Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tintin and Action Fatigue

Tintin is great, Steven Spielberg really is a master of his craft. They managed to make a modern movie that's still true to the comic, except they cut out all the racism. Probably a good thing.

My one problem with the movie is action fatigue. I felt like we should have already come to the end of the climax, only to find that what I thought was the climax was only an entertaining diversion, and there's an entirely separate climax that's even longer. By the end, I'm just tired of all the crazy stuff that's happened.

I think this happens more nowadays because of the huge budgets that movies get. If Peter Jackson wants to have a fully CGI chase scene in King Kong that goes on for 40 minutes, he can do that without going over budget. By the end, I'm not going to care what happens to them, I'm just waiting to take a break from all the craziness.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Yellow Lights

I ran two yellow lights today.

I think neither would get me in trouble if there had been a policeman watching, but the first was stretching it a little bit. I've never run a yellow light thinking, "I need to get through here because I'm in a hurry," I think that attitude is extremely dangerous and leads to traffic collisions. I only run lights because I can't stop in time to stay out of the intersection, which is my understanding of what the yellow light means.

I think if you talk to 10 people, you'll get 5 different meanings for a yellow light. People in general don't know what the laws that effect them actually say. Traffic law in particular seems to be a haven for folklore; a friend of mine insists that it's not illegal to exceed the speed limit if you're traveling at the "speed of traffic", that is, the general speed of the cars around you.

Anyway, does anyone have a rule of thumb for approaching green lights that are bound to change to a yellow any second now? I've been trying to think to myself, "I'm going to stop unless I get to that point up ahead", when I remember to, but it's an awkward system.

I wish we had the traffic lights I've heard other countries have, where the light actually changes in appearance as it approaches a change.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Crazy Old Guy

I was bemused to talk to a crazy old man today. He's from some other country, not great with English, and very insistent that he not buy anything made in China, apparently because of his disapproval of their one-child policy.

In our conversation, he shook my hand at least three times, saluted me twice, and read the lines in my hand to read my future. I think people may be annoyed by people like that, but I find it charming.

Monday, November 28, 2011

iPod Touch External Speakers

My new iPod Touch has external speakers so you don't have to attach anything to the device to listen to music/podcasts. I decided to test it out by listening to some They Might Be Giants, and it sounded horrible.

The sound quality wasn't that great either.

Monday, November 21, 2011


The latest Simpsons was funny, and XKCD wasn't a waste of time? What's the world coming to?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

We choose to go to the Moon

one half (variable)(variable) squared

I'm in a physics class right now. It seems like everything in physics involves the same formula:

1/2 * X * Y^2

that is, half the first variable, times the second variable squared. Here's a little contest: I'm going to list formulae that include this system, and let my readers figure them out!

1/2 MR^2
1/2 KX^2
1/2 AT^2
1/2 Iω ^2
1/2 αT^2
1/2 MV^2

PS. what is up with the math lettering system? Using X and Y as the most commonly used letters is insane. It's incredibly easy for an x to look like a y, and vice-versa. W stands for like three things, and so does T. It's like crazy people thought up the notation for physics stuff. Or maybe people with a truncated alphabet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Age of Accountability

Most Christians think that death leads to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. They also believe that the only way to enter Heaven is to is to have faith in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth*. When people point out that this system is monstrously unfair, since many people are not exposed to the idea of Jesus, believers shrug their shoulders and say something about god being mysterious.

Oddly, confronted with an almost identical situation, many Christians reverse their position. When a child dies without having an opportunity to believe in Jesus, Christians invent the idea of an "Age of Accountability". If you don't reach the Age of Accountability before you die, then you're saved regardless of the state of your belief. There is literally no support in the Bible for this theory.

So what's the difference between damning people in distant countries and children that are only a few years old? The answer is obvious: People don't mind damning foreigners, but it makes them feel bad to think that their kids might go to Hell.

I personally like the Jehovah's Witnesses' take on the whole thing: they believe that everyone is simply dead and "asleep" until the coming of the "Kingdom of God". This has two plusses: it doesn't make god look like a complete jerk, and it's more supported by the bible than most interpretations.

*Both of these things are not very well supported by the actual bible. It's remarkable how many things in modern belief are based on incredibly vague or obtuse passages. Particularly the entire idea of The Antichrist being a person.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Why I Like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic


2. Songs

3. Character Based Humour
4. The protagonist is an intellectual, pretty rare for a kids' show.
5. I haven't seen any other shows for girls, but it's nice to see the way that many of the characters aren't crammed into "girly" roles.

NOTE: MLP is a good show, but it's not a great show. Watch The Wire, Community, Venture Bros, Archer, etc. before watching it. Someone compared it to junk food, and that's a pretty good analogy. It's just fun.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Secret Antagonistic PCs

I'm against Role-Players making and running characters that are designed to have goals that conflict with the ordinary goals of the party. This includes "moles" and "possessed" characters. My main concern is that it's done too often; I'd be more surprised if some players had a character without a complicated issue that never really comes up in the game but prevents them from really helping.

It makes "Character information" and "Player information" much more difficult to segregate, in most situations, a player that was concerned about it could just ask for clarification: "Did you say that in character?", but a PC with a secret agenda can't ask that because it would be very suspicious. The information problem runs the other way too, the secret actions will require additional adjudication by the GM, which will almost inevitably be noticed by the other PCs, unless they are completely oblivious. (This is why I have never detected a hostile PC ever)

There are a lot of things that go unspoken in an RPG, a player doesn't say that he turns on light switches, or goes to bed, or whether he locks each door he closes, or whether he checks his watches, or does regular virus checks on his computer, etc. But each of these actions, and endless more, could reveal or betray a PC that's acting against the interests of the party. The GM is forced to RP the PCs on behalf of the antagonistic PC, who ends up essentially acting against brain-dead players, no GM can imagine all the nonsensical things a party of PCs will do, and he has an obvious incentive to not catch the secret PC in action: that would end the entire plot line, and could easily lead to the death of a PC, or even the entire campaign. Thus, the players feel cheated that their "implied" actions didn't actually happen. The GM can't ask what sort of precautions are being taken because, again, this creates obvious problems with information between player and character.

Note, I don't mind if a character develops in such a way that they must oppose the actions of the party, I'm against a character designed with that in mind.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Congress is Skimming the Patent Office

You probably know that the US Patent Office is sorely undermanned and underfunded. You may not know that the Office actually generates all its own income, and operates on the fees of those that use it.

What's worse, Congress actually takes money from the Office and uses it for the general fund. This skimming runs to the total of about a billion dollars over ten years. No wonder the system doesn't have enough capital! Hopefully the recent patent bill will help, but I've become a little pessimistic about Congress nowadays.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Drama and Character Vs "epic-ness"

There's a common misconception in media. Essentially, it says that "more epic is more dramatic/emotional/powerful etc." That is, higher stakes, larger armies, more deaths, make for a bigger impact on the audience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People care about people. Those people can be robots, or living toys, or humans or aliens, but they can't be countries, or populations, or even planets.

A few examples: In the Mass Effect series, you can decide the fate of entire planets. At the climax of the game, your actions save the entire Galaxy. You can commit acts akin to Genocide. But if you listen to people talk about their play experience, you wouldn't know that those things were in the game; you'd think that the game was a relationship/dating game. In the mind of a player, the most important decision is who to befriend/sleep with*. People care about people.

In Saving Private Ryan, the fate of the free world is at stake, but only in a theoretical sense. In the most "epic" events of history, the characters never know the significance of their actions on the world scale. What they-and the audience-care about is the fate of their company. The arrival of Air Power doesn't matter because it leads to Allied victory, it matters because Tom Hanks' life is saved (Spoiler Alert).

The perfect counter-example is in Star Wars Episode III. The final battle between Obi-wan and Anakin shouldn't be about the lava and crazy jumps and special effects. It should be about the character of the combatants. Instead, it's often impossible to tell which Jedi is which.

If your problem with my talking about Star Wars is that it's not long enough, you should check out Red Letter Media's videos about the series. They provide a lot of valuable information about storytelling and strange jokes.

*Correct path for Femshep: Liara, Garrus, Liara.
Maleshep: Liara, Tali, Liara.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Often times people don't believe me that I like Kanye West. Here are some songs that should show why I like his music. (You may not want to watch the videos, they're generally kinda dumb, and the second one is bad for people who have seizures. The Youtube versions also edit out the swears, which is pretty lame.)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

"Write-Off" Candidates and the Media

I just heard an interesting detail about covering political campaigns. News companies have a limited number of reporters to cover events, and they have to carefully distribute their resources. Each additional candidate requires more people, so the media has to choose a small number of candidates, (three at most, preferably two). Those candidates receive coverage, and the rest are essentially ignored.

This is why we get "write-off" candidates every campaign: the media picks the candidates that they decide can win. Often times they're right, most candidates don't have a chance. But this effect should bring chills to people who believe in Democrazy.

Post Office ISP

The Post Office should become an Internet Service Provider. It could help with rural Internet-ification, would provide competition, and would create a function for an increasingly irrelevant part of the government. 

Of course, the Post Office should stop delivering mass mailings at a loss, as well.. I assume this is the case because politicians like to do mass mailings.

Neither of these things will happen until we get a progressive government, so we may have to wait a while.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Taxes Take Away Happiness

Regardless of how much money a person makes, they think that if they make 10% more, that will take care of their problems, or allow them to be happy. This is not true. More money does not increase happiness, unless the person is being brought up from poverty, which creates genuine improvements in quality of life.

I think this ten percent rule is part of why there is so much resentment to our relatively low tax rates in America. The government isn't just taking away 10% of your money, it's taking away your happiness. No wonder people resent it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saving Lives With Money

 In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, the charities that provided medical intervention had a problem: how could the identify which injuries and medical problems were the result of the earthquake, and which conditions were pre-existing? Since the country had (and still has) such poor facilities, lots of people in the country had curable medical conditions from before the earthquake, and thought they could get in on that charity medical care.

My question: Why does it matter why anyone needs assistance? It's not as though earthquake victims are more deserving of assistance than someone who got hit by a bus. Neither person deserved their injury, and both would be better off with intervention.

Whenever someone dies of starvation or dehydration, the problem could have been solved with money. If we're willing to save a person that was starving as a result of an earthquake, then we should be willing to help someone who simply doesn't have land good enough to grow sufficient food.

Intervention that is used to prevent starvation, disasters, or injury has a multiplicative effect; if you spend a dollar on prevention, you save many dollars in the future. Logically, as a cost saving measure, the first world should spend all the money necessary to bring the benefits of modern civilization to anywhere willing to accept it.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Star Trek Back on TV

There's a headline going around that a guy is pitching a continuation of the Star Trek TV series of series. My first reaction: extremely cautious optimism. There are a number of problems that face the Star Trek fan of today:
  1. A show at this stage of development has low success rate of getting to the screen
  2. Science fiction is more expensive than regular programming, further decreasing the chance it will be picked up
  3. The guy pitching the show isn't even on wikipedia
  4. Most shows are bad
There are probably other things I haven't thought of, but that's most of my concern. From the hints he's dropped, it sounds like the guy cares about Star Trek, and has a vision for the show, which is cool.

Would I like to see more Star Trek on Television? Absolutely.

If it was completely neutered like Voyager? Maybe not.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Have you heard of this website called Youtube? I've been putting some TF2 videos up there. You can find them on my channel. Here's one for those of you too lazy to click a link:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dominion: The First Two Turns

Dominion is a great game. The game plays like ascension, but has a more strategic element, since you don't get screwed by the changing cards available on the board. In Ascension, you basically make one decision: "Fight or Buy", and you try to focus on that build for the rest of the game. In Dominion, every turn requires quite a bit of thought, if you're trying to maximize your gains.

I've been thinking about the strategy of Dominion in terms of what to do in the first two turns.

First of all, the first two turns are interchangeable. If you buy card X in turn one and card Y turn two, your deck will be the exact same when you shuffle your 12 cards as if you bought card Y first and X second.

You want to start off with two cards that do something directly. No cards that simply help another card in the first two turns.

Village is a great card, but you're not going to get to use three actions in your third or fourth turn; you'll only have two action cards in your entire deck! Go with the Steward until you have some more action cards in your deck.

It's difficult to figure out the correct ratio between action cards that do things, and action cards that support playing more cards. A lot of it depends on how many cards give +2 actions.

If you can buy a gold or a Province, get it every time.

One last thing: Don't be afraid to buy silver in the first two turns. Your main goal in the game is to buy expensive things, and starting early works great.

I forgot the best part! This site has a random dominion starting generator. If you play Dominion, it makes for a lot of cool variety.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Price Drop Illogic

Apparently many people are unfamiliar with the idea of buying things. It's a simple system: A person pays money for goods or services, and the recipients of that money delivers that good or service.

The furor over the price cuts of the 3DS and Team Fortress 2 imply some new philosophy of shopping. The thought seems to be, "If I buy something, and someone else gets that same thing for a lower price, I'm getting screwed."

You still got a product in return for your money. You thought it was worth ten dollars, or two hundred fifty dollars, and you got it for that price. Once that transaction is complete, the relation between you and the seller is complete. You may have been ripped off*, or you may have won a great deal**. Either way, the price in the future has nothing to do with the value of your purchase in the past.

Where have these people come from, anyway? Almost every consumer product's price goes down over time, except survival commodities like Petrol and Food. When did this completely ordinary process become an outrage?

I suppose I shouldn't bother; people will complain about anything nowadays.

*If you got a 3DS
**If you got TF2

Saturday, August 06, 2011

All In The Family

All in the Family is the best show ever made. It pushed more borders than anything today, (although a lot of that is the fact that there were more borders back then,) and the show is still funny, and sad, and powerful, in a way that still applies to modern day.

Lots of episodes are on youtube, check them out if you get the chance.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Talks

Here's my current theory: Obama has said that he will not sign a deal unless it extends the debt ceiling past the presidential election. The Republicans want to use this latest crisis to dismantle another large portion of the federal budget. Failing that, they're perfectly willing to have Obama ignore the debt ceiling as an exercise of the 14th amendment.

So long as the Republicans can make it seem like they made a reasonable offer, they win either way. If Obama caves like always, they win because they get to kill universal healthcare. If Obama finally mans up, they get to say that Democrats are increasing the deficit, they can say he should be impeached for breaking the law, etc., etc. The only way Obama can make this look good for him is by making it clear he went completely out of his way to make a deal, offering up Democratic sacred cows.

He did offer to increase the age for Medicare availability, (which would kill a lot of people, I would guess more than 100, but fewer than 10,000 a year) so he made the appropriate gesture. The question is whether he can sell this fact to the people of the United States. He will almost certainly win re-election against this terrible Republican field, but he needs a congress that won't threaten to blow up the country every time they don't get their way.

So this all comes to marketing, which Democrats have been incompetent at since LBJ. Hooray for the future.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Big Bang Theory is Bad

I had never seen an episode of The Big Bang theory, and I had heard good and bad things about it.

To those of you who support the show, you are wrong. The show is bad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

TF2 Tourney DDOS

TF2 tournament matches keep getting attacked by hackers. Is there a particular reason for this, or are they just going with the mafia "protection" idea? Anyone know?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TF2 Uber Update Thoughts

I'm waiting for the Uber Update to come out, so I'm going to write my thoughts about what they've previewed so far.

Liberty Launcher
Faster Rocket Launcher, I don't really care about items that just tweak percentages a bit.

Reserve Shooter

Mini-Crits on airborne targets. Sounds great to me.

Market Gardener
Getting Crits seems pretty good, but it's impossibly difficult to get consistent melee hits when you're flying by them.

If anything is harder than meleeing someone in midair, it's landing on their head. From some test jumping around, it seems like the treads would do ~100 damage, tops.

Disciplinary Action
This seems to be great. Going faster is always good, and getting a Heavy to go fast is fantastic. Also, you get to whip your allies.

Presumably, this'll be the Detonator from the Beta, so sign me up.

Third jump. Sweet.

Not that exciting, just tweaking percentages. I may use it for finishing people off.

Soda Popper
Charge up Mini-Crits by running around? I guess it could be good, depends on how fast it charges up.

Bazaar Bargain    
I'm a terrible shot, so I'm not going to use it, unless there's something we don't know about it, like it has iron sights or something.


Splendid Screen
Doesn't seem that great. I'd rather have more damage resistance from the regular shield than better collision damage, which I rarely get.

Persian Persuader
Weird weapon. If ammo becomes health, then you can't pick up any ammo, which means you'll run out pretty quickly. It's for a pure melee build, but I think doing it with the Grenade Launcher would be legit, if you use it sparingly.

Ali Baba's Wee Booties
Is there some thought in Valve HQ that Demomen aren't annoying enough?

The "no-sound" business seems good, but no one listens to things anyway. See Spy frag vids for evidence.

Family Business
Tweaking percentages, I don't care.

Eviction Notice
Tweaking percentages, but the wrong way. Surely a set of spiked brass knuckles would do more damage. I'd have it do bleed damage too.

I use the revolver/L'etrange to kill people already, doing even more damage is awesome. The increased cloak length seems like it wouldn't effect the Dead Ringer at all. This thing could two-shot a low HP enemy at close range.

Big Earner
I don't think this will be that great. 100 HP max is very rough.

Made Man
Maybe it'll do something?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Banning Cards

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'll play some Magic: The Gathering every now and again. There's an interesting question in that game: how do you decide what cards to allow?

I would have three rules.
  1. If a card dominates a format, where every deck is about the card, or has to be an aggressive counter to the card.
  2. If a card is in every deck, regardless of what the deck is about.
  3. The card makes games really boring, or makes you do a lot of work, disproportionate to its effect.
Rule number two is why I think Sol Ring should be banned in everything. Even a deck with a crazy amount of artifact hate would probably be better off running as many Sol Rings as are allowed. This is an obvious indicator that a card is too powerful.

The obvious counter argument: "If everyone has Sol Ring, it's all balanced. What's the harm?" The harm is that some people are going to draw Sol Ring, and get the huge benefits, and some won't. Every game will swing by a significant amount just by who's lucky enough to pull a Sol Ring in the early game.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Terraria. It's basically Minecraft in two dimensions.

Pros: Freedom and Exploration

You get to run around, digging and exploring, or building as high as you want into the air. There are a lot of things to find all around you. The items are neat, and the interface works well. Thankfully, you don't have to figure out recipes, it just lets you know what you can craft with what's in your inventory.

I particularly like messing with water and lava. Water is the ultimate safety device; you can ride waterfalls down any hole, and it makes a safe platform of obsidian on lava. You can jump higher in water too, so you can "ride" waterfalls up to places that you couldn't normally jump to. I just wish water had some effect on your opponents.


The enemies are terrible. There are three kinds of enemies, and they're all stupid.

The default enemy walks at you until one of you dies. If you're in a small area with them, you can get bounced around by the damage knockback, which prevents you from doing anything at all.

Then there's the enemies that teleport near you and shoot a projectile that goes through walls, so they can shoot you, but you can't shoot back.

Then there are the enemies that "fly" through the ground. Basically all you can do is attack as they get near you, trading damage until one of you dies. Once you get to the biggest ones, it's even odds which it will be, and they just keep coming.

The main problem with all of these opponents is their spawn rate. When enemies spawn as fast as you can kill them, and shoot magic shots at you from another room, it gets old extremely quick. Even the normal enemies can overwhelm you with numbers when they start dropping down from above, and you forget to seal yourself against them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Saxxys

I've been spending quite a bit of time voting on The Saxxys, and I have this feeling that not many other people are.

When I start voting in a category, it is thick with ineligible videos. As I proceed, the number of videos that have nothing to do with TF2 thin out as I flag them.*  If my work is making a significant change in the proportion of ineligible videos, days after the beginning of the contest, there must be very few voters indeed.

I can't blame the people that don't vote, why bother voting between two videos which obviously aren't going to win anything? This is by far the most common pairing of videos, and it's a waste of time.

I'd guess about half the videos are ineligible. Half the remaining videos are so terrible there's no chance of winning.** Only about one percent of the videos are good enough I would suggest anyone watch them. If I were running the contest, I would change two things: I would allow the voter to flag both videos as ineligible, and I would have a button that would indicate a vote against a video. An average voter can recognize that a video's general crumminess means it's not going to win anything, even if it's technically appropriate for the category.  If a video got enough of these anti-votes, it'd be moved off the list of eligible nominees.

*this could be a psychological effect, which would mean that none of this is significant.
** A particularly annoying kind of video is a demoman sticky jumping to the enemy, and hitting them with the Ullapool Caber (see below). If it had never been done before, I could see the attraction. Instead of a novelty, it's become the most common thing in the contest.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Best Animal Ever Tourney

Fill out your brackets today, if not earlier!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates 4

I saw Pirates of the Caribbean 4. It's just about what you would expect. It's clearly the work of people who just didn't care. It's one of the many modern movies where you have no idea where you are or what's going on most of the time. They made the shot very pretty, but it's clear they didn't do the work to flesh out the world.

Al Swearingon didn't get as much to do as I would have liked, but he had an entire HBO series, and that didn't satisfy me.

Apparently some idiot in marketing thought the movie didn't skew young enough or something, so they added in a pointless romance between a young couple of "actors" with all of the "acting ability" (generic good looks) and none of the name recognition of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly. I thought cutting the boring romantic pairing was the best improvement to the series, only to see my hopes dashed. At least it didn't take up much screen time.

Speaking of, I hate that Hollywood seems to think "romance" is the same as, "the woman is attractive, and the man is attractive/funny", so they fall into each other arms, often having spoken for less than ten minutes. I'm not saying you have to show ten minutes of dialogue, although Tarantino shows it's possible. A movie can indicate that a romantic pair has had time to talk off-screen before they decide they'd die for each other. Pirates 4 was particularly bad, considering one of the pair was a monster, and the other was a priest.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No More Politics

I know no one cares about my political stuff, especially since I generally just agree with Paul Krugman, so I'll take a break from that sort of thing, after I've said this one last thing.

Ralph Nader liked to say  that people should spend as much time and effort judging political figures as they do thinking of sports teams. Apply the same process, ignore the rhetoric, look at the numbers, and do some real research. I think we can all agree this is an extremely low bar, but we don't live up to it.

Most political debates are completely tangential to the important things, and the basic premises of those arguments are usually incorrect or disingenuous. This only works because people spend less time analyzing politics than they do their local sports team.

Maybe Americans don't deserve America, even in the state it's in.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Couple Political Planks

I know everyone loves it when I write ill-founded political rants, (something largely missing on the Internet), so here's a couple things.

First of all, no one should ever die of being poor. We don't have to make everyone equal, but we should have an arrangement where basic preventative medical care and basic living needs are provided to those that would die otherwise. Right now, people below the poverty line, (a quickly increasing population), die five years or more, on average, than those that have a living income. That's not OK.

Second, we need to pay more on schools and education, with a focus on having decent facilities and teachers. Yes, technology teaching is good, but the first priority must be on having teachers capable of teaching.  I heard once a teacher say that they had never received an evaluation of any kind in how they are teaching. Helping teachers measure their own performance would be the first step, after which, if the teacher could not reach some sort of standard, they would be removed from their position. In other words, you'd have a chance to shape up before you were kicked out, just like any regular job. Where a Republican plan has the goal of firing a lot of teachers, my plan would increase the amount of teachers, and only fire those teachers that couldn't meet a standard of quality.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Logical Impossibility of the Trinity

If I told you two "persons" were in the same body, had the same abilities, are made of the same material, and had the same mind, you'd say I was stupid.

You'd say the "two" persons were actually just one dude.

I would concede, "yes, they're the same nature, and the same being, but they're different persons."

Again, you'd say I was stupid. What's the point of being two persons, if you're obviously only one thing, you may ask.

"See, when they are active, they're one person. When they are simply existing, they're the other. It can be difficult to impossible to tell which person is being displayed at a given time, since there's no evident difference between the two, since they're made of the same stuff, and have the same abilities, as I said earlier."

You probably think this entire argument is stupid, and doesn't make any sense at all. What's the difference between a person and a being? Why should we care which is which, if no one can tell the difference? You would probably argue that they're not two people, it's more like two moods, or attitudes, of one person.

My theoretical dual person is self-evidently absurd, but this is precisely the position of the Divine Trinity celebrated by the majority of Christians. God is supposedly three persons at all time, but the "Holy Spirit" and the "Father" are essentially indistinguishable. They're both omnipresent and omniscient, and have the same intent. It's superfluous to describe such an organization as two persons, especially since the Bible doesn't describe the Divinity as three persons, it's inferred from indirect references to "the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". There's nothing to say that the Holy Spirit is a person, whatever that means, especially since "Spirit" means "Breath", and has obvious other potential meanings.

It seems to me the "Holy Spirit" is simply the feeling or attitude or ethos that a person has when they are holy. A person infused with the "Holy Spirit" isn't being ridden by a divinity*, they are living the divine life.

This diagram from Wikipedia is self-evidently absurd. Any first-year logic student knows that if A=B=C, then A = C.

The worst part is, none of this effects a single thing. Even the Bible doesn't indicate that belief in a Trinitarian God will affect a part of your life, or determine what happens in the afterlife. All of the endless debates about the nature of God are absurd and semantic, yet people have died for their belief in a non-trinitarian God.

*It's clear the Bible does not think that God is omnipresent, but if God is omnipresent, he can't be more or less with you at any given time.

Monday, May 02, 2011

TF2 Hat Update

Man, all these new hats, I need to get my butt in gear and update my old hat list.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why Has the Federal Government Grown?

Since the Constitutional Convention that created the United States of America, the Federal Government has become far more powerful in just about every sense. The government started quite weak, with little revenue and a small administrative force. This post explains how we got to a government that reaches into most of the events of our day to day lives.

There are several limitations on Federal power. Primarily, they are: the Constitution, (especially the Bill of Rights), money, technology and manpower. No matter how badly the early Federal Government would have wanted to regulate the quality of the air, food, or water, it was impossible from a purely logistical standpoint. There wasn't nearly enough revenue to employ the people necessary to monitor or enforce the regulation, and there weren't the necessary technology to perform the tests. Additionally, there was a cultural resistance to Federal powers, one that still exists today, but it is not nearly as strong or pure.

What has changed since 1787?

First of all, there have been 17 more amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment in particular grants vast powers to the Congress. The Sixteenth Amendment created the Federal Income Tax, which provided the money necessary to enforce more sweeping powers.

Even without these Amendments, however, the Federal Government would still have far more power today than it did in 1800, thanks to the growth of Interstate Commerce. The Constitution empowers the Congress to regulate Interstate Commerce with no specific limitations on its scope. In George Washington's time, there were no American Corporations that spanned the world. Today, most of the things that go on in our economy go through an interstate company. Republicans who want to drag the United States back to 1900 (something I've seriously heard proposed), forget the way that this expansion of power is completely constitutional, not just a Federal power grab.

There has also been a cultural change in America, especially in the period from 1901-1950. It turns out that the Federal Government is the best unit to service a welfare state*. To be honest, I don't see the Constitutional justification for Social Security, but I do see its enormous benefits. Before FDR, the elderly were the worst demographic for poverty in the United States. Social Security and Medicare have done uncountable good in improving the lives of what were once our most vulnerable citizens.

The Federal Government is also the only place that we can create useful environmental regulation. Air and Water aren't limited to a single state, only Interstate authority is appropriate to regulate it. 

*It's remarkable Republicans have made "welfare" into a dirty word; the Federal Government is supposed to "promote the general welfare", it's right there in the Constitution!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

List of Game Ideas

I've had a few ideas for games that I think would be cool, but I'd never fully develop. Here they are.

A RPG where the players build modestly powerful PCs, but then roll on a list of Famous/Epic items. They could get Excalibur, the Portal Gun, etc.

An Adventure game (Think King's Quest) where every problem can be solved by a crowbar, just like in real life! This could be a mod for an existing Adventure game, or a parody game built from the ground up.

Portal 2 got me thinking about how you could make a game where any role in a machine or organization can be held by any player. If you were the "commander", you'd want the system to work well, if you were in some other function, you may intentionally sabotaging that function for some reason or other. Ideally, people would only know who the commander was, the rest of the players would be anonymously fulfilling a function to further their own ends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Portal 2 Spoiler-Free Thoughts

Portal 2 is good.

There's an interesting dynamic of up being good, and down being bad. In the original Portal, you had no sense of what the elevators did, but 2 lets you see that you are going down, and therefore things are getting worse, or vice versa.

I kept wondering who they got to steal Stephen Merchant's schtick, only to find out it was Stephen Merchant.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Valve Lies, My Trust Dies

Back during the Golden Wrench Update, Valve said that TF2 players could unlock any number of golden wrenches at any time; it was all dependent on how much crafting they did. Within a day, people had discovered that this was a lie, that the wrench drops were pre-scheduled, with only who got the wrenches determined by the time.

Now Valve is telling us we can buy a set of games, and Portal 2 will come out sooner if you play the games. I hope no one blames me if I don't rush to my credit card.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Arming Other Countries

Why does the military like arming people that aren't America?

Before 2008, the Pentagon was trying to provide enough munitions for Iraq to fight for decades. Who are they supposed to fight? Each other?

And now, there's talk of arming the Libyan rebels, people who even Geraldo Rivera thinks are unprofessional. Maybe if we stopped giving other people weapons, they wouldn't have anything to shoot at us with when they inevitably turn on us.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


When it comes to economic politics, everything that needs to be said is said by Paul Krugman.

Someone should make a song that samples from common ring tones, text message sounds, and Instant Messaging client sound effects. Everyone would be checking their phones and computer messages. There's already a song that sounds like a cell phone, I always forget what it is.

This video is a good test to see if you use Steam as a messaging client.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's the Harm?

I've been complaining a lot about Democrats' inability to communicate. Why does it matter? Why should we care about the war of words, so long as Democrats vote on the right side of issues?

There are X problems:

Most immediately, it hurts legislation going on right now. When Democrats vote for something that is only reviled in the press, they know they'll look bad for doing it. They'll hesitate before voting for good bills, and bow to demands to include Republican measures in the bills they pass.

Next year, we'll see 1/3 of the Senate, the entire House, and the legislatures of most states up for grabs. How can people vote for Democrats in these elections, with no mental capacity to defend them? I'm not saying that Democratic voters are dumb, I'm saying that there must be a justification for taking an action, and it must be enunciated. Obama has done more to fix the systemic problems that face the United States in living memory, but unless someone says it, it's hard to support him.

The problems of failed legislation and losing elections are going to be disastrous, but they're not the biggest issue of the mute Democratic organization. The real tragedy is long in the future, when the kids of today become the citizen-governance of tomorrow. When you grow up hearing both Democrats and Republicans saying that we need to cut the Federal budget to save the economy, (which is false) why would you doubt it?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dragon Age II Impressions

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Dragon Age Two, and so far, I'd give it the same review I'd give to Dragon Age One: It's a great story with great characters, lamentably tied to a "game" that's annoying, repetitive, and boring.

Dragon Age II might actually be worse for making you fight meaningless battles all the time. Any time you want to do something, you're inevitably jumped by a dozen interchangeable thugs or monsters. The first dozen isn't enough, though, once you're mostly done with the first group, another wave of people emerges from the scenery. This makes combat overly familiar, and the way enemies appear from nowhere makes the tactics mostly irrelevant. Combat should be significant, emotionally and in game terms. If Hawke kills 50 guys just to walk to where the mission starts, how are we supposed to care about a threat, or about someone's death?

If someone made a mod that removed the combat, that'd be great. I'd love to "play" it as a movie with occasional decision points. Dragon Age or Mass Effect could both be a great movie/TV series, but Dragon Age doesn't really work as a game.

Keep the writers, fire the people in charge of gameplay.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

God's Evolution

In a theological debate, Richard Dawkins was challenged thusly: "Religious convictions are common; why have we evolved to believe in god?" He answered along the lines of reasons why humans get psychological and social benefits from religion.

I would respond differently. Humans haven't evolved to believe in gods, god has evolved to fit into humans' beliefs. We've seen a steady development of religious concepts, shaping themselves to fit into our understanding of science, etc.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Infinite Prosperity

In America:

There are more bedrooms than there are people, but there are people without a place to sleep.

There's more food thrown away than people need to eat, but people go hungry.

Cosmetic surgery and Homeopathic medicine both make billions of dollars yearly without adding anything to the health of anyone, yet we have children going without basic medical care.

There are enough resources, the only problem is distribution. The redistribution of wealth is necessary, and it would be beneficial for the economy. This fact is obvious, but it's politically unacceptable to say. Again, the Right-wing has made arguments of this nature impossible, and the Left wing has given up before the battle started.

We have an economy that could provide healthcare and homes for every person, and a political "debate" that argues over how we should further victimize the poor.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ranking Elemental Powers

Ice, Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Light, Darkness

There are lots of theoretical "elements", I've just trimmed them to ones that aren't stupid. Ice is clearly the best; it's capable of stunning, slowing, and straight damage.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Swears are Boring

Is anyone else dissatisfied with our current repertoire of swear words? They're all about sacrilege, bodily waste, body parts, and sex.

I like the German "pig-dog". We need stuff like that.

PS. The Star Wars cartoon continues to be terrible. I don't see how people that (presumably) love Star Wars can be so contemptuous of its legacy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Institutional Incompetence

One of the causes of the fall of Rome was the Senate. Since various dynamic personalities, Causar, Pompey,  Sulla, Augustus, etc. had taken the tiller of Rome for a few centuries, the Roman Government lost the ability to take the tiller back. Instead of trying to take back the power of the state and institute new policies, they became interested in advancing their petty positions. Even when incompetent Emperors reigned, and in the various margins between dictators, the Senate was incapable of governing the nation.

I wonder if this is the situation we face in modern America. The members of Congress are incompetent to legislate: they don't write the bills, and their "debates" are simply for show. They fly back to their homes every weekend, destroying any sense of community or congeniality amongst Congressmen.

It's telling that a Republican Congress would criticize the President for not showing leadership on the budget battle. It's partially a political maneuver, but surely the Constitution-loving Republican Party know that budget bills must begin in the very House they control.

In Rome, the impetus for State actions fell to the Emperor. Today, it falls to corporations, particularly those that influence the political sphere through media or political donations. The Emperor, unless he was completely insane (sometimes true) had to keep the state functioning. Corporations have no such interest. There is no conflict of interest for a Coal company to undermine the foundations of our nation, so long as those running the company make money.

TF2 Beta Update

Pretty Sweet Beta update for TF2. Oddly, Valve seems to be more interested in showing their hands instead of actually implementing things, the reverse of their regular policy.

Finally bringing in a system to produce a recording of your previous life. One million points. I'm eagerly awaiting its actual implementation. Same thing for KOTH Badlands, which is supposedly available, but none of the servers can go to it with the new voting system. Other than a lack of Badlands, the new voting system is exactly what TF2 has needed for the past three years. Surprising it took this long to make, since it's the same as L4D's voting system.

I'm hoping they introduce the Detonator to regular TF2, it brings the Pyro closer to the good classes. Personally, I'd just make the detonation ability a pure buff to the Flare Gun, it's not like Pyro is overpowered. 20% explosive vulnerability is brutal.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

For Profit Medicine

Check out this article. The rest of this post isn't about that directly, it's just interesting news.

Medicine in America is a disaster, but privatizing is the source of the problem, not the solution. I think it would require a constitutional amendment, but the United States should provide healthcare to all Americans. No one should die of poverty, but for-profit medicine does just that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Left Wing Argument

I've been attacking Democrats for failing to enunciate a left wing argument. Here's a suggestion:

Ayn Rand is wrong. No one accomplishes great things, becomes wealthy, or even invents a new kind of steel, by themselves. Everyone is a beneficiary of the state, and of their fellow man. Everyone is basically helpless for the first ten years of their life, and is a ward of their caretakers and their community. Even if you are educated by a private tutor on your survivalist compound, you still owe a lot to the country you live in.

It may be possible for private enterprise to replace most functions of the state, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Would you like your ability to travel to be contingent on the whims of a private company? Thanks to "socialized" roads, you can travel anywhere in the country. Do you want your water's purity to be determined by someone trying to cut every corner?

We all lean on each other for support. This isn't "learned helplessness", it's efficiency. If we all had to take care of our every need, we'd never get anything done. Civilization only works because we help each other out, even when there's not an apparent benefit. Republicans like to say that "a rising tide lifts all boats", but they don't realize that applies to helping the most vulnerable in society too. Someone trapped in the thrall of an insidious drug does terrible damage to himself, those around him, and society as a whole. The expense of helping someone free themselves from a drug is far cheaper than bombing Colombia, elaborate sting operations on dealers, and imprisoning a generation of "three strikes" violators. It's not just the most humane solution, it's also the best for the economy, and for the government's pocketbook.

PS. This is just something I wrote off the top of my head. Left Wing solutions have a lot of benefits, we just need someone to speak out about it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Canonicity Addendum

Just one other thing about Canon. Lots of people say that Star Trek and Star Wars violate their own canon. The problem goes like this: Worf says "A Klingon would never allow himself to be captured." Later, Worf gets captured. What a violation of canon!

This is rather silly. Just because Worf says something, doesn't mean he can't be exaggerating for effect, for example. Essentially, whenever someone says something that's later contradicted, it can be chalked up to a lot of things other than a mistake of the writers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dragon Age: Bosoms

I didn't know whether to call it Dragon Age: Bosoms, or photoshop a picture to change the II in Dragon Age: II into the letters TiTs. In the end, the photoshopping would have been more work, so here you go. In the half an hour demo, you end up with this party of ladies.

I liked the characters of the first Dragon Age, and I'm sure I'll like the ones in two, but their attitude to medieval "armour" is just as bad as 1970's Dungeons and Dragons books. It's possible to have attractive ladies in a game without having huge breasts on display. See: Uncharted.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


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I've decided to become the arbiter of canon. This came about largely because of Star Wars, which is determined to dig its own grave.

With this new power, I can dismiss any event I dislike in any work of fiction. In the future, when someone says that the podrace in The Phantom Menace was stupid, I can say, "That didn't happen. In fact, almost nothing in Episode One is canon."

If a show is good, everything in it is provisionally canon. If bad, then everything has to be personally approved by me. This means that most everything in Star Trek: The Next Generation and DS9 is canon, almost nothing in Voyager is canon, about half the things in The Original Series is canon, and so on.

All of the Star Trek movies are non-canon except Wrath of Khan. The only canon in Star Wars is episode 4, 5, and 6.

PS. Everything involving Section 31 in Star Trek is mostly non-canon. Basically, they're actually a faux-organization designed to satisfy other species' need for intrigue.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Abolish Military Branches

The way the US military operates now, it's stupid to have the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army as separate entities. I'd abolish all of them, (and the Coast Guard and the Marines) and make the chain of command operate in terms of regions. The different branches serve no function.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Obama Economics

I recently indicated that Obama is the best living president. He is, but this is largely because of the competition, which ranges from terrible to mediocre. Obama's recent decision to go along with Republicans' plan to cut the Federal budget is going to be disastrous. There's no guaranteeing anything in economics, but reducing the flow of money in an already slow economy will probably result in an even slower recovery, or even a second recession.

Not only will the cuts be bad for the economy, it will also harm the most vulnerable Americans. Cuts to social services will result in more hunger, more sickness, and ultimately, more deaths. Poverty kills, and not just the poor.*

This is the Republicans' plan for cuts to the federal budget. Take a look, and shudder for the future. Over a billion dollars cut from Community Health Centers alone. 1.5 billion cut from Global Health and Child Survival*.  They also want to cut NPR and PBS, the drizzlers!

*I could elaborate on this, if anyone cared.

**You'd think a program like that would be protected by the supposedly "pro-life" Republicans. "Pro-life" only applies when you are in the womb or on your deathbed. This is why Pro-lifers oppose abortion and voluntary euthanasia, but have no problem with executing children and the mentally handicapped.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Random Rankings II

Best to Worst:

Star Trek Movies: 2, 4, 3, 11, 8, 7, 6, 9, 10, 5, 1
Top Gear Hosts: James May, Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson
US Wars: Revolutionary, World War II, Civil War, World War I, Spanish American War, Mexican American War.
Living Presidents: Obama, Carter, Clinton, George HW Bush, George W Bush
Jeffrey Combs Star Trek Characters: Weyoun, Shran, Brunt, Kevin Mulkahey, Tiron, Penk

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Star Trek Miscellania

Star Trek is a great franchise. On average, you get a pretty good product. There's some garbage in there, but an average episode is good, and the best episodes are some of the best Television ever made.

The Original Series is good for multitasking. You can "watch" the show and read a book, make a blog post, or whatever, and not miss anything. For a show that was once radically progressive, the show seems ludicrously sexist. The skirts in particular are ridiculous, and the costumes for alien females are even worse. All the men wear little high-heeled boots, so it's not all on the women, I suppose.

I've been thinking about how you could make a Star Trek Draft game, where you draft a crew from the shows. Then each crew would go through challenges, like episodes of the show.'s analysis of the Star Trek movies says most of what I think. He gets pretty picky with little details that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for them, but his complaints about the films' tone is the important thing. it's all violence and death, with no intellectual or ethical thought whatsoever. Star Trek can't win by being a half-assed version of other movies, it has to be what it is.

The new movie may seem to be a contradiction to this system. After all, it made a lot of money, and was pretty OK, quality-wise. The reason that it's successful isn't that it's all action-ey and stuff, it's because it has a huge budget. If they had spent all this money on something true to the spirit of Star Trek, they could have made something immortal, not just a generic Sci-Fi with the Star Trek characters thrown in.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Republican Presidential History

Republican Presidents have an interesting life cycle. Support, Amnesia, and Mythologizing

During their presidencies, Republicans support them unquestioningly. With Fox News creating an intellectual monolith, and central control of funding to campaigns, both political and social elements of the right-wing support their president one million percent. 

Once they leave office, Republicans erase all memory of the president from the world. This is George Bush's current status. This allows the Republican groupthink to overcome the problem of an unreasonable philosophy colliding with the real world. By forgetting all the times their politics didn't work, and had to be compromised for the sake of practicality, they lay the groundwork for the next Republican platform, same as the last one.

After a few decades, Republicans fill in the missing information with ridiculous myths. This is the status of Ronald Reagan, who reduced taxes, cut government, and balanced the budget, all without hurting anyone. They've created a man who won the cold war and rescued the Iranian hostages through pure force of will. Even Nixon has undergone this, to a lesser degree. Republicans will insist that we didn't lose the Vietnam War, for example.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

TF2 Tips: Settings and Configurations

 This guide is for those TF2 players who don't want to mess around with editing files deep in TF2.

Open TF2. Click on "Options".

In the "Keyboard" tab, click on "advanced", and check both "Enable Developer Console" and "Fast Weapon Switch"

In the "Mouse" tab, make sure "Mouse Acceleration" is unchecked. Mouse sensitivity is a personal thing, adjust it until it works for you (That may take some time).

For the "Video" tab, just make sure your video settings are low enough that you have a decent framerate. In the "advanced" button, make sure your Field of View is at 90.

The "Multiplayer" tab is the big one. A custom cross hair is good, I use Crosshair3 with Red and Green maxed out, and no Blue. This makes for a nice yellow colour that doesn't appear anywhere during the game. Unless you like obnoxious sounds, make sure to set the download options to not download custom sounds.

The "Advanced" button brings up a large checklist. Make sure you have the following things Enabled:
  • Enable Minimal Hud
  • Automatically Respawn after loadout changes in respawn zone
  • Automatically reload weapons when not firing
  • Remember active weapon between lives
  • Remember lastweapon between lives
  • Turn on Colorblind mode
  • Until you're extremely familiar with the game, I'd leave viewmodels on.
  • Display Damage Done as text over target
  • Medic: display marker over player you're healing
  • "Medic: Injured teammates automatically call out" is a tricky one. It's very useful for a medic, but it can be annoying if you don't like the sound it makes.
  • "Play a hit sound every time you injure an enemy" also makes an annoying sound, but it's so valuable that it's worth going into the work of changing it.
Let's look at changing the hit sound. First, you'll need a new sound. TF2dingalings is where I found my sound, but any brief .wav would do the trick. My personal preference is the sound of kicking a shell in Mario games, found Here.

Once you have a .wav file, you'll need to do some work.

First, go to

Program Files\Steam\steamapps\[Your Steam Account]\team fortress 2\tf\sound\ui

Replacing [Your Steam Account] with the name of your steam account.

Then put your .wav file into that folder. Rename the file to "hitsound.wav", and you're done.

I may do a post about installing a custom HUD later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama And The Deficit

Obama completely conceded the argument about the National Deficit. I doubt they'll actually manage to freeze spending and eliminate Earmarks*, but by conceding the argument, Obama has neutered even the smallest possibility of the government repairing the economy.

My economic State Of The Union would go like this:

"Economists call this a jobless recovery. I say that there is no such thing. Without jobs, there is no recovery. It is clear that corporations have neither the desire nor the incentive to provide employment, so the government must employ people to create more jobs. The projects that the government must undertake are anything but 'make-work'; the infrastructure of our nation has decayed to a point where repairs would be necessary even if our economy did not need a boost. Like the America of the Greatest Generation, we can pave the way for prosperity for the next fifty years. Fortunately, the United States can borrow at impossibly good rates of interest, so our debt won't go out of control, etc. etc."

I'd probably be more ironic about the Republican's dishonest dealing, particularly about the Deficit. It's clear that Republicans only call for debt reduction as a means of dismantling our economic safety net. All of their plans to reduce the Deficit are completely absurd, even after a cursory inspection.

*Eliminating Earmarks is stupid, by the way. If Congress doesn't direct the flow of money, then they're just writing the President a blank check.

Drug Law Constitutionality

I was just listening to NPR, the "Constitutionalist" on the program was arguing that the Federal Government can bar the creation and use of drugs, even on a purely private level, thanks to the Commerce Clause, because the drugs could end up on the market.

Shouldn't there be a burden of proof that the person who grows and smokes his own drugs was distributing drugs to others? Not just for a lower sentence, but to prevent Federal prosecution of any kind. If I grow something and consume it,* it's impossible to claim that it applies to Interstate Commerce.

*Note, I don't do any kind of drugs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

State Of The Union

Obama's State Of The Union should go like this: "Republicans think that Government spending can't help the economy, and can't generate jobs. That's just stupid. The best way to get out of this hole is to go further into debt right now, and pay off that debt when the economy doesn't suck. Making cutbacks now is just hitting ourselves while we're down."

But Obama believes in bipartisanship, and that seems to include deferring to the enemy's bizarre economic beliefs.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Obama Retraction

A while ago I mocked Obama's hostage analogy on the tax deal. Since then, the lame duck congress passed those five or six important bills, so I think it must have been a private deal. Anyway, the analogy was bad, but it's nice that he got good returns on it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I assume it's probably been said somewhere before, but The Ultimate Question in Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy is probably "Pick a number, any number". Two characters in the show know the question, and they both ask it.

Eddie asks the crew to "Pick a number, any number", immediately after they finish asking about the Ultimate Question. They treat it as a request to generate an improbability number to make the ship go, but it could be Eddie trying to help. It's been established that he knows the Ultimate Question.

The other possessor of the Ultimate Question is Marvin, who scanned Arthur Dent to find it out. Later, to impress a mattress, he asks the mattress to "pick a number, any number", as evidence of his intellect. The mattress' guess of "Seven" is wrong, so it must be "Fourty-Two".

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pro TF2 5 Point Maps

There's a lot of talk in Competitive TF2 about the speed of play. They don't want multiple medics because it would slow the game down. They don't want multiple heavies because it would slow the game down.

You know what slows the game down? 5 point maps. They don't punish waiting, since neither team is losing anything while time goes on. In Payload and Attack/Defend maps, one team is always on the clock, so there's always an incentive for action.

Payload and Attack/Defend also make the less used classes more legitimate as well.

The Wire

I know I'm late to the party, but The Wire may be the best TV show of all time. There are different ways you could measure that sort of thing, so I'll say it's the best show on average, as every piece of it is so perfectly executed, and there's never a bad episode.

Other shows, like The Simpsons, and All In The Family, have been more influential, thanks to their larger audiences, but The Wire pushes boundaries further than most any other show. Unlike those other shows, The Wire quits when it's still on top.

It's interesting how the media has agreed to depict police work and the crime system in an identical idealized picture. The Wire annihilates many of the clichès that plague our American view of the world of crime.

It appears that the creator of The Wire is on the same boat as Jon Stewart in blaming the media for ignoring stories of any complexity or controversy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Re-Tales: Zombie Customers

It's funny working retail, you see people you probably wouldn't encounter in the rest of your life. I think of the oddest people as Zombie Customers, or maybe Customers from Another World. Their understanding of the entire employee/customer relationship is completely foreign to the rest of the world.

The one I'm thinking of at the moment is the customer that doesn't take "no" for an answer when they're looking for a product. Even when you give a little lecture as to why the product isn't there, they just look on, uncomprehendingly, until you resort to extreme measures. The next line of their programming only accepts the input "ah, here it is", then the customer executes Purchase_Item.exe

Brief Thoughts

Just a few quick snippets:

  • I'm against editing Mark Twain, America's greatest author. The worst part of the current edit is that it changes meaning. The N-Word is not synonymous with "slave". If you insisted on changing the word, I'd have changed it to "Negro".
  • There are so many extra crates in TF2, Valve must be aware. They cut down with the entire free Xmas keys, but there's still many more crates than anyone wants. I suspect that Valve will have a brief Key sale.
  • I got a Kindle. They're pretty amazing. Anyone know how to get currently copyrighted books for free?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

TF2 Tips: Scout

I thought I'd write some simple tips for people that still have stuff to learn about TF2. My initial plan of attack is to write some thoughts about each class, in order.

The Scout
The Scout is not actually a scout. If you use him to find out what's going on ahead of the team, you will probably die pretty fast (Unless you're using Bonk). With only 125 HP, the Scout is only two good shots of most weapons away from death.

Like most classes, the Scout's actual role is to do a lot of damage very rapidly. The Scout's Scattergun can do more than 100 damage in a single shot, which means he can kill almost every class in two shots. The important thing to remember is that this damage is only possible at extreme close-range.

Damage Falloff is a poorly understood concept in TF2. Almost every weapon in the game does less damage the farther away you are from the target. This is obvious with the Scattergun, since fewer of the pellets hit the target, but many people don't realize that the individual pellets do less damage at a distance too. For the Scout, the Scattergun is pretty useless once you get out of close range. If you know the target is near death, then it may be worth it to stick with the Scattergun, but it's generally a good idea to use your secondary gun if the target leaves close range. The pistol also has damage falloff, but it's going to do more damage than a Scattergun at a distance.

Every class's primary target is the Medic. Scouts can be excellent at targeting Medics since they can come from unusual directions thanks to double jumping, and they can move quickly in and out of combat. The perfect Scout suddenly arrives, kills the Medic with two close-range shots, then jumps out of sight. If there's no Medic to kill, then a Scout is best used as a cleanup force. While enemies at low health attempt to flee the scene of combat, the Scout pursues or blocks their exit.

Writing this makes me think there's a lot more basic things to talk about before getting to individual class tactics. I don't know what I'll write about next. Coordination with the rest of the team is the most subtle and important of skills in most FPS's, but it's even more important in TF2. That'll probably be my next subject.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Best Candy

We live in a divided world. Much of the division isn't real, but foisted on us by people who make money from conflict.

There is something we can all agree on: Reece's Peanut Butter Cups is the best kind of "ordinary" candy. The best high-end candy is Turtles. This is really beyond debate.

Friday, January 07, 2011

TF2 Beta: Double Health

The TF2 Beta now has doubled health for every class, along with (effectively) extra health for Engineer buildings and Spy Sappers.

The primary effect of this change is longer fight duration. Basically any two classes can stand out in the open shooting at each other freely without either being in too much danger. Since fights last longer, you can afford to make more stupid mistakes. If you get into a fight you can't win, you can always just run away; even a Spy can take three mid-range rockets and survive.

Speaking of Spies, this mode makes them vastly more powerful. Only the Spy has the ability to instantly kill any class and instantly nullify any building. With double health, a Spy can loiter under enemy fire until he sees a backstab opportunity. In fact, a Spy can run up to a level two Sentry while it shoots him in the face, Sap it, and walk away with a decent amount of health remaining.

Spy is King of Team!