22 January 2012

2600 vs. NES: Honestly A Tough Call

We had both an Atari 2600 and a Nintendo Entertainment System growing up. We got our Genesis in 1992 after we'd moved to Albuquerque, which was when I really stopped seeing games as toys and instead saw their potential for slightly more complex narrative. For about the first time since maybe Super Mario Bros. 3, I realized that what I was seeing on screen was genuinely what I was meant to see, not mere simplified representations like how the knight in chess looks more like the noble steed than the rider himself.
I don't think I'd ever heard of Pitfall 2 and I certainly know I didn't play it as a kid. On the whole, I'd say we really stopped buying 2600 games by the time we got the NES. Truth be told, though, as far as favoritism, I'd honestly say the 2600 got as much play time as the NES. When I'd heard about the 7800 being backward-compatible with 2600 games, my first thought was, "What a rip-off." as even the best 7800 games couldn't hold a candle graphically to even the worst NES game. Then again, I thought, even considering my first impression of the Genesis, graphics were never what impressed me, certainly not what kept me playing. Like I said, once in a while we'd still break out the 2600 for some Air Sea Battle or Keystone Kapers long after we'd reached what we thought was the peak of NES perfection with Mario 3.
Now, especially looking at Pitfall 2 and Secret Quest, I think if we'd never gotten the NES and maybe gotten a 7800 at best, I probably wouldn't have minded one bit. Sure, maybe I'd have jumped and down eagerly every time I saw a Nintendo commercial, but I'd have probably gotten over it. I did with the Super Nintendo.

Special thanks to Classic Game Room for making these awesome reviews. Without them, I'd never have known what I sometimes missed out on. If that sounds bitter and backhanded, it's not.

21 January 2012

Why Can't More People Just Take Debit Cards?

I got in the habit of using money orders to pay for important things after one of my checks bounced thanks to some bad timing that left me about 5 bucks short. It was a rent check, and while I don't believe it's left me on bad terms with the complex, I've just stuck to using money orders. Yeah, they're not quite as convenient as checks, and there's those little fees that they come attached with, but I only write twelve checks a year (guess what they're for) and rarely more. Plus, I don't have the situation I had before where someone doesn't cash a check right away (or sooner than I expect them to) and I'm slapped with a returned check fee.

Just recently, however, the yang to the yin of money orders has surfaced, and it all started with a movie called The Darkest Hour. Short review of the film: An intriguing premise and promising start gets marred by an almost unwatchable follow-through heralded by a man in a chainmail vest made from house keys on horseback. I bring this movie up because on my first trip to see the movie, I got pulled over on account of my license plate having expired the previous month. Things would have been left at that (as I said in detail on my DeviantART journal), except that I'd also forgotten to change out my insurance card, which expired, I kid you not, less than a week earlier. I was running late as was, and getting pulled over meant I would basically have to wait another day to see the film.

My court date was set to this week in the middle of the afternoon, which meant I had to take a half-day at work, which I hated doing just because it's apparently not enough to mail in a copy of my insurance card to dispute the second ticket. I stopped by my bank and took out two money orders. The reason for this is that, while the cop couldn't answer my questions about appealing the tickets, someone at the courthouse whom I spoke to by phone (to confirm whether or not I actually needed to come in or if this could be handled by more convenient means) told me that if I got my license plate updated within 30 days of the ticket, I could get the fine reduced to 55USD (down from 85). I was weary of this too-good-to-be-true info, so as a precaution, I got one order for 55 and one for 30, so I could just hand in both if they couldn't reduce the fine. If 55 was indeed the real fine, I'd just save the 30 for something else, namely combining it with another money order for my next month's rent.

Admittedly, this sounds tedious and complex, and it gets a little bit worse.

Despite stopping at my bank, I ended up at the courthouse about a good two hours earlier than I was set to, but thanks to a prosecutor and police officer not showing up on time, I got bumped up and got to hand over my paperwork within about 20 minutes of arriving. I handed them the insurance card, getting that ticket waived outright, and surprisingly they took my word on getting my license plate updated (I had a receipt in a folder, which I guess the judge spied as I was fishing for my other documents), but instead of reducing the fine to 55 (as I'd been told), it was reduced to 40.

Backing up a bit, while waiting, I'd filled out the money order for 55, complete with naming the payee.

I explained to the clerk sitting at the judge's side that I was told 55 when I'd called in earlier. The judge gave a puzzled look and the clerk said, "Um... this is a better deal." as if I was eager to pay more. I showed them the money order I'd already filled out, and the two of them traded (ironically) guilty looks and tried to work out if they could refund me the difference. In the end, they decided to just extend my payment deadline to 30 days so I could return the money order and get the proper amount. This all seemed well and good, until I actually started the process of getting the money order refunded.

I called my bank, who told me that any issue with refunds had to be handled with the issuer directly, which struck me as a bit of a bad sign. I called the 800 number on the back of the slip and learned that it can take at least 30 day to process a refund. Well, that was cutting it a bit close for my taste, so I had an idea: get another money order for 10USD and just mail that one along with the one for 30 into the court's office. That way, the refund on the one for 55 can take its sweet time and I don't have to worry about late fees or possible warrants. I got the other money order (along with one for my next month's rent, much to the bemusement of the bank teller, to whom I explained that the people I was sending money to didn't take checks), set them aside, and got to work refunding the 55.

It turns out that in addition to the 30 days, the issuer requires a 15 dollar processing fee.

Seriously? I could see 3 or 5, but 15 is just absurd, and I told them as much in a complaint e-mail. I think I'll wait to see what they have to say to that before I actually fill it out.

What's more, the return form I have to fill out to get my reduced-refund is rather vaguely worded about whether or not they'll deduct it from the refund amount or if I need to (ironically) write them a check. Also, I've somehow lost the little stub that attaches to the money order, albeit I've got the money order proper. The return form seems very insistent on having the stub. It's understandable seeing as how this form is meant for "lost or stolen" orders. Then again, the automated message at the 800 number mentioned "damaged" and there's even a small section on their website's FAQ about "wrong amounts" which all just refer me to the refund slip.

So, it's going to cost 15 dollars because I took a court clerk's word for something costing 55 dollars when in reality it turned out to be 40. The funny thing is, the court mentioned that the deduction was 25%, which even led the judge to give a questioning look to the clerk when she mentioned 40 seeing as how the math didn't work out. She explained that the original 85 is actually two fees combined, so the discount is applied to the different parts. I'd ask why one crime carries two fees if they're summed up into one on the ticket, but I just don't care anymore.

The moral of the story is, even if you don't write that many checks, order some anyway.

20 January 2012

Memories of Artistic Integrity

While I'll reserve my overall opinion of Channel Awesome for later (short preview: it's riddled with ambivalence and dusted with a thin layer of passive-aggressive indifference, particularly in light of their stance against SOPA/PIPA), the fact remains that I do follow a few of their content producers with a relative level of vested interest. One that fell off the radar of late, though, is Little Miss Gamer, who had taken a respite of her normal output in favor of other personal projects. Just a few days ago, however, she posted a video of a new puppet-themed series poking fun at the XBox360's Kinect device. The video is getting an almost perfect 50/50 split of likes and dislikes for a number of reasons too myriad to generalize, much less explore.
What caught my attention about this video, however, was something I don't think I'd ever seen before on any other video, which is the ability to take someone else's video, edit it in YouTube's browser-based video editor, and actually post it to one's own channel. My first honest thought was, "Why in God's name would anyone let other people do that?" Really, what's to stop someone taking a video, making only the most minor edit to it, and then posting it to their own channel wherein, by power of the editor's potentially built-in legion of subscribers, its views can exceed those of the original despite the lack of effort on the part of the editor? Consider the implications of this for a partnered channel, whether it's the original or the editor. The point is, someone stands to gain financially from someone else's work (or deprive financial gain) with little to no effort.
Most of you are probably saying, "It's YouTube, what do you expect?" in a tone of voice that not only can I not identify as sarcastic or sincere, but neither can you.
Way back in my college days, which ironically ended the year YouTube came out, I was in a video art class with a rather healthily eclectic group of students who ultimately fell into two camps. One camp felt that the more control the filmmaker had at his or her disposal, the better and definitive the final product is. The other camp felt that the best work was produced under restrictions, even matters of final cut (not to be confused with the software). After screening assignments to each other one weekend, the discussion of grading came up, as some felt simply getting letter grades from our professor was a little bit shortsighted and not the most solid form of constructive feedback. Having just read about the Phantom Editor's re-editing of George Lucas' The Phantom Menace, I genuinely put forth the idea of students critiquing each other by way of editing each other's videos. Some were on board, while others shrieked in horror. Truth be told, I was secretly in the latter camp, but I guess my thinking was twofold, first half being, "Well, what the Hell do I know?" and the second being, "I don't expect what I do in this class to have a life beyond this room, so who cares what some hack job wants to do with it?"
So, there I was today, sitting at my computer, visiting the YouTube page, and actually witnessing something I'd once suggested in a video art class coming to fruition.

Ironically, I've always been a big believer in the saying, "Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

19 January 2012

We Had A Talk

This is a follow-up to My Trust Was Betrayed.

Texting between two rooms seems incredibly awkward, and even childish, but we seemed well past the point of petty spite. A short back and forth ended with me going into the kitchen and setting up two chairs, then sending a request. I couldn't sleep without getting some kind of resolve out of this.  

We had a long talk, and things seem sorted, so we'll see where things go from here.

18 January 2012

My Trust Was Betrayed

UPDATE: Confrontation is always awkward, but it's better than just venting to everyone/no one. Deleting entries always feels dishonest, and I'd rather fix the present than erase the past.

This is one of those situations where the matter itself seems pedestrian, even inconsequential, but its implications and preceding events give it a gravitas that does not turn the molehill into the mountain by exaggeration, but reveals it as one by way of perspective.

I have a chocolate stash. It's a "stash" because my roommate has a weight problem and virtually no self control (the result of depression, among a handful of other issues). About three years ago, she even asked me to put a lock on the pantry door at our old apartment. I told her flat out that I would do no such thing as I didn't feel like locks and keys had to factor into my eating habits. Since then, things have not changed that much, and I've just about given up on trying to help her despite her asking me sometimes. The pattern breaks down like this:

*) She asks me for help.
*) I tell her to hold back (and sometimes take actions to that end).
*) She gets angry and carries on. I tell her I'm trying to help, just like she asked.
*) She says that she knows, but can't help feeling angry, and carries on out of spite.
*) I point out the absurdity of that way of thinking.
*) She says that she knows, and breaks down crying.
*) I tell her I'm not going to help her just for her to project onto.
*) She says she'll try, and I believe her a little less every time.

Irrational behavior that turns willful when help is offered upon request. Turn that over in your mind for a moment.

As a result of this, something of a compromise has been reached. I don't hide or restrict all our food, but I do keep a few things out of sight for reasons that will become abundantly clear.

Above our sink is a cabinet where I keep some of the liquor. On one side is a small cardboard box with my shotglass collection in it. On top of this box, I often keep a few Hershey bars and a jar of peanut butter. It wasn't until a few months ago that I even told her about it. The deal ultimately is that I don't dictate her diet, just as long as what's above the sink stays off-limits (she can barely reach it, anyway). The fact is that I work and she doesn't, so there's an eight-plus hour window of temptation.

Two days earlier, I'd stocked it with a pair of Hershey bars. When I was getting them at the store, I also picked up some potato chips. I told her about the chips, but not the bars (again, out of sight, out of mind). I do not touch the chips out of respect (after all, I've got the two great tastes that taste great together).

Yesterday, I noticed one of the bars was gone. I thought it just fell behind the cardboard box and left it at that.

Today, I get this text message, which I read on my break at work:
"Can of air, candy - heath, twizzler, favred starburst"
My reply:
"Air is in the closet in the office, top shelf immediately on your left."

Her reply:
"I dont like to tear my comp appart." 

Not that I was telling her, "Do it yourself." but that's not the point, chalk it up to assumptions. She sends another message 2 hours later:
"Bread couple loaves, can go in freezer"

Admittedly rolling my eyes (planning ahead is not her strong suit), I reply:
"I'll pick them up tmw along w/ the candy since I already have to drive into Ellisville to get my tickets sorted out."
She says:

We live about a good 30 minutes from any grocery store. Needless to say, small trips are a little inconvenient. Also, I'd gone grocery shopping the previous day, which had me a little annoyed at her being so scatterbrained. So, with tomorrow's trip planned, I came home, made dinner, and, shortly thereafter, went to my stash. The last bar was gone, and I realized nothing had fallen behind the box.

I stormed into the office, seething. She asked what's wrong, and I said, "Hershey bar."
Her response is, "Well, that's why I was tellin' ya to get more candy." and I can't tell if she's jokingly apologizing or being defensive and willful. She told me to take some of her cash and go get some more, and I still can't tell if she's actually trying to make amends or acting tough to make me feel like the bad guy.
I'm too mad to say anything, as much as I wanted to say, "I had no intention of driving anywhere tonight, and I'm not going to renege on that because you've got no self-control."

I feel like I'm being manipulated. Things haven't been going well, and this is just one more matter.

15 January 2012

Book of Secrets review

I'm going to start embedding every new YouTube video of mine here, though I'm bound to skip over a few, like a random home movie of one of my cats or something along those lines. As for videos like this one or some of my short films, those will go right here.
With the new facelift to YouTube, it seems more and more like the site is shifting from a videosharing site to a videohosting site, a la Blip.tv or what Revver was. In essence, the "portal" of YouTube is shrinking, requiring its users (and even some of its partners) to do more self-promoting on their own sites.