Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Break from Vegas

Although half of the premise of this blog was to talk about video games, it kind of dawn on me that I hadn't really spent that much time playing video games; like nothing for the last three months. Although this may not sound long, this comes from the guy that used to play from three to four hours straight every day about three years ago. Little by little though, I kind of being reducing the time. Do I regret this? No, its all about prioritizing and allocating time where it needs to be.

Anyway, this Spring Break I dusted off my 360 and rented a couple of games: Devil May Cry 4 and Rainbow Six Vegas 2. The first one I played was Devil May Cry 4 and I can tell you that it is a pretty cool game. The game falls under the category of Action and Adventure and from the moment you start playing it, you just can't put it down until the end of the story. Its got a few problems like making you play the same bosses several times, or some weird sex innuendos that feel sometimes off places but the game is overall pretty cool. The other game however, was not an instant hit for me.
At first when I began to play RSV2, I felt sick playing it, literally. One of the main problems with why most people don't grab first person shooters is that the view makes their eyes or stomach hurt (it looks like if you were watching the game from the eyes of the character). I c just couldn't believe that after sometimes of criticizing people and telling them to take it like a man when playing fps, I myself was having the same eye straining and dizziness (it wasn't the time; I only played for an hour). On top of that, I was really lost in the first mission: I didn't know what to do, my AI (Artificial Intelligence) guys were not helping at all, and my weapons were just not doing the damage they should be doing. I was very close to just returning the game (I rented both of them). After that first hour, I didn't play the game again for a day or two. After that, having nothing better to do, I gave the game another shot. This time, it all clicked. The eye strain and the dizziness went away for the most part and the gameplay was not bad at all, it just was different from the games I had played before.
The morale of the story is: don't get carry away if things don't work out in the first 30 or so minutes. Give things some time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheap Can be More Expensive

As the scheduled day for all TV signals to change to digital, we are all feeling the itch to buy a new and shiny TV. That would include me. Some like going for the cheapest option, that's all we need right? others like buying the most expensive TV in the market, quality over quantity. As I walked through Walmart, I found out that neither of the two is the best one.

First, let us analyze the cheap TV. The Vizio brand is considered to be the number one selling brand of LCDs in America. That may true, but what they don't tell you is that their product is very inferior to that of its competitors. About a couple of weeks ago, I was at the brink of buying a 26" Vizio; I truly was seconds away from doing so. However, as I looked to other TVs, I noticed something very interesting about TV, the TV displayed no gray colors! Whenever an object casted a shadow, the TV would just display a big blob of black. I tried adjusting the contrast and the brightness to see if I could fix that. To my surprise, the contrast was all the way up already. I started playing with it anyway, up and down, the image didn't improve that much and sometimes it got worst. I played with the brightness, but raising that only made the rest of the colors looked like they were washed away. Long story made short, Vizio was clearly worst than its competitors.

Next to Vizio, was a Samsung TV which looked light years better than Vizio and I'm not only talking about the image in the TV, but also the overall shape of the TV was just sexy. Samsung TVs are known to be one of the best in the market, and the TV I was looking didn't prove otherwise. The catch: it was almost double the price of the Vizio! Unless you have some extra cash sitting around, or you can wait a couple (or more) months to get double the money, don't buy Samsung. What is there to do?
Among the things you can do, as I said before, you can wait some time and save up some money. You can also with about $100 more, you can buy a Phillips or a Sharp TV. They are not as awesome looking or awesome displaying as Samsung, but they are pretty close. In fact, the difference between them, are nigh impossible to see. Hence, like in everything else, don't buy the cheapest one because you are going to end up paying more for it, and don't buy the best, why waste money?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rise of the Machines (Critical Learning Part 2)

Most of you might remember the popular movie the Matrix where machines take over the world as we know it. Such a movie played with the fears of people of being conquered by something they create whether it be a robot, or something else. What comes as a surprise in this whole deal is how is it that rather than trying to stop that from happening, we are just sitting down and playing with our thumbs, Home-Style!
Computers, as we all know, are machines that can compute one thing at a time, at a super-fast speed (if you add dual-core, than 2). There is little to no hope that we can possibly one day match their speed with raw force, why then are trying to do this? With the current system of education, it seems as if though most people were trying to to beat the computer in things like adding, remembering, and other one-action tasks. Hence, one again the importance of using our critical thinking. Machines, under this ideology, are made to compliment our living, while the critical thinkers take the complicated decisions.
In the current future forecast of copy-paste knowledge, the future is much more grim. With humans providing a similar or worst contribution to the world, what then would be left for humans to do? Sit down and die? Become sources of energy?
"The concept, not date" should then be the norm, not the option.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Critical Learning

In this my short time in college it has already come to my attention the fact that classes in college have something very different  from classes at any other level. Thus, I set myself to think about what is it that makes classes in a college different from any other classes. The conclusion  that I reached was that classes in college actually make you think. Already deeply divagating in some place other than earth, I started to wonder why was it that most students have troubling answering "critical thinking" questions which are very much the bread and butter of college. The answer was simple, most of us were taught to repeat and not to think.

As hard to believe as this may be, i is in fact difficult to contradict. Think about it for a second and try to remember just how many times your told in, say, history classes in high school to memorize when Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the US. Do you, at this moment in time, remember the date? I throw not. Such is the case of most of the education we were taught in high school; information which has little to no practical use for other than history majors (and even some may not care about it!). 

Dates and the alike make up for awesome test questions, but they give, most of them that is, no real enlightening value to the students. This example is not limited to history. Now, imagine if you will a reality where you were asked on a test, not dates and people, but rather their contributions to society and how their actions shaped the lives of the world. Tests would in fact be more difficult, but, GBW, we should get used to it and the net gain of such tests would be, I believe, better than a useless date. Let me not be misunderstood; there are some dates that are imperative to know like December 7, 1941 or significant dates like that one. Again, this example is not limited to history alone. Math: learning the "Mean Value Theorem" is useless if you don't know when or how to apply it; Chemistry: memorizing every aspect of every element of the periodic table when most likely, you'll have one wherever you go, etc.

However, education must focus on critical learning, not on "copy-paste" learning since, much like the computer function being refer to, the knowledge of such things quickly goes away.