Portal

I bought the Orange Box for my 360 the other day (birthday money), and if you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a package of five games from Valve – three Half-Life games, and a couple other games, one of them called Portal.

If you haven’t heard of Portal, it has an interesting game mechanic in that you have a gun that can make a portal to another place. A portal is made when you place both sides. Imagine a piece of paper that you cut a hole through. From one side, you see a hole – one side of the hole. Turn it over, and you see the opposite hole. The gun will allow you to create one side of a hole, then go to some other place and create the other side of the hole, and it doesn’t have to be in the same surface. This is a portal.

The game is fun. It’s not terribly violent. There are some interesting puzzles and tricks that are possible because of the portal gun. I like the game a lot.

One of the complaints about it that I’ve heard from other people is that it is quite short. And, really, it is quite short, compared to other retail games you see. I played through it in about seven or eight hours. I wasn’t really counting, so I’m not quite sure. Part of the reason I wasn’t counting is because I was never ever bored. And the best part of it being short is that I was able to finish it, and discovered the really cool end credit song that I really like and never would have heard if the game was forty hours long.

So, at $50, or $10 a game (well, $12.50 since I’ll likely never play team fortress 2 since you have to have a gold account to play, or more 360’s around to link with, and my wife won’t let me buy another one), I’d have to say that, at least, Portal was worth it’s share of the price.

And even if it’s the only game you play in the collection, where eight hours of entertainment at the movies would cost you at least $40, it’s very close to being worth buying the Orange Box for Portal alone, as long as you don’t mind short games.

One other thing about The Orange Box. I’ve heard Half-Life 2 is supposed to be a pretty good game, too 🙂

Discouraging Crap On My Birthday

So, I just got word from Woodcraft that my Steel City drill press will likely be ANOTHER three weeks. I ordered and paid for this thing back in March. I also haven’t seen hide nor hair of the electrician, and I’m starting to get really frustrated. Yes, he was supposedly going to be doing us a bit of a favor, but it’s quickly getting to the point where using this guy will be detrimental to my ability to get guitars built sometime this year.

Being Creative And Other Stuff

I’ve had this link among my browser bookmarks for quite awhile, and I just reread it. I think you should read it, too, even if you’ve no desire to be creative. It’s a “manifesto” on how to be creative.

It sort of dovetails in with my introspection on why I make the career choices I make, why I will likely never be a teacher, or much of a salesman or banker or stock broker.

I like making things. I like taking things that aren’t and making them into things that are. I suspect that being a maker, whether your an artist, a construction worker, or a cabinet builder, is just as high of a calling as being a teacher or a scientist. Without the makers of the world, the world we live in wouldn’t exist the way it does today. We are born to make things, as much as we are born to do anything else.

If you haven’t tried making something lately, give it a go. Ultimately, making is so much more satisfying than using.

Oh, and here’s the video game shelf I made last weekend.

I Think I Need To Take Remedial Math

I started working, this weekend, on a small video game shelf, basically a DVD rack, for our living room, and everything was going pretty much the way I intended. Cut up the pieces, sanded ’em.

I went to put it together and realized that I can’t count. If you want 4 shelves, and you want the thing to have a top, you need to count to 5! Uggh. If I’d counted to 5, I wouldn’t have to go back to the store to get another piece of lumber, as I would have made each of the shelves half an inch shorter, thus making the last cutoff long enough for the fifth piece. Instead, I have to wait until I can get back to the store, which, hopefully, will be in the next half hour.

No Electrical Work This Week

So, no go on the electrical this week. Not even a phone call from the electrician. How hard is it to schedule something and get it done? How hard is it to follow up with a client if you said you’d do something at a certain time and you’re unable to follow through?

I guess I can’t be TOO picky considering I’m probably going to get a break on the installation cost, but I’d better get that break.

My Solution to the Debt Problem

First, I want to say that I don’t participate much in political discussions, nor do I generally think very deeply about politics in general. I tend to avoid these things because I’d rather be thinking about making something, be it games, guitars, or whatever I’m doing at the moment.

However, the “mortgage crisis” and the “solutions” proposed by various politicians, really bother me, especially when none of them seem to address the real problem, and only seem to be bandaids.

The REAL problem, as I see it, is that lenders are allowed to advertise using direct marketing methods, including both paper and electronic mediums. Since we bought our house, we’ve been deluged with refinance offers from a large number of companies, all wanting to help us take the equity out of our house or save money on payments with a lower rate. People on the border of not having enough cash to cover their bills are, I suspect, very vulnerable to those types of offers.

What’s really unsettling is that, even in the midst of this crisis, despite being on of the companies in deep trouble because of their past lending practices, I’m still getting emails from Countrywide (who is the current holder of our loan) promoting a poor financial choice in the current housing market.

“Mark, your estimated home equity may be as much as $xxxxx. You may be able to refinance, possibly lock in a lower interest rate, and receive up to $xxxxx cash from your home’s estimated available equity!”

They say it like it would be a good thing to remove any cushion I have with regard to being able to sell my house if I wanted to. I also can’t see how this is good for them in the long run, as I bet many of the people that take them up on these refi offers (especially right now) will end up upside down on their loan.

For other types of debt products, the worst offender in my book are the credit card companies. They send you pre-approved application after pre-approved application until they find the combination of numbers that gets you excited about going and buying whatever it is you want. They send them to college students who HAVE NO INCOME! These behaviors are predatory, as far as I’m concerned, and should be illegal. Why is our economy teetering on the edge of a knife? We’ve tapped out our credit. Financial institutions won’t even lend each other money anymore because they’re afraid they won’t get it back. The people in this country can’t afford to pay their debts, plain and simple.

Imagine a world where lenders couldn’t advertise debt “products” (calling a credit card a product makes me ill) directly to the consumer. No more pre-approved accounts in the mail. No more loans that come disguised as checks (this one really makes me want to scream). No more refinance “opportunities” in your email.

I think our economy would be sitting on a much more solid foundation than it is today. The sub-prime mortgage crisis may still have happened. Go figure – sub-prime seems to me to indicate something along the lines of “risky fucking borrower”. But I suspect that it wouldn’t be near the crisis that it is, as people might only be in debt up to their waste, instead of up to their eyeballs.