Friday, March 30, 2012

Angry Birds Space review

I have a secret love of playing video games. I don't get to indulge it that often anymore now that I'm all grown up, but over the past few months of my wife getting to use an iPad at work, I have beat all free Angry Birds levels for each variety, with relative ease. Along comes Angry Birds Space...

This variety of Angry Birds is like no other variety. There are different structures, different birds, and different gravities. In sum, it has a lot of interesting new features.

I found the dotted lines to project where your bird is going to fly a helpful, but perhaps unnecessary crutch. Maybe Roxio is aiming at a dumber audience.

I found the multiple gravities really well-played. My one gripe is from a Physics perspective. If an object like a planet has gravity, it will attract birds if it is flying barely outside the planet's gravity. This game made it seem like gravity only works once a predetermined threshold of distance has been met. Maybe this threshold does exist for noticeable degrees of gravitational pull, but to me if a planet can pull in an atmosphere at the threshold's limit, then it can at least alter a bird's flying trajectory when it passes very close.

I still beat the game quite quickly, but it was a lot more challenging than other Angry Birds varieties. In fact, there was a level that I literally could not beat for a while no matter what I did. I think with these levels sometimes you just have to get a lucky bounce.

Anyway, if you haven't downloaded the newest Angry Birds, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The feasibility of a plant-based diet

I have always been a fan of eating lots of fruits and vegetables. I can't even remember being a very picky eater, and growing up on tomato and corn fields certainly cemented the love of plants hard.

I've also been a hesitant meat eater the past few years. Don't get me wrong, I definitely have eaten a lot of meat but on the back of my mind it's been as if my conscience was calling out in resistance to my meat-eating. You see, my brother had a couple close calls with cancer and my dad embarked on a crusade to help him. Because the medical community doesn't have all the answers, he pursued knowledge in alternative medicine including nutrition. And like a good father, my dad has shared his knowledge with me over the course of the past 8 years.

Part of those findings is that your diet can greatly influence your health, even the big diseases that have strong genetic components such as cancer. After talking to medical professionals and "experts" in the nutritional field, I grew skeptical of my dad's claims that nutrition can do that much for cancer. According to my sources, there just wasn't enough data to support the claim. And because everyone is different, what works for one person may not work for another.

That being said, I have still kind of believed my dad's claim that nutrition can have a really big effect on a person's health and I've tried to watch what I eat. I just haven't taken it that seriously.

Last night, I watched the movie Forks over Knives. For those who haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. If you have Netflix, that's the easiest way to watch it. The movie is in documentary format and details two perspectives (clinical and research) to come to the same conclusion, that we humans get a lot more disease and suffering because of the animal products and processed foods we consume. Further, switching to a completely plant based diet stops the progression of many of these diseases and can even reverse them.

Because of my experiences, and because I am not a meat fanatic, the film resonated with me. A couple of the premises of the movie didn't sit too well with me. For instance, how our medical community wants us to stay sick so they can have good business. I've heard this argument with regards to cancer, that a cure to cancer is being withheld because then it's a big money-making industry for a lot of people. I can't believe that people in the medical field would consciously do this to people especially because they most likely have loved ones who are affected by it. I would hope that mankind has not devolved into something that bad.

I think more likely is that there has of yet been inconclusive data supporting alternative medicine and these researchers do not have an incentive to do the research. Yes, a cure to cancer would be an incentive, but to go outside the mainstream of thinking is difficult to do. There seems to be adequate incentives in place for researchers to do their thing.

The only thing stopping me from trying a plant based diet is cheese. I really don't think I could go without it. Assuming there's a decent substitute to cheese, it would be a challenge to come up with new food ideas. This takes time. It would also be more expensive. The pure unprocessed foods are traditionally more expensive in general. Plus, by eating a lot more fruits and vegetables instead of denser foods, I could see myself eating a lot more. I eat a ton of food. So maybe when I've got some more time and money, I'll give this thing a try.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooperation is a necessary evil?

It's great when you can learn about a particular topic, it's even more great when that same topic gets retaught in another medium. Yesterday included a couple big learning moments on cooperation. These moments included chimps, Jet Li, and the Tea Party. 

First, a program on NPR called RadioLabs featured chimps. The program looked at the way that humans behave based on very instinctual and primal evolutionary thought processes. So naturally, they started looking at one of our closest relatives. My favorite part of the program was when a delicious berry reed was dropped into a pack of chimps, specifically to the adolescents of the group. One of them picked it up, then others started fighting for it, and then squabbling. You could hear the chaos by the shrieking. Then there was a very abrupt silence to all the fighting. Apparently the alpha male had made an appearance and everyone knew what they were supposed to do. The alpha male continued to eat some of the reed, then it got passed on to the next highest male and on. According to this evolutionary system, the food always goes from the highest on the ladder downward. While one animal wouldn't get all he wanted, every animal in the pack would at least get something. The commentator remarked that evolution had favored this type of order because cooperation was necessary for survival. And there my first learning moment was, cooperation is a good thing for survival. 

Next, I watched the Jet Li movie Fearless while the Aimers did her school stuff. Here, a hotshot go-getter was out to show the world that he was a great fighter using the art of Wushu. Then a series of events fundamentally changed his perspective about his order. He realized what his father and many others had known all along: that his Wushu order was all about respecting others and cooperating. Without that, there was no purpose and only death. Thus, my second learning moment: cooperation is crucial for success. 

Finally, I started thinking about the GOP party right now. While everyone will have to admit that the Tea Party has been a very influential factor in politics the last couple years, it has also been known as a very "loud" and uncompromising voice. Maybe they have been loud because they have needed to get their voices heard. Maybe they have felt like their views and opinions had been ignored for too long. Maybe they have come across as uncompromising because their views have been more correct than the alternative. Because they felt like they were right, why should they cooperate? I think that in a GOP primary where candidates are increasingly being called on to proceed more and more to the right, it is sad that cooperation is being viewed as a thing of the past. Changes occur often times gradually and without cooperation, we will not win as a society. We will instead be denigrated to squabbling chimps. Like Jet Li, we need to respect, honor and cooperate with those around us.