Monday, December 10, 2012

Need some fantasy basketball advice?



I will admit straight away that I am not usually one who asks for help. Be it putting together a hammock or trying a video game for the first time, you can count on me being that one slightly insane person that skips the instructions and tutorials and digs right in.

When it came to fantasy basketball, things were no different. I plunged into the choppy waters of Yahoo's fantasy basketball thinking I knew it all, drafted a bunch of guys based on my idea of who the good players were, and went from there. Lo and behold, a month into the season I was nearly in last place in my league.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Five Great Apps for the Nexus 7


I've owned the Nexus 7 for a little under a month now and can say without hesitation that it is a fantastic device. I'm writing this article for those of you who are new to the tablet phenomenon and wish to get the most out of your new N7 by downloading the very best apps for it.

I'll keep this list short and sweet. Here are the five apps I've fallen in love with over the past month while using my Nexus 7:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How I finally came to accept tablets


I'll start off by saying that I recently bought a Google Nexus 7, and love it so far. For you to understand how I got to this point though, I'll need to start from the beginning...

I was always a skeptic when it came to owning a tablet. In fact, I held fast to the idea that they were pointless. Until now.

It all started in 2010 when Apple came out with the iPad. It seemed to me like a nice toy to play around with. A luxury item that the rich could flaunt in the faces of us poorer folk while they gleefully loaded up Angry Birds on the morning train to work. In other words, nothing that had any practical use.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What Makes World of Warcraft so Special?


After all, it is a worthwhile question to ask. A game that has been going strong for eight years now and is close to releasing yet another highly successful expansion is an obvious success story. What then, has made World of Warcraft so popular with players?

As someone who (somewhat regretfully) admits playing WoW on and off again for five or so years, I feel I am overly qualified in making an assessment for why WoW had remained an engaging experience for so many for such a long time.

Without further ado...

Forks Over Knives Review


Forks Over Knives, as you may or may not know, is a documentary detailing the health benefits of an entirely vegan diet. If it's main goal is to make you feel bad about eating poorly, then it succeeds in a monumental fashion.

If however, it's goal was to convince people that eating an entirely plant based diet serves as a cure for cancer, heart disease, and other ailments, well, it missed the mark by quite a bit.

How to Build a Gaming PC Cheaply (For Novices)



I am always amazed by the fact that so many people remain misinformed about PC gaming. Is it more expensive to get a gaming PC than a console? Probably. Is it hundreds of dollars more? Not at all, at least as long as you aren't expecting the top of the line in every category. But then again, if you were considering a console in the first place, that isn't really your priority now is it?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Tale of Jack Martin - Part 2

Link to Part 1: http://www.gainsense.com/2012/07/dissonance-tale-of-jack-martin-part-1.html

            It was dark. The air smelled of sulfur mixed with crushed pine needles. The car Jack found himself in was of middling size, probably a van of some sort, though he was too out of it to be sure. At the wheel was the mysterious man who took him from the museum. He was humming along to the car’s radio.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Tale of Jack Martin - Part 1


As promised, here is the first part to my story. Look for frequent updates in the near future!
--- --- --- ---

            The alarm clock rang incessantly. Time to get up. It was another day for Jack Martin, age 21, a recent graduate from the University of California. He shambled out of bed, dragging himself towards the shower. Once he was done with his morning preparations, he inspected himself in the bathroom mirror. He was a man of slightly above average height, medium build, close cropped black hair, dark eyes, and olive complexion. After running his hand through his hair to get it looking just right, he sauntered towards the apartment door and walked outside.
            Living on the first floor, Jack only had to walk a couple of feet to reach his beat up Honda Civic. He got in the car and started the engine.
Ever since graduation, life had been a drag. Finding a job was difficult, and even if you were successful in doing so you most likely received an entry level position that made your College degree seem worthless. Jack himself worked at a local museum making barely above minimum wage, a job he only acquired due to familial connections. He was mainly tasked with menial tasks such as filing papers, and entering data into spreadsheets. Ironically, Jack may have preferred this ho hum existence to the one he was about to assume.
“Jack Martin, on time again. I can always rely on you,” stated a kindly looking older man.
Jack smiled. “Thanks for the compliment Dan. You know I live to serve. What’s on the to-do list for today?”

Friday, July 27, 2012

Will Computers Eventually Replace our Government?


Caution: What you are about to read contains futurist speculation. Having an open and imaginative mind is advised...
 
Everything these days seems to be controlled by a computer of some kind. Be it your refrigerator, car, or coffee maker, nearly every aspect of our lives is assisted by tiny silicon chips.

Is it a stretch then, to say that eventually these chips will run our countries and facilitate international diplomacy?

Perhaps, but think about it for a minute. Right now, our government is committed to the monumental task of running this country, creating laws, handling internal party issues, and so on and so forth.

As you have seen with the ideological deadlock in Washington D.C. lately, the people representing us don't always do their jobs effectively.

What if then, you replaced each member of congress with an advanced computerized A.I? Something not so different than what you would find in a game such as Civilization, though far more intelligent.

These A.I.s could make swifter decisions than our current representatives, would be programmed to not be wasteful, could achieve compromise on important issues in record time, and would only be limited by the speed of their central processing units.

Our national budget would be fixed automatically, and there would be no lobbying, wasteful spending, or lengthy partisan bickering.

Our voting process could remain largely the same, except instead of voting for representatives, we would vote for an A.I. programmed with a particular political point of view. This A.I. would fight for your position in the computerized congress, under all of the same constraints as congress is today.

The only difference, as stated earlier, would be the rapidity with which the lawmaking was accomplished.

Of course, there would need to be checks and balances to this system, with a few human overseers in place to ensure that the computers don't go haywire. Additionally, a position like the Presidency would likely still remain in human hands.

Still, before you balk at this proposal, recognize that the stock exchange is mostly run by computers. If a complicated system such as that, which manages the money of many people in this country, can be run by our primitive technologies, who are we to doubt the feasibility of highly advanced A.I.s doing the dirty work of the governing process?

The benefits of this are indeed quite favorable, as more people will be free to work in the private sector as opposed to the public. Career politicians will be ousted, lobbying groups will have no more say, and corruption and partisan gridlock will be eliminated.

The downsides of course are that the computers could turn their backs on us and take over the world, but that is in all likelihood not a possibility.

Artificial intelligences may never reach a level equal to human thought, and I am sure there will be safeguards in place whenever a technology such as what I am suggesting is feasible.

I know this idea may sound ludicrous today, but logically speaking it solves many of the issues we have with the speed, morality, effectiveness, and cost of government.

Oh yes, and did I mention cost? Replacing five hundred congressmen with computers reduces the total total cost of government by around ten million dollars (representatives make roughly two hundred thousand a year).

Couple that with all of the other savings from cutting bureaucracy and other outdated government apparatuses, and what you are left with is a leaner and more reliable Washington D.C.

As technology becomes a larger part of our lives, expect a growing trend towards the utilization of computers in government functions previously reserved for humans.

The computerization of government is only one possibility for the future, and though it holds many benefits, it will take many years and many hours of hard work to create the infrastructure necessary to support such an endeavor. Though we may find a better solution in the meantime, theoretically this solution solves many of the problems inherent within our government.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Does James Holmes Deserve the Death Penalty?


A scene from the makeshift memorial for victims of the massacre.

Last Friday, a deranged gunman killed twelve innocent people and injured countless others. Reporters have done an admirable job covering the cases' horrifying details, so I would like to instead talk about the next step: deciding whether or not James Holmes deserves the death penalty.

I mean, it's a worthwhile question to ask right? A man who has committed such an egregious crime must be punished with the utmost severity, correct? Or no?

You see, the death penalty is a complicated matter. In terms of its more simple definition, the death penalty represents merely the final step in justice. The solution to our greatest criminal problems.

Utilizing it should not be done without due cause, but there should be no hesitation once all the evidence has been made clear.

That is the argument you are likely to hear from those who support the death penalty.

For those against it, it's all a matter of principle. What does it say about a so called "civilized" society when we take a life in the same way as the criminals we are judging? Is it our place to determine whether or not someone lives or dies?

As you can see, this is a complicated matter. Both sides have merit, and both, I feel, have their applications.

James Holmes deserves the severest punishment possible under Colorado law for what he did; there is no question about it.

However, is it truly right to punish our criminals, even the worst ones, with an eye for an eye mentality? What does that say about us as a people?

My gut feeling is that James Holmes will get the death penalty, and I don't begrudge the victims for wanting that. I certainly have no pity for Mr. Holmes and hope he gets everything that is coming for him.

On a more existential level though, I wonder if the death penalty is the best solution in the long run. Sure, it gets us revenge, but it also leaves a bad taste in my mouth to know that we stooped to the same level as a criminal by taking a human life in order to solve our problems.

In the future, I hope there is a way for us to come up with punishments that have the same effect as the death penalty without inducing the aforementioned moral and societal complications.

What sort of punishment might that be? Who knows. In my mind though, there needs to be something done to solve the never ending death penalty debate. That way, we can begin dealing with our worst criminals in a decisive manner, without a doubt in our mind about the course of action we are about to take.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Cracked.com isn't Funny Anymore

The logo of a humor website that has lost much of its luster recently.
Most people between the ages of 15 and 30 are familiar with Cracked.com. Essentially, it's a humor website that is regularly updated with articles written in list form. Over the past few years, Cracked's writers have been moving towards more politically slanted topics, something that I and many others could live without.

Tip of the Day - Cool Off With a Portable AC



Do you live in an area that gets particularly hot during the summer? Do you have a room that remains unbearable even when you have your central air conditioning on full blast? If so, I recommend buying a portable air conditioner. They aren't the cheapest products, but they do a fantastic job of cooling off consistently overheated rooms. If you see a good deal for one (like I did), don't hesitate to make the purchase if you're in need of a respite from the summer heat. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Witcher: Review & Commentary


I will be honest in saying that I let the sentiment of the general public get to me when it came to choosing whether or not to play The Witcher. Indeed, I had assumed that this game wasn't worth playing mainly because of what I had read about it on the internet.

After paying the huge sum of $2.50 for The Witcher: Director's Cut, I fired the game up and expected something that, as I had read from reviews online, was unpolished, had a horrible combat system, and lacked in so many other areas that I would be convinced to skip it entirely and play The Witcher II instead.

Thirty hours into the game, I can tell you that most of these accusations are overblown or downright incorrect, and that it would be a severe mistake to pass up on the first Witcher just because the second one is an improvement.

First off, one of the primary complaints I heard of this game was that it had amateurish voice over dialogue. While it is important to keep in mind that the game's developers, CD Projekt Red, fixed many of the original voice over errors in the enhanced edition that I bought, I still feel that the complaints about dialogue were overblown.

From Geralt's menacing growl, to Detective Raymond's suave baritone, to Siegfried's unique dialect, nearly all of the important characters in The Witcher have voice overs that get the job done while drawing you into the universe. Though you won't find Bioware like quality here, I'd argue that the voice actors in this game, at the least, match what is done in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series.

Though there are times when dialogue is recycled and the generic NPC's voice overs make you cringe, all in all I'd say that the voice acting in this game serves as a positive more than it does a negative.

The second major complaint most seem to have about The Witcher is its combat system. I'll admit, it isn't the best. It can get very frustrating when you are fighting a pack of enemies and the combat system causes you to die, as opposed to a lack of skill or preparation on your part (and this is coming from someone playing on normal -- I could only imagine the pain felt by those playing at the hardest difficulty).

Is it game breaking? I don't think so. As long as you upgrade your weapons, make potions, and choose decent talents, you should be able to get through the game's combat just fine.

In case you're wondering why the combat system is so controversial, it's because it's centered around a rhythm based mini game that the player has little direct control over. Essentially, when you engage an enemy, you click on them, and Geralt (your character) will run towards them and begin attacking. While he swings his sword, your cursor will flash from blue to orange periodically. When it's orange, you click your mouse and Geralt will begin to chain together multiple attacks.

If you miss this flashing orange prompt, Geralt stops attacking and you have to begin the rhythm game once more. This becomes annoying in large battles, as the game often gets confused as to who you're attacking, leading you to miss your rhythm prompts constantly, resulting in Geralt standing there being pummeled by enemies without you being able to properly respond.

Situations like that, however, are few and far between. Though The Witcher has a poorly thought out combat system, it does get the job done the majority of the time. Like I said, the main issues occur during large fights, which are fairly infrequent.

Though it is easy to dwell on the lacking combat system, The Witcher offers so much more that should not be overlooked. For instance, CD Projekt Red is able to do what Bioware never could: create areas that contain a certain amount of freedom of movement and exploration.

While Bioware has a talent crafting cities and towns in their games, they are rarely able to craft open areas effectively. The Witcher not only has impressive towns and cities (with the main city of Vizima rivaling Denerim and Kirkwall), but it also includes many open zones that are fully explorable and contain monsters, locations, loot, and more.

While the level of openness is more akin to Fable than it is to Skyrim, it's still much better than anything offered in Bioware games made this generation.

As an aside, the reason I compare CD Projekt Red to Bioware is because the latter is still considered to be the cream of the crop in terms of western rpg developers.

Lastly, I have one more reason for why the Witcher is such a great experience, namely, the fact that there is a huge amount of choice in the game.

I remember near the beginning of the game I made a choice to help a certain group, and near the middle of the game this group came back to screw up several important quests I had (I am being vague purposefully). If I had eliminated them originally, who knows how my game would have turned out. The fact that The Witcher makes you feel like your decisions have an impact on the game world is a major positive in my book.

To wrap this up then, all I have to say is that The Witcher is the rpg fan's dream. If you can get past its wonky combat, what lies beneath is an incredible world filled with decisions, betrayal, intrigue, drama, depth, complex characters, and places to explore. Additionally, as a huge Bioware fan, I can safely say that anybody who enjoys their games will find something to love about The Witcher.

It would be a shame to skip this game just because its sequel made improvements, and at such a low price, you'd be a fool not to give it a try!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Knights of the Old Republic: Still the Best


I am writing this not because Knights of the Old Republic (or Kotor for short) is the hottest game out on the market right now (it came out in 2003 after all) but because it is one of my favorite games of all time and I would like to convince you all to give it a try.

First off, Kotor is a role playing game which tosses your character, a run of the mill soldier/scout/scoundrel, into a galaxy wide conflict taking place between the Sith (lead by Darth Malak) and the Republic.

While on your quest to stop Malak, you'll join up with memorable companions and engage in countless adventures which can lead to rewards, consequences, and everything in between.

As is typical of Bioware, Kotor's developers, there are a number of twists and turns within the story that will keep you up into the early hours of the morning and are sure to compel you to play through the game multiple times.

Compared to some of Bioware's latest entries in the role playing world, like Mass Effect 1 and Dragon Age: Origins, Knights of the Old Republic still stands as the the most polished, influential, and fun game to play of the three.

I know that there will be many who disagree with that statement, and therefore I'll try to explain my reasoning. First of all, compared to Mass Effect 1, Kotor is a more lengthy and well rounded experience. Included in the game are a near ten hour long prologue, a fifteen hour main quest, and a five to ten hour long ending. Compared to Mass Effect 1, which has a main quest that can be completed in a matter of hours, you can begin to see why I prefer the older game.

Also, the planets in the ME universe are nowhere near as fleshed out as the ones in Kotor, with every single world in the latter game having the same complexity and detail applied to them as all of the main quest planets from ME1 combined.

Additionally, the dialogue wheel featured in the ME series lacks the versatility and complexity of the traditional style utilized in Kotor, causing it to feel like a much more streamlined experience.

Dragon Age: Origins provides a more compelling case for being a better game than Kotor. It boasts numerous fleshed out regions, towns, and cities, doesn't have a dialogue wheel, and has at least ten to twenty more hours of content than Kotor.

What Kotor has over Origins, in my opinion, is a better storyline and universe. Bioware did a wonderful job crafting Dragon Age's lore and plot, but it just can't hold a candle to what they manged to pull off in Kotor. Malak is a better villain than Loghain, your companions in Kotor are better, and the Star Wars universe itself is far more engaging.

Dragon Age: Origins is definitely one of the best RPGs of all time, however, I still feel that there are certain aspects of Kotor that have yet to be improved upon in these newer franchises. Perhaps if Bioware found some way to meld the polish, gameplay, and story of Mass Effect with the complexity, length, and detail of Dragon Age, we would have ourselves a proper successor to Knights of the Old Republic.

As of now, even with the releases of Mass Effect 2, 3, and Dragon Age 2, I have yet to come across a Bioware game which matches the magic of their masterpiece from 2003. And once you've played the game and have experienced its enigmatic characters, deep storytelling, visceral gameplay, and weighty decision making, I believe you will come to feel the same way.

Luckily for you, Kotor is often on sale for less than $6 on Steam. Buy it if you wish to engage in one most incredible role playing experiences of the past twenty years.

Tip of the Day - Triple A Movie Tickets


You could save a lot of money on movie tickets by buying them from your local AAA (if you are member of course) instead of the theater. The premium tickets from AAA are $8 each, allowing you to save at least $4 per ticket if you aren't planning on going during matinee times. Happy movie going!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tip of the Day - Charging your Cell Phone


Do your cell phone a favor and don't leave it plugged into its charger all day long. Instead, unplug it from its charger when its battery reaches full capacity. Doing so will keep your battery from losing its effectiveness and will prevent overheating. Overheating in particular is a killer of smartphones, so it's wise to try and do whatever you can to keep your device functioning properly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tip of the Day - Coffee Weight Loss Trick




If you are a heavy coffee drinker who wants to lose a few pounds, take heed of this advice: plan on drinking a cup of coffee after each of your major meals during the day. Doing so will quickly eliminate any remaining appetite you may have had and will assist in cutting down on over-eating.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tip of the Day - Lavender Spider Repellent


Spiders hate the smell of lavender. Buy some lavender oil, mix it in a spray bottle with some water, and spritz it around the perimeter of the house and wherever you feel there are spiders. They should start leaving the area immediately. Also, consider growing lavender plants in your backyard, as this will also repel arachnid pests.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tip of the Day - Antivirus



If you can help it, don't spend any money on antivirus software such as Norton 360, pictured above. Download AVG Free, Avast Free, or Microsoft Security Essentials instead. You won't have to spend a dime and the software is just as effective at protecting your computer.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Is College Worth It?


Today I was watching the John Stossel show on Fox News and became a bit perturbed at their discussion of whether or not a four year college degree was worth it.

John Stossel himself is fairly reasonable in his analysis and uses compelling (though often biased or one sided) evidence to prove his point. In regard to the issue of whether college is worth it, he took the stance that often times it is not and that many students are wasting their time and money trying to get a liberal arts degree of some sort.

I agree and disagree. Sure, if the student is not dedicated and is picking a liberal arts degree because they think it will be the easy way out, they probably shouldn't even go to school in the first place and should try and find a job that requires a trade skill of some sort instead.

However, if a student happens to be highly interested in the the liberal arts (or any of the majors deemed to be unworthy by right wing pundits) and excels in their work, I'd think that it would be a detriment if they did not attend a college to expand their knowledge and analytical abilities.

It's ironic to me, especially since the pundits ragging on the liberal arts on Stossel's show all have jobs in which said degree would be highly effective.

Take John Stossel's job for instance. He specializes in investigative reporting and heavy analysis/ research in order to prove some sort of thesis or make some political point. To me, that sounds exactly like the job description a political science or history major would be best suited for.

In other words, while I agree that college loans are a detriment and should be heavily considered before going to a four year school, it should not be a tool with which you can use to prove that all liberal arts degrees are worthless to society and the world as a whole.

Often times pundits will, as they did on Stossel's show today, attempt to prove that college degrees are worthless (unless you're pre-med or an engineer of course) by providing anecdotal evidence about some CEO that made his way to the top with a high school education.

My question is this: if some CEO's are so confidant in their stance that college degrees are worthless, why do they continue to make their crappy entry level jobs require an expensive four year degree?

If you are going to talk the talk, walk the dang walk. It's sickening to see jobs which pay a measly $10 an hour and yet require the worker to spend a fortune on college loans.

If they truly want people to take their point of "all you need is hard work and a bit of gumption to succeed" seriously, then remove all the prerequisites to entry level jobs. If someone has a high school diploma and seems to be fit for work, hire them on the spot.

Until they start doing that, CEOs who say that it's possible to just walk up the corporate ladder without a degree can eat their own words and stick a bumper sticker on their backs that reads "hypocrite" in giant block letters.

Back to Stossel's show and the subject of if college is necessary or worth it, I feel that this argument is often too skewed to be taken seriously.

In my mind, if you are intelligent, resourceful, and ready for a challenge, you should take the college plunge regardless of the cost in the future. Otherwise, in my opinion, you're wasting your potential, unless you happen to be one of those special people who can rise up in the world through your own willpower and determination.

Again, in my opinion, these types of folks are few and far between.

Don't get me wrong though, I feel the point discussed on Stossel's show has some merit. If you don't like school and want to work right out of high school, then college loans aren't worth it. Especially if you can just go to a trade or vocational school and get a head start in the workforce at an early age.

However, for those of us who enjoy the academic experience, I feel that the college loans are worth it in the end if you apply yourself and put as much hard work into your studies as you possibly can.

It's true that some people just aren't meant to go to college, whether for academic or other reasons. However, that should not stop those of us whose joy lies in academic study and intellectual thought from achieving our goals, no matter how much it costs when all is said and done.

If you truly try to get the most academically out of your college experience, it will be worth every penny.

Tip of the Day - Best Buy



Never buy computer parts from Best Buy, go to Newegg.com instead.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Endless Space Review

It has it's issues, to be sure, but Endless Space is well worth it if you are into 4X space games.

If you are a space junkie who enjoys strategy games, you are out of luck in today's day and age. Sure, there's Sins of a Solar Empire, but overall, there is a dearth of space themed strategy games.

It's a shame really, especially since there are so many of us out there who would enjoy more of a variety of games of this type to choose from.

Luckily, Amplitude Studios heard our pleas and has created a game which, though it may not be perfect, helps satiate our space deprived appetites.

One of the main strengths of Endless Space is its ability to take out the clutter and micromanagement typical of the 4X space genre and replace it with a streamlined presentation which keeps the action going at a swift pace.

Though fans of intensive micromanagement will feel slighted, overall I feel that this was a beneficial design decision that is certainly an improvement over Endless Space's predecessors. Games like Galactic Civilizations II (which came out six years ago), while fantastic, often became bogged down by their sheer complexity several turns into the game, ruining the overall fun factor

Endless Space never has this issue, though at times, this can be a negative. The game can be simplistic to a fault, such as when invading a planet or when modifying your ships. In the case of the former, planetary invasions are accomplished simply through the click of a button.

During invasions, your fleet will bombard the enemy system, and after a certain amount of turns, you will take the system. It isn't very interactive and the only way to stop the process is for an enemy fleet to come and destroy the ships you've ordered to commit to an invasion.

In other words, ground defenses and planetary upgrades have no real effect in repelling an invasion force other than causing it take more turns. If you don't send a fleet to repel the enemy, you will lose your system no matter what.

As for modifying your ships, Endless Space offers relatively limited options. You can change what weapons, defenses, and support modules are on your ship, but you have no say in their visual appearance (neither for the ship itself or for its modules). This is an annoyance coming from Galactic Civilizations, but by no means is it a game breaker. In reality, it just means you'll be spending more time playing the game instead of fiddling around in the shipyard adding new fins to your custom cruiser.

The research in Endless Space is pretty standard. There are four branches, each offering different ways to advance your empire. Unfortunately, different races don't have varying tech options so don't expect too much of a different play style when choosing another race to play with.

And just so I don't end this review on a bad note, I will say that the battle system in Endless Space is amazing. To me, it provides a great solution to the problem of boring Civilization-like combat in 4X games. I don't really like the idea of real time battles in the turn based genre as I'm more into Empire management than I am into combat strategy, and Endless Space's card based system works well to provide a middle ground of sorts.

Essentially, the manual battles take you to a cinematic view of your fleet engaging the enemy, with you being able to choose certain strategic cards which provide some sort of benefit to your ships. These benefits can be negated or enhanced based on what the enemy chooses, so it's important to put some thought into your choice. Do you boost your offense at the cost of losing defensive capability? Do you risk disrupting the enemies weapons instead of increasing the power of your shields?

Questions like these will be asked frequently in the heat of battle, and often times the right card choice is the difference between getting wiped out and beating a technically superior enemy fleet.

Overall, Endless Space is a worthwhile space 4X game that will keep you up well into the early morning with its addictive and uncomplicated turn based gameplay. Though sometimes the game can become too simplistic compared to its contemporaries, the spectacular combat system and non-migraine inducing Empire management features more than make up for that.

Endless Space isn't the game of the year, nor is it the best 4X space game of all time. However, it will definitely please fans of the underdeveloped space strategy genre.

If I had to give it a number, I'd say this game is an 8/10. Not perfect, but still a great experience. And for thirty bucks, it's well worth the price.

With further community and developer support, there is no telling how much this game will improve in the future. For Endless Space, the sky truly isn't the limit!

Tip of the Day - Coffee and Cinnamon



If you want to add some flavor to your coffee, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon onto the grounds you've placed in your machine's filter.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The 3DS has no RPGs!


Last year I bought a Nintendo 3DS with the expectation that I would be using it to play all of the rpg series' I missed out on during the DS/PSP era.

Exactly 11 months later, the only rpgs that I have played on my 3DS are Pokemon Black and Chrono Trigger. Notice something off about that? If not, you should, because both of these games were made for the original DS, not the 3DS.

Luckily, it seems like the amount of rpgs being released for the 3DS will begin to ramp up in the coming months. Kingdom Hearts, Heroes of Ruin, Fire Emblem, and a few others should be out by the end of the year.

Still, it's sad that I've had to wait this long to finally get a decent selection of games to choose from. The fact that the 3DS XL comes out next month doesn't help either, as I could have held off on buying the 3DS altogether and waited for it's newer iteration if I had known there would be zero rpgs released for the system up to this point.

Don't get me wrong, it's been fun playing DS rpgs and Mario Kart ( I have Ocarina of Time as well but I find it extremely boring, sorry old time gamers), but I feel like its taken much too long to get the 3DS rpgs out onto the market.

Thankfully, it still appears I made the right choice in choosing the 3DS over the Vita, as the latter looks like it will be even worse than the former in terms of being able to provide handheld rpg experiences.

Hopefully by this time next year I'll have plenty of reasons to fire up my frequently dusty and underused 3DS.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mass Effect 3's Extended Cut - Not a Perfect Fix



Warning: This post contains spoilers about the Mass Effect series.

If you happen to be a fan of role playing games or gaming in general, it is likely that you heard about the uproar this past March in regard to Mass Effect 3's endings.

Simply put, many players were put off by how Bioware handled the series' final moments. Most of the complaints centered around the idea that the trilogy's main antagonists, the Reapers, were made to look impotent.

Essentially, after building up the Reapers to be the main threat in the Mass Effect universe throughout the series, Bioware decided to, at the last minute, turn them into simple tools for another antagonist, known as the catalyst.

This catalyst character gives the player a brief monologue about how the Reapers are actually the Galaxy's saviors due to their role in preventing what is known as a technological singularity, or the creation of A.I.'s which exceed the intelligence of their organic creators.

He then provides the player with three choices which all center around utilizing the crucible (a super weapon of sorts) to either destroy the Reapers, control them, or synthesize your DNA within he weapon's energy in order to fundamentally change every organic and synthetic creature in the galaxy.

Does that last option sound confusing? It should. Essentially, through some form of space magic, the crucible (using your DNA) would emit energy that would merge organics with synthetics and create an entirely new organism that is "perfect," according to the catalyst.

Apparently, this new race of hybrid organic/synthetics would get along with the Reapers and they'd form a nice little utopia in the Milky Way where everyone always gets along and conflict is a thing of the past (at least until this hybrid utopia becomes bored and decides to invade the nearest galaxy).

Bioware really tries to push you into picking Synthesis, not only through having the catalyst paint such a pretty picture of it but because it only becomes available if you pick all of the right options in the game up to that point. Personally, I felt that it offered too creepy and ambiguous of a solution and instead chose to destroy the Reapers, as that is what I've been freaking waiting for since 2007!

Many people seem to agree with me, not only for the previously stated reason but because destroy is the only ending where Shepard actually (possibly) survives!

Phew. Well that's how the original ending went down. After all the complaints, Bioware decided to make a free DLC called the "extended cut" which would expand upon the original endings in order to provide clarity. It would not however, provide any truly fundamental changes (such as getting rid of the catalyst completely).

After playing through it a couple times on Tuesday, I have to say that I am more pleased with this ending than I was with the original. The main difference between the extended cut and the original ending is that the catalyst is given significantly more dialogue, which is used to better explain its role, the origin of the Reapers, and the nature of the crucible (though we still aren't told exactly how it works its space magic).

It also fleshed out the catalyst's descriptions of the three ending options, and surprisingly added a fourth option: refusal. This isn't really a true ending though in comparison to the others. It seems instead more like a jab from Bioware to its player base for rejecting their artistic vision, as if you decide to refuse the catalyst's three options, everyone you know ends up dying, you die, your fleets fail, and the Reapers aren't defeated for another 50,000 years (which is portrayed through a very brief -- at least compared to the other three -- ending cinematic).

Though the refusal ending left a bad taste in my mouth, the new five or so minute long cinematic for the destroy option was very well done. It provided the sense of hope and accomplishment that was missing from the original, and tied up a lot of the plot holes and loose ends which had me scratching my head the first time I completed the game back in March.

Is it the type of ending that a fantastic trilogy like Mass Effect deserves? No, I'd still say that it falls short of that. Though the endings provided were fleshed out greatly, some of the same underlying issues remain.

For one, there are still only three real endings, which is pretty pathetic for a trilogy spanning half a decade and whose sole focus lied in story telling and making difficult decisions which were supposed to have a major impact.

Secondly, all three endings are still rather melancholy. No matter what, Anderson dies, the Illusive Man becomes indoctrinated, Thane dies, Mordin dies, you have to deal with the catalyst, and your character dies (unless you chose destroy, and even then it's debatable whether or not that is Shepard at the end).

For a series like Mass Effect, where the player's choice is supposed to matter, the fact that so many of these story points are set in stone is disappointing.

How amazing would it have been if you could convince the Illusive Man to join you? How spectacular would it be to reject the catalyst and be able to fight the Reapers conventionally -- and win?

If you put in the hard work over these five years to make the best Shepard you could, how fantastic would it have been to see that culminate in your character living to see the Reapers destroyed?

Then, the game could have shown a cinematic of you celebrating with all of your companions, and perhaps might have portrayed a scene of you directing the galaxy-wide rebuilding process, before finally closing with an inspirational speech by Shepard which you could control through the dialogue wheel. How epic would that have been!

Unfortunately, many of these potential endings or branches to the story were nixed in favor of Bioware's "artistic vision" for the trilogy's conclusion, which took a decidedly melancholy turn and removed the player from much of the decision making process.

That being said, I believe that the extended cut itself was a great gesture by Bioware to its fans, and greatly enhanced the endings that came pre-packaged with the game.

In closing, I still feel that the end to this series is lacking even with the extended cut, and in my mind, Bioware truly missed an opportunity to do something special.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Memes to Cure the Debt Crisis

Sad thing is, this is probably true.

First off, Happy Fourth of July everyone! I hope you all have a great day!

While celebrating America's birthday today I happened to watch an interview by Neil Cavuto in regard to the national debt, and I had the desire to share what I learned with all of you.

Basically, the interview was of an 18 year old who set up a Facebook page that spreads the word about the rising national debt through the use of internet memes.

In case you do not know what a meme is, there are a couple places (like here and here) where you can find a billion examples.

Essentially, this youngster (and I apologize in advance for forgetting his name) has created several memes about the debt on this Facebook page which are designed to become viral and popular among the more youthful demographic in America.

I for one think this is an admirable cause, as most kids our age (I am 20) know nothing about the debt and have no clue about the many ways in which it could be harmful to their future.

Though many people my age are familiar with college loans and rising tuition costs, few recognize the ever expanding debt which threatens to ruin our economy if we do not reign in our spending.

In order to solve this issue we must cut military and entitlement spending; there can be no sacred cows. Liberals must be willing to say goodbye to their plans for expanded social safety nets, and Conservatives have to give up their deluded notion that we can continue to spend half of our budget maintaining a bloated military.

In closing, I would have liked to provide a link to the Facebook page dealing with these debt memes, but alas I failed to write the name down and cannot recall it from memory. I've also had no luck searching for it manually, so if anybody who manages that page happens to read this article, feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail with more information and I'll be sure to add it here.

Either way, it is important that we know there are people out there addressing the debt issue. The more that Americans familiarize themselves with this silent killer, the better off we will all be in the future.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Humanity Needs Space Exploration

This is about as far away from Earth as most astronauts ever get.

As a fan of science fiction, I may be overly optimistic of our prospects for extensive space exploration in the near future.

Be that as it may, I see no reason why we shouldn't try. What is there to lose? Dissenters will argue that we would be better served spending money here, at home.

Doing what, exactly? Spending it on wars we do not need? Boondoggles which will end up serving no purpose when all is said and done?

I suppose that this latter argument can be made against space travel, but it would be a mistake to do so.

The research, knowledge, technology, and inspiration we get from reaching out to the stars overrides any short term financial costs. It's amazing to me how NASA manages to accomplish what little they do with such a small percentage of our budget to work with.

President Obama has the right idea with his idea to transition the space exploration industry to the private sector, though I believe he has jumped the gun by several decades. He of all people should know that many of the most ingenious human projects began at the government level.

There isn't enough organization and direction at the private level to spearhead something like space travel, which won't make any real profits for years to come.

The government needs to provide a framework. Whether it's a moon base, technology to reach Mars, mine asteroids, or construct extensive space stations, Uncle Sam needs to take the first step in such a vast undertaking as this.

Then, if we're lucky, we will be able to hand the keys over to private industry.

I am still saddened by the fact that, since the 1960s, humanity has made little progress in terms of space technology. Nothing we have built since then has compared to the Saturn V rockets, and with the ancient shuttle program finally being retired, there is very little we can hope for in terms of progressing beyond the boundaries of Earth's atmosphere.

Opportunity awaits those willing to explore the heavens. With NASA still quibbling over the details of a Mars mission that may or may not launch in 2020, 2030, or 2040, it appears as if we'll have to wait a bit longer before we can begin to live out the fantasies portrayed in science fiction.

Am I wrong?

Monday, June 25, 2012

The 3DS XL: Are You Buying it?

The 3DS. Original on the left, XL on the right.

The guys at IGN have provided a really nice breakdown of the technical differences of the 3DS XL compared to the original, so I won't spend time describing that facet of the story.

Instead I'll try and address the question: is this redesign worth buying?

As an owner of the original 3DS, which I paid good money for last year, this is an important question to ask. Personally, I believe that this revision is not worth it if you have the original, unless you happen to be a major Nintendo fan or really want a larger screen to work with.

There are couple reasons why I believe this. First off, the original 3DS fits perfectly in my pockets, a key factor which I am not certain applies to the newer model.

While this may seem like superfluous reasoning at first glance, it actually makes perfect sense when thinking about it. I bought the 3DS because I wanted a device which would allow me to play high quality games on the go, no matter where I was.

Could I do that with the 3DS XL? Probably. Would it be as comfortable to lug it around? Probably not.

I may be in the minority on this, but I feel that the portability of the original is one of its major appeals. Especially when compared to its direct competitor, the PS Vita.

Would a larger screen be nice? Sure. But at 3.5 inches, the original 3DS's screen is equivalent to an Iphone's, which I think is sufficient for most people.

Another reason I have for liking the original compared to the revision is the color choices. This is probably due to my mild case of OCD, but I highly prefer my black 3DS compared to the childish looking blue and red XL options given to those of us living in the United States.

Beyond this, one of the major selling points of the XL is the fact that it provides slightly better battery performance.

That would be great, and is one of the reasons why I might have considered switching to it one day (though by that point Nintendo would have likely released another revision).

However, based on what they have said about the XL's battery lasting 3.5 - 6 hours, I really don't see the appeal. The original lasted 3 - 5 hours, which means that this revision doesn't provide a substantial upgrade.

Additionally, I have never played my 3DS for 3 hours at a time in the first place. I see this device more as something to play for 30 minutes to an hour here or there, perhaps on a car ride or while waiting for a dentist appointment.

This ties in to what I said about considering the 3DS to be a mobile device meant to be used on the go. Going by this definition, the small form factor and slightly lesser battery life aren't issues.

Furthermore, and this is entirely opinion, I prefer the coloring and design of the original. It looks sturdier (and probably is, I've dropped mine from 5 feet in the air numerous times without it gaining a single scratch) and more expensive, both of which I know are mostly subjective observations but still play a significant role for some in terms of deciding whether or not to buy this new iteration.

Overall, I would suggest not buying the 3DS XL if you have the original and aren't made of money. I really don't see the advantages unless you adamantly prefer the larger screen, and I suppose in truth there are many of you like that out there or else Nintendo would not have released this product in the first place.  In the end, the choice is yours, but I hope my analysis had helped.

Until next time!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Terrible Types of MMO Quests


It's sad to say, but there are some who envision these atop people's heads in real life.


If you are online a lot and happen to enjoy playing video games, chances are you have tried an MMO (or Massively Multiplayer Online game).

If so, then you are probably familiar with the atrocious excuses for "quests" that many MMO developers place in their games mostly as time sinks or because they are too lazy to come up with more interesting ways to entertain players.

To begin, let's say that you just made a shiny new character, and enter World of Warcraft for the first time. You do a few introductory things, and then are left to your own devices. Exploring the surrounding area a bit, you see a few NPC's walking about with golden exclamation marks over their heads.

Remembering from the tutorial that these helpful folks provide you with quests, you walk up to one (let's call him Farmer John), and begin to speak with him. Farmer John has some issues, it would seem. He has a ten minute long sob story prepared for you, which you, like a good little newbie, read in full.

It would seem Farmer John has a problem with rats in his pumpkin patch, and he asks you to kill six of them for the reward of thirty silver coins.

"Great!" you think. "This game is awesome!". You go down to Farmer John's pumpkin patch, kill the rats, get your reward, and do a little dance in honor of your accomplishment.

After finishing the starting zone though, and dealing with a billion more Farmer John's and their pumpkin patches, you begin to become a bit more jaded. Now you skip the quest giver's sob story and mechanically accept what they require for you, do the job, and return for the reward.

Fast forward a couple more levels and you are on absolute auto-pilot. You practiaclly aren't even playing the game anymore. You're just going through the motions while alt-tabbing into your web browser or watching TV. When you actually need to do the kill part of the quest, you just use your tried and true rotation of 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 4 to decimate your opposition.


What's that? You want me to kill some stuff? Ok. Just let me get Starcraft 2 running so I have something fun to play while I'm doing it.

See what I am getting at here? The kill quest is evidence of the inherent lack of creativity of most MMO developers. They are banking on the idea that the social aspects of their MMO will hide the fact that what you are really playing is a crappy version of a single player game (such as Skyrim).

Kill quests wouldn't even be so bad if there were an actual purpose to them. Dealing with Farmer John's rat infestation is really about as complicated of an exposition as you will get for most MMO kill quests, and that in itself is a disappointment. There is nothing akin to (*Skyrim spoiler alert*) assassinating the Emperor in Skyrim, which makes you feel like what you are doing has some actual importance in the game world.

For MMOs, kill quests aren't meant to add anything substantial to the game, they are just there to feed the player a spoonful of experience points and provide them with their next dose of upgraded armor to keep them blissfully unaware of the monotony of what they are really doing.

Moving on to a slightly different issue, what's worse than dealing with Farmer John's rat infestation? Having to hike back to his farm to harvest six pumpkins for him with the only reasoning being that he is too weak, lazy, busy, or scared to do it himself.

This type of quest in the MMO setting is especially annoying, because like the kill quest, they are rarely given much exposition and after a few of them you will be on auto-pilot the whole way through.

It seems though that I have begun to touch upon the actual issue with quests in MMOs, that being the fact that developers just don't seem to care that their work is entirely sub-par when compared to offline games.


The average MMO developer, pictured here on the job.

For example, I highly recommend the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) as it provides one of the most cinematic and interactive video game experiences imaginable, despite the fact that it came out nearly a decade ago.


Its MMO counterpart, The Old Republic (2011), came out late last year, and compared to its offline predecessor, has a poorer storyline, less memorable companions, villains, and locations, and arguably a more dysfunctional combat system.

The moral of the story here? MMO developers need to realize that players don't find their mindless kill quests, fetch quests, and whatever the heck else it is they do to keep us on an endless treadmill enjoyable.

Until developers can get their heads out of the sand and start putting actual effort into their online games, MMO design will remain stagnant and people will continue to move away from their expensive pay to play models to instead find refuge in the ever-evolving market of offline games being released each year.

As you can probably tell, I've quit MMOs for the time being until they can significantly improve their combat and questing systems, and can package it all together in a presentation that matches what a single player game can offer.

Until that happens friends, I'll be playing Skyrim.





Thursday, June 21, 2012

3 Totally Not Terrible Ideas for the Next Xbox

Well it looks like the Miami Heat are going to win the NBA Finals (it appears that my predictions were way off...) and I have nothing better to do than to try and provide you guys with something decent to read. I know, I'm such a charitable person.

Anyways, I happen to be a fan of the Xbox, and with all hints pointing towards the 2013 release of its next iteration, I figured now would be a good time to crank my creativity meter to eleven and try to come up with some decent (read: slightly better than horrible) ideas for the functionality of this future console.

Hold on to your seat-belts people, 'cause here I go.

1. The Xbox Cha-Ching

For most people living today, Microsoft is synonymous with "money," or if you happen to be a fan of Apple, "greed". So why not reflect that in the name of the next Xbox, a machine which will be attempting to follow up one of the most successful consoles to date in the Xbox 360?

Money money money money! Money!!!

We can even get super creative with this and change the Xbox start-up jingle to a "cha-ching" sound. While we're at it, lets also update the Xbox logo to be a picture of Bill Gates with his eye balls replaced by money symbols (that may scare the kids off though -- and you always gotta think about your potential market)!

Additionally, we could change the Xbox Home Page to be a representation of Microsoft's annual earnings report. That way, we can all bask in the glory of the gaudy profit margins we helped to create! This would be a great idea right?

Ok, maybe not so much. Nonetheless, it's a start.

2. The Xbox Kinect Box


How could anyone not like this name, it even rhymes (I swear Xbox and box are technically different words)!

It'll look like this, only three times larger and with the camera lenses modified to look like The Illusive Man's eyes.

With Microsoft's focus on developing the Kinect for the 360, it's only natural for them to take the concept even further on their next generation machine. This version of the Xbox could ship as a giant Kinect peripheral; forget about the disc tray, controllers, heck, forget about the hardcore games. All you need is the Xbox Kinect Box and a digital copy of Dance Central 4! What could be better than that?

Don't answer that question...

3. The Xbox ATM


The gray really makes it stand out.
I've established that Microsoft is loaded with cash with my first naming suggestion, so why don't they share the wealth a little bit? In this version of the Xbox, the console is designed like a full fledged ATM, complete with the ability to deposit and withdraw money (it will accept checks too!)

The best part about this is that you will have the option to draw money not only from your own bank account, but from the gilded coffers of Microsoft themselves. Of course, they'd have to cap the amount you could withdraw per month, but think of the possibilities (such as helping to pay off my college loans)!

In effect, Microsoft would be luring customers in by offering to pay you to bring their console home!

The kicker? Xbox Live Gold will now cost approximately $199.99 a month, and Kinect will become a $499.99 add-on that is required to play 98.7% of games released on the console (forget better with Kinect, now it's only on Kinect).

In truth, Microsoft would be running a scam similar to printer companies, who practically throw their machines at you so that they can shove overpriced ink which costs a bajillion times less when purchased in the form of a pen down our throats (but I digress, this subject deserves its own article to cover in full...).

On a final note, I think I just found a loophole in my own suggestion. How about you just buy the Xbox ATM, withdraw money, never buy Kinect or Xbox Live, and proceed to live the high life? I'm a genius! Now, if I could just convince Microsoft to pull the trigger on this concept...






Support The Oatmeal!


Source: theoatmeal.com

So apparently the proprietor of theoatmeal.com, Matthew Inman, had a federal lawsuit filed against him by rival comedic website funnyjunk.com for "maliciously accusing FunnyJunk of criminal conduct."

The ridiculousness of this accusation lies in the fact that theoatmeal.com only made such statements because funnyjunk.com was using Mr. Inman's material without giving him any credit, and making a decent amount of profit as a result.

In simple terms, funnyjunk.com was using theoatmeal.com's material, and instead of amending this issue they decided to utilize the legal system to gain even more monetary benefits.

Consequently, funnyjunk.com has hired a (rather photogenic) lawyer who is requesting that Mr. Inman pays $20,000 in reparations for his supposed misdeeds.

I don't know about you, but this proves to me that the U.S. legal system is utterly useless in many respects. It's the only way to explain how the victim ended up being charged with a $20,000 fine for a crime he did not commit.

I can just picture the proprietors of funnyjunk.com rolling around in their gold plated Benjamins laughing at this entire situation. For them, this is another easy legal money maker, another website which they can take advantage of while skipping merrily all the way to the bank.

Unfortunately for them, their path of narcissistic, pompous, and morally corrupt greed ends here.

Mr. Inman has, in his unique fashion, added some positivity to this otherwise unfortunate sequence of events.

Instead of providing the proprietors of funnyjunk.com with a check for $20,000, theoatmeal.com has pledged to raise an equal amount of money for donation to the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.

So you see, there is some hope and humanity left in the world after all. In many ways this case reflects a greater struggle occurring today, one where the morally bankrupt fight for power and control over those few good souls who actually try to make the world a better place.

And after reviewing everything I've said, I think it is obvious which sides in this case represent the former and the latter.

If you would like to contribute to theoatmeal's cause, you can find the link to donate at the bottom of the following page:

http://theoatmeal.com/blog/funnyjunk_letter

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Losing Weight the Cheater's Way

I know what you're thinking. There's thousands of articles like these out there! And indeed there are. However, I've gotten so many questions from friends and family about how I personally lost weight that I figure I must've done something right, and so I'd like to share my knowledge with the world.

In my case I went from a pudgy 180ish to a fit 155, and I did it pretty easily by doing the following:

1. Realize you are in this for the long haul.

Losing weight isn't a rapid process. You need to have enough willpower to maintain a mindset which will allow you to keep up your diet and exercise routine for months to come. If you cannot do this, or you know you have a history of giving up easily, get outside support (whether it be from family or a personal trainer).

2. Pick a group of unhealthy foods which you eat often and remove them from your diet.

For me, this happened to be burgers, fries, and soda. I haven't completely cut down on the first item, but I have been extremely successful in forgoing the latter two. In addition to these, I have removed desserts from my diet (which are entirely unnecessary and often times are key contributors to your weight gain).

I'd suggest starting small and working your way up. I began by removing soda from my diet, and once that became precedent, I removed desserts, and so on and so forth. You can try to remove everything at once but your willpower may not be strong enough to handle it.

Like a said, this can be a long process, but once you have figured out how to live without these items, losing weight becomes incredibly straightforward.

3. Buy protein bars.

Protein bars are healthy and surprisingly filling supplements which stave off hunger and cravings that otherwise may lead to a splurge at your local Mickey D's. I recommend Peanut Butter Zone Bars, but anything with a decent amount of protein in it should do.

I usually save these for the times in between meals when I am most susceptible to impulsive unhealthy eating/ snacking. These bars usually keep you satiated for 2-3 hours and are very effective in keeping you away from all of the fattening snacks which people often fall for while waiting for their next meal.

4. Eat slowly, and drink lots of water.

The one thing I notice with overweight people is that they tend to eat very quickly and move on to their next plate of food in the blink of an eye (I did this for many years). The key is to eat slowly and chew deliberately, all while taking sips (or gulps) of your water in between bites of food.

Eating slowly and drinking a copious amount of water during your meal gives your brain enough time to recognize that your stomach is full, before you decide to get up and make yourself another plate of food that you don't really need.

5. Get moving!

So you've prepared yourself mentally, removed unhealthy foods from your diet, bought protein bars, and have mastered the technique of properly eating your meals. What next you ask? It's time to exercise!

Most people become apprehensive at this thought and instantly start thinking about the horrors of joining a gym and facing the judgement of their peers. Don't worry, because you won't need to join a gym and you won't need to start any insane workout program like P90X either.

Just buy a pair of cheap (or expensive, if that's how you roll) walking/running shoes and go outside and start moving! Don't feel obligated to buy a gym membership, all you need is a sidewalk and a little bit of determination to start getting into the best shape of your life.

If you can set aside 30 minutes to an hour a day of walking, and can combine that with the dieting tips I've given above, you should be able to see very tangible results within two months.

Your results may vary, as I am a young male so as such I have a slight advantage when it comes to losing weight. Nevertheless, the techniques I've suggested are valuable for everyone and applying them to your daily routine should make you a healthier, happier, and slimmer person in the long run.

That's it for now. I hope I've helped somebody out there!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The 3 Emotional Stages of Creating a Blog Post

These past few months of blogging have made me realize that it is not an easy job, at least in terms of the emotional strain it has on your health (seriously, I've gained more gray hairs putting this site together than Obama has during his Presidency).

And that's A LOT of gray hair!

That is not to say that blogging does not have its emotional benefits as well, and I'll definitely address that.

Without further ado, here are the key emotional stages which occur while writing something for your blog:

1. Worry

This is the most prevalent emotion I've experienced in the times between blog posts. Usually I will feel excellent after writing a decent post such as this one, and that feeling will carry over for a surprisingly satisfying amount of time.

I typed "satisfying" into Google images and this is what came up...

However, once that moment passes and I haven't written something for a while (i.e. one day), then I begin to become a bit worried. I start to have doubts about my abilities to write, I have imagined difficulties coming up with new creative topics, and I start picturing all of my readers and fans (you know, the five of you) jumping ship while spitting upon my blog's corpse as you find some other oasis of online entertainment to spend your valuable internet browsing time.

Usually this worry presses so much against my mind that I am convinced to come up with something to write in order to make it go away.

So in essence, the "worry" stage isn't too much of an issue as it often serves as a catalyst towards the creation of new and awesome material for your blog. However, it is important to note that if you are thinking of blogging useful or interesting things, you will often be worrying about what to write and how exactly you will want to approach each post.

For some people, that may be too much anxiety to handle.

2. Doubt

"Finally!," you shout, "I've created the best blog post of all time!" "Everybody will think I am a genius for writing this!"

"I'm so awesome, I'm going to jump a hundred feet into the air to demonstrate my feeling of accomplishment! Wait a minute...what's all this glowing energy emitting from my abdomen? It...it burns! AHHHHH!"

Not so fast old sport! While the feeling of creating a substantial post is indeed invigorating (I will expand upon this soon) and you should definitely congratulate yourself for the effort, it's integral to the blogging experience that you are aware of the dastardly feeling that rears its ugly head within minutes of you sending your new creation out onto the internet on its maiden voyage: doubt. 

The "Doubt" stage is similar to "Worry", except for the fact that the former only begins after you have posted something while the latter happens before you do anything.

There are many things to doubt about your post, such as: did I write without grammatical errors? will people find what I have to say interesting? is what I wrote unique? will people actually come to my blog for this? could I have made the same point on an internet forum instead of a blog? what if there is a forum which addresses this issue better? etc etc and so on and so forth.

These are just a few samples of some of the thoughts which may run through your head after creating a post. Furthermore, oftentimes this problem is exacerbated when you begin to casually browse the internet.

Case in point, I've found that browsing the internet has become much less enjoyable after starting to blog seriously because it makes me second guess what I post when I come across either another great blog or a site that addresses an issue similar to mine. Is my content on par with theirs? Do I look like a joke compared to them? Why is my point of view worth anything more than theirs?

These are all valid questions and concerns, and the only way to get over all of this is to just keep telling yourself that you are awesome and that what you've posted is unique (preferably while NOT in a fetal position in some random corner of your place of residence). Additionally, it's important to try and vary your content as much as possible to keep your posts fresh and exciting (because everyone LOVES political commentary all day every day!).

Eventually you will write something that people enjoy and find worthwhile, just be aware that you WILL doubt yourself at least a couple of times before reaching that point of success.

3. Joy

You've gotten past your worries, you've conquered your doubt, and now all that's left is the fact that you've just added another great post to your blog and are one step closer to success.

This is the stage I mentioned in the "Worry" section, the one which lasts for a while and leaves you feeling on top of the world. During this stage you feel like you have all of the fans and attention in the world, and that just maybe your blog will become the next big thing if you just keep up with the good effort.

Furthermore, this stage is usually complimented by a period of increased traffic to your site, which makes you feel like a cool kid in high school (which I never experienced because I was super lame), and just might get you a couple cents in ad money (nobody said making a living off of blogging was easy)!

The best part of this stage though is that you feel like you've truly made a difference in the world. With your post, you've sent out a signal (however weak it may be) into the vastness of the world wide web, and maybe, just maybe, someone will see what you have to say and think it is significant or important. Considering how difficult it was to get your ideas and opinions out before the internet age, that's a pretty cool facet of blogging in and of itself.

Even if nobody reads your post (trust me I know the feeling), you've at least made something that will be immortalized on the internet for years to come. And who knows, perhaps someday, maybe years from today, somebody will come across what you thought to be a useless and unpopular post and think it is the best thing since canned bread.

This stuff is awesome! Stays fresh much longer than bread of the sliced variety!

I hope that I've convinced some people that, despite its emotional pitfalls, blogging is a genuinely enjoyable and intellectually stimulating experience that just MAY make you a famous celebrity one day.

Don't take my word on that last part though.






Faith in Humanity Restored?

I was going through StumbleUpon as usual trying to get in my morning's worth of interesting internet material when I came across this:




After reading that, do you feel as though you have a greater faith in humanity? I am not sure that I do, and I think I agree with the comments on the geekfill.com page which say that the situation described was much too idyllic to have actually occurred. 

Nevertheless, if this event actually did take place as described, then I suppose a bit of my faith has been restored.

Either way, it sure wouldn't hurt if more people were kind and respectful to each other.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The RMS Titanic...Reborn?

So last month, as many of you may have heard by now, an Australian Billionaire decided that he wanted to rebuild the Titanic (yes, that Titanic) by combining the aesthetics of the original with the amenities of the 21st century, and putting it all together with the help of a Chinese ship building company.


The original Titanic, built by Harland and Wolff for the While Star Line.


I don't know about you, but that last part doesn't give me much hope for this ship being "unsinkable". And if you didn't die due to the ship's poor construction, you would probably suffer a horrible terminal illness from the lead lining your bed frame and dining utensils. (Sorry China, but your track record made that jab inevitable.)

The fact that this billionaire is supposedly going through a Chinese company in order to escape regulations is another telling factor, one that should induce a good measure of skepticism for those who really do wish to see the Titanic rise from the ashes (I admit, I am one of these people).

Indeed, I could point out one possible regulatory issue he is going to have right off the bat. As you can see from the image above, Titanic's bow (the front portion of a ship) is at what is almost a ninety degree angle, and is constructed in such a way that it almost acts like a knife's edge cutting through the water.

That's great and all, except for the fact that this bow can actually freaking cut through things other than water with ease. In fact, Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, was famous for plowing through ships and splitting them in two, and this in large part had to do (not only with the ineptitude of the crew) with the design of the bow.


The Olympic. Note the lack of window covers on the top deck which distinguishes her from her ill-fated sister.


I have not researched this lately, but I am fairly certain that bow's similar to Titanic's or Olympic's have been banned by many countries (which is why you never see ships of this particular frontal design anymore).


The Queen Mary 2, one of the only modern day Ocean Liners. Note the curved bow.

Additionally, I feel almost as if today's general public would be disappointed at the size of the Titanic. At 882 feet from stem to stern, the original Titanic is still a lengthy ship even by today's standards. However, while ships have not gotten much more elongated in recent decades, they have grown taller.

Much, much taller. So much taller in fact that the tip of Titanic's smokestacks would just barely graze the bridge of the Queen Mary 2, referenced in the picture above. This isn't helped by the fact that James Cameron's famous (or infamous) movie made the Titanic appear bigger than it actually was to provide inaccurate awe inspiring imagery for movie-goers.

Essentially what I am trying to say is that if you aren't a history or ship buff like I am, you probably won't be fascinated by the Titanic 2's aesthetics or presence.

Besides, what you will be seeing (if this ship is ever made, and that is a gigantic if) won't really be anything more than a likely poorly constructed facsimile of the real thing.

In my opinion this Billionaire is only announcing this to create publicity for himself and whoever he has partnered with to "build" the Titanic 2. The fact that he is producing this through a Chinese company to get by regulations is shady to say the least, and I would not be surprised at all if in four years (the ship will supposedly make its maiden voyage in 2016) it is announced that this project has gone nowhere.

It is a shame really, as rebuilding the Titanic may be an interesting prospect for historical and educational purposes. However, this story feels to me too much like a publicity stunt meant to increase the wealth of an already overly rich business man looking to take advantage of potential investors through a multimillion dollar boondoggle.

Having said that, as a huge fan of Titanic's history, I would probably be one of the first people buying a ticket for the 21st century's iteration of this infamous ship if it is indeed completed in 2016.

Let's just hope nobody gets the bright idea to build the "Iceberg II" in the meantime...