Out Run (Sega Mega Drive)

Some time in the early 90s, my aunt from Hong Kong came to visit us in the United States. As a gift, she brought me a copy of Out Run for the Japanese Sega Mega Drive. If I remember correctly, on that visit I also scored Kenseiden and Spellcaster for the Sega Master System.

At that time, Out Run had not yet been released for the Genesis, so the only way I could play it as close to the arcade as possible was via the Mega Drive version. The cartridge came in a yellow box and had rounded edges, unlike Genesis cartridges which had more triangular ones. As a result, Mega Drive cartridges could not physically slide into the cartridge slot of the Genesis. Luckily, I had already melted the tabs on my Genesis so that I could play Devil’s Crash MD.

When I was a kid in Hong Kong, I played both the arcade and the Sega Master System versions, but I never owned the latter. Instead, I played it at one of my classmates’ house. My favorite music track was always Splash Wave.

Later on, with emulation and a release on the Dreamcast, I was finally able to play the arcade version at home, but the Mega Drive version will always be my favorite. It was the one I spent the most time playing while I was growing up. I still listen to MP3s of original recordings I made of the soundtrack (except Step On Beat, which I thought was an imposter). To me, Out Run is definitely one of the most iconic and greatest games of all time.

Enduro Racer

Enduro Racer is another one of those old Sega games that you can just pick up and play, and beat in a short amount of time (assuming you’ve been playing games your whole life). One of my favorite games, I didn’t discover it until we moved to the U.S. There was (and actually, still is) a video store owned by some Vietnamese immigrants in my neighborhood that offered game rentals, which is how I discovered the game.

Maybe the reason I liked the game so much was that I didn’t own it. You always covet what you don’t have. Then again, it could also have been the simple and addicting gameplay. It was a challenge timing wheelies so that the jumps would give you a boost instead of slow you down.

It wasn’t until I encountered that comic book store in college that I became a proud owner of an Enduro Racer cartridge.

The ending of Enduro Racer is noteworthy. It’s a simple text-only ending, but the message is spot-on. It’s pretty awesome that such a simple game has such a profound ending. No, it’s not about winning or losing. What’s important is that “you make a commitment to begin the long and trying trek”. The words seem to echo a lot of what I’ve written on here in the past 15 months. I wonder how many other kids growing up in my time were affected by these words of wisdom?

Skywarp & Thundercracker

JC surprised me with this Transformers Encore set in the summer of 2011.

Transformers Encore Skywarp & Thundercracker
Box front

It had been over 20 years since someone had given me a G1 Transformers set. I built most of my collection when I was still a little kid in Hong Kong, bringing to the United States only part of it when my family moved there. The only Transformer I bought in the U.S. was a G2 Vortex after I destroyed my original G1 one in a childish fit of rage.

Transformers Encore Skywarp & Thundercracker
Box back, love that graphic

When I saw the artwork on the back of the box, a long latent memory of looking at Transformers boxes at Watsons resurfaced. Back then, Watsons also sold toys, and whenever we went I’d look at the Transformers while my sister would look at the Barbies. There were plenty of boxes with the picture above, but instead of a white box with Japanese text, there was a box with a graph behind a red pattern. Inside the box was a piece of red cellophane that you looked through to view the graph. I would spend hours studying the graph and looking at the drawing.

It’s so much fun opening the box, taking out the pieces, and then putting on the stickers. Since I had two, I saved the other one for later on. I was kind of stressing at work at that time (I would resign 4 months later) so I definitely needed it.

Transformers Encore Skywarp & Thundercracker
Unboxing!
Transformers Encore Skywarp & Thundercracker
Inserts and stickers

Something interesting I noticed was how the years and manufacture-location printed on the robots differed. On my original Thrust that I brought from Hong Kong, the years are 1980 and 1983, and the manufacture-location is Japan (of course). On the new ones, the dates are 2002 and 2004, and (of course again) the manufacture-location is China, a definite reminder of how times have changed.

Thrust, Circa 1980, 1983
1980, 1983, Japan
Thundercracker, circa 2002, 2004
2002, 2004, China

In the end, it only took me a couple of weeks between receiving the present and transforming both jets. Here is the result:

Thrust, Thundercracker, and Skywarp
Thrust, Thundercracker, and Skywarp

You gotta admit, it’s super cool seeing the two “generations” of jets together. I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post!

Windows 7 Home Premium Password Expiration

A lot of small offices without IT departments buy whatever the deal of the day is when it comes to PCs. More often than not, these PCs come with the home version of Windows. In this particular office, file-sharing on a Windows 7 Home Premium peer-to-peer network stopped working because one of the passwords had expired.

I searched around trying to find a solution, and used the information in the links below to solve the problem.

Brablc.com: Disable password expiration in Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Command Line: wmic useraccounts

Instead of disabling password-expiration on all accounts, I used the following command to disable expiration on one particular account:

wmic useraccount where Name='Username' set passwordexpires=false

No, it’s not a good idea to have passwords that never expire, but in the real world in small offices where IT is the last thing on anyone’s mind, it happens.

Menu Week of 5-19-14

Monday

Steak Plate

Sirloin Steak with Red Wine Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Simple Salad

I was at a supermarket with a more Western variety of foods (getting some Jameson Whiskey) when I ran across some Australian sirloin steaks that were on closeout. They looked pretty good so I snapped them up for Monday’s dinner. I’ve mentioned somewhere that beef is not as popular in Hong Kong, which means that deals can be had at the end of the day when supermarkets are trying to clear out inventory.

On the way home I realized that I hadn’t gotten anything to go with the steak. Luckily, I had bought some lettuce the previous week, and I still had a tomato and an onion. Instant salad. I also had a couple of potatoes left, so I opted for mashed potatoes, something we haven’t had since Thanksgiving of 2013.

Something to note for next time is that whole potatoes take a long time to soften. I was lazy and boiled them whole thinking they’d be nice and soft by the time I finished playing video games. They could definitely have been softer, especially when the only thing I have to mash them with is a fork. After applying some elbow grease, they came out okay. In tribute to my Aunt J, I left the skin on, because that’s how she used to make it.

The gravy was made with flour, butter, beef stock, and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Tuesday

Tuesday Night Meal

Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd
Stir-fried Lettuce with Garlic
Carrot and Lotus Root Soup
Cabbage, Corn, and Beef Sukiyaki

Variety is the spice of life, but when certain vegetables are in season it’s OK to eat a lot of it as well. Right now, it’s all about the water convolvulus (通菜).

As I said above I had some lettuce from the previous week. A popular way of cooking them here is to stir-fry them with some garlic. Cooking lettuce isn’t really something you see in Western cuisine, but it’s done in HK a lot. Doesn’t take long to cook, either.

Carrot and Lotus Root Soup

Carrot and lotus root soup came out great. I remembered to add a sweet date (蜜棗) this time, too.

Beef Sukiyaki with Corn and Cabbage

The sukiyaki was new. It’s a pain in the ass trying to think of new dishes to make on a daily basis. It seemed like we’d been having a lot of pan-fried meats (i.e. steak, pork chop, etc.) and I was browsing through the meat case trying to figure out what I could make. I saw some sliced steak and I thought of the times when we did hot pot with it, so I tried something new. I had a quarter of a cabbage left so I cooked that with some packaged instant miso soup, added corn, and plated while leaving the liquid in the pot. I then cooked the beef slice by slice, removing each slice immediately after cooking because the thin slices are super easy to overcook. I enjoyed this one.


Wednesday

Chinese Marrow with Dried Shrimp

Beef Stewed in Red Wine Sauce
Chinese Marrow Flavoured with Dried Shrimp
Leftover Lotus Root soup
Leftover Sukiyaki

Had some leftovers from Tuesday so made just a couple of dishes today. Used the leftover gravy from Monday to make a beef stew. Nothing complicated about that, bought some beef brisket and cooked it with the gravy and some added water. Soaked some dried shrimp beforehand, cut up some garlic, and stir-fried those until fragrant before adding the marrow and a little water. I used two kinds of dried shrimp, 暇米 and 暇乾. 暇米 as the name suggests is the smaller version. 暇乾 is dried-up regular-sized shrimp. I probably could have soaked those a little bit longer, because they came out slightly chewy. Overall I was happy with how this one came out.


Saturday

Carrot and Marrow Soup with Dried Scallop
Steamed Pork Spareribs with Black Beans and Garlic

This is one of the easiest (simplest) meals ever. The soup takes 2 to 3 hours to simmer, so make it beforehand by cutting up some carrot and marrow and throwing it into some water along with a piece of lean pork. I like to parboil the pork with some ginger before adding it to the soup. Helps remove some of the nasty shit that boils up. A note about using carrot in soups: the giant ones with the dirt all over them really are sweeter and more flavourful. I only needed one for this soup.

Next, marinate some spareribs with soy sauce, minced garlic, sugar, white pepper, corn starch, sesame oil, and black beans. Place some on a small dish, stick it into the rice cooker with the steaming attachment. Rice and pork ready at the same time. Scoop out some of the carrot and marrow to eat with the rice.

It was Saturday night and I ate while watching TV without formally setting the table, so sadly no photos.


And so, another week goes by. I’m glad I took some time off this week. It can be difficult trying to think up meals, preparing them, and cleaning up afterwards.

Sixteen Tons

I first heard the song Sixteen Tons in ’95 or ’96 after I bought a Golden Oldies collection here in Hong Kong. When I was growing up, my parents listened to a lot of oldies and I developed a taste for it as well. The version of Sixteen Tons in the collection was a version by Frankie Laine.

Fast forward to 2004. I was working in a kitchen along with some Mexican coworkers who always tuned the radio to a Spanish station when I heard another version of Sixteen Tons, in English. I found it very amusing when my coworkers sang along in their Spanish accents, particularly when they emphasized tons in the chorus. They would pronounce it with a mix between T and D (kind of like the “tons” in “tonsil”), and they would bounce along with the beat with grins on their faces. This version really did have a nice beat, and I liked it better than the Frankie Laine version.

On a whim, I googled for it yesterday, and found it on YouTube. Since then, I’ve probably listened and bounced along to the song a dozen times. It is a version by Mexican actor and signer Alberto Vázquez:

For comparison, here’s the version that was on my Golden Oldies collection:

Gran Turismo 5 GT-R Spec V (2009)

When I first bought Gran Turismo 5, I went for the Collector’s Edition so that I could get the book that comes with it. At that time, I was well into the hands-on aspect of owning a car, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them. In addition to the book, the game came with this scale model of a Nissan GT-R.

The model sat on my bookshelf for a year-and-a-half before we moved out in May of 2012. I never knew what to do with it, and ended up donating it to the Salvation Army.

Maxtor 8051a 40-Meg Hard Drive

The last time I posted about my old hard drives, I mentioned the first one I ever owned, a Maxtor 8051a. Three days later, I took it apart. Tonight, a photo of it showed up in my desktop slideshow.

Maxtor 8051a Hard Drive
The intact drive

From the photo above you can see just how physically large the drive was (the little white plastic piece on the bottom left is the Molex connector). This behemoth could only hold 40 megabytes! My little slim smartphone, in comparison, has 400 times the storage capacity. Amazing.

Compared with modern drives, this drive was still using Phillips-head screws so it was relatively easy to take apart. If I had taken it to the data shredder, they would have pierced a hole in the spindle, and I couldn’t bear for that to happen. No, if my trusty old drive was to die, it was to die by my own hand. The first step was removing the cover and insulating O-ring:

Maxtor 8051a Cover Off

At this point I wondered what would happen if I attempted to power it up.

It’s good to hear those sounds again. They were always the first and last sounds I heard upon powering up and down my old 386. I will always associate the two. That was the last time the drive ever powered up. It’s not in the edited video I uploaded, but later in the unedited version I said “Goodbye, old friend”. How strange it is that we can develop affection for a piece of machinery.

Next, I removed the platters. I decided to keep them and stick them on my wall. My old school papers are probably still magnetically stored on the platters, on my wall.

Maxtor 8051a Read/Write Heads
The heads and actuator after platters have been removed
Maxtor 8051a Spindle
The spindle after the platters have been removed

I suppose I could have removed the PCB first, but instead I removed it after I removed the platters:

Maxtor 8051a PCB

On the PCB you can see 20+ years of dust formed around the motor. The motor was made in Japan by Nidec.

Maxtor 8051a Nidec Motor

I could have gone further but the entire process was too emotionally draining. In the end, I just removed all the main parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post. 🙂

Maxtor 8051a Parts
Goodbye, old friend

Kung Fu Kid

Prior to emigrating to the United States, my family lived in three different places in Hong Kong. I remember playing Kung Fu Kid in the third place, in Kowloon Tong.

By that time, my family owned a “big screen” 27-inch TV, and I got our old 19-inch Sony to use in my room. I remember having a difficult time trying to beat Kung Fu Kid, especially during round 6 where the player faces several bosses in succession. I have a very vague memory of going through round 6 near dinner time, and my mother calling me to dinner.

The manual was very detailed, with descriptions of all the bosses. It wasn’t really necessary for the creators of the game to write such an elaborate manual, but they did, which probably added to the charm of the game, because the gameplay itself was so simple. Although it was just a matter of jumping and kicking, knowing the back story somehow made it more worthwhile.

When I fired up the emulator to make this video the other day, I couldn’t believe that the game was published in 1987. That’s 27 years. In my mind, 27 years ago might as well be yesterday, but unlike yesterday, I can now beat the game in 12 minutes. I hope you enjoy the video.