Other M

I just played Metroid: Other M. I had heard varied opinions on the game – in particular, it has been criticized for being a lot more linear than other Metroid games (in the sense of not giving you many choices of where to go). While this is valid, and while there were a few other things that annoyed me, my final analysis is that it’s an awesome game. It’s arguably the least cool of the Metroid games (or at least the modern ones), but it’s still awesome.

So here’s what I like about it:

  • The 3rd-person-but-3D perspective is awesome.
  • It has lots of classic enemies, including bosses.
  • Like Metroid Fusion, it has a lot of boss battles.
  • The scenery and strategy (when you can figure it out) feels Metroid-y.

Here’s what annoyed me:

  • Although you can sort of scan your environment, you can’t get much information about what you’re looking at or how to interact with it. I got stuck a lot, and often it wasn’t in a situation that was supposed to be a puzzle. I miss the scan visor.
  • The map isn’t always super clear. 3D rooms are projected onto a flat image, and the dots that show item locations are the same color as the icon that shows where you are, so if you’re close to an item it’s easy to miss. The rooms aren’t named (like they are in the Metroid Prime games), so looking up help on a confusing room is really hard too.
  • There aren’t any catchy tunes; the music is just atmosphere.
  • I don’t mind the plot, but the fact that Samus supposedly has most of her power-ups but is forbidden to use them until Adam decides they are necessary is not believable. I just tell myself that she really found them in some secret room right before the game actually gives them to you. They really need to go back to actually exploring an alien world for the next game.

In the end, the Metroid feel of the game outweighs the implementation issues, and I definitely think it’s worth playing, at least for anyone who likes Metroid games in general.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Games for Beginners

I’m not ready to introduce my kids to video games, but I’m pretty sure they’re eventually going to become interested. So I occasionally ponder what games would be good to get little kids started on. It’s not enough that the game itself be “easy”, since beginning players have to get use to the idea of a controller (unless it’s a Kinect game I guess, but you get the point).  And of course there are “edutainment” games for little kids, but those don’t really count as video games. So here are a few games that I think would be relatively unstressful for beginning players:

(Actually, first a side comment: figuring out how to introduce new players to the classics is a different issue, which I deal with here.)

Yoshi’s Story

Yoshi’s Story has a lot going for it as a beginner’s game:

  • It’s relatively easy
  • Its storybook-themed graphics are “cute”
  • It features adorable baby dinosaurs as its protagonists.
  • It’s very forgiving. You clear levels by eating fruit, and fruit also refills your life meter.
  • It’s very short. Beating the game only requires going through six levels (although which level can vary based on how much you explore).
  • There’s a Trial Mode, where you can play individual levels you have visited in Story Mode.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This game starts out pretty easy – I was able to verbally walk my younger siblings through rescuing Princess Zelda. And then the overworld opens up, and a beginning player can explore without having to worry about making progress.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World is definitely harder to beat than Yoshi’s Story, but it also has more options of where to go, and it has a lot of easy levels up front. It lets you back into them as well, and saving (after the first world) is fairly straightforward. The Game Boy Advance re-release is even easier.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Humbug – but not really

It’s a well-known fact that we commercialize holidays and spend a lot more time thinking about how to celebrate them than what they’re supposed to commemorate. That’s probably a bad thing in most cases, but I have a bit of self-justification that I’d like to offer the world. And I have a proposal for how to deal with this. Read on.

My Perspective

First, about Christmas. The point of Christmas is very important, probably second only to Easter. But consider something you always hear at Christmas time: “We should keep the spirit of Christmas all year.” And what spirit is that? The Spirit of Christ, of course. Putting it that way makes it easy to see how to commemorate the birth, life, and mission of the Savior all year. Pray. Study the scriptures. Attend church. Be good to people, and be willing to sacrifice to help them once in a while. That won’t preserve the festive feeling, but then again, does the festiveness of Christmas come from the religious origin? Not really. It comes from traditions – traditions that people made up.

So here’s my self-justification: I claim that as long as you are doing the stuff that God has asked us to do to remember Him on a daily and weekly basis, it’s not the end of the world if you also spend time with non-religious traditions, even if they happen to coincide with a holiday. (After all, the only “holiday” that God has actually asked us to observe [following the Resurrection of course] is the Sabbath.)

To take that a step further, consider what happens when Christmas traditions come into conflict with divinely-appointed traditions. Say Christmas falls on a Sunday. Do you cut short religious activity so you can observe mortal-made traditions? This applies to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as well, which brings us to…

My Proposal

I say we should reschedule our holidays to be more convenient, and to clearly separate the meaning of the day (if any) from the traditions around it. Specifically, here are the changes I propose:

  • Christmas

It is well-known that the date of December 25th has no particular meaning in Christianity. The Romans decided to celebrate Christmas on that day because it helped pagans blend the message of Christ with their current beliefs. Does this make Christmas a pagan holiday? Of course not. Nobody goes out and worships Roman deities on Christmas (or at all, for that matter). I mention this merely to point out that the date is flexible.

The other thing I want to point out is that, for a student, any time between the start of winter break and Christmas Day is essentially wasted, because you can’t play with the stuff you get. I think we could solve both this and the commercialization issues by making Christmas the Monday of the last full week of December. That way, Christmas Eve would always be on a Sunday and would therefore get extra religious focus. Also, if you believe in avoiding shopping on the Sabbath, you’d get the stress of mall work out of the way in advance. Then you’d open presents and stuff on Monday and have at least a full week to enjoy them before the year ends and you have to worry about school. You’d be embracing the commercial traditions on Monday, but only after spending what I think would be extra time remembering the real meaning of the holiday the day before.

  • Mother’s Day / Father’s Day

So this one won’t apply if you don’t choose to restrict what you do on Sunday, but I think it’s pretty inconvenient that these holidays fall on Sunday. You’re trying to celebrate motherhood, but meanwhile you’re trying to get the kids to church, you can’t go out to eat, etc. There’s not much time left to focus on the mom. These holidays should be on Saturdays instead.

  • Halloween

If there’s anyone who attaches any religious meaning to Halloween, I haven’t met them. If anything, it seems to have turned into a worship of evil in a lot of contexts. But as far as the fun, cute side of it goes, why would you ever want to have it on on a week night? If it always fell on a Friday night, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting to bed on time and stuff like that.

Of course, it has been pointed out to me that you might have fewer trouble makers if it were always on a week night. But it should be a fixed day of the week. (Again, Halloween on Sunday is lame.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Being -ist

I get the impression that a lot of people today want to feel persecuted. They draw comparisons between themselves and groups of people historically who really were killed, enslaved, or otherwise mistreated because of various differences – race, religion, etc. And I’m not saying that people aren’t persecuted today, but, in this country, there’s really nothing that compares to what you would have seen even fifty years ago. That is to say, you don’t see widespread prejudice that is socially or politically acceptable. People who want to persecute other people tend to have to keep it within a closed group, or hide it altogether. So the country isn’t where it should be, but it’s a lot farther along than a lot of people make it out to be.

One bit of evidence of this is the fact that “racist” (or any other kind if “-ist”) is one of the worst things you can call someone. I think most of us are properly ashamed of what has gone on in the country’s past, and we won’t stand for people trying to make that our present as well. But if that’s the case, then why are the -isms such a big deal in the media?

I think that one reason is a blurring of the definition. People don’t see as much genuine racism as they used to, so they go and apply it to the next-worst thing, and the next-worst after that. After all, being able to call yourself persecuted lets you elevate yourself to the status of… actually I can’t finish the thought, even sarcastically. As Pinky once said, “no no, it’s too stupid.”

So once again I think it’s important to settle on some reasonable definitions:

  • -ism: hatred or outright disrespect. Using race as an example, firing someone from a job or insulting someone because of their race is racist.
  • insensitivity: not making the effort to think about how your words or actions will affect other people. Pointing out someone’s race in a context where it’s not relevant may be racially insensitive, as would be using terms with an obvious negative connotation just because they are part of culture. (What kind a “giver?” What kind of a fire drill?) In this situation, you’re not thinking something negative about someone; you’re not thinking about them at all.
  • ignorance: saying or doing something that is unflattering to a group of people because you’re honestly unaware of the effect. A lot of stereotypes stem from ignorance. I saw this painting of a teepee in a forest, apparently in the Pacific Northwest. Really? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure (and Wikipedia confirms this) that teepees are more of Great Plains thing. I’m sure the artist wasn’t trying to be insulting. (After all, what insult could possibly be meant?) But a little research may have shown a bit more respect for the culture being depicted – whichever one that was. So that would seem to be an example of racial ignorance. Or cultural ignorance. Or something.

It’s dramatic to call something a more severe term than it deserves. But that drama comes at the cost of communication. For instance, if you start calling people who punch other people “murderers,” then pretty soon calling someone a murderer won’t sound quite so bad. And if the word doesn’t sound so bad, there are people out there who will decide the act isn’t so bad either. Likewise, if you tell every person you date that you love them, what do you say to the person you decide you want to marry? Similarly, it doesn’t do anyone any good to throw the label “-ism” around so freely that people lose track of how bad the real thing really is.

The other problem with the way people label things as -ist comes when they apply the term to inanimate things, like grammatical constructs. You can say that people should say “firefighter” instead of “fireman”, or “remotely piloted” instead of “unmanned”, but you can’t call the language sexist; a language can’t hate anyone. And you can’t say that people who use those terms are sexist, unless you seriously think that people walk around thinking of ways to exclude women from their word choice. And if you think English is “hateful,” then what about Spanish, where adjectives have a masculine suffix when applied to mixed groups, and where inanimate objects have gender attached? Do you think that all Spanish speakers are sexist? Because that would clearly be some kind of -ist. (Not exactly racist, since not all Spanish speakers are the same race. Languageist?)

Party in the CIA and other glorious music

I love it when songs manage to take a topic that’s mundane or petty or otherwise unworthy of song and make it feel like something epic. What is this feeling? and Popular in Wicked do a glorious job of this. And so, of course, does Weird Al. Unfortunately there’s a ton of his stuff that’s hilarious except for “that one thing” that’s offensive and messes up the rest of the song. But it’s not always like that, and Party in the CIA is a glorious victory in that area. It’s a parody of Miley Cyrus’s Party in the USA, which I guess is itself a fairly petty discourse about being stressed about partying in California. But taking its catchy tune and applying it to something serious like espionage, while preserving the ditzy feel… okay, I don’t want to make it not funny by talking about it too much.

You can listen to it free on Bing Music:

http://www.bing.com/music/albums/detail?q=Weird%20Al%20Yankovic%20Alpocalypse&albumID=83B5CF06-0100-11DB-89CA-0019B92A3933&artistID=B4230200-0600-11DB-89CA-0019B92A3933

How not to justify your actions without looking stupid

I heard this song yesterday that had a message that I’ve heard people use to justify their own choices, and it drives me crazy. The message is something along the lines of “The commandments / church standards / etc. say I should <some standard>. I don’t because <reason>, and I think God understands.”

He understands? And that means what you’re doing is okay? Of course he understands your motive. He knows everything. He understands why Hitler did what he did; that doesn’t mean that Hitler was justified.

If you break down that attitude, what these people are really saying is this: “Anyone who understood my motives would say I’m justified. And God understands my motives, therefore he must consider me justified.” That’s pretty backward. It’s essentially setting yourself up as the arbiter of morality and implying that God is just going along with your opinion.

Now, I realize that not everyone who uses that phrase means what I just derived above. Hopefully, what at least some of them mean is that they felt their circumstances were exceptional, and they asked God sincerely if they were right, and they felt a confirmation from the Holy Ghost, so they have a clear conscience about their choice. Of course there are plenty of people who have done bad things with a “numbed” conscience and confused that with divine approval. But at least that seems more like an honest mistake than implying that God will just overlook conscious sins just because he knows why you commit them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Uses for Duct Tape

Duct tape has many uses, but two have been particularly useful for me over the course of my days.

#1: Watch Band

On my mission, my watch band broke. I couldn’t find a cheap watch that was water-resistant, so I decided to make my own band out of duct tape. It was folded in on itself of course, so the sticky stuff wouldn’t be against my skin. I used a little piece to fasten it, and that had to be replaced several times, but the band itself held out pretty well. I kept this method for over a year (even after my mission) until I finally got a new watch.
Sack-cloth and ashes, and a duct tape watch. Get itUnfortunately, this is the only mission photo I have that shows the watch band. It’s unfortunate, because this photo requires a bit of a story to explain. This is me during Shaft Week – a week where absolutely everything went wrong. The weather, teaching appointments, member visits, even lunch appointments. I was feeling pretty lame, so I decided to express my angst in the Biblical sense: with “sack-cloth” and ashes. Get it?
(If you think that explanation was long-winded, just be glad I trimmed this photo. The apartment we were living in here was a story in itself, as you may guess from the state of the walls and floor.)




#2: Temporary Wedding Ring

I came up with this one today. We took our rings in to be re-rhodium-ed, and it will be a couple of days before we’ll be down there to pick them up. But my hand always feels a little odd without the ring. So I decided to make one out of duct tape. It actually looks pretty good – sort of like the titanium coloring a lot of wedding bands have.
P1060888

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pronunciation Annoyances

As a public service announcement (albeit a not-very-useful one), I’m listing the right way to pronounce a few things that people often get wrong.

In Science

  • Those sea creatures that look like flowers are Sea Anemones (like the flower) – not “anenomes.” I even heard a lady at the aquarium say this wrong.
  • Something pertaining to a nucleus is Nuclear – not “nucular”

In Church

  • Daniel’s buddy was called Abed-Nego – not “abendego”
  • The early Church headquarters was at Kirtland, Ohio – not “Kirkland” (A common mistake in Washington state, where there really is a Kirkland)
  • And yes, it’s “Books of Mormon”, not “Book of Mormons”, although “Copies of the Book of Mormon” sounds even better.
And in video games, there’s a whole other list of issues here.

Gambling vs. Stock Trading

I think it’s pretty easy to make the case that gambling is immoral. And I’ve heard lotteries referred to as a tax on people who are bad at math. I’ve had this repeated discussion about what exactly gambling is, and in particular whether trading stocks falls into that category. So here’s my output from that line of discussion.

Defining “Gambling”

It’s trickier than expected to define what gambling is, especially if you start the the premise that it is categorically immoral. It’s more complex than just taking risks – after all, getting in your car and driving to work involves a risk. And it’s not just getting something based on chance – after all, if you buy a candy bar and “instantly win” a million dollars, I wouldn’t consider that gambling. (Except maybe if you bought the candy bar for that purpose.)

I’ll skip the discussion here and give you what I think is a good definition for gambling:

Gambling is an effort to gain money which involves (1) an element of risk AND either (2a) results based on chance OR (2b) a motive to get something from someone else without providing something of value in return.

So a sweepstakes is not gambling because you aren’t risking anything. Same for a contest with a prize for the winner, assuming that you don’t pay to enter it. But poker and betting on sports are gambling, because even though they are not based totally on chance, the goal is to take money away from other people. And buying a raffle ticket is gambling, because even though you’re not necessarily trying to take money away from people, you’re investing in pure luck. I guess the same goes for Russian roulette, although that’s wrong for more reasons than that.

Stocks

So that brings us to the question of whether trading stocks is gambling. I think that the answer is a proverbial “definite maybe.” When you buy stock, you definitely hope that you are going to sell it for more than the person sold it for, but that’s just standard business practice, the same as any merchant does. And there is some actual value associated with a stock share, even though it’s pretty abstract. So I wouldn’t claim that it’s fundamentally wrong.

On the other hand, I do think a lot of people approach stock trading the way they’d approach a poker game. For instance, if you sell stock because you’re convinced it’s about to plummet in price, then that’s arguably like trying to trick someone into taking the loss instead of you. And making decisions based on what you think the market will do isn’t all that different from trading Ultimate Football players based on what you think the teams will do.

A thought experiment

In order to consider the value of a transaction, it’s interesting to ask whether the world would benefit if everyone in the world were to spend a day doing it. Consider these:

  • Farming: Definitely.
  • Fixing plumbing: Yes.
  • Passing laws: Hopefully, yes.
  • Playing poker: Definitely not.
  • Playing baseball: Not much, other than some physical exercise and entertainment for the people watching. (Going to a baseball game isn’t gambling because you pay the same regardless of the outcome – no risk. But it does make you wonder why you can make a career out of playing sports.)
  • Painting, playing music, writing books: Sure. Not a lot of practical value, but artistic expression does have value.
  • Trading stocks: I don’t see how. This would be essentially like passing dollar bills around. Some people would end up with more and some with less, but overall there would be no value created.

Conclusion

To reiterate, I’m not claiming that stock trading is immoral. But I definitely think that if you approach it with the attitude of getting rich quick instead of investing in actual companies, that you’re likely to get a lot of the bad side-effects that you’d get from actual gambling, like a compromised work ethic, obsessive involvement, and a high potential for losing money that could have been spent on something of concrete value. So there’s my two shares. (Get it?)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nukeluking

Nukeluk

In what may well be a mutant ability, I can twitch my finger tendons back and forth over my knuckles. My brother (just a few years old at the time) named it “Nukeluking.”

I’m not sure how to embed the videos without putting them on YouTube or something, but here are links to them on SkyDrive:

 

I have heard of other people being able to do this, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it done. Certainly not on all fingers. (Only the middle finger came naturally. I expanded my abilities in fourth grade, although it hurt the first time I did it. I do not recommend developing this particular power.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Haiku

I have been guilty
Of putting Haiku poems
Where they shouldn’t go.

You know, like at work.
Out of office reply mail.
Instant message notes.

Some deal with Haiku.
But not all of them, you see.
So don’t bail out yet.


A bad idea
Is to write Haiku poems.
So please don't do it.

Once you get started,
It is difficult to quit.
It's quite addictive.

Instant message notes
are exactly the wrong place
to put your Haiku.
 
When out of office,
Keep your auto-replies clean
Of pointless Haiku.

 
The angry guy said,
"Get the heck out of here, punk!"
It was poetry.
 
The bank robber said,
"Give me all your money, now!"
Poetry, as well.

 
The time has arrived.
It is unsolicited.
Another Haiku.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weird Stuff

Here are some pictures of weird stuff I’ve run across:
 
DarkPromises
This is a wrapper for some Hershey’s chocolate. But, “Dark Promises?” Sounds like a threat or something.
DSCN0956
In the daylight it says “Wheel Parts”, but at night the store’s true identity is revealed.
DSCN1887
I sure am glad they gave us a numbered list, or I might have gotten lost.
Grated
Have you ever heard of cheese that was only only 50% grated?
Save
Just over half a cent – but in this economy everything helps, I guess.

DSCN1080DSCN1081
Since “mattress” is not part of the store’s name, they must have meant you should park mattresses there.

P1050808
Yeah, I love how improper wiring is a safety feature.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Plasma Master – Published!

cover - starryI wrote a science fiction story about a decade ago. After a bit of polishing, I decided to self-publish it as an e-book. It's not really a business venture, although of course the prospect of it being actually read is appealing. If nothing else, this way I can document that I didn't copy stuff that came out later. (I'm a little paranoid that even now people will think I'm copying some recent movies.) See details on the page tab above.

Thanks to Kevin for the cover art and copious editing advice!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today’s Quiz

The phrase “‘Ain’t’ ain’t a word” is inappropriate because (choose one):

A. It is hypocritical

B. It is cliché

C. “Ain’t” is in fact a word

D. The correct grammar would be “’Ain’t’ ain’t no word.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Useful Purpose for Facebook

I still don’t have a Facebook page. But I did find what may very well be the most useful thing you can do on Facebook.

Get ready…

You can “like” a Like Like!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Like-Like-Legend-of-Zelda/215303201831424

or

http://www.facebook.com/pages/LikeLike/120877404609064

Like, who doesn’t like liking things like Like Likes?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Robot Master Maladies

[Spoiler alert for various Mega Man and Mega Man X games]

Time to write down some recurring thoughts about various Robot Master battles. Mega Man has had a lot of battles with a lot of unique strategy involved, but there are a couple of common patterns. It’s a relief to see these patterns, because once you see them there’s a good chance that you’ll win. Eventually.

Toad Man Disease

Toad Man is a good choice to go after first in Mega Man 4 because both the level and battle are very manageable without special weapons. This might not be immediately clear, since Toad Man’s weapon is the Rain Flush, which hits everything on the screen at once; you can’t dodge it. But it turns out that if you don’t worry about charging your weapon and just keep hitting him, you can prevent Toad Man from ever getting the chance to fire. If you walk in and start shooting, he’ll jump across the screen. At this point you have to slide out of the way to avoid having him land on you, but if you turn and resume shooting, his Rain Flush will be interrupted, and he’ll jump again – repeating the process. After 28 rounds of this (or actually 26 if you went in with your weapon already charged), he’ll be defeated without ever having fired a shot.

There aren’t a lot of Robot Masters that will let you cheat them out of their attacks completely like this, but there are a lot that can be defeated by the repetition of a shoot + slide + shoot pattern. Many of them require the use of a particular special weapon to do this, though.

Examples:

  • Spring Man (MM7): If you get in Spring Man’s face and use the Slash Claw, he will jump over your head and repeat the process, just like Toad Man – with one important variation: at the top of his jump, he’ll spin around and extend his arm in a downward punch. If you time your slide right, this will miss you every time.
  • Toxic Seahorse (MMX3): This guy’s attacks are pretty hard to avoid if you go in there ill-equipped, but if you hit him with the right weapon (which I’m thinking is Blizzard Buffalo’s, although I’m afraid I don’t remember), he’ll fight just like Spring Man, except he uses a ball of acid instead of a spring fist.

Chill Penguin Disease

The Mega Man X games introduce the ability to climb walls, and this give you a welcome new way to avoid enemy attacks. Staying in the upper corner of the screen by repeated jumping can hurt your thumb after a while, but it can keep you safe and give you time to charge your weapon. Chill Penguin in Mega Man X (a natural first choice since the Dash Boots are also in his level) is particularly susceptible to this. There are plenty of Mavericks with attacks that will keep you off the walls or punish you for staying there, but then again there are plenty who follow in the proud tradition of Chill Penguin.

Examples:

  • Flame Mammoth (MMX): This guy’s room is really wide, and the floor is a conveyer belt, so if you get pinned against the right wall you might have trouble dropping down and firing safely. But it’s a lot easier than dodging him on the ground. And he can’t hit you up there (I don’t think – although the guy can jump).
  • Wheel Gator (MMX2): This guy hides under the water a lot, and he can pop up or attack with spinning wheels from anywhere, so you’ll wear out your thumb staying on the wall. You still have to watch out for the wall-climbing wheels, but again it’s a lot safer than staying on the ground.
  • Crush Crawfish (MMX3): This guy’s attacks are pretty varied, and he even has these boomerang claw things that will pull you off of the wall. But it turns out (and thanks go to my friend for realizing this) that those grabber things don’t hurt you, and if you don’t fight against them they will actually pull you out of the way of the razor claw attack that immediately follows them. Plus you can get a charged shot in, and then you can get back to the wall (or get to the opposite wall, if he charges you). So he’s not really harder than Chill Penguin as long as you know how to manipulate his attacks.
  • Tunnel Rhino (MMX3): This guy charges the wall and makes you all off, but if you realize that you can dash jump off the walls (an ability available but undocumented since Mega Man X), you can get to the other side of the screen before he does this, giving you a clear shot at him plus time to climb the other wall.
  • Blizzard Buffalo (MMX3): this guy fights a lot like Flame Mammoth, with the main variation being that he has a really tall laser attack, so it’s hard to know when it’s safe to drop.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sidekicks

I remember the old Batman TV show, with the two-word theme song, monologuing villains, and visual onomatopoeia in the fight scenes. It was awesome. One of the awesome things about it was that Robin was the epitome of a good sidekick. If you’re a hero, here’s what you want your sidekick to be like:

  • Unfalteringly loyal
  • Competent enough that you don’t have to worry about protecting him/her
  • Not quite as skilled as you are (but skilled enough to rescue you if necessary)

Tales (Miles Prower) in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is another good sidekick.

Some fictional stories feature sidekicks who clearly violate these priorities. Like all the newer Batman stuff. Robin is depicted as this whiny kid who resents Batman’s superiority. Who wants a sidekick like that? If you’re so great, go spend your own money and get your own experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movies with Disproportionately Good Music

It’s kind of interesting how some movies have music that’s way more memorable than the movie itself is. In some cases, I think people have this visceral notion that the movie was good, when really it just had a stirring theme song. Here are a few movies I think aren’t nearly as good as the music in them.

  • Back to the Future
  • Superman – none of the movies had very catchy plots, but the music pretty much defines superheroness
  • Star Wars – not that I don’t like Star Wars, but in some ways it wins because it’s classic rather than because it’s flawless. And of course this goes double for the newer movies.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – it’s impressive enough that a movie about undead pirates could be good. But I really think the music is a big part of what makes you want to keep watching it. 
  • Jurassic Park – revolutionary animatronic dinosaurs notwithstanding, this was not that great a movie. The music does more justice to the dinosaurs than the plot does.
  • Mission: Impossible

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Short Rant about Book Order

This should be blatantly obvious, but apparently it’s not, so I’m going to say it: Books in a series should be listed and read in the order they were written, not necessarily in order of the events in the series. In particular I’m talking about The Chronicles of Narnia. The fifth and sixth books in the series are flashbacks, but modern publications of the series number them as books 1 and 3. This is totally stupid, and not just because the author clearly intended them to be read after the first four books (although that’s a good reason too). The main problem is that the first four books have some continuity of character development, and they’re just plain better. They get you interested in the series and make you feel invested enough to want to read the later books, which are a bit quirkier. Reading The Magician’s Nephew first would be a bit like (I cringe at the thought) reading First King of Shannara before any of the other Shannara books. And while The Horse and His Boy happens between the first two books, it doesn’t include any of the main characters of those books, so reading it in-between breaks up the character development. I’m pretty sure kids are smart enough to understand that a book they’re reading happened before a book they’re read before.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bad Extended Scenes in The Return of the King

[spoiler alert on the movies and the books]
I love the Lord of the Rings movies. The books are amazing because the author poured his whole life into them, and the movies are amazing because they’re based on the books, and because the people who made them were similarly obsessive about making them awesome. As the movies came out, I couldn’t wait for the extended editions – and yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve watched all of the bonus content, which is longer than the movies.
However, there are a couple of scenes in the extended version that drive me nuts, mainly in the last movie:
1. The part where the Witch King breaks Gandalf’s staff and almost kills him, but then gets distracted by the arrival of the Rohirrim. Come on. Gandalf could easily beat the Witch King. Here are a few reasons we know this:
  1. Gandalf is one of the Maiar. For those (trillions) who haven’t read the Silmarillion, the Maiar are minor (semi-)immortal beings who helped the Valar to create the world. Sauron, Saruman, and the Balrog are also Maiar. In contrast, the Witch King is just a mortal man with one of the Seven Rings, which brings us to the next point:
  2. Whereas the Witch king holds one Ring of seven, Gandalf holds one of the Three Rings originally given to the Elves – specifically Narya, the Ring of Fire. So the Witch King’s ring would not have given him an advantage over Gandalf.
  3. In the book, Gandalf had already defeated multiple Nazgul on Weathertop. (Maybe in the movie too; I can’t remember.) And remember that Aragorn was able to drive them off, even in the movie. Gandalf was definitely more powerful than Aragorn.
  4. In the book, the Witch king steps through the broken gate of Minas Tirith, sees Gandalf facing him, and retreats.
  5. Gandalf tells Gimli that he (Gandalf) is the most dangerous person he will ever meet unless he comes before the dark throne (referring to Sauron).
So that was just bunk.
2. The part where the Mouth of Sauron comes out of the Black Gate. Specifically, the fact that (in the movie) Aragorn comes to talk to him under a truce, then beheads him after he claims that Frodo is dead. Aragorn would totally not behead a defenseless guy, no matter who he worked for or what he said.
3. This wasn’t in the last movie, but it also bugged me that Sam wasn’t jazzed about his gift from Galadriel. In the movie it was Elven rope, which in the book they just got as part of their supplies, and Sam thought it was awesome. In the book, Galadriel gives Sam some dirt or dust or something that he later uses to heal the Shire from the damage done by Saruman’s invasion. Understandably, they left that out of the movie, but it doesn’t go with Sam’s character for him to think little of something made by the Elves or given him by Galadriel.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How Guys Really Think

There are a couple of things that I’ve wished I could explain to girls, but you can’t just walk up to someone and say them. I’ll make sure my daughters know them, but here they are for public consumption:

1. You are more attractive than you think.

There’s this common notion that guys have this internal image of a perfect figure, and that they measure girls’ attractiveness based on how closely they approximate that image. But a more accurate explanation of how guys measure attractiveness is that they have a range of ideal values in each of several categories, like hair color, height, intelligence, nose shape, etc. Each guy places a different weight on different categories, and the categories a guy cares most about will probably have the narrowest range of attractiveness. We’ll call that range the “ideal” range. There is also another range in each category, which we will call the “attractive” range. This is broader than the “ideal” range. If a girl falls inside the “attractive” range on most categories, a guy will think she’s attractive. If she falls inside the “ideal” range in a few of the categories that he values most, he’ll consider her very attractive and probably won’t even notice if she falls outside the range on a few areas. In fact, once a guy decides he likes a girl, his “attractive” and “ideal” ranges will generally realign to accommodate that girl’s actual features. She becomes his ideal without having to change a thing.

So the implication here is that girls don’t need to worry if they have a few features that they think fall outside of guys’ ideal range. Because first of all, different guys care more or less about different things. And second, any guy who notices a girl’s strengths is very likely to ignore whatever it is that girl has been worrying about – or he may even find it attractive.

There are a couple of corollaries to this principle:

1a. Guys notice you a lot more often than you think.

I’d say that for every guy who says something to you, there are ten more who noticed you in a positive way. For every guy who compliments you, there are probably a hundred more who thought the same thing but didn’t express it.

1b. Attention from weird guys probably means normal guys like you too.

I’ve known some girls who felt ignored by the guys they find attractive, but they got a lot of attention from guys that are, for whatever reason, not the type of guy the girls are looking for. Like, really awkward flirting. These girls wondered what was wrong with them that made the weirdos like them and the normal guys ignore them.

I maintain that if you’re getting attention from guys you consider weird, it probably means that all guys are noticing you, but the normal ones that know you are too shy to say anything about it. Of course, knowing this is not necessarily useful, since you still aren’t getting attention (yet). But at least you know that the problem is not with you; it’s with them.

2. What you wear sends a message, and the only way to choose the message is by choosing what you wear.

Specifically, every bit of exposed skin says one thing, very loudly: “Look at me.” That doesn’t cause a problem for your face and hands, but you might not want other areas to send that message. Too bad. If you expose it, that’s what it’s yelling. And every guy who sees you will hear it: chaste or not, available or not.

Of course, guys can decide what to do about the message. In the case of face, arms, etc, it’s not really a big deal, because there’s no threat of hormonal impropriety. But if you wear immodest clothing, a guy’s options are actually pretty limited. Let’s consider them in turn.

First of all, a guy can choose to foster inappropriate thoughts. Such guys will be attracted to girls who dress immodestly, but they won’t respect them. And it’s no wonder, since the girls in question are offering something that’s supposed to be sacred in a very cheap way. They might not mean to do that, but like I said, girls don’t get to choose what message they send to guys; the only get to choose what to wear. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s ignore this type of guy on the assumption that girls don’t want attention from them.

A guy who cares about having clean thoughts is going to have two options when he sees a girl who is showing more skin than she should:

1. He can avoid looking. This is no problem if he’s just passing a girl on the street or seeing someone in a TV ad. It’s a little more problematic if it’s someone he’s talking to socially. It’s a big problem if he’s on a date. Presumably, girls don’t want to make their dates look away from them for the whole evening.

2. He can lower his standard to accept what she’s wearing. Wait, what? No self-respecting guy would do that, would they? Well imagine that guy A is friends with girl B, and she clearly cares about morality and integrity and all that good stuff. So A asks her out, and she opens the door and her shirt’s a little low in front. What is he going to do? Tell her she’s unclean and run away? Probably not. He could ask her to change, but then she’d feel awful and that might just destroy the date. He’d probably just go with it. And then does he really want to avert his eyes the whole time? And is he going to avoid asking her out again?

That’s a lot of rhetorical questioning, but the point is that you don’t really want to put a guy in that situation to begin with. Because again, the kind of guy you want to find isn’t going to lower his standards.

Now, I realize that it’s hard to find modest clothing these days. But if it’s something you care about, there are a few things that guys everywhere would like you to do:

1. Don’t just stand still and look in the mirror when you evaluate a clothing choice. Bend over. Sit down. Fix your hair. If clothing only covers you when you’re standing still, and you plan to do something else in it besides stand still, then the clothing isn’t modest. And guys will most definitely notice what your clothing is doing even when you are not standing still.

2. If you feel like you have to adjust things constantly, just pick something else. I remember this one time where a girl in church was pulling up on the front of her camisole every couple of minutes. Did she really think it was in place until just before she did that? She was probably modest for a couple of seconds every two minutes. And the thing is, she was obviously conscious of modesty. She just didn’t realize what message she was sending to the guys around her. And what message was that? That’s right, it was “checkmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeout…….checkmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeout…….checkmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeoutcheckmeout”. And that is just not attractive. Don’t do that to yourself. Or us. Thank you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some Dumb Jokes

Here are a few jokes. Yes, I made them up. Yes, they’re stupid.

1. What is the difference between a lawyer and an Discovery Channel explorer in the forest?

One badgers the witness, and the other witnesses the badger.

 

2. What is the difference between a pilot and a farmer?

One gooses the throttle, and the other throttles the goose.

 

3. What is the difference between a bitter Vegan at a barbecue and the pig being cooked?

One roasts on the spit, and the other spits on the roast.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why I Despise the Nintendo DS

To begin with, I should make it clear that I’m a huge Nintendo fan. Mega Man games aside, probably 90% of the games I really like are made by Nintendo, and all of them are licensed for Nintendo consoles. I once had Zelda games active on my NES, my Super Nintendo, my Nintendo 64, my Game Boy Color, and my Game Boy Advance all at the same time. Maybe the GameCube too. (Not all of them were visible of course because there was only one TV screen.) But I am not a fan of the Nintendo DS. Splitting the screen is fundamentally wrong because you limit the amount of contiguous space you can use for any given purpose – having to cross that huge gap between the screens is totally unreasonable. And as if to confirm this prejudice, Nintendo went ahead and produced approximately zero games for the system that I consider worth playing. (I say approximately zero because I did like New Super Mario Bros well enough, but it easily could have been made on the Game Boy Advance. More on that later.)

So, lest I appear to be making unfair generalizations, let me recount my experiences on the DS:

Metroid Prime Hunters

I beat the first three areas of this game and then gave up. Not because it was hard – after all, I had just opened up two new planets and hadn’t even gotten to any hard parts there yet. I quit because I was bored. This is a totally unprecedented thing for me – I don’t normally quit a game after playing for that long unless I don’t have access to it or it’s too hard. But this game just didn’t live up to the Metroid name. Here’s why:

  1. First of all, there are no Metroids in it.
  2. There are no suit upgrades, either, just lots of limited-use weapons that all act about the same.
  3. The boss battles are all variations on the same two themes.
  4. The control just drove me nuts. You move with the directional pad and aim by sliding the stylus across the touch screen. You also switch weapons and go in and out of Morph Ball mode using the touch screen. You also jump by tapping the touch screen. So if you’re not careful and tap in the wrong spot, you’ll end up doing the wrong thing and waste missiles or totally change your view by rolling into a ball. Another huge problem comes when you're trying to circle an enemy – say clockwise. You hold left on the directional pad while sliding the stylus to the right, so you’ll continue to face the enemy. But when you reach the end of the pad, you have to pick up the stylus, move it to the left, and start dragging again. In the time it takes to do that, you’ve stopped turning, so you’re either out of position, or you’ve been standing still and probably been shot at a few times. It’s really, really frustrating.

Super Princess Peach

This was kind of interesting; if you like Mario games, then a game where you play as Peach is sort of a novel twist. (Sort of. Mario 2 was really about Peach, and you also play as her in parts of Paper Mario.) Peach can activate elemental powers by triggering various emotions, like catching fire as she becomes angry. You activate and deactivate powers by touching one of four large areas on the touch pad. That’s all you use it for. They could have had you cycle through and active powers using the L and R buttons, or even X and Y I think. But instead you have to play the game with the stylus in your hand, or get fingerprints on the screen for no good reason.

New Super Mario Bros

I don’t really have complaints about this game. (Although I wouldn’t say it was memorable enough to replay.) But the only thing it uses the touch pad for is to contain an extra item that you can carry around and activate at any time. There is absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have gotten the same behavior using the other buttons. Out of spite (and to add a bit of challenge to the game), I never used the item box. Take that.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

This is another game that doesn’t deserve its title. To be fair, I haven’t exactly played this game. But I saw my brother-in-law playing it, and I was not impressed. I don't like the fact that you "explore" mainly on your boat that you control by charting a course and then jumping over obstacles and firing your cannon. Exploring by water was a downside of Wind Waker, but at least it was a novel way to load screens. More of it, with extra water theme stuff, is just not Zelda-y. And you keep returning to the same dungeon and going deeper as your time limit increases, which just feels tedious. I also don't like that you move to a spot by touching it on the screen, or attack by swiping the stylus. You shouldn't have to block the screen with your controller. I haven't seen Spirit Tracks, but it sounds like more of the same, but with... trains.

Anything else?

So that’s about it. Maybe Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is cool, but again we all know that you don’t need a touch screen to play a Golden Sun game. And I guess that Star Fox game might have been okay. But you’ll notice that I haven’t played it. In the end, though, I’m kind of grateful to Nintendo for making a bypassable system. I don’t have time to play all the good games that come out, so by making some lame ones they were actually saving me some trouble.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Jaded View of the Classics

In school they make you read a lot of classics, and somehow most of them are painful to get through. I remember wondering if maybe some of those books were only classics because teachers kept making their students read them, and some of those students became teachers who did the same just out of tradition. Ostensibly, art becomes classic when it resonates with a lot of people over a long time, and I guess I can accept that, but it’s the “resonate” part that I find a bit questionable. Specifically, I think a lot of people connect with a piece of art because it evokes a strong response, without necessarily passing judgment on the quality of the response.

Before go into that, I should clarify that I do see value in classic stuff, even if it’s hard to get through sometimes. Take The Lord of the Rings and Super Mario Bros., for example. For someone who’s familiar with more recent works that derived from those classics, the originals probably seem tedious. But if you know the originals, you can appreciate the more recent stuff more, because you understand where they came from. Also, when you consider the fact that the originals didn’t have a familiar base to stand on, their strengths become more impressive. The same goes for music, literature, painting, architecture, etc.

But it’s still fair to pass judgment on the classics. Here’s an analogy that’s not very flattering, but I think it makes the point pretty well. Consider dogs. They like to sniff things. All sorts of things. It seems like the more something stinks, the more excited a dog is to smell it. It’s not that they are looking for things that stink necessarily; rather, they explore their world through smell, and anything that has a strong smell is stimulating. So they go sniff it. And it just so happens that some of the strongest-smelling stuff in the world has a lot of germs on it, so people’s noses find it offensive.

Now think about some classical literature or artwork. I’d bet that the first few things that pop into your head will have a strong memory with them. Maybe it’s a fond memory, and maybe not. But when I look back at a lot of the art I’ve been exposed to that has achieved classical status, I’m pretty sure that it got that way because it was stimulating to someone. And not all of that stimulation was positive, or even morally acceptable. Sort of a “natural man” thing.

Let’s consider the visual arts in particular. I took an art history class in college. I barely passed – I think it was the lowest grade I ever got. It was definitely interesting. But there sure was a lot of inappropriate stuff thrown in there. Anyone who looks at very much classical art has to ask this question: Why in the world did they leave clothing off of so many people? The common explanation that I hear is that people back then looked at things differently; it was just an artistic expression, and people didn’t see it as pornographic. And evidently art lovers today do the same thing. But people back then had hormones too, so I have a hard time believing that claim. Actually I tend to think that the images and sculptures of unclad people were in fact intended to be pornographic, both by the artists and by the people who commissioned them. Remember that back then, they didn’t have photographs, and not many people knew how to draw realistically. So the morally depraved people who wanted inappropriate artwork could only get it by paying a professional painter or sculptor. And the only people rich enough to do that were royalty and religious leaders. So why would they put this artwork in churches and streets? Well, they wanted people to come and admire the artwork, and probably develop an attachment to the church or city associated with it. Most people wouldn’t distinguish between liking something for artistic reasons or for other reasons – they’d have an overall reaction to it.

So, does that mean that it’s immoral to look at Renaissance artwork? Not necessarily, but maybe. I think you have to define pornography based on its intent and its effect. (For example, an anatomy textbook could be pornography to someone who uses it that way.) Whether or not the artwork from back then was intended to turn people on, the more important question is what effect it has on people now who look at it. On the other hand, if you get used to seeing stuff like that to the point that it doesn’t have an effect on you, the state of being desensitized could itself be a problem.

If, hypothetically, people are reading this, then some of them are thinking something like “But most of that clothing-limited artwork has a religious theme, and it was created with a level of skill that could be considered inspired. It can’t be immoral if the content is uplifting, can it?” That brings up the familiar situation you see in movies and books today in which the whole thing is really good except for “that one part,” and the perpetual question: How immoral does one part have to be in order to make the whole thing immoral? Here’s a succinct answer to that [link], but it’s not really as simple as it seems, because if you really want to avoid inappropriate stuff, you’d kind of have to go live on the moon, and then you’d have to be careful of solar flares.

But back to the matter of inappropriate content wrapped in good art. I maintain that bad things wrapped in appealing packages are more dangerous than bad things labeled as such. A bottle of poison locked in a trunk in some cellar is not nearly as dangerous as a drop of poison dissolved in a drink. In the same way, most people aren’t going to go seek out trashy movies, but if you put a trashy scene in a funny, exciting movie, then people who wouldn’t seek it out will see that scene anyway. And the same goes with paintings and sculptures. The fact that a piece of pornography is created with skill simply makes it more dangerous, because it makes it more likely to be viewed. And the same goes for the literature they make us read in school.

So I’m not trying to pass judgment on people for liking classical artwork, but I do think the creators had less-than-honorable intentions in mind when they created it. And let’s face it – you’d be pretty uncomfortable if you saw your son’s bedroom decorated with the stuff.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pronunciation

There are a couple of names in video games that are kind of controversial for me. Some of them are even used by voice actors in the games, but I’m still not necessarily convinced. (See my entry on the Shannara books for even more disregard to official sources when it comes to pronunciation.)

Metroid

Aran: This one’s not so important to me, but I stress the second syllable in Samus’s last name even though the Federation computer in Prime 3 stresses the first.

Varia: This one gets me. You definitely want to stress the I here, but in Prime 3 they stress the first A. That doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

Ridley: I admit that using a short “i" here would be the obvious choice, but for whatever reason I read it with a long “i" when I first saw it, and it’s hard for me to convince myself to change. My way makes him sound more like a monster and less like a scheming leader (although he is arguably both.)

Gradius

On this one, I’m pretty sure I’m right. I’ve heard this said with a long A, but the A should definitely be short. Think about how you say “gladiator” or “graduate."

Deku

It’s said with a short e. Period.

Ikaruga

I’m pretty sure anyone who speaks Japanese could set this one straight, but I don’t think I know anyone who does – or at least no one who wants to talk about space shooter games. My initial reading was “eye-ka-RU-ga,” but I suspect it’s more like “i-KA-ru-ga.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ideals, Standards, and being “Bimoral”

Once when I was talking to my brother, he used the word Bimoral, and I found the idea kind of inspiring. I guess it’s a euphemistic term to refer to hypocrisy. It’s where you have two sets of values – one that you have most of the time, and it’s extremely strict. When people talk about honesty or charity, you feel good because you tell yourself that that’s the kind of person you are. But then, when you come up against a situation where acting on that set of values would have a negative influence on you, you switch to your backup moral code, which isn’t quite as strict. But then, once you’ve done what you felt would be in your best interest, you switch back to your strict moral code, because that’s who you “really” are. Of course, that’s complete bunk. Situations like that are exactly why having values is important – anyone can value what’s right when they’re not tempted to do what’s wrong. But that doesn’t stop us all from being bimoral once in a while.

A related concept is the difference between ideals and standards. This is illustrated when you hear someone say “<blank> is ideal, but it just doesn’t work for me.” There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as what you’re saying doesn’t work for you isn’t a moral necessity, like not stealing. But it is very different from saying “I will <blank>, no matter what.” The only reason I bring this up is that I think a lot of people value things, and they rest assured that they will act based on those values, but they have never considered circumstances under which they might feel pressure to do something else. (Again, I’m not necessarily talking about moral values here.) So it’s important to do that – not just think about what you value, but about what things are absolutely essential to you, to the extent you won’t compromise on them.

By the way, for reasons unrelated to anyone who will ever read this (just in case someone was worrying), the distinction between standards and ideals that drives me insane the most is “I’m not ready.” And I’m not talking about when something has to be done by a deadline, and you’re not ready to finish it yet. I’m talking about when you acknowledge that something is morally necessary now and try to excuse yourself by saying you’ll do it later. Imagine that someone shows up at your house and says “I know honesty and integrity are essential, but I’m not ready to live that way right now. So I’m going to rob you. Don’t worry; I haven’t lost my set of values. I’m just not ready to live them yet.” You would probably not be very impressed.

[By the way, I’m not directing the preceding comments at any particular person. Really. So don’t get offended if you think I am.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blaster Master

I remember discovering Blaster Master at a friend’s birthday party. It starts out with a goofy story about a guy whose frog escapes, finds some radioactive material and grows, then disappears into a mysterious cave. The guy follows the frog and discovers this cool-looking vehicle (sort of a tank with wheels.) This stirring music starts up as you blast out of a tunnel in the vehicle, and you encounter some bad guys and ledges and stuff, so you try jumping, and it works! You can even aim straight up. And then I came across a ladder that the vehicle obviously couldn’t use, so I was like, what if I can get out? And sure enough, pressing select has this teeny guy jump out. You climb down the ladder and enter a room, and then the whole thing switches to top view as you explore and search for power-ups. The whole mixed-view thing was pretty novel, as was the idea of a platform game where your character is a vehicle. And the game is full of really good music. It’s still one of my favorite NES games.

The game is also insanely hard. There’s no saving feature, and you have limited continues. Also the controls in the overhead view can be tough, since you have to hold the grenade button to face the same direction while moving, so you can fire at the bosses while waling sideways. Also, most of the overhead areas are useless. So while the game does give you a feel for exploration, there isn’t much of a reward for exploring if you know where the boss room is.

My other complaint is that, while you get permanent upgrades for the vehicle when you beat bosses, some of those upgrades are lame. The first level gives you a stronger weapon, but so does the second, and the second level has stronger enemies. So the advantage of the first upgrade only lasts a very short time. And the level 4 upgrade is just a key to get to level 5.

Oh, and your gun in overhead mode – it starts out with limited range, and although you can power it up, getting hit weakens the gun. So if you get damaged too much in a boss battle, you can find yourself unable to damage it. (You can use grenades, but they detonate a specific distance from you, and it’s hard to get into position while the boss is moving around and firing at you.)

Recently I was thinking of some improvements that could be made to the original game – mainly some additional power-ups that could be stuck into the now-useless cave areas. Here’s what I was thinking:

  1. Increase the distance you can fall when outside your tank
  2. Increase the minimum level of your gun, so that it always has unlimited range
  3. Maybe increase your health or hover meters
  4. Maybe add a new type of special weapon, although there’s nothing obviously lacking there.

Well imagine my surprise when I found that they have recently released a new sequel for the WiiWare, called Blaster Master: Overdrive. And against all odds, it looks cool! I say this is against all odds because the Blaster Master series is full of lame sequels:

  1. Blaster Master 2 for the Genesis – I’ve heard it’s overly linear and just plan bad.
  2. Blaster Master Boy for the Game Boy – no vehicle, just clearing obstacles in overhead mode.
  3. Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PlayStation – a 3D-view game that I’ve also heard was bad.
  4. Blaster Master: Enemy Below for the Game Boy Color. I actually got this one, since it seemed to be back to the original theme. The problem was that it had the same graphics, just different maps, and it had the same songs but with inferior quality. So while it was enjoyable enough for the low price I paid, I sold it when I was done.

This new one seems to have delighted most Blaster Master fans that reviewed it. It seems to have some polish issues, but then again it’s only $10. So maybe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mega Man 10

Being on parental leave, I got some time to myself to play Mega Man 10. It’s pretty cool. And I ate a Mentos mint while I played it, for some nostalgic value – I first ate Mentos the Christmas I got Mega Man 3, the coolest game ever. The weapons in 10 are pretty creative. It’s not quite as cool as Mega Man 9 – it doesn’t have any really catchy songs, and some of the levels are just hard without being super cool. I actually liked the castle stages though, and the final battles were pretty reasonable. (I checked the Internet for strategies so I wouldn’t have to keep playing the re-fight-all-the-guys level over and over, but it wasn’t too complicated.)

Mega Man games are among the coolest ever, but there’s a lot of variation among them. The chart below shows just how much:

image

Note that I ranked 5 and 10 about the same. 10 has maybe better weapons (since 5 has a lot of forward-firing ones, and the Water Wave is pretty lame), and a better castle (not to mention a shorter one). Specifically, the boss battles are more interesting. But Mega Man 5 does have more nifty music than 10, and I like its robot masters better. So it evens out.

I also noted a couple of similarities between this game and Mega Man X, which would have been the name on this game’s title screen if they had stuck with Roman numerals. (Note that some of these also apply to Mega Man 6, which was developed concurrently with Mega Man X.)

  • The Robot Master intro music (after the Stage Select screen) is the same as the music in Mega Man X (which is slightly different from the tune in Mega Man 2 and 4).
  • In the intro screen, the Robot Master starts out as a silhouette before appearing fully in the center of the screen.
  • When you beat a Robot Master, the “got weapon” screen demos the use of the weapon.
  • The game’s plot (such as it is) involves robots being infected by a virus and turning evil.

(And speaking of plot, as insipid as it is, it’s actually less annoying than the plot in Mega Man 9. I make it a habit of ignoring Mega Man plots to the maximum extent possible.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Nature

I’m trying to get back into keeping a journal. I was writing about the church callings I’ve had, and an excerpt about the whole Scouting thing seemed relevant here (as much as anything does):

Nature is cool. It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing. It’s fascinating and inspiring to learn about and observe. But it is also subversive. You can enjoy nature for a few hours, but before long you have to eat. You need to find restroom facilities. And eventually you need to sleep and stay warm. If you have to stay in nature as you deal with these issues, a disturbing thing happens to you: you start to become part of nature. It affects what you eat. It affects how you smell. Things like what socks you’re wearing and how long your facial hair is and what you’ve touched since you last encountered hand soap start to demand your attention. In short, you sort of start to resemble an animal. Now, maybe that’s an overstatement. Lots of people like “roughing it.” But I don’t.

Of course, that’s totally unreasonable. Most people in the world’s history have never had the luxury of running water or food options to begin with, so there’s no reason why I should feel like they’re necessities. And of course there is lots of value in Scout activities beyond just being outside. So I’m not trying to use my aversion to lack of running water to get out of or discourage campouts. I’m just saying that I don’t appreciate nature’s tendency to try to assimilate me whenever I start to get close to it. I’ll have to keep my guard up.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blissful Ignorance

My daughter was watching Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus <shudder>. Barbie’s character makes a comment that is so stupid that it warrants mention here:
Cloud Queen: [A Wand of Light] isn’t found; it’s built.
Annika: How?
Cloud Queen: From a measure of courage, a ring of love, and a gem of ice lit by hope’s eternal flame.
Annika: That’s only three things! We can do it!
In order to visit Saturn, all I need is an unlimited power source, a warp drive system, and shield generator. That’s only three things! I can do it!