A new day. A new life. A new blog. I am a walking blank slate. Long Island is awash in the colors of autumn. Leaves colored yellow and red rustle in the trees and scuttle across asphalt. A fitting backdrop to a life transformed. I have moved beyond sadness, beyond anger, beyond regret, and am only left with longing.

I finished watching Breaking Bad, the entire four seasons, all in the course of one month. This is one fantastic show! I love the Rube Goldberg like plot developments in which events unfold like ping-pong balls down a funnel, where a simple walk in the park turns into a federal case. It aptly reflects life gone awry. Something I know a bit about. Fighting off a spell of dark thoughts, I sat on the couch, chewed prodigious amounts of nicotine gum, and watched back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad. I look forward to season five.

I finally finished Half Life 2. This was a great game. The only complaint I have is the janky character movement. To survive an ambush, neutralize two dozen combine soldiers, and then solve some mind-bending puzzle only to die trying to climb a ladder is frustrating and infuriating. It also takes way too long to respawn after dying, but this just may be due to the age of the game. Aside from these minor complaints, Half Life 2 lives up to the 10 star hype of the Internet.

I am still reading A Clash of Kings, watching Walking Dead and American Horror Story, and looking forward to buying a new computer. I am still using a single-core Windows XP box, the kind you find in thrift stores or holding open doors in offices. It is amazing how far this machine has taken me, but soon…soon I will upgrade. Stay tuned.


Asimov and the Orange Box

I am re-reading the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. This will be the second time; the first was back in the 90s. I have listened to some portions of the audio books, but only in sporadic and incomplete bursts, like most of my audio book experiences. Nevertheless, I am committed to reading the trilogy once again. I recently bought a hardcover edition that includes all three books: Foundation , Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. There are a lot more Foundation books, which include various prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, but I am really only interested in the classic story arc dealing with Terminus.

Inspired by Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the Foundation Trilogy is about the fall of a sprawling Galactic Empire and a small, secluded planet at the edge of the galaxy engineered to function as a haven for human knowledge. This haven is actually one of two such planets at opposite ends of the galaxy known collectively as the Foundation. Harry Seldon, mathematical prophet and founder of the Foundation, develops a branch of mathematics called psychohistory, a mathematical sociology that enables him to predict the future on a  large scale. He calculates the fall of the Galactic Empire, warns of a subsequent thirty thousand year dark age, and advocates a plan to minimize this dark age down to a single millennium. This plan becomes known as the Seldon Plan and involves the creation and development of the Foundation planets. Initially, the Seldon Plan calls for the creation of a great compendium, the Encyclopedia Galactica, to preserve human knowledge through the coming dark age. However, it is later revealed that the Encyclopedia was a ruse, an act of misdirection. Its real purpose was to concentrate a group of skilled scientists on a remote planet with the long term goal of revitalizing the fallen empire. Much of the Seldon Plan operates in this way. A crises emerges and like a deus ex machina the Seldon Plan manifests itself with a solution. Everything is prearranged and ordered according to the logic of psychohistory.

I always found the character of Harry Seldon and his psychohistory fascinating. The idea that sociopolitical events could be predicted using mathematics captured my imagination and drew me in like a magnet.  The intersection of history and mathematics, a rare Venn diagram of interests, but one with personal appeal, found surprising expression in the opening pages of Foundation. What’s more, years later I would discover that some mathematicians and scientists actually believe in a kind of psychohistory that may enable us to predict large, sociopolitical events in the future. Whether it is psychohistory or some quantum computer aided statistics of the future, most mathematicians agree that any future equations of society will only work on a large scale dealing with large aggregate populations.

On the video game front, I completed Batman:Arkham Asylum for the second time. I have played through the single player story mode on normal and now hard difficulty settings. This is the way I usually play games. The first time through is almost like a dry run in which I fumble my way through struggling with the mechanics of the game and becoming acquainted with whatever inventory system/experience point grid the game might have. The second time around I fly through the game and actually enjoy the action a lot more. Batman:Arkham Asylum was a really great game the second time around. With a stronger grasp of the fundamentals, I better employed the stealth combat style to defeat enemies gracefully and the detective work required to solve the Riddler’s Challenges. Of course this second time through strategy won’t fare very well with extremely long games like Oblivion or Baldur’s Gate.

Meanwhile, I traded Batman:Arkham Asylum and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 in at GameStop and finally got The Orange Box. It was marked at $29.99, but with the trade-ins it only cost me $5. Whenever people complain about GameStop, I am always amazed. I always have a good experience. The Orange Box is a game compilation, a box-set of sorts from Valve, featuring Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress. Back in the 1990s, when I first got a computer, I played Half Life for hours and hours. The game was so ahead of its time with dynamic story telling and interactive non-playing characters. One of my fondest gamer memories was finally emerging from the Black Mesa Research facility only to discover that military black ops were out to kill Gordon Freeman. I never played Half Life 2. It took too long to come out and by the time it did I lacked sufficient computer hardware, money for a console, time to play…life simply got in the way. Now I can finally play Half Life 2. What’s more, I can also finally play Portal and see what everybody is raving about. I have thus far completed the first three parts of the 11 parts of Half Life 2 and have completed about 10 Test Chambers in Portal. I think I will be playing the Orange Box for a while.