Posted in Nerd on November 29th, 2006 by Tom

Pop Quiz, Hotshot:
You’re buying a new car. Inside, under that shinny new hood, you can have one of two things:

A Hemi Engine
American, tried, true, and overly commercialized.

A Carnot Engine
New, fancy, somewhat French.

There is a right answer.
[This could be helpful.]

The concept is interesting, if not a little abstract.

Dollars and Cents

Posted in Politics on November 27th, 2006 by Tom

Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else get the feeling that ‘political capital’ is synonymous with “Making me agree to crap I don’t want to do”?

I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that, but all I know is that when political capital gets spent, I get irritated.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

Posted in Nerd, School, Technology on November 27th, 2006 by Tom

The Nintendo Wii came out, just recently. It was released concurrently with Sony’s PS3 to considerable fanfare. Honestly, I thought that motion-remote thing was just a gambit to hype up whatever Nintendo actually planned on releasing. I was wrong.

To some extent, my suspicions were confirmed when I learned that the Wii-mote was actually born out of a motion-sensitive controller accessory that was planned for the GameCube. Go figure. It has gimmick written all over it.

However, Nintendo’s really serious about this. To that, I give them credit. The XBox 360 is just a better XBox. The PS3 is just an XBox 360 with BluRay and the pitifully revamped DualShock controller. The Wii really is something different though. I’m excited to pick one up, but I know that won’t happen for quite some time. It’s pretty expensive and in very high demand, and I’m busy enough to be able to live without it for quite some time. After a price-drop and some overstock though, I think that I’m more than likely going to pick one up.

With the Wii came also the first-ever Zelda title available at the launch of a Nintendo console: Twilight Princess! The only reason they’re able to do this is because of the fact that it was designed for the GameCube (seeing a pattern?). They just revamped the control scheme for the Wii-mote, delayed the GCN release, and called it something new, which irritates me.

The silver lining here is derived from a little thing called handedness. Historically, Link has been left handed, always! (With the exception of a lazy sprite-creator in A Link to the Past) However, Nintendo realized that they had configured the game for the Wii-mote (which controls Link’s sword) to be in the player’s right hand.

To make it easier, they simply mirrored the entire game. Dungeon maps, enemies, and Link himself, are all flipped across the horizontal axis. As a result, Link is now right-handed, and is fighting an army of southpaws, as opposed to the reverse which was intended. A curious thing happened after this change though. Nintendo actually reported that left-handed users had no trouble with the new control scheme.

If this is true, then the converse should’ve been true for left-handed control orientation and right-handed users, and the change would’ve been excessive and unnecessary. This entire thing made me pretty mad, because they’re sacrificing a hallmark detail of a franchise spanning more than a decade for what I still feel (in this case) boils down to a silly gimmick.

The game gains little from this added dimension of control, as it was included so late in development, and it loses one of the cool little quirks that made the hero unique. Boo Nintendo. However, the GameCube version, which I’ve had reserved for upwards of two years now, and is being released three weeks after the Wii version, and will probably be ignored because of Wii-fever, was left unscathed. Link is left-handed in that version. As a result, I feel it’s the true version, and have no qualms about waiting for it to come out, and I’ll relish playing it instead of the flawed Wii port.

So there.

Today I finished my 10-page Physics Seminar paper. It was about the end of the universe, and the several zillion different ways that it could happen, not happen, or happen but be reversed in the end. Strange stuff. Anyway, I stumbled upon the prologue to a sci-fi story I’d started to write in what must have been my freshman year of high school. It was about this end-of-the world inter-dimensional travel kind of stuff.

I hate finding cool stories I started writing and then never finished, because I enjoy my own writing so much (how narcissistic of me) that it’s frustrating to not have the end to what I think is a pretty neat idea. Bah.

One final thing:
The only thing more annoying that having to use Microsoft Windows is having to listen to Dr. Hammond bitch about having to use Microsoft Windows.

If you use Linux/Unix/OSX/etc. and you think you’re so much better than everyone else, then good for you. Just please don’t subject the rest of us to your incessant ranting about how sub-standard Windows is. I don’t care and you’re just irritating me.

Burning Down the House

Posted in Politics on November 10th, 2006 by Tom

What a crazy week.

Most of this rant pertains to the elections, but a brief portion here at the top will be devoted to wildfires. Why? Because apparently I care. Here’s how it breaks down:

Ever Monday and Wednesday, becuase of how my schedule works, I eat lunch in my room. This is usually EasyMac or Ramen Noodles deppending on my mood and how much time I have. If I’m not studying for a quiz/exam, this wonderful meal is enjoyed over a rousing hour of CNN. I’ve been working this routine for about two months now, and I’ve noticed something odd.

All CNN does is cover California wildfires. 5 minutes of news (Iraq, pre-election stuff, UN) and then 5 minutes of wildfire (Maps, phone calls with park rangers, constant reiteration about the “luxury appartments” that are “not that far away.”). Constantly, back and forth. For the ENTIRE hour. It’s absolutely insane. I don’t mean to sound callous, but why do I care about a stupid fire?

It’s probably going to burn things. Neat. They’ll put it out eventually and hopefully no one dies. It really serves no purpose to tell me about something I can do nothing to change. And it’s not as if they even have compelling images for me to gape at between bites of my microwaved entree. It’s just this billowing smoke on the other side of a highway with a patrol car in the foreground.

I don’t get it.

But on to more important and exciting aspects: CNN on Tuesday night. I came home and Hank was taping House. Once it was done, I turned off the TV and realized about 3 seconds later what I was missing. I flipped it right back on and was glued to the news for the rest of the night. I only watch CNN not because I like it that much better, but because our remote is currently occupied by one very dead battery. CNN is 18, FOX sucks, and MSNBC is Sixty-something. It’s just easiest.

Ian came in later and we watched it for a while. I called Lizz but she had homework, so Ian just politely listened to me say crude things about Rick Santorum and how I wasn’t going to miss him at all. Then it started. Wolf Blitzer comes on and gives his “We’re projecting the Democrats will take control of the House,” and I cheered. I was that excited. Ian left soon afterwards, and Hank doesn’t usually sleep here anymore, nowadays at least, so I was alone.

I went on and on, and one by one, the Senate races came in. It was finally down to just 3: Montana, which still was in the 50% reporting; Missouri, which was bouncing all over the place; and Virginia, which was coming down to an insanely close margin. I sayed up until 1:30 AM until they finally projected Missouri to go to Claire McCaskill. She’d declared victory some time before that. I stayed awake just long enough to throw some slights at Jim Talent, and then I turned in.

I woke up and they still didn’t know exactly what was going on. During my Wednesday lunch-in-the-room they called Montana for Tester, and right afterwards Rumsfield resigned. I swear right then and there I was done. I don’t need Christmas this year, becuase that’s the most I could ask for. I know some other butt will take his place, but ditching ol’ Don was the best news I’d heard in a while.

Until that evening, when Joey Risch told me that Virginia didn’t even need to go to its much-expected and highly-anticipated state-sponsored recount. We’d done it! The perfect conclusion to one the brighter election nights in my life.

To pause briefly and go over what I had to do to vote: Once my absentee stuff got here on Friday, I filled it out as fast as I could, and then I had to go get it notarized, to prevent fraud I suppose. After that was the adventure looking for Kirksville’s U.S. Post Office. The advantage being, there aren’t too many places for it to hide.

I managed to get it in just before the 4 PM delivery to Kansas City, which gave me hope that it might make it. I feel like it made it.

To bring things back to the focus though, here’s a letter:

Dear Democrats (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, I mean you),


We finally catch a break, and I’ll be damned if we don’t seize the opportunity. The entire election was run on the ‘New Direction’ slogan, which is cool, but I’d better start seeing action soon. It could be really easy to slide back and lose one or both of these in another two years. It could also be, not easy, but possible, that you could do such a good job that we get a Democratic president in 2008.

I think we can do it.
Just pay attention, and don’t sell out.

-Tom Hogan
[Informed Voter, One of the Last]

In the local department:
Minimum Wage Passed:
-Huzzah. I don’t know if I’d make any more, but it’s cool either way.

Amendment 2 Passed:
-Didn’t expect that, but it’s a way-pleasant suprise.

Light Rail Passed:
-Oh boy… Who knows what this means.

So that’s the deal. I’m going to bask in the glow of victory for a little while before I start getting really critical of the Democrats for not doing enough now that they HAVE CONTROL OF THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT.