Atheism = Religion?

I just have to make a post here because there are so many things I want to say, and I want it to be in a place where I can reference it for its weak arguments. It's a conversation that ensued after I posted a link to the Atheist Experience ustream channel for this afternoon's show.

...That's really about as far as it needs to go. Although this blog post is directed at my friend Eric, the ideas apply across the board. And this isn't a personal vendetta - Eric and I have a fun history and have had some great times - we do get along. :) But here's what needs to be said.

In retrospect, as a matter of fact, your selected definition of religion doesn't even apply to me.

Atheism in a nutshell:
"There is a god." <--- I don't accept that claim as truth.

That makes me an atheist. And no - I don't claim with 100% certainty that there is NOT a god, but that's not the point because that's not what atheism is. I also don't claim with 100% certainty that there's no such thing as unicorns. The burden of proof isn't on me to disprove something's existence, whether it's unicorns or a god (especially since there are thousands of gods... that'd be a lotta work).

The point is that atheism is simply the rejection of a claim. That's it. There's nothing that I "believe in and follow devotedly" with regard to religious claims.

But what the hell, let's go ahead grant that assertion for the sake of argument, and pretend atheism IS a religion:

"a religion about not believing in religion." There's a fallacy in your reasoning here because you're using two different meanings of the term "religion". It's not ironic. The definition you're applying to me is different than the one I'm rejecting.

And what this all amounts to is... well, nothing. It doesn't matter. Even if it was a religion that could be equated to others around the world, and I was part of it, the point is that MY religion depends solely on reason and evidence, and yours depends on claims without reason and evidence. There's no irony there unless you carefully manipulate the words to make it look that way.
"lack of absolute proof does not disprove." I agree. It would be ignorant to claim with certainty something that couldn't be proven or disproved. See my second paragraph. The point is, not being able to prove a negative doesn't make the positive true. You can't disprove that the Loch-Ness monster doesn't exist, either, but that doesn't mean we should walk around assuming there is a Loch-Ness monster somewhere.
You bring up quantum mechanics, which by the way, has roots in mathematics and physics. It fundamentally breaks off on an atomic level to explore a theoretical realm, but I honestly don't know enough about it to make claims one way or the other.

But again - that's completely irrelevant as to whether or not religion's claims are true. Not to mention - there isn't a worldwide institution of indoctrination based on the unproven hypotheses of quantum mechanics. I don't care if it's true or not because the weight of those claims is nothing compared to religion's. Moving on:
"If hundereds of thousands of people had claimed to see the aliens," *
"The story fit together wth 100% perfection," **
"Noone could disprove it and it was widely believed by the masses" ***

Yeah, it'd be a lot more convincing if that was the story, wouldn't it? Here's the problem, though, and I'm assuming you're making a parallel to the Bible, here.

* Hundreds of thousands of people didn't claim to see the supernatural claims in the Bible. In fact, there's not a single first-hand (contemporary) account of those claims. It's all hearsay. Every single one is a story someone heard and wrote it down - it would have been very easy to put in whatever you wanted. The point is, two-thousand year old anecdotal evidence in the form of text with no firsthand accounts, that has been copied and translated time and time again has the least potential to show if something truly happened. And yeah, we could say the same about a ton of historical events, but we deny they're true if they make claims like zombies walking the streets or magical hands making the planets move.

** There are so many contradictions and inconsitencies in the Bible, it would be ridiculous to try to list them here. Just for a taste... http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html#contradictions

*** I don't care how many people claim that something extraordinary happened. Wiki "Argumentum ad populum." They need demonstrable evidence to show that it happened.

What this all boils down to (ignoring the terrible semantic argument claiming that atheism is a religion) is what you think is sufficient evidence to explain events in our universe. If you see or hear about something that is difficult to understand, it's perfectly okay for the answer to a question to be, "I don't know." If you read a book about a talking rabbit that granted wishes 20,000 years ago and there's nothing other than the book to show that it happened, it's up to your critical thinking skills to determine whether or not it's plausible.



This is a message not to address any individuals, but the whole "movement" that I see revolving around the slavery conspiracy that's going on in our country today.

I take issue with the language used to describe the heirarchical business setup we have in our society. "Slavery," a term used to describe some of the worst atrocities committed by man in history, is now being used to describe a skewed commercial and industrial labor system. Yes, as of now, it favors greedy and selfish people on top who obtained and maintain their power/money by screwing other people over. But...

You are NOT a fucking SLAVE.

Slaves, by definition, don't have rights. They have no freedoms. They don't get choices. They were owned like property. They were owned, like your bike, or like a pet dog. But they were treated a hell of a lot worse than your bike, or your pet dog, or yourself by the people who you claim to "own" you. Slaves were beaten. Repeatedly. For their entire lives. Then, often killed. It was legal - and encouraged by society - to do so.

If you want to talk about bonded labor, or say you have debt bondage and basically have no way of earning enough money to pay off your debtors, then DESCRIBE it like that. "Slave" already has a definition with an extraordinary history, and it needs to remain as such.

Calling us slaves does a couple major things. Number one: It changes the meaning of the word, watering down the situations that REAL slaves had to live through, and in turn is an extreme disrespect to their memory and disruptive to the accuracy of our history. If we start referring to our situations as "enslavement" and it gets documented in the history books that way, there'll be some kids reading about it down the road that are gonna be wondering what the hell WE were complaining about. Try going back to the American South before 1830 and have a chat with a few of the guys there. You'll see what a fucking slave is.

Number two: You're becoming guilty of exactly the same goddamned thing the idiots in the corporate media are guilty of. You're blowing the circumstances way out of proportion by labeling them with something far more extreme than what it actually is. How many times a day do you hear Glenn Beck and Fox & Friends compare our country's situation to that of Nazi Germany or Stalin's regime? It's extremely disturbing to me; HOW DARE people compare our current state of affairs to the horrific things that took place in our history.

Are we someone's bitch sometimes? Sure. Thing is, nobody's going to beat or kill you if you don't do the specific work some ass hat manager demanded you do. Not only that, but if you're someone's bitch, and I'm someone's bitch, where's it stop? EVERYONE is someone else's bitch. Who isn't, at least at SOME point in their life? And being someone's bitch doesn't fucking matter if you can walk away - a freedom that we happen to have, by the way. Go learn how to do something well and offer your services to the public. Be your own boss if you hate working for other people so much.

We have choices. We can find different jobs, different employers. If we don't like someone, we can move on and try to find other work with other people. Hell, we can leave the country if we want to - you got a problem with the rules here, then get the hell out and quit whining to the people who are perfectly content with their lives. If it sucks so bad, then go where the grass is oh-so-much greener, then tell me how you feel.

On a lighter note, I think there's an end in sight with the birth of global communication.


Is our system rigged right now to cater to the few people on top? Yeah, but we're in the works of doing something about it. As more of the world gains access to computer technology and an internet connection, our system naturally becomes more and more transparent. As we progress, there are fewer and fewer places for the greedy top shots to hide; the potential for collaborative groups with utilitarian objectives will quickly overpower greedy and selfish individuals, because let's face it - who are those ass holes really going to turn to when judgment day comes for them? If all their dark deeds can be laid out for the world to see (Wikileaks, for instance), eventually they will fall. Egypt, anyone?

We're within generations: Even the youth of the world NOW is learning the power of communicating with people across the world to pool together the best ideas, along with ways to put them into practice. Collaboration - working together to reduce world suck. Empathy and compassion will conquer.


Donkey Kong Country Returns Review

I've been excited for Donkey Kong Country Returns to come out for a while. It was announced at E3 last year, and I've been pumped up for its release. E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, for those who don't know, an event that happens annually and is the go-to event for people who want to see what the latest and greatest plans are for the video game industry. I later heard that Retro was designing the game, who also designed the Metroid Prime series for Gamecube and the Wii. Retro hasn't designed any other games EXCEPT those, and they're AWESOME. After my disappointment with Activision's rendition of Goldeneye 007, I was guaranteed to be more satisfied with this. For the most part, I guessed correctly. However, the game does leave me wanting.

The game, overall, is great. It's very reminiscent of classic Donkey Kong Country from 1994 - the scenes are very similar, the feel and physics of the game are very similar, and the music is a phenomenal remaking of the entire original soundtrack. Upon getting into the game, you really feel like you're playing the original, but souped up to today's standards.

As I got further into the game, that's when I started to notice the things I thought could have been done better.

I'm quite a ways into the game (probably three quarters), and have noticed the distinct lack of cast. There's Donkey and Diddy as the playable characters, then there's Cranky Kong. That's it. There's no Funky, no Candy, nor any of the characters from other DKC games. With Cranky, he runs a shop in each world, selling items such as extra lives and temporary powerups. He makes smart-ass comments at you when you visit, but nothing like the classic story-telling he did in the original. Additionally, there is only one ridable animal friend - Rambi. There's no Expresso the Ostrich, Enguarde the Swordfish, or Winky the Frog - just Rambi. Squawks is available as one of the temporary powerups that helps you find puzzle pieces in levels (more on that later). But the lack of characters and interaction gives a very desolate feel to the game, which feels out of place for a DKC.

The story is also very impersonal - the island volcano erupts to ejactulate some random, evil, tiki spirit antagonists into the area who possess the native wildlife into feral rages. No talking, no selfish king trying to steal a stash of bananas - just some 5-year-old's sporatic imagination. Nothing against 5-year-olds, but their writing and logic skills are a bit... underdeveloped.

I've also noticed that there are no swimming or snow levels. Swimming levels were a good way to add variety to the game (I'd prefer them over the barrel rocket levels... ugh, how irritating), and I'm sure there could be lots of improvements to the gameplay and flow of them (swimming levels) after 16 years. The snow levels - I know they were hard back in the day. But they were memorable for more than just their difficulty; they gave a desolate tone to that area of the game with the scenery and amazing music. Using the increasing volume of snowfall to decrease visibility and add to the chaos made that a remarkably signature part of the game for me. Leaving out these two settings was a huge mistake on Retro's part.

As you look at the map screen, it's got a very Super Mario World/New Super Mario Brothers feel. There are alternate paths through worlds, bonus levels, and Cranky's shops. It's easy to navigate and pretty to look at.

For each level, there are up to 3 medals to collect (I call them medals, but they're really just icons that show up next to the level's title on the map screen).

1) The first is obtained by collecting all 4 of the K-O-N-G letters scattered through the level in a single run of the stage. Similarly to the original DKC, you keep letters you've collected up to the check point if you die and return to that check point. Collecting the Kong medal in each level for a world will unlock a bonus stage with its own unique collectible (not sure what happens when you get all those yet!).

2) The second medal is obtained by collecting all the puzzle pieces scattered through a level - there are anywhere from three to nine pieces in each stage except for boss levels. Any puzzle pieces you pick up, you keep permanently, even if you die. The only time you won't keep them is if you manually quit a level or run out of lives before finishing it. You maintain that progress - but there's no way to check how many puzzle pieces you've obtained for a level unless you actually enter the level and pause the game to look at your level progress. On the map screen, there's a nifty little "Level Progress" option that lets you view your medals and best time trial times for every level, but it doesn't show you how many puzzle pieces you've collected - you actually have to enter the level. Very odd. Upon collecting all the pieces in a stage, you unlock images and music in the bonus gallery. Nothing super for the gameplay, but still kinda cool.

3) The third medal is a bronze/silver/gold medal obtained by attempting a time trial available to the level after completing it normally. The gold medal times are very difficult to obtain, and there's even a "platinum" rank (a glittering gold medal) for getting close to the fastest time humanly possible. Definitely for the hardcore only.

Moving on to the gameplay itself... In single player, you either have Donkey Kong by himself, or you have Donkey Kong with Diddy riding on his back. Unlike the original, you can't have JUST Diddy (unless you're playing 2-player - more on that in a bit). When you have Diddy, you can absorb 2 hits before he runs away, then Donkey alone can take 2 additional hits before dying. When you have Diddy, you also get the benefit of his jetpack, a crafty little item that lets you hover for a full second or so during a jump or fall, and you can continue moving left or right while doing so.

It's nice having this little perk to make some parts of the game easier, but it's clear that some *other* parts of the game were designed with the jetpack in mind. That being said, it's REALLY hard to get through some of those areas without it. Being the experienced player that I am, even I found them difficult (by difficult, I mean losing tens of lives). I imagine it would be quitting time for someone of substantially less experience.

The thing is, it would have been very easy to simply make it possible to play as JUST Diddy (or just Donkey). In 2-player, you play as Donkey and Diddy simultaneously. Diddy, played by 2nd player (the person who is typically less experienced), gets the jet pack as well as the peanut gun, a weapon that Diddy fires as he slams the ground. It does damage to most killable enemies, so it's nice for the less experienced player to have. Something else that's nice about 2-player - you can't get trapped off-screen, the way you can in New SMB Wii, for example. If one person lags behind and disappears off-screen, a timer appears, counting down from 3 seconds, and then the player just gets moved up to where the person in front is. It conserves your shared extra lives, and also prevents players that like to dick around from holding up progress.

But back to Diddy - I'd have preferred to have Diddy playable SEPARATELY from Donkey Kong in single player. The thing is, the jetpack presents a complication. I'd like to have the 2 extra hits WITHOUT having the jetpack (playing as Donkey alone) - having it can lead to some of the mechanic downfalls of the game.

In most platformers where you can kill enemies by jumping on them, you have control over the height of the "bounce" you get after landing on them. In the original DKC or most Mario games, you'll bounce higher by holding the jump button as you land on the enemy. There are two issues we run into in DKCR.

First of all, you can't simply jump and hold down the jump button (the "2" button) to get a high bounce after landing on an enemy - they designed it so you have to make a separate press of "2", soon before landing on each enemy, perhaps to add to the challenge so you can't just hold the button down to jump on a long chain of enemies. This feels awkward because it's not like other platformers - games usually check whether you're holding the button or not upon hitting the enemy - that's it. When you add in this odd need to TIME the pressing of "2" while you're in midair, you lose some degree of control: You have a lot less certainty as to whether or not you're going to get a high bounce. The game is hard enough without this added challenge, and it's certainly not an added challenge that adds to the enjoyment of the game.

The second problem is that the "2" button also engages Diddy's jetpack. So now you're forced into hovering for a second above an enemy before landing on them, if you want to get a high bounce. There is, however, a split second as you land on the enemy, that will get you a high bounce without turning on Diddy's jetpack. This is very hard to hit, and is just another arbitrary challenge added to the mechanics.

Next, another mechanic I noticed that may have been overlooked... In most cases, if you bounce on an enemy or tire, you maintain your horizontal momentum. So, if you're running full blast through a level, and you jump and land on an enemy or tire to bounce, you continue at your fast speed forward. The exception to this, however, is after launching out of a vertical barrel cannon. After launching out of such a cannon and bouncing on an enemy/tire, your horizontal momentum is reset to zero, so it takes a moment to accelerate back up to speed.

For most of the game, this isn't a problem. But a few levels have you launching up out of a barrel cannon, then you have to maneuver in midair to land on an enemy or tire and bounce to the next obstacle or platform. When you launch out of the cannon and start holding to the right, you get some horizontal momentum that you're adjusted to keeping when you land on an enemy or tire, but you lose it in this case. Additionally, following a cannon, you can't get high bounces from landing on enemies (you can on tires, though). Again, these occasions are few and far between, but I've lost so many lives to them that it's worth mentioning.

There are some other mechanics I've found to be a nuisance. One of them is in mine cart levels. Even if you have Diddy with you (that means 4 hits to kill you, normally), one hit in a mine cart will kill you. Any collision with an enemy, wall, ceiling or barrier will end your attempt. The mine cart levels are already challenging - letting you take at least 1 extra hit for having Diddy would not make them trivial, but no. You hit anything, you die.

The mine cart levels are also one of the places I've noticed an "I Wanna Be The Guy" moment. "I Wanna Be The Guy" is a free indie game that, simply said, is designed to kill the player thousands of times with its tons of hidden threats that can only be discovered by dying and avoided by prior knowledge or trial and error.

I'll be coming up to either: A) a harmless-looking area, or B) an impassable obstacle and I'll not know what to do; then I'll suddenly be dead. For instance, while riding a mine cart, I'll be riding straight for a huge stone pillar in my path. Having not already played the level and not being gifted as a Jedi with predetermination, I'll have no knowledge as to what the game is going to present to me.

Do I jump and run into the pillar, or stay on the tracks and run into the pillar? Is the pillar going to start tipping toward me and see-saw over a big rock to open a small path underneath, in which case I should avoid jumping, or is the pillar going to tip away from me so I have to jump... Oh, it didn't move until I was a hundredth of a second away from it, so I'm dead. Yep, I was supposed to jump.

Again, an "I Wanna Be The Guy" moment.

The last thing I have a beef with is the "waggle" function of the remote. This could very well be the most frustrating part of the whole deal for me.

Retro decided to link the "waggle" function (shaking the remote) to 3 actions: Slamming the ground (while pressing no buttons), blowing air (while crouching), and rolling (while moving). For slamming the ground and blowing air, I don't have an issue, since both of those things are done rarely (relatively) and while standing still. However, waggle is a terrible function to link to such a fundamental ability as rolling. I've read that many people do not mind this, but I certainly do. There are so many parts of the game that require very precise timing and movements - having to rely on the not-fully-reliable waggle function to perform such an important and common action is very frustrating. Not only does it make it difficult to be precise with timing it, but it doesn't always work. With a button press, it's clear to the game what your intent was. The "1" button serves all the same functions as the "Y" button in the original (running faster, grabbing barrels) except rolling. Why? There's no reason for it, and they could have very easily made a controller configuration to do it.

Through all these issues, the game is still keeping me busy, and I'm determined to collect all the Kong and puzzle medals. I may go for bronzes or silvers on the time trials, but no more. In any case, I'll still have to go back to playing my Virtual Console if I want a true DKC experience.



Goldeneye 007 Wii

I won't call this a review since I don't really address a lot of the primary features or positive aspects of the game. This is more of a rant of disappointment.

So the more I play this, the more disappointed I get. Of course, when I heard it was coming out, I knew it wouldn't measure up to the old game, but I thought it would at least be a nostalgic experience for us teen N64 players.

It's not.

Activision has the rights to the Bond franchise, but they don't own any of the rights to the original Rare game. I guess they had to make this game different enough from the original so it wouldn't look like any copyright infringement, even though Rare's game mostly used content from the movie in the first place. Activision seems they used neither the predecessing game nor the movie as their reference, for the layout of the levels all the way to the plot - it's so different that it's like they created their own complete story from scratch. Oh, and just because you see Jaws and Baron Samedi as selectable multiplayer characters, don't get your hopes up - it's not an indication that the Aztec and Egypt bonus levels are available in the campaign; they're not. But they felt it necessary to include those bonus characters, along with Oddjob, anyway. Because, y'know, it just wouldn't feel like the original game if they didn't include them. :|

In the end, it truly just feels like I'm playing a bad Call of Duty, which seems to have been a much bigger inspiration and influence anyway, with a sort-of James Bond skin.

For the gameplay... They placed check points in the game. So throughout a single mission, you'll run into 10-15 check points, the most recent of which you'll return to if you die. This seems to be pretty commonplace in FPS games now to keep the smoothness and have the game less broken up, but in this case it just seems to be a quick workaround for parts of the game that they didn't take time to balance. The levels are longer, so check points can make sense... But it just seems like they can get away with having stupidly difficult parts because they can just drop a check point right before it; the player can't complain because they didn't have to play the whole level again. I just can't help but compare it to the original Goldeneye, which certainly had its difficult parts, but was balanced enough so it wasn't like you'd die at the same stupid part, 10 minutes into the level, and have to play the whole thing over and over again. They actually worked on the N64 Goldeneye long enough to balance it. Well... MOST of it; the N64 version's Control level on 00 Agent difficulty may be the exception.

The game also has waypoints - indicators on your map and even directly on your screen that tell you exactly where to go to progress through the level. How much more linear can you be? Exactly like any of the other military FPSs out there.

Something else to add: Throughout most levels, there are various points of no return. You'll go through a door, and some explosion will cause a support beam to fall and block the door behind you (for instance), so there's no way to go back. I'm against things like this on principle, because it just adds to the linear "game on rails" feeling, and it takes away more of the element of exploration, as if the waypoints weren't bad enough. I'd prefer to have open levels, but whatever: I can deal with it if the gameplay is good enough.

However, many of your mission objectives are things like, "Gather 5 pieces of intel throughout the level." If you know you're approaching the end of the level pretty soon and you have 3/5 pieces of intel, you can rest assured that you missed one. On N64, no biggie - go back and find it; you might run into more baddies, but you can still accomplish the mission. Not so on the Wii - the points of no return plus the check points force you to accept your failure before you've even finished the level because there's no way to go back and search for what you missed. And the waypoints don't direct you to the secondary (and often mandatory) objectives when you pass them - they simply give you a sense of urgency and lead you further into the level, causing you to miss things. If anything, the waypoints direct me where to AVOID going, so I ensure I don't miss anything.

Next, the Wiimote controls are... Well, they just don't feel as good as they could/should be. I know how good first-person controls can be because I've played Metroid Prime 3. This game is just choppy-feeling, though. At first, I saw how much was customizable and how many options there were, but I realized it's just a dog-shit-contaminated batch of brownies. Throw it all away.

You can resize the "dead zone" in the middle of the screen, which is the area in which you can point without the character turning. That's kind of nice, but I find that when I move the cursor from the dead zone into the turning zone, it's very abrupt. It's hard to turn just a small amount, while still leaving the turn sensitivity high enough so you can turn quickly when needed. Sometimes I turn when I don't want to, and sometimes I try to turn and it doesn't happen.

There's an option that will, when moving your reticle cursor around in the dead zone, shift your view slightly in the respective direction. Effectively, it gives you more to work with inside the dead zone, but feels sloppy in combination with the turning functionality of the cursor.

Another feature: When you look down your scope to get more precise shots (Aim Down Sights), it sort of automatically tries to focus your view on an enemy that's close to your aiming reticle (Aim Down Sights Snap). It's nice to get a close view on a guy quickly, but much of the time I end up relying on it and it fails me during a big intense gun fight, and I end up zooming in on a completely different part of the screen while the group blows me away.

All these extra features that are supposed to give a bit more smoothness to the game are OPTIONS, though - options that I fucking turned off because they irritate me to no end. All I did was bump up the sensitivity, turn off all the extra options, and shrink the dead zone to be as small as possible. It's as close to the natural feel of Metroid Prime 3 as I can get, but still leaves me wanting.

Of course, with the lack of lock-on that Metroid has (just hold the "Z" button, and you'll lock-on to an enemy, keeping the center of your screen focused on it until it's dead or out of range), you have to be a lot more precise with your shots. I've found it hard to be precise with my shots. Why's that? Because of all the 10-12 pre-set button configurations, none of them allow me to change "Fire Weapon" to the "A" button instead of the "B" button. I know "B" is the "trigger" on the remote and all, but I can fire much more quickly and precisely with "A" than I can with "B." The button schemes simply swap around which buttons will reload, open the menu, switch weapons, aim down sight, crouch, and pretty much every other goddamned action in the game EXCEPT firing your weapon. It would have been so much easier to just allow free button mapping. So, I eventually resorted to turning on the auto-aim for the last few levels, although I hate doing that because it just feels like I'm making the game do my work for me. Additionally, auto-aim isn't available in multi-player. Why get used to a feature I can't use when playing with/against other people? I was so frustrated by all of it that I almost pulled out a Gamecube controller or a Classic controller to play with, since those are also options (which is cool for those used to the dual-joystick setup).

To top off all the controls business, there's a hundred options and a billion different setups - maybe a good thing, but you have to go through about 6 sub-menus anytime you want to make adjustments (Pause > Options > Control Settings > Wii Remote Presets > Customize > one of many submenus > possibly another submenu > adjust). So it's almost too much of a hassle to switch anything - by the time I go in and adjust something, then exit each of the menus, save changes, and get back out to the game, it's been 30-45 seconds and it's hard to make a comparison with what the controls were before.

As far as the enemies themselves, don't you dare try to kill anything without having a silenced weapon, or let any guys see you and fire their non-silenced weapon, or do anything in any way to alert them. Everybody in a 10 mile radius will hear about it. Instantly. And they'll know exactly where you are. There are no "stages" of alertness by the bad guys; they don't "I think I saw something..." or "What was that?!" or "Ohmygod hit the alarm!" No sir. If they even catch a glimpse of you through a small crack, the shit's hit the fan - they'll know immediately what they saw and they'll alert everyone. Not only that, but if you do something remotely, like hack a drone gun from a distance with your smart phone so it starts shooting guys, or shoot a gas tank from a distance with a sniper rifle, it's the same effect - everyone finds out and magically knows exactly where you are. Seriously, there's more realistic AI in the original Goldeneye.

Not to mention that if you ever ARE discovered and you don't kill the guys before they can yell, "We found him!", EXTRA baddies appear as reinforcements - not just the 10 people that will be alerted, but 2 or 3 additional aggressive guys that only appear when you alert someone. So, you have to do everything in your power to remain stealthy. Unfortunately, I have found it difficult thus far to remain stealthy - most enemies you run into are in groups of at least 2 or 3 that notice right away when one of them is taken down.

And once you're exposed a single time in a mission, it's no longer a stealth mission. You got a room full of guys blasting at you - you clear them out and head into the next area. Well, the guy in the next area was already alerted by the gunfire he heard, so he starts shooting right away. This alerts guys in the next area, so they'll start firing when you get to them; it has a domino effect the rest of the level. Maybe this is more realistic and what would happen in a real life situation, but it's not conducive to making the game enjoyable - it's actually pretty infuriating. It's better to just kill yourself or start at the last check point if you're ever spotted. And if you run out of ammo for your silenced pistol, you're completely screwed.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of times where I've been stealthing my way through an area, and I've killed a guy standing right next to someone else, and the other guy doesn't even notice. This lack of consistency is what gets my adrenaline pumping more than anything - the gamble as to whether or not attacking someone is going to alert the entire country of Russia to my presence.

Again, this just feels like a bad Call of Duty; Goldeneye 007 on the N64 was essentially an arcade-style FPS - fast-paced, exciting to watch, with sensible AI that wasn't connected to a hive mind even on the hardest difficulty. This game just feels like it's trying to regurgitate the success of FPSs on other systems & PC, forcing you into an inevitably non-stealth mission, while butchering the Wii's control potential.

Then, the graphics really leave something to desire. I'm not even comparing it to other consoles or PC because I know the Wii is not set up to be a powerhouse in graphics. Problem is, I've seen prettier games on the Gamecube. Metroid Prime 1 was beautiful in its time, and still looks crisp and smooth even now. Additionally, MP runs consistently at a beautiful 60 frames per second. This game's frame rate is like the N64 - standard NTSC 29.95fps maximum - and it gets choppy during times when the screen is very "busy;" the game will even have little half-second pauses in the middle of a gun fight when I hear the whir of the disc drive trying to keep up with the action. Also, the quality of the images, scenes and models themselves is certainly no better (worse, in fact) than the early products of the Source Engine, like Half-Life 2, which came out in 2004. Why, for a game that looks relatively lousy, does it run like molasses in winter?

I haven't even mentioned some of the real technical issues - the game has frozen on me. Twice. I've also seen some real buggy stuff - I got stuck in a corner once and was completely immobile, then had to restart the level. One enemy I saw was stuck in a run animation, but his figure was flashing all over the screen, like the game couldn't physically place him on a surface or something. The game wasn't totally cleaned up before they rushed it out to shelves for the holiday season.

While I'm going on about every other aspect of the game, I may as well address some of the positive things. The sound and music are decent enough that they didn't catch my attention. The voice acting, while being done by professional actors, is mediocre. That's it.

Don't buy - rent if you must. I planned on hanging onto it for the party I'm having next week, but forget it. Not worth the few extra bucks to hang onto it for the additional days - it's going back to Blockbuster on its due date.



Rash Road

Driving is something a lot of people have the misfortune of having to do at some point in their lives. We spend a lot of time doing it, too. It gets repetitive and monotonous for those of us who commute longer distances to work or school regularly, and it gets even worse when you get stuck in traffic that’s slow due to the thousands of people trying to go in the same direction at the same time.

I'm the type of person who has developed a very flexible and tolerant sense of patience, being someone that works with people that have developmental disabilities. I have had to learn to put up with all kinds of juvenile-type behavior: People not listening to rational explanations for things, intentionally doing something I explicitly asked them not to do, throwing tantrums and/or objects at one another over mundane and harmless things (“She keeps looking at me!” “Why does she have to call her mother every day?!”). The list of nuances goes on and on. I put up with it daily, and on occasion I’ll lash out at someone myself – when I start to see a nasty behavior beginning to brew, in an attempt to lop it off before it can escalate – but certainly not because I’ve lost my patience. I’m rather proud of my ability to keep a cool head in the worst times.

Boy, I wish I could carry that virtue in my pocket when I got into the car.

I drive during times when there’s minimal rush hour, so I don’t even get the worst of it. But it doesn’t matter – I get absolutely furious on the road. My driving actions don’t reflect these feelings, unless you count my liberal use of the horn (Mitch Hedberg would be disappointed). But I’ve definitely fantasized about getting myself a paintball gun to keep under my seat for people who piss me off. I can’t count how many times I’ve wished I could send them a text, or a message over the radio that told them they’re a shitty driver, or just go all Grand Theft Auto on their ass and ram their stupid douchebag self off the road. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be stuck in stop and go traffic every single day, to and from work. I just might destroy someone.

I have been assembling a mental list of things I like to complain about when I start ranting to friends or family. I finally decided to record them. These are in no particular order.

One of the first things is this: I drive a lot on the highway, and there are a lot of lanes. Many of the lanes end in some way, whether it’s because a lane exits onto another road, or just merges into the adjacent lane. Routinely, particularly when traffic is heavier, people will ride these lanes to the bitter fucking end, not wasting a square inch of asphalt and ensuring that they pass as many people as possible before trying to squeeze between two cars that are already bumper to bumper. The sign a mile back said that lane was ending, jackass – you should have merged back there like everyone else.

Although… I like to give people the benefit of the doubt – what if there’s some kind of emergency? Their wife could be in labor in the back seat – I don’t know. But it’s pretty obvious you’re just a prick if you’re driving your giant-ass SUV and blaring your crappy music for the whole highway to suffer through. Piss off. And by the way, if you’re on the on-ramp and about to merge onto the road with some fast-moving traffic, ACCELERATE. You need to be going the same speed as the other cars to merge effectively and safely.

Another thing that gets to me is people who pace the traffic in other lanes. The primary purpose of lanes is to allow higher flow of cars, yes; but secondarily, multiple lanes allows for multiple speeds. If you’re going the same speed as the person next to you and it’s not because of rush hour, move the hell over into their lane with them. Four morons, side-by-side, and all going 53 in a 65 that have a horde of 500 impatient drivers immediately behind them, and with an empty football field of space in front… One of you fucking DO something!

On the other hand, there are people who drive a different speed than others, but clearly don’t have an idea as to what lane they’re supposed to be driving in. “Slower traffic move right”. There’s a damned SIGN because people suck so bad at doing it. If people are passing you on your right, you shouldn’t be in your lane; either speed up or move the hell over (notice I said “people,” not “one person;” obviously you’ll occasionally have the guy who weaves between every car going 30 mph faster than everyone else – that’s different). And I don’t care how fast you’re going – 70mph in a 60mph zone, whatever – if someone catches up to you while you’re in the left lane, move over to your right and let the faster traffic through. It’s safer and courteous, and it allows for that benefit of the doubt in case that person does have some kind of emergency.

The next thing I want to address is behavior at stop lights. People see stop lights as massive time sinks because they have to stop, and many will do anything they can in their power to avoid it. Heck, I will even speed up a quarter mile before a light if it will get me through and save me the agonizing 30 seconds of sitting still. But speeding up a bit and doing something asinine are two very different things.

I’ve seen people stretch out that yellow light for multiple seconds after it has turned red. My light is green, but there are still people coming from my left and right that are jetting through the intersection – did I miss something? Part of me wants to pull out into the intersection and let the ego-centric morons hit me so I can sue them.

The other thing at intersections is courtesy to people turning left – many intersections are terrible at allowing people to turn left, whether the green arrow is too short, or just nonexistent. When I’m about to go straight through an intersection and the light turns yellow, I stop if someone coming the opposite direction wants to turn left in front of me. Why? Because turning left sucks, and everyone who drives knows it. They’re sitting out in the intersection, grasping at any opportunity to NOT sit there for another light cycle, and then there would be me whipping through to go straight, preventing that massive line of left-turning cars from shortening at all. This idea requires a bit of empathy, so I have yet to have any expectations of other drivers.

The next thing that makes me want to lob eggs at cars is when the drivers don’t use their blinker. I don’t care what the circumstances are – there’s never an excuse not to use your signal when you want to switch lanes or you’re going to turn. End of story.

This leads to the next point – PAY ATTENTION to other people’s signal(s). People use them for a reason – they want to switch lanes. Again, there’s no excuse for not easing on the brake enough for someone to squeeze in. Getting behind by a few car lengths over your trip is not going to hurt you.

It irks me worse when traffic is actually moving fast and I witness that happening – we’re going 70 mph and this guy is tailgating the person in front of him so closely that someone couldn’t merge between them if their life depended on it. Tailgating is an extremely stupid thing to do. Train yourself to not be such an insensitive and impatient ass hat. You’ll lose 1 or 2 seconds off your trip for the benefit of being infinitely safer and allowing people to merge or switch lanes when they need to.

All in all, you need to apply a couple different principles when you’re driving. You need to not do things that you’d be upset at someone else for doing. Next, you need to not do things that would make a situation unsafe, and there’s a long list for those since you’re driving multi-ton hunks of metal and glass down the road.

This is just a small compilation of my thoughts on the road – what are yours?


Geek Central

For a number of years, I've been looking for an artistic outlet. I grew up doing musical theater, and that's always something that I can go back to if I really feel like it. I've been in a band before, and I love performing music in that way. The thing is, I do need something I can do on my own; even now, at home, I have an acoustic guitar, vocal microphone, and mixer that I have hooked up to my computer. With that, I've been playing music more often, and doing some recording and production. Also, I've played with a few different trial versions of computer programs like Photoshop, seeing if visual art is a better channel, but never had much luck. I've always had a hard time creating my own fictional stories, so writing never seemed appealing either. I've also thought about doing more photography, but that's much less expressive for me. None of these things have really appeased my urge to create something.

A few weeks ago, though, I came across an artistic inspiration. It was in the form of an independently designed video game called "Cave Story." If you're into video games at all, I recommend you give this game a shot, especially since it's free on the PC.

There's nothing totally remarkable about that game, but something about it set off a spark of determination. I decided I wanted to learn how to design games. Not just learning how to write programming code, since that's actually the least exciting and artistic part - but creating a visual, interactive world full of personality, music, and beauty. So, for the last couple weeks, I've been trying to figure out the basics for game design.

The first thing I decided to do was figure out how to design with Adobe Flash. Just based on websites like "addictinggames.com," it seemed like you could create relatively simple games that probably wouldn't require a ton of learning. I discovered something I was semi-excited about: Creating interactive media in Flash requires learning how to use ActionScript, a variation of ECMAScript, which is commonly used in other programming like JavaScript and JScript for gaming platforms. In addition, ActionScript is an object-oriented programming language, which is the type of syntax and language that you use for interactive media. Those aspects gave ActionScript some appeal as the knowledge can be used in other applications for similar purposes.

I spent some time learning how to use Flash and am going to continue learning how to use ActionScript. The problem I came across is that it's REALLY HARD to learn programming languages without any sort of formal training. I started looking for a simpler solution, and perhaps in the future I'd focus more on learning the complexity of such a language.

Coincidentally, I came across an application that is used specifically for making games, aptly named "Game Maker." This program does a number of things, but I've discovered two steps that this program takes to make game programming exponentially easier.

First, it uses the high-level programming language of Delphi. High-level refers to the amount of "abstraction" from machine language (binary). Essentially, it hides a lot more details of of the code, making it more user-friendly, but conversely ends up with less efficient and less precise code. So, it may be a good language to start with if you want to jump right into making complex applications. It's object-oriented, so it will have a lot of similarities to the languages in other interactive media. I may be able to use what I learn from that and apply it to other languages.

The second thing the program does is create a very user-friendly interface. It takes many of the commonly used functions and makes simple-to-implement buttons that you can use to quickly generate sprites, objects, rooms, background music, sounds, and timelines, along with rules like gravity. I've been playing with this program for a few days, and I can see that it has the potential to do exactly what I'd want to do, and my potential to make it do that is within grasp.

So, as soon as my brain comprehended that beginning to design a game could plausibly happen in mere weeks, a floodgate opened in my head. I started creating a fictional universe for a game to take place. I've got this huge backstory and plot, and I'm trying to develop an entire civilization based off of the premises given in this world. I have a sort of role-playing, platformer adventure in mind that will be vast in depth, gameplay, and length.

All the aspects of developing a game are tedious, but interesting. Designing environments, sprites for characters and monsters, thinking of music to implement, coming up with game concepts to integrate, learning computer code, and using the program to tie everything together is sort of a holistic artistic outlet that I'm excited to suddenly have. I have no sense as to how long a project like this would take to finish, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took me years to complete. I will likely create some simpler games as side projects as the time goes, but I have aspirations to create one very large project. High hopes for 2015! ;)



4 Weeks!

After today it will have been 4 weeks since I started my vegan diet. This was sort of my unspoken goal; I wanted to see the short-term health benefits and sort of re-assess how I felt about eating. It has been a good 4 weeks, and a lot has happened - I learned how to make a couple new foods, I've felt better overall; and (an even bigger change) I've been able to step back and look at health, ethical, and moral issues surrounding the Western diet that we've fallen into. Michael Pollan's book, "Food Rules," ended up being quite a good guide to go by as I pursued this, and I'll refer to some of the rules here.

Spending more time in the kitchen has been healthy for me, in more ways than just making healthier food. I'm also not sitting and playing video games as much. :) I haven't made a lot of new foods, but that wasn't my goal - I just wanted to make sure I was well nourished without meat and dairy. I've done some experimenting with different recipes of veggie stir fry, which has been fun and delicious. I learned how to make cookies (Rule #39: "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself."), pancakes from scratch, and still kept up with making hummus and salsa. I've also been trying to have a glass of wine every day (Rule #43). I've barely scraped the surface of the number of foods that are available, but I had to ensure I wasn't spending half my paycheck on food. If you're not aware, it's pretty easy to spend twice as much as you normally would while grocery shopping if you're buying a bunch of non-seasonal produce, unprocessed goods, and things that aren't supplemented with some chemically altered form of corn (Rule #3: "Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry." Rule #4: "Avoid foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup."). Ultimately, it's probably worth it...

I mean, I was buying less food to try to cover the same amount of time (Rule #44: "Pay more, eat less."). Simply enough, that means I'd be eating less food per day over the course of the month - I genuinely wanted to be a bit more conservative with my food and not wasteful. To help avoid that, I tried a couple different things.

Rule #46: "Stop eating before you're full." When you're not buying bulk amounts of food for a small amount of money, your food becomes much more valuable. Avoid wasting it (eg. overeating or throwing it away). As long as you'll eat it and it will not spoil too quickly, keep it. And again, don't cram your stomach to avoid having to deal with leftovers (Rule #61: "Leave something on your plate."). Save the food for when you need it.

This next one was a little harder to follow, but it forces you not to overindulge the way we do in this country: Rule #47: "Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored." If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, don't eat anything else. The idea is that you only eat when you're actually hungry, rather than when you see something you want to eat or are using it as stress relief (it can be easy for me to eat cheesecake and strawberry sauce even when I'm already full). I think it's fair to substitute something for the apple that fits yourself; for most, apples taste good, but people generally wouldn't eat one as a treat or anything. A salad, an orange, or some carrots and celery - whatever works.

Another thing I did: I'd always drink a lot of water, particularly when I started to feel hungry. Apparently, in many incidents when you feel hungry, your body is actually thirsty. I read that somewhere and decided to test its merit, and it worked well for me. I try to drink a tall glass of water before each meal to eliminate unnecessary hunger, which in turn helps me to eat less.

These few simple things helped me to eat a lot less food, and I think it's been beneficial. I've felt like I've gotten better rest, and working mornings has become a lot less painful since I feel more energized. Waking up at 6am still sucks, but once I'm up and moving, I feel fine; prior to this, I'd feel tired all day. Also, it's hard to describe, but I kind of feel less toxic and groggy. I've lost a couple pounds over the month, which is saying a lot for me since I only weigh about 150 pounds to begin with, and I guess is a pretty realistic amount of weight to lose for someone who is doing it healthily. I think I was able to shed some of my unhealthy weight. On the less pleasant talking subject, my digestive system is much cleaner. I have to go to the bathroom a little more often, but it's usually goes a lot more quickly. Also, the increase in natural sugars and soluble fibers in my diet has produced more digestive gas, an unpleasant side effect. But again, a small drawback to the benefits.

Finally, while thinking about the health benefits of eating like this, I've been able to consider the moral and ethical issues surrounding eating and come up with a diet that I think I'll be satisfied with.

Ethically and politically speaking, I think the big food corporations are far beyond what they initally were there to do: provide food for people. Now it's just business. Money. The problem is it's really hard to get around them. There are 4 huge food companies that provide most of the food that's out there. The technicalities around things like seed patents and those companies buying corn from farmers for under the cost of production are hard to avoid, particularly when you live in a place like Minnesota where local produce is out of season. During the right times of the year, however, going to farmer's markets becomes an option. I'll do what I can to get my food from farmers rather than corporations. Unfortunately, my currently limited knowledge of the politics around food companies inhibits my ability to make rational decisions based on it. As a result of that in combination with me not really knowing how much suffering takes place due to the food corporations, this is less of an immediate concern to me.

I've decided that the biggest moral consideration is this: Animals shouldn't have to die for me to eat. I love eating chicken, and I often like hamburgers and steak, turkey and ham on holidays, and pepperoni on my pizza. But come on, killing animals for us to eat isn't very nice, especially considering how unneccessary it is for us. Meat is like, the most nutritionally inefficient food, and everything that our body gets from meat can be gotten from a plant. Again, as I said a few weeks ago:
"For the vegan, the fact that he has to supplement his lack of animal product proves him omnivorous.
His recognition of this fact makes him an intelligent being.
His exercising of it makes him a compassionate one."
I still believe this (although it's arguable that we're even omnivores in the first place, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt), but I think it applies mostly to animals' lives. I've decided that the byproducts of animals (dairy, eggs, honey, etc.) are a small price for them to pay for us providing healthy and enjoyable living environments for them. With that in mind, a vegetarian diet that sticks to those products that come from animals in ideal living environments rather than factory or industrial-style farms is what I've concluded would be a good solution (this is inclusive of the health rule, #27: "Eat animals [and products from them] that have themselves eaten well.").

I mostly don't want an animal to die for me to have a meal, and if I'm going to drink their milk or eat their eggs, I'd prefer them to be well-treated and well-nourished. Seeing as I have experience firsthand how much a difference a change in diet can make, I plan to continue being much more conscious about what I eat. By no means do I want to decide what other people eat - they're totally entitled to satisfy their hunger with what Michael Pollan would call "edible food-like substances." The point is that I strongly encourage them not to.



Why Didn't I Just Do That Right Away? Oh, Right - Because I'm An Idiot

So yeah, this'll be me whining about something everyone's heard at least once before. Everyone has heard the pissing and moaning: "Arrgh!!! Stupid cops! What the hell do I pay taxes for? For the cops to drive around in the middle of the night and find harmless traffic offenses so they can hand out tickets without confrontation!? Frickin' cowards..." Yeah, that's actually about right, once it happens to you. A $95 citation for having tabs that are 3 days beyond expiration.

Seriously? My car's been registered in the state for almost 7 years, and I go 3 days without it and suddenly that's grounds for taking more than an entire day's wages. The scale of the cost is really what doesn't make any sense to me. That's almost the cost of: Any illegal traffic signal movement (eg. running a red light); speeding on bridges; illegal passing (tunnels/underpasses/intersections/no passing zones); going the wrong way on one-way street; driving in the bicycle lane; tailgating too closely; using divided highway crossovers; not signaling a turn or lane change; disobeying stop/yield signs; stopping/standing/parking on highway; obstructing view of driver (4 or more people in front seat), and many other petty misdemeanor traffic violations. Mind you, most of those listed above are $125; I guess running a red light or passing while going around a curve is only 132% as bad as having your harmlessly parked car in the same place it is every night with the wrong color stickers on the license plates.

It's pretty phenomenal that we consider these violations to be almost equal in terms of the penalty involved, considering the potential threat of each of them. It's also too bad that someone who earns 10 times my salary would have to pay the exact same amount of money, especially when it's a violation that could only be prevented by (guess what?) shelling out a hundred and some dollars in the first place. What would have been wrong with just giving me a warning? What if I was the single parent with 2 kids and 2 full time jobs who was waiting for their paycheck this Friday to pick up their tabs at the DMV? So much for the tabs - now I have to pay the frickin' fine.

Speaking of which, I'm genuinely curious here: What determines whether an officer is going to give a warning or an actual citation with a fine? Honestly, if the piece of paper on my windshield this morning would have said, "Hey, get some new tabs," I'd have been like, "Oh, dang - okay. Forgot about that," which would be true (it's hard for me to keep seemingly empty money-sinks a priority - I already paid for the car's sales tax, etc... What's the registration tax for, anyway? Whatever.). But he decided not to give the guy with ZERO violations on record the benefit of the doubt. Is it to the discretion of the officer whether it's a warning or ticket? If that's correct (I suspect it is), it's another example of injustice in the system; not that that even comes close to measuring up to police brutality and the like, so I really can't complain there.

In any case, I learned my lesson: You won't get a penalty for paying your utility bill late (once or twice). You won't get a penalty for paying your mortgage late one time; or your credit card bill. Instead, make sure you get the shiny stickers for your car! Alternatively, place your priority for Christmas shopping for your family a couple of notches lower.


Just Another Work-Related Rant

Everyone has their own qualls at work that they need to deal with; not many people want to hear about others' crap. On the other hand, this is a form of output for me, so I'm gonna say it anyway.

Some days, everything goes fine. I go to work, and my co-workers stick to what they're supposed to do. Tasks are completed, I'm not stuck picking up the slack for a group of people, and things are prepared the way they're supposed to be. Working with people that have developmental disabilities puts us (the direct support staff) in a position of great responsibility and power over other people's lives. However, some days, I think some of us forget all about that and just do whatever the hell makes our own lives easier. This results in friction between staff, miscommunication, and lost time that ultimately leads to maltreatment in various forms - medication errors, missed activities or appointments, negligence, and even legal issues. Certainly no one person is to blame since there are multiple problems, but perhaps that is what makes it so bad.

As direct support staff for people with developmental disabilities, we've been given the task of administering medications for these people. We staff have all gone through a two-full-day training session, paper and skill testing, and orientation for our particular work site to ensure we are competent enough to do it properly. Considering the fact that administering medications can have drastic results if NOT done properly, we should probably make damned sure we're doing it right. Why, then, do I see so many gaps on the med administration record? Were the meds given? Why are we running out of a 30-day supply of liquid medication in ten days? Why, when the pharmacy provides us with medications stocked in monthly bubble packs, and EACH PILL labeled with each day, do we have multiple partially-filled packs? Why is the 60-dose bottle of use-as-needed medication gone after 20 days, with no documentation to show for it? Why is one person's nasal spray in another person's medication box? Is it because you want to watch American Idol and aren't paying attention? Is it because you had an outing that kept you out a bit late and now you're rushing to ensure you aren't at work a second later than you're scheduled? Are you trying to do too much now because you were sitting on your ass earlier? Is it because you just don't care? Or, and I give people the benefit of the doubt with this one, do you just not know how to do it correctly anymore?

This is all about people taking responsibility for their own tasks. It seems like people don't plan out anything - they think stuff is just gonna happen on its own, and the high-functioning nature of the house we work at just makes the day a Lazy River. Then when someone realizes they didn't do everything they were supposed to, they either rush to do it and screw it up or they delegate it to someone else (who may have a hefty to-do list in the first place). "Oh, shit - I forgot to do this one thing; I'll jet an email off to Adam, and ask him to take care of it. Ooo, while I'm at it, I'll ask him to take care of this other thing, since I have been thinking about it for a couple weeks and it needs to be done by tomorrow. Then, while I'm driving home, I'll remember something else and send him a text, too. Oh, yeah - and when he is driving to work tomorrow morning, I'll send him another text and ask him to do something that is physically impossible for him to do as it requires him to be in two places at the same time." Sorry if I sound like a martyr, but this situation is actually commonplace. Guess what happens? People miss appointments, or they don't get a ride home from work, or they don't get to go to their activity which puts them in a behavioral frenzy of whipping all their belongings out of their bedroom at we moving targets, leading to a miserable day of all the other residents being quarantined in another corner of the house so they won't get hurt.

Honestly, I can deal with these situations of having additional tasks fairly well. I find alternative ways of doing things, or go out of my way to make something work. The thing is, these issues are totally preventable with more preparation and better communication, which leads to my next point - proper communication. This is something that is so extremely lax in our workplace, that even though I'm a (slight) superior that's here 40 hours a week, I still have no f***ing clue what is going on most of the time.

Someone has a dental appointment today? Sweet, okay - Um, is the person's ride canceled? Dunno - it doesn't say in the appointment book under "Ride/Work informed?"... Okay, gotta call them quick. Let's see, what's the dental appointment for - is this a routine cleaning, cavity filling, or what? Hmm... Doesn't say on the calendar, in the appointment book, or on the referral form that isn't filled out. Alright, whatever - I'm sure the office will know why they're there once we show up (sometimes they don't). Alright, now where is this appointment? I see something scribbled on the calendar, but I can't read it... Uh, nothing in the appointment book or on the referral form; I guess I'll check their health progress notes and see if it says anything about the appointment in there... Aha, yes - 6 months back it says, "Next appt in 6 mos." Lucky me! Dr. Ekswyzee... Well, still doesn't say WHERE... Guess I'll do some Google searching and find out where this doctor is working. There we go - looks like the Park Nicollet in St. Louis Park - I'll call and make sure...

This is me, every day.

All this information that I have to hunt around for could have simply been written down in 30 seconds, and would save me the 20 minutes of work. I'm quite sure a five-fold quantity of time is accurate as to how much more work I have to do to figure out the situation, on top of me feeling like a complete ass hat in the situations when none of us know what the hell we're doing at the medical appointments in the first place.

Same thing with activities and events, and food/clothes/other stuff that randomly shows up at the house, and issues with the people's workplaces, and new support objectives for the people, and protocols for medications or treatment, and lots of other random things. There will be one (or zero) piece(s) of documentation about these things, and the inability to get a hold of the author leaves people with a cryptic message they need to try to get to the bottom of, only having the very selfish, skewed voiced desires of the residents to work off of. On the flip side of that, when *I* leave a piece of documentation for everyone to read and/or follow, even if I leave it in the most reliable place, it seems it doesn't get read. I have a note right next to the fax machine requesting that people look at my recent medication orders before faxing an order for something that we're running out of, since, chances are I'll have already placed an order for it. But we'll still end up with double what we ordered - this can become an issue since medical assistance won't always cover extra orders. I try to improve medical documentation by requesting that, on a daily basis, the person NOT passing medications check all the med records at the end of the day to make sure everything is completed and initialed by the med passer; I have instructions on how to do this posted ON THE DOORS of the medication cabinets, along with a calendar for the "med checker" to initial once they've done it for the day - 7 of the last 90 days are initialed, 3 of which are my own (I was working different hours the first few weeks of that calendar). And, by the way, this process was something that we did up until a couple years ago, so many of the staff are already familiar with it. To be fair, incidents of missed documentation are few and far between, but they could be indicative of someone not getting their delicately-controlled seizure medication.

Often times, I really wish we could have fully computerized documentation. We'd be able to have all the med administration stuff in there, all the communication notes, all appointments, and an holistic index of information regarding the vast complexity of the house. On the other hand, there'd have to be some major training sessions involved with computer use, I estimate that not everyone can type as fast as they can write, and we'd have to get computers for all the company's houses - honestly, small prices to pay considering the potential benefits.

Now, since I coincidentally am at work right now, I've cumulatively used up all my break time for the day typing this up. Time to get back to doing something that probably isn't my job. ;)