Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wii Fit...Recommendation and Spoiler

I strongly recommend Wii Fit (and especially Wii Fit Plus. Get it for sure.) In addition to the hand sensors you have likely seen, Wii Fit includes a balance board. The Wii board can sense shifts in weight. The way you can try to walk tightropes, get through obstacle courses, ski slalom courses, and bicycle around the Wii island.

There are dozens of games that are very imaginative, and extremely well done. They allow you to work on your balance, your strength, and endurance. Some, like the stepping, running, and biking, allow you to work up a sweat. There are many little challenges to keep you thinking while you exercise.

Speaking as a computer programmer, I am very impressed by the 3-D graphics, the flexibility, and the intelligence built into the programs.

Now: For those who do the free biking, here are the locations of the 20 balloons and the fastest route I've found to get them. I just got off the "bike" and had them in 20:24:25, a new record for me. (I know one place I lost a second.)

If you want to find them yourself, don't read any farther.

To get the balloons in a fast time, start near the top of the mountain, at the balloon on the grass by the stone pillars. That way you head downhill at the start and don't have to climb the mountain again. The free ride starts where you last stopped, so prepare by going up the mountain and stopping after popping that balloon. (Press B to stop there, and exit.)

Also, have you found that the A button rings a bell that attracts a pet? With it alongside you, if you are pointing at a nearby balloon and ring the bell, the dog or cat runs ahead and pops the balloon while you are turning around. Don't ring too soon, though.

OK, here's the fastest route I've found.
1. On the mountain path, by the pillars. Head down...
2. Behind the castle. Keep going around and pick up a pet.
3. Curve around the pond, up on the grass on the right before you get to the tunnel.
4. Cut down slope to tunnel. You will survive and pet will follow. After tunnel, cut right and skirt the cliff to a raised grassy strip. Balloon at end.
5. Go back, up sand path through tunnel with iron bridge. Curve right at exit of bridge. Balloon is in the field.
6. Cut right toward the big rock. Pass it on the right; go across the two suspension bridges, cut up the grass through the tunnel to balloon on sandy plateau.
7. Go back, follow cliff around to left...balloon near the rock.
8. Cut right. This is the trickiest. Coast down and cut sharply around the FIRST fence (passing it with your right shoulder.) Balloon is at far end of a narrow grassy strip. Careful when you turn around.
9. Reverse, follow lower fence; cut around it at end and find balloon near the water by the left side of the bridge.
10. Cross bridge. (You will probably lose your pet.) Cut left at town and take first grass path between houses to balloon.
11. Follow around houses to town square and up the ramp to the upper town. JUST BEFORE you go up, ring bell twice to summon pet.
12. After breaking balloon go back down the SAME ramp. At the bottom, ring bell again. Pet should come running up as you turn right. Head through town, turn down towards water at last street. Go behind last house on right to find balloon (on grass, near water.)
13. Follow black walk, then up to lighthouse. Pass left of lighthouse to balloon on the point.
14. Pick up road that goes around the island. Take immediate right after short tunnel. Balloon is on right side of pond.
15. Another balloon on left side of pond.
16. Cross road, up grass to ruins. Balloon behind ruins.
17. Out of ruins, continue on road through tunnel. Take immediate left down to balloon near water.
18. Follow shore along the sand. (Fastest along the harder, wet sand.) Balloon just past the first large rock with small tunnel in it.
19. Keep going toward end of sand. Go up the jump to the left of the next rock. Balloon on top.
20. Keep going past balloon. Jump down. Keep going. Pick up pet just before final large rock. Follow around the left. Tell pet to break the last balloon.

Now you should have a few minutes to start back to the grass for the long trek back for your next run. (Or try this run in reverse!)

Good luck.

The other day, my friend Ray called Obama a Nazi, a socialist, a danger to Western democracy, a man intent on bringing down the United States. He shied away from calling him the Antichrist.

I couldn't believe that a person I thought was an intelligent, rational, free-thinking person would make that preposterous statement. So, what led him to it? I conclude that the 'free-thinking' attribute was probably wrong. He was trumpeting the standard line spouted by Beck, Palin, the Tea Partiers, and other radical right types. (I do not claim that Beck, Palin, and every Tea Party member thinks the same thing. But if asked to take a stand for or against Ray's statement, I propose that they would be Ray-supporters. So I will continue to generalize.)

"Ray," I said, "think for a moment. You are just saying stuff other people say, without thinking about it."

"Look at the bank bailouts," he said.

The bailouts were started by Bush, not Obama. Did Obama allocate more funds? Yes. But why? Not to line the pockets of the filthy rich CEO's. Obama is as upset as everyone at those robber-barons getting multimillion-dollar salaries for incompetent management of assets. Many of those assets came from Main Street, and represent many honest Americans' pension plans and life savings. By keeping the banks afloat, the bailout safeguarded the financial futures of millions of ordinary people.

According to the NYTimes: Losses from the $700 billion financial rescue are expected to be much less than initially feared, according to a Treasury report and government audit late last year. Besides banks’ repayment of their bailout money with interest, the government also has made money by selling the bank warrants that it held as collateral for its loans to the institutions.
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"What about healthcare?" Ray demanded. "That's socialism."

Well, so is using taxpayer's dollars for building roads. Everyone pays, even those who don't use the roads. (Of course, everyone benefits. The trucks bringing food to your grocery story use the roads, even if you don't.) And tax money funds schools. (Even if you have no children, presumably you want your doctor to have had a good education.) The idea of a decent universal healthcare system is that the country benefits as a whole from the good health of its citizens. Economy of scale considerations suggest that the total amount spent by the citizens of the country could go down. (I acknowledge that the two sides disagree on that point. Certainly, prevention costs less than cure, so if people see doctors early, before conditions worsen, every person who is spared a hospital stay helps save the system money.)

I guess what bothers me the most is that Ray echoes the people who shout the apple pie slogans: no taxation, no driver's licenses, no restrictions on guns, no restrictions on freedom, no government interference in anyone's lives, etc. etc.

No income tax? Right: who is going to build the roads? Who is going to pay for the navy that guards the shores? Does everyone then teach their kids at home? (Ray: "People can freely combine and pool their money for a community school." Me: "Give me a break! Would the US have gained prominence in so many areas if it hadn't had government-funded schools?")

Regarding government influence: Do you want no standards for quality of food? No standards for toxin-free paint or microbe-free water?

What I'd prefer is that you Tea Partiers, you local militia folk, you radical Right people just come out and say it. Be honest. You guys don't want a black president; you guys don't want to contribute to the common good of your country (except on your terms); and, basically, you want anyone who thinks differently from you to get the hell out of your country.

P.S. McCain said, regarding working with Democrats on other big items on Obama's agenda. "There will be no cooperation for the rest of this year." Although he softened the statement after receiving criticism, it speaks volumes about whether Republicans care about governing the country. The country can go to hell before any Republican will participate in honest government. Sabotaging the president is their highest priority.

P.P.S. Many in the Tea Party movement do not shy away from calling Obama the Antichrist.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lying for Christ ... Three questions.

I just received an email that contained a religious PowerPoint presentation created, apparently, by Bro. Joe. It begins with a "news" article about an Egyptian man who kills his wife for reading the Bible, then kills and buries his two kids. Fifteen days later people go to bury an uncle and find the girls alive. They describe a Christ figure as feeding them after their interment.

On subsequent pages, the a commentator (not Bro. Joe) expands the story. He claims that the people in Egypt are "outraged" and that the "man will be executed in July." Also, the writer predicts that "Muslim leaders are going to have a hard time to figure out what to do with this."

Of course, the story never happened. According to, the email was first seen in 2004, and its creator has been identified (the wife of a pastor). It's a fabrication. [Subsequent note: now reports that the pastor's wife says her husband received the story via email himself.-Rob]

It's a lie. There were no news reports about this event; no one was sentenced to be executed for this crime.

Now for the first question. If the writer wants people to believe in God and Christ, is she justified in creating a phony story to convince people of Christ's presence and miraculous powers? I think not. Christ used fables to get a point across, but I doubt if he used phony news reports. I doubt if he would have sanctioned such an ends-justifies-the-means approach to spreading his message.

The second question is related. Was the pastor's wife trying to gain converts? My guess is that she is preaching to the choir. Will any non-Christian read it and decide to become a Christian? Surely not.

Besides, it's my guess that she sends out such God's message emails to friends who are already Christians. (I have relatives that do that.) So the desire is either to make them feel good or to reinforce an "us versus them" perception. Hence the anti-Muslim slant. Part of the reason for sending it out is fear.

Now the third question. Why did Joe make the woman's email the foundation of a PowerPoint presentation and send it out to his friends? I will assume that Joe believes the story was true. In a dozen pages following the story he urges the reader, many times, to send the slides on to many others. Why is only bad news forwarded? he asks. Why jokes but not messages about God? As I read, I could feel his despair. He bribes people with "Send this on and God will abundantly reward you."

By the end, instead of the beautiful scenery over which he had pasted his text, he was putting images of Christ in the clouds, with lines of scripture beneath. Poor desperate Bro. Joe.

So, about the entire production. I find myself annoyed with the creator of the phony news article. No girls in Egypt were found alive after being buried for 15 days. It just didn't happen.

I find myself feeling sad for Joe who is so desperate to get the good news out that he creates a PowerPoint presentation about it. (He rushed it, as shown by the cut-and-paste errors he made from an original HTML document.) That he even believes the story, though, causes me to lose sympathy for him.

And I find myself frustrated that so many people will believe the countless crap that appears in our mailboxes, whether it's reports about abductions by UFOs, conspiracy stories, or tales of little girls surviving in the ground because Christ visited them bearing food.