Monday, August 31, 2009

Defending America Is Boring

Our immigration services can't keep Mexican criminals out of our country, but they're trying to make up for that by keeping American criminals out of other countries (emphasis mine):
Three Americans "tourists" are on their way home from Cambodia Monday after being arrested in an ongoing federal sex tourism investigation.

The arrests are part of “Operation Twisted Traveler,” an effort by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and prosecute American sex tourists in Cambodia.
Why were these guys even on the radar? Because they were well known felons:
Another of the men onboard was Jack Sporich, a 74-year-old that police call the ‘Pied Piper of Pedophiles.” He spent nine years in a California prison for molesting as many as 500 boys during camping trips.
...
The final passenger, 59 year-old Ronald Boyajian, was convicted of 18 counts of sexual intercourse with minors in 1995 in Menlo Park, Calif.
Why were the even out of jail? Who knows, but luckily their abuses will finally meet the full force of law:
In the U.S. the men face charges under the Protect Act -- a 2003 law that provides life terms for child sex offenders with prior convictions, a much longer sentence than offenders would get abroad.
Heaven forbid they put them away for life for abusing American kids, or if ICE would do their job in the country they actually work for.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Exchange Student Notes


  • Our Exchange student starts school today and I'm hoping for the best. I've gotten the impression that she's sick and tired of sitting around the house and would rather be anywhere else; if nothing else than to take her mind off of her home sickness.

  • I can now feel my brother-in-laws pain with his new daughter. How does a dad treat his daughter? If you're like me, you treat your daughter like a different kind of son. For instance, a good boy gift might be some fancy bacon, and a good girl gift would be....maple flavored fancy bacon. I came to this realization when I was sitting through 'Twilight'* with Mrs. Sandmich and 'Sally'. They were both glued to the screen while I played 'God of War' in my head to try and escape the pain of the two hour long teen-angst-athon. I'd never think to get that movie for anyone I know, ever.

  • Mrs. Sandmich went clothes shopping with Sally a couple of times and after she related the experiences I've come to the conclusion (again) that American girls dress like whores. JCPenny, Macy's, Walmart, it matters not. For instance, when I was in Walmart last night they sold girl skirts that looked like they were part of a Japanese stripper school girl Halloween costume.

  • Speaking of Walmart, they were packed last night with parents and kids buying school supplies for the school year that was to start in less than twelve hours.

  • Chinese exchange student food hits: Chicken, rice, Japanese BBQ sauce. Misses: Mexican, drinks other than water.

  • It's been tough to reign in my normally un-PC self. We have a cat that meows pretty loud when he wants someone to check his food bowl, I affectionately would refer to him as our 'Chinese opera puss cat'. As well, it's now an American past time to refer to substandard household goods as 'Chinese made crap', I've had to catch myself a few times on that. I've also had to take it easier on the pet eating 'jokes'.

It's rough dropping her off for her first day of school, at a school that our own son doesn't go to out of quality concerns. I've never cared so much about the quality of the local schools but in some ways it's worse to be completely entrusted with the care of someone else's child. Parents know the acceptable shortcuts with their own kids, but there's some pressure to not let down her very trusting parents who I will never meet. If it makes them feel any better I share their concerns.

I should point out that when we were awaiting our student I was expecting some type A ass. This would be someone who got too big for their own country and had to go to a completely different country to find room for their ego, someone who we couldn't stand to be around and vice versa. I couldn't figure out how else a teenager could undergo such a trial. I went to a boarding school, but I could at least assuage myself with the fact that I'd see my family every six to eight weeks. However, in what I've found to be the best hypothesis, I couldn't foresee a student from a well-to-do family who's only 'in' for higher education for their child was a forced (in a career sense) sojourn to the U.S.**

In a magazine put out by a missionary organization that I occasionally keep track of, a priest said that teenagers are teenagers the world round. So it is with Sally. She's just a normal,reserved, modest, and respectful teen stuck in extraordinary circumstances.


*Kid Sandmich ran out when the movie was being turned on saying that he "wasn't going to watch any chick flick". "Silly boy", I thought "it has vampires in it, how can it be a chick flick?". Needless to say, the joke was on me.

**Sally's sister has undergone the same trial I take it (?), and her sister now attends the university of Arkansas.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vista Mistakes, Redux

I was checking out the Win7 videos here and there’s some cool stuff on how Win7 can be deployed to multiple system using a VHD (virtual hard drive) and how you can mount that VHD offline and un/install drivers and apps; meaning that you don’t have to reimage a system after every change, but you can also boot it up in a virtual machine to make sure that it works! Or how about the ability to force network files to be hosted locally on the PC via a centrally applied policy? I’m liking that. There’s also the ‘applocker’ tool that makes whitelisting apps a breeze. It looks like they’ve also taken their RPC over HTTP functionality from Exchange and extended it to the whole network, which would allow users to VPN in without having to bugger with separate VPN software and hardware, joy! Built in hard drive encryption and seamless XP virtualization compatibility are also pretty cool. I really can’t wait to get this for work.

Oh you home users want something too? Ummm, how about that touch screen idea? Enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Update

Been busy with two things. First up we have been carving room out of our house for a guest visitor, an exchange student, who will be with us for the next nine to ten months. This involved a lot of cleaning and pitching stuff that we'll never use. After a few hectic moments our student arrived, ready to experience the best that Ohio public schools have to offer (their Africa program must have been full):


It takes a complete stranger to let you know how truly you are. And by 'you' I mean 'me.

Secondly I've been busy with the garden (and a special thanks to whoever picked up the organic gardening mag for me, it's quite good!). Today I spent some time that may have ordinarily been spent blogging, shucking sunflowers instead:


Three this size


I was just going to salt them, but I changed my mind and I'm trying to make them Cincy chili flavored.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tiempo a Mooch

Cripe:
One out of three people in the U.S. without health insurance is an
immigrant (legal or illegal) or the U.S.-born child (under 18) of an immigrant.
Immigrants and their children also account for one-fourth of those on Medicaid.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Psychonauts



One would think that video games would be immune to 'critic pump' like many other mediums. For example I remember looking at reviews in the back of Rolling Stone back when I was in high school and I learned pretty quick that if the reviewer gave a music album five stars it was probably unlistenable bilge. Unfortunately video games are another art medium and as such are susceptible to the same faults. For example there's one game that reviewers constantly chide gamers over not buying, but it's a game that just doesn't look very fun (though I confess to judging the book by it's cover).

Another game that's a sore spot for video game reviewers is Pychonauts. Developed by Tim Schafer, whose largest claim to fame is developing the original Monkey Island, the game shows promise but can never seem to escape the mediocre gameplay that glues the package together.

When I first started playing the game I ran into two technical faults that were somewhat beyond the foresight of the developers. The first is that the game runs too slowly to play under the PS3's PS2 emulator. There's some other games that do this, but oddly graphics power hogs like Final Fantasy XII and God of War II have no issues (maybe a reliance on some PS1 hardware functionality within the PS2? I kinda doubt it, but...). The other technical issue is that the artwork for the game was often too dark, and I mean too dark to see anything. A lot of games of that time didn't come with a gamma correct, but many did (though the examples that come to mind are all from flat panel obsessed Japan). My hope at the time would be that the game would reward me for squinting at the screen while tethered to my PS2 via the controller cable.

It started out well enough. It was clear from the onset that the game had clever writing, memorable (if a bit generic) characters and a mildly unique art style. Once the gameplay started in earnest annoyances started to surface. Several of the 'super powers' had an intentional delay to keep them from being too 'super' and targeting enemies was iffy (a kind of hybrid auto-target that always seemed to target the wrong enemy). Later in the game when you're sporting a bevy of super powers there's no easy way to access them if you find the need to switch between them rapidly.

On top of that the inconsistent platforming and different-though-similar areas made the game start to feel more like a Spyro game that was put out for the original PlayStation*. The ever mounting number of collectibles seemed more like padding and busy work than actual game play elements (unlike Jak 3 which dared players to see if they had the mad skills to get the collectibles). The art and platforming elements also got old and I couldn't escape the feeling that everything Tim Schafer was trying to do had been done better in the game Alice** (which looks better and was released five years before Psychonauts).

Another nagging fault included a health system that feels half play tested. You can carry health power ups but only three at a time, my first thought was that the damage dealt should have been modified so that there wasn't one more piece of crap that you had to carry around. If you did happen to 'die' a certain number of times in a level you were kicked out of the level, and when you went back in you were...right back where you were when you were kicked out. What was that supposed to accomplish besides punishing players with the omnipresent extended load screen?

Towards the end of my playthrough I began to feel cheated. It's one thing to waste two hours sitting through what's supposed to be a great movie that's actually a dud, but quite another to log 20+ hours into a very well reviewed, dog of game. Well that's not fair, the game itself is OK, but nowhere near the quality of it's hype. I must admit though that I got about 70% of the way through the game before deciding that it was a royal waste of my time and I was unable to force myself to play another minute of it***.

*Original 3D PlayStation games exhibited the same 'wonky', Tim Burton-esque art style though unintentionally due to the very limited capabilities of the hardware. I'd read somewhere that the PS1 didn't actually support floating point math, which I find hard to believe, but I can't find a corroborating source.

**American McGee's Alice is an odd duck of game. I wanted to dislike it's whacked out art for whacked out art's sake, but the final weapon and the closing cut scene make the game worth sitting through.

***The whole experience reminded me of Grim Fandango, which happens to be another Tim Schafer game

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Runs

I figured I'd note this in case anyone would be interested in such a thing. Karl Denninger points out that:

  1. There are a number of known insolvent banks that are being left to continue in business because....
  2. More than likely the FDIC is nearly insolvent.

Of course the FDIC can get more cash by going to the taxpayer til (you know, taxpayers paying taxes so that the government can pay them back on money they had in a defunct bank). The sticky issue is that there isn't nearly enough revenue coming in to cover the FDIC liabilities so the government would have to issue debt, a lot of it (in addition to the metric tons already being issued). The last treasury auction had one 'soft' fail in that they were barely able to force the debt load down the pipe, what then happens if they go to issue debt to back the FDIC and they are unable to force it? Well things will get interesting then, very interesting; and I wouldn't make any big plans on getting a withdraw from an insolvent bank (or possibly a bank of any sort) as a 'bank holiday' will probably go into effect to prevent a justifiable full fledged run.

I personally wouldn't be surprised if Uncle Sam issued his own IOUs right to the defaulted depositors in such a case.