Thursday, September 30, 2004

Blogging the Debate

Since I've planned on watching the debate tonight, I decided to get out my laptop and note my thoughts as I watch.

-I like the concept of the lights. Each candidate has a box with a green, yellow, and red light on their podium (familiar to fans of Law and Order from Jack McCoy's frequent visits to the appellate court). If they go over time, the red light blinks; if the red light blinks three times, a buzzer goes off. Brit Hume from Fox News told us that it was so loud during the pre-debate testing that it made President Bush jump. Kind of like the Gong Show.

-The president hasn't reached out to the Muslim world? What do you call bringing democracy to two Muslim countries so far, Senator?

-President Bush is not a good public speaker, especially when he has to go off the cuff like he's doing tonight. He was very eloquent during the Republican National Convention, but already tonight he's pausing awkwardly and stumbling over words. This, I think is where the "Bush is a moron" camp gets most of their ammunition.

-Kerry is attacking Bush for using Afghanis to make the attempt to get Bin Laden in Afghanistan rather than Americans (the best trained troops in the world), yet he's also criticizing him for the continued participation of the same American troops in Iraq rather than transitioning more of the antiterrorist operations there to Iraqis. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Senator.

-Way to divert a debate ostensibly about national security to debate the tax cuts, guys.

-Half an hour into the debate, and I'm about ready to throw something at the TV if Kerry tries to tie his speeches back into his Vietnam service one more time.

-We didn't go into Iraq with our allies? What do you call Britain, Poland, Japan, and the approximately 30 other countries who sent troops or aid workers?

-...and there's our first Halliburton reference from Kerry. "Enron!" and "Halliburton!"...the battle cries of a liberal who's losing an argument.

-"Let me finish"--Mr. President, take my advice--you DON'T want to remind the folks at home of Ross Perot.

-"Is the liberation of Iraq worth the cost in American lives?" That's hardly a fair question. Bush fielded it as well as anyone can--"Every life is precious." Of course it's not worth the cost of lives. But is doing nothing worth the cost of the lives we will lose by not battling terrorism, not establishing allies in the Middle East?

-We need to convince Iraq we don't have designs on it? Right, we put in one of their own as prime minister and scheduled elections for January because we're getting ready to make Iraq the 51st state.

-Oil, oil, oil. Yes, Mr. Kerry, we invaded Iraq to get its sweet, sweet oil. And we've taken so much of it that our gas prices should be dipping down into the 80-cents-a-gallon range any day now. Riiiiiiight.

-One concession I'll make to the Kerry camp: Bush saying if we hadn't invaded Saddam immediately, we'd "rue the day". I've said before that I don't believe Bush lied to or misled us about WMDs, but the intel so far has turned out to be false. Although Saddam himself may have believed he had or was building WMDs, all indications currently are that he wasn't. My gut tells me this is because his own people were embezzling from him. That takes more balls to do over there than it does over here...embezzle in the U.S. and you'll get six months at Club Fed; embezzle in Saddam's Iraq and you'll get six minutes (to live) in Club Head (as in "Off with his...")

-The thing to remember about my last point is that it's easy to say that now. Our intel at that time said he had WMDs, possibly even nuclear weapons, and it was backed by reports from MI6 and Israeli intelligence. Based on the intel at that time, action was required. And the removal of an evil dictator (and Saddam was nothing less than that) is ALWAYS a noble goal.

-"Nuke-yu-lar." George, you sound like an ignorant rube. Get a speech coach, play subliminal learning tapes while you sleep, whatever it takes. Eliminate that pronunciation from your vernacular.

-Bunker-busting nuclear weapons don't make sense? Right, a weapon designed to bring down the structures where the terrorist leaders live, hide, and plot our downfall makes no sense at all. Why don't we just go back to rocks thrown from catapults?

All in all, it was interesting to watch, but it didn't change my positions any. I still know who I'm voting for come November 2nd.

Project: Refrigerator Refurbishing

When I bought my house a couple of years ago, the sellers included their major appliances in the purchase price. This was a good thing, since I didn't have any appliances in my old apartment. The washing machine and dryer are fairly new and work great. So does the fridge/freezer unit, except for one thing: it's missing most of the railings that allow you to keep food on the doors. As a result, since I moved in (back in 2002), my fridge and freezer have been overcrowded to say the least. I hunted and hunted for a way to fix this, and over the weekend I stumbled onto a site called PartsDirect. I placed the order for two of the longer rails and the brackets to mount them on Monday evening (the cost was about $75 including the cheapest shipping possible), they shipped on Tuesday, and to my surprise, they arrived today. I checked the brackets, and they fit the fridge perfectly. Unfortunately, the rails are just a bit too long (a note included with the package alerted me that this might happen). So it looks like I have my first project for the weekend--put the hacksaw blade on my Ryobi power saw and chop 'em down to size.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Madden 2005

I loaded up a copy of this game on my system last night just to give it a whirl. My love of football dictates that I have at least one such game on my computer at all times, and from everything I've seen and read, this series remains the best. I've played every version since 2000 (I've had my own copy of all of them except for 2002, which I played on a friend's PS2), so I've got a fairly good background of knowledge on the subject of the Madden games.

Graphically, the game looks a lot like the 2004 edition, and that's not a bad thing. The "TV-style" graphics have some neat new features; my favorite is the "current drive" info box showing number of plays, yardage, and time that pops down between plays when you get a good one going. The helmets look more realistic than ever, and that's a nice touch. The jerseys, unfortunately, are a different story. They've gotten so well-rendered that you can see the individual meshing on each player's shirt. On the colored "home" jerseys, they look great. On the white "road" jerseys, though, my poor old Radeon 9500 Pro graphics card doesn't render the shirts correctly what with the shadow effects, and the difference is similar to the difference between HDTV versus regular TV. I'll probably end up playing with the detail settings and turning them down a bit to fix this problem. Oh, and the cheerleaders seem to get a little bit better each time. This year: realistic bouncing breast action!

As for the sound, my only complaint is that by default, the crowd is too loud and drowns out the commentary, but you can fix that (or not, as your little heart desires). Very few complaints about the audio, except that for the past few years it seems like John Madden has been recording less and less original commentary and relying on the recordings he's made in past years. This probably isn't as big of a deal for newcomers to the series, but for "oldbies" like me, it seems to make the commentary get repetitive more quickly. During franchise mode, you now have the option of playing an episode of the Tony Bruno show. He's got fictional callers and actual interviews with real NFL coaches, as well as telling you about things going on that pertain to your team. So far, I think this is a pretty innovative feature, but time will tell if it gets to be repetitive and annoying. Of course, if it does, I can always turn it off and play the music. The music is about what I've come to expect from Madden, alternapop and nuMetal mixed in with the occasional spit-words-out-so-fast-you-can't-understand-it rap song, although I enjoyed the inclusion of "retro throwback" track "From Out of Nowhere" by Faith No More (though I think "Surprise You're Dead" would have been even more atmospheric, beginning with the cowbell as it does and all--it just sounds like something they'd play at a stadium.) I wonder how many teenaged Kid Rock/Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park fans are going to say "This sucks" and fast forward right on through it without realizing how these guys paved the way for their favorite bands.

As far as gameplay goes, the on-field action is virtually identical to last year's game. Supposedly there's a "hit stick" feature that allows you to put an extra pop on ballcarriers to try and force a fumble (or to injure them, though EA doesn't explicitly say this), but it appears you have to have a control pad with an analog stick in order to use this feature. My gamepad is a really old Sidewinder from the late '90s, before analog sticks were commonplace, so I'll either have to buy a new gamepad or do without the bone-crunching hits. For franchise mode, all the fun (if sometimes annoying) owner mode stuff is there. Player attitude is introduced this year, so you have to contend with the Terrell Owenses of the world taking your locker room apart from the inside. There are position battles for starters during the preseason, you can get e-mail with key points to focus on before each game, and there are local and national newspapers to give you the scoop on the happenings with your team and around the league.

My recommendation is to pick this one up if you're a football fan. It'll probably get a whole lot more of my gaming time than Star Wars Battlefront.

Cooking for Engineers

This was already posted on last week, and I didn't want to steal it from him the same day that he posted it, but Cooking for Engineers (a fellow member site) is such a cool cooking site that I, too, just had to add it to my links.


"Hurricane" Jeanne blew through my neck of the woods last night, although it was far from a hurricane by the time it got here. Oh, it got windy, and it sure did rain a lot, but I didn't see any damage in my own neighborhood to speak of. No water in my basement, no downed tree limbs, even the traffic backups only cost me about ten extra minutes getting home from work last night.

Oh, and despite wind and rain and all of the dire warnings from Comcast (my local cable company), as far as I can tell, my satellite picture never missed a beat. Screw you, Comcast. Nyah.

Did you miss me?

I'm betting not...but for the curious, I took a long weekend (Monday was a day of vacation for me) and went to Reading, PA to visit my folks. The fact that my father has DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package and the Giants game wasn't on in my area had absolutely nothing to do with it...riiiiiight.

Three days to lounge around, drink beer, and eat great food that I didn't have to prepare. I was going to do some blog entries up there, but I forgot to pack the power cord for my iBook. Oh well.

But now I'm back. I'll try not to leave my audience (however small it might be) abandoned without warning again.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Star Wars Battlefront

I got a few good hours of playing time in on this game the other night, and my verdict is a solid "Meh." It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it just left me wanting something a little more. I actually saw TV commercials for this game (which is rare for a PC-based game, although this one is available for PS2 and XBox as well) and was expecting something more than just Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam rehashed in the Star Wars universe. It's more "capture and defend the points on the map" fun, which I enjoy, but I've been playing this sort of game for over two years now, and I haven't found any innovative features that this game has added. The graphics are well done, and it's neat that it covers battles from both the original trilogy as well as the newer "saga" films, but I've found multiplay to be inexcusably laggy (my 768K DSL has no trouble with either of the Battlefield games from EA) and there are a couple features from the Battlefield series that are missing: you can't capture a point by parking a vehicle on the flag, the flags don't seem to turn any faster by having additional soldiers sit on the capture points, and you can't pick up new weapon "kits" from fallen soldiers, friend or foe. But the new maps and vehicles are neat, the battles are certainly grand in scale (although even in online play, a good number of the combatants are AI-controlled), and unlike in EA's masterpieces, the AI soldiers are slightly smarter than the average head of cabbage. My verdict on this one: thumbs squarely in the middle. This should keep me occupied until Tribes Vengeance comes out later this fall, at any rate. Some of my online pals over at the August Knights have bought it as well, so we should be able to get some quality multiplayer fun out of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Today is going to be a big day, entertainment-wise.

As soon as I get done working, I'm heading to Best Buy...both the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set and the Star Wars Battlefront PC game come out today. I'll probably try to get some playing time in tonight with my online gaming group and post some first impressions tomorrow.

But I probably won't get time to watch the DVDs until at least the weekend...the new season of Law & Order kicks off tomorrow with SVU, two hours of the mothership on Wednesday (I'm especially looking forward to seeing Dennis Farina's performance; I've seen several of his movies and have a feeling he's going to have us saying "Lennie who?"), and the Criminal Intent premiere on Sunday. I'm addicted to all of these shows--it's a good thing I have TiVo to catch them all for me.

Monday, September 20, 2004


Saddam Hussein is depressed.

Poor little deposed dictator.

He's still not even close to knowing how the people he and his thugs killed, raped, and tortured felt.

Rot in hell, you son of a bitch. I hope you experience a lot more fear and depression before you're released from this life.

Iraq war debate: Kerry vs. Bush

More sparring from the presidential candidates today on the war in Iraq.

Salient points from the article:

"Kerry said Monday, 'Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no because a commander in chief’s first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.'"

Yet a bit further down, even MSNBC (which I consider to be a slightly left-leaning source) concedes that "Kerry, a fourth-term Massachusetts senator, voted to give Bush authority to wage the war and he said in August he still would have voted that way had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

What really gets me are the accusations that Bush lied to or mislead the American public into believing that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. In my mind, the proof is conclusive that he was relying on the best intelligence available to him...intelligence that came from American, British, and Israeli agencies, and intelligence that was reliable enough to persuade numerous other nations (Great Britain chief among them) to join in our efforts. The information available now indicates that Saddam Hussein himself believed that he had or was developing weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence was wrong, but Bush was neither misleading nor lying when he trusted in it and used it to make the decision to invade Iraq.

Giants catch a "break"

My New York Football Giants will be playing the Cleveland Browns this coming Sunday without rookie sensation tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who could miss the rest of the season with a broken leg.

I certainly hate to see guys get hurt, but I've got to admit, between this injury and Cleveland's miserable performance against Dallas yesterday, I like the Giants' chances.

Candidates, memos, and military service

So CBS is admitting that the memo that allegedly calls President Bush's national guard service into question is more likely than not a fake. Good. My only hope is that now this "story" can die the death it deserves and everyone can move on to more important issues. Between this and the swift boat veterans controversy, I'm sick of it all.

Not that these things aren't at least worth touching upon--these men have both brought their service backgrounds into their campaign, and this is an issue that should be examined. After all, the integrity of the candidates should be first and foremost in every voter's mind as they enter the voting booth. But does every little factoid need to be page one news every single night?

While we in America demand greedily the details of things that happened thirty years ago, terrorists are kidnapping and murdering Americans. Which is more important? I know what my answer to that question is.

And the war on terror isn't the only thing more important than past service records. How about the FCC's crackdown on "shock jocks", the environment, or the death of fair-use? There are a hundred things that actually matter because they affect the future, not the past, but yet never seem to get talked about on the news.

Come on, George and John. Keep the past in the past and talk about meaningful, current issues. Don't make me vote Libertarian.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Great weekend

It's nice any time you have a Friday off from work, and this weekend was no exception. I got my grass cut, my grocery shopping done, my kitchen cleaned, last night I made one great dinner (sauteed veal with a spicy Cajun pasta) and prepared another dish for tonight (a baked sort of spaghetti-lasagna hybrid). Now I'm sitting on my couch, drinking a cold PBR with jalapeno poppers in the oven, watching my Giants beat up on the hated Washington Redskins, and following the score as my Yankees beat up on the Red Sawks. Does life get any better than this?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Street naming

There are streets named after sports stars, war heroes, and popular entertainers. But this may be the first street I've heard of actually being named after a TV show.

It is fitting, though.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Cool little statistical site.

Hat tip to Hylander.

NFL wrapup

I watched the Monday night game very intently last night--one of my fantasy teams was winning by a mere 9 points, and the only player who played on Monday for either team was Stephen Davis for my opponent. Fortunately, the Green Bay defense played an excellent game, and I held on for the week one W. (Don't ask about my other team--not only did I not win, but I scored the fewest points out of all ten of us. Strange, considering my two teams had a lot of players in common.)

And thank God I have fantasy football to keep me interested this season, because I have a feeling it's going to be a long season for me and my fellow Giants fans. They looked like a million bucks on the opening drive against the Eagles on Sunday, but after that--nothing. I think it's best summed up by this picture, which one of my fellow fans posted in the Giants newsgroup that I frequently read.



In the name of all that's holy, please no.

Monday, September 13, 2004


I got my first link from a fellow blogger that I know of over the weekend--from my paintball-playing buddy Squidly. I'm in the B's under his Blogroll.

In Memoriam

Nothing worse than an author who stakes out an address, starts a perfectly nice little blog, then abandons it, never to post again. I won't do that, I promise.

Unfortunately, I was out of town this weekend. My grandfather passed away on Sunday the 5th, and was buried on Friday the 10th. I wasn't going to even mention it here, simply because I didn't want this blog to take a down tone too early on, but after giving it some thought, this is something important to me, moreso than just about anything else I'll post on this site. In fact, I can tell already that I'm going to ramble on for longer than I originally intended when I started this entry.

My grandfather was just short of his 87th birthday. For about 85 of those years, he was blessed with good health, and up until about six months ago his health problems had been very minor. Lately, his quality of life had begun to slip, as he'd just had surgery the Monday before his death to remove two tumors from his lungs. (He was the only one of my grandparents who still smoked by the time I was born, but even he'd given up the habit fifteen or twenty years ago. The story, as I'm told, is that one evening, he finished the last cigarette in his pack, crumpled it up, and said "I quit." And he never smoked even one again. That was the kind of person he was.)

The funeral was small, at a Catholic church in Honesdale, Pa., where he lived and my mother grew up. (In fact, my grandfather lived his entire life in the house where he was born.) It was a nice service, and he was remembered fondly. My brother, two cousins, my father, an uncle, and I served as his pallbearers. That wasn't something I was looking forward to, but in the end, I was honored to be one of the ones to bring him to his rest.

It was a very surreal family gathering. The mood really wasn't as mournful as I originally expected, and I think my grandmother gets the credit for that. She really is an amazing woman, coping with the death of her constant companion for the last 55 years as well as she is. Fortunately, she won't be alone--two of my aunts and uncles still live right there in town.

On Saturday afternoon, we gathered to watch the Notre Dame-Michigan football game--my grandfather graduated from ND in 1938 and watched just about every single Notre Dame game he could see. My grandparents even travelled to a couple of bowl games in better years. Of course, anyone who knows college football expected Michigan to hand the Irish their own heads, but I guess my grandfather has already found someone's ear to whisper in up there, because it was, in fact, Notre Dame who outplayed their opponents in just about every way.

In memory of Jack G. Rickert, 1917-2004.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Odd scam

My friend Hylander has received an odd phone call.

Stinks like scam to me. They're aiming low in terms of dollar amount solicited, but that doesn't make it less likely to be a scam. For an example of this, read Frank Abagnale's Catch Me If You Can, or even see the movie.

Of Clinton and health care

I just read an interesting editorial from the New York Post making the point that if Clinton's health care reforms, which would have made our health care system resemble that of Canada, had passed, the former president would likely still be waiting for his bypass surgery, if in fact he hadn't already been felled by a heart attack.

Now of course you have to take this article with a grain of salt. It appears on the op-ed page, and it's an editorial, not a news story. But you have to wonder--how badly do we need to go to a completely government funded health care system--like Canada's--when Canadians are coming here for health care. The waiting times for critical care are simply horrible--according to the Post editorial, the average Canadian who needs to consult a cardiologist waits 3.4 weeks to do so, and a bypass operation can take over two weeks.

Michael F. Cannon (the author of the editorial) concedes the fact that Clinton likely wouldn't have had to wait that long. "[C]ardiovascular surgery queues are routinely jumped by the famous and politically-connected," he writes. But if those jumps are factored into the average waiting time, then how long does the average Joe like you or me end up waiting for care that's often needed as soon as possible, with the risk of waiting often being death?

Let's face it: time has proven that in most cases, there's no better way to get things done than a supply-and-demand driven free market economy. Right now, doctors are able to earn enough money that becoming a doctor--by which I mean going through years of medical school at great personal expense, working round-the-clock shifts while usually still burdened by debt from said personal expense, and generally dealing with illness, injury, and death on a daily basis --is still a desirable profession. Put the Hand of Government into it, dictating what health care costs (and hence what a doctor makes), and you're going to end up decreasing the supply of available health care and driving up the demand. And where will we go when there are shortages?

We'll probably all end up calling 1-800-DOCTORB.

Video game fun, old and new

I finally loaded my copy of Doom 3 onto my computer the other night. I've only had the chance to play for a couple of hours, but I must say, so far so good. Other members of my online gaming group have remarked that the game reminds them somewhat of Half-Life. I agree somewhat, but I'd say it reminds me more of System Shock 2 without the RPG-style character development. While all three games involve monsters, aliens, and the walking dead in an outer space/future setting, Half-Life is brightly illuminated for most of the game. Doom 3 and System Shock 2 have much darker areas, and a creepier overall feel--you can hear things going bump in the night. D3 also features some of the best monster animations I've ever seen in a game. The zombies shuffle and lurch a la Dawn of the Dead (too many zombie games feature running zombies, like those in 28 Days Later) and the fireball-throwing critters that I assume are the imps from the original Doom slither across the walls and ceilings like Spiderman before jumping in your face to attack. Don't be too scared off by the massive system requirements, either. My video card is an aging Radeon 9500 Pro, and I was able to strike a good balance between detail and speed at 800x600 resolution. I'll post more when (and if!) I get the time to get further into the game.

I also rediscovered an old favorite last night. I was sitting on my couch watching TiVo'd Law & Order reruns when I suddenly got the urge to play DX-Ball. It's a Breakout-type game (actually a clone of the old Amiga game Hyperball) with lots of "prizes", both good and bad, that fall out when you hit certain blocks (selected at random). An old girlfriend got me hooked on it during my freshman year of college. Unfortunately, when we split, her computer was the one with DX-Ball installed on it, and I hadn't seen the game since. So I pulled out my trusty iBook (the 12-inch variety; it's the perfect couch companion) and Googled up the game. Amazingly, someone actually ported it to the Mac, so I downloaded the free version and played the night away. The free version comes with 50 levels, and trust me, it'll take you a long time before you're able to get through them all. Highly recommended.

"Man Bites Dog" story

Guns don't kill people, puppies do.

I'm all for the rights of gun owners, but this idiot deserves a Darwin Award.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

One more day...

I love football season. How can you not? I get asked all the time why I love football so much--I tell people it's because football is a low-commitment sport--watch Sunday afternoon and Monday night and you can see pretty much all you need to see.

Of course, the real reason is that it gives me an excuse to sit around the house and drink beer on Sundays and Monday nights.

Unfortunately for me, I'm a New York Giants fan. Given how bad they've looked this year, I'm almost ready to give up on the season before the first game is even underway. Now add in the fact that their first game is against the Philadelphia Eagles, our hated rivals and the local team in my neck of the woods, and I'm almost definitely going to be watching it with multiple Philly fans.

Anybody have a nice rock I can hide under?

But all is not lost. Fantasy football to the rescue. I'm playing for the first time this year, with not one but two teams in two different leagues. This means that pretty much any game I see will either have one or more players from either my fantasy team or one of the other two fantasy teams I'll "face" each week--hence, someone to root for or against in any game I get. That's great for someone like me who doesn't have the DirecTV NFL package and has to rely on whatever games the networks, ESPN, and Monday Night Football show.

This week? The Delaware Destroyaz take on the Fisher Price Ravens and the Claymont Dragons go up against the Bethlehem Blitz--I have Delaware and Claymont.

First post...

OK. Great. Another blog out there in the great wide open cyberspace. Just what the world needs...right?

So what in the hell made me decide to put up a blog of my own?

OK, I admit it. Deep down inside, I'm just a great big attention whore.

I haven't filled out the profile yet--to be honest, I probably won't. Their questions are dumb. Favorite books, movies, music? Sure, I like all of those things, but to think you can get to know someone from questions like that is just wishful thinking. Read the blog if you really want to know. I promise to do my best to make it a fun and interesting ride.