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.