Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Game Boy: Toughest product ever?

Slashdot has a neat discussion going on, which was inspired by this article at CNET about the most durable gadgets made. And right now wide consensus is that the original Nintendo Game Boy might be the toughest product to ever hit the market. There's one neat story about a Game Boy that was dropped into a lake and was on the bottom for a week before a guy in SCUBA gear recovered it: after drying out for a few days, it worked fine. I personally know of one guy who thought he'd lost his Game Boy after it went flying out of a car window in a minor fender-bender. He found it a few hours later at the bottom of a paved spillway: not a scratch on it! And then there's this Game Boy (pictured at right) which saw hostile conditions in the first Gulf War. It's now on display at at a Nintendo store in New York City and as you can see, it's still playing Tetris.

Not bad at all for a product that's almost twenty years old! Now if only iPods and every other popular gadget on the market nowadays had such durability...

So, why do many Christians still support George W. Bush?

I finally heard the answer to that a few days ago, from a friend who left a church where it sounds like this was almost official policy.

George W. Bush, most Christians at this church earnestly believed, is going to be used by God to start off the End Times.

My friend was absolutely serious about that.

When we were told that, my jaw came almost completely unhinged from the roof of my mouth.

It does make sense though: a lot of Christians who have become deluded about how they think the Apocalypse must happen, would be foolish enough to do whatever they thought was "necessary" to "help" God bring it on.

It makes sense. It makes absolutely perfect sense. All these years of trying to warn my fellow believers about this evil man in the White House and all the harm that he's done this country. And when you try to tell them, it's like they "tune out" and look away and go into this state of willful ignorance and shut you out completely. Why do they do that? Because trying to tell them the truth impinges too much on their fantasies about the end of the world.

I have little doubt that a lot of Christians, however sincere they might be in their faith, have been greatly deceived. The fact that they would even begin to believe that Bush is going to help inaugurate their easy way to Heaven, is absolutely mind-boggling.

Just more indication about how screwed-up things are around us, when even a lot of Christianity has gone pure loco.

Yeah, as you can probably tell from some of my posts lately, I'm more than a little bitter about some things. I'm finally realizing how full of crap most things are in this world. That fellow Christians would hold to this insanity, does not help to increase my faith in them the least bit.

The best commentary you'll read anywhere about the condition of this country ...

"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres"

To those who think that today's so-called "Super Tuesday" primary elections actually means something: Feh!

American politics is being told to pick between two separate cages of howler monkeys that are throwing handfuls of dung at each other.

Unless you are absolutely, beyond all doubt, convinced of a candidate's worthiness to earnestly serve you in office, do yourself a favor and don't bother to vote today if you're in one of the primary states. Save your gas and money.

Because the fact of the matter is, America is so screwed-up by this point that the outcome of the election won't make any difference.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Just finished Halo 3

"This is the way the world ends."

Almost exactly three years since beating Halo 2 - if it can actually be called "beating" that game - a short while ago I finished playing Halo 3, the final chapter of the saga that started with the original Halo in 2001.

As Lisa put it, it was "beautiful".

After going all the way with Halo 2, I complained about all the threads of the story that had been left dangling. Halo 3 brought everything to a satisfying conclusion, while significantly adding to the depth of the story. It also made up greatly for what I think were some of the weaknesses of Halo 2: getting to play the Arbiter in that game was a neat twist... but I think that Bungie might have overdid that aspect of the game. Fortunately you play Master Chief the whole way through Halo 3, although the Arbiter does have a much-appreciated role to play in this tale. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think the game itself might have been a bit longer than Halo 2 was, too.

Most mind-blowing scene of the entire game: the reveal of the newly-created Halo. If you ever wondered how the heck those massive rings are built, you find out in Halo 3.

Most satisfying moment? When you finally, finally, after three games, get at last to open up a can of whoop-butt on Guilty Spark. Stupid little blue twit: he had it coming for a loooong time.

I can honestly say that the time spent playing it was very enjoyable and perhaps even enlightening a bit. How often can that be said of a video game?

If you play the game and get to the end, make sure to stick around for the final credits. In true Halo tradition, there's one last scene that reveals much about the fate of two major characters (and you can probably guess who they are if you've ever played a Halo game).

So ends the Halo trilogy proper. The war with the Covenant has drawn to a close. So of course, a prequel is in the works: bring on Halo Wars!

"Fall Out", the final episode of THE PRISONER, aired 40 years ago today

It was 40 years ago tonight, on February 4th 1968, that the British network ITC broadcast "Fall Out", the psychedelic final episode of its popular series The Prisoner.

To this day, "Fall Out" is considered the most controversial and outright bizarre series finale of a television show ever produced. The episode literally broke ITC's phone system after it was overwhelmed with calls from confused viewers. The Prisoner creator and star Patrick McGoohan had to go into hiding for several weeks after the episode's airing because people kept coming to his house to demand that he explain it to them.


Even forty years later, "Fall Out" is no less startling. The entire episode is indulged - perhaps too indulged - in visual allegory and auditory assault. Taken literally, there's not much in "Fall Out" that makes much sense (along with pretty much every other episode of The Prisoner). But if you're watching this with a decidedly metaphorical mindset, it becomes quite a cerebral parable about the prison of our own modern world.

That still doesn't keep "Fall Out" from being the most whacked-out episode of a TV series in history, though...

The scene where Number 6 (the main character of The Prisoner, played by McGoohan) finally confronts the mysterious Number 1 still evokes considerable debate...

Most of the final third of the episode has no dialogue, only insane action sequences. Like this spectacular machine gun fight toward the end that has everyone shooting at everyone else while "All You Need is Love" by The Beatles (?!) blares loud over the din...

If you want to know more about "Fall Out" (which after watching the episode just about everyone does) here is Dark Childe's review of the episode (the page that these "Fall Out" pics were found on) and here's the episode's entry on Wikipedia.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Best Super Bowl finish that I can remember watching

Congrats to the Giants on an amazing win!

Steve Jablonsky's TRANSFORMERS score is being used for the Super Bowl!

If you're watching Super Bowl XLII on Fox right now, you might have noticed that they're making lots of use of Steve Jablonsky's awesome Transformers score. I just caught them playing "Autobots" in the minutes leading up to the kickoff, in a spot featuring Troy Aikman. And earlier they were using some of the music from the final fight in a video spot with the Patriots and Giants introducing themselves. Very, very cool. Way to go Steve!! :-)

Need a new church? Start your own! It's what we did today.

Okay, maybe "new church" isn't the right way to put it. We are not out to start an "organized congregation" per se and I am definitely not a pastor!

Today was the first coming-together of... well, truth be known we don't have a name for ourselves. It's just a group of fellow Christians who came together mostly through Facebook after talking about our spiritual needs and the realization that we needed something more than "traditional" churches can provide. It hasn't been that we've wanted to "forsake the assembly" as Hebrews 10:25 exhorts against. Christians need others to edify them and hold them accountable, and we sell ourselves short when we deny the gifts that God has given us to help our fellow believers also.

That's one of the things that led us to consider taking this step: that we need to be part of an active, vibrant group of believers.

(As an aside, it was noted a few times that ours might be the very first church to start via Facebook. The Lord works in mysterious ways...)

For me personally, I can't help but think back to when I was in college at Elon, and the small group Bible study and discussions that we used to have. I took so much good from those times, and years later they are still with me. It's been a long time since those days and I guess that I still miss the small groups, for all the fellowship that I had and the growth that I gained from it.

So a few of us got together this morning at me and Lisa's apartment, for a time of worship and Bible study and prayer. Thus went our first foray into "house church": a return to the worship style of the very first Christians, and which according to some is a fairly rapidly growing movement among believers in America. It's already the predominant style of worship service in many countries where hostile governments have forced the local churches to "go underground".

It was with prayer that things got started this morning, as we thanked God for bringing us together and to lead our discussion. Then we went into Acts chapter 2 to examine how the first Christians worshiped, since they are the ones that we are most trying to emulate. And something I didn't catch until today: on the day of Pentecost, Peter and the disciples and the other followers of Jesus were in a house, not at the Temple or some other appointed place of worship, when the Holy Spirit came upon them. There's a lot of evidence that it was the same "upper room" that Jesus held the Last Supper in. And considering the architecture of Jerusalem at the time it might have been something very much like our own apartment.

There was no "leader" of this service. We just shared whatever God was putting on our hearts that He was showing us from the scripture. And this led into a lot of conversation about what it is that we're doing with coming together like this. I think today's service could be called an "icebreaker" or maybe the "orientation" meeting, but that's not the right terminology either. Acts chapter 2 was our jumping-off point for the kind of worship and praise that we are trying to have, over two thousand years after those first believers came together in Jerusalem, and how we are trying to go back to what it was that they held to.

This went on for a little over an hour, and then we decided that it was a good time to wrap up for now. We closed out with asking for prayer requests from everyone, and then held them up to God and thanked Him again for bringing us together and the time we spent this morning.

It was a Christian worship service without a church building. Without a pastor or some other individual leading the worship. Without fancy music (although if we need it Lisa can play something on her keyboard and we'd certainly welcome anyone to bring their own instruments if they like). Without dozens or hundreds or even thousands of parishioners. Just a small group of fellow believers come together in a humble abode to praise God together.

I will admit: we are still very new at this. But it's been a long time since I've come out of a worship service feeling so spiritually refreshed and uplifted.

And hey, in a lot of ways we are like a much larger church! We have a sanctuary (living room) with ample seating room. We've got musical instruments (the ones from Rock Band for Xbox 360). There's a fellowship hall (the adjoining kitchen) and a "pastor's study" (the back bedroom which currently serves as my video production studio and at the time was displaying new pics from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on the computer monitor). If we ever need it, there's also a baptistery in the form of the bathroom tub: yeah it's adjacent to the toilet but that's just a minor detail.

The one thing that we didn't do today, that seems to have been a part of the regular worship of the early Christians, was hold communion or a "love feast" as a lot of modern-day house church practitioners call it. We did have some blueberry muffins from yesterday that we offered everyone, however. But like I said: we're still a bit new at this. If we don't follow "the formalities" to the letter, that's okay. It's not whether we "jump through all the hoops" that matters as much as it does that we're doing this to honor and praise God with our hearts. We'll certainly start a communion service at some point soon.

And that's basically how it went today for our first worship service.

So how does this sound to y'all? You wanna come join us sometime? We don't know where we're going to be meeting next time: it might be here at our apartment again but it might be somewhere else too. Just please remember: it's not a "church" in the normal sense that we're out trying to create, with a name and a 501 (c3) tax exempt status. I don't know if we'll ever have a website. We're just a group of Christians trying to worship God in a way that He'll give us the most growth and encouragement from. That's it. But that's all that really matters to us anyway :-)

If anyone reading this would like to be a part of our lil' "house church" thingy, shoot me an e-mail at theknightshift@gmail.com with "Home church" in the subject line. I'll get back with you as soon as possible. We'd love to have you join us as we worship God together!

(And the blueberry muffins aren't bad, either :-)

Greensboro in the final days of the Civil War

There's a very fascinating article in today's News & Record about what Greensboro went through in April 1865, as the American Civil War drew to a close. Upon reading the story, one would easily get the impression that the spring of that year was the moment that forever defined Greensboro, as a relatively small town became a crossroads of military and political activity. Greensboro is where Jefferson Davis and his remaining cabinet fled to after abandoning the last officially recognized Confederate capital in Danville, and it was here that Davis received word that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. Thousands of soldiers filled makeshift hospitals throughout the town (including First Presbyterian Church, shown in the photo). The town also suffered an immense amount of looting and rioting as resources became scarce. Well worth reading if you're into Civil War or local history.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Return to Pigs R Us

Earlier this evening Lisa went up to Martinsville, Virginia and a place that I love a lot but sadly haven't gotten to go to very much lately: Pigs R Us Barbecue. You might remember that I first wrote about the place a year and a half ago. This was probably our fourth trip back and I honestly cannot recommend it enough if you want delicious barbecue. In fact, so far as traditional barbecue ribs go, they might have the best that I've had... possibly anywhere! Tonight I had the full rack of ribs, smothered in Pigs R Us's own brand of grilling sauce. Lisa got a half rack of 'em. We also bought two bottles of the grilling sauce on the way out.

Here's their website again. It may be a bit off the beaten path, but there's a reason why people are flocking to it, especially since this outfit is winning awards all over the country with their barbecue. Check 'em out!!

Friday, February 01, 2008

DIRTY HARRY is on the Sleuth channel right now

They just don't make movies like this anymore...

"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head cleeeeen off, you've got to ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

Sometimes on the playground when I was a kid, we would do imitations of "Dirty" Harry's speech. Yeah, it was a weird childhood...

In spite of his methods, you had to respect Inspector Callahan for how incorruptible he was. In his world there was absolute good and real evil, and the law didn't have to come in the way of that.

Does anyone else remember that song about "Dirty" Harry that was big for awhile, about 25 years ago? I heard it on the radio a bunch of times: part of it was Clint Eastwood's classic line from Sudden Impact: "Go ahead, make my day." That was about the same time that they were making songs of just about everything else, from the Three Stooges ("The Curly Shuffle") to that lady from the Wendy's commercials who asked "Where's the beef?"

What kind of actors do we have anymore who are anything like Clint Eastwood? Or Steve McQueen or Lee Marvin, or a lot of those other guys? I don't know if my own generation has anyone like that. Darn shame...

Those insane courses on Wii Sports: Golf

This afternoon Dad came by. It's been raining here for most of the day, and it was pretty chilly out in his knife shop and he'd wanted to take a break from his work, and I needed one from some projects too. So we played a nine-hole round of Golf on Wii Sports on the Nintendo Wii that I got Lisa for Christmas.

How did we do?

Let's put it this way: if Robert Trent Jones ever designed a golf course as evil as the ones on Wii Sports: Golf, he would have probably been dragged out onto the fairway and shot.

We were doing pretty good until the ninth hole. If you've played Golf on Wii Sports you probably know which one I'm about to talk about: it's that one where the hole is in the middle of a rocky island, that you have to drive the ball onto. Dad and I both tried our darndest to get it onto the green... but it's impossible! The ball either goes into the water, or it ricochets off the cliff-side and then goes into the water. By the time each of us had hit +12 on the hole the game told us to "Give Up".

Somewhere at Nintendo Headquarters in Japan, some smart-alecy game programmer is no doubt laughing at his supposed cleverness for creating the golfing equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru "no-win" scenario.

Okay so anyone else who has this game: how the heck do we get the ball over the water and onto that tiny island??