A Nickel for your Thoughts

My random thoughts about politics, cars, computers, sports, the environment and so on. For free. And that's about what they're worth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The "Killer" List of Videogames

I find it interesting that the ColecoVision was superior in every conceivable way to its contemporary competition (it was basically a Sega Master System with less RAM, but it came out four years before the SMS), yet, due mostly to unfortunate timing (being introduced right before the industry collapsed under the weight of craptacular games for inferior, aged hardware (see Atari 2600)) it led a Dreamcast-like existence in which it sold like hotcakes for a couple years before market conditions killed it. It seems that's been a pattern with consoles; the best hardware frequently does not get the biggest market share.

The ColecoVision's game library consists of well-made '80s arcade ports (Donkey Kong, Galaxian, SpyHunter, Zaxxon, etc.) and thus it doesn't have any franchise games like those that gave the NES its staying power. Now you can emulate old arcade games pixel-for-pixel so no one cares about the ColecoVision anymore.

Not that anyone should.

I've never understood certain peoples' fondness for ancient video games. I don't mean old but fun and playable arcade games like those ported to the ColecoVision, I mean just plain old crummy games. Before you remind me that I just wrote two posts about the ColecoVision, understand that my interest in the ColecoVision is purely academic, never having owned nor played with one (except for a less-than-satisfying emulation experience caused by my crummy computer). While I think it's an interesting, ahead-of-it's time '80s artifact, I'd sure rather play a modern game on a modern system.

For example, the Killer List of Video Games' Top 100 Video Games should be called A List Of Some Video Games That Sucked But Are Really Really Old Plus Some Good Games With An Obvious Bias Toward Games That Run On CPUs That Now Run Scientific Calculators. Notice that KLOV's readers do not share the authors' fondness for games made before the advent of color graphics and microprocessors.

I'm sorry KLOV, but PONG is not a better game than Pac-Man, Pole Position is not a better game than Ferarri F355 Challenge, and Tank and BiPlane aren't better games than...a goddamn nose-picking contest. While many of the Top 100 are undisputed classics (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, SpyHunter, Frogger, Dragon's Lair etc.) some are just old. Classic arcade games are cool (one of the first games I'm going to buy for my new console will be Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Edition), but there are some wierdos that still play Atari 2600 games on emulators. I don't get it.

Who would win in a fight...Pac-Man or Q*Bert?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You know you have a slow computer when...

...the ColecoVision emulator doesn't run smoothly in full-screen. I think this is because it uses DirectX...it might run faster if I used a DOS emulator. Who knows. It's worth noting that the ColecoVision uses the same CPU as a TI-82 graphing calculator (a Zilog Z80), but at half the clock speed of the calculator. I know emulation is processor intensive, but, man....

The ColecoVision, by the way, was the best home video game console you could get in 1982, and it remained so until the NES came out.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gas Price Armageddon! Not.

I listen to news radio on the way to the park and ride every morning (a ride which I currently share with my brother in law, who is staying in our place while he's looking for better roommate situation). Every morning it's the same, uh, "breaking" story: gas is sooo expensive. Everyone has an idea for how to solve this "problem." Stop adding oil to the strategic reserve, tax the oil companies more (yeah, that'll help), repeal the Federal gas tax, drill in the ANWR, and blah, blah, blah.

My question is: There's a problem?

Gas has been too cheap for too long in this country. We're pissing and moaning because gas costs $3.00/gallon. Do you know how much a gallon of "petrol" costs in the UK? It's 96 pence (0.96 pounds) per liter. There are 3.785 liters in a gallon, which means their gas costs 3.6 pounds per gallon. The current exchange rate is $1.82 per pound, so gas in the UK costs about $6.60 per gallon. I believe this is mostly because gasoline is taxed much more heavily in the UK and most of Europe than it is here.

How on Earth do those poor Brits cope? It's pretty simple really. They ride buses and "the tube" and trains and fly on ultra-cheap Ryanair and EasyJet flights. When they do drive, they usually do it in tiny 1 to 1.5-liter cars that get 50 miles to the gallon or more, unless they're loaded, then they drive a diesel Mercedes that gets 30 miles to the gallon.

Personally, I think gas costs about what it should cost right now. It needs to be expensive enough that a few people will decide to leave their Suburbans and Excursions and Escalades and F350s in the garage (or at a park-and-ride, where I leave my old 4-cylinder Ford Ranger) and ride a bus or a train to work (or carpool) instead of driving. It needs to be expensive enough that people will make fuel economy a factor in deciding what kind of car to buy, even if they make a good living. It needs to be expensive enough that people will maintain their cars so they get the best possible mileage (and lowest emissions, as a bonus). And, for the long term, it needs to be expensive enough that people will demand better public transportation infrastructure and governments will deliver that, as well as plan suburban growth in such a way that most places can be efficiently served by public transportation.

Three-dollar-per-gallon (or more) gas is something that the rest of the world has had to deal with for years. Now it's our turn. Hopefully we do it in an intelligent way.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lebowski'd!

Fans of the movie (like me) may be interested to know that the bowling alley used in the filming of The Big Lebowski was demolished in 2002 to make way for an elementary school.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Bought a New Car! In other news, our medical system sucks.

On Monday, my wife and I bought a new 2006 Hyundai Elantra, in Moonlit Blue. Hyundai of Everett rox; we got a good deal and were treated very well, though we practically had to pay them to take my wife's old (seriously) broken car in trade.

On another note, a SNAFU on the part of either the insurance company or the doctor's office resuted in us getting a letter that told us we'd have to pay the entire $6,000 cost of my wife's recent surgery, after we (and the doctor) were told it would be covered. It was erroneous, but it scared the shit out of us until we found that out. I guess that's the beauty of Our Great Nation's broken medical system. Bleh.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Requiem for the Mitsubishi

On October 14, 2002, I bought my first new car, a silver 2002 Mitsubishi Galant ES, from Five Star Mitsubishi on South Tacoma Way (Tacoma's Auto and Pimp/Ho/Titty Bar/Smoke Shop/Flea Market/TV Repair Shop Row). I couldn't really afford it, but man, after slaving away for five years in college, I wanted a new car, and with Mitsubishi's zero interest, zero down, zero payments for a year promotion, I could get one. So I did. I just assumed I'd be able to afford the payments once they came due in about 15 months. As it turned out, that was the case, because by that time, I had landed a better job and was still living in a cheap apartment. Of course, a couple months later at year-end closeout time, Mitsubishi outdid themselves with a promotion in which you could buy a car with zero down, make no payments for a year, and pay no interest for the life of the loan. Bastards.

Two years, two months and 41,000 miles later, as described in an earlier post, her useful life ended much too soon. My crazy road-tripping days of college were over by the time I bought her, but she did take me on trips to Idaho, Oregon, Canada, and Eastern Washington, and she would have taken me down to Vegas by now had she not been smashed. I appreciated the sure handling, the good feature content, comfortable seats, clean lines (derivative of a 1990s vintage BMW's), and the fact that she never developed a single mechanical problem the entire time I owned her (unless you count the hose that fed the windshield washers getting inexplicably chewed up) . I could have done without the rattle that developed in the plastic trim around her drivers' door, and I was upset when running over a rock on the freeway resulted in a tear of her rear bumper cover (the back tire flung it through an unreinforced part of the back bumper).

For a while, the insurance company thought she could be saved, but that ended up not being the case. It's a bit of a waste, because she had been a nice car, but assuming I get fair compensation, it won't hurt me financially. In fact, it may open up some options like buying an inexpensive used car and not having a car payment for a while. There's a '98 (final year) Lincoln Mark VIII on Craigslist for $4300. It's got a busted heater but that's usually not an expensive fix (it can only be the heater core or the blend door), and of course that sweet ride will be long gone before I get a check from the insurance company. Probably just as well...That 280-horse 4-cam V8 isn't the easiest on gas.

Did I mention the Mark VIII has a 280-horse 4-cam V8? Clear the road.

Anyway, she was a good car and died valiantly in a successful effort to protect me from injury. My she rest in peace, and my her parts keep many other Galants on the road.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Two Thousand Six

New years' observations:

  • Six beers = Hangover.
  • Don't watch Serenity with a noob with a short attention span, when you could have watched The 40 Year Old Virgin instead.
  • Football is the thief of time.
  • My truck doesn't start if you park it on a steep uphill.
  • Damage estimate for my car is on the wrong side of $8,000. May she rest in peace (at least I expect that's what'll happen).
  • Dick Clark looks like death warmed over.

Monday, December 26, 2005

My Car A-Splode!

About two weeks ago, I was involved in a car accident in which a Chevy Blazer was pushed into the trunk of my 3-year-old Mitsubishi Galant by a 10-year old Mitsubishi Galant on the freeway. Chevy Blazers don't fit so well inside the trunks of midsize Japanese cars, so I think mine's probably done for, but the insurance company isn't convinced...not sure why. I was rear-ended, and it was absolutely not my fault.

This is the second time I've been rear-ended in a year. Both situations were similar, meaning there was a long line of stopped or crawling cars in front of me and it therefore shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone behind me that I'd stop too. Now, kids, remember how they told you to keep a safe following distance (meaning 3-4 seconds at highway speeds, 2 at city speeds) in driver's ed? Good. DO IT! Staying 3-4 seconds behind the car in front of you means you'll get to your destination--and I know this is hard for some people to understand--3-4 seconds later than you would if you were half a Nash Metropolitan's length behind that car, like some people apparently want to be. That small of a difference in arrival time is never important enough that you should risk your safety to overcome it, and it sure as hell isn't important enough to risk everyone else's safety. If the car in front of you is traveling too slowly for your liking, here's an idea: pass it! If I had a nickel for every time I've seen someone tailgating on a multi-lane highway when there's a lane next to them with no cars ahead for a mile, I'd be a rich man. And--this goes for my wife as well--turn off the effing cell phone. You're going to be at home or work or the grocery store/post office/bank/mall in 10 minutes anyway; talk then. Or if you can't wait, pull off the road or let a passenger do the talking.

Anyway, so I'm car shopping, and will probably get a Hyundai Elantra because Hyundai will be so kind as to give me money (an owner loyalty rebate) because my wife happens to own a (busted) Hyundai. In so doing, I have decided to trust the automotive press when they tell me that Hyundais (Hyundae?) have become much better cars in the 8 years or so since my wife's was built. Also, I have some friends who bought their first car (an new Elantra) about a year and a half ago when they were in their mid-20s (un-American carless city dwellers they were) and have not managed to destroy it yet, though this has not been for lack of trying. I realize after that last paragraph I must sound like some safe-driving curmudgeon, and I suppose I am, but seriously folks. They've been hard on that poor little car. So far it has kept coming back for more punishment.

My tree-hugger friends and co-workers have encouraged me to buy a Prius. Sorry guys. I can still buy an awful lot of gas for the ten thousand extra dollars that they cost compared to what I'm considering.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Delgado to Marlins

Well, the last big fish in the free agent pond is now, um, a fish. More specifically a Marlin. Four years, $52 M. Gawd.

Delgado, while undoubtedly a great player with his .949 career OPS, will be 33 in June, which means he'll be 36 at the end of ths contract, at which time he will be making a Beltre-esque $16 million dollars. Hmm...now which would you rather have, a 25-year-old third baseman for $64 million dollars over five years, or a 36-year-old first baseman for $52 million over four years? That's what I thought.

Delgado is already past his prime, and, if Florida is lucky, he'll be league-average by the time his contract is up.

This is just a miserable deal...if I were a Marlins fan I'd be mad as hell right now. With all the insanity in the free agent market these days (as further evidenced by the Delgado deal), the Mariners' Bill Bavasi is starting to look pretty savvy.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Words of Wisdom

The girls in the Maybelline commercials are born with it.