Cultural Enrichment, Issue 1

Good evening. Welcome to the first edition of an enlightening and likely short-lived feature.

It is vital, dear reader, that you visit http://raptorsafari.com/. Off-Road Velociraptor Safari is a free web-based game that was released today by the folks at Flashbang Studios. The object, as you’ve guessed from the name (if you’re a crazy person), is to speed around in a Jeep, committing vehicular homicide against velociraptors and then hauling their feathered carcasses to extraction points. The story, if we must assume there is one, seems to involve time travel and cannibalism – raptors are described as food, although the driver of your Jeep is himself a velociraptor. Wearing a monocle.

And if you’re not playing by now, I don’t know what else to say. Should you desire to track your progress towards better well-roundedness in relation to my own, aim for my high score of 931,250. And from there, the stars! Eventually Off-Road Velociraptor Safari will be released on Xbox LIVE Arcade, which could be fairly amazing when and if they add multiplayer.

Source: The forums at Penny Arcade, by way of my roommate.

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Most Wonderful Person Ever Leaves Race

Was John Edwards paying somebody to write press releases? Because as it turns out, he could have saved a few bucks and bought a coat or two for the naked hobo children he’s always going on about. From the Associated Press:

DENVER – Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters’ sympathies, The Associated Press has learned.

Also, John Edwards loves poor people. He loves poor people more than anyone ever has.

So now the Democratic race is between two far left progressives instead of three far left progressives. But then, hasn’t it always been?

[Update 01/30/08 5:23pm] I love the way the AP updates stories throughout the day with no mention that a previous version was ever published. It’s an awesome contribution to a more transparent political process.

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(Not a) Party Guy

I don’t think I’ve mentioned my feelings on this round of Republican primaries yet, and I’m sure that’s been difficult for the American public in general. Consequently, the topic is a good opportunity for me to broaden the bits and pieces I’ve brought up regarding how I feel about politics.

I am not a party guy, or operative, or whatever angrier term one might use. I’m a Republican because I think there are certain things government should manage in return for our tax dollars (national defense, transportation, criminal justice) and certain things they should not (nearly everything else). That we can afford to provide some degree of safety netting in education, retirement, and health care is well and good. That pandering politicians insist these are somehow inalienable rights lends to a sort of socialist scope creep which, in my opinion… sucks. Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of this, but a Republican is at least unlikely to do it constantly (see: Edwards, John, a trial attorney obsessed with income redistribution).

As a conservative 24-year-old with low tolerance for b.s. and relatively weak party ties, I should be all about McCain, right? That seems to be the conventional “wisdom” coming from the big paper and TV news outlets. Thing is, when it comes to the important issues it’s almost impossible to guess where John McCain is going to stand. McCain is assertive about fighting Islamism overseas; he’s for amnesty when it comes to securing the borders. McCain stands for straight talk; somehow he also got his name on pretty terrible campaign finance reform and is prone to the “no tax cuts for the wealthy” line. McCain hates bureaucracy, but hearts the global warming regulations boondoggle.

With Thompson out and Giuliani crashing, Romney looks more and more like my favorite Mormon candidate. Come to think of it, he’s probably my favorite Mormon, too… sorry Senator Reid. There are some questions about Mitt’s credentials, but I was leaning his direction even before the field’s recent narrowing. Given the option between Romney’s waffling and McCain’s downright unpredictability, Romney strikes me as the most reliable conservative in the race. Given the option between McCain and any of the Democratic choices, I’d tick the box for McCain – but we’ll burn that bridge when we get there.

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Embittered Trash-men

Every Tuesday I feel renewed amazement that the garbage trucks here could be so loud. Is it really necessary to bash the dumpsters into the ground and each other quite this aggressively?

More than once I’ve gone to the window to make sure there aren’t two dump trucks out there, passing dumpsters hither and yon across the parking lot, persistent despite the fact that they drop ‘em every single time.

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Thoughts on Dubya’s Last SOTU

If you’re the type of person who cares to watch the President’s annual State of the Union Address, I think the most important thing to remember is to turn the TV off immediately after the closing “…and God bless America!” I care what the President has to say; I do not care what Katie Couric has to say about what he’s just said. If it were possible to un-care, that would be how I feel about it.

So here we are, with a few of the things that stood out for me. To begin with, it was cool to see a familiar (if not exceedingly tan) face entering behind the President. Having grown up in Boehner’s district, I’ve volunteered for a handful of his events and have met the Minority Leader a time or two. Probably as close to fame as I’ll ever come. I never expected to be so happy to see John Kerry sitting in the audience. And, if I were a Barack Obama supporter (I’m with Derb on this one), the sight of him chumming it up with Ted Kennedy would have me concerned.

My favorite line was probably:

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless Congress acts, most of the tax relief we’ve delivered over the past seven years will be taken away.

Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase.

Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who will see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

I’m glad the President was strong on earmarks, strong on entitlement programs, and strong on tax increases. If his actions through the rest of the year match his words from tonight, this will be a very productive lame duck year. I think he did a good job of highlighting successes and challenges in the Middle East – he’s probably too optimistic, but I guess somebody needs to be. All in all, the speech was strong at the beginning and end, with a little too much “compassionate conservative” mush in the middle.

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Today’s English Lesson

From today’s AP story, “Congress Unveils Economic Stimulus Deal“:

Individuals who pay income taxes would get up to $600, working couples $1,200 and those with children an additional $300 per child under the agreement. Workers who make at least $3,000 but don’t pay taxes would get $300 rebates. [Ed. - Emphasis mine.]

From the Dictionary.com definition of “rebate“:

-noun
1. a return of part of the original payment for some service or merchandise; partial refund.

For the record, I pay taxes and would rather the Federal government keep my dollars than hand them out like party favors. Ideally they’d take less to begin with, and spend less on pork and entitlement programs, but let’s not go too wild here.

With any luck the Senate will do nothing to stimulate the economy, instead of this $150 billion something. Sad that “nothing” is usually the best we can hope for from the Senate.

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Vindication, But not Mine

My past few days have been marked by a series of miniature disasters. Last week I bought another 50 shares of Intel stock to go with the 50 shares I purchased a month or so ago.

INTC 5-day graph - Yahoo Finance

Late last week, Warner Bros. announced they would discontinue their HD-DVD offerings this spring. Great news for Sony, whose crappy overpriced game console makes for a great, affordable Blu-Ray player. Bad news for… well, Intel, for one, but also for anybody annoyed with Sony’s storied history of seeing how many ways you can put “expensive” and “proprietary” in the same sentence.

And then the Buckeyes got smoked in the national championship game. Again. As it turns out, the analysts saying the Big Ten’s down and the SEC is up are still right. At least Brandon Saine got to see the ball sometime other than the last 2:00 of the 4th quarter, and Chris Wells threw about the most brutal stiff-arm in history.

Finally, I got a friendly email this morning from Chase cardmember services. “Your payment is due” is lender-ese for “Your payment was due three weeks ago, but this automated email doesn’t go out until you’ve incurred a late fee and some finance charges.” Thanks, guys. Sorry I’ve been trying to starve your children by always paying my statement in full.

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Nerdcraft

It’s been long enough, I think, since I canceled my World of Warcraft account that I can mock the game without being knocked from my chair by Hypocrisy in some corporeal form.

By any estimation, there are way too many people – somewhere around 9 million active accounts, last I heard – paying monthly subscriptions to play Warcraft for the game to be just a trend. In my case, several friends started playing while we were still in school, and I was glad to join in as soon as I had a job and a broadband connection. The prospect of running around a huge virtual world with the guys, beating the virtual tar out of virtual enemies controlled by lesser nerds the world over, made several months of catch-up seem worthwhile.

And, for a good long time, it was. There’s a lot to Nerdcraft, and we had hours of fun completing quests and picking fights. We’d stumble upon a group of morons tormenting new players, and kick them around until they ran away. We developed quite the skillset for finding the lamest, dirtiest players around, then smashing their faces until they cried and logged off.

The problem came from our lack of virtual dedication: the better your pretend armor and weapons, the tougher your character gets, and when the annoying losers playing the game (it’s a game that attracts more than a few) spend 4-6 hours every day grinding for better gear… most fights are determined by mathematics alone. Um, sure, I’d love to sit at my desk for 30 hours a week clicking 2 buttons a hundred billion times so I could be that awesome. Thing is, I already have a job, so I’ll pass.

I never wanted to play World of Fight This Monster Four Times A Week Until Your Armor All Matches, but unfortunately that’s what the Warcraft developers had in mind for anybody who hangs around more than a few months. I should add that for every complaint my friends and I have about Warcraft it sounds like Warhammer (“Nerdhammer,” to keep the theme consistent?) poses a solution. Until then, if you see one of the Warcraft commercials on TV and think “Wow, that must be the dorkiest thing ever,” ..you’re right!

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