Tuesday, March 27, 2007

little piggy needed something new

Predictably, Spring Break went by all too quickly. I managed to only get a couple things done on my to-do list, but hopefully I can still use my extra time in the next couple weeks to finish them before classes get to busy. It was really nice to take some time to relax and to get some exercise; played a surprisingly decent game of frisbee golf for it being my first game of the year, and spent some time kicking around a soccer ball and running a couple days. I also got almost all the way through The Irresistible Revolution, which is one of the best and most challenging books I've read since Blue Like Jazz.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a game almost as infamous as Duke Nukem Forever for its numerous delays, was finally released. The game is very open-ended, especially for a shooter. The open landscapes filled with respawning enemies and numerous side quests give the game an RPG element similar to something like Knights of the Old Republic. The best part is the environment: the developers should be proud of the bleak, moody atmosphere they successfully rendered. The day-night cycles, usually consisting of gloomy clouds and constant rainfall, add to the dreary ambiance. This depressing atmosphere is fitting considering the game is centered around a second Chernobyl meltdown in the near future, which has caused the "Zone" around it to be filled with mutant animals, zombies, mercenaries, and scavengers. The A.I. is pretty good, but buggy at times. In fact, there are an unfortunate number of glitches that affect some of the missions and other characters. Hopefully at least some of the problems will be addressed by a patch. I haven't tried the multiplayer yet, but it sounds like it could be fun. Command & Conquer 3 is getting good reviews, so I might have to check that out too sometime.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the old familiar sting

November, 2008 cannot come soon enough.

The Bush administration has successfully whittled down my faith in their governance to nil. There have been too many scandals, too much abuse of power, too much unrepentant arrogance and stubbornness. I have tried to remain supportive and give them the benefit of the doubt over their intentions, but I just can't take it any longer.

You've probably heard about the latest scandal, where Attorney General Gonzalez fired U.S. attorneys as they were investigating those wonderfully illegal and unconstitutional wiretaps the White House had authorized (link). The newest development, after calls from Democrats and some Republicans for Gonzalez's resignation and preparing subpoenas for members of the Bush administration , is that Bush is willing to "compromise" by allowing Democrats to talk with these officials behind closed doors (link). Apparently Mr. Bush has gotten the idea in his head that a government of democratically elected representatives does not need to be held accountable by those people for it's actions, and has the right to secrecy over potentially damning information. That really shouldn't come as a surprise though, considering that Bush once passed a bill that would keep the personal notes and documents of every President a secret from the public (this is regarding government matters, not their personal lives), which would be repealed by a bill recently passed by the house (link, link 2), a bill which Bush has of course vowed to veto.

In response to this Justice Department scandal, the Senate passed a bill that would put an end to the attorney general's ability to appoint U.S. attorney's without Senate approval. Clearly the Democrats aren't the only ones upset with this entire situation, as the 94-2 vote proves the disapproval is hardly partisan (link).

Most alarming to me has been the Bush administration's complete lack of respect towards civil rights. I'm not even talking about terrorist prisoners in Guantanamo Bay or anything like that; I'm talking about the civil rights of American citizens. First there was the previously mentioned illegal wiretaps (link) and recent reports of further abuses by the FBI to illegally obtain information about ordinary citizens (link, link 2).

Then there's also the recent conviction of Dick Cheney's former chief of staff and former Bush aid "Scooter" Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice in an investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity in 2003 (link). I'm sure there are even more accusations and scandals I could dig up, but suffice it to say that I feel that Bush's credibility is wearing very thin.

All along I tried to remain positive and give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt. I tried to tell myself that they had our best interests and national security in mind when they committed these offenses. They just got a little overzealous in their quest to protect Americans by treading on the hem of their civil liberties. But after seeing more reports of scandals and violations by the Bush administration than I have of legal incidents involving the Bengals, I'm really starting to believe that Bush really is getting wrapped up in his power and doesn't believe that his government needs to be held accountable for their actions.

Sorry, Spring Break gives me too much time to rant.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

the face of your own stability

Exam week is over and Spring Break has arrived! I am very glad to be finished with this quarter. Hopefully I can get a lot of things done that I want to accomplish over break. My room is a mess and I really need to get all my paperwork in order. Getting some more work done on my senior project wouldn't hurt either. I'm also going to try to do some of the recreational reading that I've been wanting to, since I have books piling up on the "to read" list. First I've been digging into Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, which has been excellent so far.

My March Madness picks have been less than impressive after the first round, but there hasn't been any long term damage... yet. That could change in a big way today, and I'm certainly not holding my breathe about doing well this year.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

we think we've climbed so high

Last night's UFC event in Columbus was an entertaining one, with a couple big highlights. Obviously the headline of the night was 43-year old UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture coming out of retirement to not only win, but completely dominate, Heavyweight title holder Tim Sylvia to become the UFC's first five-time title winner. Few people thought Couture had a chance, but he proved why he's a legend and completely controlled the fight. My own personal highlight was seeing Cincinnati's own Rich Franklin have an impressive win over Jason McDonald after losing the middleweight title to Anderson Silva in October. Franklin looked impressive throughout the fight, and McDonald took such a beating that his corner threw in the towel after the second round. Actually, I lied. The highlight wasn't just Franklin's victory; the highlight was Franklin conferring with UFC President Dana White after the fight and then announcing that White had agreed that the Franklin - Silva rematch would be held in Cincinnati!! Needless to say, our house erupted in cheers of astonishment and joy when he announced that. We didn't manage to get tickets to this event in Columbus but there is no way something will stop us from seeing Franklin's middleweight title rematch here in Cincinnati. I can't wait for them to announce the official date.

Yahoo has launched its 2007 March Madness pick'em. I created a group that you can join here. The group number is
30858 and the password is cincinnati.

If you thought that naming all 50 states in ten minutes was tough, you probably don't want to try naming all 245 countries in the same amount of time. The only problem is this is that there are errors (the commonly accepted tally of countries is 193) because they include too many places that aren't real countries (Greenland and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example) and because some of the names are too picky (while it accepts "United States", it does not accept "North Korea"; instead it wants the "Democratic Republic of Korea").

edit: Thanks to Rob for this article from the Enquirer on the Franklin bout.

Friday, March 02, 2007

there's calm in your eye

NFL free agency has opened today and there's been a fair amount of news surrounding the Bengals. Predictably, Eric Steinbach wasn't re-signed, and he'll probably be signed early on for a huge paycheck by another team. I was really shocked that the Bengals cut Brian Simmons, and frankly I don't understand that decision, so I hope Ahmad Brooks is ready to play middle linebacker this season. Reggie Kelly and Kevin Kaesviharn are two of the more popular free agents and are receiving some interest from other teams. I have a bad feeling that Kelly may end up in Atlanta, but hopefully we can resign him. I don't expect Tory James to be back, and although I've said it for the past couple offseasons, I'm sure this is the year that Kelley Washington goes somewhere else. Hopefully deals can be worked out with other free agents like Kenny Watson and Marcus Wilkins.

There were some big names cut by other teams, including Joey "the Jackass" Porter from the Steelers, Jamal Lewis, Joe Horn, and Keenan McCardell. Also a number of players that were not re-signed, including Ashley Lelie and Adalius Thomas. There seems to be a good number of free agent tight ends out there, so it will be interesting to see if the Bengals go after any big free agents after creating some salary cap room by cutting Simmons.

edit: Why did Steinbach have to sign with the Browns? That's disappointing. The Patriots cutting Corey Dillon isn't that surprising, but Jake Plummer retiring instead of being traded to Tampa Bay is.

while you're hiding in the trees

I've been long overdue for an update, which I blame on the last two weeks of this quarter being way too busy. Next week looks even more daunting.

Chicago was a lot of fun. Unsurprisingly, UC lost to DePaul, but we had a good time hanging out in the city for the rest of the day (even when Doug and I were wandering around downtown lost at night in the freezing rain for two hours). Chicago is a nice city. It's amazing how nice everyone is in person; they see someone holding a map and leap for the chance to give them directions. But then if you put them in their cars, they honk over the slightest transgression.

UFC 68 kicks off tomorrow night. Too bad we won't be there. I hope Franklin comes back strong after his loss to Silva. Jess leaves for the Ukraine tomorrow and she'll be gone for a week and a half.

Here's a fun little game for you all: Name all 50 states in ten minutes. It got around 45 in the first few minutes (the hardest pat is spelling some of them, like Connecticut) and then it took some thinking after that. Some of you probably know some lame song from grade school that will make it easier, but I did it with my gland full of knowledge.