Thursday, July 30, 2015

All for the sake of achievements

While playing different video games, every so often I'll get a trophy without expecting it at all. The trophies and achievements are a great concept but I think they are done terribly. Most trophies available in a game will be obtained simply by playing the game. In Metal Gear Solid 2, I got a trophy just for stuffing a body into a locker.

Some achievements are unique. In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, there is a trophy for doing 6 consecutive cqc slams (I never got it). Unfortunately, that is the most unique achievement I've received. I think the best achievements are those that ask you to do something outside the course of normal game play. In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, I was usually horrible at the police missions so I usually waited until I got the tank or helicopter to get an easy solution. However, after several years, I kind of wondered if I could pass level 12 of the police missions without the tank or helicopter. After that, I wanted to see if I could beat the police missions at the start of a new game. It is a real challenge in the beginning because you have limited access to resources so you have to remember where all the police cars spawn and where weapon pickups and armor are.

Setting this arbitrary challenge for myself gave me a good 4 weeks of replay value while I was trying my best.

A good achievement makes me wonder if I could do it. And inspiration comes in very odd unexpected places. After watching the movie "Run Fat Boy Run" I was inspired to go do some running. The premise of the movie was a man was training to run a marathon in a vain attempt to win his former love back. A marathon is 26.22 miles. Prior to watching the movie, the longest distance I ever ran was 1 mile. I didn't expect to run a marathon, but I was kind of curious about how far I could run. So, for fun, I started making my own achievements. The furthest I actually got to run was 5 miles before I lost interest in running any further. 5 miles is a long shot away from a marathon however it is 5 times more than the furthest distance I ran before watching the movie.

A few weeks back, I heard about something called the 1000 pound club. I didn't know what it was at first so I looked it up. It is 1000 pounds between your max bench press, dead lift, and squat. Before hearing about the goal, I never really did dead lifts or squat. But now that I know that the 1000 pound club is a thing, I really want to shoot for it. I know I still haven't reached my goal of the 300 pound bench press but I'll hit it along the way to this goal.

And that is the funny thing about achievements. Some of them, you want to try just because you are curious if you can. Those are the best kind of goals. It is kind of like exploring new places.

If anyone would like to give some input, is it easier to lift more weight with the dead lift or squat compared to the bench press? I ask because I've been doing the bench press for at least 9 years and deadlifts for only about a month. Max on bench is 280 and max on deadlift is 235. I can't test my max squat because I don't have a squat rack yet. I know I have to get each excercise to 333.34 pounds to hit this achievement.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Thoughts About Brave New World

I first read Brave New World when I was still in high school. To sum the novel up in one sentence, it is a story about a Utopian Dystopia where the citizens take drugs all day and have intercourse all day. It is quite shocking how relevant the novel still seems today.

I think about all the horrid types of media that American have consumed in the last few years. The Jersey Shore, Teen Mom 2, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are the worst examples that come to mind. In the novel, soma was a drug that filled the user with the sensation of happiness and kind of dulled other sensations. In other words, it kept the citizens sedated. I'm not sure if Jersey Shore still airs on MTV. I think I've only ever seen maybe five minutes of it but from what I remember, there were no real characters. It was just full of the most insufferable personalities that could coexist with each other. No one even had a real name. I guess there was Snookie, The Situation, and Paulie D. I'm pretty sure that half of the episodes was centered about drama about everyone hooking up with a different person that someone else wanted to hook up with.

Which brings me to the second thing about Brave New World. There was rampant promiscuity in the civilization. This was partially due to the fact that humans were mass produced but these sorts of behaviors were encouraged. There were just masses of people getting together in piles to have intercourse. This makes me think about the phone application Tinder. It is known as a dating app but everyone knows it just as an app to hook up. I can only imagine how different infections will spread that way.

Brave New World was written in 1931. I'd recommend reading it if you haven't already. I am quite surprised how well Aldous Huxley portrayed where he saw the world going.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thoughts about Deus Ex

Lately, I hadn't been writing as much. I fell into the Playstation trap again. Playing video games has to be one of the most cost effective forms of entertainment. Even if you buy a game new for $60, getting 10 hours of entertainment from the game brings the cost of entertainment to $6 per hour. It cheaper than $15 for a 2 hour movie.

Most games can provide more hours of entertainment and you can get a much better value for games if you buy older games that you never had a chance to play. Three weeks ago, I walked into a GameStop and looked for the game Deus Ex Human Revolution. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain doesn't come out until September 1st but I still needed some good stealth action. Deus Ex came out in 2008 or 2009. When I picked it up at GameStop, it cost less than $5.

I've been playing this game too much. The level of stealth in this game either rivals or surpasses the level of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The game really puts a big emphasis on choice. While completing objectives, there are multiple routes to reach your goal every time. If you want to, you can hack security systems to open up new paths. If you can't do that, you can upgrade your arms to punch through walls, or you can find air vents to sneak past guards.

In Deus Ex, there are several points where your decisions have direct impacts on what happens next in the game and this encourages playing through the game multiple times for replay value. I must have logged in more than 30 to 40 hours playing this game. There isn't a clock in the game so I'm not sure.

There is a sort of irony when playing this game though. The motif of the game is augmentations that improve what a human is capable of. You can give yourself extra strength, increase your intelligence through hacking, and develop interpersonal skills with the other characters in the game.

In real life, you are sitting on the couch for multiple hours getting engrossed in a game until it is time to go to sleep and go to school or work the following morning. Playing the game kind of hinders your personal growth and development. This isn't just Deus Ex, but any game that is engrossing will detract a man from doing something more useful. Those hours spent playing the game could be dedicated to lifting weights, learning game, learning how to hack, or studying an interesting subject.

Games like this could technically inspire a man to try to focus on self improvement though. After all, I started skateboarding because of the game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. I'm grateful for that because I've been doing it for more than half my life now. In another case, watching the movie "Run Fatboy Run" actually inspired me to start doing some running.

Last week, I saw the trailer for the next game in the franchise, Deus Ex Invisible War. It is set a few years after Human Revolution so you still get to play as Adam Jensen. It looks pretty cool but unfortunately, it is only coming out for PS4, XBONE, and PC so I won't be playing it anytime soon. Maybe I'll pick it up sometime around 2020, I'm not feeling like buying a PS4 yet.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Creepiness of Social Media

I didn't really start to notice social media until about 2003. Back then, the biggest social media site was Xanga. After a year, everyone started moving over to myspace, and one year later everyone moved over to facebook. Afterwards, facebook just kind of merged with everything. Google, youtube, reddit, tumblr, and everything else started linking to everything else and other websites stated to copy facebook. Linkedin started as purely business networking but now it is just becoming facebook.

I care about pretty much none of these sites except for youtube. In its early years, the videos on youtube were limited and of very low quality. As it became more popular, it was flooded with content and everyone started using youtube. Your friends, businesses, celebrities, the president, and serial killers. That's right serial killers.

Last year, I checked my youtube feed and saw a video from Davis Aurini about Elliot Rodger. This guy went on a killing spree just because he couldn't get a girlfriend. The world is a crazy place and this sort of thing happens every couple of months so I didn't really pay it much attention at first. However, this incident was covered in great detail by the media. But I don't consume mainstream media so I got most of the coverage from Stefan Molyneux. What separates this incident from previous tragedies is how personal the incident was. Elliot wrote a manifesto of his sad miserable life and his eventual plans for destruction. This was done in the past by other criminals. The Virginia Tech shooter released a video of him explaining why he was going to commit his crimes. I'm not sure how the video was released, but I'm sure it was not on youtube.

Elliot's video was posted on youtube. Elliot's video is still on youtube. It was briefly taken down as his channel was shut down but it was restored sometime later. Other of his video logs are still present documenting his thoughts.

His videos are off putting and they are personal. He is usually just sitting in his car and talking about how he perceives the world to be cruel and unfair towards him. These are the thoughts of a person that is deeply disturbed and would eventually become a killer. But since he made his videos filming himself talking to some sort of audience, it kind of feels like you could be talking with this guy. Like he was sitting right next to you. Despite being a killer, this person was still human. He had thoughts, experienced joy, sadness, felt pain, and lived the same way that we do. The media will say whatever about a dead person but hearing the words directly from the guy is entirely different.

In a similar incident with the social media phenomenon, a girl named Amanda Todd committed suicide during October 2012. People kill themselves every day, however this girl displayed her sad miserable story and posted it on youtube. And it went viral. Her story was tragic but her video is still up along with her channel. Curious, I decided to check out her channel and see if any other videos were uploaded. There was one other video where Amanda was just singing a cover of a song. She seemed so happy. Even her viral video ended with some sort of hope.

In Metal Gear Solid 2, the La Lei Lu Li Lo stated that humans create an endless supply of digital information. Since humans are unable to think for themselves, it is the AI responsibility to filter through all the information and select the correct information to create context and shape public opinion.

These videos that were created, they will be online for as long as youtube keeps the servers up. Everything that we created. Our thoughts, pictures, and videos will outlast us as long as the servers stay up.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Five dollar footlong subs are gone

The other day, while looking at the menu for Subway, I was looking for which subs were one the $5 menu. The specialty subs cost $7, the normal subs cost $6, and the cheapest subs cost $5.50. Unfortunately, I noticed that there are no more subs priced at $5. The last time I checked, there was a $5 menu that included just the 8 basic subs. It had the spicy italian, veggy delight, black forest ham, and the turkey sub. Nope, those all increased in price by 10%.

The five dollar footlong was something that Subway advertised for the longest time. I remember the ridiculous commercials with construction workers singing the $5 footlong at Subway song.

If I recall correctly, $5 subs was a promotion at Subway that lasted the longest time. I remember it started sometime around 2006 when I first entered college. At that time, just about every sub was $5. Only the really deluxe subs cost extra. I think the promotion was only supposed to last 6 months but it was so successful that it kind of just lasted for 4 years. In 2010, most of the subs still cost $5.

A few years later, more subs started migrating off of the menu but until probably last year, there was still the option to get a footlong sub for $5. That option is gone now and it is a bummer because that was almost a fixed cost for years. When you went to Subway, you knew how much you could get a sub for. I'd have to guess that the cheapest footlong sub at Quiznos would be $8.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Monday Morning Motivation: Critical Choice

Today's motivation comes from an episode of King of the Hill. One of the reasons I loved the show so much was that some of the most out of the world situations happen to an average family. I can't find the particular clip I want to link in this post, but the scene comes from the episode where it is suspected that Bobby Hill is the reincarnation of the Dali Lama.

Yes, that happened. Buddhist monks believed Bobby Hill was the reincarnation of the Dali Lama. This leads to a funny scene later in the episode. Peggy sees a woman driving with a bumper sticker that says my son was on the honor roll. Peggy then pulls up next to her and says the following.

Yeah, well my son is God to a billion Chinese people.

Where else do you hear stuff like that?

Anyway, Bobby Hill has to take a test later in the week to prove that he is the reincarnate. He is really enjoying this until he and Connie realize a disturbing reality. The Dali Lama lives a life of celibacy. If Bobby is the reincarnate, his relationship with Connie would be over. Bobby suggests that he would purposely throw the test but Connie objects. Since she is devout in her faith, she could not live with the guilt of having a relationship with the holy figure of her religion and thus disgracing her faith every time she was with Bobby.

Once again, where do you get stuff like this?

Bobby spends time fretting over this for a few days. When he goes to take the test, the monks lay several items on a mat and instruct him to choose the item that belonged to the previous Dali Lama. If he chooses correctly, that is evidence enough that Bobby is the reincarnate.

Bobby looks at all the items on the map. He sees a mirror and in the mirror he sees Connie's reflection in the glass. Bobby asks for clarification if he is allowed to choose anything he sees on the mat. The monks confirm that he is allowed to do so. Bobbie chooses Connie because he saw her reflection in the mirror.

The monks acknowledge his decision. They start to pack up the items and prepare to leave. Some of the monks question the result though. Even though Bobby chose Connie, Bobby used the mirror which was the correct item that belonged to the previous Dali Lama. The monk in charge simply says the follow.

Tough call. But its mine and I made it.

When I think back about this scene, it makes so much sense. With Bobby's desire for the flesh, he could not be the Dali Lama. The desire for the flesh is a thing that ties a person to the material world. When it looked like a no win situation, Bobby was able to find a creative solution out of it.

Complete proteins without meat

When storing food a few years into the future, most of the goods will be either canned or sealed air tight. You can buy some canned meat. It comes in chili, different soups, etc. In the future, fresh meat might become more scarce and harder to get. When this happens, people might have to find other sources of getting complete proteins.

Without meat, it takes a little more effort to find complete proteins. I found this list of 12 different complete proteins without meat. While I don't know what most of the stuff was on the list, it looks like beans and rice is an easy complete protein. This is great because both are very cheap and easy to store. Peanut butter sandwiches are also a good complete protein.

I'm not a vegetarian or intend to become a vegetarian. However, if these foods are cheaper, it might be a good idea to start consuming more of these foods.

Friday, July 3, 2015

List of US recessions

Some advice from older men I've received is that the US economy goes in cycles. My dad has often said that we go into a recession every 8 to 10 years. If a man is really savvy with investments, he can make lots of money by predicting these recessions.

The 8 to 10 year cycle is just a rule of thumb. My boss is a CFO. When I mentioned this idea to him he said there was no such thing as a cycle. At the very least, a man cannot accurately predict when a recession is going to happen.

Curious about these differing opinions, I decided to look up a list of official US recessions. This list is easy to find on Wikipedia. For anyone that doesn't know, a recession happens when the United States experiences two consecutive quarters where GDP contracts (this is however also may be rule of thumb as this is not used by NBER). Just because things feel terrible doesn't necessary mean it is a recession although I will admit that there is some suspicion to how the government calculates and provides the figures. Nonetheless, I'm only looking at official recessions.

Since January 1960 to today, the United States has been in 8 official recessions. This averages to one recession every 6.875 years. Admittedly, I'm only looking at 55 years of time, but I didn't feel it necessary to go back before 1960. The list of recessions are as follows.

Apr 1960 to Feb 1961
Dec 1969 to Nov 1970
Nov 1973 to Mar 1975
Jan 1980 to Jul 1980
Jul 1981 to Nov 1982
Jul 1990 to Mar 1991
Mar 2001 to Nov 2001
Dec 2007 to Jun 2009

Looking at this list, it kind of looks like the beginning of each decade has been in a recession.

1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2001, and 2009 are all years that have experienced a recession. Not a perfect line but it looks like basis for a good rule of thumb. A few of the recessions throw the rule of thumb off though. I'm looking mainly at the recession beginning in November 1973. That point looks out of line. There is also the recession that started July 1981 which started only one year after the prior recession. Since these recessions were so close together, I can see that older men would just group these two recessions together.

I can understand both view points. A US recessions tends to happen every 10 years but a recession can easily happen out of line making predictions inaccurate. Looking at the last 8 recessions, it looks like we are coming due for another recession. The last recession ended in June 2009 and 10 years from that would be June 2019. I won't try to make a solid prediction, I just will not be surprised if a recession happened anytime within the next 5 years.