Sunday, August 31, 2008
If you would like to read more about this, I will refer you to the original New York Times article on the photo spread.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Barack Obama Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech - Democratic National Convention Center August 28th, 2008
In case you missed it, here is Obama's historic acceptance speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He is a fantastic orator, and this speech ranks up there among the best he has ever delivered.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The New York Times
After attending the spectacular closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics and feeling the vibrations from hundreds of Chinese drummers pulsating in my own chest, I was tempted to conclude two things: “Holy mackerel, the energy coming out of this country is unrivaled.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teaching your kids Mandarin.”
However, I’ve learned over the years not to over-interpret any two-week event. Olympics don’t change history. They are mere snapshots — a country posing in its Sunday bests for all the world too see. But, as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.
China did not build the magnificent $43 billion infrastructure for these games, or put on the unparalleled opening and closing ceremonies, simply by the dumb luck of discovering oil. No, it was the culmination of seven years of national investment, planning, concentrated state power, national mobilization and hard work.
Seven years ... Seven years ... Oh, that’s right. China was awarded these Olympic Games on July 13, 2001 — just two months before 9/11.
As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.
The difference is starting to show. Just compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.
Then ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?
Yes, if you drive an hour out of Beijing, you meet the vast dirt-poor third world of China. But here’s what’s new: The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.
I realize the differences: We were attacked on 9/11; they were not. We have real enemies; theirs are small and mostly domestic. We had to respond to 9/11 at least by eliminating the Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan and investing in tighter homeland security. They could avoid foreign entanglements. Trying to build democracy in Iraq, though, which I supported, was a war of choice and is unlikely to ever produce anything equal to its huge price tag.
But the first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America.
We need to finish our business in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, which is why it is a travesty that the Iraqi Parliament has gone on vacation while 130,000 U.S. troops are standing guard. We can no longer afford to postpone our nation-building while Iraqis squabble over whether to do theirs.
A lot of people are now advising Barack Obama to get dirty with John McCain. Sure, fight fire with fire. That’s necessary, but it is not sufficient.
Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.
He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.
Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America. I never want to tell my girls — and I’m sure Obama feels the same about his — that they have to go to China to see the future.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Its now or never for The New York Yankees. Starting at 7pm tonight they begin a 3 game series with their archrivals The Boston Red Sox, who traded away the Yankees nemesis, Manny Ramirez, to the LA Dodgers in a last minute deal at the trade deadline in July. The series feels strange for 3 reasons. One, its the first time the Red Sox have played NY since trading Ramirez, who was once the subject of this very blog during a tear this Spring where he eviscerated the Yankees. Two, its the last series the Yanks will play vs the Sox at the Old Yankee Stadium. The new one has already been built and the finishing touches are being put on it to open next April. Its sad in a way, but really, if you visit somewhere like Camden Yards or Jacob's Field, its pretty obvious the old stadium is obsolete and has to go.
Finally, its odd that the Yankees season is being determined in August and not Ocotber where it is usually contested in the Playoffs. Every year, no matter how far back, by this time, late August, the Yankees had either secured a spot in the playoff or cemented that they would be making a very strong run towards the wild card, where they had at least a 50% mathmatical chance of making the postseason. Right now, ESPN.com estimates the Yankees chance of an October berth at just 7.6 percent. In poker terms, the Red Sox, Devil Rays, and Twins holding pockets aces and kings, and the Yankees are stuck with queens on a low flop with 2 cards to come. Pretty much they just have to jam it and hope to get lucky. It all begins right now.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
China completed a clean sweep of all four titles in the Olympic table tennis competition Saturday, living up to the impossible expectations of fans in the world's most populous country who view the sport as a matter of national pride.
The table tennis superpower steamrolled over all comers, winning the mens and womens team tournaments, and the Gold, Silver and Bronze in both the mens and womens singles events. Some might compare the dominant Chinese victories to the United States victories in basketball and swimming, or Jamaica's takeover of the track events, - but they shouldnt, and heres why.
The US swimming legacy, and Jamacia's track performance at Bejing in 2008 were premised on the dominance of individuals - Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, respectively. The US basketball team was essentially the NBA All Stars playing against a mix of amatuers and semi-professionals from all around the world. The Spanish team played quite well in the final, passing the ball, executing defensive and offensive plays and getting good looks at the basket, while the Team Redeem was content to either drive it right to the hole or shoot a 3 pointer, almost all of which went in.
The US Team shot an unbelievable number of treys in the 4th quarter. You would never see an NBA team shoot that many. It turns out there is a very simple explanation for this: the NBA 3 point line is 23"9' from the rim, while in the Olympics the 3 point line is 20'6" away. Its over 3' closer, which makes a huge difference in the shot percentage. The Americans played like crap at the end, and could have easily lost the Gold medal game if the 3 point line wasnt so close, as Spain was playing great defense with their two big men and Team USA wasnt handling or passing the ball well at all. The US was very, very fortunate to win the Gold in basketball, as the Spaniards had clearly outplayed them, they just couldnt outshoot guys who are paid 20M a year to hit everytime from 20'.
But back to the table tennis, and the Chinese destroying everyone else who plays it. And it is table tennis they play in the Olympics, not ping-pong. When you and I drink a dozen beers each and whack the ball back and forth a few times in your garage, its ping pong. When the ball is being hit at over 70mph and being returned, multiple times per point, the name of the game is table tennis. The late, great George Carlin noted that:
"Technically, tennis is an advanced form a Ping-Pong. In fact, tennis is Ping-Pong played while standing on the table. Great concept, not a sport. In fact, all racket games are nothing more than derivatives of Ping-Pong. Even volleyball is, technically, racketless, team Ping-Pong played with an inflated ball and raised net while standing on the table."
So now we have established that Ping Pong is Table Tennis played at under 70mph, all other racket games are derived from it according to George Carlin, and finally, it is the national pastime of China and they completely pwn the world at it. They just proved that at this Olympics, and in some ways its more impressive than any other country's performance in any other sport. To sweep all the medals required perfect performances from a 6 different comptetitors in a sport where anything can happen. The matches are over extremely quickly, sometimes in as little as 15 minutes, so any lapse in concentration, focus, or mental toughness will result in an instant loss.
To progress to the medal rounds, each Chinese player had to face the best players from Sweeden, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Greece, Singapore, South and North Korea, and a few other countries with one or two strong players each. But China has the top four male players in the world in #4 Liqin Wang, #3 Long Ma, #2 Lin Ma, and #1 ranked Wang Hao, and the top five female players are Chinese as well: #5 Nan Wang, #4 Yan Guo, #3 Xiaoxia Li, #2 Yue Guo, and #1 ranked Yining Zhang. As perfectly as the Chinese team executed their gameplan to takeover Table Tannis in the Olympics, everyone else knew from the outset it was going to be an uphill battle.
Friday, August 22, 2008
This week Im doing a piece on the hardest games of all time. Im starting off with Gametrailers top 10 list, which is pretty solid. Most of these games made it onto my list, which will be at least 25 games. My question to you is: what makes a game hard?
Discuss! Tawk amonsgt yuhselves!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Its party time in Jamaica. Because clearly, Lightning can strike twice.
Usain "Lightning" Bolt won his second Olympic gold medal in his second world-record time. He won the 100 meters Saturday - and set a world record - while goofing around. He won the 200 on Wednesday while running dead serious. He is a multipurpose, multievent, multimood ballistic missile. This epic performance caps what is surely a year to remember for the Jamaicans in the Olympics. With already 4 gold medals and 3 silvers, including a womens 100M that saw Jamaica obliterate the rest of the field and take gold, silver and bronze, 22 year old Usain Bolt's performance solidifies that the Jamaican track team is here to dominate, and they are here to stay.
For the first time since 1979, one man holds the world record in both the 100 and 200 meter events. He was a Jamaican then (Donald Quarrie), and he is a Jamaican now. A nation with an outsized sprinting heritage has found its biggest star yet. There can be no greater compliment for a sprinter than to be spoken of in the same exalted tones as all-time greats Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
"Everything came together tonight," Bolt said. "I just blew my mind. I blew the world's mind."
Far and away, the two dominant stars of these Olympics are swimmer Michael Phelps and Bolt -- two child prodigies in their sports who have come to full flower here. Yet their excellence is accompanied by such markedly different personalities.
Phelps' massive caloric intake is expressly designed to feed a voracious metabolism -- he takes his food seriously. Bolt eats chicken nuggets whenever possible, including on race days. His mellow disposition allowed him to sleep until noon, then he asked his masseuse to bring him nuggets for lunch and nuggets for dinner.
Phelps is a mask of inscrutable concentration before a race, never acknowledging any outside presence when he's introduced. Bolt can't wait to mug for the camera and the fans.
When Phelps finished his races, his emotion tended to be directly proportionate to how close they were. He truly exulted over the close ones. Bolt hasn't had a close one here, but he has reacted like Chad Johnson on his showiest day.
But by midnight Wednesday, Bolt was decompressing and showing the effects of eight races here, counting prelims.
"I want to chill out," he said. "I just want to sleep. I wish I was in sandals right now, ready to take a weekend."
He could have won the 200 in sandals. But before it's time to take a weekend, Bolt still has to anchor a 400 relay team as the Jamaicans attempt to further their takeover bid of all the speed events.
So far in Beijing, the Jamaicans have won seven medals in events of 400 meters or shorter, while the Americans have won nine. But the tiny Caribbean country leads the big, bad U.S. in gold medals 4-2, and could add several more.
"We want to prove to the world we're the best," said Jamaican 400-meter hurdles gold medalist Melanie Walker.
This medal onslaught has produced delirium in Jamaica, where sprints are the national sport. Those who had TVs watched them when Bolt ran. Those who did not listened on the radio.
"I talked to the prime minister," Bolt said. "He told me everything in Jamaica is blocked off. Everyone is in the streets."
Lightning bolts usually send people running indoors. But Lightning Bolt striking twice is a reason to party in Jamaica.
WATCH VIDEO Usain Bolt wins 200M by .66 seconds, smashes world record
- Pat Forde from ESPN edited by Chronic
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
At 12:00 AM today, Raphael Nadal eclipsed Roger Federer as the #1 tennis player in the world. This was not the result of a recent tournament, or Nadal's gold medal victory on Sunday in the Olympics, but rather how slowly the ATP assigns and updates points for each player. Federer held on to the #1 slot for a record 237 consecutive weeks. In comparison, Pete Sampras, who was #1 longer than any other player at 286 total weeks, and won more Grand Slam events (14) than anybody in history, only held the #1 ranked spot for 102 consecutive weeks at a time. What does that mean? It means that world class tennis is insanely competetive and holding on to the top spot for any amount of time longer than 1 year is extremely difficult, even for the best players in the history of the sport. Federer held on to it for longer than anybody else, and it took consecutive virtuoso performances by his nemesis before he relenquished the spot.
But dont think that because Federer lost the #1 spot he is anything remotely close to done. He is still, along with Nadal, in an entirely different class than anyone else on the ATP Tour, and possibly anyone else in history, as the sport is considered much more competetive now than it was even 15 years ago, let alone 30. And in this modern era, Federer dominated like nobody ever had. If Nadal had never been born, Federer would have already smashed every record in the book - not just half of them.
For Nadal, who at the tender age of 22, already has 5 Grand Slam chapmionships to his name, the sky is the limit. #11 ranked Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who Nadal defeated in the final in Beijing, said observantly, “He’s hitting many, many balls back.” Nadal is the best defensive player anybody on the tour has ever seen, and quite possibly the best defensive tennis player ever. He does not have the versatility or superweapons that Federer does, and his style is very much premised on his ability to outrun the ball, not outhit or outserve his opponents, so if he ever has serious knee or ankle problems, his career could come to a quick end. But right now, after winning his 4th straight French Open, an epic Wimbledon final against Federer that many are calling the greatest tennis match ever played, and a Gold medal in Beijing to top it all off, its clear to everyone who closely follows mens professional tennis who the #1 player in the world has been for the past 12 months. Tonight is just the coronation.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
30 minutes, 51.68 seconds in the perfecting.
That's the combined length of time Michael Phelps swam to win his Olympic-record eight gold medals, to set seven world records, to swim five lifetime-best individual times, while enduring a pair of impossible hundreth of a second escapes, and a pair of goggles filled with water - to become the ultimate competitor in the history of the human species.
Let it be said, let it be clear: Michael Phelps is superman.
Not the comic book Superman, but the Nietzschean superman - the ubermensch. The over-man, the man who is separate and apart from all others, the man who has transcended the very essence of what it is to be human: to fail. The transition from man to superman, Nietzsche argues in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, does not happen through birth or genetic recombinations of DNA. Its is not something that happens by acccident. It is a conscious transition. It is carefully planned, and meticulously executed. It requires the man to completely give up everything he has that makes him human - it requires radical individualism and total isolation from the rest of the human race.
All ahtletes fail. All humans fail. I just watched the mens gymnastics floor routine finals, and the gold medal favorite from Brazil, who had performed a mezmerizing routine easily worthy of first place, fell on the landing of his final move. The look on his face was that of a lifetime training for a single moment, reaching that moment, and then failing. That is the essence of being human. Man is flawed, he is not perfect. If he was perfect, he would not be man.
This week, we saw a man transition from being human, to being inhuman. Over 17 swims (including prelims and finals) in an incredibly short 9 days, including 2 races in one day, Michael Phelps was in the water for roughly the length of a TV sitcom, and burned over 100,000 calroies. It turned out to be the greatest TV many Americans - and people all over the world - have ever seen. ESPN reported that at roughly 11:10 p.m. ET, Times Square erupted with cheers, as hundreds of people packed the four corners to stare up at Phelps on the giant screen and win the record 8th gold. Certainly, it is the most impressive feat I have ever witnessed in sports. Many people considered Mark Spitz's 7 gold medals in the 1972 Munich games to be unbreakable. If Spitz's record was unbreakable, Phelps record 8 medals is immortal.
This record will never be broken.
It will stand for as long as the Olympics are played. Just take a moment to consider that. Phelps set 7 (seven) world records in these Olympics. Sometime in the future, great swimmers will come along and break the world records, one by one. But 8 gold medals is eternal, unless they change the format of The Games. 8 golds is the maximum possible - the impossible. If I had not just witnessed a man do it, I would say its certainly not possible in this day and age of highly competetive international swimmimg.
"I think he's undisputedly the greatest swimmer of all time," longtime Italian coach Alberto Castagnetti said. "He's stratospheric, in technical terms and in terms of mental preparation. I've never seen anyone like him."
British swimmer Simon Burnett has a different take, which he shared with American men's coach Eddie Reese when they ran into each other in the cafeteria.
"He was saying to me, 'I think I've figured out Michael Phelps,'" Reese said. "'He is not from another planet; he is from the future. His father made him and made a time machine. Sixty years from now he is an average swimmer, but he has come back here to mop up.'"
Australian distance king Grant Hackett, who came up short in his bid to win a third straight 1,500 freestyle title, said of Phelps performace: "It can't be described. We'll never, ever see it again."
But Phelps did more than become immortal at Beijing in 2008, he actually evolved the human race. He showed us that things which are technically impossible - coming in first place in every event you enter against specialists from every nation in the world - are possible. The power of the human mind is unlimited. As different as Phelps body is from the rest of the field - it was his mind that enabled him to win 8 gold medals.
While "The Star-Spangled Banner" played as Phelps took the stage to accept his record 8th gold medal, with very human tears in his eyes, a lifetime of thoughts and memories flashed through his mind. A child with ADHD who struggled to stay in school had become a man who brought a nation - and the world - to its feet. "My mom and I still joke that I had a middle school teacher who said I'd never be successful," he said. It would take more than a few doubting teachers to keep him down. And it would take more than a few thousand daunting practices to hold him back.
On the days he hated to get out of bed, knowing that endless miles of tourturous practice laps lay ahead, the goals he'd written and kept on his nightstand were there to spur him on. Phelps has never told anyone other than his extraordinary coach, Bob Bowman, exactly what was on the goals sheet. But for the first time, he tacitly acknowledged Sunday that winning eight golds was part of the master plan.
"Everything was accomplished," he said. "Nothing is impossible."
Superman has arrived, and for the human race, we are all lucky to be witnesses, and we should all be inspired by Michael Phelps to eclipse our own humanity.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
When the top clan in an MMOG has failed to finish a final boss after 18 hours of nonstop fighting, perhaps the battle difficulty should be scaled back a bit.
Linkshells, Final Fantasy XI's versions of guilds and clans from other massively-multiplayer role-playing games, are the online families for many of the game's most dedicated players. These participants are the types of people who would be willing to sit down for 18 hours to fight some of the highest level villains in FFXI, which releases updates to entertain its audience with grueling boss challenges.
Beyond the Limitation, a Linkshell noted for being the first group to down previous baddie Absolute Virtue, attempted the latest of Square Enix's monsters, Pandemonium Warden. With over twenty different forms, Beyond the Limitation sought to topple the digital titan, only to throw its hands up after eighteen hours of gameplay as the health risks to its players began to mount.
"People were passing out and getting physically ill. We decided to end it before we risked turning into a horrible new story about how video games ruin people's lives," said Beyond the Limitation member Sylphet.
The fight caused vomiting and fainting among Beyond the Limitation's ranks.
Before loading the game, Square Enix displays a health warning:
"During your time here, you will be able to talk, join and adventure with many other individuals in an experience that is unique to online games. That being said, we have no desire to see your real life suffer as a consequence. Don't forget your family, your friends, your school, or your work."
Square Enix's sentiment might be good, but the development of an 18-hour-plus nearly unbeatable boss would imply that the studio wants players to spend unreasonable hours playing the game.
Sylphet concluded, "We are one of very few LS who have killed AV (not using the wall trick) so we know quite well what is futile and what is not. None of us doubt that PW can be killed. We just call into question exactly what the development team thinks is reasonable from human beings."
Should Square Enix stop extending the length of gameplay to unhealthy limits or is it up to the individuals involved to stop themselves?
Friday, August 15, 2008
This game is for the PC only guys, and it looks to be an amazing expansion of the Total War series, offering physics based Naval combat simulation for the first time in the history of the franchise. Total War has always been one of the more hardcore games on the PC, offering a mix of turn based strategy and real time combat tactics, all with a slant towards realism and historical accuracy. If the developers at Creative Assembly are able to pull off what they are trying to accomplish in bringing the combat out to sea, this could easily be one of the best PC games of 2009.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
This is going to be tough to write without devolving into a sea of superlatives and drooling, gaping mouthed fanboy hype. So I will attempt to employ logic seeing as though all rational objectivity is impossible. Do you like action platforming video games? No? Stop reading right now, and go back to knitting, cleaning the lint out of your navel, or playing Halo, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six or whatever it is you entertain yourself with. Move along now. Nothing for you here.
If the answer happens to be yes, then stop what you are doing, reading this article, and download Bionic Commando Rearmed from XBLA or PSN and begin playing. The rest of this article cant convince you to buy something you dont want to play, because the genre isnt your bag. But if you think you might like to play it dont even bother reading, just download it and begin play.
Bionic Commando Rearmed is to videogame remakes what the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Beijing by film maker Zhang Yimou and choreographer Zhang Jigang was to performance art. Bigger, higher budget, more grand, more elaborate, more captivating, more opulent, more enchanting, and more perfectly executed and utterly flawless than anything you can ever remember. It just leaves you stunned and in awe. You wonder how many people were invloved and how much time it took to make it all happen as perfectly as it did, and you want to thank each and every one of them. Go watch the highlights of the opening pagentry and then go play Bionic Commando - they represent the absolute pinnacles of their respective fields.
I usually dont try to quantify these impressions, but in this case the game in question shatters the standard for dowloadable games and remakes.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The New York Times
Senator John Kerry was on the phone and the words were coming in a rush.
“It’s a completely fraudulent argument,” he said. “It’s misleading. It’s snake oil salesmanship of the worst order.”
He was talking about the latest smoke screen in the presidential election, the bogus contention that lifting restrictions on offshore oil drilling would somehow, in the foreseeable future, bring down the price of gasoline for American motorists.
This absurd contention is now one of the main issues of the campaign. It’s the latest example of a very real fear (that sky-high energy prices will undermine the average family’s standard of living) being exploited shamelessly for political purposes.
Senator John McCain told cheering bikers at a giant motorcycle rally in South Dakota: “We’re gonna drill offshore! We’re gonna drill here, and we’re gonna drill now!” He told an audience in Lafayette Hill, Pa.: “We have to drill here and drill now. ... Drill here and drill now.”
With Senator McCain and the Republicans painting a false portrait of drilling as a method of relief for today’s high prices, and with polls showing the G.O.P. gaining traction on this issue, Senator Barack Obama has eased off his previous opposition to new offshore leases.
And so dies the possibility of the presidential campaign offering any real clarification of this important issue.
As Senator Kerry and many others have pointed out, it would be nearly 10 years before any oil at all would be realized from new offshore leases. So your adorable 7- or 8-year-old would be just about 17 and clamoring for a license when this new oil started coming online.
Maximum capacity from these new leases wouldn’t be reached until 2030, when that 7- or 8-year-old is approaching 30, finished with college and graduate school, and very likely married with children.
And even then — after more than two decades and who knows how many graduations, weddings, funerals and family cars — even then, the amount of oil expected to come from these leases would have little or no effect on the price of gasoline at the pump.
Assuming that everything over all those years goes all right, it is estimated that an additional 200,000 barrels of oil a day would come from the additional offshore drilling. That’s a tiny share of the world’s daily output of 85 million or so barrels.
Here’s what the Energy Information Administration, the statistical agency that provides official data for the federal government, had to say about the anticipated additional output from offshore drilling:
“Because oil prices are determined on the international market ... any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.”
Did anyone mention that to the bikers who were so fired up by John McCain’s “drill here and drill now” mantra? Or to the 63 percent of respondents to an ABC News poll who want the embargo on new offshore drilling to be lifted by the federal government?
I wonder how they would have responded if they had been told that lifting the offshore restrictions would risk serious environmental damage to the U.S. coastline over the next several decades while having no significant effect on the price of gasoline at the pump.
Public officials should be disabusing the electorate of its delusions, not encouraging them. The widespread mistaken notions about the potential impact of offshore drilling on gasoline prices reminds me of the large percentages of Americans who were encouraged to believe, and did believe — erroneously — that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
I wonder if the electorate will ever wise up. We’ve known, or should have known, since the 1970s that the day of reckoning on energy would come. The U.S., blessed with so many resources, is no longer blessed with an abundance of oil.
Jimmy Carter, for all his faults, was on the case when it came to energy. He saw the challenge as “the moral equivalent of war,” and dared to ask the public to make sacrifices as part of a coordinated national effort.
Senator Kerry, in accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, said: “Our energy plan will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”
Former Vice President Al Gore has tried, more than any other public figure in recent years, to raise the consciousness of Americans by dramatically illustrating, not just the enormity of the energy challenge, but creative and practical ways of dealing with it.
How pathetic that in the midst of a presidential campaign the loudest voices we are hearing on this subject are crying: “Drill! Drill! Drill!”
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
IGN gave it a 9.4, with Hillary Goldstein saying "There is not a person on this planet that should go without this game." As many of you know, Bionic Commando is one of my very favorite 8 bit NES games of all time. To see it honorably resurrected to its proper original 2D form, with incredible new graphics and bosses, is truly a dream come true. Five years ago, something like this, or Mega Man 9, was unthinkable. 2008 is the year when downloadable games have come into their own, and at this point I could honestly recommend buying an Xbox 360 just for the XBLA games. This latest re-envisioning of a true 8 bit classic appears to be the crowning jewel.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
Iraq and Afghanistan are the messes getting attention today, but they are only symptoms of a much broader cancer in American foreign policy.
A few glimpses of this larger affliction:
¶The United States has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats.
¶This year alone, the United States Army will add about 7,000 soldiers to its total; that’s more people than in the entire American Foreign Service.
¶More than 1,000 American diplomatic positions are vacant because the Foreign Service is so short-staffed, but a myopic Congress is refusing to finance even modest new hiring. Some 1,100 could be hired for the cost of a single C-17 military cargo plane.
In short, the United States is hugely overinvesting in military tools and underinvesting in diplomatic tools. The result is a lopsided foreign policy that antagonizes the rest of the world and is ineffective in tackling many modern problems.
After all, you can’t bomb global warming.
Incredibly, the most eloquent spokesman for more balance between “hard power” and “soft power” is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Mr. Gates, who is superb in repairing the catastrophe left behind by Donald Rumsfeld, has given a series of astonishing speeches in which he calls for more resources for the State Department and aid agencies.
“One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win,” Mr. Gates said. He noted that the entire American diplomatic corps — about 6,500 people — is less than the staffing of a single aircraft carrier group, yet Congress isn’t interested in paying for a larger Foreign Service.
“It simply does not have the built-in, domestic constituency of defense programs,” Mr. Gates said. “As an example, the F-22 aircraft is produced by companies in 44 states; that’s 88 senators.”
With the Olympics unfolding in China now, the Navy and the Air Force are seizing upon China’s rise as an excuse to grab tens of billions of dollars for the F-22, for an advanced destroyer, for new attack submarines. But we’re failing to invest minuscule sums to build good will among Chinese.
For the price of one F-22, we could — for 25 years — operate American libraries in each Chinese province, pay for more Chinese-American exchanges, and hire more diplomats prepared to appear on Chinese television and explain in fluent Chinese what American policy is. And for the price of one M.R.E. lunch for one soldier, the State Department could make a few phone calls to push the Chinese leadership to respond to the Dalai Lama’s olive branch a few days ago, helping to eliminate a long-term irritant in U.S.-China relations.
Then there’s the Middle East. Dennis Ross, the longtime Middle East peace negotiator, says he has been frustrated “beyond belief” to see resources showered on the military while diplomacy has to fight for scraps. Mr. Ross argues that an investment of just $1 billion — financing job creation and other grass-roots programs in the West Bank — could significantly increase the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace. But that money isn’t forthcoming.
Our intuitive approach to fighting terrorists and insurgents is to blow things up. But one of the most cost-effective counterterrorism methods in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan may be to build things up, like schooling and microfinance. Girls’ education sometimes gets more bang for the buck than a missile.
A new study from the RAND Corporation examined how 648 terror groups around the world ended between 1968 and 2006. It found that by far the most common way for them to disappear was to be absorbed by the political process. The second most common way was to be defeated by police work. In contrast, in only 7 percent of cases did military force destroy the terrorist group.
“There is no battlefield solution to terrorism,” the report declares. “Military force usually has the opposite effect from what is intended.”
The next president should absorb that lesson and revalidate diplomacy as the primary tool of foreign policy — even if that means talking to ogres. Take Iran. Until recently, the American officials in charge of solving the Iranian problem were not even allowed to meet Iranians.
“We need to believe in the power of American diplomacy, and we should not believe a military conflict with Iran is inevitable,” said Nicholas Burns, until recently the under secretary of state for political affairs and for three years the government’s point person on Iran. “Our first impulse should be a serious and patient and persistent diplomatic effort. Too often in our national debate we focus on the military option and give short shrift to the diplomatic option.”
So here’s a first step: Let’s agree that diplomats should be every bit as much of an American priority as musicians in military bands.
Friday, August 8, 2008
OK, now Im officially pumped for this game. Before, you know, there was a moderate amount of hype in my mind, but now the pumpage levels have reached critical. The game really looks like its gonna play fantastically as well as look really much better than any of us expected. Everyone who has played this at location tests in Japan and Las Vegas is saying its probably the best Street Fighter game to date, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. I have to say that from the trailers I thought the whole game was 3D, but it turns out the characters and backgrounds are all 3D, but the gameplay takes place on a 2D plane, making for a 2.5D effect. Im truly thrilled about that design decision. Other games can go fully 3D if they want to, but it just wouldnt feel like Street Fighter is you could sidestep Ryu's Hadoukens. 2008 really is one of Capcom's best years in recent memory as a game company, and this title looks to be their crowning achievement. It looks like the hand drawn remake coming out on XBLA and PSN this fall, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, is just gonna be a appetizer before the main course.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Sometimes you just wish you were a photographer. I simply do not have the words to describe the awesome majesty of Greenland’s Kangia Glacier, shedding massive icebergs the size of skyscrapers and slowly pushing them down the Ilulissat Fjord until they crash into the ocean off the west coast of Greenland. There, these natural ice sculptures float and bob around the glassy waters near here. You can sail between them in a fishing boat, listening to these white ice monsters crackle and break, heave and sigh, as if they were noisily protesting their fate.
You are entirely alone here amid the giant icebergs, save for the solitary halibut fisherman who floats by. Our Greenlandic boat skipper sidles up to the tiny fishing craft, where my hosts buy a few halibut right out of his nets, slice open the tender cheeks and cut me the freshest halibut sushi I’ve ever tasted. “Greenland fast food,” quips Kim Kielsen, Greenland’s minister of the environment.
We wash it down with Scotch whiskey cooled by a 5,000-year-old ice cube chipped off one of the floating glacier bits. Some countries have vintage whiskey. Some have vintage wine. Greenland has vintage ice.
Alas, though, I do not work for National Geographic. This is the opinion page. And my trip with Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day.
We’ve charged their future on our Visa cards. We’ve added so many greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for our generation’s growth, that our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy. And now our leaders are telling them the way out is “offshore drilling” for more climate-changing fossil fuels.
Madness. Sheer madness. [emphasis added - ed.]
Most people assume that the effects of climate change are going to be felt through another big disaster, like Katrina. Not necessarily, says Minik Thorleif Rosing, a top geologist at Denmark’s National History Museum and one of my traveling companions. “Most people will actually feel climate change delivered to them by the postman,” he explains. It will come in the form of higher water bills, because of increased droughts in some areas; higher energy bills, because the use of fossil fuels becomes prohibitive; and higher insurance and mortgage rates, because of much more violently unpredictable weather.
Remember: climate change means “global weirding,” not just global warming.
Greenland is one of the best places to observe the effects of climate change. Because the world’s biggest island has just 55,000 people and no industry, the condition of its huge ice sheet — as well as its temperature, precipitation and winds — is influenced by the global atmospheric and ocean currents that converge here. Whatever happens in China or Brazil gets felt here. And because Greenlanders live close to nature, they are walking barometers of climate change.
That’s how I learned a new language here: “Climate-Speak.”
It’s easy to learn. There are only three phrases. The first is: “Just a few years ago ...” Just a few years ago you could dogsled in winter from Greenland, across a 40-mile ice bank, to Disko Island. But for the past few years, the rising winter temperatures in Greenland have melted that link. Now Disko is cut off. Put away the dogsled.
There has been a 30 percent increase in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet between 1979 and 2007, and in 2007, the melt was 10 percent bigger than in any previous year, said Konrad Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, which monitors the ice. Greenland is now losing 200 cubic kilometers of ice per year — from melt and ice sliding into the ocean from outlet glaciers along its edges — which far exceeds the volume of all the ice in the European Alps, he added. “Everything is happening faster than anticipated.”
The second phrase is: “I’ve never seen that before...” It rained in December and January in Ilulissat. This is well above the Arctic Circle! It’s not supposed to rain here in winter. Said Steffen: “Twenty years ago, if I had told the people of Ilulissat that it would rain at Christmas 2007, they would have just laughed at me. Today it is a reality.”
The third phrase is: “Well usually ...but now I don’t know anymore.” Traditional climate patterns that Greenland elders have known their whole lives have changed so quickly in some places that “the accumulated experience of older people is not as valuable as before,” said Rosing. The river that was always there is now dry. The glacier that always covered that hill has disappeared. The reindeer that were always there when the hunting season opened on Aug. 1 didn’t show up.
No wonder everyone here speaks climate now — your kids will, too, and sooner than they think.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The video isnt playing for me, if you can fix it MD give it a shot.
For the rest of you, open the video by clicking at the top if it doesnt play.
Chariots of Fire playing in the background makes this video.
Yeah, it was kind of a slow news day in the gaming world. That, and Im going to play Dungeons and Dragons with a few old friends for the first time in roughly 15 years, so I dont have time to write anything. And I still havent sent MD this damn box of broken game controllers, or that guy on ebay his copy of Civilization Revolution.
Civ Rev isnt a bad game at all, I think maybe its the best possible way to introduce someone to Civ, but having played the PC version of Civ 4 and its expansions for years its hard to have so much user control over the play experience removed. Not being able to pick the map size and game speed is probably a good thing for newer players but I just cant help but feel like the default speed a a hair too fast. You go from having Knights to having Riflemen to having Tanks in a dozen turns if you spend all your resources on Technology.
Even with small maps, its easy for your army to become outdated by the time it reaches another civilization's distant capital city. Also, the AI is much more agressive than in ealier versions of Civ, unless you shower them with gifts and bribes, and give in to their every demand. Ghandi - who in the PC version plays a very peaceful, diplomatic AI routine, sent in his Knights after the slightest disagreement over some Tech that he wanted from me. Probably my fault for blasting his borders with massive amounts of culture, but the interactions with the AI still feels different enough from the PC version that my actions feel out of place. I guess if I wanted to really play Civ Rev and beat it on Diety setting, I would have to unlearn what I have learned form Civ 4. The problem is, its hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
"The Bydo empire must be destroyed. Again. The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification has rated a new title in the series, named R-Type Dimensions, for an upcoming Xbox Live Arcade release. The surprise announcement, dug up by GamerBytes, shows that Microsoft will publish, but that developer Tozai will handle all the coding wizardry.
Unfortunately, there's little else in the way of concrete info for R-Type Dimensions, such as whether it will be a totally new entry in the series or a HD remake of a previous entry. Whatever the outcome, we don't care. It's R-Type!"
-Michael McWhertor of Kotaku
I hate to be the one to say this, but I never really got into the R-Type series. I downloaded them via PSN, but after finding myself trying to memorize EVERYTHING in the levels into order to pass them, I was done. Pretty funny coming from a guy who's a self-proclaimed Ikaruga obsessor. I'm sure Chronic on the other hand is a fan of the series. Maybe this is my own chance to finally get into it.
Monday, August 4, 2008
OK, so I have heard some significant hype regarding the upcoming XBLA game Castle Crashers, and I had no clue what it was all about. So, Ive checked it out, and it looks like this is going to be yet another winner for XBLA this summer. Its a hand drawn hack n' slash action RPG with upgradable weapons and skills, all playable with 4 person coop over Xbox Live, developed by Behemoth, the creators of Alien Hominid.
Check out these features:
* Intuitive combo and magic system: Unlock new combos and magical attacks as your character progresses through the game. You have an almost limitless amount of combos to perform alone, or with a group of friends.
* Arena mode: This mode allows players to battle each other head-on with four unique modes to choose from!
* Experience system: As you fight your way through the various levels of Castle Crashers, your character gains more experience points that will in return give you the option to adjust your four main stats -- Strength, Magic, Defense, and Agility.
* Weapons weapons weapons! Each player has the ability to unlock more than 40 weapons.
* Animal orbs: These little companions add enhancements to your attributes. Each pet has different abilities to benefit you, with various ways of unlocking each one. Defeat a boss and steal his companion, dig them up, or buy them at a store.
* Treasure hunt: Unlockable items, weapons, pet companions, and characters are buried throughout the various levels of Castle Crashers.
* Stores: Spread across the various worlds of Castle Crashers, every store has specific items to sell. Collect gold from killing enemies, finding treasures, or opening chests, then take your collected gold to these stores for some weapons, items, character unlocks, and more!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The Last True Boss from the Japanese arcade game Mushihimesama Futari by the developer Cave. The final boss from the original Mushihimesama on the "Ultra" difficulty mode was widely considered to be the hardest ever before this sequal came out. Not only is the screen completely and utterly drenched in overlapping bullet patterns, but the player is subjected to the unusual cruelty of completely draining the bosses health bar only to see it fill right back up and an even nastier form reappear. I can't even imagine what people playing this in the arcades felt like when they finally destroyed the boss after 3 minutes of pure torture, only too see it come cackling back with a mind boggling array of new, seemingly undodgeable bullet patterns. The player's only consolation is a hit box the size of a single pixel: the pilot's canopy.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Amazingly, not even 11 months after the original game was released we are already hearing about Skate 2. Fortunately, the game looks to be just about everything you would want it to be: a totally revamped city, expanded trick set, the ability to get off your board and walk around, interact with movable objects in the world such as benches and tables, do handplants and hippie jumps, and play as a female character. The new game now runs at a liquid smooth 60 frames per second, incredible when you consider the increased texture work, lighting and shading. The developer has referred to Skate 2 as "epic" in breadth and depth, representing a geometric, exponential expansion of the game design rather than a linear progression which would have resulted in Skate 1.5
I think the original game is still fantastic and I play it regularly even though only 1 person on my friends list has it and I met him online in the game! Nobody else on my friends list took to it. The controls are totally unforgiving and it takes quite a while to get your head around them before you can interact comfortably with the world, and even then half the moves seem impossible to pull off with 100% consistency. But the whole things just looks, sounds, and feels so great you forgive the steep learning curve and just keep getting back on your board, broken ribs and all. It sure doesnt play like Tony Hawk - and thats why I keep coming back to it.
Skate is a great game but it never crossed over into the mainstream because it was bit too hardcore, but if they refinine the controls and the single player missions structure a bit differently, to ease the player into the world with a smooth learning curve rather than throwing them into the wilderness butt naked, and then top it all off with a massively mutliplayer persistent online world with a ton of stuff to do, EA could have a truly monster franchise and possibly one of the best console games of this or any generation.