Welcome to the NES Challenge!

A few weeks ago on a rainy, gloomy Tennessee weekend, my husband Ian and I found ourselves looking for a project. Not a home improvement or otherwise conventionally productive project, mind you, but a video-game related project. Being the Nintendo enthusiasts that we are, with a soft spot for the Nintendo Entertainment System, we decided to embark upon a challenge: To beat every one of the beatable NES games we own before the end of the year.

Here are the details of the challenge:

Beatable games. Upon further inspection of our game collection, it was decided that we have 46 beatable games (beatable is defined here as a game that plays credits after completing it; many arcade-style games, like Pinball, are not able to be beaten as you just keep getting a higher score).

Deadline. We play NES games rather often, believe it or not, so we had to rule that any games that we started in 2009 (Legend of Zelda and Tecmo Super Bowl) would have to be started over so they would be completed entirely within this year. The challenge officially began March 14, 2010, and we have until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2010, to beat the last game.

Rules. We are allowing ourselves the use of help in the form of strategy guides, Internet searches for getting over specific hurdles, and general help, but we will not use cheat codes or GameGenie. Any in-game help or easter eggs are fair game (like jumping on the turtle shell a bunch of times in Super Mario Bros. to gain a shit-ton of extra lives), but we will not be entering up, down, up, down, left, right, left, right, A, B, A, B, select, start at the beginning of Contra to get infinite lives.

We’re going to be posting our experiences with each game here on this blog because believe it or not, there really isn’t that much out there that discusses the finer (and awful) points of the Nintendo Entertainment System games. There are plenty of strategy guides and walkthroughs out there (many of them shitty, though), but there just really isn’t that much discussion of the games. So we’re going to detail our journey here, including any differences we notice in our experience with each game now vs. when we played the game some 20 years ago.

I’ll be posting a full list of all of the games we’ll be attempting to beat shortly, and if you notice one missing (be it one you loved or one you abhorred) on the list, suggest it to us and we’ll see if we can find it around town. Or, better yet, mail it to us if you’ve got it and we’ll send it back when we’ve beaten it.

Originally posted at NESChallenge.com

Seriously?

Ian and I both have the flu. At the same time. Which, on one hand, is nice because we don’t have to worry about passing it back and forth for a few weeks. But on the other hand there’s nobody here to take care of us. We just lay on the couch alternating between sleeping and bitching about how awful we feel.

There’s no point in going to the doctor because flu-specific drugs have to be taken pretty much as soon as the flu sets in, and now they’d just tell us to treat our symptoms, which we can do from home with Gatorade and ibuprofen.

I just hope we’re well enough for when my mom comes to visit this weekend.

I support healthcare reform because I have fallen through the cracks

Seven years ago I was a college senior who was working 80 hours a week, Monday through Friday at two different jobs, so that I could save enough money to complete my final semester in a study abroad program in Spain (I was a double major: Journalism and Spanish). I worked from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CVS, left there and went home to change, eat a quick bite and make it over to CMOP to work 3 p.m. to midnight or 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., depending on the day of the week.

I did this from December 2002 to June 2003 so that I would have enough money to pay for my tuition for the study abroad program (student loans wouldn’t cover it because technically it was through Murray State with the KIIS program; MTSU just transferred my credits when I completed the semester) as well as all of my bills during the time I was in Spain and therefore without income.

Before I was scheduled to leave, the manager at the CVS and I discussed the fact that I was not going to be working there for two months and what that would mean for my employment status. I had enough vacation time to last me almost two weeks, but that wasn’t enough to keep me on the payroll. They were going to have to let me go and then rehire me when I came back, because for some reason CVS does not allow leaves of absences to be taken for anything education-related. (Nice, right?)

When I got back, all of the tenure and benefits I had earned, including vacation time and health insurance, were reset as though I had never worked there before—despite actually having put in six years of time.

The vacation time wasn’t too big of a deal, but the health insurance was. I wouldn’t be able to sign up for CVS’ health insurance for another YEAR, and I needed health insurance. I wasn’t eligible to be added on to my mom’s insurance because I was too old (I was 24) and soon to be a college graduate. At the time I had a condition that, while not life-threatening, required me to have a battery of tests run every 3-6 months. I needed insurance to help me cover the cost of the tests and, in the event I did develop cancer (or more pre-cancerous cells that would require surgery, as I had before), help me with treatment.

I applied for insurance through various private companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, but was denied each time because of the pre-existing condition. A few weeks later I received COBRA paperwork from CVS, but the monthly premium would have been nearly $1,100—way more than I could afford. I made an appointment with the local TennCare office because I figured hey, TennCare is for people who are uninsurable, right? Wrong. I was called before my appointment and told not to bother coming in because I wasn’t a single mother and therefore would not be approved. I protested, saying that I was unable to secure private health insurance and I couldn’t afford the COBRA payments, and was basically laughed at.

Within two months I had found another job — and while it was a good job and actually a bit of a pay bump (working in the MTMC pharmacy), I took it primarily because I would be eligible for health insurance Day One.

Now, my situation was not that dire. I didn’t have a debilitating disease that required hundreds or thousands of dollars of medication a month. I could have gotten by without insurance for a year or two, probably, and just hoped really really hard things didn’t get bad. I did eventually have to have another more invasive surgery, but luckily I had insurance (And I still had to pay nearly $3,000).

I can’t imagine people in far worse situations falling through the cracks of our current healthcare system, unable to get insurance or afford the bullshit option that is available. But guess what? It happens. And I support this bill because it will help people like that. This bill would have helped me.

And honestly, I’d rather see us spend billions of dollars helping keep people in our country alive than billions of dollars killing people in other countries.

Anyway, I just want to make the point that before you start screaming that healthcare reform is only going to help hoodrats who are looking for another handout or that helping our citizens get access to healthcare is a waste of money, maybe you should step back and consider the actual good it will do.

Or, if you want a less-personal take on the healthcare bill, go check out The Washington Post.

March 20 | Dinner

Saturday night Ian and I grilled out, one of the first of many seriously tasty grilled dinners to come this season. I love grilled vegetables, and these balsamic vinegar-marinated mushrooms are probably my favorite grilled food of all time. Yes, even more than a steak back when I ate meat.

In addition to the mushrooms I had marinated green peppers, and Ian grilled himself a steak. We also had sweet corn, mixed vegetables (snap peas, broccoli, carrots and water chestnuts) and garlic wheat bread that Ian made.

Eating vegetarian keeps getting easier, but now that it’s getting warm enough to grill it’s going to get more fun.

March 13 | Paris Hilton spotted in Murfreesboro Target

After dropping my car off to get an oil change (and a brake fluid change, too. Apparently you have to start doing stuff to your car when it approaches 90,000 miles), we headed over to O’Charley’s for lunch and then Target for a few things.

When we got back from picking my car up, I lay down on the couch and promptly fell asleep. For three hours. Apparently my body was anticipating the way the time change always affects me and was trying to hook me up with a little more rest. I can appreciate that.

March 11 | Rutherford County TweetUp

Two TweetUps in one week? For a usual hermit like me, this was a fun change of pace. Trace and I organized the First Ever Rutherford County TweetUp at Toot’s Smyrna (who were gracious hosts), and I got to catch up with some tweeters I hadn’t seen in a long time as well as meet a few new (and awesome) ones.

See all of the pictures from the TweetUp.

March 10 | Daysleeper

We adopted Link at the end of last March, so this is the first full spring we’ve had him. And we’re learning that he’s definitely a coat-blower, as his big, wispy tumbleweeds are floating all over the house. It’s funny to me that as much as I think I know this cat, he’s still teaching me new things about him. I’ve also learned that he’s scared of the sound rain jackets make but loves to get spaghetti stuck to his belly.