Monthly Archives: February 2008

Half Life 2: Launching the Garden Gnome Into Space

I admit it. I’m a Half Life addict. Half Life was the first (real) first-person shooter I ever bought and played (save for the old original Wolfenstein 3D) and I was instantly hooked.

I also purchased most of the add-ons: Opposing Force and Blue Shift. I had to wait several years for Half Life 2 to come out, but I purchased it right away when it did release, then did the same when Episode 1 and Episode 2 came out.

There is a new character in Episode 2: a garden gnome. If you do any searches for the Half Life garden gnome, you’ll quickly find that he may very well be the most hated character in the Half Life universe.

Why is he such a hated character? Because he is so hard to kill? Because he insults your heritage in the game?

Garden gnome chats with Alyx and Vortigaunt

With the release of Episode 2, Valve (the publisher) added some optional challenges to the game. I didn’t notice them until after I had played through it once. The challenge that most interested me was launching the garden gnome into space.

I had remembered seeing the garden gnome the first time I played it through and thought to myself, “Hey, that’s an interesting thing to stick there.” The gnome appears near the beginning of the game.

At the end of the game, a rocket is launched into space to plant a satellite. That’s the rocket you must place the gnome on. So, yeah, you have to carry that stupid gnome through the entire game to accomplish the challenge.

I am currently attempting to complete the challenge. I’m at the part where you have to drive a car for quite awhile. This is a problem because that stupid gnome, which you are not able to carry and drive at the same time, keeps flying out of the car every time you accelerate, brake, or turn too quickly. It sucks!

Driving carefully when a bunch of bad guys are trying to kill you is no easy task!

I thought to myself, “There has got to be an easier way to get this gnome to his destination!”

So I did a quick searching on Google and, after reading several blogs, I found somebody who has figured out how to safely secure that piece-of-garbage gnome to the car. So if you, like many many other Half Life geeks, have been pulling your hair out trying to drive the car without losing the gnome, you’ll want to check it out.

True Half Life geeks seem to be able to complete the gnome challenge in as little as 3 hours. Me? I have a life, so it’ll take me a few weeks. You know… trying to make the $30 I paid for this game worth something more than 3 hours of enjoyment ;)

He Was as Close to Being an Angel as Anyone I’d Ever Met

I had the unfortunate occasion to attend a Tongan funeral over the weekend. Unfortunate because it was for my uncle (my wife’s uncle actually, which I guess would make him my uncle-in-law?) — the fourth uncle I’ve had die in the last few years, and the third to have passed away under the age of sixty. In this case, my uncle was just in his mid-thirties, a mere three years older than me.

Semisi caught pneumonia a couple weeks ago. From what I understand, it got out of control to the point that the hospital he was at was not equipped to deal with it. Yet inclement weather prevented his transport to a better facility.

We got the call on a Sunday morning that he was ill with pneumonia. We didn’t think too much of it. After all, people get pneumonia all the time. But less than an hour later, we got another call that he had passed away. It was quite a shock to my wife and I, and especially to his family.

Semisi was a big man (as you’d expect a Tongan native to be) and a hard worker. No matter the conditions, he was out there putting in whatever physical labor was required to get the job done.

Semisi with my boys

He was loved by all that knew him as was evidenced by the memorial held Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. One eulogy after another praised him for his kindness and service. As one man said, “He was as close to being an angel as anyone I’d ever met.” About half the eulogies were in Tongan, mostly given by members of his immediate family, so I didn’t understand them, but I’m sure they were good.

He loved kids, and kids loved him. My oldest son, who is just seven, put on a tough front, but it was clear he was very sad to lose his favorite uncle.

I have very little understanding of the Tongan culture, so this was an interesting, albeit very sad, look into it. Semisi’s family would break out in Mormon hymns sung in Tongan with seeming random spontaneity (I later learned that a full third of the Tongan nation is LDS) — and boy did they sing loudly! — during which time attendees would line up to view Semisi’s mortal body for the last time. Note the traditional dress. Those are actually floor mats they are wearing, something that has significant meaning in Tongan culture.

Semisi’s Sunday memorial

Because they are attending a sad event, the mats were generally tattered and torn. At joyous events, such as weddings, I understand that the mats worn are more elaborate and are not tattered.

To my Aunt Lucy and Cousin Keera, I know you now have a huge family of Tongans willing to do anything for you. But if you ever have need of anything I am able to provide, we are also here for you.

This one’s for you Semisi. We’re going to miss you.

Semisi loved my kids

The Latest Hypermiling Technique: Buy a Car That Gets 150 Miles per Gallon

If you think gasoline prices are out of control here in the U.S. you’ll get no sympathy from the Brits who’ve been paying upwards of $1.40/liter (that’s nearly $6/gallon yo!) for several years now. As a result, diesel powered cars — which get better mileage and have lower overall emissions — have grown very popular.

So why in the world aren’t we all driving diesels over here?

Here’s why. What’s the first thing you thought of when you heard “diesel car”? If you’re like most Americans, you thought about big giant pickup trucks which are excessively loud and driven by rednecks that appear to derive a special enjoyment from engulfing your car in a gigantic cloud of noxious black smoke whenever you get anywhere near them.

Redenecks and their trucksOr maybe you remembered when you were 16 and got your first job at the local McDonald’s and some redneck hick comes through the drive through and orders a “rumble-rumble-rumble.” And when you kindly ask the hick to turn off their engine, rather than complying they rev their engine and curse you out. Then you spit in their fries and put a little rat hair in their burger.

Okay… maybe MOST people don’t think that, but I certainly do. Growing up, rednecks in oversized pickup trucks that belched black smoke everywhere and were so freakin’ loud you couldn’t hear yourself think were the only diesel-powered consumer vehicles I ever saw. So the whole idea of every person’s car being powered by a loud, black-smoke spewing diesel engine made me cringe.
Giving rednecks everywhere a bad name
Then, later on in life, I learned that it’s actually possible to build a comparatively clean-burning and quiet diesel engine that is still more powerful and more efficient than a gas engine. And yet, the diesel has been ignored in America save for those who have an affinity for exhaust pipes large enough to fit medium-sized dogs (or little children) into and who just seem to love to torment folks such as myself with huge clouds of choking black smoke and excessively loud engines.

Oh yeah, and those few folks who actually get a diesel truck for the extra torque, power, hauling capacity and other legitimate reasons.

It was in the 90′s that I read an article about a car that Volkswagen developed. It was a small hatchback (very much like the Rabbit) powered by a three cylinder turbo diesel. It was rated at 65mpg… better than any hybrid available in the States at the time! But it was sold exclusively in Europe. I guess America wasn’t deemed ready for it.

The ultra high efficient LoremoI have since changed my misguided hatred for the diesel and come to wish we had more of it here in the U.S. And maybe, just maybe, the Loremo (a crazy acronym that stands for Low Resistance Mobile… yeah, it’s European, can you tell?) will change American attitudes regarding the diesel.

While the cost of a typical hybrid either puts it out of reach or makes it undesirable for most folks, the 150 mpg Loremo — with an expected price tag of $22,000 — is designed for the masses. And with the ability travel more than 5x farther on each gallon of fuel than even “high efficiency” gas-powered cars, for every 1,000 miles you travel, you’ll be saving approximately $79 (based on $2.95/gallon versus a 30 mpg vehicle).

That means a savings of nearly $1,000 per year for the average driver and quite a bit more than that for the majority of commuters.

Wanna get really crazy? Power it with bio-diesel and not only will you have the most efficient zero-emission car in town, but the sweet smell of your exhaust will have everybody asking you where you’re hiding the burritos.

Now, the environmentally friendly (though not so friendly to those who like their Hummers) residents of upscale Washington towns and other like-minded persons won’t have any problem with the 20 horsepower two-cylinder turbo LS model that is being introduced to the U.K. next year. But for the rest of America, they expect to produce a 50 horsepower (only slightly wimpier than my old 1985 Mazda 626 which rated about 65 HP) three-cylinder turbo GT model that will do 0-60 in half the time, yet still break 80 mpg.

Slated for a 2010 release in the States, let’s hope they actually follow through.

Only problem? No automatic transmission, so I guess I won’t be getting one :(

New Look and Feel

You may have noticed the updated look and feel. It’s basically the same as before with some new colors, a search feature in the sidebar, and, uhh… a fish in the header.

You may be wondering, “When the *#@! are you going to write another blog post? And I mean a real one, not these stupid, ‘Hey look, I made an update to my blog!’ blog posts!”

To that I can only say, “Soon my friend. Soon.”

Looking to Make Extra Money on eBay?

Okay, it’s been awhile since my last post. Been busy at work and with other projects. One of those projects is a total revamping of my How to Make Money on eBay site. So I wrote this article and submitted it to a bunch of article directories and blogs and whatnot to give my site an SEO boost.

Speaking of which, I do article writing and submission on the side for $100 a pop. This creates several hundred inbound links for your chosen keyword. So if you’re interested…

Anyway, on with the show!

For all of us there eventually comes a time when times are so tight financially, we wonder how we’re going to get by. The vast majority of us are able to trudge through it and eventually come out on top. But a few of us will end up with insurmountable debt that forces us into bankruptcy.

Others still never do overcome the hard times and seem destined to be stuck for the rest of their lives, barely getting by, living paycheck to paycheck. Regardless of which category you fall into, you’ve undoubtedly thought at these times, “There’s got to be some way for me to make a few extra dollars each month, just enough to take the pressure off!”

Thanks to eBay and the power of online auctions, literally millions of budding entrepreneurs have discovered the pressure-release valve of life by learning to make extra money on eBay.

The thing that has made entrepreneurship so difficult is that it requires a lot of time, commitment, and a thick skin to take on the constant rejection from potential supporters and insults you’ll receive from customers. Along with all that, it doesn’t hurt to have some big brass… well, you know.

eBay changed all that by acting as the middleman between the guy with the money (your customer) and the guy looking to take that money (that’s you, the entrepreneur!) In essence, eBay does all the heavy lifting of finding and bringing the customer to you. And they’ve become quite good in this role.

Today, eBay is one of the most visited websites on the Web. And the majority of those visitors are there for one reason: to buy something. All you have to do is list an item for sale. This is where most people get turned off. Fear of technology, of registering an account, of giving up one’s personal information — whatever the case may be. If you’re letting that stop you, you are really missing out on one of the greatest tools of the modern-day entrepreneur.

eBay’s strength is so powerful that even corporate behemoths like IBM sell on eBay!

The first step to making money on eBay is to just do it! Go to eBay, register, list an item, and you’ll quickly see just how simple it all is. Most people learn best by doing, so go forth and do.

Registration is a two step process that must be validated by clicking on a confirmation link that eBay will email you at the end of the process (so be absolutely sure that you use a viable email address during the registration process). The first step is to register as a buyer. Once you’ve done that, you can register as a seller.

Confused? Don’t worry. Click the “help” link on eBay’s site, then click “Learning Center”. The Learning Center is full of helpful animated tutorials that will walk you through the process of registration, step by step. It’s like watching over somebody’s shoulder as they register so you’ll know exactly what to expect when you go through the process yourself.

Berkeley Steps Over the Line

So I just heard that, if I’m hearing correctly, the City of Berkeley is trying to amend zoning laws to require military recruiters to obtain a permit and attend a public hearing if they wish to “locate within 600 feet of a residential neighborhood, hospital, school or park.”

Apparently Berkeley is worried about the national problem of pedophiles enlisting in the military and becoming recruiters.

Several protesters met just outside a Marine recruiting station, which I thought was really cool. In one fell swoop, the protesters get to conduct their protest and make known their desire to kick the Marines out of town, while at the same time thank the Marine Corps for fighting and dying to preserve their right to protest. It really touched my heart.

This has caused quite a stir, and I felt like I had to put in my two cents.

Berkeley's Naked GuyOkay Berkeley, we let you get away with “naked guy” once. But don’t think for a second we’ll allow it again! Look, nobody wants to see naked men running around town. The Marines must stay in order to prevent any other men from becoming foolhardy enough to take their clothes off in public again!

HOORAH MARINE CORPS!