Sid Meier’s Pirates!

I got Sid Meier’s Pirates! for Christmas and played it in January, and seeing it mentioned elsewhere on the Intarweb reminds me that I haven’t reviewed it yet.

Like a couple of other JesusHers, I was really looking forward to playing this, both because I like Sid Meier’s games and because I am a pirate myself. OK, that’s not true, but the idea of extra-legally roaming around the Carribean looting and pillaging has always seemed kind of cool to me. Hell, I almost wanted to see Cutthroat Island–almost.

I got the game, installed it, and played it for about a week. Lots of stuff in the game was pretty fun, but this game has a serious Achilles heel: in ship-to-ship combat, you initially drive your ship around and the computer drives its ship around and you’ll try to get positioning and pound the other ship with your guns, and this is all well and good. Large powerful ships have more guns and more armor, and small fast ships have more speed and maneuverability and a real advantage where positioning is concerned.

Most ship battles will end not with you sinking the enemy ship–because come on now, that’s letting a ship you could board and plunder go to waste–but with one ship running into the other. If the enemy crew is completely demoralized from getting their asses handed to them in ship-to-ship combat, you’ll take the ship without a fight, but you might not want to do that, because you’ll have to damage the ship pretty extensively to get there. At best, the ship will probably be very slow and slow your entire fleet down; at worst you run the risk of hitting them too hard and sinking them.


Captain-to-captain combat. The guy in red’s about to get his ass kicked unless there’s a monkey at the keyboard.

So what I took to doing was boarding a basically undamaged ship. If this happens you and the enemy captain battle it out with swords. If you win, you get the enemy ship.

Forget for a second the idea of a 28-crew glorified sloop boarding a 40-cannon 200-crew dreadnaught boiling down to a captain-vs-captain sword battle, because what the hell, it’s a video game. The problem is sword fighting is really, really easy in this game, even at the higher difficulty levels. I’d estimate I won about 30 swordfights for every one I lost. (The excessive-ease-of-play-thing ended up happening with Half-Life 2 as well, come to think of it. Maybe I’ve just turned into a video game whiz over the past few months.)

This really damages any appreciation you might have for the game, because there’s really nothing the game can do to punish you for being unprepared or going rogue or something. Piss France off because you keep plundering ships flying their flag? Fuck France! What’re they going to do to you? If they send a warship after you, you’ll board it, you’ll kill the captain, you’ll take it, and you’ll either sell it to one of their enemies or scuttle it out of spite. Rinse and repeat.

I can’t recommend a game that is this easy to beat. One and a half Pochaccos, since up until I figured this out it was kind of fun.

Mexico. Ron Mexico.

There have been some additional developments in JesusH’s coverage of the Ron Mexico affair. Right after posting on Mexico here on April 7, I dropped by the Atlanta Falcons website and visited their customized jersey page. Just for the hell of it, I tried to order a customized jersey with the name “Ron Mexico” and Michael Vick’s number 7 on it. Since we were a couple of days behind the bleeding edge on the Mexico story, as the Mexico lawsuit was filed on March 14 and the Smoking Gun story on Mexico was first published on April 5, I figured the NFL’s cutting-edge naughty words filter would have been updated to include Mexico on a #7 Falcons jersey, at least. But that didn’t happen–the site happily displayed my Ron Mexico jersey preview and allowed me to add it to my cart.


The Falcons store’s preview of my Ron Mexico jersey.

(Incidently, I chose to use both Mexico’s first and last names because I thought the jersey would be easily confused by most people as representing Mexico’s national team if I just used “Mexico”. If there’s one thing I like to avoid, it’s confusion.)

There was nothing especially noteworthy about any of this–and fellow smartasses had already done the customized jersey gag previously. But I’m not aware of any of these other guys putting their money where their smart mouths are and actually placing their order, which I went ahead and did. In case you haven’t bought an official customized NFL jersey lately, I can tell you that by doing this I also added myself to Jay Leno’s “More Money Than Brains” club at the same time.

I kept expecting to get a “your order has been cancelled” email from the NFL about the jersey. They just couldn’t actually allow this item to be created, could they? Last week, I saw this story about the Ron Mexico moniker being added to the NFL’s naughty words filter:

McCarthy said “only a handful” of orders for the Mexico jerseys had been placed, and none were sold. Anyone who placed an order for the jersey will receive an e-mail letting them know the order has been canceled and their money will be refunded.

A few “Ron Mexico” T-shirts have popped up on eBay, though none of the NFL’s licensed replica jerseys have been sold or posted for sale on the Internet auction site.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got home on Friday and this was waiting for me.


My crappy camera phone’s impression of my actual Ron Mexico jersey.

As far as I can tell, McCarthy is pretty close to correct–a perusal of ebay’s Ron Mexico auctions finds a bunch of garbage like the crap you can buy at this guy’s cafepress store. But for some reason, my order made it through. Am I the only owner of an official Ron Mexico #7 Falcons jersey? One of just a few? Only time will tell, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

I love my Ron Mexico jersey. It’s my new most favorite item of clothing ever. But I have to admit, I do wonder how much a properly-designed and promoted ebay auction for what might just be the only official Ron Mexico #7 Falcons jersey in the universe could net me.

Computer Crap Update

I’ve been meaning to post about the DMP1, but it’s still a work in progress, so quick notes on a couple of things:

– my graphics card appears to have given up the ghost on my machine at home. For the last couple of weeks I haven’t been able to play Battlefield 1942 because of weird glitching in 3D, and today when I turned the machine on I had strange colored artifacts all over the screen in 2D mode as well. It’s a shame because the card was the best (and most expensive) piece of hardware in the machine when I built it back in 2002, and it’s served me well. It’s not a shame because I expect I can probably get superior performance out of a modern card at a quarter of the price I paid for the old one. We’ll see.

– wireless networking equipment is really, really affordable these days. Last week, I decided to get new networking stuff for the house–to make the leap from 802.11b to 802.11g and hopefully get a little more range on the signal so the network hooks up to my truck while it’s in the driveway–and because I was picking up some wifi stuff for Dan as well. Fry’s was selling a wireless/wired router, a PCMCIA laptop card, and a USB wireless networking module for about $55 total, with no rebates required, so I got a set for Dan and a set for me. The whole thing took about 10 minutes to install, and now I’ve got this extra 802.11b access point and PCMCIA card if anyone wants them.

Spoiler Alert

A funny thing happened on the way to Paris.

Paris was going to be the site where I proposed marriage to the lovely and talented Vivan, and hopefully locked in the benefits of her future companionship after some buttering up. Plan A was to find a secluded area in the palatial gardens of Versailles (a site with some personal significance, in a way that borders on the six degrees of Kevin Bacon), proclaim my undying love, hand over some bling, and hopefully seal the deal. There was a Plan B of course, in the event that the site was unavailable or too “touristy”, and a Plan C as well. Fortunately, Plans B and C were completely unnecessary. Unfortunately, there was no Plan D.

I’ve always had a little bit of a tough sell with Vivan’s parents. One look at my mug, with its square jawline, gangland facial hair and stony gaze, and they could see I was trouble. I considered it an important step in Boriqua-Vietnamese relations to get at least her father’s blessing before broaching the subject with her. But I knew the probability of Vivan learning of my plans would approach 100% as a function of the time elapsed since her father was brought into the circle of trust. I decided to wait until the last possible moment: the day before we left. I arrived nearly unannounced (a quick call as I was underway), with gifts in hand. Made some small talk, practiced my French a little, and popped the question. He was a bit taken aback, but I eventually got the green light and high-tailed it out. I briefly considered asking him not to mention our little talk to Vivan but thought it might be a little too, well, obvious. Not so much, turns out.

Vivan calls her dad that night to get some useful French phraseology. “But Andre speaks French.” Erm, ok, says Vivan. Figures he’s making an assumption based on my last name. Her family likes to think of me as being of French ancestry. They have their reasons. Best to let it go, she figures. “Really. He was over here this morning, brought me gifts and spoke to me in French!” That’s really weird, she says. “Well, I guess he had some meetings in the area.” This being maybe the third time in three years I’ve stopped by her parents’ house alone, and Vivan being a bright gal, that doesn’t get it done. She calls her cousin An the next morning, miffed that the surprise has been ruined.

Her cousin, it happens, has been a co-conspirator of mine. Like Magneto and Professor Xavier (she’s Magneto, by the way), An and I have divergent methods but the same ultimate goal. She calls me frantically at around 8AM to let me know the cat’s out of the bag and I need to come up with a whole new plan that takes this new information into account. I leave for Paris in 4 hours, and have packed my morning with the kinds of meetings that are absolutely necessary to allow me to leave for Paris in 4 hours. I’ve got to push through, I tell her.

An hour later, she calls me back. She’s got ideas. Vivan wants so much to be surprised. We’ve got to come up with something to put the shock value back in. You should do it today. Maybe if I had a month to plan, say I. Three hours is impossible. What I wouldn’t give for a wheelbarrow.

An has a wheelbarrow. Or rather, she has the inclination to leave work at 9 AM without good cause, and devote her day to making it happen, whatever “it” is. Grudgingly, I agree. We decide that the only workable way is to do it at her Dad’s house, from which we’ll be leaving for the airport. An gets everything set up. Rose petals on the walkway. Balloons on the fence. Crystal champagne glasses on the porch. Limo on the way. Vivan’s dad is surprised when An shows up with her props. “That’s weird,” he says. “Andre didn’t tell me he was planning to propose today.”

I pick Vivan up at work and drive her to her parents house. The balloons are immediately visible as we pull up the street. What’s going on? Erm… I don’t know. Shit, there’s no parking in front. The rose petals are now visible. Do I drive around the block and look for parking? No, no time. Why is all that stuff at my parents house? I don’t know. I block the alley, and jump out of the car. I retrieve some flowers from the trunk. I get on bended knee, and start talking.

“Camera! Camera! Where’s the camera?!” Vivan’s Dad doesn’t have a camera. He knows that I have packed one in our luggage. He wants me to get it. I do my best to ignore him and plow on. Vivan meanwhile, is caught between looking at me, and looking at her dad, who is running out of the house, imploring for someone, anyone, to please provide him with a camera. Vivan’s uncle and cousin are running behind him. An is sobbing. Vivan doesn’t hear a word I say.

Sooooo… you haven’t said yes. Oh! Yes. “Get the camera!” Ok, ok. I go to get the camera from the car. I haven’t even kissed her yet. Vivan’s aunt comes peeling in. She doesn’t live close by. We take a few pictures. The limo is here, and it’s time to get to the airport.

Finally, we relax in the limo. Wow, that was weird, is the subject of the next several hours of our conversations. We laugh. We have a great week in Paris. Occasionally, one of us busts out laughing, seemingly at random. There’s no need to ask why. On the way back, we stop in New York and speak to some close friends. You know, they say, I’m glad you didn’t do it in Paris. You guys always have such weird funny stories, I’d be disappointed if it was something so boring as that. They’re right of course. This just… fits us.

Thank You, Uncle Scam

I’m in a good mood today.

For the last couple of years I’ve had Joanne, my folks’ tax preparer, take care of my taxes for me. Things were getting a little complex with capital gains, mortgage, business expenses, a second job and paycheck of sorts, etc. so I figured I’d let the pro do things. I assumed I’d go with her again this year (after first having her file an extension for me–I’m an extreme procrastinator when it comes to taxes), but both Deb and my mom told me I should just try and do them myself.

Let’s turn this into algebra, in order to avoid busting out exact numbers: late last year, the tax preparer told me I was on track to pay $x out of pocket in taxes for 2004, where $x is a fairly significant four-digit number. I changed my withholdings the minute I got that info, so I expected it’d be slightly lower than Joanne projected, but I wasn’t looking forward to it in any case. I also started saving paychecks from my second job rather than cashing and spending them this year, in order to help defray my upcoming tax burden, but I wasn’t keeping good track of how many checks I had socked away and expected that they’d cover about $.33x, leaving me doing something annoying, like selling stock, to cover the remainder. Of course, a stock sale isn’t immediate, and since I waited until April 12 to do my taxes, I’d be scrambling to get the cash I needed to cover myself, because I’m a smart guy and that’s just the way I operate. Until about last weekend, I expected to have Joanne file for me as well, and she’s not cheap–call that an additional $.1x.

So I finally unearth my K-1, 1099s, W2, and other fun documents, fire up Turbo Tax, and spend a few hours getting organized and finishing the tax thing last night. Other than my computer acting weird, the news was all good. Turns out I had about $.8x squirreled away, rather than $.33x. Additionally, my aggressive withholding revisions helped a lot–it turned out I owed about half of what I thought I would. And by doing my taxes myself, I’m not paying Joanne anything.

So

$.33x - ($.1x + $x) = -$.77x = Dave's screwed
$.8x - $.5x = $.3x - $29.90 for efiling = Dave's buying lunch

Quick Football Notes

* So apparently Mike Vick, superstar quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, goes by the impossibly smooth-ass nom de guerre of “Ron Mexico” when he’s infecting the ladies with his special strand of love disease. [via ExpectNothing]

* Closer to home, the Chargers have re-signed running back Jesse Chatman and cut wide reciever/kick returner Tim Dwight, among other moves, in 2005.

Chatman is awesome. He’s listed at 5’8″, 247 lb, and he looks about those dimensions, but it was really fun watching him bounce off linemen before hitting the jets and dusting opposing defenders last year. He’s far faster than he should be with that body type. There’s no way he should be taking any playing time away from my parents’ workout partner LaDanian “The Bomblinson” Tomlinson, but the Chargers have good depth at the position sewn up in 2005.

Dwight, on the other hand, sucks. He’s always injured, and he’s got that kind of high-effort, low-return performance that you might expect from a white NFL wide reciever–he’ll gator-arm a pass over the middle on his first game back from a collapsed spleen or something weird like that and get creamed by a linebacker, and despite the net result of one down lost and zero yards gained, people eat that shit up like it was AirHeads. This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted about him, but now that he’s an ex-Charger, maybe it’ll be the last.

Or maybe not–the lucky sack subsequently signed with the Patriots, the best organization in the NFL. He’ll probably catch 100 balls and have 10 return touchdowns next year as the Patriots go 16-0 and dominate. Bah.

OmniFi DMP1 Mobile Digital Media Player

I’ve enjoyed my DMS1 media streamer, so I went ahead and blew some cash on ebay to buy the DMP1, which is the car version of this unit. The box arrived yesterday.

DMP1
Soon my truck will be the KITT of mp3s.

The DMP1 comes with a head unit which one can mount on their dashboard, a 20 GB removable hard drive and enclosure which can be mounted anywhere a CD changer would go in the car, and an optional wifi module which you plug into the hard drive enclosure so the DMP1 can talk to your home wireless network (which also came in the package I bought). The nice thing about this setup is that with the wireless module, you can set up the software on your computer to sync up your mp3s with the mp3s the car’s hard drive knows about at 3:00am, or some time when you aren’t likely to be using your computer and network much, and the thing just wakes up and starts the sync process automagically. While I’m in bed and the truck’s in the garage, my computer will be doing all the hard work. And really, that’s what life’s all about.

The first thing I did when I opened the box up is insert the hard drive into the hard drive enclosure, to see how the thing latches in. Only then did I realize that the hard drive wouldn’t eject without power to the enclosure, which makes sense, because the drive needs to be unmounted to ensure data integrity. I had to hook up the enclosure to my car battery temporarily to get the hard drive back out.

I needed the drive because it is recommended that you don’t do your inital sync wirelessly, which also makes sense because data transfer is so slow. Accordingly, I hooked up the drive via the included USB cable to my computer, opened the SimpleCenter server software, updated the drive’s firmware, and started the mp3 transfer before bed last night. I woke up this morning and 15GB of music had transferred over to the drive.

I’m headed up to mom and pop’s place this weekend, and we’re going to screw around with installing everything, so I’ll have more later.

Dolls

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Soporifically meaningless. Skip it… unless you like Japanese movie torture.

So Iíve been hearing all these really great things about this movie from critics. ďMagical. Lyrical. Haunting. Poignant. Beautiful. Tragic. A masterpiece.Ē So imagine how excited I was when I found out that I won a free copy of the DVD.

And then imagine my utter disappointment and confusion when I finally sat down to watch the film. Takeshi Kitanoís Dolls is a real bore. There, I said it. Kitanoís triptych on doomed love fails miserably. None of the characters had any depth, the situations contrived and it was all just pointless. All I kept thinking while I was watching the film was ďIs this the same movie everyoneís raving about?Ē I kept checking the box cover and making sure that this was indeed the correct copy of Dolls. ďTakeshi Kitano. Yep. Okay, This is it. So why is it sucking so much?Ē Iím not obtuse. I get it. I just didnít care. The movie was so slooooooooooooow. I don’t bore easily, Iím a patient person, and I love arthouse films, but this film really stunk. There were scenes where literally nothing happens. I had more fun watching the caulk dry around my bathtub than watching this unnecessary, pretentious, and humorless film.

The only saving grace of the film was the pretty cinematography of the Japanese countryside, but those moments of beauty-were too few and far in between. Iíve heard people say the film was dreamlike. Yeah, I agree if they’re talking about a bad dream. It was an ennui filled nightmare, which if I had more sense, should have ended from the get-go. I should have known better because the movie starts out with a bunraku doll performance, which was slow, drawn out, and tedious to watch. Much like the rest of the movie.

I must admit Iím still confused about all the praise itís gotten. But then it occurred to me. The critics have conspired to play an early Aprilís Fool joke on us. Hey, letís get the shittiest, most torturous movie we can find and extol the film as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Weíll see how many people we can sucker into seeing this godawful film and then weíll shout ďAprilís Fool.Ē Good one, guys. Yíall got me real good.

Well, at least I didnít pay for it.

(out of a possible 5)