Game of the Year. No doubt.

This game from Valve was just a tiny blip on everyone’s radar screen and just a little side-serving next to the big release of Team Fortress 2. But, Portal is a real gem of a game. It’s fun, there’s no killing, and most importantly, it’s hilariously funny and seriously science fiction.

Despite the need for Steam to play the game, it’s well worth the $20 price tag.


It’s a good movie.

When I was young, my brother and I had many Transformers toys. The shows were the driving marketing force for the line of toys, and it did a good job. I watch the old shows now and it’s obvious that no one thought kids would see the poor production value. But, none of that matters to me. It is what it is. The comics were a little better, providing a bit more cohesive stories and a huge chunk of believability. I never got into the Transformers animated movie. Mostly because my favorite character, Optimus Prime, was “killed off”. Blah.

Enter the new movie this year. It has problems. Bad acting, horrible camera-work, editing problems, and a huge lack of focus on the Transformers themselves. Things I can bring myself to overlook just long enough to enjoy seeing (and hearing) Optimus Prime in action.  I enjoy Prime’s simple character. I don’t want to know about his internal turmoil or some kind of struggle. His fight is external and that’s where I want to see the action. Giant robot fighting action.

Here’s hoping Transformers 2 gives people more Autobots, more Decepticons, and less screaming humans fleeing for their lives.

Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. A single day to celebrate the founding of the United States of America. For me, this is one of the true holidays of every year. A day to reflect on how lucky I am to live in a nation that was devised to protect my rights as a person from tyranny. And one of those rights is one that not nearly enough people take advantage of. That is the right to look around your country, to examine your leaders, to look at your local government and yourself and say, “This place SUCKS!”

That’s right. The most vocal critics of our country are most often the ones who love it the most. Those who coddle our government with tacit approval are no different than parents who spoil their children with gifts and a lack of discipline. When someone tells you that they support our government fully, be suspicious that they do not understand their rights to question authority. Their duty to seek out our nations problems, expose them to the light, and make things right.

I don’t know where our nation will go in the future. I do know that it’s better today than when it was formed because people spoke out against injustice and evil. I’m thankful for a nation built on the backs of greater men and women greater than I. We should all be thankful for those who rock the boat.

No Reservations

I don’t watch a lot of TV these days. I feel like most shows have a formula that either replicates itself endlessly or the show is randomly jerking you around with no real answers or meaning. I think that TV is a mostly squandered and wasted medium. It’s a little sad knowing that many of it’s creators felt it would open windows on places and ideas that couldn’t be seen in everyday life. But all hope is not lost. Inside that garbage bin of television lie a few small gems that seem to live up to my expectations of good programming.

Anthony Bourdain : No Reservations. It’s on the Travel Channel, which I assume is some kind of sub-department of Discovery Channel. I don’t even know when it comes on since it shows up on my TiVo as if it were some kind of five dollar bill left in an old pair of pants. Who knows when you put it there and you don’t care cause, hey, five dollars. TiVo is cool like that. But that’s not the point. The show is good. I mean it’s really good. And it’s about food all over the world. Something that I don’t think I would have ever dreamed that I would enjoy watching a television show about. I have always been a pretty picky eater and it’s only been in the past six or seven years that I have really started trying new things. And I can honestly say that this show has helped me look at food in a totally different light. I could even go so far as to say that this show has even helped me see the world in a different light.

So, this guy, Anthony Bourdain, is a fancy well known chef. But that’s kinda selling him short, I think. The show is about him visiting some place in the world and eating food and hanging out with people. Sometimes he knows the people, sometimes they are friends of friends, and sometimes just total strangers. He tends to stick to local cuisine and not the stuff you would see as a tourist. And a lot of times it involves just walking down a street and buying food from a street vendor or eating at someone’s house. That’s the food part. It’s kinda mundane and normal, and I really like that. People love food. Everyone needs food to live and everyone has food they like and lots of people have food that’s just part of their life. And that’s where people’s lives come into the show. These are real people. I mean, I know it’s TV and I’m not seeing everything that happens or hearing everything that’s said. But this show is pretty genuine. This kind of show makes “Reality TV” look like a scripted, rehearsed, post edited pig with makeup on it. And that’s good entertainment.

I’m sitting in front of the TV right now, watching an episode about Japan. He’s visiting a friend on a holiday where they honor their ancestors and return home to have a nice subdued, relaxing day with family. It’s a little boring and at the same time very interesting. Kind of the way a nice nap on a warm spring day is boring but you really enjoy it when you get the chance. That’s good stuff. And more people should see this on TV. And then more people should sit down, eat a meal with friends or family and think about all the other people in the world doing the same thing. Having a good time, enjoying some good food.

So this show probably makes me out to be the hypocrite that I know I am. I give TV shows a bad rap for being boring and repetitive, but here’s a show I like because it’s boring and just showing me the things I already enjoy but in a different setting somewhere else in the world. Or it’s possible that I like the show for showing me something so different and interesting through this little glass portal. I wonder if Anthony came to my town, where would I take him to eat? What would be the good things that I do for fun that people in other countries might find interesting? Why don’t more TV shows make people ask more questions?


I know that it’s never the new year that suddenly makes men and women older. It’s the steady flow of time, moment after moment, through the course of the year itself. But when I look back, I am not sad or upset at the passing of time. I was more spry, energetic, and probably much healthier back then. But I was also dumber, too introverted, and very unwise. It’s not a bad thing, to be either young or wise. But very few people (if any) are both. To me, it’s a fair trade. I grow older physically, but I become richer every day. I know my friends better. I know myself better. I learn more about this world we inhabit. And when I get things right, and I use the experience I have, I don’t know things better, I understand them.

If I had a hope for a new year, if I could sum up a “wish” of sorts for the future, it would be that there would be more understanding in the world.

Who wants to be a Superhero?

It’s a reality TV show hosted by Stan Lee. It’s pretty bad.

But, it had some surprising parts in it. Like many reality shows, there were several tests that the contestants had to take part in. Many of them were really pathetic. A few were secret tests where the real goal wasn’t to win a race, but maybe to help someone. Some of the tests were really about trying hard and not giving up. It revealed some real dedication and compassion I didn’t expect to see in a cheesy, low quality, television show.

Obviously this is television and everything was controled and the show is made up of only the footage we are allowed to see. Even if it’s not 100% directly staged, it’s all “fake”. But it did make me wonder what a real test of heroic traits would be like. A test sans the raw publicity and narcism.

VPNs are a hack

I don’t have a problem with Virtual Private Networks (or VPNs) as a technology. They serve a purpose and I do work with them a lot where I am currently employed. But, I have come to the conclusion that using them for common or casual remote access is a total hack.

For the remote computer, the VPN essentially takes that remote system and virtually places it on the office network. That’s the hack. Instead of using secure technology and SSL tunneling, you “fake” having the computer on the office network. Obviously this is sometimes required, but should remote users be using VPN just to send and recieve mail? I’m not even sure you need a VPN for file access if you have a good, secure portal that allows uploads and downloads. End users dependent on VPNs for access to their day-to-day tools are depending on a single point of failure. If the VPN doesn’t work, the user is out of commission.

I feel that a VPN should be used to connect office LANs together and as an emergency for remote users who can’t get what they want through normal secure methods.

The Min-Maxing of Society

Playing role playing games (or RPGs) is something that I did when I was younger and still do sometimes today. Though, when I was younger, Dungeons & Dragons was a sure fire sign you were a devil worshiper and today playing RPGs is just on the fringe of being cool. Here is a link to a definition of min-maxing in respect to playing RPGs for those who aren’t familiar with the term. When someone sits down to fabricate a character for a particular role playing game, a min-maxer will decide what they want their character to excel at. This goal will then determine what attributes or skills for that character are useful and which are useless. For the min-maxer, the entire potential list of attributes for their character is broken down quickly into useless and useful categories. Not only does this lead to insane characters who are one dimensional and not well rounded, it props up the attitude that anything less than optimal is worthless. If the attribute, skill, or character isn’t the best and most effecient at some goal, it’s useless and should never be considered for the task at hand.

It’s not hard to see how this attitude is starting to become more and more widespread in society. Everything is distilled to black and white, useful or useless, terms. In PC games that I play, certain attributes or abilities are either praised as the way to go, or denounced as worthless and it’s inferred that you are a moron for using them. Any options you are provided with on how to play the game is quickly nullified by the community who determines the most effective choices and that is not the defacto standard. All other options are inferior for one reason or another.

I see this same attitude outside of games. Issues that our society deals with are never grey anymore. They are reported and evangelized as black or white, good or evil. There’s no wiggle room, no room for discussion or compromise. All or nothing, and if you aren’t on their side, you are the enemy. It goes for advertising, as well. Polarization of products tells us that the latest item for sale is the best and anything else is worthless.

Why bother making peace when you can turn anything into a war?

Letting go

Recently Scott Kurtz (PvP creator) seemed to get really upset over Sesame Street changing Cookie Monster’s attitude towards cookies. I wonder when the last time he watched Sesame Street was. Is Sesame Street really something Kurtz watches and will be upset by this change. I don’t think so. I think this is more of the same “Lucas is ruining Star Wars” attitude. Scott Kurtz is not the only person who feels that Sesame Street is stomping on his personal memories by trying to do what it has always done, help kids grow up right. So, if you don’t like these changes to Cookie Monster, STOP WATCHING SESAME STREET! It’s not your show and chances are if you are posting about it on the web, it hasn’t been for at least a few years. If changing the message Cookie Monster delivers to kids helps those kids out, I am not going to resent it or try to rationalize how it somehow ruins my nostalgic memories of how things were.

Memories fade. Things change. You can not keep re-living the past forever. This is something people are going to have to make peace with. If it helps, it’s the very fact that things change that makes our memories of the past worth so much to us and others. So get over it! Let go.

Chinese Farmers and Wal-Mart

The corelation should be obvious. I imagine some people might not even know what I mean by “Chinese Farmers”, though.

The concept of farming in a massivly multiplayer online game is that you kill certain enemies or monsters over and over trying to “harvest” money or specific items. It’s really part of any MMORPG at any given time. You need money or you want a more powerful item, you might farm it. The “Chinese” part comes in with the business built behind selling in-game items and money for real world money. In theory, you hire a handful of cheap workers (hence the China part) and employee them to play the game for hours on end and sell the resulting items to other players. Maybe you are playing World of Warcraft and you need one hundred gold, you can buy it for $40.00 USD for example. Obviously this violates most MMORPG terms of service or end user license agreement. It also may cause problems for people trying to play the game where farmers are at work. I’m not totally convinced it’s a viable business model.

So, the Wal-Mart part is next. There are people who utterly despise Wal-Mart and feel that Wal-Mart is a destructive force that kills small businesses. Wal-Mart moves into a town and wipes out all competition. And the people who utterly hate “Chinese Farmers” will tell you that they ruin the game economy and make the game less fun to play. Neither would be around if there weren’t enough people throwing money at them to be profitable.