Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weblog Origins: English Muffin Power Hour

One question that has dogged the English Muffin Power Hour since its founding was where on Earth I came up with the name for it. No, it wasn't a fever induced vision or because of my fondness for english muffins.

Delicious but Uninspiring

In order to tell the origins of the English Muffin Power Hour, I must first take you back to the mystical age of 2006, a time when texting was just beginning to take roots, Facebook was just another webpage, and people were wondering if Brett Favre was going to retire (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Bean (my unofficially adopted brother for those of you who don't have a dossier on me) and I had just seen a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My mom mentioned that Nashville Star was filmed on that stage. I declared that name to be uninspired and derivative of American Idol (which is fair, as the show is/was a derivative of American Idol). So Bean asks what I would name my television show. And the name just came to me: "The English Muffin Power Hour". I still plan on naming my hour-long tv show that if and when I get one.

Now, more specifically, the idea for blogging came to me at the start of 2008. Yes, I had a brief, disastrous foray into the blogosphere earlier. But that turned out just like the first English colony in the new world (which was Roanoke Island; it literally disappeared). So I decided that the English Muffin Power Hour would be my Jamestown (that is to say, a fortress settled on the first strip of useable land which turned out to be surrounded by swamps and everyone nearly starved the first winter). Two factors pushed me into it. The first was David Tyree's catch in the Super Bowl.

Still Awesome
The second factor was I decided to rise to a challenge and give up video games for Lent that year and I wanted something to put the extra time into. Given the infrequency of updates during that Lent, I think we can acquit video games on the charge of interfering with blogging.
One final note, I'm aware I kinda broke the chain of updates (and as Fleetwood Mac advises "We would never break the chain" because "chaaaaaaaaiiiin keeps us together/running in the shadows!"). However, I'd like to point out that I'm still posting waaaaaaay more often than I ever have before. So that's gotta be worth something. Also, I now occassionally include pictures.
P.S. Does anyone know a better way to post pictures on Blogger? Right now, the picture always goes to the top of the post. When I drag it to its appropriate place, it inevitably screws up the formatting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brett Favre: His Career Shambles On

I am disgusted by Brett Favre's return to the Vikings.

First, let me say that I don't begrudge Brett Favre the right to play in the NFL. He's one of the most determined players in the game and his toughness is truly impressive. Sadly, his decision making leaves much to be desired (and I don't just mean on-the-field, where he is the all time leader for interceptions).

I thought Brett Favre was wronged by the Packers back in 2008. They had a perogative to have Favre make up his mind about whether he would retire or not by the draft. But when he decided he wanted to play football again, the Packers should have either welcomed him back (which they didn't) or let him go (which they didn't). Now, Aaron Rodgers did a great job replacing Favre last year, so I understand why Green Bay was hesitant to welcome the prodigal son. But it was a real selfish move to keep him off the Vikings by including a specific clause to keep him from playing in Minnesota (where Favre wanted to). Favre got screwed over by the Packers so that Green Bay's 6-10 team could finish slightly closer to Minnesota (who won the division at 10-6).

Despite all that, I am disgusted by Brett's return to the Vikings.

Why? Because Favre milked this story for all it's worth. I suppose I have to begrudgingly respect his masterful Minnesota media manipulation (Go go, Gadget Alliteration!). For July, he made the story be "Brett Favre is eyeing a return" by very publicly working out and getting in football shape. Then, he delivers a deadline of July 31st (a Friday) to give his decision about whether or not he would return to the Vikings, maximizing the media hype by saturating an entire news week with "Will he or won't he?" chatter. Then, he backs down at the deadline and decides he's too old and tired to take another season of horrible beatings. So we had a full day of all the experts talking about what a great career Favre had (again... for at least the fourth time).

To take a brief break, at this point, I don't have too much a problem with what Favre's done. It could just be ESPN going wild with speculation. I thought the story was likely over. But then last night, a rumor was posted on the ESPN crawl that two anonymous Vikings expected Favre to return. I hated that so-called story because there was nothing substantive about it... UNTIL TODAY!

Yes, like Gandalf appearing on the ridge at the Battle of Helm's Deep, Brett Favre has returned to save Minnesota's season. And just in time to practice for the pre-season game this week! How ever did he time it so perfectly?

Now, I'm being a bit harsh, but I don't believe his story. Early reports laim he came out of retirement to help the Vikings once their starting QB (Tarvaris Jackson) got injured for three reasons.

  1. He's getting paid well. He's being paid between $10 and $12 million dollars this year. Most people on a mission of mercy are not so well-compensated. (Brett Favre- "I reluctantly accept this glamorous, higly paid mission of mercy.")
  2. He's as much help now as he was in July. Tarvaris Jackson was barely considered a starter, having edged out the new back-up, Sage Rosenfels (who is the best Jewish QB in football). Therefore, Sage "Johnny Jewhands" Rosenfels was not a significant downgrade in the QB department. It'd be more believable if it were a team like the Carolina Panthers, where the back-up QB is actually three monkeys in a suit.
  3. It's not even that big of an injury. I could see Jackson's injury being a bigger factor if, you know, he didn't play in the preseason game on Friday.

Brett Favre is a talented athlete, but he has too much of a flare for the dramatic these days that the media is far too willing to cater to.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The streak is alive!

All right, I just got done with a ridiculously busy day which saw me love home at 9 am and not get back until 9:30 PM. And tomorrow I help move my younger sister move into college. And by "help my younger sister" I mean "help Dad carry everything while she shows Mom her room". But I won't let that break the streak of blogginess that I've built up. So I'll forgo my normal pontification and just tell a few things I did at the internship today.

Today was easily the most fun/work I've had at my internship. I tracked down two leads, reviewed three stories from the wire, and fact checked two articles with city officials then handed the notes in for the 5 o clock news. Better yet, I was complimented on how thorough and detailed my notes were. I'm there to kick ass and ask compelling questions... and I'm all out of compelling questions!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Consecutive content!

I'm a very goal driven person. It's not that I dislike freeform, but I always do better when I have a clear, measurable way of monitoring my success. Even in games, I don't often go exploring unless I have a specific goal in mind (i.e. discover all the new places in this section of the map, find the super laser that makes this ten times easier, find the generic hidden items, etc.). For a non-video game example, I decided that having 20 pictures of myself on Facebook after 3 years of college was unacceptable. So I've been on a quest to get to 100 photos before the start of MTSU's school year. And it's gone very well. For those who don't facebook stalk me, you'll see I have a respectable 81 photos tagged of me now (of course, it helps that I have a new, awesome digital camera). However, the point is that I'm disappointed with the English Muffin Power Hour.

Don't get me wrong, I've made some good content updates and it's been much better visited and updated than my first foray into the blogosphere. But I've made less than a dozen posts this year and it's August (Tempus Fugit). So I'm going to write a post every day until I reach last year's total of 42. I can't gaurantee that every update will be a 500 word opus of hilarious insights that you're used to. But done is better than perfect. What's more, I promise that none of the updates will be "Today's update is that I promise to update the blog tomorrow." With that in mind, let's jump into today's update: Tropico.

Holy crap! I'm actually including pictures of what I'm talking about!

I've already talked a little bit about Tropico. It's a game I saw a friend play in 6th grade and then promptly never thought of it until a few weeks ago. I read a headline that said there was a Tropico 3 coming out this fall (it was a very slow news day) and nostalgic memories of the game I saw for maybe 10 minutes came rushing back (did I ever mention I have a very weird memory? I can remember ten minutes of a game from ten years ago but not where I left my allergy medicine.). And then I stumbled on "Tropico Reloaded" on Steam the other day. Before I go on, Steam is a digital distribution store for PC games. Instead of buying a hard copy of a game at a store, you pay for the download off Steam and can usually save a lot of money (because unlike game stores, Steam actually has sales). But I digress. The point is I saw that Tropico, its bland expansion pack, and forgettable sequel were available for a paltry $15. So I decided to try my hand at being a Carribean overlord.

Behold! Hunteria in all its randomly generated glory!

Let's start with what I like about the game. For starters, it has a great character creator. For starters, the game is a civilization/management type game, so any sort of character customization is great. But the real gem is that you get to pick your dictator's background, such as Left-Wing Author (I always knew Al Franken wanted to rule Cuba), General (I am a modern major general), Fortunate Son (It ain't me! It ain't me! I ain't no senator's son!) and several others. And then you pick your rise to power, which ranges from lame democratic process to awesome violent rebellion/military coup. And after that you pick two virtues and two vices for your character. So it takes what's normally a faceless, soulless role and makes it into a very personal one.

Unfortunately, that also leads me to the first major flaw. Every trait you pick influences the stats your dictator has. This game is nothing if not stat crazy. Unfortunately, the stats aren't particularly well-balanced. So rather than design a character that sounds interesting, it's better to design one that can win the game easily.

Back to the positives, Tropico's motto is "You Rule" because of the absurd levels of control the game gives you over your island. You can make it a tourists' paradise, a Marxist wonderland, or a soulless industrial powerhouse. Unfortunately, this absurd level of power is the game's big weakness. It's full tag should read "You Rule... Because The People Will Starve If You Don't Tell Them Exactly What To Do".

The game seems to make place in a bizzarre world of micromanagement where you can only control the least interesting parts of the world. All buildings on the island are government owned and operated, even if you're a capitalist. That means it's up to you to set wages and rent and build houses and businesses. But here's the kicker: you don't control where people work or what they do when they work. This wouldn't be a problem if the AI wasn't made of Liquid Stupid. I suffered far too many economic collapses because dockworkers wouldn't take goods from one end of the pier to another. I later found out that this was because my workers were exhausting themselves moving from their homes to their work. But there's nothing I can do about that. If I build more homes, I can't control who moves in there and I can't do much to make the commute easier (I can build dirt roads for the workers to ignore). And of course, an absurdly huge part of the game is moving goods from where they're grown to where they're manufactured to where they're sold. But of course that requires legions of teamsters whose primary goal is to tick me off by exhausting themselves walking and only carrying one thing in a month of work.

In fairness, the game is good with its realism in regard to fatigue and the average price for workers going up over time. Unfortunately, the goods you sell don't go up at nearly the same rate, so it inevitably leads to a recession. Also, it's impossible to tax the population so you can't get the extra income back.

In summary, Tropico was a cool idea with simply terrible execution.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm actually going to write something!

In the past 24 hours, I have updated two different blogs, neither of which are my own. So while I'm on a blogging hot streak, I figure I'll actually stop neglecting good old English Muffin Power Hour.

What I Am Doing Now

Today, I began my internship at WKRN, channel 2 news in Nashville. In fact, I'm at the internship right now. In retrospect, it is perhaps a poor decision to update my blog at work, but I'll let history be the judge of that. So far, it's been very exciting even though I haven't left the newsroom. I already flipped through Murfreesboro police reports trying to find hi-larious hijinks, which included Grand Theft Go-Cart. So far, I've knocked out 4 hours. That means only 225 left to go!

I've also been working on calculus in an effort to make up for avoiding math like the plague. Again, it is perhaps a poor decision to major in Economics when I haven't taken a math class seriously since 10th grade. Funny story, I actually got through Algebra-Trig without any Trig. It was the year I switched from Charlottesville Schools to Murfreesboro Schools. In Charlottesville, they do Algebra first semester and, in Murfreesboro, they do Algebra second semester. And while I was definitely enrolled in AP Stats, I can't honestly say I took it. I was definitely in the classroom but I was in AP Playing-Hearts-with-Doug-and-Sam.

But I digress. The Calculus CLEP is this Friday and I've been hitting the review extra hard. The problem with the AP Calc book is that the review problems are fairly inconsistent in their difficulties as you work through a chapter. For instance, Problem 1 may ask you to integrate the sine of the cosine of X divided by the cosine of the sine of X. Problem 2 would then ask for you to determine the velocity of a laden swallow. Problem 3 would be written in an ancient language so indecipherable that if I were to utter a single word of it, it would cause me to go utterly mad. Then problem 4 asks you to integrate 2X. Well thanks, AP Calc Book, I really needed to review something that unambiguously easy after you just forced me through a gauntlet of mind-rending numbers, the horrors of which I may never recover.

What I've Been Doing
I've been spending a lot of time with 3 PC games I picked up cheap- Company of Heroes, Tropico, and Plants vs. Zombies. Company of Heroes is a World War 2 real-time strategy game that caters to my love of history and blowing the ever-loving crud out of my enemies. I really like the tanks in Company of Heroes. Usually in RTS, tanks are just another unit for your gigantic legion of terror. In Company of Heroes, the tanks are like a T-Rex (like in Saving Private Ryan). They barrel through barbed wire and brick walls like a hot knife through butter and generally make me feel mad with power.

The fact I like Plants vs Zombies should surprise no one. First, I have a well-documented obsession with the zombie apocalypse. Second, the game is made by PopCap, who made the digital cocaine known as Peggle. The only bad thing about Plants vs Zombies is it was supposed to be called Lawn of the Dead, but there were copyright issues with the name. It has simple, but clever gameplay. You set up a garden of plants to shoot zombies as the zombies try to take over your yard. Some plants shoot, some chomp, some stab, some explode. Plus the zombies are hilarious. You fight Thriller zombies, for crying out loud! I don't need to say anything else.

Tropico is a different story. I was first introduced to Tropico in 1999, by my Jewish friend, Tally McBagel Cohen. Tropico lets you be a circa 1950 dictator of a Carribean Island. But that's another blog post.

Now that I'm back in the bloggy groove, hopefully I can keep building momentum and actually get a respectable post count going.