Monday, September 30, 2013

A damned good reason why you DON'T want the NSA listening in on your phone conversations... in pictures!







That says it all right there. All joking aside, do we really need a bunch of Federal employees listening in on a conversation between a man and his wife/girlfriend/sex buddy/whatever?

- Lord Publius

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Happy 26th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation!

On this day in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered with an episode called 'Encounter at Farpoint'... and my life was irrevocably changed in a way that no one could have expected.

I had seen and liked the Original Series about a year before but, I wasn't a hardcore fan yet. After all, I was only 4 years old when I saw my first episode, Amok Time. (Which is also one of the Original crew's best.) However, I heard there would be a new show so, my mother and I decided to watch since we loved the original show so much.

I don't remember what I thought during the first few minutes of the show with it's Captain's Log voice-over, the long shots of the new ship and Captain or the exchange with Q. However, I remember EXACTLY how I felt when I saw the scene where the new Enterprise performed a Saucer Separation at Warp 9.8 while trying to get away from Q...





Needless to say, I was blown away. Seeing that on a 25" Sony TV with Stereo Sound (which was quite impressive in 1987) through a 5 year-old's eyes was nothing short of amazing to me. 'The old ship could have NEVER done that!' I thought to myself. And from that point onward, I was the most Hardcore Trekkie that you ever met.

- Lord Publius

About that Record Store idea of mine...

For those who don't remember, I came up with an idea for a Record Store I'd like to run some day back on September 14th. 2 days later, I came up with a list of names.

Now, I finally found the location for the store that I would ideally want:

8030 W Metairie Ave

Metairie, LA 70003-6344

Why that spot? Because I know it would make a good spot for entertainment-related retail from personal experience. It was once a video rental store under several brand names, including Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and maybe a few others. My family went there pretty often when I was a child. Now, it's one of over TWENTY locations for the Dollar General corporation in the Greater New Orleans area. So, the chances of me getting that place are probably not great... unless Dollar General decides that location isn't profitable and decides to sell. Oh, well...

It's too bad, too. That spot is also right next to a strip mall with lots of parking, in addition to it's own parking lot. It's also right next to a good restaurant that I like, the Come Back Inn. That place makes excellent Po-Boy sandwiches.

There are bound to be plenty of other potential locations in the town. I just liked that place because of the parking, easy access to a (sometimes) major vein traffic and pretty close to the several houses in NOLA that I would call home.

- Lord Publius

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Schools are more for showing off than learning things?

I came across an interesting blog/article/whatever on Psychology Today about Schools being more for showing off good grades instead of really learning something valuable in the classroom. That's not an entirely inaccurate belief. The author, Peter Gray, PhD., did make a few good points. However, I suspect he may be over-thinking this problem. That happens A LOT with college professors that are trying to analyze social problems. Schools definitely need a few 'culture changes' for lack of better term. However, some of his suggestions may not be workable past elementary school (or, maybe until the student has graduated from elementary school?) and only with small classroom sizes. Is that possible in many of our nation's public schools today?

Let's do a little cursory analysis of his little editorial here and find out...

"If schools were for learning rather than showing off, we would design them entirely differently.  They would be places where people could follow their own interests, learn what they wanted to learn, try out various career paths, prepare themselves for the futures that they wanted.  Everyone would be doing different things, at different times, so there would be no basis for comparison.  People would learn to read when they wanted to learn to read, and we would help them do it if they wanted help.  The focus would be on cooperation, not on competition.  That’s what occurs at certain democratic schools, which are for learning, not for showing off, and such schools have proven remarkably effective."

Sounds like the Montessori method to me... One of my college professors once said that I would do well in that kind of environment. I guess that's because I spent so much time in my college's laboratories and library doing classwork, homework assignments, experiments and just exploring the knowledge available. If primary and secondary school had been like my college experience, I would have been a Straight A student every year. Not to mention a MUCH better adjusted individual. I was much more social in college than I was in grades K-12.

I hear that it works wonders for kids that are autistic in some way as well, including Aspies like me. I guess I'll never know since my school days are most likely over now. College is too expensive for me to go back again, even if I want to get another degree. (And I have been considering the idea for some time now.)

"One thing we know about learning is that it is inhibited by the kinds of pressures that we use at schools to motivate performance.  Many psychological experiments have shown that contests and evaluations of all sorts lead those who already know well how to perform a task to do it even better than they otherwise would, but has the opposite effect on people who don’t know it so well."

Well, then I say that is a fantastic opportunity for teaching children the value of sharing knowledge. Have the kids who are good at that subject tutor the ones who are not. It also has the intrinsic/qualitative benefit of teaching social skills, especially teamwork, leadership and co-operation for mutual benefit. Those are qualities that seem (to me, at least) to be sorely lacking in our society today. It has contributed to our political leadership being more useless than ever and the military having to lower their standards to get enough bodies to fill slots. It doesn't help in the private sector, either.

"Much has been written about the education gap between children from economically richer and poorer families in the United States.  It’s interesting to note that over the same period of time that pressures to perform well in school have been increasing, that gap has grown ever larger.  In fact, one study (described here in the New York Times) showed that the gap in standardized test scores between the affluent and non-affluent grew by about 40 percent between the 1960s and today.

I’m sure that lots of factors figure into this education gap, but here’s one I’d like you to consider.  Let’s suppose that children from economically better-off families learn, at home, much of what they are tested on in school.  They perform well under the pressure of tests and the constant evaluation that occurs at school, because they already know a lot of it.  They are used to this way of thinking.  Let’s suppose that children from economically worse off families don’t learn so much, at home, of what they are tested on in school.  They perform poorly on the tests, right from the beginning, because they don’t already know it.  The high pressure of constant testing and evaluation—coupled with the embarrassment and shame of failure--makes it very difficult for them to learn at school what the others had already learned at home.

The failure may lead them to accept, fatalistically, a belief in their own stupidity, which may cause them to drop out of the whole process, mentally if not physically.  In other words, I suggest, the high-pressure environment drives a wedge between those who already know and those who don’t already know, causing the gap to increase from year to year in school.  And, as the pressure to perform well increases, the wedge widens.
"

I've attended public, private and religious schools. All three provided very different environments and cultures. That being said, one thing was always the same: Kids from poor backgrounds (not necessarily just economic backgrounds, either) didn't do very well most of the time. Their parental figures didn't invest a lot of time in them. Maybe the parents were always busy working or, maybe that parental figure just didn't care. I can't say for sure. Every case is different.

Ultimately though, it is always up to the student to learn ANYTHING while in school. If you can read and write, the rest is only a matter of time and perseverance. I learned all of my vast knowledge of scientific and technical subjects by reading books and web pages. Most of it didn't come from a classroom. The Teachers were there mostly to show me HOW to learn a subject, not WHAT I should learn. I think that is something that most people do not realize, including the politicians that are always blaming teachers for public education's many VERY publicized short-comings. If students do not care to learn, they won't learn. You can't force them. New regulations and innumerable achievement tests be damned!

Parents must be more involved and encourage their children to learn. Kids from poor backgrounds don't get that encouragement at home. They are born to parents that never valued education, might be a drug addict/drunk and thinks that living on social welfare programs is their right because of their ancestors being mistreated by the society of that time. Does that sound like an environment where a child will be encouraged to read a book? Not from what I have seen and experienced.

- Lord Publius

Friday, September 20, 2013

How Asperger's Syndrome has made me a perpetual bachelor...

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of blogs on Aspies and Romance that I have unwittingly created. This is an issue that tends to preoccupy my thoughts so, that is probably why I blog about it from time to time. The others in the series will be referred to throughout the course of this blog. There will also be hyperlinks leading to them where appropriate.

----

My shrink seems to think that part of my inability to form lasting romances is because of how Asperger's Syndrome left me 'socially marginalized' in many ways. In other words, I'm not quite a pariah but, I'm also not part of 'the in crowd.' And for many years now, I have been quite happy about that fact. The 'in crowd' are usually assholes. Unfortunately, he also brought up the fact that people in my 'social position' (for genuine lack of better term) tend to intimidate, weird out and/or drive away most people. And that is why most of my friends are 'all the other weirdos' and everyone that society decided didn't deserve to be popular or loved. Gee, sounds like society isn't something that anyone should really want to be a part of when I describe it like that, huh?

I think that he might be missing out on a few things so, I did a little thinking on the subject and came up with a few potential reasons of my own. There will be some very blunt talk in this blog and some profanity as well. You have been warned.

Anyway, those reasons are as follows:

1.) My lack of social skill made me angry, bitter and anti-social at the young age of 10. I never fully got out of that mindset.

Simply put, I'll probably never be a social butterfly. The only exception to this is when I'm surrounded by people with similar interests. Even under those conditions, I may not open up for a while.

How did all of this happen? Well, I did try to be social when I was younger but, no matter what I did, the rest of the kids in school just hated my guts. I can only guess it was because of the strange behaviors I must have exhibited. Since hardly anyone knew what Asperger's Syndrome was in the late 1980's and early 1990's, everyone just assumed there was something wrong with me. The fact that I did not like sports at all didn't help since I was going to a 'religious' school where it seemed that Football was MUCH more important than following in the proverbial/ideological footsteps of Jesus. With few exceptions, there was virtually no one there that could claim to be a decent Human Being, let alone a true Christian. Those are the kind of ASSHOLES that would drive most to atheism. They certainly did a good job of instructing me in just how shockingly messed up, twisted and EVIL that organized religion can be...

It was a different story outside of school, though. I had a lot of friends in the neighborhood. While most of that had to do with the fact that my house was the social hangout for various reasons, I still had plenty of friends. I'm even still in touch with two of them to this day. So, I knew that it wasn't all my fault that I was so unpopular at school. I just didn't know what to do about it until I was 10 and basically just said 'Fuck this shit!'

2.) My behavior and public persona can be quite off-putting and intimidating... just as I had once intended but, now don't know how to change.

At age 10 when I adopted a 'Fuck the World' mentality, I went with it with full enthusiasm. I quit giving a damn about what ANYONE thought of anything and, well, that hasn't changed much. I'm just not as angry as I was back in the day.

Anyway, this behavior tends to leave people feeling confused and intimidated. More than once, I have been told by someone that they 'just couldn't read me.' While that does have a lot of advantages (especially in delicate negotiations and playing Poker), it doesn't help you to get laid.

I have tried to be more open in recent years, with varying degrees of success. Some have been receptive. Some showed just what kind of Assholes they were and VERY quickly got pushed away. Also, the Army has not necessarily been a good place to practice social skills. Many of the people here would be socially marginalized themselves if it weren't for the uniform and all the overt social glorification that comes with it...

Still, I just don't know how to turn off that public persona where I stay stone-faced and unemotional. (Even though I know that scares the shit out of most NT's because they aren't used to seeing that too often...) Like Doctor Frankenstein, I've made a Monster that I no longer have under my (full) control. I don't really know how else to act. It's not like I really ever knew what acting like an ordinary Human Being was like anyway...

3.) My lack of social skill (especially with non-verbal social cues) causes NT's (who seem to honestly think that they are helping) to try and steer me to other people they consider 'socially marginalized'...

That usually means the fatties, uggos and psycho hose-beasts. And those are the kinds of terms that the NT's made up for those poor unfortunate souls. I wouldn't have been that cruel without some kind of serious motivation. For example, that Redhead I fell for in Korea has received no shortage of vitriol from me once things went south between us. And she earned every bit of that vitriol too. I don't like posers and fake-ass people. Almost EVERYTHING that she told me about herself turned out to be a damned lie. Of all the things she did to piss me off, that is the most unforgivable of them all.

Anyway, the NT's try to steer me to these people because they think I'll be happy just to have some Human contact of some kind and vice versa. WRONG AGAIN. Doing that would mean that I had no standards at all. It would also mean that I had no respect for myself or for the woman that the NT's try to steer me to, either. I'd just be taking advantage of that person's loneliness and emotional weakness, which would make me a real Asshole. I will never do that to anyone. Personal Honor and a clear conscience is ALWAYS preferable to relationships that I know to be a lie and/or using someone for sexual gratification.

I've actually ended a few friendships over this particular issue. I would make it abundantly clear that I wasn't interested in dating the women they kept trying to steer me towards. They'd get pissed off and start putting me down and getting quite indignant. I'd just roll my eyes as I deleted/blocked them from my social media accounts/cell phone contact lists and then never bothered to speak to any of them ever again.

I did it to an Army buddy, who apparently wasn't much of a friend anyway. I used this particular issue in a previous blog post to test his loyalty. He failed so miserably that I began to wonder if I really ever knew him at all. What a worthless little shitbag asshole he turned out to be... I'm actually glad that I have no contact with him anymore.

I've also done this to a guy I was friends with for nearly 10 years and his entire family too. Not only did they think that I 'couldn't do any better' but, they were also what popular culture crudely refers to as 'chubby-chasers.' I'd politely tell them that I wasn't interested in 'the big gals' as I put it and they would find it inconceivable. They'd also go on some diatribe about how I was 'chasing after some Hollywood Actress stick-figure', needed to 'lower my standards' or some other such non-sense. In truth, I wouldn't mind dating a woman that looked like Scarlett Johansson. However, it seems a bit unlikely to ever occur. How about some happy medium? Surely someone like that exists.

Anyway, these folks just didn't seem to understand that concept of the 'Happy Medium'... or they just didn't care and wanted to force their views on me. Like that could ever happen... What do they honestly expect? Did they think that I'll ever change my mind and suddenly start fucking someone that disgusted me? I will never be in that kind of dire straits. I have much more control over my libido than just about anyone I've ever met.

I'm told by a mutual acquaintance of ours that they are still mad at me for brushing them aside. Keep in mind that I pushed them away in June of 2008. That's over 5 years ago now. So, not only did they have no life/future/clue but, they are also kind of obsessive. Kinda glad I got rid of them...

4.) Once the NT's find out I'm an Aspie, they start buying into the Stereotypes. Fucking Hell!

Simply put, they start acting like I'm a real-life version of Sheldon Cooper. That doesn't help matters at all. My behavior is nothing like that character (despite the fact that we're both just one lab accident away from becoming a Super-villain) or any other portrayals of Asperger's Syndrome you might see in entertainment or the media. All of those seem to be pretty extreme cases and I'm a much more mild case than any of them. My problems are strictly related to not recognizing non-verbal social cues. I've since learned how to detect emotions expressed through body language and vocal inflections. I CAN EVEN RECOGNIZE SARCASM, even though I usually choose to ignore it most of the time.

Also, for what it's worth, Sheldon was never diagnosed. The writers deliberately left him undiagnosed so they wouldn't be pigeon-holed into what they could do with the character. That was a wise decision on their part.

5.) I'm just too good natured for my own good...

I am that nice guy that all the women say they want but, never try to date until they are ready to settle down. Sadly, the nice guy really does finish last much of the time.

There were more than a few times when I pursued a woman only for her to choose/chase after some guy that was totally wrong for her. That guy was usually some 'bad boy' type that was still VERY much just a little boy in many ways. That would also usually end my attraction to that girl too. It sure made for a few awkward conversations when they got dumped by that loser and then tried to come back to me later. They would always be so surprised when I told them I was no longer interested. Honestly chick, what the fuck did you expect? I don't forgive betrayal, nor do I go for sloppy seconds! Of course, I'm dealing with Adults now. Grown Adults do not bother with the 'bad boy/girl' types and those poor idjits that acted like a 'bad boy/girl' usually end up alone... unless they became a single parent.

And then, the same 'bad girls' that never would have given me the time of day in High School try to chat me up and get in my good graces. Sorry, honey. You had your chance in High School, back when you were in your prime... and you messed it up. Now, you're a physical and emotional wreck with at least one divorce and/or kid(s) in tow and I don't want to take care of you. Besides, there was only one single mother I would have ever loved/married/whatever and she's married to someone else now. Much to other people's surprise, I am actually far more happy about that than she could ever guess. In that particular individual's case, the love evolved beyond simple romance and became a form of Agape. Her happiness was the most important thing to me and she is quite happy these days. She might even read this too.

If you do read this, my dear Primo Amore, I just want to thank you for all the help and advice you've given me over the years. (Not to mention your often seemingly unlimited patience.) You'll probably never truly be able to fully understand how much of a positive impact you've had on me. If not for you, I'd probably be a real Monster, rather than just someone that used to act like one as a protective measure. Just by being the angelic sweetheart you are, you very well may have saved the world from something unimaginably terrible. As far as I am concerned, Humanity owes you a debt that can never be fully repaid.

- Lord Publius

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Captain Picard's MANY Words of Wisdom...

I remember years ago being told by my best friend that my command style would be a lot more like Picard instead of Kirk. At the time, I didn't believe him. I was just shy of 18 years old at the time and wanted very much to be like Kirk. After all, he got all the girls. Never mind the fact that it was mostly one-night stands or doomed romances and that he was a deeply lonely man. None of that matters to a horny teenager!!!

However, looking back now at the age of 31, I can see that my best friend was right. Watching the clip below of Picard's wisdom, I can hear a LOT of my own speech patterns and political views being reflected back at me. Of course, at that age, there was a great many things I did not know about myself...

Also, I don't believe Data would have to ask me to defend him in the trail to determine his sentience. I would have volunteered. Civil Liberties of the people is an issue that has been of great concern to me over time, even though I don't express that much these days. It could be misinterpreted as me disrespecting the Commander-in-Chief, which is a no-go for Army soldiers.

There was once a time when I could freely question the policies without anyone thinking that I was disrespecting the individual in the White House. Sadly though, that line has become blurred by people who mistakenly think of a politician as some kind of messiah or who just had the misfortune to be 'educated' in public schools. In that case, they probably wouldn't know the difference between attacking the policies as opposed to attacking the man. I have had to be pretty careful about what exactly I say on these matters at work. Sure, ad hominem attacks can be very amusing when talking about politicians but, it doesn't foster debate or help develop solutions to real-life problems.

I feel confident that most of the people I work with understand the difference between my policy criticisms and insulting the POTUS but, there is that one guy that I don't trust. He has a history of being a known rat-bastard in our unit. He found out that a few soldiers in our unit were doing something very wrong and reported it to an NCO. While those guys he reported set themselves up for a major failure with life-altering consequences, they didn't need him to rat them out. They were already doing a pretty good job of ruining their lives on their own. The poor kid thought he was doing the right thing but, all he did was alienate himself from everyone. And that is why the concept of 'anonymous reporting' happens to exist.

Anyway, be sure to keep in mind all of the (supposedly) 'phony' scandals that have been happening as of late (NSA, PRISM, et al.) and other very controversial policies of the last few years (PATRIOT Act) while listening to Captain Picard's words. If you don't start to become extremely concerned for the welfare and future of our Liberty and our Republic, then you desperately need to re-evaluate your world view.





Sounds very Libertarian, huh? The Founders would have been proud.

- Lord Publius

Paying tribute to Yamauchi-san by beating Super Mario 3D Land...

I just FINALLY beat Super Mario 3D Land on my 3DS. Bowser was a really tough bastard in this one. He was determined to make me really fight to save that Princess but, saved her I did. It is a fitting tribute to Yamauchi-san, who passed away today at age 85.

Also, this quote of his from an article about him the New York Times today was rather fitting, I think...

In one of his last interviews, with the magazine Nikkei Business in 2003, Mr. Yamauchi offered a longer view of the gaming market. At the time, Nintendo was being pummeled by Sony’s immensely popular PlayStation 2 console. But he scoffed at suggestions that the battle for supremacy in gaming was over.

“That’s absolutely wrong; the gaming wars, they will never end,” he said, adding: “That’s just not how this business works. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.”


^^^Well-said, sir. May the competition never end, lest innovation be stifled.

- Lord Publius

Monday, September 16, 2013

Potential names for a Record store...

Over this past weekend, I published a blog detailing what I would do if I ran an independent record store. I had just about everything laid out, including decorations, store hours and company policy on trade-in items. All that was missing was a name. An Army buddy from Basic Training suggested 'Metarock', which I liked. It works on a number of levels, especially if I can open it in my hometown, the New Orleans suburb known as Metairie. (Thanks, Sonny.)

Then, sometime earlier today, I realized that I had a spreadsheet full of potential music-related names for albums, bands and even record companies. How I forgot about this list I made and have been maintaining since High School, I'll never know.

Some of those record company names were also quite applicable to a small independent record store as well. Here are the ones that I thought were potentially usable, along with an explanation of how I got that name...

Anti-Establishment Records - Should be obvious.

Asylum - The 1985 KISS record of the same name.

Bad Ass Records - I'm not sure where this name came from but, it certainly sounds pretty cool...

Bald Cypress - State tree of Louisiana.

Bayou State - Another Louisiana reference.

Cypress - A reference to a place called 'Cypress Hall' where I had seen MANY underground Metal shows.

Devil Music - Religious assholes making ridiculous claims about Rock music.

Escape from Hell - The song "Escape" on MetallicA's Ride the Lightning album.

Enterprise - The dictionary definition and the fictional starship.

Galaxy - The Galaxy Class Starship from Star Trek.

Heavenly - I've always thought that a good record sounded rather heavenly...

Invicta - Latin for 'Undefeated' and a really cool car that Buick once made.

Jendell - Ace Frehley's home planet.

Liberty - Should be obvious.

Scorched Earth - It just popped into my head one day.

Slave Music - The origin of virtually ALL forms of American music, especially if there are guitars.

Socially Hazardous Records/Entertainment - Should be obvious.

Anyone have any additions that they care to make to this list?

- Lord Publius

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Game Review: Atari Flashback 1


In the early 2000's, there were several toy and game companies (most notably Jakk's Pacific) that had been making good money selling Plug'N'Play video games featuring old arcade classics and early console games. (Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision, et al.) Atari decided they wanted a piece of that action and decided to release their own for Christmas 2004 called the Atari Flashback.

The console resembled an Atari 7800 in appearance, and came with a pair of controllers which resembled those of the Atari 7800. However, the controllers and console were much smaller than the original Atari 7800.

PICTURES

Here's a picture of the unit itself and a few images of a 3D model that I made in college based on the controller.




GAMES

There were 20 built-in games, 5 from the Atari 7800 and the other 15 coming from the Atari 2600. The games which originally required analog paddle controllers were made to work with the included joysticks.

The games emulated on this console are as follows...

Atari 2600

Adventure
Air-Sea Battle
Battlezone
Breakout
Canyon Bomber
Crystal Castles
Gravitar
Haunted House
Millipede
Saboteur
Sky Diver
Solaris
Sprintmaster
Warlords
Yars' Revenge

Atari 7800

Asteroids
Centipede
Charley Chuck's Food Fight
Desert Falcon
Planet Smashers

I have some very raw gameplay footage I recorded a while back with a camera on a tri-pod. this blog was originally going to be a video review but, that didn't happen because of a few technical difficulties. Fortunately, I was at least able to get the raw footage embedded into this blog post.





The titles from the 2600 that I liked best were Battlezone (despite the graphical changes) and Solaris. I have both of those games for the actual Atari 2600 complete-in-box. They are among some of my most treasured games. Just watch this video review of Battlezone and Solaris. You'll see why they are long-time favorites of mine.

The titles from the 7800 that I liked best were Asteroids (of course), Centipede and Planet Smashers. I had Asteroids on the 7800 years ago. I sold all of my 2600 and 7800 stuff once years ago because I was short on cash. I've since been trying to reacquire them from secondhand stores. I've had unbelievable success with getting old 2600 stuff (4 consoles, about a dozen controllers and around 60 cartridges so far) but, not much luck with 7800 games. So far, I've only been able to get a copy of Pole Position II and Dig Dug on that platform, both of which I had years ago. No 7800 consoles as of yet.

Anyway, I had Asteroids on the 7800 years ago. As far as I can tell, the version on Flashback 1 looks and plays exactly like the original cartridge.

Centipede for 7800 looks very close to the arcade original. It's certainly better than the blocky mess with poor controls that was the 2600 version.

Planet Smashers is a space-shooter game, very much like Galaga '88, although nowhere near as complex. If you love space shooters, then this is a lost classic that should have been a big hit. Too bad it came to market in 1990 as one of the last games released for the 7800 console, which was a distant third in the console race of it's time. (NES being #1 and SEGA Master System being #2.) Not to mention that space shooters weren't very popular at that time, the R-Type series likely being the only exception.

If there are any games on here that I can't recommend, it would be Millipede and Crystal Castles for the 2600. While the arcade originals were fantastic, the home ports for 2600 were just terrible. Not only did the graphics absolutely suck (even for the standards of the time) but, the controls in Crystal Castles were also bad. The original cartridge for 2600, which I have in my collection, isn't any better. If you come across that cartridge for 2600 someday, I recommend using a 3-button SEGA Genesis controller instead of a more traditional Atari joystick. The D-Pad does a better job of controlling Bentley Bear than any joystick I've ever used. And that leads us to...

CONTROLLER OPTIONS

You could not use controllers made for the 2600 and 7800 consoles. You had to use the ones that came with this console. Later versions of the Flashback series allowed you to use the controllers from the system(s) they emulated. However, the 'Mini-7800' controllers that came with the console did feature pause and select buttons. Those buttons/switches were usually on the console itself with the original 2600 and 7800 systems, assuming they existed at all. (The Atari 2600 did not have a pause feature.)

HARDWARE DESIGN

This Flashback (and both versions of Flashback 2) was designed by Atari veteran Curt Vendel, whose company Legacy Engineering Group designs other home video game and video arcade products. Atari Inc. gave Legacy Engineering ten weeks to design the product, produce its games, and ready it for the 2004 Christmas Season. To meet this deadline, the The Atari Flashback was based on "NES-on-a-chip" hardware. This does not resemble either of the Atari systems which the Flashback was supposed to emulate. As a result, the games it contained were ports and differed in varying degrees from the original games. That aggravated a lot of purists. I had only noticed differences with one game: Battlezone. Unfortunately, that one is also one of my favorites from the Atari 2600.

My complaints about the hardware are two-fold:

1.) The controllers are too small for extended play. After an hour with them, my hands begin to cramp.

2.) Because of the 'NES-on-a-chip' design, the graphics for the Atari 2600 version of Battlezone included with this device does not have the same graphics as the original cartridge. That aggravates me. The 'new' graphics are okay but, they are not the originals, dammit! A plain green field is not as visually exciting as that multi-colored, almost trippy color scheme employed by the original cartridge.

That being said, this console does have one unique advantage over ALL of it's successors in the Flashback line. The AV cables are NOT attached to the back of the unit. So, if someone trips over the cable, they will simply become unattached from the back of the unit. For whatever reason, the AV cables for the other Flashback units I have (3 & 4) have their AV cables permanently attached to the back of the unit, possibly soldered onto the motherboard like the original Atari 2600 they emulate.

FINAL EVALUATION

Is it worthy of purchase? That largely depends on what kind of gamer you are.

If you're a casual gamer that likes retro stuff, I'd say yes.

If you're a parent looking for something cheap to keep the kids occupied, I'd also say yes.

If you're a hardcore Atari fan... maybe. It depends on your ability to overlook some of the flaws pointed out in this review and others I have found online over time. All the 2600 and 7800 consoles/games out there are not getting any younger (or produced anymore) so, Plug'N'Play consoles that emulate them are a Godsend. I just wish that the emulation was better on Battlezone and that the controllers were larger. I had no problems with the full-size 7800 controllers back in the day. The miniature versions that come with this device are a very different story.

It's not a terrible unit but, it's not a great one, either. You can tell that it was rushed to market. However, it is the only Flashback unit (and probably the only Plug'N'Play device of any kind) that contains the game Solaris. That game is the king of psuedo-3D space shooters. It hit the market in late 1986, when the 2600 was nothing but a good way for Atari to generate quick cash. By that time, Atari made a 5th version of that perennial favorite console called the '2600jr.'  and sold it for $50 or less. Despite that, the game became a classic for the system and a good seller. Hell, it's graphics were easily comparable to anything on the successor system (the 7800), the NES & the SEGA Master System at that time. It is also one of the most challenging Atari games I have ever come across. For me, that one game alone makes this device worth having in your collection.

Prices vary for used Flashback 1 units. I bought mine for around $20 or $25 brand new in 2004. Nowadays, I see them on Ebay for $10. Don't pay much more than that, folks.

- Lord Publius

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ideas about a business I'd like to have/run someday...

I've been thinking about businesses I'd like to start someday. The one that sounds most achievable to me (and probably the most fun) is to start a Record store.

However, what would make my record store different from the others in the New Orleans area?

1.) The location

There are at least 8 (maybe 9) record stores in New Orleans. However, they are ALL in New Orleans. There are NONE in the suburbs. Why not? That is where most of the population lives. Also, the business climate in Jefferson Parish (especially Metairie) is MUCH better than the actual city of New Orleans. This is due mostly to...

- Less taxes.
- Violent crime is virtually non-existent in Jefferson Parish, thanks to the JPSO.
- Less bureaucratic headaches with local government bodies.
- Much better real estate prices for commercial property.
- Better roads, traffic flow on the streets and parking situations.

Affluent neighborhoods like Algiers and Uptown New Orleans aside, the people living in Metairie (and the rest of the East Bank of Jefferson Parish) have a LOT more discretionary income than most residents in the actual city of New Orleans. So, it makes perfect sense for the store to be located close to them. Location is EVERYTHING in brick-and-mortar retail.

2.) We will specialize in Rock music, everything from the 1950's right up to today's hardest and heaviest Metal.

Want a copy of Led Zeppelin IV on vinyl? No problem. Want to special order the new A7X album on LP just to brag to your friends in school that you have something that might be rare? Okay. We're happy to help! :)

However, if you think you're going to get some Dubstep nightmare on a disc in my store, then you are sorely mistaken. Music is to be enjoyed, NOT butchered with some computer program and turned into something that sounds like a 1990's era dial-up modem dying a slow death and/or the sounds of Robot Porn. Records and CD's are not meant to contain a technologically-induced aural nightmare... unless it's a soundtrack to a horror movie or a special effects record.

In fact, don't ask about ANYTHING that isn't Rock'N'Roll.

3.) Most (if not all) the other record stores in town carry a lot of local music. However, it's all Jazz, Blues, Zydeco and Brass bands. Where's the Local Rock and Metal? The answer to that question is: My store!

There are bands that started out pressing a few thousand copies of their demo, supplying it to local record shops/radio stations and becoming a success. I want to be a part of that for some young up-and-coming band that goes on to be legendary.

For those who think that's a stretch since they don't know of any band that made it that way, I have one name for you: GODSMACK.

4.) It's not just about the music...

In addition to music, we will also carry Rock Music-related films/video collections on DVD & Blu-Ray and used video games that still work.

The DVD & Blu-Ray stuff will mostly be concert films, music video compilations and features made by groups big enough to make their own films. For example, KISS with 'Detroit Rock City' and 'Tommy' by The Who.

The used video games are just too good of a market to pass up, especially since pawn shops usually have terrible selections and GameStop won't take anything from previous console generations. As if getting a Mario game for one of the old cartridge-based Nintendo consoles won't sell... Dumbasses. If they want to create a market opportunity for me, I'll gladly take it from them.

That being said, I'm not taking last year's Madden game. No one wants to play last year's Madden game. I'm also not taking old computer games, either. A lot of old computer games require operating systems and drivers to work. While some can be run in an emulator of some kind (DOSBox, for example), many never will. Also, what am I going to do with a copy of Prince of Persia for Apple II on old 5.25" floppy disks? Almost no one has those kind of computers anymore. I don't even have one anymore!

I might sell a few musical instruments and supplies too (guitar strings, drumsticks, picks, et al.), if I can make money that way. Same goes for stereo equipment and accessories for them. (Needles for record players, Adaptors for 45 RPM singles, AV cables, iPods, et al.)

Also, unlike another local New Orleans-area record store called Mushroom Records, we will NOT be selling drug paraphernalia. I know a lot of music lovers are also stoners but, (at least) half of that rather small record store is dedicated to selling water pipes, glow-in-the-dark posters of Bob Marley and rolling papers. What is that place? A record store or a head shop? I couldn't tell. Unless you're a general retailer like Wal-Mart or Best Buy, there needs to be a clear purpose to your store's business. Like a good computer program, you should do ONE thing (or a small handful of things) and do it well. Otherwise, you may be over-extending yourself.

5.) GOOD customer service and the people that I'll hire as Employees...

I don't recall EVER getting the attention of the college kids working at the Mushroom. (The store is located near the uptown New Orleans campus of Tulane University and largely staffed by its students.) The sound system was also so damned loud that I couldn't hear myself think, let alone ask any questions of store employees or attempt to make special orders. That is no way to run a business.

Most independent music stores are operated/staffed with high school/college kids, stoners, struggling musicians and people that are socially marginalized for living alternative lifestyles. (i.e. Goth types.)

I'm not hiring stoners under any circumstance. I have certain standards that I expect my employees to meet. Being sober, helpful, capable of going to work and having their mental faculties in order are part of those standards. Stoners don't have those qualities. All the other stereotypical record store employees should have a chance of getting to work for me. Honorably discharged veterans (including my Army buddies) will also have a good chance of working in my store.

Just to clarify, when I say 'stoner' I mean people who's whole life revolves around hitting the bong. Not folks that like smoking a joint in their garage while playing guitar with their friends or lifting weights while listening to old Iron Maiden albums. Those people are perfectly employable. Junkies are not. After all, I want to provide GOOD customer service. Bad service helps no one but the competition.

6.) If you intend to trade something in, make sure it's playable...

I can't tell you how many times I went into the Mushroom, found a cool record and, upon pulling it out of the sleeve, discovered that it was too badly scratched to be played. And yet, they would be trying to sell it for $10. No dice. Unless I'm going to re-purpose the disc for some kind of art project, there's just no point in owning a record that can't be played.

That's why EVERY SINGLE ITEM being traded in will be tested before we buy it from the customer. If it's something we can't test (i.e. a game for a system that we don't have in stock at the moment) then, we won't buy it from the customer. This limits the chances of us adding something to the stock that may prove defective, not to mention over-stocking an item that may not sell for a long time, if ever. Just because you think your shoe box of old Atari cartridges are worth something does not mean that they actually are worth something...

Also, all system trade-ins need to come with ALL the cables and controllers that the manufacturer supplied. How can I be expected to test (let alone re-sell) something that has no AC power cord, audiovisual cables that connect it to a monitor or controllers?

7.) Speaking of trade-ins from customers...

Most stores that trade items like this (record stores, GameStop, et al.) offer the option of either cash or store credit, with store credit being higher. I'm not playing that game. All trades in my store will be for cash. It's a lot simpler. I'm not particularly interested in doing that rebate card/membership rewards thing, either.

8.) Payment methods

All purchases will be made with either cash or credit cards. No checks. As a business owner, I don't trust them. As a consumer, they are great for paying bills by mail. As a Landlord, I find them acceptable since I've checked my tenant's credit history before renting to them and I'm reasonably sure the check is good. Otherwise, I'm not interested in personal checks. Sorry.

9.) Store decorations

Most record stores I've seen are always decorating the walls and store-front windows with old album covers, band posters and colored vinyl. That sounds good to me, as long as the album covers come from albums that got scratched beyond playability. I have a few posters from various bands in storage too. (Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, MetallicA, et al.) Once they're framed, they'll go up on the walls that are NOT occupied with shelves for the store's goods.

10.) Store Hours

I'll keep it simple. 10AM - 6PM Tuesday through Saturday. If we're open on Sunday, it will be from 12 Noon to 5PM. The store will be closed to the public on Monday so I can stock/reorganize shelves, make (special) orders from distributors and do the accounting/payroll for the business.

11.) Price tags

Many record stores put the price tags right on the album cover with their used vinyl. The ones that sell old video games will sometimes put the price tag on the cartridge labels too. Not in my store. I don't like that as a customer and I will not do it as the store owner, either. It drives customers crazy trying to remove them without ruining labels and album covers. Besides, I can get plastic bags for the album covers and put the price tags on them instead.

Also, I'm having one of my employees go through all of the old records we get in the inventory and cleaning them before they get put on the shelves. I'm not talking about using expensive machines with vacuum cleaners and special liquids. I mean a good once-over with a lint-free cloth and ammonia-free glass cleaner. That's usually all you need.

12.) The store's name...

I'm drawing a blank here. I thought about 'Metairie Metal', 'Metairie Rock and Metal' or some variation on that theme. However, I can see that getting confused with one of the contractor supply houses in the area. Also, what if the business is NOT actually in Metairie? If anyone has seriously good suggestions, I'm willing to listen to them.

----

I swear that the only reason I don't open a store like this as soon as I get home is a lack of cash... and I just don't know how to run a business. However, that will change. The Internet is a wonderful tool for learning such things. Also, I learn a lot about the operations of good record stores every week when I go to the local one here in Frederick, Maryland. They seem to do pretty damned good business too. I've long lost track of how much cash I've spent there since first discovering it in February.

- Lord Publius

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time to secede in Western Maryland?

Lately, I have been reading in the news about a few secessionist movements in Northern California and Western Maryland. The California movement has no discernible impact on me. The Maryland one does since that's where I'm living right now. The counties that want to break away are Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties.

Anyway, I came across an editorial in the Baltimore Sun via the Drudge Report earlier today during my lunch break. It's just the kind of crap that I would expect from an editorial writer in a left-wing newspaper from a left-wing city. He's also got it all wrong.

Here's the editorial...

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-09-10/news/bs-md-rodricks-0910-20130909_1_new-state-carroll-county-garrett-county

And my response to it...

Republicans have tried voter registration drives for years in this state and others that lean blue, Mr. Rodricks. Outside of the South (and I mean the Real Southern states that were actually part of the Confederacy), those efforts seem to have been pointless. The reasons vary but, there is one common factor into Republican efforts being futile: A large city filled with lots of low-income/low-information voters that side with Democrats every time because that party gives them Food stamps and Welfare checks. In Maryland's case, it's Baltimore. In Michigan's case, it's what's left of Detroit. It would probably happen in Louisiana because of New Orleans if not for the rest of the state being heavily Republican and/or Independent.

Whatever happened to public assistance of this type being only a temporary measure and a last resort? Also, why aren't these people ashamed of having to use these forms of public assistance to survive? You'd think no one ever told them that part of being an American was being as self-reliant and independent as possible... Considering the state of public schools these days, that's almost certainly what happened.

Whatever the case may be, the Democrats have bribed enough fools for so long that they essentially own certain states like Maryland, Michigan, New York and California. It's all very much like Ancient Rome in a number of ways. The ruling Patricians (in this analogy, that would be the Democrats) focus on utilizing the ol' 'Bread and Circuses' routine to distract the city-dwellers from discovering just how badly they are being screwed over. The country folk are just plain ignored and left to suffer while still being required to swear allegiance and pay tribute. Sooner or later, that leads to discontent and wanting to break away from the rest of the country/republic/empire/whatever.

Even worse, the author's description of the rural areas in Maryland that he claims to enjoy so much just comes off as condescending and snobbish. He sees them all as Salt-of-the-Earth types, even going so far as to describe them as being 'rustic.' I don't know about Maryland but, in some parts of the United States, that could be considered an insult. One wonders why he didn't just come out and say that he thought they were Rednecks and enjoyed laughing at them and their much simpler way of life. That's the way he sounds (to me) in this editorial.

For example...

"According to a blog that he writes, Strzelczyk is "a constitutionalist concerned with the legitimate role of the federal government and the infringement of our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property." He is a software consultant, conservative activist and father of five children. He's 49 and lives in New Windsor, which is a lovely place in Carroll County. I don't know why anyone who lives in New Windsor would complain about anything, but Strzelczyk has a lot of gripes about life in Maryland."

He couldn't even use proper punctuation while denigrating the man and CAPITALIZING THE NAMES AND TITLES like 'Constitutionalist', 'Conservative' and 'Federal.' So, he's not just an Asshole but, he's also a product of public schools too. No wonder he's a Democrat... (See? Two can play that game.)

By the way, my hometown is a suburb of New Orleans named Metairie. It's a truly wonderful place to live and I don't ever want to live anywhere else once I'm a civilian again. That being said, I never had trouble finding something to complain about while living there. Usually, it was traffic on major thoroughfares, too many stoplights and lots of roads needing improvements. No place is perfect, no matter how idyllic it might seem.

The author also denigrates Mr. Strelczyk for even having the nerve to complain about taxes. Why? Taxes in Maryland are quite high compared to many other states. Despite that, the Governor, Martin O'Malley, has raised them more and more. They even passed a tax that essentially taxes the rain. Yes, you read that right. It's supposed to be to very low and used to improve drainage and septic systems. Carrol county rejected it and Frederick County decided not to charge more than one penny per year. That isn't the point, though. The point is that the State is trying to tax people for an act of Nature, which is totally out of their control. That's no way to generate needed funds for infrastructure improvements.

And then, there's the way the author decided to end it all...

"Still, it's a free country, a constitutional democracy. If the people behind the Western Maryland Initiative want to spend their time pressing for secession — instead of, say, trying to bring the Republican Party into the 21st Century, recruiting new candidates, registering new voters — have at it, fellas.

But I think it's easier just to move to the Idaho panhandle, or southern Pennsylvania.
"

Better yet, the Democrats can quit bribing idiots with supposedly free money and present their arguments to the public in the free marketplace of ideas. Or, are you afraid of getting your ass handed to you? People in Western Maryland are not wrong for being upset at not getting adequate representation in their state government. If you were a true patriot that really did love your state and your people, Mr. Rodricks, you'd be upset that these people are getting short-changed regardless of their differing political views.

In a Free Republic with a Constitutional government, ALL citizens qualified to be electors should have their say, not just members of one particular party. You Democrats rigged the system to your advantage and brainwashed the uneducated urban poor to vote for you to get (supposedly) free money that you'll steal from the so-called 'evil rich/corporate' types through taxation. That's not a Free Republic, it's essentially an oligarchy that engages in predatory organized theft through questionable laws. And that is why all the people/businesses with the means have long since moved to Pennsylvania and Virginia.

- Lord Publius

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Drill Sergeants hitting recruits again? Ultimately Pointless...

One of my friends from BCT @ Fort Knox is really getting upset over the lack of discipline that he sees in soldiers these days. I don't blame him. His solutions to these problems however, are completely unworkable. First, I'll let you read his stated opinions from his blogs, Facebook notes, et al. and then offer my personalized response.

His note in its original form, save for me putting it in Italicized text to indicate a quotation:

Boy, at times, on certain days, I really loathe this so-called “new” Army.  For one, there are too many undisciplined Soldiers amongst the ranks, I mean, it must be also society as well, that these kids that join the Military now are a bunch of spoiled, rotten, snotty little brats.  And the sad thing is, majority of TRADOC, which is the Training Sect of the Army, cater too much to these wannabe little thugs.  The leadership we have almost act the same way as these kids, which as a result, literally breeds and promotes these bad attitudes.  It is time that the Army and the other branches to step up their game, it is time for our leadership to get better acquainted with their duty, and it starts right from Basic Training and goes on for the remainder of their time in service.  It is time for the leadership to be more forceful with their Soldiers, even if they have to put their hands on them.  I remember there were times when I was in Basic Training, I wish the Drill Sergeants would hit some of these snot-nosed little punks that kept getting in trouble while the rest of their platoon had to pay for it.  I mean, just go into a room and close the door, I don’t hear anything.  I remember my dad used to tell me about how his time in Basic Training was, back in the 1970s, where if you got in trouble with the law, you had two choices: either go to jail or join the Army.  My father got in trouble with the law, had his choices, and decided to go into the Army so he can keep his record clean.  He said it was a pretty rude awakening with the Drill Sergeants, being all of them were in Vietnam at one point or the other.  He recalled one memory, about one recruit that acted like a tough guy and didn’t listen to the Drill Sergeant to take out his earring out of his ear.  So one day, they were marching, and that Drill Sergeant saw that recruit with the earring still in his ear.  He ran right up to the guy, and ripped that earring right out.  The tough guy wasn’t so tough anymore, being he was immediately on the ground screaming and crying while holding his ear.  Now, to a certain extent, that should happen in Basic Training, if there is a recruit that refuses to obey an order to a Drill Sergeant.  I feel that the Drill Sergeant has every right to him, or her, to put their hands on a recruit if they don’t want to cooperate with the program.  For an added bonus, perhaps, should look towards what the South Korean Army does for indiscipline in the ranks; have NCOs carry sticks around and if a Soldier is out of line, they hit him with it.  Nowadays, a Drill Sergeant can yell, scream, cuss, and order recruits to do almost anything, but cannot lay a finger on them.  Shoot, at some Basic Training camps they have these so-called “stress cards”, a card that a recruit can give a Drill Sergeant so they can relax for a little bit.  I’m sorry, but Basic Training is not supposed to be easy, or pleasant, or even a time to relax.  Soldiers, in this day in age, have way too many rights on their hands, not that I am against it, but there needs to be a median and a certain standard to maintain.  I mean, it’s this kind of garbage that is really weakening our Armed Forces.  It makes much of our service members act like they’re still civilians, back on block and getting into trouble.

----

Now, my personalized response to my old friend...

Have the Drill Sergeants start punching recruits again, huh? I can see the angry parents (and quite a few veterans and concerned citizens) calling their Congressmen already...

Discipline is one of those things that you will either have or not have. No one can really teach it or force it on you against your will. Remember PVT Bodoh? Mental issues aside, he didn't make it because he didn't care. That is the nature of discipline problems in the Service these days; not Drill Sergeants being unable to punch you.

Besides, negative reinforcements breed negative results. Remember how much the 2nd Platoon hated life because of their Drill Sergeants being assholes? Or how much the 1st Platoon supposedly lived in fear of DS Sanchez going apeshit on them? How many people do you think would want to serve with someone that behaves that way? The DoD already has enough problems recruiting good people when the economy is good. Even when it's bad and people are desperate for work (like we were when we enlisted in 2009), they still bribe recruits with large cash bonuses and college money. How do you think they got me?

We had it easier than you think. If we got smoked for every stupid thing that someone in our platoon did, PV2 Crain would have gotten us smoked hourly for his drama. PVT Dedeaux might have gotten us smoked for constantly (and jokingly) screaming 'Sound the fuck off!' in various formations. PVT Brackett would have gotten us killed via too many push-ups just for being an arrogant ass that couldn't march for shit. Do I need to cite further examples?

BCT is more of a strictly controlled mind game than anything else. As long as you do what you have to do and don't let the Brown Rounds get to you, then you should be fine. I knew that going in and that is why the Drill Sergeants couldn't get under my skin. What really stuck in my craw those days was all the hate and flack I'd get from many of the other recruits. I was expected to think of these people as my brothers in arms yet, all they did was give me shit and make me a pariah. I felt betrayed. That's the reason I hated BCT. Not the cold. Not the Drill Sergeants in our platoon (whom I find myself missing a LOT whenever my current NCO's prove useless) and definitely not things being rough. Believe it or not, I've been through more than a few rough experiences in life and some were much worse than BCT. No, I won't be going into details here.

Besides, neither of us would have made it through in 'the old days' that you want to go back to with TRADOC. I know what those days were like, thanks to an uncle of mine, who was an Air Force Training Instructor for 13 years and a Vietnam veteran. The things he did just for shits and giggles would land a Brown Round in jail for decades now. Despite all that and his fearsome reputation, he still had to deal with a LOT of idiots. As much as I hate saying it, society uses the military as a dumping ground for its garbage. While many of those in uniform are 'America's best', many are just people who couldn't get a job anywhere else. Sadly, that includes a lot of criminal types that only got in because America was fighting two wars at once and Uncle Sam needed all the trigger-pullers it could get.

The solution here, my friend, is for the Army to *actually have* good admission standards and to strictly enforce them. If someone is a piece of shit to begin with, then all the punches in the face that a Drill Sergeant can give them won't change that fact. Discipline begins and ends with you, the individual. All the Army could ever do is try to show you the way.

- Lord Publius

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

GI Tract issues causing Autism?! Oh, gimme a break...

I found yet another BULLSHIT article trying to blame Autism on some kind of environmental factor. So, here we go again...

Article in question: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/18/autistic-children-gut-flora.aspx

"The possible environmental factors for autism are incredibly diverse and include factors such as vitamin D deficiency, electromagnetic fields, vaccines and mercury toxicity."

No, it is caused by abnormal genetics. Period. End of Discussion. Quit perpetrating this BULLSHIT on grieving parents just to sell them fake treatments and fancy snake oil remedies you sick, money-grubbing, degenerate bastards! These parents are already burdened enough and they don't need you trying to play to their strong emotions and taking advantage of them.

I swear that if I were God for a day, I would both invent an actual 'Fire and Brimstone Hell' and ensure that these sick bastards suffer the worst torments in that place!

"It’s widely known that autistic children often suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems, with those experiencing the worst GI problems often having the most severe cases of autism.

It’s now being suggested, however, that these GI problems may be a symptom of an underlying problem – abnormal gut flora that is not only causing the GI disturbances but also possibly the behavioral symptoms associated with autism.
"

Oh, really? How come I have never heard of any Autistics having stomach issues before now? I don't have any GI problems and those idjits that wrote the DSM-V decided to label me and all the other Aspies as a form of Autistic. Yet, I don't have any abnormalities with regard to my stomach. Hmmm... That's weird... [/Sarcasm]

"The research of Dr. Andrew Wakefield was among the first to uncover the connection between a gut problem, chronic bowel inflammation, possibly caused by the presence of MMR vaccine strain of measles in the digestive tract, and symptoms of regressive autism."

Speaking of a 'Special Hell' for these people, you can bet Wakefield will be their King.

This guy experimented on children WITHOUT ANY PARENTAL CONSENT at his child's birthday party. He was also being paid by a drug company to conduct this 'research' to supposedly prove Autism was caused by vaccines with a mercury preservative. That certainly sounds like a bias that will definitely taint the results of his 'study' THAT HE ILLEGALLY CONDUCTED ON CHILDREN.

"Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is a Russian neurologist who has successfully treated her own son and she treats children from all over the world in her English clinic. Her research shows there's a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain, and your immune system.

She has developed what might be one of the most profoundly important treatment strategies for preventing autism, as well as a wide range of other neurological, psychological, and autoimmune disorders—all of which are heavily influenced by your gut health.
"

Another scam artist that's going to the Special Hell, I see...

The only way you will ever 'cure' Autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, et al. is by re-writing the patient's DNA and altering the physiological structure of their brain. That is not within our technological abilities.

Even if it were possible, chances are good that governments across the world would outlaw such a practice. That kind of genetic engineering can easily be perverted into something truly dreadful, like the Star Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh.

I do appreciate the sorrow of parents with a child that has Classical Autism. I know at least one family afflicted with this special burden. That being said, I just can't understand why these folks are so quick to believe that a common vaccine that apparently didn't harm all the other kids (assuming it actually did harm the Austistic kids) somehow made their child Autistic. Mercury does not work that way.

There was less Mercury in those vaccines (which were replaced with newer Mercury-free versions before this controversy even erupted in the late 1990's) than the amount you'd consume eating Fish for dinner. If there were enough Mercury in those shots to do any damage, it would just poison the patient. It would NOT re-write their DNA and alter the neurological wiring of their brain.

So, in conclusion...

1.) Ignore ANYTHING Jenny McCarthy says on this matter because she has no idea what she's talking about and is just letting a quack doctor manipulate her.

2.) Don't let your emotions drive you to the point of falling victim to Cognitive Dissonance. No one can say for sure what causes Autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS or any similar conditions. The research is not finished yet but, signs are pointing to a genetic cause. It wasn't a shot. It wasn't something you ate during pregnancy. It's not lead-based paint or asbestos in an old house made before 1978. It was just random chance NOT operating in your favor.

3.) As for treatment for your child, I recommend finding a competent physician. Don't go looking for these Doctors claiming to have a cure. It's a virtual certainty that they are selling you crap.

4.) Always do your own research and make sure you know how to do proper research too. Never take what someone in the media (i.e. Jenny McCarthy) has to say on this matter as Gospel. Random websites are not likely to be reliable, either.

5.) Don't expose your kids to unnecessary health risks by refusing vaccinations. They are safe. They were safe when they still had Mercury in them. Andrew Wakefield is a quack/criminal and Jenny McCarthy is definitely no Rocket Scientist, either. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a Bullshit Artist that's lying through their teeth.

- Lord Publius






Various thoughts about 9/11...

11 September 2001 is a day I'll never forget... Nor will I ever forget the quote that came to mind that day as I watched the Twin Towers burn...

"Valor is of no service. Chance rules all, and the bravest often fall by the hands of Cowards." - Tacitus

Fuck Islam. Any religion that promotes terrorism, violence against women, slavery and living an 8th century lifestyle in the 21st century world does NOT deserve to exist. I have spoken.

- Lord Publius

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Current count for the Music collection...

This includes all recent additions...

Box Sets (All formats) - 16

Albums

Cassette - 32
CD - 397
LP - 338

Singles (All formats) - 65

Music-related Videos (All formats) - 24

TOTAL: 872

And there will be 4 more LP's within the next week: 3 different albums from PanterA and the new Black Sabbath record. Hail to the King, baby.

\m/O_O\m/

- Lord Publius

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Badger's awesome Star Trek script idea... Yeah...

I'm only on Season 4 right now so, this will be the ONLY spoiler I look at...



This isn't the worst fan wank I've ever heard but, it sure as shit ain't the best, either...

- Lord Publius

EA seems to like killing consoles...

...or, at least bidding them goodbye with a sports title.

I found this article about the last game to be released for PS2 here in North America, FIFA 14, a Soccer game.

According to the article, they were also the company to release the last game for PS1 with, coincidentally enough, another game in the same series, FIFA Football 2005. They were also the ones to bid the GameCube goodbye with Madden NFL 08. I'm surprised that EA still supported a console that came in 3rd out of 4th place for its console generation at least a year after the manufacturer discontinued the product.

Anyway, this got me thinking... How many different systems were sent off into history by an EA title and were they all sports games?

According to this list on Wikipedia, EA published the last title (and it was a sports title every time) for the PS1, PS2, GameCube and the original XBOX with Madden NFL 09. That one amazes me. M$ very quickly dropped support for the first XBOX when the XBOX 360 hit the market in 2005 and EA still supported it four years later?

This makes me wonder why EA has been going back and forth on their support for the WiiU. It seems they don't mind dumping some of their ubiquitous sports titles (that I gleefully ignore anyway since I hate sports) on just about ANY console that might still have an audience. Sometimes, that company just confuses me into NOT buying from them...

As for the PS2, my feelings are a bit mixed. Overall, I like the system. It has very few flaws and the flaws it does have are not important to me. I've had 2 over the years. The first one I bought new in either 2002 or 2003. I don't remember which now. I had a few games for it that were cool like Namco Museum and Twisted Metal: Black. I don't remember any other games I may have had for it at that time.

Anyway, I got bored with it and it just collected dust for a long while. Some time later, I sold it and used the cash to add a lot of cartridges to my N64 collection, including a complete-in-box copy of Perfect Dark.

Fast-forward to the spring or summer of 2011 and I'm serving overseas in Korea. I'm looking through the games at a PX on an American Army base there. I see a new PS2 Slim on sale for about $100. Since I am a collector, I just said 'What the Hell?' to myself and bought it that day. It sat untouched in my room for the rest of my time in that country. It flew home with me in my luggage since I didn't trust Army Transportation NOT to steal it from the crate I had forwarded to my next post in the United States.

Anyway, I brought several game systems with me to the next post, including this PS2, and a number of cheap (yet very good) games. It got connected to the 32" 720p HDTV I bought shortly after settling in at the new post but, I never played it much. The same can be said for many of the other systems I brought here or bought in the local area's civilian economy.

Eventually, I sent it home in a large box with a bunch of books and DVD movies that were taking up space. It's now sitting with most of the other video games that I own in my storage area back home in New Orleans. As much as I like the console, my Wii, DS, 3DS, WiiU and now a PS3 would all take precedence. Same goes for the Retron 3 clone console that plays NES, SNES and Genesis games for me and the Atari 2600 that I found in a local record store.

I will get back to it one day, along with a great many other systems in my collection. And I have 17 good reasons to do so...
That is by no means all of the great titles for this industry-changing system but, they are what I have... for now. Collections are never really complete, especially for a system like PS2 that had nearly 4,000 games released for it all over the world...

Currently, I have Black, Okami, Star Trek Voyager - Elite Force and Taito Legends on my list of titles to add to my ever-expanding collection. These games appeal to my tastes or, just seem like they'd be interesting to play. I'm thinking of adding Star Trek: Encounters to the list as well. More research in the form of gameplay videos on YouTube will have to happen first, though. From what I've read, it seems like that pure starship combat game that I've always wanted someone to make for the Star Trek franchise.

Suggestions for other enjoyable titles are welcome. All I ask is that you not list any Sports, RPG or Real-time Strategy titles. For various reasons, I could never get into those genres.

- Lord Publius

P.S. To those who say that many of my PS2 games were just okay or marginal, I say you can have whatever opinion you wish. If I decide I don't like any of them, I'll just re-sell them on Ebay or something similar. There's always someone out there that will buy them for the sake of completing their own collections. I'm only interested in owning the games that I genuinely love. The rest will be re-sold.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nintendo 1DS?... WTF? What a nasty trick to play on unsuspecting gamers!

First, that 2DS thing is announced and now this... 1DS thing is being marketed.

http://www.nintendo1ds.com/

Is this a joke? If so, Then, I think they should have waited until April Fool's Day... When I saw this site, I thought to myself... "Nintendo, why are you wasting money on this shit when you should be focusing on selling more WiiU consoles?"

And as it turns out, my internal Bullshit detector was right. It is a joke. I found this text near the bottom of the page confirming my suspicions...

*Not actually a real device or price. See dreams for details.
Glad to know that Nintendo hasn't completely lost their senses and decided to market their own version of an iPod Touch that only plays DS games and 3DS games without 3D capabilities...

That being said, I am getting awfully tired of numerous variations of the same console/portable being released so very often. I know that precedent was started by Atari with the Video Computer System (later re-named Atari 2600) having five different versions released in its 14+ years of life on the market but, do you really want to emulate Atari in that way and create brand confusion? In the end, doing that didn't help Atari. Simply put...



- Lord Publius

Monday, September 2, 2013

'Go' should be made into a video game

I'm surprised it hasn't happened already somewhere in the world. If Othello (aka Reversi) can get a video game version made for the Atari 2600 and the NES (among others) then, why not Go? This ancient game is the personal favorite of Atari founder (and Father of the video game industry) Nolan Bushnell and can be infinitely challenging and complex. In fact, this game's deceptively simple nature helped Mr. Bushnell develop his #1 rule of video games: Make them easy to learn and difficult to master. If nothing else, that rule definitely applies to Go.

Here's a few links explaining the game's rules, history and unique terminology...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28game%29

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_terms

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_of_Go

I'm not surprised that Mr. Bushnell never made a version of the game for the Atari 2600 or arcades while he still owned/controlled Atari. The very nature of arcade games are usually very fast-paced games that don't last more than a few minutes at a time. Go wouldn't work in a situation where the machine's proprietor is trying to get as many of the kid's quarters as possible.

The technology didn't really exist to make a truly good video representation of Go for home consoles until later 8-Bit consoles like the NES came around. (The Colecovision, Intellivision, Atari 5200 and Atari 7800 may have also been able to do it as well but, the NES would have done it best. It had much more system RAM and far superior controls.) Even the version of Othello that was made for the 2600 was a bit simplified compared to the actual board game.

Fortunately, the technology to make a good representation of the game does exist now. I can easily see it going to the WiiU (being played on it's Gamepad controller), Nintendo's DS and 3DS lines, Android and/or iOS devices. An online feature where you play against others across the world would make it infinitely better. I'm not sure how the 3D functions of the Nintendo 3DS could be utilized (or if it's really necessary for an adaption of a 2,500 year old board game) but, it does bring intriguing possibilities to mind. The most obvious being a 3D perspective view of the game board and pieces in motion.

And now, if you all will excuse me, I am going to look up a cheap copy of Go on Amazon so I can one day buy it, play it, study it and develop a video version.

- Lord Publius

Addendum:

Apparently, there was also a Windows 95 version of Othello made by Hasbro Interactive, the company that bought the rights to Atari's home division in 1998. Sure are a lot of video game translations for a board game that most casual board game players (families on game night, party-goers, et al.) don't even know exist...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Joke pics about patterns in new game releases bringing up fond childhood memories...


I saw this on Facebook a few moments ago. This photo does bring an interesting question to mind: Why do game companies deliberately NOT release a whole lot of quality titles during the summer? They can't all be waiting for the holiday rush around Christmas time!

Not every kid likes to go outside and play every day during summer vacation. I was living proof of that fact. More often than not, I just went to a friend's house to play games or they came over to mine. A lot of good (and some bad) NES, Super NES, SEGA Genesis and Atari 2600/7800 games were first discovered and played this way. When one of us acquired a new game (or even just rented one from some video rental store), we all descended on that kid's house and played the game all weekend.

Hell, my house was a particularly popular destination for the neighborhood's young gamers because the TV in the living room was 25" and had stereo sound. That was impressive back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. I still remember the sense of awe and wonder I had playing new (to me) NES games on that TV. It seemed so huge and epic to me at the time...

Even after my younger brothers and I got our own cheap 19" TV sets for our rooms (which eliminated any conflict between 'children wanting to play Nintendo' and Dad getting to watch Football), our house was still the destination for the neighborhood kids. I suspect this had something to do with the Iced Tea that was always in the fridge and my mother making waffles or pancakes for breakfast on weekends. :P

Anyway, the NES ended up in my room and became mine by default. My brothers had lost interest in it since one of them acquired a SEGA Genesis for his 8th birthday in late 1993. We never did get a Super NES, no matter how much I *begged* for one every Christmas for at least 4 years in a row. (I did get one secondhand years later in 2003.)

Anyway, the more social gaming experience would go on in my younger brother's room with the Genesis and I had the NES all to myself. That changed when I happened to buy a new game from Wal-Mart one day in 1995 for only 10 bucks. At that time, the NES was being discontinued (much to my eternal sadness) and everyone was clearing out their old stock. The game I picked up was one I had heard of for years and that often left me feeling intimidated. It had a well-earned reputation for awesomeness.

The cartridge I bought was a re-issue of a title originally released in 1987 but, that didn't matter. It was a game that became an obsession for all of us. It was several months before I could get my brothers to abandon all hope of playing it again and have it to myself. It was very much like that creepy little guy from The Lord of the Rings trying to get his 'precious'...

What game was it, you ask?

What old re-issued NES title from 1987 was still so engrossing in 1995 with 3D graphics becoming commonplace?

What game is it that is still so engrossing now in 2013 and that I still have complete in its original box with all the instructions and maps?

What game was so awesome that I happily acquired the re-releases that Nintendo put out on the GBA and GameCube years later?

What else?


It took many months to finally defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess but, I felt like a true champion/video game hero when I did. I've acquired many (but not all) of the Zelda games since then. I have never had quite the same feeling of epic adventure with any other game, including the many sequels and prequels to this one. Of course, I haven't played all the Zelda games that I have in my collection yet for many reasons. Work, world travel and having most of the collection in storage back home in New Orleans being chief among them.

Anyway, those days spent playing those old games, regardless of what platform it was on, are some of my happiest childhood memories. I'm happy that I've been able to acquire most of these titles, add them to my ever-growing collection and relive the memories whenever I wish... unless that game/system is in storage back home in New Orleans. I can't wait to go back home.

- Lord Publius