--Race One of the fabled 2003 MotoGP race was run on Sunday. We've got Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards, and Nicky Hayden, three former champions, going against Rossi, Biaggi, Barros, Yanagawa, Capirossi, Haga, etc. We've got Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, Ducati, and Proton (with KTM, Triumph, BMW, and Drysdale entering soon) all racing the fastest two-wheeled contraptions ever designed. The Ducatis hit 204 mph on a straightaway of less than half a mile. All that... and Rossi and Biaggi still finished first and second. But Ducati (new to GP) had a third place finish, Bayliss was fifth, Edwards was seventh, and Hayden was ninth, so they weren't too embarrassed.
--How the hell do you beat Hoy Quarlow on Super Punch Out? After struggling a bit with Super Macho Man, Narcis Prince was a pushover--beat him on the second try after I figured out which of his punches I could land a jab on. I have yet to take Hoy Quarlow below about 90% of his stamina bar remaining. He clubs me with his staff enough to beat me in 30 seconds every time.
--Daytona on Dreamcast. I've put the consoles away (to be opened the evening after my last Final), but I played this for a couple hours when I couldn't sleep the other day. This game is like NASCAR as designed by somebody from Japan who's never actually seen (suffered through) a real NASCAR race. The steering is odd. It's not like Saturn Daytona, and it's not much like the arcade machine with the force feedback steering wheel. I'm still coming to terms with it. I find power-sliding is much harder than it used to be. I didn't expect it to control as beautifully as the Gran Turismo games, but it's tougher than I thought too.
The graphics are excellent. The game does NOT look as good as the arcade version. Maybe the Dreamcast is less powerful than the Model 2 board from 1995, or maybe they just took some shortcuts. There's no mip-mapping (multiple levels of texture resolution dependent on viewing distance), so there tends to be more aliasing and shimmer. The trees are sprites (although they look very good). The Sonic mountain is just a texture instead of carved of polygons. The textures are noticeably less sharp. The decals from laying rubber are glitchy. On the plus side, the frame rate is incredible (60 fps, always), especially on my progressive scan monitor (just like the arcade monitor). The resolution is a solid 640x480 without any of the strange disappearing resolution lines that some PS2 games have. There's absolutely no pop-up on any track, and almost all of the trackside detail is fully recreated. I do have an issue with all the extraneous writing they put on the screen. It really blocks the view sometimes!
The music is a mix of new fluff and remixes of the old Daytona standards ("Blue, Blue Skies!"). After a bit I turned it off and used my mixer to dub in my own music. The new tracks are a mixed bag. I was hoping for some new TOUGH, BIG tracks, not three or four newbie tracks. On the other hand, I'm pretty much a newbie. The original three tracks are still great, but overall the track selection can't even compare to Gran Turismo 2. The car selection is strange too. In my opinion, it didn't need new kinds of cars. And the bonus cars I've gotten so far would look more appropriate in an old Hanna-Barbara cartoon (with Dick Dastardly and Penelope Pitstop) than racing with big stock cars.
I like the fact that you can race long races (40 laps) with lots of opponents (40 of em), but I haven't found a way to race WITHOUT a time limit with other cars on the tracks. Thus, it looks like at about halfway, I'll fail to reach a checkpoint on a long race. The long races on the Saturn Daytona were great--I loved just zoning out and always trying to attack each corner a little harder and get first place (also one of the best things added to GT2, and a reason I might pick up Test Drive Le Mans for Dreamcast--twenty-four hour races, baby!). There's a championship progression mode as well, but so far I've had my ass beaten each time, even on "easy" mode (and even on the obligatory new newbie tracks). I don't know why I have to hear "Checkpoint" every fifteen seconds and have the screen obscured by a large blinking word. There's a split screen mode and an online mode, but the Dreamcast Network is long gone. I haven't seen any big time multi-car wrecks yet, I hope they didn't take that out...
Overall, though, it was a fun experience. Visually, it really does bring the arcade game home at last and is so vastly better than the Saturn version graphically, it's hard to actually compare the two (lessee, the Saturn one ran at 12-25 fps, had blocky textures, low polygon counts, lotsa popup, one quarter the number of pixels, no filtering of any kind and ugly texture warping to boot, clipping problems, and just a lot less detail fidelity). I think I'd rather play the Saturn version right now--the sounds are different in this one, the music is different, and those powerslides on the Saturn were great (despite the tap-tap-tap digital-only control), plus you could free run with opponent cars (who seemed more cunning) and no time limits. Dreamcast Daytona is a keeper, but I'll still look for a better arcade-style racer for the system, and I still prefer much deeper games like the GT series.
--There's an interesting triumvirate of movie sequels hitting real soon (May?). X-Men 2, Terminator 3, and the next Matrix will all be out very soon. There's an awful lot of overlap there--maybe the studios should get together and stagger their releases? Which am I looking forward to the most? Terminator 3, no question. T2 is a classic with heart, and I trust the folks know what they're doing with 3. I'll probably just catch X2 on video or network TV or something. I'm cautious about the Matrix movies (including two sequels this year, NINE short-films, and the multi-platform game (which is somewhat different on each system, and which is apparently integral to the storyline)). It's just such a giant undertaking--like the Star Wars prequels (EDIT: no, I'm not saying the original Star Wars trilogy and the first Matrix movie are in the same league). We'll see.
--My allergy season is here. I'm fighting it hard. I'm fortified with plenty of Allegra and some Flonase. I take a 180mg each morning and a 60mg in the afternoon. I started two weeks ago, as it's best to start before the pollen actually is unleased. Claritin/Clarinex never worked near as well as Seldane/Allegra for me.
--I should mention my colleague Dave. I have to wonder how old Dave is. He looks like he could be 23. But he's very wise and he knows a ton. I believe he's in his 40s. The SIG is extremely lucky to have Dave. It's a pleasure to work with him each day. He's dependable to a huge degree. Anyway, Dave is both the least gay and the most gay guy I've ever met.
LEAST gay because there's NOTHING outwardly "gay" about anything he does or says. In other words, he doesn't remind you every five minutes that he's gay and you're not. He doesn't put an affectation in his voice. He doesn't wear clothing that slaps you in the face with his sexual orientation. In fact, he's an extremely down to earth, normal fellow, who's a person first, a friend second, a co-worker third, and gay somewhere down the line. I only mention these things because I've known some gay people who were pretty much "gay first" if you catch my drift.
MOST gay because he's been in a wholly committed relationship with his boyfriend for well over a decade (I don't know specifics, but it's a very healthy partnership from what I can observe). He and his boyfriend are "proof" or justification for the idea that devoted gay couples probably ought to be allowed to marry, adopt children, receive financial benefits of marriage, etc. I only mention these things because, frankly, I haven't ever met a gay person who's been committed and faithful to one person for more than a year or two. I'm not saying they aren't plentiful--I just said Dave is the least gay and most gay guy *I* have met.
--It all comes down to milk. I love milk. I was a milk-fed baby for the first two years of my life. I love the taste more than any other food or drink I can think of, and it satisfies me like nothing else. I drink it by itself as a snack, I use it for Slim-Fast, I use it in cooking several different things. Milk is a bit difficult for me to come by these days. It's expensive, it's hard to carry on my bicycle, it's hard to store in my refrigerator. The price is going up up up. So, what do I need? What do I want? I can explain it all with milk.
First, I want the money to be able to buy milk regularly, and drink it regularly without it being a hardship or worrying about rationing it over a two-week period or anything. I want a vehicle with a trunk or a back seat or even just a front seat which starts regularly and which I can use to bring milk home regularly. I want a nice large fridge to store my milk in, not one of these "mini-fridges" with the fake freezers that populate discount apartment complexes. I want a pleasant environment in which to drink my milk or the meals prepared using milk. A comfortable, quiet, cozy retreat tailored to my tastes without noisemaking neighbors outside of four of six walls. I want to be able to engage in interesting entertainment activities while enjoying my milk, such as browsing the web with quickness, watching a DVD, playing a game, reading a book, or listening to a CD on a hi-fi. And I want to be able to work up an appetite for my milk through vigorous exercise undertaken either in my home, outside in the yard or driveway, or at a gym. Simple.
--I've been doing alot of reading and catching up about retirement accounts. The government REALLY, REALLY wants you to save for retirement. Is it possible they know something about "social security" that we don't (of course we know though). The Roth IRA is a tremendous savings instrument. It's being expanded, too, to $5000 per year by 2007, and the tax CREDITS on contributions are growing (not to mention the tax DEDUCTION you can get if you contribute to a traditional or SIMPLE IRA). With the Roth IRA, your contributions (which must be Earned Income) are taxed, but when you retire, all distributions are 100% tax free!!
I was working on figuring out what my brother Jeffrey could have if he contributed the maximum each year starting at age 16 until he's 72 (and let's face it, he'll most likely live past 100 and I may live past 90 myself), using a SPDR (an Exchange-Traded Fund) or the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund (which outperforms 85% of the mutual funds offered by the so-called "experts" at the fancy-schmancy full service and discount brokerages, mostly because it's unmanaged so there are almost zero commission fees, no transaction costs, auto dividend reinvestments, and no capital-gains taxes), based on a yearly compounding equal to the average growth of the S&P over the past 50 years... and it's a (completely inflation-adjusted) tax-free 26 Million Dollars or so! For sticking in a few thou per year. Remarkable! Most folks, with a little discipline, ought to be able to stick back four or five grand a year--if they can tear themselves away from buying beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. What a powerful tool for wealth-building the capital market is!
Of course, this all assumes the US remains a SOVEREIGN and CAPITALISTIC nation. It all flies out the window if the UN ever gets its way. Then you can forget about it--it'll be the government being your wet-nurse, ensuring global ""Equality"" (which really means a massive humanity-wide disincentive to ever succeed at anything or ever make a wise fiscal choice). But anyway, back to the real world. I believe I'm going to open my own Roth IRA this Summer. I mean, with what I'll make and the huge tax credit (50% of any contribution up to $2000 for 2002), there's no pressing reason not to, and it's about time I started preparing for the future. I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm looking at the IPF (Index fund Plus a Few) strategy, where the big index fund makes up about two-thirds of the portfolio. Somewhere down the line I'll probably open a section 401(k) fund as well, especially if my employer matches all contributions to it.
I'm also looking at the best places for short-term savings and "emergency" funds. I like the five-year I Bond for short-term savings (for a car, vacation, house down payment, wedding, etc.), CDs for "buffer" money (six months worth of living expenses), and a simple money market deposit account or fund with check-writing for the liquid emergency money. I'll probably keep a checking account and my one credit card (with no balance, of course--keeping a balance on a card is an extremely stupid way to toss dollars down the toilet). I'll have to have Health, Dental, Disability, and Homeowner's/Renter's insurance. And I plan to live well below my means. It'll work out.
--So. How goes the war? Well, after some mid-war hand-wringing by the glamour-media outlets, very well, thank you. Tonight, they attacked a bunker where they think Madass might have been with 8000 pounds worth of bombs. But they broke into the program I was half watching (Practice) to tell us about it. I say, when you've got a positive DNA ID and Saddam's head on a pole, THEN tell us about it. Of course, unless the 23rd armed infantry division has a backhoe handy, it's gonna be a while before they sift through the remains to find out if it was really him or just one of his many decoys.
There is this Iraqi "information" minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who's been spreading all kinds of misinformation for weeks. He's been claiming the Iraqi armies have badly beaten back the Zionists (oh, that's us). Well, today he persisted. He said there were NO US soldiers anywhere in Baghdad, that "the invaders are committing suicide by the hundreds outside the walls of the city" and that "God is grilling their stomachs in Hell". He likes to refer to us as "blood-sucking bastards" and as a "snake slithering through the desert that will be chopped into pieces". Astonishing. I was just waiting for some US soldier to walk up and make rabbit ears behind his head and say "we're here, man". I mean, who the hell does he think he's fooling NOW? You can hear our friggin' tanks rumbling by in the background. Dozens of Western journalist cameras are broadcasting live footage of US soldiers roaming freely through areas of Baghdad most outsiders have never seen. If it weren't for all the smoke from explosions around him, you'd be able to see the US soldiers demolishing Saddam's palace right behind him. Good grief!!
The Arab world is terribly confused as well. One of the newspaper headlines this morning in some other country tells of Saddam himself leading a triumphant cavalry to retake the Baghdad airport. Uh yah. That airport is FIRMLY in coalition hands, being used to bring in hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid. I think the rest of the Arab world, the immature Arab press, is stunned, disappointed that it was so easy for us to do this. They truly thought Baghdad would be impenetrable, that Saddam would hold off the coalition indefinitely. They're so old-fashioned, they're still living in the middle ages, they can't believe or understand how much more powerful the Western world is (not just militarily--economically as well; name one globally-desirable product the middle east produces besides crude and pottery--there aren't any, because their economies are terribly backward and weak--and this causes them a great amount of rage and envy and hatred--this is also known as relative deprevation).
President Bush's approval rating is currently quite high. I heard 68% and I heard 70-something. Support for the war is even higher--I've heard 80% in the last day or two. And why not? I think the results of this war are going to be awesomely beneficial to the whole world (everyone except the tyrants of the Baath Party--and maybe the French and Germans once we uncover certain documents in Iraq and find out why Jacques Chirac was REALLY against this regime change). Can you imagine how exciting it would be to be an Iraqi citizen in the months and years ahead? Realizing you have *rights*? Realizing your family ISN'T going to be kidnapped and tortured? Realizing you have access to the political process and the wealth-building potential of the emerging global capitalistic economy? Being rid of the most horrible Stalinist dictator of modern times (well, maybe Kim Jong-Il is worse--no one much survives to speak of those atrocities)? And the Middle East needs a success story like what Iraq could become. Tony Blair, though we love him for his staunch support, wants the US to turn everything right over to the UN right after the war. Uh no, I don't think so!
In stark contrast to the vast majority of Americans are the ne'er-do-wells protesting daily (don't they have jobs?) in various cities (especially in California) around the country. Methinks some of these protestors should go back and read the bit where we have the right to *PEACEABLY* assemble. No, that does NOT mean you can block highways or throw explosives or prevent businesses from conducting business. My real problem with anti-war folks is that by and large they have completely failed to articulate any ALTERNATIVES. They have this amazing, golden opportunity to really take a stand and put some thought into what they think ought to happen, maybe have an effect on the thinking of the majority... and they've mostly squandered it. I'm not real sure, though, that these folks have the intellectual capacity to come up with anything deeper than their arrogant, rote "not in my name" stands.
Their ideas can't stand up to more than thirty seconds of intelligent discourse and debate. Their "arguments" collapse in the face of facts. Their tactics UTTERLY fail, I assure you, to convince anyone who wasn't already in their camp to start with. "Drop Bush not bombs". Who is that for? The Bush Administration? Passers-by who may or may not have voted for President Bush? Just how stupid do they presume those passers-by to be? The fact is, those signs are just for fun, for the spectacle, to make themselves feel good. It just amazes me that they'd continually strive to try and keep the Iraqi people terribly oppressed, that they somehow feel the world would have been more "peaceful" if we hadn't done the right thing in Iraq, if Iraq had stayed status quo (or worse) instead of what could become of it. A sign at UNT's rally read "we support the Iraqi people". Yah. Easy for you to write. Fine, they don't get to share in the joy of the liberation of Iraq's populace either.
And aren't you tired of this ARROGANT, JINGOISTIC idea that the *people* in the Middle East are somehow too backward or too stupid for democratic process or a Representative Republic to thrive there? Democracy (not "pure democracy" as Socrates warned against) is an idea that has been enjoyed by all kinds of people in the world at different times. It's an idea that is totally compatible with the strength of the human spirit--the ability to self-determine, to have a say. All we are saying is give democracy a chance. Of course, many of the anti-war protests are organized by A.N.S.W.E.R, which is run by the World Worker's Party, which is a vile anti-property, anti-free enterprise, anti-Bill of Rights group which is using the war to gain some ground.EDIT: Wednesday morning: Holy cow, it's like the fall of the Berlin Wall!! Are you seeing this?? US Marines and Iraqi civilians working together to topple the *symbols* of Saddam's now-dead regime of terror. This is wondrous!! I don't think the "war" or fighting are over for us, but I think in large part we've done what we said we'd do: we've forcibly removed the Baath Party dictatorship from power and liberated the people of Iraq. Awesome, just awesome. Yes, we lost several hundred troops, and yes, several hundred civilians may have died (not that the Baath Party didn't take care of that many a month all on its own!). But there are many millions who are in rapture today, just starting to realize what this means for their world and their lives. What do the "peace" protestors think now? Where are all the people who were all too happy to ignore the Iraqi people in the name of "give peace a chance"? Where is the "conscience" of Hollywood, of those dove pendant-wearing superstars who live a pampered and tragically ignorant lifestyle?