Critical Toxicity Level Reached – Divorcing Friends, Years Later.

When we reach our teenage years, we finally open our hearts socially and embrace friendships with people of similar or different walks of life. These bonds become the foundation of our own social and moral fibers. The ones who stand tall and support you usually end up being the ones who are the “real deal”. Often through our vulnerable years, we fall victim to those who betray our trust and show their deceitful colors as traitors to the ideals we have formed. What happens when someone who you have turned to for trust, security and advice ends up slowly poisoning your life? How do we find strength to figuratively put a bullet into the relationship that was productive, but now just making your life a living hell? had a great article about pulling the plug on friends featured on Monday. The article brings about some really great points on the “criteria” you as a person should consider about your friends. At the same right, it does bring some factors to the table that you also have to take into account. One could almost break it into the concept of “friendship appraisal”. Like how when you bring a vehicle to the dealership for an appraisal before trading it in or cashing it out, it is a through evaluation that inspects almost every facet of things to make sure that there are not things that could subtract from the starting value. I would say the big “values” of a friendship are time, respect, integrity.

Time is important, because like the adage goes: “Time is Money”. Money can be replaced respectively with productivity, if you think about it. Look back on all the time and history that you have built a friendship over. Has the time invested in the friendship been good? Is it full of memories that have been uplifting and productive on a mutual basis? Obviously, if the friendly relationship has been full of drama, delayed agony, and strife that have only served to benefit the means of your “friend’s” ways… They are probably not worth your time. Conversely, if your friend has made an effort to try to be mutually impacting in positive facets, then you know that the friendship is definitely a good investment of time.

Respect, a value that no person should ever sacrifice. We have to remember that we should be equals to our friends. We should never let our friends trample on our beliefs or values, all just to make a friendship work. We have to stand up for what we believe in, because values form who we are as humans. If we have friends who criticize and pick apart the things we believe in, rather than pointing out things and respecting our choices regardless. If a friend can respect you for who you are, rather than completely ripping your respect to shreds… then they are true to the word. If a friend has been slowly breaking you apart to mold you into their “perfect” vision and forcefully injecting their own values into you… they probably don’t care if you’ve sold your soul just to be their friend.

Integrity, the idea of “doing the right thing even when no one is watching”. Integrity is also being consistent with one’s beliefs. Much like respect, this should never EVER be compromised. A friend with integrity is one that could care less about the drama for helping you, because you’re a friend. The same friend would do their damnedest to render aid to you should things get tough… The same friend would also be there for you at any time or hour, provided that real world obligations are not stopping them. The most important thing, a friend with integrity is not swayed by the “angry mob” because they have their own mind. The integrity is the bit of value that really determines if your friend is an asset to you. If they are one to turn a dagger on you or just change because popular opinion, they simply aren’t worth the effort to salvaging a friendship.

The above points also make it tough, because if your best friend ends up being the one that you have to debate with… More than likely, one of the above will be breached. There are some cases where you can try to compromise and reason, but it’s not a guarantee. I know it was hard to turn a sword to some people that I had confided in, but when the matter of respect was breached… I couldn’t allow myself to be trampled on. Sure, the initial pain of watching my former friends basically stab me to death… but being able to stand up and say “I will survive” while others mocked my assumed rigor mortis was something far more valuable than anything else out there.

From rising up after drowning in a bloody pool of social drama, I relearned how to make quality friends. Sure, I wasn’t as “cool” or “popular” as the social butterfly with 400+ friends on Myspace and/or Facebook, but I could care less! The reward of having friends who have been straight-up truthful as well as strong with me has held lots of merits. I have made friends for life that the bonds will get stronger as time passes by.

It is like the old saying goes… “Friends come and go, but true friends last a life time.” It may be nice to be “popular”, but once the flame dies, is the lack of substance really worth it? Friends who have not a clue about you or even the time to invest back to you. Having to sell your soul just to keep them around. Investments that only lead to ruin, it’s just not worth the time and effort! The world is far from over, you can always recover… I am living proof of that testament.

A Semi-Sane Blurb Before I Go Nutty

With the chaos of my job at the office, corporate cannot rally reinforcements to aid me. Due to this, I am going to be at the office for an entire 12 hours. I do get two 30 minute lunches as the law requires, but a person must have something to look forward to endure a mental flogging of sorts. Me? I do my 12 hour shift tomorrow only to walk in 12 hours later and work 9am to 5:30pm Thursday. I may possibly be disgruntled and maybe a tinge insane, only if things at the office mess up continuously. I know the past Friday, I was on edge from the fax machine imploding on itself from the paper feed mechanism choking on itself with me trying to service the machine and juggling phone calls with other offices and clients… I can only hope that I can try to hold my sanity through. I mean, I had an insane Friday and then an insane Monday, so the worst is over for now? I just hope so.

I don’t mind the money, because the more cash… well, the quicker I can get to my 60,000 mile maintenance parts. Considering it’ll be $550 in parts and supplies, I could use all the money I can get. Lucky me, I will be doing the 60,000 mile service with my friend Radioactive from the Dallas Miata Enthusiasts, which saves me $800 – $1,100 in shop labor fees as well as 2-5 days of downtime. My main cost will be 10 – 12 hours of laboring on my car with a buddy who will keep me laughing and conversing. I do look forward to my car running like a properly maintained machine… after the 60,000 mile maintenance, oil change, new spark plugs and wires, new synthetic gear oil… I expect to be seeing a side of Devil that I have possibly never seen. I have never had a chance to ride with Devil in near brand new status and even with a brand new batch of gear oil either. After that, my next task will be to get new tires to ensure I get a proper contact patch on driving. My next major expense for Devil will be the drop top maintenance. I am seriously debating on buying an upgraded cloth top with new seals as I hate the vinyl top limiting me to days warmer than 65F.

I may have to hold off on getting a phone upgrade from my considerations to doing maintenance and potential upgrades to Devil… As fun as it would be to get an HTC Touch Dual, TyTN2, or even a Blackberry device, it’s not necessary as my P990i does the job well enough. Gaming expenses will definitely be taking a hit for me… I may look into DS and PSP hacking and modifications, but that’s a while away. I hope that my school will play nice with Ubuntu Linux, especially with regards to the proprietary Windows applications for some of the CD’s packed in academic textbooks out there… There’s always the route of getting VMware on my laptop, should things get desperate.

Hopefully the office can let me just do weekend shifts while I am at school to get a steady source of income to pay for my car note and insurance. If they can’t… it’ll muck things up a bit more. I just need to make sure before anything… If they can’t I may need to request a transfer to another division where I can be guaranteed weekend shifts on a weekly basis. It does suck to have my car note and insurance payment as my only encumbrances, but far better than being in constant debt. Though for me, it puts insult to injury as I will be the “poor, starving college student” with reducing my work load in exchange for an education.

The Illicit Fantasy – Need for Speed: Carbon “Own the City” (PSP)

Note: Certain racing terms have been linked to explain concepts to those not automotively inclined. Credit goes to Wikipedia for that.

As gamers, we love the idea of fantasy. Be it something simple as being a skilled hero versed in magic to the wanton killing machine, it’s a concept that has move gamers towards certain titles. Role playing and simulation make the gamer feel like they are part of the game. The popular media has had a bit of an infatuation of using games as a scapegoat for society’s ills. Like the occasional stories that some kid that played a little too much Grand Theft Auto III decided to murder someone or how a kid who died crashing into a toll booth was a rabid player of Gran Turisimo 4. But many gamers are able to separate the lines of fantasy and the real world.

The Need for Speed franchise originally was a computer game line for the PC gamer that was a simulation like the Gran Turismo site. Once Gran Turismo came out, EA Games had to take a new angle to entice gamers to their series. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit would come out and EA would just quietly release titles… Until the tuning and tweaking community really got steam around 2003 in the real world. EA would then revamp the entire franchise as Need for Speed: Underground. The idea was to make a game that encompassed the underground tuner culture with the flashy cars, tweaked and gassed engines, glory, and cash. The first foray into this direction got a lukewarm reception, though EA would listen to the gamers and quickly work on the sequel to make it the racer’s paradise and being able to cruise on the streets instead of being stuck in bracket racing. That would lead to Need for Speed: Underground 2 which was a leap forward in EA’s new life for the Need for Speed franchise. The “Most Wanted” sequel afterwards would reincorporate the police chases from Hot Pursuit and even give a slick little Matrix-esque “bullet time” effect for intense stunt work to evade the cops on free roam. This brings us to the Carbon sequel, finally.

Need for Speed: Carbon mainly takes to the racing movement in America with the obsession of the Japanese touge with the “Canyon Race” competitions. The game includes things like your normal fare of lap races, sprint races, eliminators, and all but it does have some influences from the drift culture. The portable rendition for PSP with the subtitle “Own the City” does not have the the canyon races, but just focuses on a story where someone from a mysterious race gang crashes into your brother killing him and hospitalizing you for a good while. The motive to race? Revenge and vengeance for your late brother.

With Own the City, there is no “manual transmission” option by default unless you choose to play the game with the analog stick. You can summon during races. The gang members of your gang can be recruited from defeating rival gangs to add a better selection. In addition to that, the gang members have their talents. Here’s a break-down:

  • Brawler – Their main purpose is to crash into the target and disable them from the race temporarily.
  • Drafter – They fly by you so you can catch into their slipstream so you can build top speed and push to the limit.
  • Assassin – They do a flyby to get ahead of the target and lay down a spike strip to blow out the tires of the competition
  • Fixer – A subclass of gang member that can boost your pay-out provided you win a race.
  • Mechanic – A subclass of gang member that secretly enhances your car to push even harder.

The henchmen/women can be helpful but also can botch a race too. I have had occasions, for example, where the brawler’s fly by while they are hitting the NOS and crashing into you during a turn. At the same right, they have saved my bacon from losing a race. The gang members can “level-up” depending on your performance in a race on technical metrics; with better performance and use of them, their abilities increase.

The game is in a free roaming mode or you can hop in and out of races with the race map chooser. The open world does have police that will engage you for misconduct on the roads, I have not had the pleasure of it, but I have gone pretty wild. The city will have the graffiti tags of the gangs in control of the territory. Once you begin taking over, your gang’s tag will replace the defeated gangs. Throughout the map, there are crates you can find in the open roaming mode which will unlock promotion art when found. They are hidden pretty well as I have only found only 1 of 30.

The customizations are pretty basic. For under hood performance, there are engine, suspension, chassis, turbo, and nitrous oxide for parameters. Cosmetically, there are body kits, spoilers/wings, tint, wheels, paint, and vinyls. If you want your gang members to be emblazoned with your paint and vinyls, you can apply them over their cars. Particularly, the body kits, wings, and wheels do not do anything to modify the car’s performance with regard to aerodynamics or traction from what I have noticed. This is different from the autosculpting feature of the console versions. I will provide my disclaimer here: if you’re hoping a mobile version of the console experience, this is not it. It’s not an easy game either, the game does require skill and finesse on some races. I know I have barely won some races just from nitrous getting me a split second ahead of my competition to the finish line.

The game fares well as a mobile racing game. The sensation of speed is very real… You almost can feel the intensity of the velocity when you’re in 6th gear and firing the nitrous while hitting 170+ mph. The sounds could have been better, but they aren’t bad at all. Graphically, the game is not quite as polished as say, Ridge Racer 2 (PSP), but it looks good no less. Although I have experienced an odd graphical image glitch where the game will have the race track’s graphics disappear yet other details like road block offs, billboards, cars, and backgrounds are intact… The worst part is this bug will lock up the entire game when you try to exit the race and try to save progress.

With respect to that glitch, I have done everything EA Games Customer Support has asked me. PSPdemon of Gamecootie has also tried to help me with the glitch, but he too is baffled. Especially as loading should not be an issue for the PSP slim from the extra RAM it has to cache graphics head of time. It has not afflicted me lately, so I am counting on my prayers.

Own the City has come a very long way from the shoddy likes of Need for Speed Underground Rivals and 5-1-0 for PSP. It really has me curious about the new Need for Speed ProStreet game that was delayed for a PSP on February 19th of this year. ProStreet looks impressive on the high end consoles, but it just has me wondering why there’s a delay on the PSP version. If the delay is to address things like game enhancing details, it could lead to a promising sequel.

Zero’s Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Zero’s Closing Thoughts: With the game being sold as a Greatest Hits title, the price is not bad. It is a bit difficult and it can be plenty fun if you don’t take the game seriously like Ridge Racer.

Hall of Shame Review – Touch the Dead (DS)

In the world of gaming, it’s not “unusual” to have a company sell out some of their rights to a franchise just to make a buck at the expense of another company’s reputation. It’s happened before… The main victims of this “crime” are the gamers and the gullible publishers. I will say that I am the epicurean casual gamer. I love to try all sorts of odd games just for fun because I can. At the same right, I can be a masochist for downright terrible games. Sometimes it’s a hidden gem in the rough that ends up getting publicized recognition (Cooking Mama) or ones that inspire so much rage that would almost inspire you to shatter your console in half. This review is more on the latter.

I love the “House of the Dead” franchise by Sega/AM2 team as it’s like a corny B-movie about zombies and monsters while having to shoot them dead. I have played most of the incarnations, including the infamous “Typing of the Dead” for PC with the Mavis Beacon zombie on the cover of the Japanese version game CD cover. On one of my trips to the local GameStop, I found the “Touch the Dead” DS card sitting in the “missing covers” drawer of games. Naturally, I figured “why the hell not?” and bought it.

The game was made by Eidos Games under their lower brand label “Secret Stash Games” as noted in the Wikipedia entry. The game has you playing what it seems like a mental asylum or prison inmate breaking out of their in a whirlwind of chaos. From there, you grab a gun and encounter the horde of zombies. It is close to the premise of “House of the Dead” but I’d place it more as a knock off if anything. The game play is pretty straight-forward. Use the stylus to “touch” the dead people and shoot them with whatever weapons you have. To reload, you drag a clip of bullets to your gun’s magazine. To switch weapons, you press the control pad up, down, left, or right to switch to the according weapon in your inventory cross on the top screen. To be fair to the left-handed people, the A, B, X, Y buttons also serve the same functions. The top screen also houses the player’s life meter as well as mentions if you have unlocked the secrets from the level.

The character models and movies are a little rough for what they are. It is a shame, because the game could have been cleaned up a bit make it a bit pretty rather than crappy. The zombies are rather fast on the “normal” mode and combine it with the clumsy reloading scheme. Combine the both and the experience can be frustrating if not maddening. It will almost seem like the game is making a cheap shot at you with the random zombie attacks. With all due respect the game makes for a mildly fun experience… but the worst part is… You don’t get continues. It’s just a paltry 5 “lives” with 5 hits each. The only chance to ensure longevity is to break open crates that may have more hearts or bullets for the extra guns or even power-ups to increase your weapon’s strength.

The game is so shameful that I barely can even finish the review… Just if you like niche games, save yourself the humanity and don’t ever play this game. Dream On Studios should have refined the experience before even releasing it as it’s pretty difficult as it is. It had a good idea, just one of the worst executions ever seen.

Quarantining Myself from the Flu Afflicted

Welp, with the new strain of the flu finally hitting… It has shown that the virus has evolved finally to new strain. My sister Alice and my father are affected at home… Lucky for me and my mother, we are the only well ones as we eat properly and sleep properly as well. Just the only thing is at the office… a number of clients coming in with the flu is staggering. It has me taking 1,000mg of Vitamin C to boost my immunity. This ironically came at a great time. With me minimizing Devil’s drive time, I am somewhat reluctant to reduce my workout routine until the repairs can be successfully completed. This also keeps me from overexerting my body leaving me vulnerable to illness. I can’t wait to return fully powered up with Devil rejuvenated.

For those who fear being caught with the flu, here are tips I have learned through out the years of living without health insurance:

  • Bulk up on Vitamin C, about 1,000mg will turbocharge the immunity
  • Take a homeopathic immunity supplement like Emergen-C or Airborne
  • Try to keep a bland diet that has minimal sugars to avoid straining the body out
  • Get plenty of rest! Nap if you need to assist in that process.
  • Hydrate up with water and/or hot tea

Stay warm and stay well!

Downtime from the Gym, Devil is Due for Repairs.

My car, Devil, is approaching it’s 60,000 mile service quickly so I have to minimize my driving until I get everything done…  This also hurts me from going to the gym on the other side of town. I would rather not chance my engine going at a bad time due a strained belt or anything of that sort. I will probably do a home regimen of sit-up, push-ups, and other things to keep me in good shape. Expect some logs of me doing those and tracking my progress until I can get Devil in proper shape.

What all is Devil going to need at 60,000 miles? Let’s see…

  • New AC condenser belt
  • New timing belt
  • New cam seals
  • New crank seal
  • New valve cover seal
  • New timing tensioner spring
  • New alternator/fan belt
  • New fuel filter
  • New air filter
  • New spark plugs
  • New spark plug wires
  • New hoses
  • Radiator flush and reload with Redline Oil’s Water Wetter for the coming summer season
  • New water pump
  • Oil change with Mobil 1 Synthetic 10W-30
  • Gear oil change to Mobil 1 Synthetic for even smoother gear changes

From there… that should keep me in good shape until I need a new clutch. I assume I will probably need one before I head out to Texas A&M Commerce… I will probably stick with a stock one, until I do some serious power modifications that warrant a heavier clutch. If Project Fireseal becomes a reality, I expect to hold off on power mods for a long while and focus on safety modifications for both Devil and Fireseal slowly. Devil is due for some new “shoes” and I have my eyes set on a nice set of flat black wheels with a wider contact patch for tires (15″ x 6″) which I hope to get before the move to Commerce.

A Devil Grows Angel Wings

Those who know me in person know how much I have fought to get into a good school but met with failure due to stratospheric conditions (like minimal 3.8 GPA’s and all) can somewhat understand that my excitement for Texas A&M Commerce. My life in community college combined with fighting between my family is a battle that is ripe with strife. With the burden of their anger and concern, it makes it a little difficult for me to concentrate on the matter of studying my school work. I understand their “need” for me to do well, because I am the “devil child” of my family. I didn’t follow the path that was laid before me, rather I chose the path of suffering and hardship. That path landed me almost 6 years out of life with a ton of life experiences and not much academic progress.

I learned a lot as a person… The meaning of going all the way to the rock bottom core of failure and then rising out of my fallen ashes. I understand the meaning of the phrase: “I sold out my soul only to watch the fall of my integrity.” From falling to the lowest ranks, I have come to respect humanity more and even have more hope in people. It hurt to hit the absolute lowest point of my life at such a young ages, because the only thought that crossed my soul was:

I am so young and my life is already a miserable existence at such an early age. I have given up my own honor only to watch myself burn out. I have no idea why I even bother to fight on when everything I pursue only crumbles to dust.

After rising from that low, I seem to have a good outlook on things. I have rather like being able to give friends some pearls of wisdom from being a “graduate alumni” from “The School of Hard Knocks.” My acceptance only marks the beginning of a path that part of my quest to improve myself and restore my system of values and integrity. For me, I am proud of my progress. I am far from my ideal, but I know with time… I will be able to finish what I should have done a long time ago. I am beat but far from licked. Maybe to my family I am nothing more but a hollow vessel… but to me… I am still alive. I never liked being cast aside like a shadow, but hopefully after I graduate from pharmacy I can honor myself for being resolute enough to fight to the death for my own goals.

I will no longer follow the hollow dreams and desires imposed on me from my elders, because ultimately the wishes of myself lay in my heart. I fight for myself, because to live a dream imposed by another is just a sad and painful thing.

A Request: Philosophy Page and Etc.

A while ago, I added a philosophy page to explain my “ideal” of ZeroXR as a school of thought. I need some feedback on if it makes sense or if I should clarify things within it. If anyone wants to clarify things with me, please let me know. E-mail or comment me about anything that could use revision.

Anyone know any good anti-spam plug-ins for WordPress to prevent e-mail harvesting robots from grabbing my e-mail? If you do, let me know!

Rick James, if you were alive… We’d be homies!

So I was elated about my acceptance to Texas A&M Commerce… Everything tasted so much sweeter last night knowing that I was accepted in. The Jagermeister tasted probably far better to me than any other person from my victory… but the celebration did not stop there…

In honor of the late Rick James, I quote one of his greatest lines from the Dave Chappell skit… “It’s a celebration bitches! Drink up, be marry!”

My partner called me socially to say “What up” and see if I had planned my afternoon. So I had relayed her the great news about my acceptance and well… she basically said “Well shit, Zero..! Dude, let’s go have a drink and lunch to celebrate!” Boy did I ever…  So I have been sipping on Dissarono, Maker’s Mark, and had a shot of Jagermeister so far… I feel damn great and glad I could celebrate my acceptance like a bad ass. To my partner, I thank you for your kindness and excitement.