Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Open Letter To Fictional Characters

Dear everyone in a Rom-Com or Sit-Com,

Many doors, especially doors to bathrooms or the front doors of houses, have locks. If you're doing something embarrassing, or just expecting privacy, lock the door.

Also, if you hear people laughing when you're not with a crowd, that means you're in a show with a laugh track. Just kill yourself now.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

700th Post - Coen Brothers

It's my 700th post! Woo!

When it comes to the Coen Brothers, I think we can all agree that their movies are good. They're entertaining, and they have such confidence in their skills, they can do things with much more subtlety than most directors.

My issue about Coen Brothers movies is that I don't know how to think about them. Are they smarter than me, hopelessly pretentious, or both? It often seems there's an underlying metaphor, but I never can put them together. Example: What's the ending of No Country For Old Men about? Or the ending of True Grit? (Which I just saw and enjoyed. Jeff Bridges is great.)

I've read a few analyses of their movies, but they're generally a sort of crazy-person interpretation, where everything is a metaphor, every name is a weird code, and there's always someone that is standing in for God. While I know there are symbolic movies, I'm reluctant to accept such an elaborate metaphor based only on people's names, for example. I generally don't buy people's "elaborate metaphor" interpretation of stories.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

TF2 Australian Xmas Update

The new TF2 update is great. I'm going to have to re-rank all the hats, with the new hats added into the list. But first, the new items!

Boston Basher seems like an interesting idea. Slightly more damage with the bleed effect, balanced by bleeding yourself if you miss a swing.

Candy Cane is a good example of something Valve has been trying to encourage: using melee attacks as a means of finishing a fight. I think the theory is that both fighters will run out of ammo, get close, then go to melee. I don't think Candy Cane is worth it, 25% increased explosion damage is crazy bananas. Basically any explosion will bring you down so low that any more damage will kill you.

Back Scratcher would be good under two conditions: You have a bad team/bad medic, and you don't use the Axetinguisher. Generally, I think Axetinguisher is way to go, but health packs are really good.

Demo Set seems pretty legit, but the fire resistance seems like an unnecessary insult to the Pyro, especially since the Demo can already have fire resistance with the Shield

Loch-n-Load seems to be basically a Rocket Launcher that fires faster, does more damage, and has a smaller clip. I'd use it with the Demoknight build, since it'd be a way to Rocket Jump easily. Other than that, it seems Overpowered, but that's because everything the Demo has is OP.

Ullapool Caber is as awesome as it is ridiculous, which is to say, very. Massive damage in exchange for basically dying automatically.  TF2 wiki says it does about 150 damage to enemies with the explosion, then does 100 to you, which sends you flying into the air, causing fall damage too. Just another way for the demoman to kill a whole team all by himself: stickyjump in with grenade in hand.

Claidhaemohmor just seems irrelevant. The sword for people who can't go the whole way. Decent, but uninteresting.

Heavy Set is just nuts. It completely changes the way Heavy is played. The critical resistance is just odd. Does that affect Sniper Rifle headshots? Being able to survive a fully charged Sniper would be pretty cool. (Although you probably wouldn't survive, even with the resistance you'd be down to ~22 health.)

EDIT: The Warrior's Pride gives -20 health, which should mean that the Sniper Rifle can still one-shot the Heavy.

Brass Beast has a really cool model and sound, but the ludicrously slow speed of movement probably makes it too impractical for serious play.

Buffalo Steak Sandvich is crazy good right now, you can drop it like a normal Sandvich and it still heals for half HP. That's the way I generally use the Sandvich anyway, so it's like having both sandviches at once. The actual effect is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. The Heavy running across the map chasing people down with fists is something I didn't think could be that funny. It increases speed to 311, which makes heavy second fastest class in the game; you still don't have much of a chance of catching a Scout.

It's only really practical when you are in an ambush situation, since you take minicrits. This makes it almost irrelevant since I'd rather use a Minigun for 99% of ambush situations. Regardless, it's tons of fun.

Warrior's Spirit may as well say "Increases Steak Sandvich damage to ~118."

Fists of Steel would be great if they hadn't already released the GRU. As it is, they're certainly better than the other melee weapons, but the GRU's extra speed is far superior.

Jag is my new default Engie wrench, replacing the Southern Hospitality. Increased build rate is exactly what I need as a ninja-neer. The reduced damage will be a pain against Spies, but as El_Dawg points out, the 146 Crit damage is still enough to kill a spy, and Engie has roughly a 100% crit rate with Wrench.

Medic Set
The Medic Set is exactly what I've been asking for. The extra health regeneration is just gravy.

Crusader's Crossbow is still a question to me. You're basically trading extra healing ability in exchange for losing any real chance of defending yourself. The healing function does two cool things: It's a ranged heal, and it gives you a small "spike" of healing, since you can quickly switch to it, shoot it for 75 healing minimum, then switch back to Medigun without reloading.

The Reload is the primary weakness of the Crossbow, since it takes about 5 years. It makes the gamble of using it from extreme distances too risky, if you ask me. Unless you're targeting a heavy, (on either team), you're probably going to miss, and you can't just fire again really quickly like with the Huntsman. Also, you should be using that time to build uber, not reloading a stupid Crossbow. I think the Crossbow would actually be a more practical gun if you couldn't reload it.

Amputator is fantastic. The Medigun heals 24 HP a second to one person at a time, while the Amputator heals 75 HP a second for everyone around you. With only two people around you, it heals more than five times as fast as the Medigun. I'm not going to say it's a perfect weapon; it doesn't build Uber, and you're incredibly vulnerable while you're taunting. Despite those faults, this is my pick for Medic Melee slot now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Movie Thoughts

First of all, Inception may not be a bad movie. The real measure of a movie is whether people like it, whether they feel like their 10$ is well spent. With that measure, it wasn't a good movie to me. I do maintain, however, that Inception is a bad story. Stories are about character, and the characters in Inception suck.

To be fair, Inception is nowhere near the worst movie of the year. One of the largest injustices of all time is that the turd of Alice In Wonderland is one of the 7 movies to make a billion dollars. Hereafter is so tedious, I only stayed in the theater because I assumed that it was building up to something.

Spoiler: Hereafter is like a Ayn Rand book. Reality doesn't support Objectivism or Hereafter's belief in the afterlife, so the author simply creates their own reality, where it's obvious that their belief is correct. This fictional "proof" takes precedence over character, plot, etc. Hence, the "climax" of Hereafter isn't an event of narrative importance, it's an event that shows that the afterlife is real.

Speaking of the afterlife, the reason people see a light when they have a near death experience is just because there's no oxygen going to their brain. It's a repeatable medical condition, not some magical connection to another world. All of these "glimpses of the afterlife" imply that god created a pretty crappy way of separating the alive from the dead.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Obama's Hostages, Redux

I know I've already rephrased this two or three times already, but one more time.

Imagine Obama was a real Hostage Negotiator. He refuses to deal with the hostage takers, until the hostage takers harm one of the hostages, which makes Obama cave immediately. What do you think will happen in the next hostage crisis? The next hostage takers will know exactly what to do to make Obama give in, and just skip to harming the hostages for no reason.

Obama didn't just lose this crisis, he created a whole range of new artificial crises.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Negotiating With Terrorists

Game Theory gives us a simple lesson about negotiating with Terrorists: DON'T DO IT. Even if the Terrorist is demanding $2.50 and a coke in exchange for not annihilating Europe, you CANNOT give them anything. 

The incentive to negotiate is simple; you can forestall deaths or destruction for some smaller sacrifice. So why not negotiate, under any circumstances? Because of the next threat. If someone has to kill some hostages to get some concessions in negotiations, then those concessions have killed untold number of future hostages. You can save some people in the room, but you've encouraged future attacks for the rest of time.

This is why Obama's reasoning on the tax cuts is wrong. He directly invoked the hostage argument, then did the exact wrong thing. Obama said that you don't negotiate with hostage takers, unless the hostage may get hurt. This says that any time the Republicans want anything at all, they only need to tie the bill to some looming disaster. Instead of putting the hostages at risk this time, Obama has put two years of future bills under the same terrorist threat.

EDIT: Let me make this clear: by appeasing the Republicans,  Obama has ensured that Republicans will sabotage every necessary bill until the last moment. Once a bill's passage becomes an emergency measure, the Republicans will present a series of new demands. Obama will presumably surrender to whatever the Republicans want at that time. The Republicans will still pass the bill, so they will receive no political backlash.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Orwellian Republicans

One of the things that Slacktivist likes to talk about is Pre-Millennial Dispensationalists (PMD). Personally, I find Bible interpretation to be quite interesting, but I'll skip the details of their Theology for the moment.

Specifically, I'm addressing the attitude of PMD members towards talking about Peace. In their system, the Antichrist, (a character never actually in the Bible) will come with promises of Peace, but will leverage his power into Violence, War, and Tyranny. Therefore, anyone who praises Peace is seen as a wolf in sheep's clothing, only addressing Peace for the purposes of gaining power. This paradoxically has led to people who theoretically support Peace only supporting politicians who praise War.

Republicans have a similar attitude toward a lot of things. It's possible that this is not a coincidence, since PMD members are generally Republicans. In particular, Republicans have completely reversed the meaning of Freedom. Democrats (theoretically) still celebrate the Four Freedoms of FDR,
  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear
(Thanks, Wikipedia!)

And Republicans turn all of these Freedoms into a covert attempt to eliminate Freedom. Freedom of Worship has been transformed into "Banning Prayer in School". Freedom From Want has been turned into Socialism leading to Fascism. And Freedom from Fear has been Surrender to Terror.

Republicans, on the other hand, want to compel children to pray on Republican terms, want the poor to be free to freeze to death under a bridge, and want everyone on earth to be continuously in paroxysms of fear from formless Terror. Naturally, the President who frankly said "there ought to be limits to freedom" is celebrated as a freedom loving President. The one who thinks that arresting people without cause is wrong is a freedom hating President.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why Obama Disappoints Me

Everyone has decided to pile on Obama lately, so I thought I'd join in. To me, Obama has two main problems:

  1. He's unwilling or incapable to sell or enunciate a left-wing philosophy. Instead of this, he simply fights for his positions, but lets the Republicans argue against them with no counter-argument. This leads to an image of someone passing laws that no one supports. What we need is a Barry Goldwater of the Democratic Party, someone who can sell the message.
  2. Obama doesn't know how to negotiate on the legislative front. In a traditional negotiation, both sides make some concessions until they both find a position that they are able to swallow. With Obama, Democrats just make concessions over and over again, then pass their bills without any Republican support anyway. It seems like Obama genuinely believes in his message of bipartisanship, and he just can't believe that Republicans would be so determined to undermine his agenda, even if it wrecks the country.
Let me make it clear, I do support Obama, and he's passed some good bills, but we really need a truly left-wing president some day. Ever since Reagan, we've shifted hard to the Right. I'd say that we haven't seen a truly Democratic President since Carter.