I have received the Dreamcast and N64 from my brother. I haven't even gotten around to hooking them up yet! Too busy. I was underwhelmed by the DC games that came--Power Stone 1 and Virtual On. They're not terrible, but not anything I want to play. Seven other DC games, including a couple of great games, were nowhere to be found. I got the VGA Box but I'll have to wait until I can order a worthwhile game to set everything up. Only one of the controllers still works and the VMU's batteries are dead.
The N64 fared a little better. I got Zelda 1, Mario, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, and Banjo 1 (though I'm not sure if the internal batteries are still functioning). I also got South Park and Duke Nukem, and these ARE terrible. Goldeneye and Starfox were missing. The problem here is that all three of the controllers I got are totally cashed out. The first analog sticks on the market were very poorly designed, and after putting up with Mario Party sessions, they've had it. Furthermore, there's a huge shortage of new N64 controllers, so I can't just order one.
My dual shock for Playstation 1 is somewhat broken. The left analog stick is tormented. I've noticed the dual shock 2 controllers have even stouter analog controls, so I think I might order one of those. I got Gran Turismo 2, Final Fantasy 7, and Metal Gear Solid. The list of PS1 games they "couldn't find" is lengthy.
I also got a Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color, WITH the AC adaptor. Zelda and some Mahjong and Pokemon crap came with that. I got a small mixer that lets you combine two stereo sources into one output, so I can use my own music for games that let you turn off the music.
I also got a laptop computer. It's not great. Pentium 500 with 192 MB of RAM, 6 Gig drive, 14" screen, but a poor video card with no 3D support at all and noticeably poor sound quality (with headphones). I immediately hooked up my mouse, as the pencil eraser is cute but useless. The keyboard actually isn't that bad, though when I get the PS/2 Y-adaptor I'll be sure to use my real keyboard with it. The dumbest thing is you can't just leave it plugged in because the stupid battery will overcharge. Retarded. Anyway, I'm using it to get on the net as an alternative to the lab when I'd rather be at home.
I found Overclocked Remix and have been having fun downloading a few tunes a day. This is some of the coolest music I've ever heard in my life. The variety of styles is sensational--there's hip-hop, punk, mellow electronica, ambient, folky guitar, full orchestra, jazz, found sound confections and others. And the source material ranges from the earliest days of the Commodore 64 to the very latest Xbox/PS2/GC releases. There are some true gems here I'm ecstatic to have found. Gorgeous and often thrilling stuff, highly recommended. Next update I'll post links to about ten of my favorites.
I also grabbed some SNES ROMs and the latest ZSnes. I can't believe this is emulation. All of the NES, Genesis, and Game Boy emus suck, but ZSnes runs EVERY GAME absolutely flawlessly. The sound, the speed, the graphics, everything is perfect. Amazing, and with the price and availability of SNES games in the used market being what they are, I probably won't be ordering many SNES games. However, what's NOT amazing is the fact that this laptop doesn't contain the right port for attaching my Microsoft Sidewinder controller. That controller would be perfect for all SNES games, but most of the action games are intolerable (and painful) using the keyboard. I haven't had much time to play anyway, just click and go.
Last week, we rented Mark of Kri and Haven for PS2 and NBA 2K2 for Xbox. The selection at the store was wretched. Mark of Kri was a hell of a lot of fun and slickly put together, but it did start to get a little repetitive after a while. NBA 2K2 was a BIG disappointment. Frankly, I expected MUCH MUCH more from what they say is the best current basketball series. Next to the polished jewel that is Madden, this game was an ugly rock. It was somewhat fun to play in two-player, but it just felt terribly unauthentic. Progressive scan mode on the Xbox is amazing, though, but better witnessed in Halo or MotoGP (the best Xbox games I've played).
Haven was like a tech demonstration for the PS2's problems with aliasing. I have NEVER seen a game with 'jaggies' this bad! I finally know what they were talking about a couple years ago. It looks like when you're not moving the screen goes hi-res, and as soon as you start moving forward, it drops to Genesis-level resolution. There's also horrible texture shimmer. It is very distracting. Jak and Daxter and Mark of Kri didn't exhibit this effect at all though, so who knows. It's not just a lack of anti-aliasing. Most games for Xbox and PS2 don't use anti-aliasing and are fine. This is some OTHER problem that I can't figure out. The game itself was a fun platformer with some good variety, but it fell way short of the greatness of Jak and Daxter or a number of others, and the difficulty was annoying at times, like when we had to fly around putting out fires in a village within a certain time limit or when it turned into Super Monkey Ball but with poor control.
I also played a demo of the new Zelda. The cartoon look is less apparent in person. In fact, it controlled and moved quite unlike what I expected. Link can draw his short sword in one swift motion and lay the smackdown. Well, maybe that's an exaggerated term for one so feeble and effeminate. I like the cartoon look that takes Sly Cooper one step further. But I think they could have made Link a *little* less precious-looking. Check Link out in Soul Calibur II.
I also played Unreal II. Big disappointment. I get the feeling the developers were reeling from the greatness of Halo and didn't know how to respond, so they tried to emulate it in parts, but failed. I also didn't think the graphics were quite the leap everyone seems to want to say they are--UT2K3 has much more eye candy and style in my opinion. The whole game is pretty bland and unmemorable. Oh, and the plot sucks. Play Half-Life again or wait for Halo on PC.
My area is receiving some nasty little weather right now. As I type this, a sleet storm RAGES outside. It's like a strong hailstorm with pea-sized hail and no rain. I rode home in it earlier, but it was much weaker then (but still extremely miserable). It's hard to complain, though, considering what much of the North has put up with this month--a debilitating snowstorm. One class was cancelled today and tomorrow may be a wash.
And what of motorcycles? Hell, I don't know. Things are getting bad. By the time I can afford a bike, the only place I'll be able to legally/affordably ride it will be the track, although that's actually okay with me. It's going to be a few years though.
Classes are going alright. This stuff is not easy. Finally. The upcoming Intermediate Accounting exam, a two-dayer, has everyone biting their fingernails. It's going to be a monster. I guess this is preferable to having no challenge at all.
Student Investment Group is moving right along. I'm doing research on Nvidia and ATI, and also on REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). I have a lot of html stuff to do this week. On Sunday we watched part two of a six hour total PBS Documentary entitled "Commanding Heights" from 2002. The part we watched this time was "The Agony of Reform", which was all about the fall of communism and the emergence of market economies around the world in the 80s and 90s.
It was almost touching to watch, because it was really about the people as their countries struggled to break away from the horrors of socialism and communism (and make no mistake, communism in the USSR was HORRIBLE). I got a new appreciation for Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher. I just learned alot about the recent histories of places like Russia, Poland, Chile, Bolivia, China, and India. The vast changes and benefits that capitalism and the abolishment of fascist anti-entrepreneurial laws have brought are testaments to the power of the human spirit and the ability of the people to thrive when allowed to acheive and better themselves free of government coercion and control. Magnificent.
Those command economies were based on a group mindset where the individual was utterly unimportant, an idea which is in theory counter to individual human nature and which in practice was strangling the life out of the people. It nearly brought a tear to my eye when, near the end of the two hours, the countries which had struggled to pull out of the abyss of socialism and the people who had long suffered finally saw some real success and a massive improvement to their quality of life. And at the same time, it made me realize how amazingly good we've got it here in the US, and how we have to MANUFACTURE our own problems because we've never seen the kind of hells they've seen. We've never had 40% unemployment, or 30% per month inflation, or grocery stores that are completely empty, or a government which makes any private enterprise or criticism of government policies a capital offense. This country is amazing and I'm 100% lucky and glad to be here.
One of the coolest bits was when, right after the laws banning any private business practices were abolished in Poland, Jeffrey Sachs was riding in a car and started to notice folks selling fresh-grown food by the side of the road, and soon after people began to be able to feed themselves. They decided to watch the price of eggs each day--if the prices started to go down as more and more sellers came, they'd know supply and demand was working and the beginnings of capitalism were taking root right there on the cobble-stone roads. Like I said, it wasn't about charts or numbers. It was about billions of people being liberated by what amounts to a very simple idea: the PEOPLE should have the power to decide. And that puts a lump in my throat.
President Bush has been a disappointment to many of the people who voted for him, myself included. In a recent State of the Union Address, he outlined no fewer than TWENTY-ONE new spending initiatives. He truly sounded like a liberal as he described new program after new program. I just don't understand this double-edged expansionary fiscal policy. He may appease some of the center and moderate Democrats, but he's alienating conservatives. Maybe they figure... who else are we going to vote for? He's not likely to lose the Republican nomination and he'd still be the lesser of two fiscal liberals in any conceivable national election.
My thought on Iraq was that there wasn't a hugely compelling reason to invade at this time. Saddam, who seems to be more popular than President Bush with some strange folks in this country, is one of history's most ruthless and despicable leaders. He rules with an iron fist, treats his people worse than his garbage, and controls everything that goes on in that country. And certainly he has the potential to become a massive threat to the US. But it almost looked like a bit of a smokescreen to conceal the fact that we don't really know what to do next to fight terror, so we'll go after an easy target first.
And the problem with taking that kind of position when talking to other folks is that you can get lumped in with the "anti-war" phenomenon going on in this country and Europe right now. There's a big difference. Some of those folks believe that war NEVER solves anything, that force is NEVER necessary, that military action is NEVER justified. I say that's complete bullshit. I say that sometimes, force is DEFINITELY NECESSARY and USEFUL. Ensuring peace does not entail sitting back and doing nothing and appeasing rogues. But we've become SO comfortable and sheltered here in the early 21st that the idea of going to war seems to be outrageous to some folks.
Let's talk about Europe. Tony Blair is my hero. If only President Bush had one-fifth of Blair's flair for public speaking or ability to present the truth with brutal clarity. They share a righteous unwillingness to back down, but Blair's charisma actually convinces people he is right. Can't say much for the rest of his politics though, but that doesn't matter.
How about France? Going into war without France is like going SCUBA diving without a kazoo, or going hunting without an accordian. It has come to my attention that much of Europe simply DOESN'T CARE about terrorism. They look at it as an American phenomenon, something that only happens to us, so why the hell would they get involved. Furthermore, they believe they only have something to lose if they DO get involved--but if everyone just lies low, nothing bad will happen to THEM. If the US does attack, it increases the risk to them somewhat. They don't care about the Iraqi people and they don't care about us.
France has a remarkable military history. Few countries can boast of a tradition of spinelessness and appeasement the way France can. French companies have been actively doing business with Iraq as of late. And to say this is about the oil wouldn't be an understatement--France has very lucrative Iraqi oil interests and a vested interest in trying to keep the US out. Last week, in a commanding address to the EU, Tony Blair chastised and almost made fun of Jacques Chirac, the head French pansy. There are some folks in this country who have earned the right to protest this particular war. France has NOT earned that right.
There's a group of Americans calling themselves the "Human Shields" which drove from London to Baghdad to pledge support for Saddam. Unbelievable. These people have decided to put their trust in Saddam instead of President Bush. Nelson Mandela said "the enemy is not Iraq, the enemy is the United States". Okay, then why don't you come and stop us? Because if there's one thing we've learned in all this, it's that the friggin' UN has NO POWER.
They'll let Saddam, a dangerous dictator whom the security agencies of all of Europe's nations know has been building and stockpiling WMDs (Tony Blair's words, paraphrased), continually flaunt the fact that he hasn't done a thing they've ordered with NO repercussions whatsoever. Just appease him and maybe he'll go away. Sounds like France's policy for dealing with Hitler. The UN is obsolete. We can pretty much do whatever the hell we want. Who's going to stop us? Not that we will do whatever we "want". We don't build empires. How many US colonies have we created in the last century? The fact is, the US has acted with incredible restraint since 9/11.
I've changed my mind recently though. I think it's time to go. I think it's time for Maddass to go. It's time for a REGIME CHANGE. For liberation of some of the most oppressed people on earth. For removal of a terrible dictator and unmasking of his WMD program. For a display of military might. For confirmation that when we say we're going to do something, we mean it.
Isn't this about gun control anyway? Gun control advocates say that only certain people should have guns--police and military personnel--and that certain other people just can't be trusted with guns, because hey, guns kill people and killing people is always bad no matter what the circumstances. This is gun control on an international level. Only certain people should have WMDs. The UN says as much. They just have zero force behind their "stern" words.
The anti-war movement would certainly pick up steam if a draft were instituted. Many of the top protestors probably wish there was a draft so that those intellectual giants, the "students", would get more involved. There was a recent column in the NT Daily (my school's newspaper) in which the writer advised us on how exactly to dodge the draft during the semester and between semesters, and then went on to try and use the draft as a rallying cry to get people upset and outraged and out there protesting--despite the fact that there is NO DRAFT. On the other hand, there's a small but vocal *pro-regime-change* movement occuring on various campuses across the country.
I have little respect for token anti-war peeps who are desperate for a cause and all too happy to jump on the Bush-bashing, US-hating, Saddam-praising bandwagon. It's all about emotional, irrational rants on signs and public temper tantrums. But being against this particular action, with logic, reason, and facts to back up that position is fine. Imagine a protest sign which read "I understand your viewpoint but I'd like to sit with you and try to convince you of the merit of a different view". But no, we get things like "Drop Bush, not bombs" and "We don't want your oil war", and best of all, "Peace in our time" (see Chamberlain, Neville + Hitler + France). Is this enlightenment?
If you're anti-war, you're pro-Saddam. But Saddam is a terrible leader who murders and tortures his people and has a deplorable fiscal policy that's killing Iraqi society. But do you ever hear of protests against Saddam's atrocities? Nope. The only thing that will stop this war from happening is if Saddam gives up his WMDs. But he is EMBOLDENED by all the protests around the world, which only further ensure he won't comply. In effect, peace protesting ensures war. Susan Sarandon and others are supposedly "worried about our boys", worried that they'll face chemical or biological attack by Iraq. But then a moment later they insist that Honest Saddam is telling the truth this time, that he has no WMDs. And then they want the "boys" to come back and defend the homeland. Against what?? And does that mean they care nothing about the suffering Iraqi people? Some of these Hollywood types are living in a fantasy land.
The latest today is that Saddam has challenged President Bush to a DEBATE. What is there to debate?
What else is going on in the news?
--Southwest Airlines is being sued for millions by a black woman who was on a flight when the flight attendant announced "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe, find a seat we've got to go". Southwest is an awesome company, with 48 straight quarters of profitability (excellent management and discipline) and great customer relations. Well, apparently waaay back in the day, that rhyme was part of some racial epithet. According to what I learned in my business law class, in theory this should be thrown out, because it's impossible to prove that the employee's *intent* was to "harm" the woman, and because a *reasonable* person would not take offense at such a phrase and furthermore a reasonable person of the attendant's age doesn't even know of the history of the phrase. In reality, I'm worried.
--The "Drug Czar" recently advised parents to *lie* to their children when questions about their own shady drug-using pasts come up, rather than to answer honestly and earnestly. Great!
--The National Guard recently DISCHARGED a Staff Sgt. who refused to board a plane for active duty in the troop build-up for the upcoming war. He was subject to up to seven years in jail, but they just said "okay, you don't have to go, here are your papers". My brother was pissed off about this one. Since when do volunteers in our military get to pick and choose which orders they follow? Dangerous precedence.
--A couple weeks ago, the gov't came out with its recommendations for dealing with a terrorist attack. They wanted us to purchase plastic and duct tape in order to seal off one room in our homes. There is so much wrong with this I won't even bother, but the worst part is the nation cleaned out stores' supplies of plastic and duct tape. Good grief.
--Malpractice insurance is putting doctors out of business. Can we get some fucking tort reform, PLEASE? My father's insurance premiums are an ever-increasing percentage of his expenses. The prices are being raised again in March, and they're going to have to cut back on some freebies and work longer hours each week. In addition, the changes to Medicare are very hard to take. So he's not taking Medicare anymore. Medicare is such a perfect example of the government taking all control away from individuals because they *couldn't possibly* know better than the government what's right for them.
On the other hand, a girl who received the *wrong* transplant in a hospital died a few days ago. Should malpractice insurance even be able to be used for this kind of blatant error?
--Los Angeles has made it a crime to declaw a cat, calling it an "inhumane mutilation". My mother has a cat she rescued from the pound and had declawed. She loves that little furball, and he doesn't seem to mind the mutilation, but we both know if declawing were illegal, she wouldn't have taken him. This law, which I'm sure will spread, will cause the deaths of countless cats.
--Dallas passed the ban on smoking in restaurants. Bars and musical venues are next. The rest of the area won't be far behind. I'm torn. On the one hand, if the people really wanted non-smoking-only restaurants, you'd think market forces would dictate that such restaurants would have popped up a while ago. Why should government push private business owners around by insisting they make their establishments non-smoking? On the other hand, from a strictly selfish standpoint, it would be just fine with me if smoking was eventually only done in private residences. If you accept that "second-hand smoke" can be harmful to non-smokers, it seems quite an imposition on non-smokers to allow smoking anywhere in public. However, I don't believe there's anyone forcing non-smokers to hang out with smokers.
--Budget cuts at UNT are hitting hard. Tuition is going up substantially, and Summer schedules are being slashed. I'd be more understanding, but for the fact that UNT SPENDS like it's going out of style. The new recreation center, which is an eyesore, the upcoming athletic center, a couple new University-owned apartment complexes (at least those can generate their own revenue via students who don't mind overpaying for housing), and several buildings in the past few years are some examples. It's an UGLY campus, even compared to TWU. I'm glad I'm leaving in eighteen months.
Thanks for reading and take care.