Thursday, December 25, 2008
(BTW...he loves honey.)
First off, I don't have anything personally against the guy. And, according to national press, he's "even handed" and Iowa was "thrown a bone" with this pick because of our excellent Democratic caucus this year. But seriously, is Vilsack the best person in America for this job? Sure, I'm sure he's seen lots of corn in his day, as anyone working in Iowa would, but his experience and history is as a trial lawyer (they seem to know everything, don't they?). Not an agri-economist, scientist, or even farmer.
All that aside the major concern I have with Vilsack was a goal he set for Iowa back in 2003...which, at the time, made headlines:
"By 2010, Iowa will eliminate all impaired waterways."
Now that we're one year away from the established deadline. Let's see how we're doing:
I don't have the bar graph showing data for 2006 or 2008, but as you can see, impaired waterways in Iowa are well on the way to topping 400. Yikes. Its so bad we're now measuring poisonous algae blooms in our streams and lakes.
This trend is no surprise to anyone, even small schoolchildren. There are a multitude of reasons why. For one thing, it takes a long time (over decades) to actually clean up river systems when they've been polluted (even if the land has completely changed). Another issue is that EPA is always expanding the list of what makes a water 'impaired'. But the main reason is that the way we farm today simply pollutes water badly. The way we farm hasn't changed drastically in the last 50 years.
So why would Vilsack make a pledge six years ago that Iowa would have no impaired waterways? That about the same as me saying "By 2013, all coal power plants will be replaced by the power of imagination!" To make such a pledge, in my mind he must be either a) completely stupid or b) playing politics. Neither one of those is a great choice. I don't think that Vilsack is dumb, the only answer that makes sense to me is that he was doing what a lot of politicians do, make promises that sound great, without mentioning the cost, or even thinking they would happen. He also probably knew that by 2010 most people would have forgotten about his pledge and he'd be up on the next political level.
Well I haven't forgotten. I'd really like to hear him answer for that crazy/insane pledge he made as governor of Iowa a long time ago.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Yes folks. And from what I’ve read online, its easy to understand, with quick rounds, and ~two hour play times. What fun. I’ve owned the BSG Roleplaying Game for over a year now, I don’t even want to begin to start a campaign on those crazy ‘cortex’ rules. Intelligence is 1d8…stamina is 1d10??...What??
...Only about a month before the final 'season' starts.
Monday, November 24, 2008
As you all know by now, I'm sure...I have excellent taste. So I've decided to rank the top five video game RPGs I’ve played. Actually…let’s say ‘of all time’. Yeah, that's better. Although my sample size is only around 75 games total, only half of which were finished, you can feel safe in taking this list to the bank, depositing it, and getting all your money back in this top five list of pixilated RPG pleasure. I only play the best. That means no Nintendo.
5) Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny.
I don’t know why this gem of a game has been forgotten. Sure, its got that cheesy late ‘90s real video capture with, at best, B-level acting. But the story for this complex game involves gods, demons, oracles, even a town of cat-people. Plus you’re cursed by a witch and randomly shapeshift from wise-cracking human, to pigmy lizard, to grunting monster lizard. Instead of going for the standard semi-medieval, or far future, period like so many games, Lands of Lore II goes for almost Greek-like world view of gods, monsters, and demons all living together. Its great.
4) Panzer Dragoon Saga.
This game was the sole reason I purchased a Sega Saturn. And, though the Saturn graphics are horrid, I played through this sucker twice. All you need to know about the game is that you ride a shape-shifting dragon and fly through a future destroyed world where everything has been genetically modified. Very Japanese. But the great story involving you, your pet dragon, and a 5,000 year old GMO’d girl named ‘Azel’ is phenominal. Most of the true die-hard Sega fans agree with me on this one, if you try to buy this game today you’re going to pay at least $200.
3) Ultima Underworld II.
In 1992, a year before Doom supposedly ‘invented’ the first-person shooter, Looking Glass Studios (rest in peace) brought out the real-time gem known as Ultima Underworld. Though UWI was technically great (you could jump, look up, down, fly), the story was rather simplistic – get out of the underworld. With UWII, Looking Glass kept almost the exact same graphics and interface, and focused on creating a great story that greatly expanded our knowledge of the major villain in Ultima 7, released just prior to UWII. In this game you explore many other worlds that the Guardian has conquered, you also can truly customize your character, being either a spellcaster, ranger, or in my case, a thug who punched his way into saving the world. Although there is only one ending, during the game you can kill whomever you want, and the spell system of runes instead of reagents is wonderful, as is all your items having their own unique slot.
2) Skies of Arcadia.
You’re Vyse, a teenage kid with love for swashbuckling adventure. You live on a planet made of many tiny floating islands. Your best friend, Aika has just watched a Moonstone fall on nearby Shrine Island. What do you do? Go cartoon teeny-bopper adventuring, of course. At the end of your travels you’ve been to the moon, discovered ancient technology, and fallen in love. Yeah, its very Japanese, but its also very Pirates of Dark Water. Finding treasures, interesting characters, Oh, plus you’ve got ship to ship battles!
1) Mass Effect.
Take Blade Runner, mix it with the Fifth Element, add a little BSG (all this has happened before) and finish it off with KOTOR-style character interaction, and you’ve got the absolute best RPG ever, Mass Effect. At the start of this game you’re trying to find an ancient beacon left by an extinct race. At the end, you’re humanity (et al.’s) only chance for survival. Although its got a great, original story, what really sets this game apart is its depth. You want to know the history of the Citadel, your character, Mass Relays station? No problem, just go to your character terminal and read the pages and pages of background text. BioWare must have dedicated countless hours to writing history, tech specs, and character details before releasing this game. Another plus: although it unabashedly steals from plenty of known sci-fi memes, it uses them to weave together a story that feels, at least to this rpg-er, extremely original.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
That sucks. Those two players accounted for over 50% of pass completions this year. Johnny Gray had streaks of greatness when returning punts. Hopefully they’ll still make a run in the playoffs.
Yes, division 1aa (FCS) football has playoffs, thank heavens.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
That's right. Castle Grayskull beeiaatches! I found it for $10 including 7(!) Masters of the Universe figures with all their swords, comics, and add-ons. Battle armor He-Man, Skeletor, Man At Arms (aka Waste of Time), Orko, and a bunch of others I can't name.
Notice the laser is still on top? Heck, the trap door even works.
Some history. Before I went to kindergarten my entire play-world involved whatever games I could think of for me, my younger sisters, and other various farm animals. Games like old tree-trunk space-ship adventure, church songs to cows, and twirl a cat in a bucket filled our afternoons. Then, within the first week of starting kindergarten, kids with a TV that got something other than PBS told the rest of us about He-Man, and his daily trials with Skeletor.
And they had lots of toys, magical toys.
I'm sure GI Joe was big at that time too. But that never really interested me. He-Man, after all, was the Master of the Universe, not some rinky-dink planet. Universe is always better in my book.
Back to the toys. Of course as a kid, especially in our little class, you had to have the coolest toys to be the coolest kid in class. Most everyone else had at least heard of He-Man and had a couple of action figures to play in the games. I remember being behind the eight-ball so bad that I brought some toy bird to play along as Sorceress. Someone told me later that Sorceress was a woman. I didn't know that.
I wanted to get Castle Grayskull so bad my Kindergarten year I cut it out of our 1983 JC Penney Christmas catalog and hung it on my wall.
Needless to say, for better or worse, no Grayskull for me that year. Or any other year. It became quickly obvious to me that I wasn't going to be the coolest kid in class. Grayskull probably wouldn't have helped anyway.
Now, 25 years later, Grayskull is mine. I mean Noah's.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
It hurt. Not a good hurt either. The race itself was beautiful. Anamosa's a hilly town, and this 5k hit some pretty decent ones. We even ran next to the Wapsipinicon River for about a mile. It looked very pretty, but (and I'm not kidding here) the Wapsi stunk like pure sewage.
My entire family, sans dad and Hilary, also ran. Mom, being a lightning bolt finished 2nd in her age category. She was very happy. Below is a picture of all the winners of the race, including mother. I didn't even place.
The largest pumpkin in Jones County this year was a respectable 1,400 lbs. Not bad. Last year Jones County had the second largest pumpkin in the world at almost 1,700 lbs. I wonder what they do with those things after the fest.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
...and what a difference a couple of days makes. Listening to radio on the way home, I heard that we got ourselves into a predicament where we drastically need investors from other countries to 'have confidence' in our markets to keep us afloat. The radio talking heads thought that confidence was eroding.
Who would have confidence in a system that gives loans to people based on no money down and no proof of income? A person that believes in 'magic money', that's who. You see, with magic money, the its the money itself that makes value and goods. Much like Dumbledore conjures up entire banquets in Harry Potter with a flick of his wand.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
So I’ve read the bailout proposal. At the size of a longer blog post, most people will hopefully be able to read the dang thing and think about it a bit, even if our congress doesn’t.
There are two items that strike me about this deal. For one, Congress, and us taxpayers are giving Mr. Secretary, one man (or woman) immense powers and cash, without any restrictions. Is that really a safe way to spend $700,000,000,000? When I spend $700 on Amazon.com, and it comes broken, you better believe I send it back, plus I take a lot of time to research how to get the most out of my money.
…Congress has what, five days?
To protect our ‘investment’ the secretary has these guidelines:
Sec. 3. Considerations.
In exercising the authorities granted in this Act, the Secretary shall take into consideration means for--
(1) providing stability or preventing disruption to the financial markets or banking system; and
(2) protecting the taxpayer.
Secondly; I assume that the plan will be for the taxpayers to buy these mortgages as the Secretary sees fit, and then sell them when the market goes back up again. Well, um...what if it doesn’t go up? But continues to decline in the foreseeable future?
In fact, you could make an argument that this bill and circumstances are set up exactly that way. Right now, the market needs money, so paying more for failed mortgages gives that quick infusion of money, and looks great in the short-term. Over time though, all of those quick sales at higher prices will come home to roost. Yet another bubble that will burst… this one caused directly by the government.
You just know, like everything else government does, in five years time people are going to look at this as a quick-fix mess.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I happen to work in one of those long governmental bureaucratic chains, and I must admit, its pretty ridicules. The first time I realized how bad was in 2003 at an environmental conference watching a distinguished EPA speaker. The guy was probably somewhere in federal middle management. Mr. EPA is giving a presentation on new state perchlorate contamination standards, measured in parts per billion… as most scientists would show- μg/L. At least any scientist that has taken an undergrad chemistry course. However, in Mr EPA’s talk, every single slide of his powerpoint has λg/L. We saw it about 50 times throughout his presentation.
For those of you who haven’t taken a college physics course, lambda (λ) is a symbol for wavelength. Nothing to do with concentration. Mr. EPA is talking about state standards (which we have to enact), and using the wrong symbol. Or, taken further, we must invent a whole new way to measure concentration to meet EPA standards.
When called out on it from a member of the audience, he simply said “It means parts per billion.” And brushed it off like somehow we’re the ones who didn’t understand.
And that, in a nutshell, details what’s inherently wrong with bureaucracies. You see, we lowly ‘state’ people couldn’t tell him he was wrong because we’re below him on the bureaucratic totem pole. The only way he would have righted his wrong was if someone from higher up the chain -District Manager or something- would have corrected him.
Does that make bureaucracy inherently bad? Absolutely not. But it does make it overwhelmingly dependent on the abilities and aptitude of those in higher management. That’s why good private sector presidents/CEO’s get paid so much; private companies know how important it is (at least the successful ones do).
On the public side, we’re seeing friends or major contributors of the governor, president, etc. in heads of agencies in which they have little to no experience or qualifications. That inexperience trickles down and permeates the rest of the agency. Then you get what we've got today.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Although I was prepared for the total lack of sleep, I never really thought about how much more nerve racking your life is going to get with a child. I remember as a boy doing stupid, dangerous things like playing on farm machinery and getting trapped with the hogs. I never 'got' why mom and dad looked so concerned.
That's changed. I was paranoid about everything those first couple of nights.
Thanks to everyone who sent us food, congrats, and thoughts these past couple of weeks. We really appreciate them!