Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thanks to my wonderful new job, my office was dismissed from work early to go prepare for the New Years weekend. So, I had some extra time to kill and some money saved up, so I thought to myself, why not go shooting? I haven't broken my new handgun in yet and I have 200 rounds of target ammunition just sitting there. So, I ask my dad if he wants to go shooting with me. The next thing I know he's ready to head out to the range. We went to Bullet Express, a local range. The adjoining gun store is where I purchased my XD and the staff at the place is good at taking care of their customers.
For those of you who aren't experienced shooters, let me give you the things I've learned over the years as a non-gun owning (and very infrequent) shooter. Shooting at an indoor range is a bit more equipment intensive than just going out and blazing away at a target. You should have a range kit of some kind. It's a collection of basic safety items and accessories that make your time at the range easier.
So, what does my range kit currently consist of?
1 pair of safety glasses
1 pair of full-size (70s-headphone style) ear protectors
1 baseball cap since I shoot left-handed and would like to not get a face full of hot brass.
1 HKS loading tool for loading magazines quickly and easily
And for right now, that will do. As I go more often, I might add a small first aid kit in case of something like getting cut by the slide or something similar. I'll probably also pack a small flashlight of some kind since indoor ranges can be a little dark at times. I'm sure I'll think of a few other small and useful items as time goes on.
So, with my range kit ready, Dad and I are off to try out this new gun, and I'm out to see how bad my shooting skills have deteriorated over the years. While at the range, I grab some small bullseye targets as opposed to the human silhouette targets. My current concern is making every shot count in a very small area as opposed to a very large area like a burglar or other assorted ne'er-do-well. I put the targets out to 7 yards, take aim, get my sight picture and fire.
As for hitting small targets, I currently am not so good. As for hitting large targets like people, I'm not too shabby. I didn't notice until I took the targets down that there was a human silhouette on the other side. The silhouette was rather perforated. This is all well and good, but the perfectionist in me isn't going to be happy until I can get every shot inside the high-visibility sections of the target. Then I'll feel better about it. Dad also got a chance to fire a few rounds through it and naturally he lands all his shots in the hi-vis sections. He's had 20 years as a police officer and nearly five years as a CCW-permit holder (Illinois currently allows only retired police officers to carry concealed handguns if they qualify yearly) so he's gotten plenty more experience in handgun training than I have. He seemed pretty impressed by it, so I'm sure he'll come along for another few rounds of shooting with this gun. The next time we go, I'll see to it that he brings his guns, too. I've been wanting to fire them since he first got them many years ago.
Hopefully I'll figure out what I'm doing wrong, too. I don't know if it's my stance or grip on the gun, or if it's a sighting problem. I'll figure it out with more practice and then I'll be back on my way to being a decent shot again. Now that I've found a source of inexpensive brass-cased ammunition I won't worry so much about the cost of training.
And naturally, the day ended with cleaning the gun to ensure that it will be ready for firing the next time I take it to the range.
There's no real joke to this one. Saddam Hussein is dead. All I will say is that the tyrant is now in God's hands, to do with what He wills. I think this is one case where the punishment has fit the crimes. The Kurds, the Shiites, the Christians and Jews and even his fellow Sunni whom he terrorized to keep his family in power will hopefully accept this as punishment for the crimes perpetrated against them.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I was born at near the tail end of the Nixon administration, but Gerald Ford was the first President who I remember seeing on television. I think he was on some program that had to do with the Bicentennial celebration. After 93 years, though, he had a full life. There aren't many men who can lay claim to being President of the United States, much less becoming President in the manner he did. The report of President Ford's death came on as I was getting ready for bed after my usual Tuesday night City of Heroes session. I hope that the nation will find the politeness to honor this man's service and I hope that historians will not judge him too harshly for his pardon of Richard Nixon.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Christmas is over so let's take a little stock, shall we?
Midnight Mass at my parish: if any Catholics out there have not gone to a Midnight Mass, I'll tell you that you're missing out. The choir was nothing short of amazing, the church was packed, and I saw more kids there than I've seen at any Mass I've attended since I moved back to Springfield. What was more amazing was the number of unaccompanied kids. There were so many middle school and high school students there without their parents. There were ten or so altar servers as well, which is something I don't remember from when I worked Christmas Masses. It's worth going to Midnight Mass at least once in your life.
Christmas dinner: Dad went all out and made Prime Rib. Between that and the loaded twice-baked potatoes, it was agreed to be the best Christmas dinner my parents ever made.
Christmas Day: Opening presents later in the day is better than waking up at 6 am, especially if you didn't get to bed until 4.
The Swag: Less than previous years, as I hoped for. A new winter coat and a wristwatch were all I got with the rest of the money my folks saved for presents going to various charities. That's what I'd rather see done instead of buying me more stuff.
My Christmas present to me: A Springfield Armory XD40. It's the only handgun I've got at the moment, but that'll change. I've spent the time since I picked it up doing little more than familiarization exercises. I'm not at the point where I can field strip it blindfolded (and why would I want to do that anyway?) but I am familiar with it enough to where I can shoot safely. The ammunition isn't cheap, but it's worth the expense to be able to shoot well. Now if I could schedule some range time I'd be set. The thing I found a little weird was that it's cheaper to purchase a new semiautomatic pistol over a new revolver. I don't get that at all. My guess is that it's due to the polymer frame. It makes the gun lighter, that's for sure. The steel slide, barrel, and spring are very well-made and the other steel parts in the frame are very nicely made. The feed springs in the magazines I got are stiff. And by stiff I mean it makes me wonder if the springs really haven't been replaced with a solid block of metal. They're supposed to break in after a few uses, though. The sooner the better.
I hope everyone got something they were hoping for this year.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Yeah, the accused guys at Duke University might have been typical jocks, but that's no excuse for a State's Attorney to ignore evidence that exonerates those who are on trial. Mr. Nifong should be ashamed at the very least, if not subject to disciplinary action and/or financial restitution. The three Duke lacrosse players have had their names and reputations dragged through the mud. Even if they weren't the best guys to begin with, that still doesn't excuse any behavior on the prosecutor's part.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota, has become incapacitated due to something similar to a stroke. I do hope that he has a speedy recovery, since coming back from a brain injury is very difficult. Keep the senator and his family in your prayers if you're the praying sort.
Monday, December 11, 2006
So, the fine folks at Cryptic Studios and NCSoft have sent out their latest expansion of City of Heroes, titled "To Protect and Serve." Now, you're sitting there thinking "Well, yeah, that's what superheroes are supposed to do." Here's where there needs to be a disconnect between the real world and City of Heroes game. Usually, anyone who tries taking the law into their own hands in the real world, especially while wearing a mask and cape, is going to be taken into police custody and asked about their activities. For the heroes in the fictional setting, the police and the heroes really haven't interacted too much. I could see how this might make the Paragon Police Department a mite suspicious in terms of whether or not it wants to work with or investigate the doings of the heroes.
Well, Issue 8 has made it abundantly clear that the PPD wants to work more closely with the local superpowered community. By going to one of the detectives added to your contact list, you're given a handy-dandy police radio. Well, it's a bit more than a normal police radio, as it has a holographic projector, allowing the hero to get a map and other visual data on the crime in progress. The animation for it is rather cool-looking. Now you have an opportunity to take random rescue and arrest missions generated for your level and zone. If you're too high of a level for the zone, you won't get any missions. A Level 45 Hero is not going to answer any calls in a zone that's designed to be a threat to Level 8 Heroes. Anyway, much like the Newspaper missions in the City of Villains expansions, performing enough missions that you accepted through your police radio will give you an opportunity to run a special mission. In City of Villains, you have the Mayhem Mission, where you rob a Paragon City bank and go around causing huge amounts of property damage. The Heroic version of this is where you're called to stop a robbery in progress (complete with a non-faction supervillain) and prevent any property damage caused by the villain or the gangs that frequent the neighborhood. These Safeguard missions are perhaps some of the most fun missions in the game. You have a time limit of five minutes when you start the mission. Within five minutes, you have to capture the villain who's robbing the bank as well as the local gang assisting him. Your best bet is to fight the villain first, then the gang leader, then mop up their pals who are causing all the trouble with the bank's tellers and patrons.
Once the robbery is stopped, you're given fifteen minutes to explore the neighborhood and put a stop to any crimes going on there. Your main job will be to stop vandals who are destroying local property, such as parked cars, lamp posts, parking meters, newspaper vending boxes, even trash. As you run around the neighborhood you'll be able to find an exploration badge and unlock side missions, such as preventing break-ins, weapons deals, bombings, and arson. If you stop these things from happening, you get additional time to fight crime in the neighborhood.
This addition of Newspaper missions made City of Villains a lot of fun, and changing them around to a more Heroic bent is a definite winner.
The other addition to Issue 8 is the complete revamping of the Trial Zone known as Faultline. Faultline was originally supposed to have a Team Trial where you would gather your friends and save the Paragon City Dam from being destroyed, and you'd receive a dual-purpose power enhancement in return. This Trial never made it past the beta-testing period. So, Faultline really never had much reason to exist other than to reinforce the fact that you really need to have a team of heroes with you when you go to Faultline. The groups of enemies that spawn there are murderous for single heroes. About the only reason anyone went to Faultline once the Trial was scrapped was either because they'd been assigned a case to hunt down x number of Dr. Vahzilok's Frankenstein-esque creations, or Circle of Thorns cultists, or perhaps even some of the Clockwork King's metal minions. Once those missions were complete, the only other reason to go was to find any plaques needed to get history badges or find the exploration badges there. As a result, Faultline was one of the most desolate zones in the game. You might be lucky to see maybe two or three more heroes in the zone while you were there, and that's on one of the busier servers.
Issue 8 changed Faultline's problems with getting people to show up. It's now a regular zone, so it's no longer level-restricted. The villains are geared for levels 15 through 25, so there's more low-level fun available. In addition, the new storyline has been added that due to the funding of Proposition X, the neighborhood of Overbrook (Faultline's original name) can now be rebuilt. As a result, construction crews are flowing into the ruined area and rehabilitating it. This doesn't sit well with the local villains, who resent the gentrification process, I suppose. The Vahzilok and Circle of Thorns have been replaced with the Lost (a gang of well-armed and heavily-mutated homeless people) and the Sky Raiders (high-tech mercenaries whose flight capabilities give them great mobility). The Clockwork are still there. In addition, the agents of Arachnos (Lord Recluse's organization of evil nastiness) have used the resulting chaos the rehab work brings to infiltrate Paragon City. His agents have been digging through the places that have not yet been reclaimed, looking for old supergroup bases and any lost technology therein. So, yes, there's plenty to do in the new zone when it comes to stopping street crime.
There is also a new set of contacts who are zone-specific, starting with Jim Temblor and ending with Agent G. Finishing Jim's missions will unlock the next contact, whose completed missions will unlock the next contact, and so on. If you go through all of the contacts, not only will you get access to something pretty neat, you'll also get a detailed history of what happened to Faultine to make it such a terrible place.
Note to Cryptic: If you want to immerse the players in the history of the zones and help make the city seem more real, make more contact groups like this. It worked pretty well with Striga Isle and Croatoa, and the Faultine story is the best so far. Add them as options for the heroes from Level 1 and give the players even more ways to reach Level 50. This will increase replay value by making it tougher to exhaust all of your contacts and thus run out of level-specific missions.
Issue 8 also sees the beginning of the Veteran's Rewards program, where your total amounts of time spent as a paid customer get you certain perks. This includes reward badges, new costume pieces such as kilts, wings and trenchcoats, new decorative bits for your group bases, free costume changes and respecs (where you can change the order in which you took your powers and how you allot your available enhancement slots), and even the opportunity to get some temporary powers as permanent ones. As you keep playing, more rewards are unlocked over time. I'm waiting for the 36-month rewards: some of my characters really do need a little robot to follow them around if only to look cool. The trenchcoats are pretty nice, even if they're not able to wrap completely around. The wings are also very nice-looking, and yes, they flap when you fly. As a non-Veteran costume update, Female characters also finally got some more costume pieces, allowing them to dress a little more modestly.
There were some problems with Issue 8, though. The only real problem is that many of the costume pieces are either kind of lame, or accessible only through the Veteran's Rewards system. In one case, the new costume pieces which you get through Veteran's rewards are lame. I'm looking at you, Greek Letters. I suppose if I need to make The Amazing Frat-Boy and his sidekick The Pledge, it works. Otherwise, it's not so hot.
The one-shoulder cape thing is also pretty lame. It looks like you've got a spit-up towel pinned to your shoulder in case you get a mission to burp 20 fussy babies in Kings Row. We were also supposed to get new flight poses, but the player complaints about not being able to choose what pose you got were enough to make the developers take them off the table for reworking.
In addition, while there are some more modest-looking costume pieces for women, the majority of them reveal a lot more skin. Thankfully, a lot of the pieces are available as patterns to use on top of other outfits, so you can use them a bit more appropriately. The Angelic pattern looks great on long tights, but rather slutty on bare skin. Same thing goes with the Assassin pattern. I'd also like to see the athletic shorts option added for something to wear underneath skirts for women, if only to add another way to stop guys from looking up said skirts. Yeah, we get all kinds in the game, even the weirdoes.
Now, let's talk about the kilts given out as a Veteran's Reward. The kilts... gah. I know that there is a vocal faction of "proud to be Scottish, even if only a distant ancestor" players as well as "Scotland Stuff= cool" players, but kilts? Oy gevalt, or at least its Latin equivalent. I may have some Scottish ancestry, but this kilt thing is too much. Do we really need our heroes to look like an army of ugly schoolgirls? No, no we don't. Take Jackie McBagpipes, Hero of McParagon McCity and send him back to Idealized Glasgow with his sporran in tow. Kilts are lame for anyone who is not born and raised in places where kilts are more common. You know, like Scotland. This is the United States, where our people left Scotland for the right to wear trousers and the right to laugh at kilt-wearing throwbacks. As a person of primarily German and Polish ancestry, perhaps I should demand lederhosen for the men, dirndl corsets and dresses for the women, as well as the kielbasa emote.
I have a similar problem with the samurai armor, even though I use an entire set of it for one of my characters. There was an old thread stating that thanks to Captain America being white, you couldn't make patriotic-themed minority heroes with any chance at credibility. I wound up making a set of of red-white-and-blue samurai armor to create Uncle Samurai, a California native and American citizen of Japanese ancestry. Silly? Very. The point was disproved, though.
If we're going to go with theme-oriented costume pieces, we might as well add the plumed chapeau for our Knights of Columbus-based heroes and our Napoleonic-era sea captains, and add the fez for our Shriner-based Heroes and the requisite Moroccans.
All told, Issue 8 is a lot better than I expected. It was worth the extra few weeks between the promised release and the actual release. Even though Issue 9 is worrying people about adding a "loot"-based economy with Inventions, I'm looking forward to seeing what the developers have come up with to make the system work. I'm also looking forward to the Winter Event this year, which seems to be saving the timestream by saving the spirit of the New Year. There will also be skiing and snowball fights.
It's a great time to be a hero, heroes. Let's have some fun with this.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
And I mean that very sarcastically. I was shutting my computer down for the night last Friday morning when the power went out completely. Mind you, this means no heat, no light, no cable, and no internet. Horrors! Thankfully the phone lines still worked, so I have to give credit to AT&T for winterproofing their circuitry. I am very happy we have a gas water heater in the house, so it kept us able to at least have hot showers in the morning. When I wake up later on Friday morning, I call into work to let them know that I'm snowed in with no power so I won't be making it in. I get called not a half-hour later by our HR coordinator letting me know that our agency building is without power as well, so I shouldn't come in. So, I have the day off to... do absolutely nothing but listen to talk radio. This is not exactly what you'd call good.
Later that evening, we head over to my grandmother's house for a hot meal, and Dad and I decide to stay at the house while Mom stays at my grandmother's place, this way if the power comes back up we'll be on site to get everything up and running properly. We look outside, and see that our neighbors across the street all have power, but our section of the block is still without power. Meanwhile it's getting colder and colder here. So, while listening to the All-Night Diner on 970 AM (hey, I like the old standards as much as I like more modern music) I finally drift off under about six blankets. I wake up again to notice that it's extremely warm in bed. It's not the cat snuggled in next to me, since he got up and roamed around the house. I open up one eye and I swear I'm hallucinating. It looks like the living room light is on. I stagger to the door and look. My digital clock is flashing, the lights are on, and wonder of wonders I feel heat emanating from the registers. The power returned about two hours before I woke up. I wake Dad up and we get to the business of checking the house for any problems. All told we found a two-inch layer of ice underneath about six and a half inches of snow. The ice build-up on the power lines that led to our stretch of the neighborhood had snapped due to that ice. I'll also give credit to the City Water, Light and Power utilitymen who worked double shifts to get the city up and running again. They're okay in my book.
So yeah, winter can bite me. This is why I like summer. You don't have to worry about scraping heat off of your windshield. If you lose power to your house, you're not stuck there, either.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Wow, the cleverness has gone from the blog and it's only Monday. Whee. Well, first things first: Thanksgiving dinner was good, I spent way too long on the computer playing Civilization 4 and City of Heroes, and I know I must be getting old because I spent Sunday dozing off while watching football. 10 years ago, I would have been doing everything EXCEPT watching football. Four years ago, I would have been hanging out with friends at my new apartment in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. Now? Football. And it wasn't just the Bears game, no, I watched the Colts game, too. See, I'm a Colts fan, and usually if I watch one of my favorite teams on television, they lose. It's why I usually listen to baseball games on the radio, and football games while I'm going back and forth between home and wherever on the weekends. This weekend, though, I actually sat in front of the tv and watched two football games. My life has gone from "More time to have fun" on weekends to "More time to rest" on weekends. I'm not sure that I care much for the restful weekends. They're kind of dull.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
You know what I'm talking about, right? It's the weekend where you know you have a few things to do around the house, but there's something in the back of your mind that keeps nagging you. That's what's happening at the moment to me. Something is missing, but I have no idea what that something is.
I think I know what it is. Most of the current players of City of Heroes have been waiting for Issue 8 to appear on the regular servers, not just the test server. We'd really like to have all the neat new stuff we've seen there.
And how about the minor uproar in the Catholic Church this week over Pope Benedict's discussion about married priests, stemming from an African archbishop's disobedience? I think the news agencies are making a mountain out of a molehill, folks. His Holiness is dealing with the problem at hand, not trying to reverse decisions made centuries ago. Could it lead to married priests in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church? I doubt it very much unless Pope Benedict has something else up his sleeve.
My questions are these: how could a priest support his family if he were married? I think it would be too much to ask a parish to support the family. The priest would then have to concern himself with other things than the spiritual health and guidance of his parish. If one of his children is sick, is he going to be able to say Mass every day like he's supposed to do? Would his wife need to find a job, or would the priest act as sole moneymaker? If so, he'll need to do something in addition to being a priest. I don't know of many people who can work two full-time jobs, especially when one is "on call" like a priest. Then there's the whole mess of how to use Church property correctly. If there's any discussion on married priests within the Latin rite, these questions are just a small sample of the ones requiring answers. Our Church needs more priests, but it also needs more men who are willing to live chaste and celibate lives to become priests.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
So, no, I don't miss Lake-Cook Road at all.
Monday, November 06, 2006
It's real simple, folks. November 7 is Election Day here in the United States. If you're registered to vote in your locale, GO VOTE. I'm asking my Illinois readers to go out and vote especially because my job deals with the electoral process. It doesn't deal with voting machines or anything like that, but I make sure that campaigns stay honest. So go out and exercise your right to vote. If you're registered and you don't vote, or you never bothered to register, I'm going to tell you this: YOU'RE SCREWING YOURSELF IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO VOTE. You willingly gave up your chance to guide this nation. If the person you wanted in office doesn't get in and you didn't vote when you had the opportunity, YOU ARE THE ONE TO BLAME BECAUSE YOU'RE TOO LAZY TO VOTE. If you cast your vote and your candidate doesn't win, that's one thing. If you don't cast your vote and your candidate loses you have no right to complain about where the nation is going. You want to talk hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is someone who wants all the bells and whistles of a modern democracy but won't even do the bare minimum to maintain it. Oh, you pay taxes, you say? Big deal, so do the rest of the voters.
I'm not telling you for whom you should cast your vote. I'm not campaigning for anyone. I'm not going to tell you who I'm voting for or why. Those things go against the neutrality needed for me to do my job properly. I will tell you to GO AND VOTE. As a US citizen, you have a right given to you and enshrined in the US Constitution to cast your ballot and peacefully resolve the question of political leadership from the smallest township to the national government itself. Ignoring that right is an invitation to those who think they can make better decisions for you than you can for yourself. You have to ask yourself if you really want your life micromanaged. If you do, then stay home on November 7th. Whether you want the status quo to be maintained or you want a change in how things are run, then you have your option to vote. GO OUT AND VOTE. Do not put this off until the end of the day. If you have to be late for work or class, be late for work or class. If you keep putting it off until the last minute, you may find yourself outside the polling station facing an election judge and a response of "Sorry, the polls are closed. Our hours were from 6AM to 7PM. Couldn't you even bother to show up during that time?" If you couldn't, then you only have yourself to blame for the way things are. You may be that deciding vote. Go change things. Go keep them the way you like them. Either way, GO VOTE!
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I'm still around, just trying to find more time for blogging. Now that I'm not doing the politics thing anymore, it's getting more and more difficult to find stuff to write about. This is one of those lazy Sunday evenings when I don't have much to do except for laundry. Sometimes being content and having everything done makes you feel like something is missing. So, I start surfing the web, hoping to find something new or different. I did happen to find a business out there that has a great sense of humor, and tries to make the foundation repair business go from boring to fun. The Crack Team is a chain of contractors who repair cracks in the foundation of your house. Then, there's the mascot they use for their company, a happy fellow by the name of Mr. Happy Crack. I am not making this up. His motto of "A Dry Crack Is A Happy Crack" immediately sends your mind back to sophomore year in high school. I have no idea if this company is any good or not, but take a look at the sites. For lack of a better phrase, it'll crack you up.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
That said, I know at least half of the people in my department are going to be very very happy tomorrow.
The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. I quite like the sound of that. Sorry, Cubs fans. Maybe next year.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
As one of two Cardinals fans in an office of Cubs and White Sox fans during your 2004 self-destruction at the World Series, I would humbly ask that you not screw up anywhere near as bad as you did then. In fact, I'd like you guys at the very least to force a Game 7 if you're going to be tougher on yourself than the Tigers. In return I will retract some of the statements I've made to others about the wisdom of placing Yadier Molina on the starting lineup. Good catchers are able to keep their pitchers from getting too erratic and Molina seemed not to be able to do that on a regular basis. I will be willing to chalk it up to rookie-itis or something similar if the team can win the World Series.
So, St. Louis Cardinals organization, I close my letter wishing you the best of luck and hoping that the cries of "Next year for sure!" stay firmly planted at 1040 West Addison in Chicago.
Friday, October 06, 2006
For all of you City of Heroes fans out there, the online upgrade has been available since yesterday. It's got some nice additions to the game based on what I saw. The new costume pieces look very nice, especially for heroes.
The Tiki Lounge room is very nice, and I think the game developers will have something cooked up for the Lounge, otherwise we have just another room. I'm hoping some kind of specially-generated content will be given over to the Tiki Lounge, even if it's something as silly as running a mission to help the torches burning.
I haven't tried out the Jump Pack yet, but so far all the reviews I've heard of it make it sound useful to low-level and high level characters alike. I'll give it a shot eventually.
So far, though, it's worth the extra money. I would recommend that new players start with this edition, and that veterans stick with the download.
The only problem so far has been that you cannot purchase the upgrade codes with Mastercard. Apparently NCSoft (the company who hosts and runs the game) got slapped with hundreds of fraudulent charges through Mastercard. Other cards have not yet had this problem. If you have a Visa (including gift card and debit card), Discover, or Amex card you should be fine. There is supposedly a Mastercard workaround, but I don't want to list it in case it's a workaround that can be easily exploited.
The upgrade, though, makes me look forward to Issue 8.l It's just that nice.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
The fact that it's currently exclusive to Wal-Mart has irked many of the louder voices of the CoH community, as they've swallowed the "Wal-Mart is the epitome of evil in the world today" line. Myself, I can't see getting it since it's on DVD and my computer has no DVD drive. Not only that, I can just order the extras online and be done with it.
I had a rant about why so many people have accepted the "Wal-Mart is the devil" reasoning, but it's not really germane to the discussion about the game.
There's going to be some new goodies for players with this edition. First off, you get what are being called Veteran Rewards. Basically, you get all kinds of freebies for your characters. This includes new costume pieces, a few different animations for running, and even access to a new map for hero/villain interaction that isn't a new player vs. player zone. I might be able to use some of this stuff, so I'll wind up getting access for it through the City of Heroes website instead of picking up a box an DVD.
This edition is leading up to Issue 8, the latest set of patches and game upgrades for the game. Heroes are now going to get a lot of the things that made City of Villains so different from its heroic counterpart. Heroes now get the "police band radio" option which will allow you to get various missions at random. One of the least used zones, Faultline, is getting refurbished. I understand why they're doing that. Faultline frankly is a pain to navigate, and if you have Super Speed instead of Flight, Super Jump or Teleportation as a power, you shouldn't even bother going there. So, they say it's going to be rebuilt with some new additions. I like the sound of that.
So yes, I'm pretty sure I'll keep subscribing to this game. So far they haven't disappointed me with anything.
Friday, September 22, 2006
The F-14 is retiring from US Service.
First my beloved F-111, and now the F-14. The only swing-wing we have left in US service is the B-1. This just seems so wrong. The F-111 troops had a saying "If your wings don't sweep then you ain't shit" and we always made sure to extend it to our brothers and sisters in the F-14, B-1 and Tornado communities.
The F-14 also has a claim to fame within the fandom of Japanese animation. The tv series Macross (known to US audiences as Robotech - The Macross Saga) used fighter aircraft very very very similar to the F-14. Oh, they weren't the exact same, by any stretch. For one, the Tomcat still can't turn into a giant robot. If you looked at the lines, though, it said "Hi! I'm the science fiction version of an F-14!"
Oddly enough, though, I will not be watching "Top Gun" in honor of the retirement. Tom Cruise doesn't deserve the screen time.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
At the University of Regensburg in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI used a historical vignette to expound on the need for Theology departments in universities. The short form of the lecture is that faith and reason must be intertwined to prevent the self-destruction of both concepts. The historical vignette he chose was that of Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologus and his argument with a Persian scholar, a Muslim. Emperor Manuel had seen his empire crumble, and was even forced to attack his subjects while he was a hostage of the Ottoman Turks. He argues with the scholar, calling the position that Mohammed took in regards to religious warfare evil. Later, he goes on to give the example of the scholar Ibn Hazn who states a belief in a capricious God who only keeps His word to His faithful because it is suitable for now. The implied comparison is to the belief among Christian and Jewish faithful that God keeps the promises made in His covenants.
As we can see, the Pope struck a nerve. The usual threats of violence followed, which only made those who spoke for Islam to look foolish. It's as if the religious leaders in places such as Saudi Arabia, the Taliban, and even Yet someone found the time to murder an Italian nun simply because she was the closest and most obvious Christian in the area. She was helping to train nurses to ensure the health of Somalis, and she's killed because a couple of Muslims don't want to see the Pope's point. Here, a group of Muslims decide that harassing British Catholics in return for the so-called slight to their honor is peaceful. At least there were a few Muslims brave enough to show their faces when they demonstrated. A final series of incidents in Palestine show that Muslims would rather attack Christians with weapons than respond to verbal criticism with verbal defenses.
The Pope's argument isn't that Islam is pure evil, nor is it that Islam is an unfit religion. Benedict's argument is that faith and reason have diverged within Islam and reason has been replaced with violence. We Christians know of what we speak when we talk about that divergence. We've had enough wars between the various denominations to know that faith must be tempered by reason to remain true, and that reason must be tempered by faith in order to ensure that we continue to choose what is good.
His Holiness scored a bullseye with this speech. Sadly, Muslims proved his point for him.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I miss the 9/10/01 America. I miss the old policy discussions on whether or not Anti-Ballistic Missile defense was going to be a good idea, whether Enron's or Arthur Andersen's executives should be strung up collectively or separately, even the goofy idea that shark attacks were on the rise simply because humans existed. Humans do exist, so do sharks. I miss my college friends, seeing them only a few times after I graduated in 2000, only twice after five years ago today.
The problem is that the world progresses and throws new crises in your way every day. So, I've lost touch with those friends. I don't work in that basement cubicle anymore. In fact, I've lived in four different towns in the past five years, moving from one private-sector job to another. Thankfully I now have a public-sector job that's more stable and secure.
I'm almost back in the 9/10/01 feel. I doubt I'll have that same sense of easygoing satisfaction again because of what happened five years ago today. There are others out there like me, or so I hope. These people will take the lessons we learned and be more vigilant for signs of trouble. We will also go back to our faith to find comfort and counsel. We will remember the meanings of charity, kindness, and compassion. More importantly, we will put our hands to work, making concrete those three concepts.
There is always a second side to that desire to do peaceful things, to live a good life without coercion. There is that vigilance I spoke about. With that desire to do good, there comes the necessity of defending yourself. First, defend yourself through words. Explain yourself. Judge the others' reactions. If they respond with violence, do what you must do to quell them, then return to doing good. Balancing the need to protect yourself and the desire to do that which is good is a very human problem. It is also a very American problem. Upon further thought, it's a problem found in every nation built on a model similar to ours. We want to do good, to welcome the stranger in our midst, but what of the stranger who wishes to do us harm? Once we've turned the other cheek again, then what? If freedom is the ability to choose that which is good without coercion, what do we do when coercion through violence and fear appears, what do we do when our lives are threatened in a most immediate sense? We defend ourselves. We set aside the desire to do good things, and ask for forgiveness once we're done.
It's that balance that we must find in our lives. We find that the more we want to transcend our human nature, the more often we have to revert to it. The turmoil caused by this can lead people to an all-or-nothing life. All talk, or all violence. Acting constantly, always interfering, or always remaining passive, never taking part when needed. The all-or-nothing approach leads to arrogance. It blinds you to better options, and blinds you from addressing the problem directly in front of you. Does that approach come from wanting easy answers? Will it arise from mental and spiritual laziness?
We can't afford laziness or trying to fall back on easy answers. We can't afford an all-or-nothing existence on a permanent basis. As much as we want it, we cannot yet afford to return to the 9/10/01 life that we miss. Five years after the attacks by al-Qaeda, we still need to defend ourselves, to remember our human natures. Once we're done, we can try to find that peaceful satisfaction. Then we can get on with our business of doing good again.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
So, here's the saga of how this happened.
As some readers may know, I play an online game called City of Heroes. You create a superhero, then go off and beat the snot out of evil. About two weeks ago, it got to the point where I couldn't even play the game without the computer locking up in under a minute. So I think to myself "Okay, I'll reinstall the game." The reinstall doesn't help. "Hmm," I say, "maybe I have a bad memory stick somewhere." I run some tests, and it all shows up as good. I shut down my comp and stop worrying about it.
Next, I swap out video cards. No luck. Considering that I went from a AGP 4x 64MB graphics card to a AGP 8x 256 MB graphics card, I hoped the beefier card could help process a bit more. No, it made things worse, actually. I couldn't even get the pictures to show up properly. The moral of this story is that even though AGP cards might be able to step down from 8x to 4x, the boards may not be able to handle it.
Next, I think "Well, the graphics card needs more energy to run properly, and since I'm also running two hard drives, maybe I should upgrade my old 350 Watt power supply to a 450. Instead, I wind up grabbing a 600 Watt supply in case I add anything else to the board. There's a minor problem here. The power supply is freakin' huge compared to the old 350 that I'm replacing. It doesn't quite fit in the case. So I do a little jury-rigging and I now have the supply wedged into the case and reinforced with zipties to ensure that it doesn't fall. Seriously, it's a very ugly way to fix the computer. Okay, I power everything up and... no success. Now I'm a bit peeved. It looks like the next hardware fix is either going to be a new motherboard or a new processor.
Before I go that route, however, I want to try one more last, desperate series of software fixes. I reload the graphics drivers again. No help. I reinstall City of Heroes again. No help. I try doing a quick reinstall of Windows. No help. Upgrade the BIOS. No help.
Okay. Now the desperation sets in. I decide to do a full format on both hard drives and reinstall Windows and everything else I have from the ground up. Archiving my precious iTunes music, old college papers, and a few PDFs I picked up along the way, I try putting it all to some CD-Rs. Now Windows won't accept my CD-RW drive as valid. Grabbing a copy of the burning software that came with my CD-RW, I reinstall that and everything gets archived. I take a few breaths and format my data hard drive. I've had it only for about a year and never came close to filling it. Then I try to reformat my main drive, an 8GB drive that came with the original computer insides from about seven years ago. No luck. Windows is too sophisticated to format itself so easily. I slap my upgrade CD into the drive, restart the computer and have it boot from the CD. NOW it formats, and I say goodbye to years of assorted heavily fragmented code. Yes, none of the defragmentation programs I have could totally defrag my old drive. So, I now have a clean installation of Windows on my machine. I download all the security updates and other assorted crap. I download my graphics drivers and freeware utilities, reinstall my anti-virus software, redownload my favored defragmenter and get everything ready for a reinstallation of City of Heroes.
I install City of Heroes and... nothing new happens. My dad looks at it and says "Well, if it's having problems with this game and it's a 3D graphics game, do you have any older 3D graphics games you can load to see if they work?" I try that by installing Warcraft 3 since I couldn't find Age of Mythology. Dad's pretty sharp sometimes when it comes to computers. Same problems as before, but now my monitor occasionally goes out if I put a heavy load on the processor. Okay, I now know that it is NOT software-related for the final time. I do a little more testing, checking my processor and memory for one last time. The monitor blinks on and off every so often. Processor's good, and so is the memory. It's got to be a motherboard problem.
Now I once again remove the case and see that a bunch of the capacitors have popped open on my board. They're leaking a bit.
I think we've found the problem.
So, now I wait for a new board, new processor, new memory, and a new cooling fan. I really hope this works.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
In one week, this blog will have a major restructuring.
In one week, this blog will drastically change its tone and subject.
In one week, I will start my new state job that will require me to be very very very apolitical. No fund-raising, no campaigning, nothing of the sort. In order to ensure that my future posts will not be considered favoring one group over another, I'm doing away with political posting. My past posts, however, still stand on who I did or did not favor. It's safe to say that I will no longer air those views publically. This is pretty much the end of any Monday-morning punditry on my part. I'll still talk religion every so often, but the blog is going to become more and more a "whatever I want to post today" blog. I'll probably wind up posting screenshots from my City of Heroes game, writing posts on historical subjects that interest me, things like that.
As for politics, that subject is no longer a going concern here. Sorry, gang.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Okay, I can get behind the state on this one. It's too bad that they've spent millions on attempting to rally people around embryonic stem-cell research when cord blood stem cells can be donated and used like vital organs. We have this huge number of cells in the cord blood that can be reconfigured to help others and it doesn't destroy a human life in the process. This is where we need to redirect state stem-cell research dollars.
And before you get all huffy on me about using the phrase "destroy a human life" I should remind you that I'm Catholic. I do indeed believe that life begins at conception. Using the stem cells generated by the destruction of a human embryo is still trying to justify an evil act (murder of the innocent and most vulnerable) by trying to make a good use out of it (potential cures for diseases). If you want further definitions, please read through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It goes further into the discussion of how doing evil to do good is still evil. It shows the differences between acts of murder, acts of war, and the death penalty. Being conceived is neither an act of willful aggression to do bodily harm nor an act of war, so why should we respond to it with such violence? I can concede certain points on war and the death penalty, especially in modern cases. It certainly can be argued that our current war in Iraq is morally wrong, even when faced with a multitude of reasons to invade. It can also be argued that the death penalty is still necessary as a form of punishment, despite having recourse to life imprisonment with no chance for parole. Myself, I think that having more than one reason to go to war makes more sense than having just one reason. I also don't find the death penalty applicable in every case where it's used. There are better alternatives.
In all, we've found a way to save lives without having to take other lives in return. How can we justify publishing only a small brochure on the subject? This is one case where the State of Illinois should be using a media blitz.
Monday, July 31, 2006
The way that most Catholics have met Jesuits has been through education. Jesuit priests are quite often teachers at many levels of education. If you look at some of the schools in the NCAA Tournament, sometimes you'll see Xavier, Gonzaga, or Loyola in the first round. The Jesuits loved to found universities. They still turn out well-qualified graduates from what I've seen. If you have an academic problem, there's probably a Jesuit who will help you find the right answer.
I guess I found a little time to blog after all, eh?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I may not do much updating in the next three weeks or so. I have a new job with new demands, one of which is spending the next three weeks pulling 14-hour shifts.
So, I'm going to leave you for the time being with another FAQ-style article from the State Journal-Register on our local brouhaha over a new power plant, the city government and the Sierra Club. Once again, I have to give credit to the SJ-R. Ask questions, get answers, write the answers down. It's simple reporting that's quick and effective. Older readers might find dense text to be a sign of better writing, but readers younger than me are more used to this style of writing from the various Frequently Asked Questions lists that inhabit the Internet. People who want to go deeper into the story now have a good set of starting points, and the rest of us have the story broken down into more comprehensible chunks. It also has a good recap of previous articles and discussions, allowing new residents to get informed quickly about their new home. This will help keep the readers informed and more able to retain that information.
Can this FAQ format be biased and rigged to present one side? It certainly can be biased just as much as any other article can be rigged to favor one group over another. I would like to see more articles in this format in the future. Given a little more time, I think Springfield readers will enjoy the ease with which they can bash local pols over the head with their errors thanks to the new style of writing.
See you guys in a few weeks. Take care!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
It's not even so much that this is unusual for the Blagojevich administration, but I'd like people to read this article and take a look at the format. It's set up much like the FAQ lists that dominate the Internet. It's clean, easy to read, and oddly enough seems like the article is less biased than normal.
Now, knowing all of this, we see that Rod Blagojevich is not much better than the guy he replaced. I remember seeing a lot of State workers rejoicing in the fact that Ol' Blaggie was electable compared to George Ryan. Well, it doesn't look like the Democrats ushered in a new era of good government. It looks like they just changed a few nameplates and left the system as is.
This is what I've missed from living in Chicago's suburbs. I've missed the spectator sport that is state politician-spotting.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Song of the Suburbs has moved its headquarters from the lovely Northwest Suburbs of Cook County to scenic Springfield, Illinois. That's right, folks, I'm back in my hometown, trying to find work and get ready for whatever the world throws at me. It's nice to be back, though. I forgot how much I missed the old place in the summer. I'm going to try to get back on track for geting my Masters degree in History, hopefully at UIS. I want to teach, and hopefully I can do so at the college level once I'm done ("once I'm done" meaning "once I get my Ph.D. as well"). I'm going to miss my old stomping grounds and the quick availability of sushi places and diners like The Buffalo and the Omega, but it's time to get serious about my further education and what God has called me to do.
So all of you upstaters, have fun and don't wreck the place. I'll be back there soon.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
You find that one of your former history prof's bugbears is a Catholic saint.
I don't think my old Roman history professor liked Irenaeus much. She seemed to go along with Elaine Pagels' excoriation of this bishop who fought to maintain proper Christian identity and teaching. Not only did he argue against the Gnostics, he also helped to ensure that Jewish scripture was integrated into The Bible. Irenaeus is one of the reasons we have an Old Testament and a New Testament. Further information on St. Irenaeus can be found here and here.
Irenaeus did the jobs of Bishop, historian, fact-checker, and Father of the Church. He's sort of an early blogger in a way. My kind of guy!
Friday, June 23, 2006
American law enforcement agencies worked together to stop a plot to bomb the Sears Tower. Thankfully it looks like this group was nipped in the bud, to use a phrase from Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife, America's Other Most Beloved Law Enforcement Agent. Chicago law enforcement groups are saying that there was no credible threat. They can say that now that the plotters have been arrested so early in their careers as would-be terrorists.
As for the ambush that killed two US soldiers this week, I hope that charges come down on the officer who left his convoy split up like that. You don't split such a small group off from the main body if the main body is small to begin with. It's things like this make a Western victory in Iraq so much more important. Let's treat al-Qaeda like the Mongols treated the Assassins of old: Storm the Alamut and leave no survivors, only memories.
And then, for another bombshell, literally: Austin Bay, a regular NPR contributor and Army reservist who served in Iraq puts together a nice roundup of the information that Senator Rick Santorum and Representative Pete Hoekstra put into play in the media. 500 shells of sarin and/or mustard gas? Looks like Saddam has some explaining to do about why he kept all those chemical weapons when the UN told him to destroy them. Gosh, I guess Saddam had WMDs if this information is good. Does this mean that President Bush didn't lie about the presence of Saddam's chemical arsenal?
"Hey, kids! Need to know about the tactics that US intelligence forces use to hunt terrorists? Read the New York Times! (Yes, I know the link goes to the New York Sun. Read the article.) Hey, terorists! You can join in the fun, too! Read the Times and learn what we do to hunt you. Just promise to be good and not use that info to your advantage, because that would be cheating. Okay, well, you can use it if we get more dead Americans to put on our front page and get another chance to tell everyone that President Bush is evil. Otherwise, don't do it, okay?" I think that pretty much sums up the Times editors' opinions on disclosing tactics in public. This is not good, folks. Glenn Reynolds sums it up perfectly: "[W]hen you talk about military force, we're supposed to use law-enforcement and intelligence methods instead. But if you use law-enforcement and intelligence methods, people shout "Big Brother" and the Times runs stories exposing them."
And now, something that makes me happy I'm Roman Catholic: The Episcopal Church, USA, has rejected Jesus Christ as the only salvation of souls. Never mind that's kind of the whole point of Christianity. To all of my Episcopal and Anglican brethren who are shocked and do not wish to "cross the Tiber" and join the Roman Catholic Church, I can say easily that I understand why you don't want to leave, and I hope that God will bring your leaders back to their senses. The Catholic Church has its share of troubles as you well know, but I will not leave it nor deny that Jesus is the only way of true salvation. Combine this with the Presbyterian Church USA allowing you no name the Holy Trinity whatever you please and I see that while the Catholic Church may have a moral crisis, we at least have a firm grip on our teaching. In the spirit of ecumenism among feuding brothers, I will support those who wish to bring their doctrine back in line with solid Christian doctrine. Any of those wishing to join in communion with the Holy See are welcome as well, naturally.
That's about it from here. Later.
Monday, June 12, 2006
The news of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi's death last week was quite nice. The top al-Qaeda terrorist in Iraq found out what overpressure is all about. According to Sunday's State Journal-Register in Springfield, the bombs that killed Zarqawi may have been dropped by pilots of the 183rd Fighter Wing. I suppose if the wing is going to be eliminated through Base Realignment and Closure proceedings, it should end with a victory. I still think the unit is being closed down as punishment for the incident in Afghanistan where one pilot from the 183rd accidentally killed a unit of Canadian soldiers in a case of being too quick on the trigger finger. This may give the 183rd a chance to at least end its run with a good note in history.
As for our beloved St. Louis Cardinals, what is happening to them? Sure, they're a game and a half ahead of Cincinnati, but the lead was further than that. My biggest question is why can't they beat the Cubs? They're the freakin' CUBS for cryin' out loud! I'm tempted to believe that they don't play with any desire to humiliate the Northsiders, and thus play a bit more lazy with their rivals. The Cubs will capitalize on that.
And today's SJ-R also has an amusing story about Ol' Blaggie telling the Department of Energy to stop funding an ethanol research center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Note to Governor Blagojevich: Ethanol research means more investors coming to Illinois to help create a better fuel alternative to oil. Don't let ADM have all the fun. And considering that Governor Blagojevich has pulled this center from a public university, can we say that he's worked to cut education funding?
That's all I have for now, folks. Later.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Professor Thomas Klocek, formerly of DePaul University, has filed a defamation suit against the university claiming that they manipulated his statements to make him look racist towards Palestinian students and bigoted against Muslims.
Judge Stuart Nudelman of the Illinois Circuit County Law Division Court agrees with Professor Klocek and is allowing the suit to move forward to a jury trial. Named defendants in the suit are Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul U.'s president and School for New Learning Dean Susan Dumbleton. Best of luck and Godspeed, Professor.
Father Holtschneider caved to Palestinian Muslim students as did Dean Dumbleton when they complained that Professor Klocek argued with them and said they were wrong.
Now, if you complain about a guy who says that we deserved the attacks on September 11, 2001, you're an evil person who constricts free speech. If you complain that obnoxious Palestinian students are being told to rethink their violent stands on Israel, you're fired. If you hold a bake sale with lower prices for minority students to protest preferential treatment in a society that strives to not make race an issue in education, you're run off of the campus. Rip into Republicans, orthodox Catholics, and anyone else who is more likely to pray than saw someone's head off with a knife, well, those people are fair game.
What the heck is Father Holtschneider thinking? Does he believe that letting a bunch of obnoxious students get away with condoning terrorist attacks on Israel is in line with Catholic teaching? The suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinian political groups againstIsrael definitely does not fall into being supported by the "Just War" theory.
Has Father Holtschneider decided to coddle these students in hopes that they don't use violence on his campus? That's what it seems like to me.
Thanks to Thomas Cieselka for the information about the trial.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
This and the two articles before it are amusing. The article linked here says that ABC stands by a story that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is under investigation by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice says that they aren't investigating him. ABC sticks by their story.
This reminds me of that old saying "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"
Time will tell if there's actually any subpoenas issued. Politics is just getting weirder and weirder as the mid-terms draw near.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Something stinks here, guys. While I don't know her very well personally, having only dealt with her as a customer at her old sandwich shop, I really think something is off in the firing of Dawn DeFraties. My mother has worked with her on legislative issues that required a Representative and Senator to cooperate on the same issue during Dawn's days as a staffer for Senator Carol Moseley-Braun. From what I've heard, she's not the kind of person to willingly fix grades on CMS exams. If there was evidence of official misconduct, why didn't Ol' Blaggie go through the Attorney General?
Illinois state jobs are tough to get because they're not just political, they're almost hereditary. Why anyone would jeopardize such a secure job by fixing test grades just seems off. I'm going to give Dawn the benefit of the doubt on this one and stick with the idea of being innocent until proven guilty. If there's a confession of guilt or ironclad evidence, I'll expect the proper punishments to be given out. Until that happens, though, I can't believe she'd do something so out of character for her.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
So, I've been hearing the folks at WBBM radio and CBS News nearly salivating over the news that GOP's numbers are low right now. It's pretty easy to remember what got the Republicans into office in 1994: fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and lower taxes. The Republican Party needs only to rededicate themselves to those ideals and they'll do better in the 2006 elections. How? Well, making sure your budget isn't loaded down with all kinds of discretionary spending while you're fighting a war is a sure way to help.
Gas prices are on their way up. Some folks will say that we need to feel pain at the pump before we change our ways and get rid of our evil baby-eating SUVs (or whatever they're saying is bad about SUVs these days), but I say they're wrong. Even the most efficient mass-transit system is not going to have the same feeling as being able to ease out on the highway under your own command. I do have what I think would be a more modest proposal than self-criticism at the pump. Why not break down the nation into various specialty fuel regions, and having folks buy flexible fuel engine-powered vehicles? Since ethanol doesn't travel well, use it only in ethanol-producing areas. The places that can generate enough waste products for biodiesel can switch to that. There's going to be a need for gasoline for the time being, like it or not. Long-haul vehicles like tractor-trailers will still need regular diesel and there will need to be enough supply of that, but careful regional uses of renewable fuels might help remove the fuel price woes. Honestly, I'd love to be able to switch my Tucson's engine to a flex-fuel or hybrid model. It's not so much that I care about the air we breathe as much as I'm a cheapskate. If I can get E-85 for a lower per gallon price, why not make the switch? And if I can use less of it, that means fewer trips to the pump. And for convenience stores, that may mean more chances of my purchasing an ungodly-huge cup of soda.
Speaking of gas, political pundit gasbag and comedian Bill Maher is having a show here in the Chicago area next month. If you've heard the radio ad, it's not just offensive, but it's also bad history. Here's a quote from the ad:
"Did you see all the black people at the 2000 Republican election? The last time the Republicans had that many blacks up on stage, they were selling them!"Hmm... painting Republicans as racists AND getting history wrong. Maybe he should look at who ran those slave markets. I think they identified themselves as Democrats, Bill. Whose party had the anti-slavery platform? Oh, right, the Republicans. If you need to vent your spleen about how the GOP has beaten your favorite candidates, just come right out and say it.
Speaking of historical inaccuracies, Ron Howard has defended his desire to not put any disclaimers on his film, The DaVinci Code. Ron is correct that most people should realize that it's a work of fiction, but there are also people who should realize that the book "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is also a work of Czarist fiction from the late Russian empire. At the very least he could say something like "Dan Brown decided to drag the name of Opus Dei through the mud because people are intimidated by Latin words and it sounded all menacing and shadowy to the untrained ear. These same people find Latin to be a mysterious and thus scary language. People who don't have much education are an important part of our audience, assuming they can read this. We thought tapping into this easily-influenced group was a good idea, so we made a movie based on Mr. Brown's very fictional (though who are we to say it's not true in part?) book. Now sit down, shut up, and watch our movie." I think that would be a lot more honest even more than "This is a work of fiction."
That's about it from here. Take care.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I'm still around, I just haven't had much desire to blog. It's been too nice outside, the Cardinals are playing sluggishly, and I'm trying to get a few things taken care of around the apartment.
With that excuse out of the way, I shall now post something that's been nagging me for weeks. As much as I want to continue doing the latest political news all the time, I'm kind of burned out on it. I'll still post on the various doings of our national and state pols, but having gotten back into the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, I find that a lot of it is just kind of the same old thing, but this time with new hype.
Don't get too worried, I'm still a Republican. Though I'm sure some would say I've gotten a bit more liberal because I am known to occasionally talk about God as merciful and loving. Nah, I'm still the same pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military guy you all know and love. I'm just not quite as intense about the stuff I was all up in arms about the past few years. I'm think this is God's way of telling me to relax a bit.
Prayer helps out a lot when relaxing, and it also can bring insights into your worries. Want the War on Terror to end and have our troops return home safely and victoriously? Pray. Want to see past all the rhetoric thrown about by Democrats and Republicans about how faith should be handled in public? Pray. Want to get a better understanding of your faith? Pray.
Catholics out there: If you've got rosary beads out there, use them. Not only can you pray the traditional Marian devotion and Fatima prayers, there's also a nice little prayer out there called the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It uses the same rosary, and is pretty easy to remember. It asks Jesus to extend His Mercy to us and to the whole world. It doesn't take too long to complete, either. I think it makes for a nice morning prayer, actually.
All in all, pray for peace, but don't let your guard down. Some people might find prayer to be a sign of weakness. Those people aren't very bright.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Today we remember the Passion and Death of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. From movies such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to simple things such as going through the Stations of the Cross, Catholics are reminded of the immense suffering that preceded the death of Jesus. We are reminded of this each time we meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane was the first injury to Jesus, but to his heart, not his body. He suffered as he saw his friends drift away in sleep, as if they had already forgotten Him. He suffered as Judas Iscariot led the mob to arrest Him. This would have destroyed the faith of many as they see their friends easily turned against them. What saved Jesus from collapsing to his knees and begging for mercy?
As Jesus was judged by Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin and Herod, He was beaten, mocked and spat upon. His earthly form was torn apart by the scourge. His captors wanted to break Him, to see this King of the Jews weep and cry out for relief. What gave Jesus the physical strength to endure deprivation of food and sleep as well as being scourged up to the point of death?
The answer to both questions is that He did not fight God's will. Yes, he asked it to be passed over Him, but in the end realized that man's salvation would never occur unless He gave his life as the Passover sacrifice and carried away the sins of the world. To accept God's will is to become unstoppable in purpose. When we give ourselves up to God, we become the instruments of His will. We carry out His commands, and find our faith strengthened. This is the first Not-so-Secret Secret of Good Friday.
As Jesus hung on the cross for those long hours, he was mocked by those who passed by. The only ones who supported him were his mother and disciples. He had no other comfort until the thief next to him asked to be remembered in Heaven and forgiven. Jesus forgave him even in His suffering. Upon His death, the Roman centurion who had seen to it that Jesus suffered mightily through scourging, the crowning with thorns and carrying His cross exclaimed "Truly this man was the Son of God!" Even those who may mock and harass a Christian for his beliefs may find the one thing that brings them to the salvation and Mercy of Jesus Christ. This is the second Not-So-Secret Secret of Good Friday.
The third Not-So-Secret Secret is that Jesus rose from the dead, proof that salvation would be given to all who believed. To fulfill this, Jesus realized that He must die. Not a near-death experience, not a coma, but death itself would be His next experience. Until Easter comes, we can only keep vigil over the tomb, preparing for His glorious Resurrection.
Surrender to God's will, Conversion, and the promise of Resurrection are the three gifts given to us on Good Friday. The year has reached its lowest point, but wait patiently and you will see these gifts bear fruit. We have lost our Lord for only a short while, and we shall be consoled in our mourning. Our faith has been shaken but like St. Peter, we will return to what is right once we understand what has occurred. He shall rise again. We all are saved through it.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
I'm in both a mood for politics and religion, so I think I'll write today about Catholic universities and the crisis between maintaining a Catholic identity or an open atmosphere. This Catholic Online article talks about the problems that arise when school administrators make tolerance their guiding principle instead of doctrine. This is the case at places like DePaul University where the guiding principle seems to be "Don't argue with the non-white students." Thomas Klocek's ongoing case in arguing with a Palestinian student group should be enough evidence of DePaul worried more about looking "intolerant" than "engaging." Why shouldn't the students be engaged in argument about their positions, especially when those positions contradict Catholic teaching? Many of the conservative positions I hold on use of military force, economics and religion were held in contempt at Southern Illinois, but arguing with my teachers gave me a chance to defend my positions and reinforce my own knowledge of the subjects. Some of my positions were changed to becoming more conservative than they were prior to attending SIU thanks to those teachers.
Regardless of my opinions, what are Catholic schools to do? Do they ignore the non-Catholics in their midst and go to a position where they conform completely to Catholic doctrine, or is there wiggle room? Notre Dame would find that it was a shadow of its former self if the party atmosphere was removed. DePaul would have difficulty maintaining its reputation for tolerance if it started kicking socialists out of the faculty. DePaul even has a "Queer Studies" minor. Considering that the GLBT community is considered disordered according to the Catechism, it's very surprising to see such a thing in a Catholic university catalog. Ultimately, though, those who teach these classes should ask themselves if they're offering it as an alternative view or giving support against Church teachings. If it's the first, how the classes are presented are going to be very important. The second option then creates a problem where a Catholic university is standing in opposition of the Church. At what point is that position enough to remove a university from its status as a Catholic school?
I would like to see more Catholic schools reassert their identity by coming more in line with the Catechism and with the ideals presented in Pope John Paul II's letter Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but it's very difficult to do that and make sure you can keep a steady flow of students. Less money means fewer teachers and fewer ideas to toss around. Finding groups on campus who are at odds with Catholic teaching, such as Communists or pro-abortion groups, could lead people to believe that the faculty and administration have given their blessing to said groups. When that happens, those who oppose such groups also believe that the groups in question are given some kind of insulation from criticism. This is how it appears to me at DePaul in the Klocek case.
At the same time, I don't think that the schools need to remove all traces of heterodoxy from the campus. Exposing the students to people and ideas they never encountered prior to attending college is a good thing. Such exposure may reinforce their previously-held beliefs, and some beliefs may change. The students must also be allowed to make judgments about what they've seen, even if said judgments go against what the college has in mind. Catholic school administrators and faculty must be clearer in presenting material that may contradict Church teaching. The viewpoints that contradict Church teaching should be taught in such a way to clearly explain where it differs and why, even to the point of making the teachers uncomfortable. If you teach at a Catholic university, shouldn't you at least present the Catholic viewpoint as a valid one worthy of supporting above others? Doing otherwise would seem like biting the hand that feeds you. Showing mercy and charity in the academic world does not mean always allowing sanctuary for those who oppose the Catholic Church. It is high time Catholic administrators remember that. Expose students to heterodox ideas, but do not place them on the same moral level as Catholic teaching. Doing that only leads to replacing God with whatever is convenient.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
This week is one of those weeks where I really wish I could stop reading newspapers and editorial sites. The illegal immigration argument is getting really loopy. Yes, as Catholics, I know we're supposed to welcome to the strangers in our midst, but you know what? It doesn't seem like the strangers want to be welcomed. When you've got five hundred thousand people in Los Angeles waving Mexican flags as some sign of their desire to see US immigration policy stymied, it makes you wonder if the protesters really want the United States to be able to enforce its own laws. This really ticks me off, kids. If you want to come here to work, fine. Maybe we do need a guest-worker program of some kind. If you want to work here for twenty or more years and not become citizens, then what's the point of being here? I've been hearing things on the radio about mass protests being the preferred form of political participation in Latin America. Here in the US, citizens actually get to vote, thus giving you an actual say in how things are run from city issues to national offices. It's not a true democracy, but then I don't want something that can be easily run on the whims of one group or another.
So, maybe we do need to militarize the US-Mexican border, rotating regular, reserve and National Guard units to patrol the line and ensure no one crosses it except at specific ports of entry. This is how it was done with Ellis Island. I remember Democrats having warm-and-fuzzy feelings about Ellis Island, so why not make sure immigrants get herded towards new ports of entry where they can get registered for guest worker permits or start a citizenship process? The illegals who are already here that are willing to come forward and use the McCain-Kennedy solution (payment of fines and back taxes, and getting sent to the end of the immigration processing line, mandatory English education) are going to be few and far between, so what do we do with the recalcitrant illegals? How do we get them brought into the light where they can declare their intentions?
This is where the Catholic Church needs to realize that showing mercy to illegal immigrants does not include hiding them from The Man. Good Christians are to follow the civil law (see Matthew 22: 15-21, Romans 13 in its entirety, 1 Peter 2: 13-17 if you need examples) unless it directly contradicts God's laws. You can run around grumbling about how corrupt and evil the government is, but if people come into our nation without announcing their intent, that is doing something wrong as well. And if we help them maintain that secrecy of intent, does that not also compund the wrong originally done? Two wrongs do not make a right, and three wrongs certainly don't make a right. It just compounds the injustice done.
If illegals want to get legal, then they should come forward and have the various church agencies help get them the aid that is needed as opposed to pretending that we're the right-thinking Dutch who are hiding European Jews from the Nazis. I was listening to the local programming block of the local Catholic radio network this morning, and it was basically a scare-fest of how the evil racist Republicans were going to hunt down poor defenseless illegal immigrants and put them in death camps. To all the Chicago-area Catholics out there who think this is what the Bush administration and all the Republican congressmen want, please take your lips off of your crack pipe. There were claims thrown about how we need to respect the illegal immigrant's human dignity. How about respecting the dignity of the people who live here legally, whether by dint of birth or the citizenship process? Do we not rate because we already live here?
Also, if all of these illegals come in and decide that they don't want to become citizens, then what are the real benefits of US citizenship? Paying taxes under penalty of jail time instead of deportation? Voting? Military service? The first one is no real benefit. The second one seems useful but if no one is following or enforcing laws made in our name, then what is the point? The third one is what binds our nation together through good times and bad. Military service takes everyone who can handle its demands and throws them together to work for the common benefit. if we're not defending US citizens, then what are we defending?
I want an immigration policy that has the interests of US citizens placed as priority the interests of those who wish to become US citizens as next priority, then on to permanent residents and guest workers in terms of whose issues should be resolved. I want an immigration policy that does not buckle under threats of racism when it is enforced. For that matter, I want an immigration policy to actually be enforced. I also want an immigration policy that reflects our need to defend our borders. I also want English to be the official language of the federal government. You don't have to require English to be the only language for states or for business transactions, but assimilation into US culture by way of English-language primacy is a must.
For some of you sports-minded folks out there, I'll use a baseball analogy here to demonstrate: When the Chicago White Sox (an American League team) play at Wrigley Field (home to the Chicago Cubs, a National League team), they don't use the designated hitter rule (where someone else bats for the pitcher for the entire game). Their pitchers have to bat for themselves. The point is that the White Sox don't get to dictate policy to their hosts. The Cubs dictate how an important aspect of the game is played. So too with immigration policy. Those of us who are actual citizens should be able to set the rules. Now, can the Cubs say that they get to have first at-bat, can have five outfielders instead of three, start ahead by ten runs, and only have a two-inning game, stacking it as much in their favor as possible? No. There are certain rules that are established beforehand to maintain fairness or ensure a just outcome. The umpires are there ensure the rules are followed, not to ignore the rules as they see fit. If you're suspected of cheating, the umpire takes a look at the situation and removes you from the game if necessary. In this case, the umpires are acting as our law enforcement and judicial system should. If you don't play by the rules, then you're removed from the game and booed and jeered out of the stadium.
It's difficult to determine if a guest worker program will be effective or if the penalties paid will really be anything more than a symbolic gesture. There will be other illegal immigrants who ignore the process altogether. Those immigrants should be found and deported to the other side of a militarized border. We need to be fair to our citizens, then to those applying for citizenship, then to those who admit to only wanting to work here temporarily, and then to those who think our system is just something to be laughed at. To the last group, they should understand that it's because Americans try to do what is merciful that our nation has become such a good place. We try to do the right thing and expect the same of our government. If our nation was run like many lesser governments in this world, we'd just take you out to a landfill and make you disappear by way of a chipper-shredder. So please, don't mistake our mercy for weakness. Eventually our patience is tried enough and our kindness is removed. So, come to our country, but play by our rules. Make yourself and your intentions known when you get to our border or port of entry. You will save yourself a lot of trouble, and find that you'll be given the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Give us citizens a good reason to trust you. We'd rather have that good reason than always have to pretend like you don't exist.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Well, it's March, which means two things for Illinois. Primary elections and hearing spring training baseball games on the radio. Sadly I can't find a station around the Chicago area that will play Cardinals games, and that's a shame. However, spring training and primary elections are very similar. How is this possible, you might ask. I think I can explain it pretty easily.
Primary elections set up a party-by-party slate of candidates to compete with other political parties. Spring training sets up a roster of players to compete against other teams. During spring training, veterans and rookies who have been contacted by the same team have to also compete against each other for the limited number of slots available for starting players. If you're good enough, you'll get a starting spot. If not, back to the minors with you. Likewise, if you don't win the primaries, you can really only hope to get in at a secondary level, like hoping for a job if your party's winner gets into office.
Once the rosters are pared down and the party slates are confirmed, the game begins in earnest. The political parties do their best to rally their loyal voters into convincing others to vote the same way. The baseball teams do their best to keep their fans happy by winning baseball games, thus bringing in more money and thus better chances to land the most skilled players. Political parties and baseball teams want to be viable enough to win come November. It's kind of amusing to see that the World Series and the general election happening simultaneously. Each one has its group of loudmothed supporters and has to impress the vast majority of people who are relatively undecided but want to know the outcome either way. To the candidates, this brings in votes. To the baseball teams, this brings in money to pay the guys who are best at driving in runs, pitching high-speed sliders and keeping the ball from leaving the park. Both groups are looking to the future with the big game on their minds. Who's going to win the big game? At the moment, all the parties and all the teams have equal records, and it's up to them to play to win.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Well, baseball season is here and it starts on a sad and shocking note. No, I'm not talking about the World Baseball Classic (which should get a following before it really can be called a classic if you ask me), I'm talking about the recent death of former Minnesota Twins player Kirby Puckett. Here's a guy who proves to all of the short, fat kids who love baseball that they can make the majors if they work hard enough, who's got two World Series rings, and had talent to spare. He turned himself from a role model into an object lesson when he started beating his wife. It's a pity. Another pity is the further degeneration of Barry Bonds' career with two sportswriters presenting a litany of steroid abuses by the San Francisco Giants player. If the allegations presented by the two San Francisco Chronicle writers are correct, then Barry needs to be banned from baseball and his records stricken from the books. I think it ought to just be made easy and have the magic number for home runs reset to Roger Maris' 61. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are all too likely to have abused steroids, and while sports might be a business to make money, it is not just a race to see how many chemical cocktails you can pump into your body for that extra home run. Baseball is a good game, and professional baseball should require people to act as the professionals they say they are.
The new Busch Stadium opens in a little more than a month. I hope it's worth the money that the people of Missouri put up for it. In other Cardinals news, I see that Rick Ankiel switched from pitching to outfield. I hope this is a positive change for him, since after his self-destructive pitching against New York in 2000 he needs to show that he can still be of use to St. Louis. Best of luck to him.
Let's see, hmm, I could do a politics post, but I want to get one more sports-related thing out of the way. Who's going to the NCAA tournament? Southern Illinois, that's who! Go Salukis!
Okay, now politics. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that colleges who take federal funds have to allow access to military recruiters. I hope somewhere along the way one of the justices explained that with federal funds comes a set of federal obligations. Some people might even think that this is threatening discourse on campus. If you want to go to a college where you can tell recruiters to go away, you still have the option of private colleges. I hope one of the justices added something in their notes along the lines of "What, you expected there not to be strings attached to this money? You guys never worked for your allowances as kids, did you?" in their decisions.
The ports issue is still hot as far as I'm concerned. Maybe we ought to just say to heck with it, increase military spending and militarize port security through the Navy and Coast Guard. It'll give the people who want to defend the country but oppose the Iraq war a place to serve honorably. Mind you, I'm still not impressed with Americans who think the US needs another military defeat to "teach us a lesson." I may think it's getting closer to the time when we need to remove more troops from Iraq, but I want them to leave with some kind of material victory there. An Iraq that can hold its own internally is a good start. Apparently a Washington Post poll says that 80% of Americans think that the situation in Iraq is going to devolve into a civil war. I'm more worried about what the Iraqis think, since it's their country. I admit that it looks bad at the moment. Then again, it looked bad during our operations in the city of Ramallah, too. I just have to remind myself that things do change quckly in modern wars and to trust in the officers and adminsitration a bit more than I do at the time. What I can do for the time being, though, is pray. If you want this to be over and done with, pray for an American victory through the establishment of a self-sufficent and peaceful Iraq. The two go hand in hand.
My last bit of Politics: There's a bit of controversy nearby to the Song of the Suburbs home office (okay, my computer desk) in the town of Crystal Lake. It seems that a sporting event calling itself the Gay Games has been trying to get permission to hold rowing events on Crystal Lake itself. My take on this is pretty simple: let's all act like rational adults here on both sides of the argument. Let the event go as planned so those who want it gone and forgotten can do so and so those who want to compete can compete. Raising a big stink over it at the village council meetings is a sure way to keep the issue fresh in people's minds. It's a sporting event. Go and have fun. Pray if you think it'll help. But let the games go on.
Lent is in full swing. Have you Catholics out there been good and kept to your Lenten restrictions? If you haven't been to Confession, an Act of Contrition is always a good holdover. Make sure to go to Confession, though. It's the right thing to do.
I've got a couple more ideas rattling around in my head about a few religious things, but I'm going to hold those for another post. Take care everyone.
Technorati Tags: Kirby Puckett Barry Bonds St. Louis Cardinals Gay Games SIUC Basketball Supreme Court Iraq Lent
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
This post has to do with the upcoming Lenten season, so those of you of a less religious bent might want to skip this one. This will be my first Lent back as a regular churchgoer and I honestly can't wait. I've been trying to figure out the modern meaning of Lent, since it's usually a time that people give up something bad for them, but not necessarily something they need to be comfortable. You know, things like alcohol or cigarettes or dessert. Usually people give something up, but they give it up for a selfish reason, like to lose weight or kick a habit or something to better their own person. Lent is a time of denial, yes, but it's not so much for personal improvement as it is for personal spiritual purification. We're getting ready as Catholics to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we want to be as ready as we can to receive his spirit within ourselves and our world. This is why we give things up. This is why we give up things we enjoy, things that bring us some kind of extra comfort beyond our regular level of comfort. By denying ourselves something, we understand a little more about Christ's suffering and the suffering of the world around us.
So, what does this lead up to, dear readers? Easy. For you Catholics out there, here's my challenge. If you give up some kind of food for Lent, don't do it because you want to lose a few pounds. Do it to remember that not everyone goes to sleep at night with three meals a day plus round-the-clock snack availability. And don't just give up the easy stuff like candy or soda. Make it sting a little. For example, I'm giving up red meat and pork for Lent in addition to all the usual not-good-for-me things. I'm giving up the snacks in between meals because not everyone gets that kind of lucky break to overeat. The light growling in my stomach pales in comparison to someone starving, yes, but it is a reminder that many people have it much worse.
Something else that might also be a good thing to do is remember to go to confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also a foundation for a proper Lent. We don't just purify ourselves by denying the pleasures of this world, but we also purify our souls by absolution of sins. Why do we do this? It's pretty simple. When you die, you stand before God in judgment. If we go with unrepented sins on our souls, without any kind of final absolution, entering into Heaven is going to be a bit difficult. Likewise, we're celebrating the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We may not be standing before Him in judgment, but we can only experience His suffering, death, and final glory of
returning to life if we are prepared. Confessing our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that preparation.
I can tell you a few things about the sacrament, too, if you're willing to read further. One, it doesn't matter how long ago your last confession was. If you go back now, you're a step closer to salvation. There have been people who haven't gone to confession for over 50 years. They stopped going for a myriad of reasons which usually boil down to "There's no way God can forgive me for that." Well, He can. God is infinite in His mercy, so your sins can be forgiven. You may not escape legal action if you've done something criminal (No, Mom, I haven't! You and Dad raised me better than that!) but your soul is cleaned for when you stand in Final Judgment. Priests have heard everything, too. Remember, these are men who have ministered to the sick and those without hope. Whatever you've done that you think is beyond forgiveness, well, your priest has probably heard far worse. He is also bound to the Seal of Confession. What you say never gets repeated by the priest. Go with humility and a desire to change your ways, and you will leave that confessional feeling better. You'll be reconciled with God, the Church, and your fellow Catholics. You'll be in that state of grace that will allow you to return to Mass without fear and allow you to share in the Holy Eucharist. Your Penances can be simple, maybe a few Hail Marys or a simple Act of Contrition. It might be as complex as going to those whom you have hurt and asking forgiveness. In extreme cases, maybe even turning yourself in to the police is an option, I've never been sure on that. I can witness to the sacrament's effectiveness, too. I hadn't been to Confession since I was in basic training in the Air Force. When I went back after all those years and was given absolution, I actually felt the weight lift off of me. I can honestly say that all of those burdens I had placed on myself with each year were removed. Sure, it's difficult to get to Confession now that there are fewer priests in each diocese, but it's worth it, trust me. Make an effort to wake up early one morning and go. Most dioceses will have an online list of their churches, and those will usually have a schedule that includes Reconciliation. Go, and go without fear. If anyone laughs at you, well, you'll definitely be one step ahead of them.
Okay, that was a bit more than I expected to write, but when you get motivated it's tough to stop. I'll be back again soon with something else to write about.
Technorati tags: Lent