Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrote my first letter to my County Council rep

For those of you who don't live here: on Maui things are set up so all the different parts of Maui County can vote for who represents all the different parts of Maui County. There's a bit more of a fuss going on about it, especially since what can  happened is a person running can lose in the district they're running for, but still get elected to office. A good story on it can be found here at the Maui Weekly.

There was a commentary there that's a good, quick read read. A quick excerpt from it:

The current system overwhelmingly favors incumbents over challengers. It requires that the candidates run throughout the county on three separate islands to gain a connection with the voters in far flung corners of the county. The incumbents, by virtue of their office, already have those connections.

The difficulties facing Lāna‘i or Moloka‘i challengers running countywide are extreme—their chances of winning are just about nil. So those incumbents are rarely challenged. Invulnerable politicians are not a good thing in a democracy.

And as the South Maui and Lāna‘i examples showed in the last election, the winners of those resident seats actually lost in their districts. This is not uncommon in Maui County.

Anyhow... this was emailed to Mike Victorino who represents my home of Wailuku:

I really don't like the idea of other areas voting for who represents me. The folks living in Kihei, Upcountry, Lahaina, etc., shouldn't get to vote for who gets elected in Wailuku - they don't live here, they don't know what our concerns are, and they won't have to live with the decision since its not their home.

It makes as much sense to me as Oahu residents (note: different island and county altogether) voting for Maui County's mayor, you know?

Is there anything you can do to help ensure that Wailuku doesn't lose its voice to others?


So, yeah, feeling a little bit accomplished here, although I really should’ve done it sooner.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time off or Vacation?

Come the middle of August I’m going to have almost a whole week off from work. Trick is I don’t know what I necessarily want to do.

I could stay home. I’ve got a bunch of projects that I’ve been wanting to finish up. Staying home is cheap, too. Well, unless I end up having to go to Lowes or someplace like that.

I could do a quick trip to ‘Oahu or the Big Island. That’ll get expensive quick, and I’ve got no idea what I’d do there anyhow. Well, visit friends, but since friends work for a living that might not be quite so convenient.

I could cancel the vacation and not worry about it, but then I’ll have my bosses breathing down my neck to use my vacation time before the end of the year.

Decisions, decsions..

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Digital Dilemma

This is something I’ve been going back and forth with for a while now. Tonight I went to Borders to play Cashflow with my brother and some of our friends. While over there I picked a copy of Bill Phillips’ Transformation (was curious about it since he wrote Body for Life), and looked for the new Shonen Jump.

It occurred to me later on that there might be electronic versions of those – maybe at Amazon, maybe or some other outlet. Would they cost the same? Maybe less? I’ve been doing this with my music increasingly over the years and I like it. Because of this, I know that there’s a couple big perks for me:

  • No clutter. I’ve been thinning out my stuff and not having to worry about storing physical copies of things would be great. Having everything on my computer and making my computer my library is appealing, especially for magazines and other periodicals.
  • Portability. With an eReader, be it on a cell phone, tablet/pad or computer I could take them anywhere I want pretty easily without putting anything at any real risk.
  • Security. I can back up my digital media fairly easily. If I lose or damage a book, well, I’m out of luck.
  • Free stuff. There’s a lot of legally, legitimately free things out there.

The idea of being able to have a practical library with me like that is highly appealing. Books, magazines, whatever. Heck, I’ve even got a few RPG’s that I bought in PDF format so having them like that would be great for reference. And since I can make PDF’s through various applications I’ve got, I know I can make notes and reference materials for myself that way too.

But, there’s also a problem, too. Okay, lets say I buy something digitally. None of that money stays here locally. Given Hawai’i’s economy I think that’s important. I’m not worried about the sales tax – its just that when I buy something online the company on the mainland keeps everything. None of that money sticks around here, helping with local jobs, helping the employees I know and love at my local Borders get paid.

Now, some things this matters more than other things. I do like stuff that doesn’t get carried here, so that’s really not a big deal. I’d have to order away anyhow, and honestly some stuff would never survive in retail anyhow. But things I can get here? It does bug me a bit. Now, one could go ahead and use the old cliche, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” which is an odd cliché when you think about it (its in my hand – why can’t I eat it?), but what gets me is it doesn’t have to be that way, you know?

I’m considering writing a letter to Borders later - something for higher up on the management chain than my local store manager. I would be very inclined to get an eReader from them (maybe a Kobo) if I knew that I could still support my local Borders.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tried the Star Trek CCG

I spent the afternoon with my friends Paul and Mandy today. Paul has a bunch of starter decks for the old Star Trek Collectable Card Game and one of them was out. I was curious, took a look, and since we had time he tried to teach me how to play. In the two games we played (myself, him and this guy Ben?) we saw a The Next Generation deck, a Romulan deck, a Klingon deck and a Deep Space 9 deck.

Its kind of interesting, actually. First off, unlike Magic, you're not trying to kill off the other players - you're trying to be the first to reach x-many points. Now, you want to slow down the other players, but your goal isn't to kill them! Not as I understand things, anyhow.

You get 5 mission/destination cards. 1 is your "home," the other 4 are places to go and do things (ie, they have missions and a point value for "mission accomplished"). You get 7-points to do things with. Drawing a card is one point per card, playing a card will depend on its value. You need a ship to get places, and a minimum amount of crew to run it. Once you've got a ship, crew and (you hope) enough crew to do a mission, you go to a mission/destination and try to do the mission.

A mission will usually have a list of required skills to do whatever it is; you might need people with skills in physics, science, geology, etc. There's usually a numerical total to beat, also, like your total crew needs to exceed 36 cunning or something (all characters/crewmembers have 3 attributes on their card for this).

Where other players come into play is they can try to throw dilemmas your way - things to slow you down or stop you. Its usually "have this or face the consequences." You can "stop" members from participating in the mission, so they can't accomplish their goal, or possibly even kill members. Usually the first condition is one that if you can meet you beat the dilemma, no problem. Generally, if you fail that, so you go to the second condition that if you meet it, you get a penalty of some sort. If you fail that, then there's final thing that's the worst possible outcome.

Dilemmas that are beaten by the player doing the mission are out of the game and can't be resused. Ones that aren't beaten return to the other player.

The challenge is to pick dilemmas that will neutralize the other player's ability to do the mission BUT you don't think they can beat. You want to be selective about the ones you pick for maximum effect, certainly. But you don't want to use so many that you run out, too (ie, wasted effort/overkil).

Its kind of neat, actually. Your crew is your biggest resource, so when the other player gets to choose which one is stopped is really ACK.

I'm debating maybe seeing if I can find some starter decks myself (the game is out of print, though), and keep them for some gaming later on. Of course, this has me curious about the Babylon 5 CCG, since that one was well thought of, could have multiple winners, etc. I thought it was rather fun, and would certainly play it again, opportunity permitting.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Games make the world a smaller place.

Most people have hobbies – things that they do, enjoy, and spend time on that isn’t work. I’m a gamer, so obviously one of mine is playing games. I enjoy getting together with friends, playing board games, card games, dice games, role-playing games, video games, etc. Its fun, social, and generally keeps me out of trouble.

One of the video games I enjoy playing is City of Heroes (COH for short). Long story short, its a super hero based online game. I’ve got a regular group of folks I play with (mostly night owls due to the time zone differences between me and the rest of the USA), and have been playing for almost five years now. Create a hero or villain and off you go, making the world a better, or worse, place.

Well, there’s a group that I’m involved with in COH called the Liberty Alliance. Its a role-playing light super group (encouraged, not mandatory), and has a bunch of nice folks scattered throughout North America and Europe. We even had the privilege having one lady in the armed forces join us from the Middle East for a while. It started about three years ago, and I’ve been a member about as long. One way or another, and I don’t quite recall how anymore, I ended up running it. So, yeah, its my super-group.

While we’re hardly an active bunch – I think a lot of World of Warcraft guild would look at us and call us slackers – we get along pretty well, enjoy each other’s company and really that’s about all I can really ask for. Recently, however, I’ve been trying to figure out ways we can do more, enable more, and generally have a better presence with our gaming community. So, two of my friends and I have been pondering things, coming up with ideas, and hopefully will get to implement them sooner than later. Its been interesting to say the least!

I realize that might sound odd if you’re not a gamer (and maybe even if you are), but games that have a social aspect to them, be it cooperative or competitive, do develop communities. As someone who used to be involved with the fighting game community in Northeast Georgia and South Carolina, I’ve gotten to know some great folks in my area plus those who traveled to attend tournaments. Thanks to tournaments and enthusiast-centric websites/forums, I got to meet, even play with, folks from New York, Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, Alabama, and more besides. Right now I, and my friend Aaron, are cheering for the Hawai’i players currently at this year’s Evolution tournament (an international tournament, no less!).

Oh, yes, I got involved with that community because of the internet facilitated me finding that community.

That’s one thing I’ve loved about the internet. It makes the world a bit smaller, but in a good way. It condenses distance allowing you to meet folks and interact with them in a way you couldn’t before. All together and sharing a mutual experience or dialog. And really, that’s why I love games. There’s something to be said about shared experiences such as sports or movies – passive entertainment that moves you. But honestly? I much prefer shared activities, online and off. The give and take. Watching personalities coming out during play, or the banter on the side. Seeing how people think, react, and seeing more of them as a result. Making the world smaller by making them bigger.

I love it! :D

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Now playing: Need For Speed World beta.

I love arcade-style racing games. Pick up and play, zoom around, and generally drive like a maniac without the speeding tickets or wrapping yourself around a tree. On top of that, I like things that are either free or cheap (if free is good then cheap is usually better).

I just got done playing in the open beta for EA’s Need For Speed World. It runs well on my computer, can be played with a USB control pad (I’m using a wired Xbox 360 pad), looks good, feels good and is just plain fun. What more can you ask for?

You pick a car to start off with and go from there. You can drive around the city looking for racing events, drive around exploring or start causing trouble with the cops. When you go racing in events, you can choose to do an open multiplayer with other people, start a private race just between you and friends or go single-player against 7 computer controlled cars. Some events are a sprint from point A to point B, others are doing laps.

What’s an interesting twist, and honestly makes the game more arcade-y, is that there are powers-ups you can use; things like Nitrous for a speed boost, a shield so things bumping into you don’t slow you down so much, making the lead car a “traffic magnet,” etc. Its not as abusive as, say, Mario Kart – there are no turtle shells to look out for – but its something that can give you an edge up (or let someone get by you).

The cop chases (Pursuit mode) are fun. Hit a cop car or stir up trouble and you’ll start getting chased by the fuzz. Keep it up long enough or cause enough problems in the meantime and you’ll start escalating from local cops to city cops to state cops. I’m not sure how far up it goes, but with the state level cops you’re being pursued by fast cop cars and get to deal with roadblocks and spike strips. It can be a real rush, especially if you give them the slip!

The cash shop wasn’t available in beta, but usually those things have convenience items – things to make the game easier, or trading money for time playing (ie, you don’t have to play and play and play to earn it in-game). Nothing game-breaking, and if you’re a lousy racer then spending a ton of cash isn’t going to help you any how.

I’m not sure when the game officially launches, but I’m really looking forward to it. If you see Chikahiro, that’ll be me :)