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Half-Life 2 Part 3

I just “beat” Half-Life 2, if thats what you can call finishing a game with an ending like this. It was one heckuv a ride, but I think the whole Citidel thing was way too repetitive and way too short. One omnipotent weapon, and a fast-forward to the top of the place didn’t really make for a challenging or climatic end. I’ll be the first to say that the end to the original Half-Life was probably too challenging (I never really completed that one on the level). Nevertheless, there’s never any real time decision making going on towards the end. Its just right-click left-click right-click left-click. And in the end, it feels like they could have raised the whole game to another power and really had a spetacular ending. So in the end it was a somewhat disappointing finale to an otherwise incredible game.

Don’t get me wrong – the game really was incredible. It’s hard to forget the first descent into the Citadel, the first time bringing down a dropship, or the vehicular rides through expansive outdoor landscapes. Indeed, this is where HL2 really shines – it’s engine, source. That a masterful, though imperfect game was put on top is a bonus, for sure. How incredible the engine really is struck me again when, a couple of days ago, I saw a combine soldier swinging back and forth pinned to the ceiling by a crossbow dart. All rendered real time, perfectly.

If I could return Doom 3 to buy another copy of HL2, I probably would, just because its that good. And because D3 sucked so much. Oh well.

Free To Choose

I finally finished Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. The book’s facts and figures are outdated, but its message is even more true today than when it was published 25-some years ago. The book is highly recommended. (I have a copy that I am no longer using). I purchased the book about 4 years ago, for my economics class at BYU. I never ended up reading it for that class, as it was optional reading, but I always meant to. When I finally started, at least a year ago, I made some good progress but the book went to the wayside before long. A new recent thrust has finally seen me finish the book. Hopefully this is a sign of more to come.

The Friedmans are actually more libertarian than I am – which is something hard to come by in this world (although I have met a few since I became affiliated with the Libertarian Party of King County). In actuality, I am about really only a hardcore libertarian at the national level. I encourage states and local governments to take more active roles, as their citizens desire. Personally I feel that, in that sort of environment where people of a state had to live with the consequences of their policies, and the consequences would be clear because there would be no national homogenization forced by the federal government, the limited government model would tend to prove to be the most effective. But I could be wrong, and I think that people who think they have better ideas (greens, communists, socialists, democrats, and republicans, to name a few) should be allowed to try out their (as I see them) misguided terrible ideas. I just want to be able to leave wherever they plan to carry out their idea without leaving this country that I love. Anyway, I digress.

The fact of the matter is that America is in the position of leadership that we enjoy today because it brought together a unique blend of economic freedoms, which lead to prosperity, and personal freedoms, which keeps government minimal, helping to maintain those economic freedoms. However, ever since the Great Depression and the Second World War, government has become larger and more intrusive, and with this change our personal and economic freedoms have dwindled. Fortunately for us, the technological revolution has kept the economy growing. Otherwise, with the amount of governmental interference we see in the economy today, I feel that the economy could have very well stagnated completely.

The economic freedom to rate of growth relation is perhaps the easiest thing to see if you only know where to look. What amazes and saddens me is that so many people are so ignorant or apathetic about this data, and willingly choose to allow our government to continuously usurp more and more of our choices away…

The trend will not stop. Liberals, pay heed: the government that can take my money without my consent (confiscatory taxation) is the same government that can repress your freedom of speech without blinking an eye. Conservatives, pay heed: the government that can tell someone who they can and cannot marry is the same government that can tell you who can and can not own a gun. The centralized power now in the federal government is the most dangerous thing this country will ever face. No terrorist or foreign nation can defeat the United States. Only we can defeat ourselves. All great nations fall not from without, but first from within. In this country, we are well on our way to proving once again that history does not lie.

Those that fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them…

IRS Rejection

I recieved a somewhat disconcerting message in my email today –

Dear RYAN MCELROY,
At this time, you must check the electronic file (e-file) status for the tax return filed using this username: _______

Well, I investigated and I learned that the IRS had rejected by tax return because there was an inconsistency between some W-2 information I had enterred and the records the IRS had on file. I carefully looked over my two W-2’s (From Blockbuster and Microvision) one time, and compared them to the information I had entered into my return. I didn’t find anything, so I repeated the process a second time. Then a third time. Finally, I noticed that I had the second number in Blockbuster’s Federal Tax ID wrong. It had remained hard to notice due, I believe to its position in the number.
After patching up the mistake, I resubmitted the tax return. The e-file process really is amazingly painless. I can’t recommend it more wholeheartedly.

Gas House Gang

The wife of a family friend took sick, so an extra ticket became available to an eclectic concert last night. Having nothing better to do, I decided I’d give it shot, since I had actually heard of the special guests, Tingstad and Rumbel, whose Christmas Album The Gift is one of my favorites. What it turned out to be was an evening of close harmony with primarily three barbershop quartets, the Renton Valley Harmonizers putting on a production of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” a fun and well-made production, and then of course Tingstad and Rumbel. The choreographed music of the Seven Deadly sins was well-sung and quite fun, and the first two barbershop quartets were quite good – each had either won or placed second in the Evergreen district in the past couple of years – and the Evergreen district covers from Oregon to Alaska to Montana, so we are talking some seriously good singing. When Tingstad and Rumbel began, however, they easily outshined everything that had happened up to that point. The virtuosity of each musician was amazing; Tingstad has complete control over the guitar, and Rumbel is a magician with the Oboe and an assortment of Flutes. They got a standing ovation and performed an encore, but little did I know that the best was yet to come.

The Gas House Gang won the international barbershop quartet competition in 1993, and believe me that it is no slight to the others to say that the Gas House Gang was an order of magnitude better than the other quartets. Even missing one of their original members (replaced by a member of another international-winning quartet for this concert), the sound of the group was cleaner, brighter, and noticeably better than any of the others. And the chemistry between the three original members was fantastic. I can only imagine what the group must have been like with the original baritone, who died in 2003 of cancer, an event which has now culiminated in the group’s decision to retire. After 18 years of what can only be described as amazing music and showmanship, even though this was my first real exposure to them (I had heard of the Gang before, but not heard their stuff), I can say with conviction that the musical community is loosing something special in the Gas House Gang. Bravo!

Upgrade to Acrobat Reader 7

From adot’s notblog via Bernie Zimmermann, I learned that Adobe had released Acrobat Reader 7. And everyone’s biggest complaint has been adressed: it is much faster. No longer do you have to dread accidentally clicking a pdf link. It was so bad with version 6 for me that I disabled the plugin version, so I wouldn’t have to face the frozen browser syndrome while the acrobat reader of death opened up. Now, I might switch back – its hard to tell, as I’ve gotten used to saving the things, or having more of my screen to see them with. But at least Adobe Acrobat Reader 7 is fast enough to make the decision possible again.

Anyway, to make it easy for you, here is a link to just acrobat reader, with no extra installtion junk attached (like Yahoo companion, etc).

Game Madness!

The Game

Stars have been added to protect the the innocentThe guilty…

tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 206.124.***.91:16931 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 67.160.***.91:1410 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22585 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 24.19.***.214:62169 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 24.16.***.140:25251 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 67.23.***.162:51489 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22525 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:80 66.151.***.7:40173 TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22526 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:80 24.94.87.***:42617 TIME_WAIT
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 69.151.***.255:4527 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 67.160.**.91:1413 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 63.205.**.229:49369 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.145.**:22639 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.145.**:22575 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.145.**:22608 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 69.151.***.255:4544 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 69.151.***.255:4416 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 67.183.***.118:2571 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22354 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22530 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 2248 192.168.10.200:22 4.35.***.36:22376 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22611 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 67.171.***.112:4571 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 209.162.***.233:3948 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22629 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 69.151.***.255:4116 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22598 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 4.35.***.36:22599 ESTABLISHED
tcp 0 0 192.168.10.200:3000 24.94.***.115:42619 ESTABLISHED

Game v3, pt 2

Take a look at this screenshot of what is, for some reason, my favorite game recently. If the server doesn’t crash or get shut down accidently, you can play it yourself.

I propose that we establish a time for everyone to get together and play the game at the same time. Its really a lot more fun with more people. What times are good for people? Maybe every Saturday night at midnight Pacific Standard Time? Let me know!