Friday, November 30, 2007

Could I ever be evil?

Last week I got back into gaming. I had taken a hiatus from it because of school, work, and generally a lack of money to buy new games. Last Tuesday I picked up my copy of Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) and decided to play through it again, since I hadn't done so since I bought it almost three years ago.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, KotOR is a game set in the Star Wars universe several thousands of years before the first movies. It's a wonderful, wonderful game. For every mission, side quest, or story event, there are multiple ways to accomplish your goal - usually a nice way (which gives you light side points), mean way (which gives you dark side points), and a neutral way (which doesn't give any force points). Going through the game three years ago, I decided to go through it as a light jedi and to be the best that I could be. It didn't take very long into the game before I had maxed out the force meter to the light side and my character was a beacon of goodness and peace throughout the galaxy. They could also put the smack down on dark jedis with their stasis ability.

This time, I decided to go through the game as a dark jedi, just to experience something different. The game plays out differently depending on your choices: different dialogue options, different character interactions, sometimes even different quests, and a different ending. Now, when I first discussed this game with a friend of mine years back, he spoke about how he started out trying to be a good jedi, but found the pull of the dark side too much fun and eventually became a full blown dark jedi and at the end of game, instead of bringing peace to the galaxy like a light jedi does, he conquered and ruled it himself. I didn't find it particularly hard to play through the game as a light jedi, but figured this time I could perhaps indulge my dark side and rule the galaxy with an iron fist, too.

I was wrong.

I don't know what it is about me, but I just can't be evil. Even in a video game, I can't bring myself to do things that will be cruel or hurt others. The best I can accomplish is neutral. Every now and then I'll do some minor dark side thing like ask for a little more money for a reward, or threaten a shopkeeper to lower prices, but then later I instinctively do something that gains light side points and I break even. Even when I'm trying to gain dark side points, the best I can do is neutral. It's kind of weird; I can't be evil.

I suppose this should be taken as a good thing, but it's also kind of disturbing. Not so much on the level that I wish I could be evil, but more on the line that there are actually people who find it hard to be good, which to me seems to come naturally.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Was National Geographic always this flashy?

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from my brother-in-law with the subject line, "Thought a physics major would enjoy this." In the e-mail was a link to a YouTube video, or, more precisely, a commercial for a National Geographic special about martial arts entitled Fight Science. It looked interesting enough; testing martial arts with modern engineering to find out if the rumors/myths about their techniques were true (the ninja's deathblow, a boxer's one-punch knockout, etc).

I found myself a copy of the program, which apparently airs every couple months on National Geographic. It starts out quite well, measuring the impact forces from boxers, Karate, Kung fu, Tai Kwan Do, and Muay Thai masters. From there it shows how fast Kung fu hits, the leverage forces of Jiu-Jitsu, then the balance and pressure point control of Ninjitsu, and the reaction times of Tai Kwan Do. This far in it was quite interesting. They explained how the anatomy reacts to these blows, showed flashy computer generated anatomies that would expand when the blow was hit; all around interesting stuff. I think it could have been better if they had shown each martial artists doing each thing (which they probably did test each one, but didn't actually show the results), just for comparison. They also showed two brothers who apparently break bricks and cement professionally to show how they do that; I don't think it fit with the martial arts, but it was still kind of cool.

All in all the first half was fun to see, though I find it somewhat disappointing that, unlike Myth Busters who actually debunk or confirm myths, National Geographic managed to prove every single rumor/myth they addressed. I'm sure it made the martial artists feel good about themselves, but it really let me down, because it felt like they were trying to confirm the myths, instead of looking at it objectively and letting the data speak for itself.

They also made a big deal about "striking faster than a snake" which they said strikes at 8-10 feet per second. For reference, that's about 3 meters per second, or about 1/3 as fast as I can sprint. Not really that impressive.

Then, for the second half, they went into weaponry to explain how different weapons interact with the body. This was far less interesting. They stopped comparing any weapons, save for the Chinese broadsword and the straight sword, and just started talking about each weapon and what it does well, going through the kali stick, bo staff, bow and arrow, shuriken, nunchaku, the three-section-staff, and the katana. The problem was, what they were saying and showing was obvious. They didn't show anything new, hardly analyzed anything at all, and it felt like they just wanted to play with their computer generated graphics. It really let me down on the second half.

Overall I'd say it was a decent watch. Some things were interesting, some were repetitive, some were dull, some were really cool. The show also sparked my interest in martial arts again, though I can't afford (monetarily) to take Aikido again, but that's another subject.

So, thanks to Brady for letting me know about this. If you ever get the chance, the first half is worth watching, the second half...not bad if you have 45 minutes to kill.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

An old man named Tom

Today at work I met an old man named Tom. He had been a 2nd Lieutenant in the military during the Korean War a age 20, got his bachelor's from Princeton in economics, had a doctorate in history and education, had taught Multicultural Education at MSUM, had personally met Niels Bohr, and one time actually ran into Albert Einstein and knocked him off his bike.

He was a really nice old man. I like Tom.

Someday I hope I have stories like he had.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Barnes & Noble carries a book entitled The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan... and it's not in the humor section.

That really makes me sad.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I've been regularly working out for about six weeks now. It feels good. I like going to the gym and I like how I feel afterwards. I sleep better. I have more energy when I'm awake. I feel healthier.

I've already got a challenge against my brother-in-law for a mile run over Christmas, but now I have a new goal for myself. The 300 workout.

The 300 workout is, as the name implies, the workout that Gerald Butler and the other actors who starred in the film 300 did to get into shape. It's perhaps the most daunting gauntlet I've yet seen when it comes to physical exercise, with maybe an exception to the Ironman Triathlon. The gauntlet is as follows:
  • 25 pull-ups
  • 50 deadlift reps with 135lbs
  • 50 push-ups
  • 50 24" box jumps
  • 50 floor wipers (hold the 135lbs weight over your head and touch your feet - with legs as straight as possible - to the right weight, then the floor, then the left; that's one)
  • 50 single-arm 36lbs kettlebell press-and-cleans
  • 25 pull-ups (again)
All of that with no breaks or recovery time in between. My goal is to complete it. I don't care if it takes me 4 minutes or 4 hours. (The current fastest time I've heard of anyone completing it was 18:11, done by the actor who played Daxos in the film 300.) I don't intend on starring in any films soon, let alone any where the wardrobe consists of boots, a cape, and a speedo, but I would still like to complete this workout.

My goal: To beat Brady in a mile run race and to complete the 300 workout once by Christmas.

I have a feeling I'm going to be in very good shape by January if I actually pull this off...

Friday, November 2, 2007


According to the scale in the receiving room we have at work, I weigh 156.

That sounds more reasonable.

And yesterday I think I got the "You're a great guy, but let's just be friends" response from Microsoft. I say "think" because I don't recall applying to Spherion, the company Microsoft goes through for hiring, or dealing with them in any way, but I'm guessing my resume was relayed to them.

I really need to find a job. Well, a real job.