Thursday, October 28, 2004

Pushing the Pause Button

This isn't something that I know for sure that I want to do, but I think it will be the best thing for me right now. As of today, I'm going to take a small hiatus from my writing and journaling at this site. I've been contemplating this for a little while now (as might be evidenced by the utter scarcity of content over the last month). I have many reasons, but the biggest is that right now I don't feel like my life is really in order. My emotions are constantly swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other, seemingly of their own will and I want to focus on getting ironed out what I see as problems in my life. Well, maybe problems is a bad word, but I definitely have issues that I want to take care of.

There are many of these issues, some of which are 100% personal, and some that I really don't care if anyone knows. Part of the reason for taking a break from writing here is that more and more I've only wanted to write about those things that are solely personal and not things that I didn't care if people knew about. I think that was probably the first sign.

Over the last few weeks, probably percolating back even a few months, I've encountered a lot of things in my life that I had either never experienced or hadn't had to deal with for a long time. One of the biggest adjustments I've been trying to make is the change from college life to that of the work world. I know it's been almost a year, but I still am having a hard time adjusting. One facet that keeps rearing its ugly head is the difference in my social life. Right now, I don't really have much of one. The number of close friends I have to turn to right now is pretty darn low. I've also found that some of the close friendships I had in college didn't translate into close friendships outside of it.

I am very thankful for being able to live with my family, however, as they've alleviated some of my anxiety and depression, and at the same time I've grown closer to my parents because of it.

On the other hand, it's become very clear to me that many of my extended family don't give two shits about me or my direct family. There has been a lot of inner turmoil in our extended family and I have finally decided to take a stand and not let certain members walk all over us. It will probably close a lot of ties with that section of my family, but I'm willing to deal with those consequences.

This family strife, along with many other factors, had killed my desire to exercise and really try to stay in shape. Recently, my being out of shape has been another point of stress for me. My personal self esteem has plummeted with lack of fitness. In order to correct this, I want to put forth a very concerted effort to regain my fitness, and even excel beyond the shape I was previously in.

My lack of self esteem hasn't been solely because of my fitness, but also because of my job. From this, you may think I have a bad job, but I really don't. It's not a high stress job, which I'm happy about. I work in a great environment with some really cool people, but I've been criticized that it's a lame job or that I'm not really doing anything with it. I used to shrug it off, but it has made me think. I'm a technical writer and web developer here at Kingland, and I enjoy doing what I do (most of the time), but I've been thinking about the other areas of writing that I might like to explore.

Like I've said before, I've thought about starting an online comic strip to branch out in to a more visual medium and work on some comedic writing. With my love of comic books, I've also thought of attempting to get a script looked at by some publishing companies. For me to do this, however, I need a script to send off. I have been mulling over some ideas and stories, and maybe now would be a good time to explore that path.

Someone very close to me told me that she knew what she needed to do, yet she didn't. She felt a calling to do something, yet she didn't quite know what it was, but she knew it was there. At that time, I didn't really understand. Right now, I still don't completely understand, but I do feel like maybe something is out there that I need to do, yet haven't. The only difference is, I don't feel any such calling. Up until recently, everything for me was simple, uncomplicated, and I knew where everything was going. With some of what's happened in my life over the past few months, I'm feeling lost. I had a path that I knew I was on, but somewhere along the way I got off of it and now I'm not quite sure where I need to go to get back.

Over this time, I have also had a few big decisions that I'd been thinking of making and now I realize that maybe I need to re-evaluate them. Things change and unfortunately I didn't really factor that into my thoughts.

So with all of that said, I will be taking a break from writing here. I'm sure I'll have plenty to say down the line, but right now I want to focus on things in my life personally, instead of bringing them to light here, no matter how wonderful of an outlet this site has been for me. I'll be back in time, and I'm not giving up writing completely (my work IS writing). You can still see an occasional post from me on Sarcasm, Inc. and I'll still be writing up some reviews at Decoy and Behind the Times, but as for personal writings, I just need a little time off. For the few readers that actually come here, thanks for bearing with me.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Political Beliefs

With the election fast approaching (thank goodness), I thought that I might make my one political post pertaining to how I am going to select who I vote for. Being an independent, I vote based on who I think is the best, not on party lines. In my mind, neither of the two candidates running will do a good job, but it's a fact that one of the two is going to be our president for the next four years. Instead of explaining why I back one or the other, I would rather look at the major issues in the political spotlight and how I feel about each of them. I'm admittedly not a political pundit, and I might not know all of the details behind some of the facets of how politics works, but from where I stand, this is how I would run our country if given the opportunity (but hopefully that won't happen as I don't trust myself with the job!).

Social Security: Personally I think the battle to keep social security active is a hopeless losing one. The government hasn't been able to keep their hands out of social security funds and when you combine that with social security payments not being enough for retired people to live on and the ability of current workers to fund their own retirement funds, I feel the entire program should simply be axed.

People need to take some personal responsibility for their futures. One of them is putting money away or investing it for the future. I also don't like the fact that if I am using an alternate form of retirement planning, such as funding a 401(k) or other plan, I can't opt out of the government's social security plan. I would love to remove myself from the social security pool, but I can't. Social security is going to eventually fail and I'm willing to let it happen now.

The War in Iraq: To start off, I don't think we should have been there in the first place. I didn't have a problem with going after Osama and Afghanistan because they were related to the attacks on the US, but a pre-emptive strike on a nation that we "thought" might have weapons that they "may" use against us just didn't sit well with me. As it is now, I really think that we should get out of there while we can. Along with getting out of Iraq, I think we should pull out of the Israel/Pakistan area as well. I know that horrible things are going on over there, but we need to focus on our own country instead of sticking our noses in other people's problems.

I've been told that this a naive viewpoint and that it will only lead to more attacks on the US, but I tend to disagree. If we pull out of middle eastern conflicts, I see us as becoming less of a threat. If we're not bothering anyone over there, then what reason would they have for attacking us? Spite? Maybe. Some overriding hate fostered by what we've done over there in the past? Maybe. I seriously think, though, that if we stay out of their business, they won't be as apt to want to attack us.

Taxes: Well, I'd have to be an idiot to say that I don't want higher taxes. I understand that our government has to pay for everything it does one way or another (or at least it's supposed to). What I don't like is the richest portion of our nation having to pay what are some of the lowest percentages. Because they have so much money they can hire lawyers that make so they don't have to pay very much in taxes. My solution has always been a flat income tax--everyone pays 20% of their income or something like that. After thinking about it for a while I can see how that would really hurt some people who don't make a lot of money and it still wouldn't hurt the rich too much. A sliding tax rate seems like the best thing, but I really do think the rich need to pay a lot more than the middle and lower class. It just sucks that all of the rich people hold the power so there's no way they're going to make it so they have to pay more.

Global Trade/Economy: This is a tough one. With our economy dwindling because of so much outsourcing and foreign competition, I'm somewhat at a loss of how to solve the problem. What company wouldn't want to use cheaper labor to produce their products? Because that's the mentality of most businesses, they use the labor markets of other countries which in turn leads to more unemployment here. I've tossed around the idea of imposing tariffs on goods from companies that employ such practices, but I don't know how well that would work and what the WTO would have to say about it. The only real solution I can think of leads into my next topic, education.

Education: This is extremely important to me. I believe that everyone needs to have an education, and a good one at that. I went to a public school in a small rural area here in Minnesota so it wasn't too bad of an experience. I got a decent education, but when I made the transition to a private college education environment, I realized how unprepared I really was for an intensive learning regime. Thankfully I adjusted quickly (and being my high school valedictorian probably helped a little), but I don't think everyone can do that. To offset the cheap labor offered in other countries for menial jobs, we need to educate the majority of the people to a point where they're capable of doing tasks more complicated than asking someone if they want to supersize their meal. I would have no problem paying more taxes if I knew that the money I was paying was going to help out our countries schools. Oh, and on a side note, I don't believe in school vouchers. The money should go towards funding our public school system.

Health Care: I don't have a lot to say about this topic except that I don't like the gigantic subsidies that pharmaceutical companies are getting from the government. I really think that the billions of dollars we're pouring into their pockets is unnecessary. I also don't like the policy that is in place involving the use of drugs from other countries, namely Canada. If they can get medications to us for cheaper, why not use theirs? (I know, this gets back to my argument about world trade, but when it comes to someone's health, I think we need to help as many people as we can for as little money as possible).

Gun Control: I personally don't like guns at all and will never own one, but they do have their uses. People should be able to own guns if they want, but there should be a strict regulation of what types of guns can be owned. I'm completely against assault weapons, handguns, and other weapons that are horribly unnecessary for what they'd be used for. Owning rifles for hunting or target shooting is ok, but I don't like other types of weapons in the hands of everyday people.

Abortion: I don't approve of abortion in the least. I think that life is something that is sacred and abortion treats a human baby like a disease that needs to be purged for someone to continue living normally. A baby is not a disease. There's thousands of people waiting to adopt children and I see that as an acceptable route for unplanned pregnancies, not termination. I hate killing for any reason, and abortion kills innocent people for some of the stupidest and most selfish reasons that I can think of.

The Environment: I really think that we need to do more to protect our environment. Pollution in big cities is out of control. More and more open land is being developed into urban sprawls and industrial areas. I would like, as much as possible, to see it remain natural land. I know that the population is expanding and businesses are expanding, but I really feel that we should protect nature.

So, now you know how I feel about some of the big ticket topics in the election. It's easy to see that I don't line up exactly with either candidate, but for my vote, I'm going to have to go with Kerry in this election. He might not line up with all of my values, but I feel he might do a better job than Bush would for another four years. We'll find out pretty soon which one we get, though, and then hopefully all of the political talk will die down.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Baseball, Again?

Who would have thought that I'd be talking about baseball two days in a row? Me, someone who utterly detests the players of the sport and can't stand to watch it 99% of the time. I didn't think I'd ever talk about it either, but how can you not when Boston has so graciously put the Yankees in the history books for the third time this season.

Their first record this season came when they fielded a $182 million + payroll--the largest in major league baseball history to date (but that'll probably change next year as the Yanks are expected to spend nearly 200 million). I just don't know what to say to their huge advantage in spending in comparison to every other team in baseball. Some of the teams on the bottom of the list wouldn't hardly be able to pay for one player on the Yankees, let alone field what is virtually an All-Star caliber team.

Their second record came in their humiliating 22-0 loss to the Indians. It was the largest defeat in Yankee history by the highest paid iteration of the team. How fitting. I remember having a joyful time laughing when I caught that story on ESPN. How could a team that is supposed to be SO good get hammered so bad (by a team that was less than .500 at the time)? Your guess is as good as mine, but I know it made me feel all warm inside.

Now you have their biggest claim to fame in that they are the only team to be up 3-0 in a playoff series and lose. Never in baseball's extensive history has this ever happened... until now when this year's Red Sox team dismantled the evil empire... err, the Yankees. Seeing the looks on the faces of all of the Yankee players was priceless, especially on that ass-clown A-rod. He's such a dink that it almost goes beyond comprehension some of the crap he says or does (and that's just from the little bit of baseball I've watched and the game summaries I've read on ESPN).

Then there's the New York fans, as wonderful as they are, being total douche-bombs during and after the game. What was up with their chanting "Who's your daddy?" during the game? It seemed really dumb and made it feel like I was watching a high school baseball game where there's those three kids in the student section of the stands that start acting like nutsacs and get the rest of the kids to chant along. I can understand changing "defense" or other standard cheers, but "Who's your daddy?". Come on.

After the game it gets even more hairy, however, as some fans who were at the game sporting Red Sox attire were beat up by Yankees fans. How awesome is that? Just because someone is wearing clothes that sport the logo of the opposing team they should be beat up? I don't get it. How can some people be so totally inhumane and uncaring?

Anyhow, I'm just happy about the outcome of the game and I'm sure most of the baseball fans in the US share my feelings (except for those nasty New Yorkers). What's really funny, at least to me, is that I won't be watching the world series and don't really care who wins it or not. I only watched what I did to see the Yankees crash and burn. To me, the Boston/New York championship series was the world series.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Mindless Ranting About Baseball

For the first time in a really long time I actually watched some baseball. Last night as I was getting ready for bed I caught the end of the Yankees/Red Sox game. In watching the game, I made a mental note not to watch it very much ever again. In the short half hour or 45 minutes I watched, my mind developed a long laundry list of reasons why I hate major league baseball. I watched the game feeling nothing but contempt for the sport, the players, and the fans. I'm sure there's some good apples in the bunch, but from what I saw, the game showcased many terrible things about the world of baseball.

First, I still have such a hard time fathoming how baseball still survives with such an uneven playing field. The Yankees have a bajillion dollar payroll while most other teams pay their entire roster less than a single player on the Yanks. It just boggles my mind how people can continue to cheer for the Yankees when they're basically the equivalent of Microsoft, a monopoly with a stranglehold on an industry. The Yankees simply write out a ludicrously large check to any player they would like to come play for them and then let the rest of the league duke it out for whoever is left over. Microsoft does the same thing. If they see something they like, they usually buy it outright and use it for their own use (Bungie is a perfect example).

Besides the uneven playing field that is major league baseball are the players themselves. Reading some of the quotes from A-rod in the game summary and watching how he played made him seem like nothing more than an overpaid baby. In the process of being tagged out at first, he smacked the other player's glove that had the ball in it to knock it out. Come on, A-rod, are we still in fifth grade here? The last time I'd seen someone do that, I was 12 years old and playing a pickup game of baseball at recess. You're going to get tagged out, so just take the tag like any normal player and go sit back down.

To top it off, he says after the game that instead of swatting the ball away he should have just run the guy over because the baseline is his and he was too nice by trying to avoid the tag. Wow, now that's even better. Why didn't he just whine about how the Red Sox stole his favorite Tonka truck and broke his G.I.Joes too? Grow up.

Then there's his quote about how the umps shouldn't get together to talk over calls because it always seems to go against the Yankees. I don't know if he was saying this in jest or not, but either way it's lame. The umps get together to make the correct calls instead of making snap judgments that could easily be wrong. They made the right call, so stop acting like you didn't try to knock the ball out.

Now, the fans, there's another group of winners. When the call didn't go the Yankee's way, they start throwing baseballs and debris at the umps. Thank you for making it even easier for me to sympathize with Frank Francisco when he tossed a chair at a heckler. Fans, you paid to see a game. What you didn't pay for was the right to attempt to commit bodily harm. You all make A-rod look like Stephen Hawking. There should be no reason that police officers have to line the outside of the field of a baseball game simply for it to be finished.

I'm horribly pissed off right now just thinking about the sheer amount of idiocy involved in just the short amount of time I watched of one baseball game last night. Honestly, if the sport up and disappeared tomorrow, I would not miss it a bit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Arrival

It arrived! My new computer came in the mail yesterday. So what did I do as soon as I opened the box? Open up the computer itself and start monkeying around, of course. I ordered a Sony Vaio RS620G from Amazon (since Best Buy wouldn't honor their own coupons, but that's a story for a later date). Since I had some spare parts lying around (and traded my brother for a new video card), I delved into the computers insides to upgrade the heck out of it right off the bat.

Instead of the Radeon 9200 that came with it, I swapped it out for a Radeon 9600 Pro 256 MB video card for some intense Unreal Tournament 2004 gaming. I also added in another 512 MB RAM stick for a total of 1 gig of memory to complement the 3 Ghz Pentium 4 processor. Not satisfied with the 160 gig hard drive, I also added in another 80 gig drive that I had for a total of 240 gigs. Add to this all of the digital video editing, dvd burning, and PVR capabilities of this computer and you have one sweet machine that should keep me in geek heaven for a while now.

What actually impresses me most about this computer is the inclusion of a remote control. With this remote, you can control the computer as if it was a multimedia station in your living room. Click the TV button to turn on the tv function. Hit the DVD button to play whatever dvd might be in either of the dvd drives. Hit the media button and turn it into your own jukebox. Hit another button and browse all of the programs you recorded to your HD using the PVR software. I have a bad feeling that I might end up just lying in my bed and playing with my computer via the remote. Man, I feel lazy just thinking about it!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Cubicle Gnomes

Yes, I do realize that it's been a large space of time between this post and my last. I've been busy and also took some time off from work to spend with Kristin since she was nice enough to come down and visit me over her long weekend break from college. In an attempt to catch up, I'm going to simply toss whatever comes to mind up in this post and hopefully you'll find something interesting.

Just in time for Kristin to come visit, the weather turns really cold, windy, and totally sucktastic. Because of the wonderful conditions outdoors that Mother Nature decided to gift us with, we spent most of the time indoors. In being cooped up indoors, we managed to play some video games, watch some movies, do some reading, and just indulge our laziness. Let's look at each of these topics individually, since that's what I feel like doing.

Video game department: Before Kristin arrived, I picked up Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for us to play on the Xbox. It had co-operative multiplayer, so I thought it would be fun for us to play. We actually put in a ton of time playing it (probably 6-8 hours or so) and so far it's been an ok game. It's nothing too wonderful, but it kept us entertained.

While Kristin did some of her homework, I managed to finish up Max Payne 2. I was hoping that it would be a lot better than the first, but it didn't quite surpass it. It also wasn't any worse, though. Pretty much if you played the first, just expect a lot more of the same. There's nothing really new in terms of gameplay or content, just a further exploration of the Max Payne story. That being said, I really had a fun time playing it and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great 3rd person action shooter that actually has a plot (and a pretty good one at that).

Movie department: With our mutual appreciation for the character and the recent passing on of Christopher Reeve, Kristin and I set out to watch all four of the Superman movies over the last few days, but we actually only made it through the first one. We'll just have to finish watching the other three in the box set I got for her when I got up to visit her.

In watching the first Superman movie again, I realized just how far special effects have came in the last 30 or so years. Even with the leaps and bounds forward in special effects, storytelling hasn't gotten too much better, however. The original superman movie is a little cheesy and a little hokey, but overall the story is good. The best parts of the movie are the interactions between Lois & Superman and Lois & Clark. The climax of the movie is somewhat laughable, but could easily have fit into a story written in the comics.

To get out of the house on Saturday, Kristin, Ryan, and me all went to see The Forgotten. Most of the reviews made it out to sound like an ok movie, which is pretty much exactly what it was. I was really enjoying it up until the end, at which point they didn't really explain what was going on throughout the entire movie, thus shattering all of the suspense and mystery that was built throughout. If it wasn't for the totally lackluster ending, I think this would have been a pretty good flick.

Reading department: For this, you should go visit my other blog, Behind the Times. I review what I read there.

Other: Yeah, well, we played some cribbage, watched an episode of Smallville, had dinner with my Grandma, and acted lazy. It was good to have some time off from work to vegetate, but now it's back full bore working as I have a bunch of help files that need to be hammered out right quick. To top it off, while I was out on vacation my cubicle got pranked. Apparently someone or a group of someones decided that it would be neat to move all of my stuff (everything, even my file cabinets), except for my phone and computer, into a closet. I'm thinking I'll just leave everything there and only go get stuff when I need it as I really don't want to redecorate my cube right now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Christopher Reeve, I Miss You Already

Oddly enough, after attending a comic book convention on Saturday (at which I bought many a Superman comic), the man who will embody the character of Superman in most people's minds, Christopher Reeve, passed away on Sunday. Most of the time I wouldn't pay attention to a celebrity death, but this time it's different. Mr. Reeve wasn't your stereotypical celebrity. Ever since the horse riding accident that paralyzed him, he's been a wonderful example of someone who wouldn't give up.

Kristin has always seen his as Superman. To her, Superman wasn't a comic book character, he was the movie character portrayed by Reeve. Ironically, for her birthday, which was a couple of weeks ago, I got her the Superman movie DVD box set. Fittingly, I think we'll watch a couple of them this weekend when she comes down to visit me.

For me Reeve was a wonderful person. Unlike many, I haven't attached "Superman" to him, but instead thought he was a good actor that portrayed Superman well. What I have always thought of Reeve as is a wonderful, positive human being that has shown many of us how to fight past adversity. I can't imagine how I would react to being paralyzed. Much like he initially did, I probably would have thought about ending it all. A life where only my head could function would be such a hard life, yet he managed to turn his into an inspiration for those like him, as well as many fully functional people who were motivationally paralyzed.

I had such a great admiration for this man, even though I've probably never made a point of expressing it to many people, but just the fact that he's persevered for 9 years, and done so much while being in the condition he was in is simply amazing. For him to be as selfless and positive as he was while enduring such a tragic joke of fate has been a compelling example for me of how I would like to live my life. Whatever the cards that are dealt, make the most of them.

I think about how often I whine or complain when things don't go my way. I have to stay a little longer at work one day. I don't get a run in at night. I have to help clean our basement. I don't like driving to and from work every day. All of these things, and many of the other things I complain about, are all so small in comparison and yet Reeve never seemed to be unhappy, lazy, or whiney. He was always the opposite.

It almost feels like losing a loved one, losing someone who has been an inspiration to you. I've never met him and I don't know him personally, but through his actions he had become some I looked up to. Now in his passing I'm left with an empty feeling. I've never mourned for a celebrity, but somehow I feel like it is appropriate now. If anything is a testament to what a great role model he was, it's knowing that I'll actually miss him.

Not to focus too much on the depressing news, I'd like to also give my overview (and swag list) of 2004's Minnesota FallCon. This was the second year in a row that Kristin and I attended. Like last year, it was a fun time and I wished I had more money to spend and more free time to read everything I picked up.

We arrived early in the morning, about a half hour before the show actually started so that we could each get one of the goody bags that was given to the first couple hundred paid admissions. Between Kristin's bag and my own we didn't actually get anything comics-wise I didn't already have except for two issues of Avengers/Thunderbolts.

While we were waiting in line for the show, we were unfortunately confronted by a COG* that decided to talk with Kristin while he waited. He must have been about 50 and he was intent on keeping up a conversation with Kristin as he slowly inched closer and closer to her as he talked. As he moved closer, Kristin kept sliding further away. Luckily he didn't care so much about me, so I just observed Kristin as she suffered through it (sorry, honey, but it was funny!). One good thing did come out of meeting the COG, however, and that is he gave us his goody bag which actually contained comics we didn't have. There were four newer comics (Star Wars: Republic, Voltron, Marvel Age Spidey, and another one I forget) along with the prestige book Batman/Catwoman: Trail of the Gun #1. I had wanted to pick up that issue but didn't want to spend the $6 on it. Now that I have it, I'll have to order #2.

Anyhow, once we left the COG and entered the show, we did what we did last year, went through the aisles looking through back issues boxes and searching out deals. I had about $125 to spend and I needed to do it wisely. So for a few hours I pored over back issue boxes with Kristin helping me. Interspersed between box diving was toy browsing. The big draw of the FallCon for Kristin is the toys (and I enjoy looking at them as well). Her goal this year was to find a Gargoyle figure from the tv cartoon, but we could only find two with one being broken and the other she already owned.

Even though we didn't find a Gargoyle doesn't mean that we came home toyless. Instead I think I spent more money on toys than comics. Kristin got a He-Man and Skeletor figure set for only $2 at one booth (probably because she's so darn cute). She was stoked about that and then later I picked her up an Edward Scissorhands figure for $5. As for my toys, I bought 10 assorted Spawn figures from series 23-25 (including the complete series 23 set) for $45. For McFarlaine figures, that's a steal.

As for my comic haul, I got about 130 comics for $40. Most of them were Superman and X-Men related and filled in gaps I had. In the graphic novel department, I picked up 7 for $20. A couple of CrossGen, a couple of Batman, and a couple standalone graphic novels. The one other thing I got was the Superman: Day of Doom trade paperback autographed by Dan Jourgens.

All in all, I think I spent my money quite well. We didn't stay for the entire show, but for the time we were there we really had fun indulging our inner children. Now I just have to find a place to display all of my Spawn figures and put the comics.

*COG: Abbreviation for "Creepy Old Guy"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Minnesota's FallCon is Upon Us

It's that time of year again--time for Minnesota's annual fall comic book convention at the State Fair grounds on Saturday. This will only be the second time that I have gone, but I enjoyed myself last year and I'm pretty sure I will this year too.

What will make this year a little better is that I have more money to spend. I've been putting away a few dollars here and there in a stash in my computer desk over the last month or two and I actually managed to put away around $100. This should be able to net me a bunch of stuff. After paying the admission price for Kristin and myself, I should be left with over $80 to spend on back issues to complete runs, graphic novels, maybe some toys, and hopefully a lot of CrossGen stuff, considering they recently went bankrupt and were sold to a subsidiary of Disney. Comic shops all over the US and online retailers have been slashing prices on CG stuff, so I'm hoping to be able to grab a bunch of their stuff as it's always interested me, but I've never wanted to spend a lot of money to get into their universe.

I only hope Kristin won't get too bored by me poring over every back issue bin looking for deals. I get a little OCD when I'm looking for deals, especially with comics and a limited budget. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to look at the art that is there and play with the toys like we did last year.

Since I'm in the comics talking mood, everyone who hasn't checked out Behind the Times Comic Review, my quasi-retro review blog, should do so in their spare time. The next comics on my list to be reviewed there are Tellos from Image and the first few issues of Marvel Comics Presents.

Ok, that's about it for now. I'm back writing another manual and a load of help files at work so my desire to type out more text in my spare time is somewhat waning right now. Oh, if anyone plans on coming out to the comic con on Saturday, feel free to stop me and say hi. I'll be in a black shirt that says "Open 24 Hours" if it's warm out or a baby blue hoodie sweatshirt with a dragon pattern on the front if it's cold. I doubt anyone that reads this will be there, but just in case.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Video Game Addiction

A while back I talked about how I detested the game Diablo and how it is such a pet peeve of mine that people are turning their backs on other people just to play video games. Today I read this article that only reinforces what I was talking about. Yes, video game addiction is an addiction just like any other.

I find it funny how most people don't think you can get addicted to something unless there is a physical substance interacting with your body. For example, almost everyone knows that you can get addicted to alcohol, drugs, painkillers, caffeine, and things of that nature, but most people won't recognize the fact that you can also become psychologically addicted to things, such as the internet, sex, or as this article points out, video games.

To be fair, I'm sure that this article is skewed a little bit to make video game addiction look worse than it actually is, but it is a problem. I've known more than my fair share of people that suffer from what is described in the article.

For example, one of my old college roommates was a gameaholic. He must have easily put in 5 or more hours a day on his computer playing video games. What really was odd about it, however, is that he wasn't playing cutting edge video games or anything we even usually think of as modern gaming. No, he was playing MUDs. For hours on end he would sit there and type away into a text box while reading the colored writing that scrolled up the screen.

It was so odd seeing him as entranced by his monitor as he was. Many times I'd be talking to him only to later realize, when he didn't respond, that he was so engrossed that he had tuned me out. It eventually got to the point where he'd stop coming out to play ultimate frisbee with the club team (he was actually the guy that got me started in the sport) in order to stay in and bang on his keyboard. Maybe there were other reasons for him to quick playing, but from what I could see, it seemed very strongly that video games were the reason he was staying in.

Another one of my roommates I think only had a mild addiction, but it was one that definitely affected his life and grades. He would occasionally play video games for fun, as most male college students do, but when he'd come across a game that he was really intrigued by, he wouldn't quit playing it until he had finished it completely. The first game I saw him do this with was Metal Gear Solid. He ended up playing it straight through a couple of times (in order to get everything in the game) in the span of like two weeks. He'd skip classes, not do his homework, and only would leave the couch to eat and sleep.

Later, when Grand Theft Auto III came out, it really hit the fan with him. Since the game is pretty open-ended, he would play it for hours and hours and hours on end. It was his heroin. He did anything to get his next GTA hit. Again he skipped classes and let his grades plummet. He even had to drop one of his classes because it was impossible for him to get a passing grade since he hadn't done anything for the class, let alone show up very much.

The kicker was that when he was in one of his video game kicks, he wouldn't even clean up after himself. When he'd get nachos, he'd leave the cheese container and chip bag strewn on the floor. If he had pizza, you could expect a chunk of it sitting on the couch next to him (one piece stayed next to his spot for a little under a week). It would just be an utter crap-sty around him. I can feel my skin start to crawl just thinking about it again.

I've known, and still do know, some people that definitely suffer from a psychological addiction to games. It's really quite sad to see how it affects people, but when I've tried to bring it to their attention or change their ways I am only chastised or told that I am wrong. I think every gamer should at least attempt to step back and examine his or her gaming patterns. People usually don't know they're addicted until someone tells them, so if I tell you to lay of the games, please do!

Oh yeah, and Diablo is the worst game ever created. The end.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Best Buy's Incompetence... Again

My goodness, Best Buy abounds with incompetence! I often find myself wondering how dumb the people that work there can be. Either that or I question why a manager puts a certain person in the section of the store that they do.

So I went to Best Buy yesterday to purchase a replacement computer for mine since it was toasted when our basement flooded. I kind of knew what I wanted, but looked around at everything they had there just to make sure I didn't want to change my mind. Now usually I can't go three steps in any aisle without one of their annoying employees asking me if I need help or want their advice or if I was going to buy what I was looking at or any other random crap. I absolutely hate it when they do that. If I wanted help, I'd ask for it, thank you.

So I'm looking through the computer and I have it narrowed down to two different models of Sony's Vaio line. From Best Buy's meager little description sheets that they have placed in front of the respective computers I couldn't tell really what was different other than the processor speed and hard drive size. Oddly enough, I had been browsing for about 20 minutes in the same area and not a single Best Buy employee came to ask me about anything. I was pretty dumbfounded. The one time I would have actually talked to an employee, none of them came to talk to me.

The reason for not coming to bother me--they were all having a pow-wow in the laptop aisle talking about some crap I could care less about. I walked up to one and asked if he knew much about the Sony Vaio desktops. He professed to me that he knew them quite well. Awesome. I could get some answers and get home.

Oh, how I was wrong. First, I wanted to know if both models came with the blue-tooth remote control for the PVR system in it.

"Umm... huh, this one has the remote by it, but this one doesn't. Does it say on the side of the case? Uhhh... nope, doesn't look like it. Doesn't say on the price sheet either, does it? I'd guess that they both do, I suppose."

"So you're telling me you're pretty sure they both do, but you can't confirm it?"

"Oh, you know, I'm pretty sure they both do."

"Ok, well we can look into that more later. I also had a question about the DVD burner in these two machines. It doesn't say if they are dual layer burners or not. I see some of the other computer from HP and Compaq in this price range have dual layer DVD burners so I thought these might. Can you confirm it for me?"

"Oh, yeah, these both have the dual layer burners."

"Are you sure? Have you tried to burn a dual layer disc with either one?"

"You don't need to even do that. Just look at what it says on the burner. Look, there's a + sign and a - sign between DVD and RW so it's a dual layer burner. It burns both + and - discs."

"Yes, that would be something I'd want to know if I was curious to see if it was a dual FORMAT DVD burner. I'm wondering if this will burn the 8.5 GB discs as well as the 4.7 GB ones."

"Oh... so there's two different sizes. (I thought for a minute he's equate one size to + and one to -, but he fortunately didn't)"

"Yes, there are. Say, why don't we just pull down one of these computers and we can snap open the box, read the manual to see what exactly is in it, and at the same time check to see if this one has the remote."

"Ok, we could do that. Hold on, I'll be right back." So I wait for him to return. When he does, I don't like what he has to say, "We actually don't have any of these in stock right now."

"Cute. Is there anywhere I can look to see this computer's specs?"

"Oh sure, we can look it up in the computer system over here. We can also see if there's more coming in." Awesome. This guy is such a brainiac. He should have just taken me over there in the first place. We look at the specs (turns out it's only a single layer DVD burner and it does come with a remote) and I decide it's the one I'll be buying. We work it out to get it shipped to my house at no extra charge and I head up to get checked out at the customer service area...... where I wait for ages.

It turns out that not only are the employees of Best Buy idiots, but apparently so are most of the customers. Some guy was trying to return a laptop he's had past the return time-frame. He's also sent in all the rebates for the laptop so the box is all cut up and mangled. He's asking only for a refund of the purchase price minus the rebates. They then have to explain the restocking fee for returning a laptop, then they figure out it's past the date for returning it, then he decides since he has the extended warranty he'll claim it's broken (yes, this all happens sequentially in conversation between the customer and worker).

Thankfully, another worker there saves me and checks me out and I can head home. All in all, what should have taken a half hour tops took close to an hours. I never thought I could have such contempt for a store and still shop there. It sucks that no other store in Rochester can beat their prices on stuff. If there was another place, I'd be there in a flash.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The First Step is Admitting You Have One

It never occurred to me that I would ever become, in my lifetime, a hopeless addict. I've never smoked because it's bad for you (and I feared I'd not be able to quit). I very rarely drink (part of it is fear of addiction). I've never tried any hard drugs (yeah, I'm just plain scared of those). Yet, after being so careful and trying to keep from developing an addiction, one has slipped under my radar and totally taken control of my life.

"Hello, my name is Rick Gebhardt, and I am a caffeineaholic."

This last week I tried to break the addiction. I really wanted to loose the grip that caffeine had over me, but I failed and here I sit on a Saturday morning sipping on a gargantuan mug of Brazilian organic coffee. I have never been one to admit failure... until now. I'm a slave to stimulant and I don't think I will ever break free.

While trying to kick the habit I was surprised that for the most part all I had was a slight headache when I first started accompanied by extra grogginess during the morning hours and evening hours. I thought I was going to be free and clear when yesterday rolled around. I had been clean for five days. Then it hit me. Around noon at work I started to get a killer headache. It was so bad I had to leave work a tad bit early.

Upon arriving home, I took some migraine medication (which contains a solid shot of caffeine along with the painkillers acenomenophene and aspirin), and laid down for a bit. I'm pretty sure it was the caffeine content in the pills that brought me back to a functional status. When I got up I felt like a new man. My headache was gone and I felt way more energetic than I had the entirety of the last week.

Since I had given in to my addiction once again, I simply dove back in hardcore. I had a Diet Coke with supper and shared a Diet Mountain Dew with my brother when he got home from the dance he was at. It felt good to be energized once again. It was like being in a state of euphoria. Heck, right now I'm in that well caffeinated state that I coveted almost every waking hour of the last week.

Will I ever try to kick the habit again? Probably. Will I ever truly succeed? Probably not. Caffeine has hooked its claws into me and it doesn't look like it's going to let go any time soon. Frankly, I've come to like the vicious hold that caffeine has over me. I know it's something I need to keep me going, just like carbohydrates, sugars, and vitamins. I think I'm going to make it my personal goal to have caffeine be an essential part of everyone's diet. That way I won't feel guilty about being so dependant upon it. It would be in the same ballpark as getting my daily dose of Vitamin C or my allotment of calories for the day. Without them, I would eventually die, and yesterday I sure felt like I might die without my beloved friend caffeine.

"Hello, my name is Rick Gebhardt, and I am a caffeineaholic...... and I don't care."