Saturday, November 17, 2007

Super Smash Bros. Melee: Fox vs. Link

This is not a review of Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is a short overview of two characters. Namely, Fox and Link.

First, Link. Link has about average weight, but has below average speed. His more powerful weapon is, of course, the master sword. All of his attacks have lots of knock-back and do a good deal of damage. But, since his attacks are slow, other characters can hit him before he can hit them. Due to this, Link's main advantage is in his ranged attacks. Link has the most diverse ranged weapons of any character in Super Smash Bros. He has a powerful arrow; the longer he pulls back, the more damage it does. A quick boomerang that he can throw at different angles, and the ever popular bomb, with which he can blow himself up. With these ranged weapons, Link can hit someone from far away, then rush in and hit them with the powerful sword. Add to this his extraordinary tornado spin attack, a very fast sword attack which damages everyone around him, and Link is a very good character to use.

Next is Fox. Despite being smaller, Fox is heavier than Link, but much, much faster, and that is his primary skill, and can also be his greatest weakness. Because Fox can run so fast, it is easy to run off the edge of the stage and die. This is even easier to do with his Fox Illusion attack, in which he moves horizontally at the speed of light. Doing it to close to the edge will send him right off. In such a case, he will need to use his Fox Fire attack to get back onto the stage. In contrast with Link, Fox's only ranged weapon is his blaster. It does only 1% damage, and has absolutely no knockback, but despite this, it is extremely powerful, and that's because Fox is so quick. He can fire the blaster very quickly, and so can do massive amounts of damage in a very short time, despite the low amount of damage it causes per hit. Fox also has a reflector shield which will reflect any ranged weapon back where it came from and stun any enemies near Fox.

Staph Reborn

Bacteria are living things and sometimes I think people forget that. They can make us sick or help us live. But they are living things that can evolve just like macroscopic things can. And, because we keep trying to kill them, they evolve faster.

Staph is a family of bacteria that are very common and isn't harmful until it gets in through an cut or open sore in the skin. There, it can wreck havok. It causes skin rashes and eats away at the flesh. Usually it can be killed with normal antibiotics but a new strain has been found that is resistant.

They call is MRSA, pronouced mersa. I'm sure you have heard about it on the news a lot lately. It has been in schools, day cares, prisons and locker rooms a lot recently. Once its in the body, it kills off the cell the body uses to fight it. Doctors have been hard pressed to stop it.

But, from hard times comes great discoveries. Doctors started studying the way the bacteria kill the white blood cells and found that they make and excrete a lot of a protein called phenol-soluble modulin, PSM. They then worked to isolate the gene that makes that protein and turned it off. After the scientists figured all that out, they grew two types of staph, ones that can excrete PSM and ones that can and injected it into rats. The rats that had the bacteria that lacked the PSM faired much better than those who had otherwise.

I think that its a great thing that scientists are figuring out how bacteria kill us, and I'm not being sarcastic, but part of the reason the reason that bacteria are becoming so resistant to antibiotics is our misuse of them. We get so paranoid and use it way too much. And, the more we use it, the more resistant bacteria that come from it. I think we need to rethink how we fight infection while we still can.

Thanks Science News for the content. Again, picture posted later.

The Best for the Environment

As I have mentioned before, I interned over the summer at the EPA, which was an amazing experience. For the largest part of my employment there, I worked in mobile sources of the air department. So it's only natural that I would have to make a presentation on the different types of alternative fuels.

So here's a chance for me to take all of that and make a post.

Let me start with the most well known, E85.

E85 is short for 85% ethanol. Other types of ethanol blends include E10, 10% ethanol, and E100, only ethanol. Most cars made in the nineties and later can run on E10 because of standards set then for the automotive industries. In truth, there isn't a big difference between a car engine that can run on ethanol and one that can run on only gasoline. The biggest difference is the fittings and the lubricants used because ethanol has different erosive properties. So, is it really as good as everyone says? Not so much. Yeah, it's an alternative fuel source, but it doesn't have the energy density that gasoline has so you need more to go as far. It also emits more than gasoline does when it comes to volatile organic compounds, VOCs, and nitrogen oxides, NOX. Those are both precursors to ozone, which we don't like.

The next I'll talk about is liquefied petroleum gas, or LP gas. You may know it better when it comes out of a propane tank you use to run your gas burning grill. When a car uses it rather than gasoline, it is a lot different. Instead of normal gas tanks, the car has to be fitted with pressurized tanks that can end up being very large for what they carry. But LP gas is very high octane and runs very smoothly in a car. It also reduces all emissions, so we don't have to worry about ozone and smog when these cars are running around. I give two thumbs up for this fuel source except that there is practically no place to go fill a car up. Most LP gas cars aren't used in the US, and when it is it's for private fleets that have their own fueling stations.

The last alternative fuel source is my favorite and is called compressed natural gas, CNG. This is my favorite because of it's convenience. Just like is sounds, it is the same gas that heats the house. This fuel source is very much like LP gas in its drawbacks of giant tanks that don't carry much and the lack of fueling stations. There are also not many cars that are made that run on this fuel in the US. But it's cool because you can fill your car up overnight in your own garage. It also runs very cleanly, cutting emissions more that LP gas.

Overall, I think that, in order to bring a real change around in the US, we need a cultural change as well. People just aren't into making a new infrastructure so they can gas up their cars. Maybe we'll have change some day, but it'll take some time.

Thanks HowStuffWorks for a little content, but most came from previous knowledge.

Again, I'll have a picture for this posted later.

Genetic Testing for the Masses

Biology class was never very fun except for the labs. We got to do things like grow plants to find certain traits and make bacteria glow. The best one was when we got to separate DNA.

Of course, nothing we did would quite compare with what these people are doing out in Iceland.

For a while now, it has been possible for people to get personal DNA but it has been very expensive and only focused on a few genes. Now, due to an Icelandic company, it is more affordable and more useful to get your DNA tested many different genes.

The Icelandic company is called DeCode, and the service you can subscribe to is called DeCodeMe. It is only $985 for a subscription. You swab the inside of your cheek and send it in. When the testing is done, you can navigate a website and look at your risk to develop common diseases and other things like baldness. The good thing about the service is that you get to choose what you look at. If you want to know about your risk of balding, then you can. If not, you don't have to.

This company may have competition in the future for this unique service, which I think is only natural. And, of course, it's only natural that we have gone here as humans. I think that DNA testing is a bit extreme though. I, for one, don't want to know about how likely it is that I will develop Alzheimer's because I'd rather live the years that I have left in ignorant bliss. I don't want to know that my hair my thin either. I'll wait till it happens. But there are people out there that want to know these things. And what other markets can the economy take advantage of? With this service being this inexpensive, there will be a lot of people out there with heavy hearts, know that they may get Huntington's in the future.

Thanks MSNBC for the content. I'll add a picture later.

Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age

SPOILER ALERT! Please PLEASE do not read this post unless you've played through the first game or you don't care that much about a few spoilers. Its really hard to talk about this one without giving a bit away. Thanks ^_^

So this game picks up right where the last one left off... but you're not Issac, Garret, Ivan, and Mia anymore... Instead you play as Felix, Jenna, Sheba, and later in the game you meet the water adept Piers. As you know, Jenna is a fire adept and Sheba is a wind adept, and since I told you Piers is water you probably guessed that Felix is the Earth adept.

The game mechanics in this game are almost identical to the last except they added a bunch of really cool stuff. First off, you get instructions on how to transfer data from your old game to the new one. This is really important if you want everything the game has to offer. I won't ruin the surprise, but once you get about 75% into the game this data becomes important ^_~. Anyways, they've of course added new spells and items. In this game Jenna acts as your group healer instead of Mia, and thus gets some cool fire-based group heals. Following that, Piers becomes a main damage character, kinda like Garret, and a new one target, ice-based attack is introduced that acts just like Issac's Ragnarok attack. Felix and Sheba however maintain the same functions as their first game counterparts. About those single target attacks though... They get a really kickass boost in this game. Once Felix and/or Piers equips enough Djinn of their attribute, their attack is upgraded. Not only does it do a lot more damage, it just plain looks cool. Finally, and the biggest thing, is the addition of multi-element summons. These must be found in the world as tablets and all but the most basic are extremely difficult to get. In fact, to get the final two you have to have found EVERY Djinn in the game, traverse one of the most difficult dungeons in the game, and for the final, fight the most epic boss you've ever seen in the world of Golden Sun. The image on the right is Iris, the final summon.

The game expands to the whole world and you even get a ship after a while. The dungeons have been upgraded to make the puzzles more challenging as the game goes on, which is good news and bad. While the challenge is nice, often times the puzzles force you to walk long distances through a dungeon passage just do do one thing then walk all the way back.

As a final note, the developers added the most kickass weapon to the game I've ever seen. Its called the Sol Blade. This thing has the special attack which summons a freaking meteor from the sky, which does I think 600-700 damage if i remember right. Couple this with as much crit hit gear on the character you give it to and holy shit the results are amazing ^_^

If you liked the first game, play the second. You will not be let down.

Golden Sun

Dunno how I forgot about good ol' Golden Sun.

Golden Sun is an RPG for the GBA. The story is set in a land where people called Adepts can use the power of their minds to cast magic-like abilities called Psynergy. You also meet little creatures called Djinn which can boost or change your characters' stats and Psynergy.

The story pairs together four kids, all Adepts and follows their adventure all around the continent. The first two you meet, Issac and Garret, are long childhood friends. The opening content of the game shows them living through a disaster in their hometown and setting out on a journey to rescue their friend and mentor. Issac is an earth adept and Garret is a fire adept. This means that the Psynergy they specialize in is earth and fire respectively. Along their journey they meet a wind adept named Ivan. Ivan is a few years younger than the other two and was adopted by a high ranking merchant from a nearby town. He ends up setting off with Issac and Garret to fulfill a prophesy and hopefully figure out the mystery of who he really is. The final member of your party is met a little later as the three wander throughout the land trying to find what they're looking for. She is a water adept named Mia, and she is one of the last of an old tribe of water adepts who watches over the town she lives in.

The gameplay is really pretty easy. Battles are all turn based and you have multiple choices for each character. You can attack with a weapon, defend, use Psynergy, use a Djinn's power, use an item, or use Djinn to use a summon. Summons work with Djinn which are no longer equipped. Djinn of the same element can be stacked with each other up to 4 to summon different and more powerful creatures. Outside of battle you can use certain psynergy to solve puzzles and get around. Other than that you just run around between towns and the world map meeting people, defeating monsters, helping people out, and getting stronger. Keep in mind though, Golden Sun is only half the story, so don't be too disappointed with the ending (which seems abrupt the first time but really takes a long ass time to reach). Just be happy if you pick it up now that the sequal is already out, because I had to wait =P

Issac, the Earth adept using his sword to and unleashing it's critical hit in the form of a special attack. The characters from left to right are Issac, Garret, Ivan, Mia.

A player casting frost on a puddle of water. This will freeze the puddle into a pillar of ice that can be used as a platform to reach new areas.

The summon Thor, which can be used when you have 4 wind Djinn that you can use. Summons like Thor do more damage than any other attack in the game.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Unsung Technology: The Vacuum Pump

Where would we be without vacuum pumps?

The most obvious thing is that research into how pressure and fluids work would be severely retarded. Of course, this connects directly back to vacuum pumps, as such knowledge was used to make better and more efficient pumps. But that wasn't the only thing that could be applied to. Light was known to be a wave, but it could travel through a vacuum. How light could do that was eventually explained by the theory of relativity, which is used by GPS systems.

Vacuums are also used in light bulbs. If air were in the bulb, the filament could burn, which would rapidly extinguish the light. But more than that, vacuums are necessary for vacuum tubes (quite appropriately) which were vital in early computer systems, and vacuums are required to make parts of modern computers.

Understandably, things that will be exposed to vacuum (such as parts on the space shuttle) need to be tested to make sure they won't fail in those conditions. Also understandably, it's much cheaper to test those things on Earth. That means making a vacuum by means of a pump. Without the vacuum pump, no space program, as if the lack of computers wasn't a big enough hurdle.

Lasers work by exciting the electrons of a specific, very pure, gas (what gas is used depends on what frequency the laser needs to be). Vacuum pumps ensure normal air doesn't get in. Lasers have many uses, not least of all medicine, such as radiotherapy, which is used for treating cancer.

The Wiki Challenge roomate, a friend, and I were sitting around my room this week and were looking for something to do. It was after midnight, so we couldn't do anything to active or loud, which surprisingly limited our options. After sitting there for 10 minutes or so, we decided to make up a game that we could play. We call this game The Wiki Challenge.
This game is relatively easy to play. There isn't a set number of people you have to have to play, but we had three. This meant one person had to think of a topic, a unique page on Wikipedia, and the other to had to get there. Whoever got to the page the fastest wins.

You may be thinking, ok, so what, this is boring. This isn't it though. The two people have to start out from the same completely random page, by using the link to go to a random page. Then the two must race to be the first on to arrive at the choosen page using only the blue links or the categories at the bottom.

If this isn't enough, you can make it even more interesting by wagering bets on who can get there the quickest. For example, you could make a bet that whoever loses has to wear a suit and tie the next day.

It doesn't matter how you play this game, as long as you are having fun while you play it. It is a great way to socialize with friends and maybe even learn something in the process.

Gears of War

The Quest to Survive Human Extinction

I hate being killed. That's right, I hate being shot into a million pieces. All Raam has to do is send his little kryll out and devour me into dust. For all you Gears of War fans out there, I come to you with hope of sympathy and advice. I love Gears, don't get me wrong. Killing an alien race that sat dormant underground and now you have to save the world from complete annihilation, how can you not get hooked? I have tried and tried again to defeat the final boss, Raam, on the medium setting. (I believe that is Hardcore) I had beaten him before on easy, but well let's face it, it's meant to be just that: easy. I didn't think it should be as hard as it is on medium, but I can't seem to win....

My first frustration came when my partner, Dom, would die off so quickly. I used him on easy mode as a distraction to keep Raam from attacking me with his shield of Kryll. But everytime we go into battle, he has the urge to run as fast as he can to just get mowed by Raam and his arsinal of attacks. So that leaves just me and Raam. That's never too easy. The second frustration was as to what guns I should take into battle with me. I first thought that the (sorry for my lack of gun terminology) chainsaw gun and shotgun would be best, but I never seemed to take off a lot of damage. I am aware of his Kryll shield and the fact that he is invincible to damage while his little friends circle him. But even when I get a clear shot I can't seem to take him down. Then I tried to use the sniper and shotgun, keeping with the long and short range weapon combo. But that didn't work either, the sniper rifle took too long to reload. I then tried the bow and bomb arrow with the chainsaw gun, finding that to be a popular solution online. But still no good. My third problem was the fact that he would rush me constantly, giving me no time to shoot him, I would have to run away and hide behind another barrier, avoiding death on all angles. My question is how to win. I have been patient but I still can't win. Who has the experience and wisdom to defeat such a unfair boss?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Suppose you had a product that people liked to buy, but that some people just stole from you? Would your solution to the theft be to restrict how people who legitimately bought your product could do with it?

That's what the music industry is doing with DRM (Digital Rights Management). See, with the advent of CDs and digital music to be copied and shared, and the music industry doesn't like that. So, what do they do? They put DRM technology in all the music they sell legally. Well, I suppose it's theoretically a good idea, but...

DRM is annoying. Because of DRM, I can only listen to the album Spectators by Wolfsheim on iTunes. Which is all fine and well, as long as you're not running Linux. Oh, right, I am. Why should I buy music if I can't listen to it? I might as well just download it illegally.

Another problem with DRM is that it has no time limit. Copyrights don't last forever, but DRM (in theory) does. Which means, I still won't be able to listen to those files, even after the copyright on the music expires.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Needs Mailboxes

Email: Its Good and Bad

Emails have now been familiar in the technological society for quite some time now. Starting back in the 1980's companies used Email to send data and info to one another electronically for faster and more reliable transportation. It has spread quite quickly to everyone, with so many different Email providers now, many of which are on the Internet, such as Yahoo Gmail and AIM Mail. But how great is this new medium of stationery? I will go through some of my good and bad experiences of using Email and how it affects my life.

First with the bad. The obvious nuisance to Emails is spam. With all the spam blockers and filters out there, you think that the problem of unnecessary advertisements and badgering money hounds would be solved. Overall, yes, I can say the problem is generally gone. But sometimes, it blocks too much. I remember numerous occasions where I have had Emails from family and friends that get blocked because it met some criteria for spam, and that person or persons wonder why I wasn't getting any of their Emails. I never truly lost any of their Emails, but it was hard to go through all the crap I was giving as "spam" and find what I was suppose to get. Another problem is receiving too many chain letters, either in the form of support for God or the soldiers fighting wars, to the "If you don't send this to 100 people in three seconds your family is going to be murdered by little demon children!!!!" I like the effort but it really gets old fast. Another thing that puts Email at a disadvantage to the postal service is packaging items or gifts. No matter how advanced our computers get, they will never be able to send matter through the airwaves....Sorry.

Now for the happy good things! One thing I love about Email is you don't have to remember anything about anyone you know again! You simply put down ANY information about the person in question (AIM screen name, phone numbers, addresses, schedule for school, likes/dislikes, when they sleep and wake....just kidding, etc)when you first put them into your Email's convenient address book and away you go! Another thing I like is getting funny chain letters. I get jokes from long chains of Emails from friends and family and they are quick and easy to look at and send. Having the Email system helps to at least send pictures. Those are either cute or hilarious to get sent to you, like the baby pictures or some picture of a redneck bike made of shoes. The process itself is definitely better than having to buy stamps and lick the back of some envelope.

Overall, the Email system has helped keep people informed and connected with each other longer and faster, and the system will continue to improve as technology advantages. I mean they already have Email accessible on phones now....think of where they'll be in 20 years!

Diablo: Live or Die

A few years ago, a friend of mine got me to start playing Diablo. It started out with a bit of tough love. In that, I mean my friend showed me how to play the game, but didn't give me too much advice.

Over time, I played through the game, and my friend started telling me how to perfect my characters. I had started playing the non ladder section of the game. Basically to summarize the sections of the online game, there is 4 different options, which are ladder, non ladder, hardcore ladder, and hardcore non ladder. Ladder basically gives a sense of a competition, which resets whenever Blizzard decides they want to reset it. Once ladder gets reset, the characters get moved to non ladder, which contains the accounts and characters since the game was created.

The other side of the online game is hardcore. This is where the challenge lives. This is for people who think they have mastered the game or for people who play Diablo for the game it really is. You may be saying, OK, well what is hardcore. Why is it any better than just playing the game. Hardcore means, if you die, then your character is dead, and you can no longer play on the character. Hence, it provides you with a challenge, to live or die.

Hardcore has no question of who is the best. It is a question of who is alive. Hardcore is the only part of the game where the one person on the top of the rankings, is the strongest player. For if he isn't, someone may come along and take his top spot. Hardcore makes Diablo a game of champions and a game of past champions. It is meant as the side of Diablo reserved for dueling, no matter if you are a level 9 or a level 99. Because with this dueling, in the end, one person will be dead and one will be the victor. If the players are fair duelers, they will allow the winner to loot their body, which means they have the right to take the losers gear and items. So, if you think you are a champion of Diablo, play hardcore. Live or Die.