Monday, March 30, 2009

Automatic Enrollment

The so-called 'Economic Crisis' is driving me nuts-o. Not because I don't think it is true. Not because I'm blind and can't see all the jobs lost since the dramatic slip in the market in October 2008. People have lost jobs, people are struggling. I live in a manufacturing state. I, myself, at my own company have had to cut almost 50 jobs since October. I had to tell these folks personally to go home. But what I present to you is something more of a self inflicted problem.

For 20 years banks have given out too much credit. This is nothing new, what is new is the degree of which they did it. But, I am no economic mastermind, nor will I ever... EVER claim to be. What I have a problem with is just one problem that happened last September...

Automatic enrollment in 401k programs for all hourly employees.

Does anyone else see this?! $8 an hour employees automatically enrolling in a program they didn't choose to? or even care to get out of? or even knew it was happening? How many stocks is that? How many shares flooded the market? And, Gosh-diggity-darn-it, what happens when a country decides to to that. Shares split, then split and split, till they are worthless. Who suffers? Big companies that get the money and the lowest of the low who don't understand. So for fucks sake, tell me who is suffering now?... big companies and the lowest of the low. awesome.

So who wins a few months out from now? Well... the farm has been bet on the entire country benefiting. And yeah, it will. We'll see I guess.

But. God Damn It. Who has the power to make something like that happen? Somebody please tell me how?! Shit man.

Search Automatic Enrollment in 401k. You tell me. It was right in my face when it was happening. A handful of people looking to me for answers on why or how this happened. All I could tell them is this "Didn't you read the memo attached to your last paycheck?" There are millions of new shareholders out there and they don't even know it. All they know is that the are 20 dollars or so poorer a month. 20 bones they will never see again, but other people will. Why will other people? Well, your average lineman lives about 10-15 years less then the middle and upper class, working, smoking and drinking themselves to death.

While you are at it look at the Dow over the past 60 years. It goes straight flippin' up. Automatically pumping someones diaper budget ensures that to keep happening for the next 60.

During the election last year my dad stated that we will slip into a socialist state if republicans lose power. Without missing a beat my brother smartly replied "Dad... we already are."

Agreed. Look at your last paycheck. Where is your money going?

If every American had to physically write a check for each thing deducted out of their paycheck every month we would see a revolution. Not just a little one... But a big old "Jeffersonian" one.

"Who are you whom I so faintly hear? Who urge me ever on? What voice is this that speaks within me... guides me towards the best? We shall make a new start. A fresh beginning. Here the blessings of the earth are bestowed upon all. None need grow poor. Here there is good ground for all, and no cost but one's labor. We shall build a true common wealth, hard work and self reliance our virtues. We shall have no landlords to reack us with high rents or extort the fruit of our labor." - Captain John Smith

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Columbus Crew: Opening Home Game

Verses. Toronto Football Club. Or FC. Or Reds. Or Ultra. Or whatever the feisty Canadian crowd wanted to call them. I don't want to question them because the were the rudest bunch of fans I have ever witnessed at a professional sporting event. At halftime I went over to get a beer behind a couple of them. They would order one, then promptly drink it and order another right then and there (at $9 a pop). There were a reported 1,500 of them there. The brochure said "FC" so we will go with that.

The Crew fans, not to be out done, popped yellow colored smoke and tossed glitter onto the pitch. The wind was against them however so the glitter would just blow back into them. At one point in the game I saw the entire bag of glitter get thrown at a Toronto player. I'm assuming this was just done out of frustration with the wind. I feel like they didn't want to be out done by the 'Crazy Canadians' being awarded for their fanaticism at this game for winning the 'Supporters' Trophy' during last years championship winning year.

The game ended in a tie. The Crew scored off a penalty kick and Toronto scored off an own goal mistake by the Crew. I felt like I was watching a high school game.

General Issue #1

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Detroit. Horrible, Beautiful.

Detroit. Go here.

Columbus Auto Show '09

As Audrea and I strolled around the Columbus Convention Center we did make a point to pick out some highlights but, once again, the future looks stale for American cars and trucks (emphasis on "truck"). In the past I tended to get smitten with one car or another while walking around auto shows, but this time my mind went to a different place. I was looking at cars that I could actually, possibly, afford. That added a different spin then I'd had in the past. While buying a new car isn't something I'll be doing anytime in the next decade or so, it was still fun to think that I could drive something off that I really liked.

This added dimension really added an interesting twist. I was way more critical of what I was looking at and gravitating more towards the less over the top models. Let's get to my highlights:

1. Scion tC: I'll put it up there. I'm impressed with this car. It's a few years into its production lifespan and while not much has changed over the past few years, it looks great. 5 speed manual, 4 cylinder, 2.4. I'd be a tight fit for me at my size, but I like it.

2. Dodge Challenger: I was impressed. I'd seen lots of pictures. A couple old timers at work get all gaga-goo-goo over this car and have calendars featuring it at there desks. I was pessimistic because of the Charger production model released a few years ago looked like a damn Neon. The Challenger looked great and you can get a striped down model for about $20k. Which means no muscle on a muscle car. The Hemi loaded one runs up closer to 27k. Too much for my blood but, heck man, still 5-10k less then then all the bloated mini-vans and 20k less then a soul crushing truck.

That's all I got. Honda and Nissan, overall, had the best vehicles. They look great, good gas mileage, powerful, affordable (16k-25k).

Audrea's Highlight:

1. Ford Flex: I agree with her on this one. Ford is making some pretty good cars right now with the Fusion and, yes, the new Focus. The Flex did steal the show though. It is very unique looking. Very long, like an old station wagon. It seats 40 people.

Audrea's Low-light:

The new Camaro: It stunk up the place. Audrea has a hankering for muscle cars and a pretty good knowledge of them to back up her opinion. She was excited to see the new one in person, big let down. To quote her exactly, "It was awful". She agreed on the semi-awesomeness of the Challenger.

In conclusion: Too many trucks. Too many mini-vans on the American side and perhaps too many cross-overs (jellybeans) on the import side. I'm about as far away from someone who cares about the environment impact of vehicles so I'm not getting down on larger cars for that reason, they just look and feel out of place and ridiculous. Toyota is guilty of show casing too many trucks (and no FJ?!). Ford still... STILL has their Escape and Explorer out there but I know they've got to. With intermittent shutdowns of their truck and SUV production lines they need some poor soul to buy them.

Last thought on the show:
It was pretty neat to think that a bunch of people there probably worked on the cars. I could tell that a few of the guys actually did work on them by the way they were talking about them. A couple times I witnessed them putting their son in a car (Honda, made up the road in Marysville) and taking a ton of pictures. Proud. Of his son and the beautiful car he helped create. Maybe this is only something that gets to me.

Either way, pretty neat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poppin' Smoke

I've played my way though the single player campaign of Rainbow Six Vegas. When this game came out almost 3 years ago I did have a passing interest in it, but at the time the Ghost Recon series cranked out a couple good games so my tactical shooter fill was, well, full. I'll make no bones about this game. It is better then Advanced Warfighter. Maybe even better then GRAW 2... maybe. It's in there somewhere. Ok, so I did make bones about it.

I'm a long time fan of 'Clancy' themed games as I oft mentioned around here. The feelings I got playing the first Ghost Recon on the Xbox (not the PC, mind you) have stuck with me. They must be pretty powerful experiences because now when I get that familiar feeling I smile. I think it is somewhere in the even balance between planning and executing. I go into a 'Clancy Zen' kind of mode when that happens. I will even whisper to myself when I'm team leader "I've been here before guys, stack up, lets go" if in the moment.

Splinter Cell has also created a lot of those CZ moments for me and there-in me thinks I figured out why I enjoyed playing Rainbow Six Vegas so much. Half way through the game there was a moment where a gun battle died down but a couple bad guys were sitll in the room. They were talking with each other... "did you hear that?" "It's nothing Richard, you're hearing things." Right then I tossed a incendiary grenade at them and only heard screams. Ok, that's kinda creepy. Anyway, it's got more then a handful Sam Fisher type scenarios to navigate through. Your execution throughout the game feels similar to Chaos Theory. Very similar. Snake Cams, silencers, night vision, thermal vision, smoke, etc... The only difference is that you always end up using brute force to get out of a situation. No taking out one guy at a time, or even never taking out anyone. In RS you ultimately end up taking out everyone. Strangely, always ending up in a gun battle pulls the sense of power away from the gamer, instead of giving it to you like when controlling old Sam Fisher.

In the end, after finishing the game, I realize that I've just plainly completed another first person shooter. I'm left with the feeling that those old feelings I got from playing Ghost Recon are fewer and fewer between. That said though, Rainbow Six Vegas is the spiritual successor to both games like GR Summit Strike and Chaos Theory. In essence, it is a mash-up of those two games.

And that's a very good thing.

(Sam Fisher, at play)

Monday, March 9, 2009

2K Nightmare

Nightmare, I tell you honestly. Not a nightmare I had yesterday or even last year. But two (count them, two!) years ago with Major League Baseball 2k7. I don't understand how, in this time and age, a console game can so riddled with bugs. Well, at least, that's what I thought two years ago with 2K7. I adore baseball. I have a romantic attachment to it. The history, the feeling I get at a ballpark, the flow of a (minor league) game.

Sal Palaontonio wrote a book recently call "How Football explains America". It's a book that is near and dear. But what he explains is how an "At War" America is like football. At least in my opinion. Don't take this the wrong way. I think football does explain America. I love watching football. There is so much to that sport it takes an encyclopedia to explain it... and then some. But; Baseball.

Baseball is a reflection, as a game, of what is good about America. It's about 162 games a year. It's about facing another man, eye to eye, and trying to out do him. Both physically and mentally, with precision not brute force. It's about the long term, not a single game. No two minute drills to win the big one... but a two year drill to help get your team in to position to win. It's both a team sport and an individual one if you look at it play by play. But look at a guys career and it is about his teammates he played with. Because of the nature of the game it allows players to have off days, on days... and days of just being average. Just like every American has to do in there day to day life.

So where does this leave me with video game baseball? Nowhere. I don't own a PS3. I can't play "The Show" which is been proven to be superior to the only baseball game on xbox made by 2K. I figured I might be able to get my baseball fix with the latest version... naively thinking that the franchise mode two years after the last game I played was fixed. But alas, it has not.

How a company can get away without making a game you can save is beyond me. I love baseball. I want to buy a game. But I have no way of getting a good one? This is America for cripes sake!

Two other blogs I read on a regular basis both talk about this. One at great length and another in passing.

Monday, March 2, 2009


There isn't much to say about minus six degrees. I recorded this video a few weeks ago when we were in the middle of a long stretch of inhuman cold. The reason I'm bringing it back up now is that it's march and we are at this freeze your face off cold right now again. Well... fifteen degrees today. The temperature in the video is without windchill.