Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hey "Joker", Who's Laughing Now?

As you may know, I normally stay away from most current event or news topics on this blog, not to avoid controversy, but mainly out of unabashed vanity. This blog is about me, dammit! Why should I detract from the topic that most concerns me, that being myself of course. LOL!

So I blissful remain un-opinionated towards things like the Chik-Fil-A raucous. Who gives a fuck what some idiot fast food king thinks? I never eat there anyway. Over-priced, sub-par greasy chicken and their silly religious pretentiousness was so evident way before this current brouhaha.

But this sick fuck in Colorado has pissed me off enough to say something about him.

As someone who works in the mental health field, I know how pitiful it can be to "lose your mind". It's usually quite devastating not only to those afflicted but their friends and family as well. Whole productive lives can be reduced to essentially rubble once an illness like schizophrenia takes hold. Here on campus, there are residents who were college professors, business leaders, socialites and even one lady who was herself a doctor of psychiatric medicine. Talk about irony! This illness strikes hard and at various ages and is universally indiscriminate to race, creed, social standing or prior circumstances.

But the key thing to remember is it is only in extremely rare circumstances that there have been known cases of someone just instantly "snapping". There are usually clear and obvious precursors.

One commonality, as in this case, is that it can hit highly productive (and usually stressed because of it) college aged kids. But it's always noticeable. Even for reclusive individuals, people around the sufferer can see a change. It can be quick, but there are always signs. And there's always help.

This guy and his family must have been aware of what was going on. He was studying neuroscience, for crying out loud! He would have known how destructive mental illness can be, and how it can usually be successfully treated chemically. But he and his family chose to ignore it. 

I don't subscribe to the belief that the schizophrenic cannot self-diagnose in the early stages. Many of the residents here are here precisely because they knew there was something wrong, and that it was getting worse the more they ignored it. Take the clinician I spoke of earlier...she checked herself in. She knew precisely what was happening.

So this guy decides to ignore it. Doesn't treat it, and this is what happens. He has to accept some responsibility here.

Here's an image I saw tonight that sparked this ire. Its a picture of Holmes' youngest fatality. Her mother who was also shot survived, but just miscarried her unborn child because of the trauma.

If I were the guy in charge of the jail he's being held at, I'd have this picture blown-up and pasted on Holmes' cell wall. He'd be ordered to not tear it down.

That's right, Joker. Take a good look into her eyes every night before you go to sleep.

Sweet dreams, you sick fuck.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Steam Frozen

With over 80 games on Steam, I can only devote myself to a few at a time to actually actively play. And even the definition of "actively" becomes dubious since it can sometimes be months from the last time played to the next.

Here's a little status report on some of the more popular games I have on Steam that are currently "in progress".


Total hours played: 8
Last played: 5/24/12
Last saved game: In the "Hephaestus" level, working to finish Kyburz's EMP bomb.


Total hours played: 6
Last played: 7/27/12
Last saved game: Chapter: "Relic", Trying to reach the Extraction Point and save 2 hostages.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Total hours played: 72
Last played: 7/27/12
Last saved game: Working on "Elder Knowledge" quest, searching Blackreach for the Elder Scroll. Power: Level 27

Fallout: New Vegas

Total hours played: 75
Last played: 4/21/12
Last saved game: Ring-A-Ding-Ding quest. Just blew away Benny and all his men at the Tops Casino.

L.A. Noire

Total hours played: 4
Last played: 5/7/12
Last saved game: Working on "The Driver's Seat" case. Heading to Cavanaugh's Bar after questioning Adrian Blacks wife.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cue That Ol' Circus Music Again

Oh I search and search for someone, or some event, to blame for my current resurgence in mental instability but it's nowhere to be found.

Am I perpetually doomed to adopt the symptoms of the worst character traits of the people I serve in whatever job I call my career? When I was in customer service, I found myself behaving like an entitled prick mouthing off to total strangers like they were itinerant servants who needed to be put in their place. Now, working with the mentally ill, I feel like I'm becoming one of them, slowly but surely.

I talked a couple months ago about my circadian rhythms all a-whack and my psychological dependence on Ambien. Well, I seemed to kick into a good sleep pattern and refused to renew my script for that horrible drug. I hadn't related the actual struggles I was dealing with when I stopped the Ambien...the night (or should I say DAY) sweats, the erosion of a sense of reality and my difficult re-learning of the concept of sleep.

That was, so I thought, all behind me. But now it's back. When I do "sleep", it's only for a maximum of 4 hours a day, and most times I feel like I was just lying there, tossing every half hour or so from one side to another like I was on some hellish rotisserie, roasting over the metaphorical flames of my ever-restless mind.

So now I'm also back to experiencing ripples in the fabric of my reality. Like scenes from "Jacob's Ladder", it's quite simmeringly horrific.

People are staring at me. And they're talking about me. Oh I can't "hear" them, of course. But I know they are. They only react when I do some action. If I choose to say nothing, they act like NPCs in some video game, as if they're programmed only to respond if reacted with.

It probably doesn't help that I'm reading "Ready Player One" on my Kindle Fire. It's a novel set in a dystopian near-future where everyone has given up on their dreary, down-trodden life in the "real world" and adapted to a virtual existence in a perpetual online 3-D digital simulation, ala a grand MMORPG.

Not a totally unique plot point. It's somewhat been done before (think "Matrix" meets "Surrogates") but the author hints that this world-embraced lifestyle is somehow the natural evolution from growing up immersed in the video gaming culture, coming of age in the Ultima Online and World of Warcraft era, and allowing the ubiquity of Internet utilization to infiltrate nearly all facets of our daily functions via ever-increasingly mobile devices. Blend all that with the malaise of a real world of never-ending recession, escalating political and personal violence and a stark awakening to the nihilistic existentialism of a Godless universe and you have this book's 2044.

My ears are constantly ringing and my head hurts. I wonder if it's 'cause I finally "got it"...this is just a simulation. There is no reality. Nothing is real. I feel like I'm on the verge of "figuring it all out".

Oh oh. But they say when you do that, you die.

Oh well, game over, brother. Send in the clowns.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series "Star Trek"

What a perfect follow up to a post about current space exploration (or the lack of it) than an homage to one of my favorite TV shows, "Star Trek" ala another Sims 3 portraiture.

Just before I snapped the pic, Spock had an eerily dead-on single eyebrow lift that would have been perfect, but it morphed too quickly into this Evil Spock-like sneer.

Not a horrible pic though.

In case you couldn't figure it out, we have, from left to right, Bones, Scotty, Chekov, Kirk, Spock, Uhura and Sulu.

No special clothing or accessories pack here, folks. Just the vanilla game stuff. Of course I used style editing to give the uniforms and set features that "just so 1960's" color scheme.

Who Won The Space Race?

Well, if in one sense you treat the term race as being a competition in which participants try to achieve a stated goal (like making it to the finish) the fastest, then honestly, we must come to only one conclusion.

Russia wins.

They (as the USSR) win the first milestones hands down. Namely, the first successful craft to orbit, the first to lift an animal into orbit, the first to place a satellite into orbit and the first to put a human into orbit, and bring them back.

They achieved a bunch of other "firsts" as well, while we Americans tout the supposed "deal breaker": landing men on the moon. Sure, it's big and commendable, but it isn't the "ollie ollie oxenfree" that we've grown up hearing all the time.

According to many accounts touted by the US propaganda machine and unwittingly communicated by mass media, including school curriculum, the generally accepted assertion seems to be that once the moon shot had been achieved, the space race was essentially over.

Well you can't call something null and void just 'cause you see you can't win. That's called being a quitter. And by lying as much as possible about your loss, you're a sore loser.

The fact is, the US people didn't lose interest in space exploration in the mid-70s, but the war in Vietnam and greedy oil interests sucked up all the funding from the US government.

The Space Shuttle program had squeaked through but only because much of it had already been pre-funded and it was cheaper than some of the other potential paths we could have trod down. But the shuttle was nothing more than a work horse, really. It didn't advance any incredible space discoveries in its own right and we saw where some of those budget-minded cost cuts really hit hard. Just ask the families and friends of the crew members of Challenger and Columbia.

So now a year after the last manned space mission launched by the United States, we Americans are forced to watch our few remaining astronauts take off at 3 am our time from a far away launch site. Where? A Russian leased space center in Kazakhstan.

You gotta be in it to win it, folks.

Monday, July 09, 2012

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series "Good Times"

I gotta tell you, I'm really not happy with their faces. No one really looks like who they're supposed to be. The limitations in Sims 3 in tweaking the look of your sims, especially for non-whites, are stunningly restrictive. Oh yes you can BUY more features, accessories, outfits, etc., can't you? Sure! That's 'cause EA is greedy! In the parlance of my characters, they're "the Man" who's trying to "keep the poor folks down".

Well, as always with these digital dioramas, I deal with the hand I'm given. Notice I made some faux front tenements outside the window and a sky blue wall background to simulate that we're looking out from a higher vantage point. I don't remember the floor the Evans' lived on but I think it was kinda high up. Actually, it looks kinda fake and that's ok since it looks more like the backdrop of a TV set, which, of course it was.

I eliminated Jualana(sp?) simply 'cause I wanted a pretty tight-in shot.

I still can't figure out how to get them to smile and look into the "camera". They should since even though they were poor, they were a happy family.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

SCRAPBOOK: Monopoly Now

I loved playing the game "Monopoly" as a kid. I ruled this game. Other kids, my siblings especially, and adults alike, kinda hated playing with me because I took this game so very seriously.

I preferred to play straight rules, literally as printed in the rule book. No pussy "Free Parking" jackpot. No "gimmies" like forgiving someone a tiny rent payment if it meant they'd go bankrupt just to keep them in the game a bit longer. No friendly deals focusing on fairness and even monopoly distribution. Play like this shit was why people always complained the game was too long. Well it goes fast, my friend, if you play strictly by the rules and forgive nothing.

But I digress...what I really want to focus on here is the fact that I, and I would assume, many players out there, always tried to picture what the various "neighborhoods" on the game board would look like in real life. Would Baltic and Mediterranean be slums? Would Boardwalk and Park Place be mansions?

We've all heard that these are real world places in 1930's Atlantic City and it would be assumed that the neighborhoods then probably were pretty much representative of the relative value as implied on the game board. But how do they look today? Hmm...

Well, with the magic of Google Maps Street View, I thought I'd take a tour of the locations that inspired the names of the famous board game properties and see what they look like now, in present-day Atlantic City.

Let's take a stroll, shall we?

Indigo: Mediterranean Avenue and Baltic Avenue

The cheapest properties on the board look today, as seen here, pretty scummy. So far, pretty much what you'd think.

Light Blue: Oriental Avenue, Vermont Avenue and Connecticut Avenue

Still a bit sketchy, I'd say. Looks about right in terms of the game's pauper values.

Purple: St. Charles Place, States Avenue and Virginia Avenue

Well the pic for St. Charles Place is of the area around the Showboat Casino since St. Charles Place proper no longer exists, but it was in this location back then.

Orange: St. James Place, Tennessee Ave and New York Avenue

When I played the game, I loved having this monopoly since it wasn't too expensive so it could be improved rapidly and the odds of landing on them were statistically proven to be the best when compared to any other monopoly, including the railroads.

Red: Kentucky Avenue, Indiana Avenue and Illinois Avenue (Now MLK Blvd.)

These hoods are looking a great deal better, starting to look pretty nice...

Yellow: Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor Avenue and Marin Gardens

Marvin Gardens is actually spelled Marven Gardens and its real world location along with the other yellows is looking like the upwardly-mobile "nice" neighborhoods of my imagination.

Green: Pacific Avenue, North Carolina Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue

Now in the game we're in the upper class areas. Here though, not too high brow but much of what's in these pics could be assumed to be quite commercially valuable so it kinda translates to "high end".

Blue: Park Place and Boardwalk

As in the game, these current-day locations have stately buildings like in the Park Place pic as well as the most prime casino hotels in AC. These fit well with the much-desired rich digs of the game.

So almost 80 years after the creation of the game, I guess the current locations do pretty much reflect similar relative land values. I guess that justifies, in some sense, the old saying..."the rich get richer and the poor get poorer", or, more simply put, some things just never change.

Friday, July 06, 2012

To Stand The Test Of Time

I was about to fire up another game of the new Civilization V: Gods and Kings expansion (I've been playing almost non-stop since I got it a couple of weeks ago) when I randomly thought: "How long have I been playing this game, really?"

The first Civilization game came out in late 1991 (according to memory is fairly good with dates but I don't presume to be so good as to remember when now-ancient games were released) and was immediately hailed as the best comprehensive strategy game for computers ever. Period. And many, including myself still ascribe it as the high-mark of the 4X genre. Hell, it created the 4X genre!

Sid Meier became the defacto master of these types of games and Microprose, the then-publisher, became the leading producer of quality strategy games that were fun to play. Strategy games up to then had been produced for the growing PC games market, of course, ("Empire" being one of my personal favorites) but they focused primarily on battle strategy and tactics, not the whole picture including economy management, science development and cultural achievements behind your military forces.

Aside from those multipliers it was, as far as I can remember, the first strategy game to inspire the all important "What if" factor. Since you could take a culture and guide it along a myriad of paths towards evolution through time, you weren't bogged down by many historically-prescribed limitations. You could boldly go where your people had never gone before. It really did a lot to impart a sense of responsibility and personal ownership into your empire. And this was the key to keeping you hooked. This was why, if you're like me, it's so hard to stop playing. You have to guide your people through thick and thin, fending off enemies and exploiting good fortune to build a magnificent civilization.

This is the ultimate God game.

I gazed at the newly-installed display in the winter of '91 at the Electronics Boutique in the Emerald Square Mall with envy and bittersweet longing. Boxes of gold and blue, featuring an awe-inspiring illustration of an Egyptian sarcophagus buried beneath a skyscraper-encrusted modern city.

I'd read about the upcoming computer game in magazines for months and knew it was my type of game for sure. But my heart sank when I saw that it'd been released for Macintosh, Amiga and IBM-PC compatible (as was still the fashion to describe what today are simply "PCs") only. Not available for the Commodore 64, the only computer I had, and not likely to become available since by 1991 Commodore 64, an immensely popular and prolifically-supplied home computer throughout the '80s was in its twilight years. What's more, Civilization had great graphics for its day not to mention a then-CPU challenging amount of computations in its code. Commodore 64's just couldn't run it.

I was relegated to playing a demo version available on the Macs at the Discovery Store, also at Emerald Square. But they frowned on people playing for hours on these display computers and you couldn't save of course so it was a pale and hollow play experience.

Once I'd finally bought my first PC (yes, Mildred I) I still had to wait since I had to save up to swap out its monochrome monitor and Hercules graphics adapter for CGA-compatible equipment. But by the fall of 1992, I was able to lay down my first capital city of my first civilization. (I don't remember which civ I played for that first game but I suspect it may have been Rome)

Of course, through the years, I bought every single expansion and new version of the entire series. Almost always as soon as they came to market; sometimes I had to wait 'till I could afford the necessary upgrade to my hardware. Many a Mildred was replaced simply because she wasn't "Civ Ready".

It boggles my mind to think how many hours I've played over the years. Now with Civ V (and G&K) on Steam, the launch screen in my Steam library tallies up the hours played. According to it, I guess I'm currently at 782 hours. That's over a full month. Add in the years playing all previous versions, and I'd guess it'd come in around a whole year.

A whole year of my life, playing (essentially) one computer game.

A whole year.

Sing it, boys and girls:


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sangria Sunday

What's my new Sunday morning obsession?

Lounging around with the Sunday Times and a cup of Starbucks? Screw that! Who reads papers anymore and why would I drink coffee in the morning...I'm going to bed in a few hours.

Dressing in my Sunday best and going to my neighborhood church to worship Our Lord? Um, fuck no to that...that's for sure!

It's firing up a good Netflix movie and chillin' out with a big ol' pitcher of sangria, my new drink of choice.

Yeah, I gotta lay off the beer. It's too bloating, too easy to overdo, and it's getting too expensive. Cost is a big factor actually. You know for just $10 I made a gallon of this stuff. Factoring in the mixers, ice and all, it equates roughly (by my guess) to the same alcohol content as a 12-pack of beer. You can't find any beer worth drinking for that price. And I used 2 bottles of a very good French Bordeaux import. (Albeit it was on sale)

On hot summer days, this is the perfect sipping drink.

Here's my sangria recipe, try it out if you like:

2 bottles (750ml each) Augey Bordeaux wine
3 cups Diet Sierra Mist
1 cup orange juice
14 tbsp. Splenda sweetener
1 lemon, cut in slices and pitted
2 oranges, cut in slices and pitted
1 granny smith apple, cored and cut in wedges
Lots of ice

Most recipes advise letting the mix sit in the fridge for at least several hours, but if you're like me, you need your drink on when you buy it so I enjoyed my first few glasses right away. It was fine enough, yum, yum, yum!