Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Tom Brady Whammy Fell Short

     It has been a tough year for football as far as I am concerned. With the continuing protests largely alienating me, I mostly resorted to checking out the scores and standings. My interest was mostly in the home team Carolina Panthers. They endured a decent enough season. They made the playoffs, but were quickly dispatched during the first round. I did not expect the panthers to go far, anyway. I am now without a team in the post season.
     Am I, however, dead set against the New England Patriots. I guess that makes me at least a temporary fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. You cannot accuse me of bandwagon jumping, either. With the past history of Bill Belichick spying on other team's playbooks, Tom Brady deflating footballs, and the referees lenient penalty calling—you know it is happening—opposing the Patriots is my duty.
     I was rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull another upset. Last week was not the first one they managed this season. When Brady injured his hand, I thought it might be the weakness the Jaguars could exploit. I even tried throwing in some bad vibes in the general direction of New England for good measure. Alas, all was for naught. The Patriots are not only in the Super Bowl, but heavily favored.
     I will be looking for something extraordinary to happen on the eagles' side to power them passed the Patriots. Maybe the American spirit? Yes, new England is called the Patriots, but Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy. Surely that counts for something. Overall, I will watch the Super Bowl for the same reason I almost always do—the commercials.      

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Donkey Kong, Jr. (NES)

     The next logical step to take after completing Donkey Kong is to take on its sequel, Donkey Kong, Jr. Unlike daddy's arcade port to the NES, Junior's features the four full stages. Also like daddy's, it is a Sisyphean game in which you play loops until you run out of lives. Since there is no real end, I am considering one successful loop as a completion. Hang on. Tougher games are coming down the line. We have a long road ahead.
     The game is the first and—depending on your perspective—only game to feature Mario as the villain. Presumably, Donkey Kong survived his fall after Pauline was rescued and was recaptured by Mario. Or Donkey Kong, Jr. could even be a prequel explaining how Donkey Kong escaped his abusive owner Mario in the first place. The game being a prequel might explain why it starts out in a jungle setting. Or I could just be putting far more thought into it than Nintendo ever did and should just play the game.
     Before I recount my effort at playing, another instance of putting too much thought into the game. Donkey Kong, though not the protagonist, is a sympathetic character here. He is considered a villain in the city, but a hero in the jungle setting. His status in both settings is a fine example of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's concept of the noble savage. To elaborate, an individual is good in his natural state, but is corrupted by society. I have criticism's regarding the validity of the noble savage idea, but those are for another time. It is just something interesting to point out now.
     Donkey Kong, Jr. is an easy game. The ease of game play is why I do not like it as much as it predecessor, which is not exactly the most difficult game around, either. I zipped through it in about ten minutes. The only trouble I encountered was on the second stage with a springboard onto a platform. It took a few tries to get the timing right. I am not sure how much of my problem was awkward jump mechanic and how much was poor eyesight. I recently got through much tougher spots in other games, so hopefully it was more the former.
     I cannot imagine revisiting Junior's game as much as daddy's. At least until I get around to playing the SNES and beyond era Donkey Kong games in which Junior is all grown up and the original is an old, retired grump. I am looking forward to it, however. Those are generally good games.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Donkey Kong (NES)

     Now we move on from a console classic to an arcade classic. Calling the NES port of Donkey Kong an arcade version requires a note of correction. The NES version of the game omits the cement factory level of the arcade game. So there are only three levels to get through before Mario can save Pauline from the evil clutches of Donkey Kong.
     It is difficult to determine whether Donkey Kong is evil here. Supposedly, the back story has Mario, as Donkey Kong's former owner, abusing the great ape. Shame on Mario if that is true. Donkey Kong acting out is only natural. Pauline is an innocent victim in this mess. As we saw last time, Mario seemingly dumps Pauline at some point for Princess Peach. Maybe Pauline left him after she was rescued from Donkey Kong? If Mario left Pauline, he is not only a possible animal abuser, but a cad.
     I should go ahead and mention the game was originally intended to be a Popeye game. Popeye would become Mario or Jumpman, as he was called then, Bluto would become Donkey Kong, and Olive Oyl would become Pauline. Popeye eventually got his own arcade game and NES port, so it all worked out.
     Donkey Kong is my favorite arcade game of all time. It is no wonder I chose it to be the next NES completed. As with any arcade game, playing Donkey Kong is a Sisyphean task. You continue playing in loops until you inevitably lose. There is no way to complete it. Since I will be playing a number of games of this nature, I am going to consider successfully making one loop to be a completion. It might not seem like much of a challenge, but cut me some slack for now. I am currently playing trough some incredibly tough games. I need the occasional ego boost.
     It had been a long time since I last played Donkey Kong. I run into two problems right away. One, timing Mario's jumps over barrels. It took a while to gauge the proper distance I needed to clear a barrel. At first, I was letting them get too close because I underestimated Mario's jumping ability. I will not mention how many times I died until I figured out the jumping mechanics. The second point was knowing how far I could fall without dying. Donkey Kong is one of those games in which you can only be so far above a platform you want to land on before you will lose a life even if you hit dead center. Those were the only two difficult points. I rescued Pauline after fifteen minutes or so of playing.
     As I said above, Donkey Kong is my favorite arcade games. I am bound to come back to it again and try for as many loops as possible. If I pull off a considerable number, I might update this blog entry with the result in order to maximize whatever accomplishments I can achieve with the game.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

     If you are going to make a run at retro-gaming, there is no better place to start than the platformer that set the gold standard for all others. Super Mario Bros. Put Nintendo on the map and paved the way for the company to dominate the video game market until the late '90's. The game, along with Duck Hunt, came bundled with the NES, so it is almost certainly the first NES system new gamers played.
     Allow me to get three points out of the way. One, I was tempted to play the Super Mario All Stars for the SNES version because the updated graphics are much nicer to view. But I chose to remain a purist and go with the original version. Two, there is no light gun in emulation, so I cannot play Duck Hunt. If anyone believes that means I have only played half the cartridge and cannot consider it fully completed, so be it. Finally, Super Mario Bros was not actually my first game. I rented an NES from the local video store before buying one in the fall of 1988. I rented Pro Wrestling and Rambo along with it. If memory serves, I played Rambo first. So Pro Wrestling was the first good NES game I played.
     I played Super Mario Bros steadily for months until its sequel came out at Christmas when my interest trailed off. It is not that I no longer liked the original. I had played it a lot and worked my way through world 8-2 upon which I got stuck. The problem was usually running out of time. As I played the game less and less, I never much advanced until during recovery from hip surgery in 1992 when I had plenty of time on my hands to finally complete the game.
     Super Mario Bros was the first ROM I chose after buying a USB enabled GameCube controller back in October. Did the quarter century hiatus dull my skills at the game? You bet. I suffered a game over on World 1-3 my first time around. My ego was seriously bruised enough to only play sporadically over the last few months. I mean, come on. This is the most basic NES game. Surely I should breeze through it. Well, I did not breeze through any other games, either. So I eventually hunkered down to play through properly beginning with the new year. It took me seventeen days—do not judge—but I saved the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time since I was about fifteen.
     The two largest obstacles were getting the hang of platform jumping and dealing with the Hammer Bros. Much of the former had to do with hand to eye coordination when neither my hand nor eye are all that good anymore. Not to mention were not so good in the first place. I either completely missed a landing or landed next to an enemy more times than I care to admit. Without a fire flower, the Hammer bros meant almost certain death.
     Amazingly, I remembered a lot of the invisible blocks with various 1-UP mushrooms and coins. I am confident I got them all. Back in the day, I would have often used the warp zones to bounce from World 1-2 to World 4-1 and then warp from 4-2 to 9-1, but I skipped that to make a complete run. Maybe if I lay again for fun, I will go that route.
      Being so bad at the game at first was a humbling experience, and taking so long to return to form did not help much. But Super Mario Bros is a classic I love playing. If at possible, I hope to keep my skills up at it so I will not fall quite as far when playing it again in the future.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dolores O'Riordan (1971-2018)

    Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer of the Irish band the cranberries,  died unexpectedly this morning.She was only 46. The actual cause of death is unknown. Her death is being investigated as unexplained, but the Cranberries canceled a number of concerts last year due to her severe back problems. O'Riordan also suffered from bipolar disorder. Medication for the two conditions do not make safe combination. It is disheartening to think a drug overdose or suicide may have tragically ended her young life.
     O'Riordan had an incredible voice range. She could go from mournful in 'Ode to My Family” to ethereal in “Dreams” to angry in “Zombie” while credibly pulling them all off. Nostalgic rage has given me a new found appreciation for '90's alternative music in recent years. The Cranberries moved to near the top of my list of favorite bands in the genre. I am saddened to know O'Riordan is now gone.
     Godspeed, Ms. O'Riordan

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Finally Got a Haircut

     Finally got a haircut yesterday. It is definitely...shorter. At least I no longer have the hair of a shaggy dog. It is true I do not look as thin with shorter hair—not that any hairstyle is going to make me look anything more than scrawny. Even the large grilled chicken and pineapple drowned in BBQ sauce I ate Thursday night. But it helps.   

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hard Truths and Public Policy Do Not Mix

    Haiti is an impoverished, crime ridden country filled with dilapidated town and villages and trash covered streets. Large portions of the country lack the capacity to separate drinking water from sewage water. The latter problem makes Haiti a literal sh*thole. Our political discourse has devolved to the point acknowledging the truth is a high crime. Never mind acknowledging the truth is the first step towards improving the situation.
     Was Donald Trump's declaration Haiti is a sh*thole crude? Yes, but he was stating what everybody thinks while in a closed door policy meeting, not a public gathering. Really, if Haiti was not so much as Trump described, why do so many Haitians want to leave? Among those who left is the father of US Rep. Mia Love, who criticized Trump for identifying the main reason Love grew up in the United States rather than Haiti.
     Even though Trump described the Haiti, not Haitians, with the epithet, he is branded yet again as a racist. His critics are overlooking what trump is trying to do with immigration. He outlines his intentions clearly when he says he suggests more immigrants from Norway than Haiti. He is not looking at immigration in racial terms, but in terms of benefit to the country. He wants educated, industrious people with high levels of education, especially science and math, I imagine, above unskilled labor from poorer countries that generally lack the resources to produce such people. Trump is not looking at immigration as a racist. He is looking at immigration like hiring the best employees for a business.
     Take a moment to appreciate as well those criticizing Trump for crudeness wear vagina costumes in public while demanding respect and referred to conservative tax protesters with the sexual act term "teabagger."  They do not have much room to criticize anyone for vulgarity.    
     The problem is there is no room for such a mindset in politics. As noted above, one cannot even express honestly about issues in the first place over concerns about offending someone. Anyone. Even though who virtue signal offense on behalf of someone else who probably never asked for it in the first place. We are currently witnessing another huge reason why American politics is broken. Perhaps irreparably.   

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Under Pressure

     I visited the doctor again today to check in on my weight. The news was not great, but not terrible either. I dropped two pounds since last week. Two pounds is not really a huge deal. One can add and drop that amount daily depending on what and how much one eats in relation to activity level. So while it is nothing to worry about, I was hoping last week's seven pound again would be the start of an upward trend. It is the trends that matter.
     It appears I need more protein in my diet. It is a tall order. I am already doing the weightlifter bit in which I must eat everything on my plate that does not literally make me retch. I am also downing 36 grams of protein everyday with a can of ensure after every meal and a midnight snack. Where in the world am I going to squeeze in more protein? I cannot go the rocky Balboa route by drinking raw eggs.
     The top number of my blood pressure was staying above 150 in recent weeks. The number is worrisome because my family has a history of strokes. Some family members suffered one at only a few years older than I am. But the numbers are headed back down considerably, which leads the doctor to believe the problem had a lot to do with weight loss and anemia. Today, my blood pressure was 123/68. Those are good numbers for someone barely on the wrong side of forty.
     The bottom line is I will live. It is not certain how I am going to pack more food in me, but I will live to find out.   

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fire & Fury

     Fire & Fury, an expose on the first year of the Donald Trump White House, has caused quite a stir with its many implausible stories of the zaniness that allegedly is the Trump administration. Even author Michael Wolff says he cannot vouch for all the content. Yet he boasts his book will likely be the key to Trump's impeachment. Journalists apparently care more about bringing down presidents than reporting objective truth in the post-Watergate era.
     How are the sensationalized accounts of White House happenings going to bring down the president? The book has renewed murmurs of Trump's mental fitness to serve as president. Interest in the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which allows for the removal of an incapacitated president for office, have bouncing around since Inauguration Day. I take much amusement in the idea many of the liberals who want to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment would have never heard of it if not for the episode of The West Wing in which President Jed Bartlet removed himself from office when he feared clouded judgment in executive decisions after his youngest daughter is kidnapped.
     The idea of Trump's cabinet removing him from office over his alleged mental health issues is as fanciful as conservative conspiracy theories regarding Hillary Clinton's health during the campaign. Remember her coughing fits? The blond clot/brain damage? Her Secret Service detail supposedly carried a high octane injection around for emergency use. To be administered Vincent Vega style, probably. I even read an article claiming Clinton was hiding a catheter. It is all in the same vein. Just wishful thinking on the part of the opposition.
     For his part, Trump declared himself “a stable genius.” Well, okay. You know who else was a stable genius? Mr. Ed. You need to take Trump's assessment of his intellect with a huge grain of salt. But look at the people who are accusing him of mental instability. These liberals are the ones who rioted after Clinton lost a legitimate election. They gathered in the streets on the first anniversary of Election Day to scream at the sky in protest. Many think gender is a social construct that can be changed at will and anyone who self-identifies as another gender must be addressed by their chosen pronouns. They do not have much room to question anyone else's mental health.