Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Most Beautiful Thing

I assume you've seen American Beauty. It's a good movie. One question: when that guy shows the video of the plastic bag, describing it as the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, are we supposed to think that it's actually beautiful? I always thought it was just another example of how completely devoid of beauty their world is.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TF2 Halloween Update

The TF2 Halloween update is pretty cool. The Horseless Headless Horseman is a great new game idea. Running in terror from a giant killer ghost isn't something I had expected to see in TF2, but it's lots of fun.

What I've really been enjoying is the new Art Pass Map. It is great for Engineers. Since the spawn doesn't move for either team, teleporters win the game. I don't like when the final control point is inches from RED team's spawn, it makes it far to easy for Demomen to hide in their spawn while maintaining stickies on the point.

I've never even seen the randomly spawning gift. The rewards aren't that great, so I don't really mind. There's no way I'd be able to summon up the 4 refined metal to craft any of the new Halloween items, so I'm not bothering to get any Haunted Metal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Brown Eyed Girl

I think "Brown Eyed Girl" may be my favorite song of all time. For some reason, I just adore songs that are wistful and looking back. It's kinda funny, since I never look back at my own past with any sort of emotional attachment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Can't Democrats Communicate?

Republicans are really good at selling their message. Since they have no principles, they can change their agenda instantly with no shame, and they all will repeat the same talking points in unison, making it seem as though there must be some validity to their lies.

Democrats, on the other hand, barely even have a message. They've been so beaten down by the Republican media machine that they have no idea how to sell an agenda that benefits ordinary people over the super-wealthy.

America needs a Democratic Barry Goldwater, a man who stands by Democratic principles without shame, and tries to win minds, instead of winning votes. Yes, Goldwater lost, but the Republican party has been controlling the political dialogue ever since that loss, except for maybe a brief period of time following Nixon's resignation. Jimmy Carter was the last president to actually stand behind Democratic values, and he was crucified for it, largely because of economic forces outside of his control.

Obama tries to implement Democratic policies, but he does it the wrong way. He attempts to win over Republican votes in the Congress by weakening his policies. This would be a legitimate agenda, but there's a simple problem: The Republican's entire agenda is to prevent Obama's legislative agenda. It doesn't matter that the Obama health care bill has more ideas from Republicans than Democrats, Republicans would vote against anything with Obama's name on it.

This attempt at bipartisanship was sensible for the first major bill, but after that, it's better to just call out the Republicans as hypocrites and push through aggressive Democratic legislation. They should have forced the Republicans to actually filibuster bills that continue unemployment benefits and a tax cut that doesn't unfairly benefit the wealthiest classes. Instead, Democrats have allowed the Republicans to continue the anonymous silent filibuster, giving a single Senator more Veto power than the President.

It isn't that hard to have talking points for Democratic candidates. I'll make some up off the top of my head:

*Republicans will sacrifice the poor of America to benefit the rich.
*Democrats can regulate the industries that Republicans have allowed to trample average citizens.
*Companies should be forced to pay for the harm they've done, just like you or I have to pay for mistakes we've made.
*The Republican's economic plan will increase unemployment and the deficit.
*Republicans are tools of international cartels who are hostile to American values.

There's a similar problem in the Supreme Court, where Republican Scalia dominates the Judicial media in the same way the Republicans dominate the regular media. Scalia insists that all of his decisions are based on the original will of the Framers of the Constitution. This position is insane, but it sounds very good. Left-wing justices don't have a similar talking point to sell their agenda, probably because they're not as dishonest. After all, pretending that a complicated issue can be addressed in a single sentence is essentially dishonest.

I wish left-wing justices would just say, "Times change. We shouldn't use the 1800 definition of 'cruel and unusual punishment', just because that's when the Framers lived. We should read the Constitution by what it says. If we start trying to interpret it through the wishes of dead men, we descend into madness. If you don't want the Constitution to say something, then you should amend it."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ranking The Best Hats in TF2

Let's rank the best hats in TF2, using science! (Note, I'm not including items that can't be traded.)

In a purely scientific sense, the hats that give an in-game bonus must be the most valuable. This means we have to start with the Polycount hats.

Polycount Hats (Rank 1)
Familiar Fez
The Attendant
Ol' Snaggletooth
Grenadier's Cap

After the Polycount hats, things become more subjective. Market forces make it clear that one hat stands above the rest in value, though.

Event Hats (Rank 2)
Max's Severed Head
The Lumbricus Lid

It seems like not many people bought the Sam and Max games, so there aren't many of the severed heads to go around. After Max's Severed Head, it's even more subjective what hats have what value. There are some good statistics at

A special category of "Hat" are the second slot items. These have a high value because there are so few of them. Only three classes have their own. Where each medic may want a different hat, every medic wants the Physician's Procedure Mask, which makes it roughly 5 times as valuable as a given medic hat.

Second Slot Items (Rank 3)
Physician's Procedure Mask
The Whiskered Gentleman

Since the Camera Beard was being dropped at the rate of a regular item for so long, and it's kinda stupid looking, I'm putting it much lower on the list. Earbuds too.

The next set of hats are the hats that all the classes can wear. These have more value to those poor and Irish people who don't have a specific hat for each class.

All Class Hats (Rank 4)
Towering Pillar of Hats
Modest Pile of Hat
Noble Amassment of Hats

The bulk of hats don't fit into any particular category. Their ranking is purely aesthetic. I've grouped them by class.

Regular Hats (Rank 5)

Troublemaker's Tossle Cap
Bombing Run
Ye Olde Baker Boy
Whoopee Cap
Batter's Helmet
Bonk Helm
Stout Shako
Chieftain's Challenge
Dr's Dapper Topper
Killer's Kabuto
Sergeant's Drill Hat
Tyrant's Helm
Stainless Pot

Brigade Helm
Vintage Merryweather
Old Guadalajara
Napper's Respite
Triboniophorus Tyrannus
Respectless Rubber Glove
Pyro's Beanie
Tippler's Tricorne
Hustler's Hallmark
Demoman's Fro
Glengarry Bonnet
Carouser's Capotain
Sober Stuntman
Rimmed Raincatcher
Hound Dog
Pugilist's Protector
Heavy Duty Rag
Officer's Ushanka
Tough Guy's Toque

Texas Ten Gallon
Engineer's Cap

Otolaryngologist's Mirror
Ze Goggles
Vintage Tyrolean
Gentleman's Gatsby
Prussian Pickelhaube
Professional's Panama
Master's Yellow Belt
Shooter's Sola Topi
Bloke's Bucket Hat

Fancy Fedora
Backbiter's Billycock
Magistrate's Mullet
Frenchman's Beret

I've included a special category for hats that don't look like you have a hat at all. Also stupid looking hats.

Stupid Hats (Rank 6)
Scotsman's Stovepipe (Looks like the Gibus)
Soldier's Stash
Mining Helmet
Trophy Belt
Handyman's Handle
Hard Counter
Football Helmet

The second to last category is the "Hatless" hats

Hatless (Rank 7)
Hatless Sniper
Hatless Engineer
Hatless Scout

The last category is hats that basically everyone has.

The Common Hats (Rank 8)
Bill's Hat
Ellis' Hat

Camera Beard
Alien Swarm Parasite

Friday, October 22, 2010

Job Search Self-Doubts

I've been looking for a job pretty aggressively lately, and it's a pretty tough market out there. One of my problems is that when someone responds to my resumè, I assume that they must be trying to give me some sort of terrible job, since why else would they be hiring me? I am a great guy, but I have a pretty crummy resumè right now.

So I always assume that the role being offered is some sort of call center or commission based job, which are basically two of the three things I refuse to do. (The other is handling food). I have decided that I should pursue even these suspicious looking offers, at least until it's absolutely clear it's some sort of no-hope position.

Man, this is a boring post. Sorry readers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My teeth are sweet it turns out. My dentist actually made soft "ooh" and "aah" noises when looking at my teeth. Apparently I'm the dental equivalent of The Chosen One. Except I don't floss enough, and my gums are kinda sensitive.

Wow, spell check doesn't accept "gums".

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Romance Drake Equation

So I'm interested in the romantic aspect of life. This presents some difficulty to me, since I'm bad at meeting new people. There's also a demographic problem, which I can summarize in a formula similar to the Drake Equation*.

We take the current population of persons within a reasonable traveling distance,  let's say that's two million people. Then we divide that by the percentage of those persons that I would be compatible with. First, we have to eliminate all the dudes, so that's 50%, and we're down to 1 million. Then we have to eliminate all the ladies that aren't interested in dudes, that's another 10%, 900.000 left.

They'd have to be a High School graduate, minimum, but I'll use the statistic for "Attended College", which is 52.5%, according to the Wikipedia, leaving 472.500.

I'd like it if they were within 5 years of my age, which is about 27% of the population, 127.575 left.

Apparently 45% of people in my demographic are already married, so that's 57408. Then there's all the people that are in a relationship, but haven't married. That's a tougher number, so let's just say it's 50%, 28.704 left.

Religion is a tricky subject, since I don't mind if someone is mildly religious, but it would obviously have to be compatible with my Atheism, so I'll use the statistic for non-religious, which is about 15%, 4.305 left.

That's a pretty small number when you compare it to our initial number of two million persons, especially when you consider that I've essentially made no consideration for personality. How many of those 4305 could put up with my nonsense? I obviously can't assign it a number, but it's probably not encouraging.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I could use some help, so if anyone knows anyone that they think would work out, I'd appreciate the connection.

*I am aware that this approach is symptomatic of why I don't have any romance in my life right now, no need to point out the irony.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Best TF2 Hats, Part II

EDIT: Since this post, I've made a more comprehensive post, where I rank every tradable hat in TF2. You can check it out here!

I looked at my website statistics, and discovered that my ancient article calling the Scotsman's Stove Pipe the best hat in TF2 is the most popular thing I've ever written. This is rather depressing, since it's not a particularly meaningful article, and I don't even think it's true anymore.

The coolest hat in TF2 is the Stout Shako. Look at its majesty!
Picture courtesy of the TF2wiki.

In fact, if you're going to craft a hat, I'd highly suggest crafting a Soldier hat, even if you don't want a soldier hat. Yes, it costs an extra Refined Metal and a Soldier Token, but the Soldier has 4 new hats in the Polycount update, and they're all sweet. You have a 4/9 chance of getting a hat that someone would gladly trade two hats for. Only one of the Soldier hats, the Soldier's Stash, is truly bad. This leaves a 8/9 chance of getting a good hat, far better odds than any other class!

The Familiar Fez is my new favorite Spy hat, but really, all Spy hats are good.

The best thing with Medic is the Otolaryngologist's Mirror plus the Physician's Procedure Mask. It really plays up the medical side.

PS. Does anyone have a Shako to trade?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Vita-Saw is Bad

The popular logic seems to be that the Vita-Saw may be alright. The benefit is obvious, you get to keep your uber at 20% when you die, saving yourself 10 or so seconds for your next uber.

The disadvantage is the point of debate. Most people seem to think that -10 HP isn't very significant. After all, people say, how many times do you survive with 10 HP or less?

I think this argument is self-evidently false.  It essentially claims that 10 HP or less is equal to death. In other words, once you taken the first 140 damage, the last 10 damage is inevitable. However, this same logic can be applied to the Vita-Saw. If 10 HP inevitably results in death, then you're dead after taking only 130 damage.

In the end, -10 HP is significant, regardless of armchair generalizations.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mann-conomy Items Review!

The new TF2 update is sweet. I'm going to briefly review all the new items. (Later I'm going to post about all the trading I've been doing. Basically, I've been robbing people, and they say "thanks" at the end.)

Vita-saw: Worst item in the game.

Gloves Of Running Urgently: Heavy has been waiting for this for a long time, and it is worth it*. This makes the Heavy infinitely more valuable for 5-point capture maps, since the Heavy can arrive at the center point with the rest of the team, and can run to capture the next point with the team, instead of showing up late to everything. I would pick these in 100% of situations.

The melee damage reduction is trivial. If you're doing melee with the Heavy, you're doing it wrong.

The damage over time can actually be beneficial if you're with a medic; the self-damage serves the same purpose as a soldier shooting himself, making the über charge faster.

The Scout Pack:
This one seems crazy overpowered. If you have the hat with these items, you get +25 HP. If you don't have the hat, you don't. How is this not getting bonuses from a hat?

The Holy Mackerel: The best item in the game.

Shortstop: Seems good, but I haven't had a chance to use it. The slow effect is hardly noticeable, mainly because you die before you have time to check what's going on.

Mad Milk: I definitely like the idea, but again, I haven't had a chance to try this one out. Seems like it would work very well if both teams were meeting in large groups and you milked a bunch of their team at once. It would basically become a heal effect for your whole team for the duration of the fight.

The Soldier Pack
The item bonus for the Soldier pack isn't as good as the scout pack, but it's still a pure bonus. Sentries are often rather binary: if you get in the range of a level three sentry, I don't think a 20% resistance is going to save you.

The Black Box
The Black Box works as a spam weapon for long distances. I don't see a place for it in competitive play, but I could imagine someone playing long range spammer in a public game. It's especially good in pubs because there are so few medics. There's basically no way to use this gun for dive bombing people or other close up fights though.

Battalion's Backup:  I'm not sure about this one. The true power of it is canceling critical hits, but I don't know a way to anticipate crits in a timely way. I'd be very impressed if someone managed to time this against the activation of a Kritzkrieg.

The Pyro Pack:
This set bonus is far more balanced. You get 10% more speed, (making you a little faster than a medic, but a scout is still much faster than you), but you gain a 10% vulnerability to bullets. I'd really like to give this one a try, even though I don't like the Powerjack.

The Powerjack: The natural comparison is with the Axetinguisher, and the Powerjack comes up short. The damage bonus for the Powerjack is trivial compared to the Axetinguisher's 195 damage crit. The bonus 75 health for getting a kill with the Powerjack is cool, but you have to be psychic to know when the enemy has enough HP to die from a single hit, and you really don't want to have to swing with it twice.

In other words: to get the bonus HP you need kills, and it's too hard to get kills with the Powerjack's damage output.

Degreaser: I love the Degreaser. The weapon switch is unbelievably fast. It's possible to set someone on fire, switch to the Axetinguisher, and get your free crit in about a second. It also makes it much more practical to switch the the Flare Gun or Shotgun for long-distance spamming, then switch back to the Degreaser for reflecting rockets and other projectiles. The reduction in afterburn damage is almost trivial; you lose 17 damage over the course of the fire.

I'm pretty sure this uses the sound effect of the flamethrower from Alien Swarm.

The Sniper Pack:
This is another "purely better" equipment pack. If you have the hat, you cannot die from headshots, and if you don't have the hat, headshots can kill you. There is no trade-off whatsoever. Top Tip: If you do have this hat, Don't move around when you're fighting another Sniper. You want them to headshot you, instead of killing you with a bodyshot.

Darwin's Danger Shield: I know I wouldn't use this item, I like Jarate too much. But maybe someone would run this with the Huntsman as a close range sniper.

Sydney Sleeper: This is the sniper rifle for the real team player. You're not going to be getting nearly as many pro kills with this thing, but you may get a lot of pro assists. A good team will focus their attack on the person you've "marked", which allows you to designate targets. If you want to use the Sleeper but still not use any teamwork, you could try it with the SMG. People would be much less willing to attack when you have a mini-critting hitscan to repel them.

Bushwacka: This crits instead of mini-critting. How are you going to get minicrits? You're probably not going to be going into melee with the Buff Banner, so that leaves Jarate and the Sleeper. This is basically a defensive weapon. If someone gets close, you throw Jarate or hope you shot them with the Sleeper, then you go for melee. I like it.

The Spy Pack:
This is one of those item sets that's like playing a completely different class. With the reduction in watch sound, this pack is clearly for the Dead Ringer. With the Eternal Reward, this means that you can't disguise and you can't turn invisible except in very narrow situations.

The item description "0.5 sec longer Cloak blink time" is rather obscure. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Valve has been bad at expressing themselves again.

Your Eternal Reward: This is a really neat item. As with all spy items, people will get used to it and return to hosing Spies soon enough, but right now, it's still taking people off guard. By instantly disguising as the person you've backstabbed, you're invulnerable to sentries. Since the backstabs are silent, it's much easier to chainstab people.

L'etranger: Getting a little more charge isn't that important, unless you have the Dead Ringer, which requires a full charge to activate. Unless you're using the DR, stick with the revolver.

They're good for trading to people with more money than sense. There's less than a 5% chance of getting a special hat. Logically, this means the unusual hats are worth more than 50$ of keys, plus the cost of getting the crates. Also, there's a good chance it won't be a very good hat. If there's a 50% chance of getting a hat you want, then those hats are worth 100$ of keys. To be clear, I'd love to have a hat with a particle effect, but there is no way in hell I'd spend real money to gamble for one, especially with a 50% chance of getting a normal weapon or normal hat.

*When they increased the speed of the Heavy's spin-up, spin-down, and walk speed when spun-up, I thought that was a replacement for the GRU. Now the he has both, Heavy will be a true beast.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Regulate Your Weight!

Do you weigh too much, or too little? I can solve that for you. Count how many calories you take in, then count how many calories you burn through activity. If you want to lose weight, make sure that your calories-in are less than your calories-out. If you want to gain weight, reverse the process. There is no other way to reliably regulate your weight.

A top-tip: if you want to reduce calories-in, an easy first step is to not drink any calories. That means no drinking soda or alcohol. Period. That's also an easy way to save a lot of money.