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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

NOprah

     Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing acceptance speech at last night's Golden Globes that doubled as a Clarion call to action against pretty much all things in Trump's America. The left, which includes a whole lot of media, want her speech to pull triple duty as the first step to a White House run in 2020. Aww...the left found its own billionaire populist. They did not waste much time in doing so, either.
     Oprah's response today when asked if she will run in 2020 is she is not running for president, but is intrigued with the idea. So a non-denial denial. For what it is worth, if I was asked if I am running for president, I would say I am not running in 2020, but the idea intrigues me. My answer would both be completely true and completely worthless. Oprah's response probably only has slightly more merit.
     But Oprah's flirtation with running for president, no matter how serious, is a sign of things to come. Trump proved a celebrity with no political experience can win the highest office with little substance beyond name recognition. A celebrity seeking the highest office in the land does not need to win or even have a serious shot. It is all about massaging their overblown ego. How much do you think Oprah is enjoying the talk of her potential White House bid? The talk will dominate the news cycle for a couple days at least with her doing nothing but taking it all in.
     The serious problem with the inevitable rise in celebrities migrating from entertainment to politics is the American fascination with celebrities. We as a people are obsessed with entertaining ourselves. It is only natural we would eventually look to entertainers as political leaders. Are we going to have television and movie stars with no political experience beyond commenting on issues in the odd interview crowding out more qualified candidates? I lean more towards the idea of quick burnout with the idea. But then again, I did not think Trump was going to win the election.   

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Games Completed

The games beaten since I started retro-gaming.

NES

Donkey Kong (January 19, 2018)
Donkey Kong, Jr. (January 20, 2018)
Super Mario Bros. (January 18, 2018)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Shape of Things to Come

     We are a mere three days into 2018, but we already have a good idea of where it is heading. We cab best describe 2016 as tumultuous for its numerous political and cultural upheavals. We can easily describe 2017 as tragic for many reasons like hurricanes and terrorist acts foreign and domestic. But 2018? it is already shaping up to be weird.
     North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un threatens the United States by claiming the has the button to launch nukes on his desk at the ready at any moment. President Donald Trump tweets he has a nuke button at the ready, too, and his is bigger. So nuclear brinkmanship has been reduced to the president and a fly by night dictator publicly euphemistically taunting each other over penis size.
   Chelsea Clinton is forced to deny she worships Satan after exchanging Happy New Year greetings with the Church of Satan. I agree with former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta Chelsea is unbelievably stupid, so it is likely she had no clue of how people would react to her responding politely to Old Scratch's fan club. But I would like to think she knew exactly what she was doing and just wanted to troll the alt right conspiracy theorists. Alas, the former is the most likely. Conservatives on social media are going about as ape dookie over the incident as the weird Pizzagate conspiracy regardless.
     Speaking of going ape dookie, Steve Bannon decided to go off on Trump, his family, and the administration today to complement a newly released, supposed insider look at the 2016 campaign which is so unflattering, it reads like fan fiction written by the Young Turks. Nevertheless, Trump has been firing back all day. It has come to this.
     Firefighters responded to a blaze at the Clinton home in Chappaqua, New York. The fire allegedly started in a bedroom, but was easily contained. Either Hillary was destroying more evidence or Bill is finally lighting his cigars after all these years. Why will these people not go away?
     It is snowing in Tallahassee. Here in my town, too.
    On the plus side, I weighed this morning. I gained seven pounds in two weeks. So the weight plummet appears to have reversed. I count it as weird because It is nearly impossible for me to gain any weight, much less such a significant amount. The year 2018 needs more of this sort of weirdness and less of the other brand described above.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Loathsome Logan Paul and YouTube

     The latest YouTube controversy is leaking into the real world. After over a year of issues ranging from it largest user PewDePie facing accusations of being a Nazi sympathizer to companies pulling revenue for fear of their brands being associated with less than family-friendly content, it is both the last thing the site needed and something it so richly deserves,
     In a nutshell, YouTuber Logan Paul, whose vlogging channel generates 20 million views a month, took his camera with him on a hike through Japan's infamous Suicide Forest. It is a place which has gained a reputation for suicidal Japanese to go to in order to take their own lives. Paul went there will the express purpose of finding a suicide victim. He succeeded. He came across a young man who successfully ended his life. Paul continued to film, with the swaying corpse conspicuous in the near background while making jokes. He posted the video. He immediately received a lot of flack and so decided to take it down, but not before the video earned six million views. YouTube examined the video before Paul took it down, but deemed it acceptably within community guidelines.
     The situation brings up two points.
     One, Paul is the epitome of the insipid side of YouTube. He is a dumb man-child whose videos consist of practical jokes, stupid stunts, and anything else that will bring him attention. His videos bring in a fortune to YouTube regardless. His shtick is tolerated for that reason. It should not surprise anyone Paul acted the way he did or that YouTube approved the video while it was up.
     Two, YouTube is unbelievably hypocritical in their actions. I already wrote the video was officially deemed acceptable within community guidelines in spite of those guidelines expressly forbidding depictions of gore or physical harm to another person. YouTube did not forget this guideline, either, as it has been deleting any video featuring clips from Paul’s video. YouTube is applying its own rules to users who generate little to no revenue for the site while granting its larger moneymaking users a free pass to flagrantly violate the rules.
     Paul and YouTube are taking heat for their actions. Paul I can somewhat sympathize with because the usual type of social media attacks. They generally go along the lines of “You have no respect for the dead. You should kill yourself!” No one making such a vile statement seems to recognize the hypocrisy of thinking someone who does not respect the value of human life should lose their own. R hypocrisy bothers me more than just about any other aspect of this situation, which is why I am entertained rather than sympathetic by YouTube exposing its true nature by its actions.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day Selfie

     Might as well continue the tradition of posting selfies on holidays. It will give me a good excuse beyond undue vanity to update my photo occasionally. I still have not gotten a haircut, but it really is not that bad when styled properly rather than merely allowing it to flop any old way like I am normally prone to do.
     Let us cast aside vanity for a moment and speak of affirmation. Being comfortable in your own skin is important. I have certainly fared well for someone who has lived a mostly hellish 41 years. Sometimes I think I could pass for half my age even though I often feel twice it physically, mentally, and spiritually.
     I do not talk much. There are people whom I have been around the last three years who know little beyond my first name. From time to time, I am caught off guard when someone I have been around for years out of the blue asks a personal question. The question that caught we off guard was essentially “How did you get to where you are?” I have written thousands of words on that subject since April 2014. Some of them elicited a death threat from family, so I think I have been raw about it all in the written word. But I gave her the verbal Cliff's Note's version.
     It took her about ten minutes afterward to explain two words she wanted me to keep in mind to describe me. The words were survivor and warrior. I will own up to being a survivor on a strong day. Warrior? I do not know. Overly aggressive with a chip on my shoulder is probably more apt. Sometimes I am willing to charge hell with a bucket of water, but such endeavor's do not a warrior make.   
     Nevertheless, anytime the lady runs into me over the last week, she asks me what the two words I am supposed to remember are. Survivor. Warrior. She appears happy I have kept the two words in mind. I figured I should write them down somewhere. This is the perfect place.

The Year Ahead


   
      It is the first day of 2018. Earth managed to survive 2017. Interesting, since the Doomsday Clock was moved closer to midnight than any time since the height of the Cold War in anticipation of the human race's inevitable destruction last year. Since the main consideration was Donald Trump's election as president, we will just consider the prediction of imminent doom partisan hackery. At least until a North Korean nuke hits Los Angeles. Then we can reevaluate.
     Now that we are all still here as regular old humans and not radiation scarred mutants, we have to plan for a normal year ahead. The realization brings two points to mind. First, the new year as a fresh start is a myth. We are all burdened by the same baggage at 12:01 AM this morning as we were at 11:59 PM last night. If you were a jackass in 2017, you are still a jackass in 2018. Second, I do not bother making resolutions. No one even thinks about them after New Year's Day. How about combine these two points and instead of making resolutions to change one or two bad points about yourself, admit your baggage and strive to work on yourself completely?
     Is that what I am going to do? Probably not, but at least I am honest that such a daunting task to undertake at all, much less maintain for a year. But as usually happens during the holiday season, I have immersed myself in a reflective period exasperated by an unexpected weight loss plummet in recent weeks. So I have issues to work through whether I want to do so or not. Usually, that necessitates a fair amount of time writing. This I have done, though have not made most of it public. But as I get older, I get bolder. It feels right the change back to the old blog's name might bring out the old blogger in me.
     We shall see what happens. There is a nagging suspicion eating away at me 2018 will be a tumultuous year. I know dwelling on such notions has a way of creating self-fulfilling prophecies, but listening to my hunches, especially the pessimistic ones, is one of the main reasons nothing has finished me off yet. You must trust an instinct with such a solid track record of accomplishing the near impossible. Speaking of accomplishing the near impossible, here is to steady, solid blogging in order to work everything out for the best.

A New Year's Toast

     Some things never change.