Friday, November 26, 2004

Bond, Musical Bond

I love music.

In just about every genre of music I can find a group or artist that I enjoy. From Rap and Rock to Classical and Country, I'll be listening.

This year I have found a new group that I am enjoying. The CD cover caught my eye because it had four beautiful women on it, and had the title of Bond. I honestly thought it was going to be music selections from the James Bond series of movies.

When I popped it in the stereo it was immediately apparent that it was heavily focused on string instruments. Looking at the cover again I now saw the subtle violin in the background and realized what I had purchased.

Not only were these women gorgeous, but they are playing a style of music that seems to be in its own class. The only way I can describe it is upbeat classical with a dash of synthesizer thrown in for good measure.

This further intrigued me because one of my daughters is taking violin lessons, so I thought this would be an awesome way to show her a direction she could take her music. I had already shown her the “Lord of the Dance” DVD which has some great fiddling in it as well.

The Bond girls have taken their art to a new level. They are bridging the gap from the stuffy classical to the world of uplifting and quick tempo music, and doing it with a style and grace all their own.

You girls rock!

I love instrumental music of all kinds, and it's nice to see typically stodgy instruments being used in a different entertainment venue. And why not?

Today I found a DVD of their first concert at the “Royal Albert Hall”. It was fun to not only see them perform their music live, but to get to hear from the girls themselves between songs, and to watch them answer questions on the Special Features section of the DVD.

Here's an example of someone taking something that for centuries has been stagnant in its niche of concert halls, and bringing it into a whole other light. They are literally exposing classical string instruments to a generation that would probably never have embraced it in its historical format.

During their interviews they mentioned that people who have walked away from their string instruments have told them that they now have a renewed interest once again in playing thanks to Bond's fresh take on the string quartet.

Now if I can just find a group that shows the flute in the same light. My oldest daughter is playing the flute, and my youngest has not yet made it to the musical age. On the other hand, she will dance to just about any music, and at the drop of a hat. The funny part is, at 5 years old she is a really good dancer and all on her own initiative. Maybe that will be the direction she is going to go in. We'll see.

If you have not heard this wonderful group, run out and get a Bond CD now and let me know what you think of it. And if you have already heard them, I'd love to hear your thoughts on their music.

Now it's time to load my Bond CD's into my computer so I can stream them through my home stereo system. This time of year they will have to compete with SheDasiy's Holiday album and other Christmas music, but I think I can squeeze them in.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sport Professionals Need To Grow Up

I was going to do a bunch of research for this article, but then I thought, why waste my time? I did manage to look at a time line of the event, and that pretty much gave me all the information I needed.

Many professional athletes act just that way, professional. Unfortunately, there's typically a small group of players who can't control their tempers.

Many of us played organized sports when we were growing up, and what was the one thing that these events were supposed to teach us? It's not winning or losing that counts, but how you play the game.

Sure winning is awesome, and that is the goal of the event, but there is such thing as honor and just plain being a good sport. Everyone knows what it means to be a poor sport, or to have a bad sportsman-like attitude. It's fundamental in all of our sporting events.

The plain and simple truth is that the fans are always out of line and wrong to throw anything onto a court or field at a sporting event. The only exception might be with confetti at the end of a game when you win.

Now here's the tough pill to swallow. As a professional athlete there should be no reason on this planet for you to interact with the fans in such a negative manner. If you don't like being booed, yelled at, or called names, get out of the public spotlight.

Some professional athletes have been making so much money for so long they have some weird thought that they don't have to abide by the same rules as the rest of us. That for some reason it's somehow acceptable to jump into the stands and beat the wholly crap out of your fans when the mood strikes you.

I got news for you all. Grow the heck up. Where will you be when your butt gets canned for good? Suddenly, you'll go from making millions to not being able to get a job at the local car wash.

Get a clue, and start acting like the person that many kids look up to. This isn't some playground basketball game where you can cuss and throw punches if you don't get your way like some immature teen. It's your profession, and the profession of many of your peers.

If you don't like the way things are, then leave the league. You are not what the game is all about, and guess what Skippy, many of you will find this out the hard way.

Nobody wants you on their team if you act like that. The fans, or your fellow players.

Police officers are in the same boat. They must do their job, take people's crap all day long who look down on them, spit at them, or even try to kill them. In many cases, the police have to just grin and bare it, because here's the rub. They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.

The same goes for professional players, actors, or anyone else in the spotlight. The simple answer to you being upset at the attention is to leave your line of work.

This does not excuse any fan of sporting events or of entertainers from doing things that are disrespectful to these public figures. Just because someone is in the public spotlight does not mean they are your public property to treat however you wish.

Just as the superstar should be nice to their fans, the fans should equally be nice to the star. It all comes down to why can't we all just play nice together?

Is it just me, or is this topic merely something that people just did not learn when they were in kindergarten? It seems really basic things that your parents and teachers should have impressed on you at a young age.

Perhaps it's just too difficult for some of the Neanderthal's that are playing professional sports to grasp? If so, just like in school and the rest of the world, they need to be suspended or dropped altogether if this is what it will take to send them a wakeup call.

We are once again entering into the season of goodwill. Let's not make doing good, and treating others nicely, a seasonal thing. Civilized people should treat everyone with respect and kindness all year long. For those of you who can't grasp the concept, we will continue to build prison systems.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2004

EverQuest II - Let The Games Begin!

Last night the stars were shining brightly. The beam of a lighthouse was gently sweeping the sky, as large crabs scurried across the beach.

I had just gotten off a ship on a place called, “Refugee Island” where I spent a few hours learning how to fight. We were defending the compound from invading goblins and gaining the much needed skills we would need to survive in this new world.

EverQuest II (EQII) is a bit different then the original EverQuest. The first thing that became painfully obvious is that you need a graphics card with DirectX 9 compatibility. If you don't yet have that level of graphics, then EQII will be a much more expensive game for you to buy.

One of the new touches in EQII is that of Non-Player Characters (NPC) that actually speak to you. It's nice to not only hear the voices, but to not have to sit there and read a ton of script to figure out what your quest is going to be.

Another nice touch is that you no longer have to type in tedious answers and questions to interact with the NPC. Now it gives you multiple choices with which you can interact with the NPC. Things such as, “I'm not interested right now thanks” or “I'll help you fight the goblins”. Just click on the answer you want to get the next juicy bit of your quest.

As you can expect from the hefty requirements, the graphics are stunning, and the variety you can choose from to create your characters is amazing. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has done a great job in not only the graphics, but also the sound effects and the story line.

In the start of the original EverQuest there would be newbie characters all running around screaming little help me questions. Now, with EQII you begin your career on Refugee Island working through a tutorial and getting the help new players so desperately require. When they are ready, they can leave the island and head to their chosen starting city.

Once at the city entrance, however, they are still not allowed to play with the more skilled characters until they become citizens of their chosen city. To do this they must complete a quest.

If you're keeping track so far, a new player will have to survive Refugee Island, and then go on a quest to become a citizen before they are even allowed to continue throughout the rest of the game. I like this feature because it not only assists new players, but keeps them from just running around annoying seasoned players too much.

I recall trying to learn EverQuest for the first time and spending a huge amount of time just trying to learn the game mechanics. Now, with this new way to enter the game, I can see where new players would be less intimidated from the experience.

The player interface has been reworked and seems much nicer providing a much cleaner view then the old one did. The chat window, for example, stays hidden and only appears when something is being written to it. Moving the mouse over it will keep it lit for you to read what you have missed if you'd like.

Another nice addition is with the Quest Journal where it keeps track of the quests you have done, and what you are still working on. In the upper right corner of the player interface is your current goal for the quest you are working on, which removes the old need to write down a bunch of notes on little pieces of paper and lay them all over your desk while you play. Plus, I always lost them and on the long quests I could never remember all of the details.

Playing EverQuest seemed to have something lacking. When I used to run Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games I always made sure that the players were grounded in town. They would always have a room at a local Inn, or even bought houses when they became more wealthy. I found it gave them better desire to protect and defend the town they lived in.

With EQII you also get a room to call your own. I hear that later you have the ability to increase your digs as you progress. My room currently has a table, chandelier, and a nice picture given to me by my landlord. I used to find an abandoned hut in Kelethin within the old EverQuest game to sit and camp (exit the game). Now I can go home, kick off the old adventuring boots, and relax as I reflect on the days adventures.

In just a few short gaming sessions I have risen to a 6th level fighter, and well on my way to becoming the 51st level Paladin I once was in EverQuest. Most of my second gaming session was spent as an interior decorator and just trying to find my way around my new city of Qeynos.

In EverQuest it wasn't long before I had gaming burnout. Too many hours spent in front of the computer, and when it seemed to fall into a boring same old routine, I dropped it like a bad habit.

Now comes EQII, and I am once again cleaning off my armor, sharpening my blade, and rescuing damsels in distress. What can I say, it's what I like to do. After I have seen all of the basics EQII has to offer I'm certain I will be moving on from it as well. Until then, the monsters and evil doer's of all types had better watch their step when Halfdan the Highborn is around!

Soon it'll be off to the dungeons and doing my part to protect the fair city where the good and righteous live.

Want to join me? I am on the Highkeep server, and a goodie living in the city of Qeynos. If you make it through the trials, both in our world and in Sony's, look me up and I'll buy you a drink at the local tavern.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry, Bush-Whacked!

I was going to wait on publishing this article based on the issues with Ohio and Iowa, but I am confident that President Bush will come out of this taking Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada, which will make him the winner of this election. At least that’s how I see things at midnight Pacific Time.

John Kerry would be smart to not raise too much of a stink and try to fight this. Al Gore did in 2000 and suffered the fate of looking like a whiny-butt sorry loser bastard. Sometimes you just need to bow out gracefully and take it like a man.

The days leading up to this election were crazy!

Bush and Kerry were neck and neck as they made whirlwind campaign trips in the last remaining hours leading up to the big day of November 2nd.

As I watched the debates, campaigning, commercials and listened to talk shows, it seemed to me that John Kerry had to work harder to get his point across then President Bush did. This is because John Kerry really did not have a solid platform to run with. As I have said all along his stance was basically get into office and do exactly what George Bush is doing, but then he adds, but he’ll do it better.

What kind of silly position was that?

It’s not entirely John Kerry’s fault. Our current global and domestic situation sort of only has one answer right now. We must stay the course in Iraq, so he really could not add anything different there. And George Bush has sparked this economy into high gear with his tax cuts and the rest of his economic policies.

John Kerry kept saying he would do better, but were people willing to take the chance?

Apparently not.

They had just got slowly pulled out of a nasty economic time after 911, and I don’t think they want to slide back into another recession.

Point blank, what President Bush is doing is working, and the majority of this country realized it and voted accordingly. This includes many Democrats, which is where John Kerry had his troubles.

The Senator had several strikes against him right out of the shoot. He jumped in trying to rely almost 100% on being a war hero, and that fell apart when the truth about his military record came to light. Then the truth that was told to us by those who served with him and John Kerry still refuses to release his military records.

John Kerry was a classic politician in that he would flip flop on issues based on the winds of change. He’ll deny it all day long, but his record speaks for itself, and just listening to him gave me the feeling that he’s trying to sell me a used car. People like that scare me normally, and I certainly don’t want one of them to become the leader of our country.

Now that the smoke has cleared, it was clear that for all of the work that the Democratic Party and John Kerry did to try and undermine and discredit the President, they just did not have enough of what it took to remove a successful President.

I was glad to see Florida stand by President Bush, even though they took a lot of flack from the 2000 election, and it was nice to see that they rallied and stood behind the rightful person when it really mattered.

The state that I found interesting during this entire race was California. When they elected Arnold and joined him in helping drag that state out of the mess that their past Governor had placed them in, I was surprised that they did not once again stand behind their Governor and finally drag California kicking and screaming to the right side of the vote. In the end, who needed them?

So here it is, 9PM Pacific Time and Florida has not even been decided yet. I’m ready to put this article to bed.

You read that right, I wrote this piece before half the country was decided. I was that sure the President Bush would be allowed to finish what he has begun. Although I will wait until it’s guaranteed before I actually post this. Not because I have doubts, but because it just makes good sense.

Based on the popular vote, I guess we now really know who won the three debates.

Congratulations Mr. President. You defended your office well just like you have defended this country.

Take a break, you deserve one. Then it’s back to the office to roll up your sleeves and get back to work. The American people have shown that they are behind you.

Let’s roll!

Monday, November 01, 2004

Lesser of Two Evils

You know what really bothers me at the moment? We are going into this election with so many people actually planning to vote for John Kerry.

I can only assume that the Democrats have done a great job getting a lot of ignorant people to sell out their vote for Kerry. Not literally sell it, but scare them and lie to them in such a way that those most uninformed in our country actually believe John Kerry will help them in some way.

Looking at John Kerry’s senate record, his military record, his actions after the military, and just basically his wishy-washy leadership style, I’m at a loss as to why anyone wants to vote for him.

The only thing I can come up with based on what I hear in the news is that he is not George Bush, and that’s why people want John Kerry in office.

Okay I’ll say it. You’re all a bunch of idiots!

I’m not a big fan of politics or politicians, and sure there are a lot of things about George Bush and his policies and actions I disagree with, but if I hold John Kerry up next to him to lead this country, and out military, I don’t see any contest at all.

Is not voting for George Bush that important that you will purposely vote into office someone who can literally destroy this country and its reputation by his non-existent or weak plans?

Before you vote for John Kerry you really need to do some soul-searching. This is not the time to simply vote Democrat because you’re a Democrat. There are many Democrats who are voting for George Bush because they understand the importance of this election. They realize that this election is not just about politics; it’s about the future of this country and all of our lives.

If you are voting for John Kerry because he’s not George Bush, or just because he’s a Democrat, I urge you to think long and hard on your decision. Do some reading, look into the issues, heck listen to a talk show or two tomorrow.

This has got to be the most important election of our time. Act like it!

Many countries that hate us want John Kerry to win this election. Terrorists want John Kerry to win this election. Bill Clinton wants John Kerry to win this election.

Ask yourself why you think our enemies want John Kerry to become president instead of allowing George Bush to continue to lead this country. It’s because George Bush is fighting for this country, and he’s taking the needed risks to keep us safe.

Osama Bin Laden has only been able to launch an attack on us with videotape, and words. Why do you think that is?

It’s because George Bush, this administration, and our military are succeeding in defending this country!

When you’re winning, it’s not the time to change the quarterback!

If you are planning on voting for John Kerry you’d better be pretty darn sure of your reason. Many lives could depend on your vote.