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Rabbit-Hole Economics

Paul Krugman explains the insanity that is our modern economic and political system.

The article appeared in the New York Times on October 13, 2011 and can be found here.

I love practicing and teaching martial arts, and I also love martial arts films. Kung Fu Panda is one such film that I enjoy and will watch repeatedly. Besides the fun of anthropomorphized animals, the story of Kung Fu Panda is a microcosm of the martial arts experience.

Martial arts has many forms and many benefits, and each individual who practices a martial art will experience these differently. However, every student must have a teacher, just as every teacher was once a student. I find that I connect best with my students through the shared experience of martial arts training. I have been where they are, and I can use that knowledge and understanding to help them learn. It often amazes me how many martial arts instructors seem to have forgotten their time as students and that they are still students.

These same instructors are often the ones whose teaching feels dead, like it is merely textbook knowledge that is repeated from some other source. This will sometimes work, but it will most likely produce mediocre results and unmotivated students. I feel that teaching in the martial arts must be adapted for the needs of the students. In Kung Fu Panda, Shifu attempts to teach Po Kung Fu through traditional methods and fails. Many instructors would blame the student at that point, and they would be wrong. Shifu then learns that he must adapt his teaching so that Po will respond and progress is made.

Martial arts is a living discipline. It is kept alive through practice and through teaching. If we treat it as dead knowledge that can be packaged and mass produced that is what it will become. To truly keep martial arts alive, it must be more than something you do, it must become a part of who you are.

My guilty pleasure game is Rocket Knight Adventures for the Sega Genesis. It’s a guilty pleasure because it’s a great game that few people even know exists, and when you try to explain it to them, you tend to get some pretty strange looks. The basic premise of the game is jet-pack wearing, beam-projecting sword wielding, armored possum who takes on an evil army of pigs in order to save a kidnapped princess (although at least she’s not in another castle). As I said, it’s entirely odd, but the game play is entirely solid.

In addition to the game play, I love Rocket Knight Adventures for its artistic styling. The setting is a semi-futuristic medieval type kingdom set in world that is side scrolling but still feels expansive. Each level have its own vibe including a castle, a water level, a lava level and a run-down city level. Although 16-bit graphics are somewhat limited, the levels are stunning all the same.

More information regarding the beautiful, opossum-based craziness can be found here.

One of my favorite games that I consider to be underrated is The Legend of Dragoon for the PlayStation. Most people have never heard of it, and those that have tend to be split between positive and negative opinions. LoD is an RPG with a few twists. Primarily, there is no default attack, but instead each character has a series of “additions” that serve as attacks. The addition is the default method of attack and requires regular button pressing as two boxes converge onscreen. The addition system puts an interesting spin on the whole game, and it is the primary reason why some dislike the game.

Beyond the game mechanics, LoD has a rich story that is divided into four parts to coincide with the four discs that are required to hold the game. Although almost all RPG cliches are present, they are represented rather elegantly and there is enough fresh material to generate a unique setting. The characters are interesting, except for Dart who happens to be the main character and cannot be removed from the party. However, the other characters are all very colorful (and color coded), and most of them have interesting plot twists.

The Legend of Dragoon is a great RPG and often underrated. If you like RPGs and you have some time to kill (like 30-40 hours), go find a copy of LoD and give it a try.

Because I play so many games, I encounter a large number and wide variety of game characters. However, I would have to say that my favorite character is one that has been with me for a long time. The character to whom I am referring was in fact introduced in my first video game, Sonic 2. That’s right, I am an avid fan of Sonic the Hedgehogs two-tailed companion, Miles “Tails” Prower.

Although continually playing second fiddle to the blue blur, this orange fox is highly intelligent and highly capable. When Sonic is in need, Tails flies in to save the day, literally and figuratively. Tails sometimes just carries Sonic directly, but when necessary he breaks out the Tornado, which is awesome in and of itself.

But I digress. The other major reason I love Tails is the possibility of Super Tails that exists in the combination of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. After arduously collecting not just the seven chaos emeralds but also the seven additional super emeralds, Tails transforms from his usual self into a flying Juggernaut of destruction. More on Super Tails can be found in my Salute to Super Tails.

My first game, at least the first that I owned and clearly remember, was Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I remember it clearly because it came packaged with the first console I purchased, my second gen Sega Genesis. Of course, I was five at the time and lacking in hand-eye coordination, so I was pretty terrible when it actually playing the game. My first time, I died half way through the first level, and continued to die for some time. I recall that it took me months to reach level 3. Ah, the good old days. Anyway, I still have Sonic 2 and the Genesis in my collection, and to this day, I have not beaten the game. The best I’ve done is to reach the final boss and then die repeatedly.

Day 1 – Your very first video game.
Day 2 – Your favorite character.
Day 3 – An underrated game.
Day 4 – Your guilty pleasure game.
Day 5 – Game character you feel you are most like (or wish you were).
Day 6 – Most annoying character.
Day 7 – Favorite game couple.
Day 8 –  Best soundtrack.
Day 9 – Saddest game scene.
Day 10 – Best gameplay.
Day 11 – Gaming system of choice.
Day 12 – A game everyone should play.
Day 13 – A game you’ve played more than five times.
Day 14 – Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper.
Day 15 – Post a screenshot from the game you’re playing right now.
Day 16 – Game with the best cut scenes.
Day 17 – Favorite antagonist.
Day 18 – Favorite protagonist.
Day 19 – Picture of a game setting you wish you lived in.
Day 20 – Favorite genre.
Day 21 – Game with the best story.
Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you.
Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style.
Day 24 – Favorite classic game.
Day 25 – A game you plan on playing.
Day 26 – Best voice acting.
Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.
Day 28 – Favorite game developer.
Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.
Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time.

From my friend’s Daily Musings.

There is little doubt that Fire Emblem is one of my favorite game series of all times. However, when it came to the console versions, I was very slow in completing even the Path of Radiance. For some reason, it was hard to find time to sit and play Fire Emblem on a console when it consumed so much time and mental energy. It has been more than five years since its release, but I did finally sit and finish Path of Radiance.

I initially resisted this installment of the series because it departed rather notably from the GameBoy Advance iterations to which I had become accustomed. However, the changes were largely irrelevant to the actual game play, so a little learning brought be back up to speed. Interestingly enough, these deviations from the North American versions were actually closer to the original Japanese games.

After adapting to the changes, it is easy to get swept up in Path of Radiance because of the characters. The main protagonist, Ike, is young and idealistic and for once in the history of gaming, is not a complete idiot. The rest of the characters are part of Ike’s mercenary band or later join his army. Like Fire Emblems before, there are familiar character archetypes that don’t disappoint. My favorites have always been the knight and the mage.

Like other Fire emblem games, these characters become embroiled in a war with a deeper, darker evil lurking somewhere in the shadows. This time, however, the main characters are not the nobles whose kingdom is under attack, but the band of mercenaries protecting the noble whose king is under attack. The story is robust and massive as befits the Fire Emblem series, and is bolstered by the improved abilities of the console over portable systems.

The story takes place between game levels that are just as massive and beautifully rendered in 3D. With the better graphics, it becomes easier to manage troops over expansive level maps and helps in assessing the status of the battlefield.

The troops in Path of Radiance are slightly different than those in previous iterations of the series as the classes more closely resemble the classes in the older Japanese versions. However, the slight retooling is easy to learn and some of the new units are quite useful. The units still use the same weapons triangle for swords, lances and axes, but the magic users now have wind, fire and thunder magic although still in a triangle. In addition to the changes in weapons usage, units now have skills that can have an incredible impact in combat. Some units are self healing, others deal more damage and many have other outstanding abilities. Also, there is the ability to give “bonus experience” to your units in between battles, which is a very good way to keep the slow-growing, ever-useful healers alive.

As with every other Fire Emblem game, I kept every single character alive till the end. It’s hard and often frustrating, but it feels like a real accomplishment. In all, I loved the Path of Radiance, even though it took me forever to finish. Now, I’ll be moving on to Radiant Dawn and possibly be playing the Sacred Stones again.

More Fullmetal Alchemist

…that is the question for many of us who are not yet fully immersed in social media. While I enjoy being able to communicate readily and freely, I am reticent to allow that communication to be overwhelming.

I recently came back to Twitter after a significant absence, partially because of time and partially because I don’t use its various mobile applications. I use twitter to communicate and to post random statements; I rarely use it to convey my current whereabouts or activity. I see Twitter, like so many other media applications, as a method of expression and not a tracking device.

Anyone following the blog will notice that I have added a Twitter feed in the sidebar. I’ve decided to go back to tweeting in my spare time, and I’ve added it to the blog so I can update without full posts. Here’s to 140 character of expression.