Really, a month? Who thought a MONTH made any sense at all?

| Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Great news! I figured out the problem with my DSL connection.

It is not September.

Does this make no sense at al;? Good! We're on the same page.

Let's rewind to around August 20, when I signed up for AT&T DSL. I did it online, then had to call them to finish it up. I was told that the activation would be August 29. Or that's what I heard. This seemed slow, but not totally ridiculous.

But what would Corporate America be if not totally ridiculous?

From a location other than my apartment I was able to use their convenient chat support. Really great. Nice guy. Helped work through step by step. We finally figured out the problem: It is not September.

AT&T: "I see that the service activation date is set to 9/29/2011."
Me: "9/29, as in september 29?"
AT&T: "Yes."
AT&T: "However, as you have installed the equipments, I would like you to contact our sales team and they will activate your services as soon as possible."
Me: "Is there any way to do that online?"
Me: "I mean, that must be a typo. That would be an activation date over a month from when I signed up"

I got the equipment only a few days after I signed up. They did not wait around on that. In fact, I got a "we've sent your stuff" email the same day. It arrived soon after. This was not "cheap slow shipping", but a bit short of "expensive overnight". Why... Why would they spend the money to quickly get something that is not need for a MONTH?

Now I have to get more minutes for my phone so I can call them and hopefully convince them how incredibly stupid this is, and as an added bonus, might convince them to activate it sooner.

This is a truly remarkably stupid situation.


The phone was the last straw. My mom had developed a phrase: “I don’t want to waste your minutes.” It was a good phrase. I use a pre-paid plan: good for someone who doesn’t use the phone much, or uses it intermittently, so planning out monthly minutes is impossible and unlimited is wasteful. My minutes had run out, but since I was off at grad school I had the notion that I’d be using text messages a lot and having to call home, that sort of thing. So now unlimited text/minutes seemed like a pretty good idea. But I didn’t yet have a real plan, so I bought a few hours just to buy time.

“I don’t want to waste your minutes is a good phrase.” It’s an even better internalized thought. Even better as an expressed action. It was not the last of those, as indicated by multiple half-hour annoyances about shirts and who knows what else.

My DSL was still not working. As of writing this, 9:30 on Tuesday, which I’ll call August 30th because who knows what week I might be able to get this up. It was supposed to be activated Monday. For no clear reason someone needed to come by to do something outside and at 8pm that day they’d turn it on. The flashing red light disagreed with the claim that it was on. Conveniently for them, 8pm was after their office hours, so I’d have to call the next morning. Which of course I did, sticking it in before I had to go off for orientation. I talked to one guy who shuffled me off to the DSL guy. He listened to me say that the DSL light was blinking red and interpreted my to the point, factual attitude, which I use as a substitute for wasting time or yelling, as anger. I wasn’t angry yet, since I’d only woken up a little bit earlier and hey, shit happens. I was told that they weren’t seeing the modem and they’d try some tests and was then pushed to the tech guy. Or would have been, except my phone picked that as the perfect time to not have any more minutes.

Somehow 188 minutes were spent on a few minutes on hold, a few minutes of customer service, and approximately 170 minutes of utterly pointless shit that could have been done much more easily by email. When I got to campus I sent an email saying that I had run out of minutes, would get a few more to tide myself over before I got around to getting a phone plan, and please send me a text message and I’ll go use my email if we really need to talk. Keep in mind I am being very generous with these pointless conversations, since I’m pretty sure receiving messages has a cost.

In my fantasy world here is what would have happened that day. Well okay, what would happen in this very specific aspect of life. The second guy would have seen that I had this issue and had been suddenly disconnected, and rather than waiting for the next call, would have first sent along a message to the third guy, listing what I had said. Then someone would have done whatever tests they could. They would then email me the results, whether fixed or not, and if not fixed, ask about a good time for them to come check the equipment. The stuff they mailed me and charged $75 for despite being, as far as I can tell, a normal DSL modem and a normal wireless router, the second of which I never unpacked because if I’m stuck with this shit, maybe I can sell it for a few bucks or force them to take it back. But that’s beside the point. If they find that the wires at the street are fine and the modem still isn’t working and a replacement doesn’t fix it, they conclude that the phone jack or wiring is the problem and get the building managers to fix that, at their cost, since nowhere in the lease does it say “includes one (1) non-functioning phone jack.”

But all of this is essentially beside the main point, which is that I am a bit sad. At night I am alone. My friends are all far away now. I used to use IM to talk to them. Or WoW, Ventrilo, Starcraft. I had many ways to talk to them, all based on a functioning internet connection. That’s gone now. But it wasn’t so bad. I still had the phone. I could at least send a text and get something back and not feel so alone. The phone is not run out of minutes and finally, I am alone. Entirely cut off from this digital line to my friends.

It’s not the so-called “digital world” that I miss. Well okay, sure, I miss my webcomics and blogs and twitter. But those are all things I can delay, postpone, put off. It’s my friends who are cut off now.

To put it in some perspective, I don’t mean only friends I’ve been with in real life. Strange as it sounds, I’d mind that less, since there is the recognition that they are not always available. Sometimes real life doesn’t match up. And it is perfectly expected that being in another state, we’d have a lot less time together. But friends I’ve known and talked with online for years, for them to be gone, is a bit more new and a lot less pleasant. Though there was a brief time when SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT BE NAMED BUT KNOWS WHO HE IS vanished from my server for no apparent reason and it was only by luck that someone else who also won’t be named just happened to be online one day and then things were better again.

I wish someone nearby had an unsecured wireless network.

Since writing this I have gotten an email about my request for assistance. Asking for feedback. On the nothing that they did.

At least now my laptop can connect to the campus network, so I don't have to try to blog from my ipod, which is typo-prone and does terrible things with auto-correct. Unfortunately I'm not yet used to this keyboard, so my own typo rate has gone way up.

Sadly, it may be a while longer before I have internet in my apartment, since if wiring inside is damaged, I have to convince the building to fix it, and I doubt that is going to happen quickly.

Charisma makes sense

| Friday, August 26, 2011
Strength is obviously a realistic stat. The amount a person can lift is pretty obviously something that can be expressed with a number. Agility as well, though the dexterity/agility stat looks a bit funny when it starts boosting attack power. I wonder why spirit is so useless, or possibly useful, given that 'spirit rallies' at school always felt pointless. Intellect works somewhat, but it, more than other stats, makes it very clear that the character is separate from the player. Why can't I use my own brain for these spells? And there's the strange part of intellect being a stat used only by casters or possibly some scoundrels in the form of charisma.

Now there's a strange stat, the speech/charisma/persuade stats. I picked the right dialogue choice, so why didnt it work? 22% chance? Ridiculous! Word are words and those were the right ones!


Yes? Yes! Yes. Of course. Definitely. I agree. That's correct. I will do that. I accept. These all say the same thing, mostly, but not quite. Say them and change the tone. The words alone do not give the entire meaning. This is where charisma makes sense as a stat.

A simple number may not be the most accurate expression of this stat. But it does get one thing right: the success of words is not merely in the words themselves, but also in how they are delivered. Beside circumstance it is an inner quality which determines the effectiveness of words. That inner ability can change (level up, noob!) but it is not something which can be trumped merely by adding the right lines on top of it.

Now that that is done with, let's ask why our characters never suffer from PTSD. I think a few mental issues could be expected from people who have spent years fighting demons, dragons, and undead.

On the nonexistent brightside:

| Tuesday, August 23, 2011
There is some level of discontent over the lack of same-sex romance in swtor.  I offer this bright side: at least they don't give dark side points.  But I'd much prefer if they existed and were alignment-neural.  Wouldn't the moralistic outrage be fun to watch?  

In unrelated news, Internet won't be ready for over a week, so posting will be sporadic, based on my will to walk a mile or so to the campus wireless network.

No posts until I have internets

| Monday, August 22, 2011
I just moved to the mysterious northern land of "Wiss Con Sin" where I hope to learn about numbers and authority, or taxes and budgets if the locals cannot understand my goals. But te relevant thing is that my living space does not have a connection yet. Since I don't much like writing posts from school computers or worse, by thumb, I'm going to be taking a few days off.

Maybe I'll say something about this Old Republicans at Night game I keep hearing about.

Is armor appearance customization the end of gear, or merely the next step?

| Friday, August 19, 2011
If your armor looks like [this]. then it is very powerful and you should be worshiped for having it. It is this need to show off stats that has driven gear design, the need for everything to be 'distinctive', for shoulders to grow ever-larger, and for nothing to ever look like anything else.

That is no longer the case. Blizzard is finally allowing armor to look like something other than the original model. Is this possibly the end of stat-worship?

Under this new system, we can parade, not our latest gear, but our oldest. Stats and appearance have been separated. This could mean that the game does not need to be driven by stats, but by something else. Aesthetics? Personal choice?

I'm not actually optimistic about this. If anything, it can be the opposite. Devs can add stats more easily, adding gear faster and faster, since now new armor doesn't need to look good or distinctive. If we don't need to see it, they don't need to make us want to see it.

This will probably trigger a brief rush into old instances and content, effectively adding content back in, temporarily. But that will end soon and will be unlikely to have any major change on player interaction. The instances could all be soloed. Some of the raid bosses as well. So we'll see some more people flying to instances and making a few more raids, before everyone has the appearance they want or give up on it. Then it's back to the stat grind.

I'm even better at computer problems than I thought

| Thursday, August 18, 2011
Artifacts. The dreaded artifacts. I don't mean archaeology, I mean video card problems. Dots and colors wrong and patterns. Crap.

My first hope was that somehow my video card was too hot; I'd heard that can cause it. It was a slightly warmer day, so who knows, freak event. I turned off the computer, pointed an 18 inch fan directly into the case, and gave it a half hour. That didn't fix it.

Crap. That means actual hardware. Or maybe still overheating. So I pulled the fan off it, cleaned up the dust and old cement, and gave it a new coating, using some high-quality sanded stuff that I borrowed from my brother's remodeling project. Or it was thermal compound that I keep calling cement for no clear reason.

For good measure I reinstalled my video drivers. It worked! Oh glorious.

This all started with Fallout 3, a crash that went crashier than usual. And it happened again, with Fallout 3, crashing crashier than usual.

Here's what the situation looks like: From the moment anything is displayed on the screen, including the motherboard show-off screen, there is a pattern of dots everywhere. Sometimes this goes away during the Windows loading screen and I can get to the desktop with no visual problems. Then it inverts the colors, applies some patterns, and starts flashing, before just stopping entirely. Since it is there throughout startup I figured it was a hardware issue of some sort.

But I'm writing this post using the video card on a perfectly clear screen with no problems, except I don't have the nvidia drivers installed. That suggests that the hardware is okay but the driver causes problems.

Installing the driver causes no problem. But starting Fallout with the driver will soon trigger the crash and then the problem starts.

This makes no sense to me.

P.S. Tried again with fresh drivers again, but without all the other stuff nvidia tries to install, control panels and all that stuff. Now it seems to be fine. I wonder what my next problem will be.

I prefer threat to survival

I'm a terrible player. I forget survival cooldowns. I use them too soon. Or too late. It's too much decision-making.

I much prefer threat management. Nail a rotation. Keep track of all the mobs. Know where they will come from and where they might go. For me, that is playing. It isn't decision-making, at least not on a high level, but a learned activity, something that is not perfectly identical every time, but of a known theme.

I know how to do threat. Or I used to, perhaps I've lost that ability in the intervening six months.

So this threat change thing, I don't like it at all. I'd have done the complete opposite. Make it so tanks survive just by being tanks, of the proper level and gear, facing in the correct direction, not standing in the wrong place. No more than one, maybe two buttons for survival, and those would really just be for when the boss is at half a percent and all the healers are dead, not for normal situations. In fact, add cooldowns for threat. Maybe a damage cooldown for a threat boost, or a "I am very offensive" cooldown for a temporary boost in threat generation.

I'm certain that this stems from how I see. I don't often notice my own character. It exists, but in the same way that my desk exists: my computer isn't on the floor and that's about the extent of the consideration it gets. Instead, I notice everything else. I see where people are, where enemies are, what is going on. Except if it is right next to me, or worse, my health bar. My perception is a doughnut: empty in the middle, delicious further out, and too far out there is no more delicious doughnut. Maybe I need to eat breakfast, I might be hungry.

But maybe what is truly at play is selfish sadism. I'm bad at keeping myself alive. I'd rather see aggro matter because aggro can kill DPS. I like seeing DPS die, at least, DPS whom I don't like. Potential aggro failure allows me to play passive aggressive, letting DPS die, rather than having to go to all the trouble to start a flame war in group chat.

Whichever psychological issue explains it, whether selfless self-sacrifice or selfish sadism, the result is still the same: make aggro matter and let the DPS cry over their deaths, not me over mine.

Transmogrification and Void Storage

| Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Short version: Allows you to make armor you have look like other armor you have and gives storage space for old armor.

It makes me laugh that a content patch does not evoke the slightest bit of interest. But this, something so utterly useless, does. I'm almost, ever so slightly tempted, to give WoW another try when this goes live. Collecting pretty dresses was one of my favorite activities. Er. I mean, collecting awesome and impressive suits of powerful armor that did not include and dresses or dress-like elements such as kilts. Never.

Every now and then I'd think "maybe I should play WoW again", but then I'd realize that my nostalgia was for places like BRD and BC heroics, not WoW as I left it. And then I'd get sad.

Fallout 3

I have not yet finished it, but I feel confident enough to write a review. Okay, here we go.

Here are four posts tagged "Elder Scrolls" I'm pretty sure I've written more, but those are ones I remembered to tag.

What's the relevance? Here's the review:

Fallout 3 is a total conversion mod for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion that adds new quests, NPCs, and maps, along with guns. There. It's the same game.

Beside shooting, it feels about 99% the same. Jumping, terrain, NPC behavior, stealing, sneaking, all pretty much the same. Sometimes I get mixed up and think the music is the same.

If you liked Oblivion and you don't hate guns, I think you will enjoy Fallout 3.

Okay, some stuff is different. First off, there are guns. And the VATS system, which is essentially: every few seconds you have enough Action Points to tell the computer to do the aiming for you. You can select a body part to aim at, with the torso being the easiest to hit, head often the hardest, and then it will do an attack roll or a few. This can be handy when the enemies just won't stop moving around. Along with the guns come the need to carry lots of guns. In Oblivion I carried a bow, maybe a light-weight backup bow, and a couple melee weapons. Or less if I wanted to travel extremely light. Now I carry a half-dozen guns, in case one runs out of ammo. Also, because I use different guns at different ranges: sniper rifle at long range, scoped pistol or hunting rifle at mid-range, assault rifle at mid-close, shotgun closer in, and possibly a sword for really easy critters, as well as a silenced pistol for taking out roaches and moles. And an SMG in case I run low on ammo.

The crafting system doesn't seem that great. In Oblivion it was a customizable system, with potions being nearly endless in type, based on ingredients chosen. Fallout 3 instead has just a few weapons that can be made from otherwise useless materials like lawnmower blades and crutches.

Getting back to weapons, while I haven't advanced really far in, I'm in far enough that I feel like I should have started to see some new stuff. Oblivion, with its random stat and loot system, could give an upgrade here and there, or at least a new concept, like a bow that drains life or souls or slows enemies, so at least there is some choice to be made. In contrast, Fallout has a set of maybe a dozen weapons and those are what you will use unless you're further in finding unique weapons.

The start of the game uses a pretty near concept, of going from birth to adolescence and using life choices along the way to determine your character. It isn't a random or confusing "you jumped a lot so now you're an acrobat" system; you can still pick exactly what you want, but it gives it a coating of life situations. I liked it, but similar to Oblivion and its character creation/customization start, I can see how it would get pretty annoying for someone playing twice.

The aggro/sneak system is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I like the three tiers of Hidden, Caution, and Danger, which are basically what they sound like: you're not seen; enemies are alert and looking around; you're in combat. The nice thing is that enemies actually transition between these based on visibility, so a Danger situation can downgrade to Caution and then to Hidden, if you stay quiet and out of sight. On the other hand, I liked the visibility eye, that helped with knowing if I am in shadows or not, something which can be hard to tell given variation in screen brightness and if you forget about the third person perspective, inability to see oneself.

My one major complaint may or may not be a problem with the game. Early on I was having major crashing problems. This was with the use of the recommended settings, as set by the game. After a lot of fiddling around with various fixes suggested online and multiple tries at lower settings, I finally reduced the crash frequency to something bearable. It still seems to be related to video settings, as it now happens most often when one of my abilities causes an enemy to turn into billions of tiny, blood-spewing, VRAM-hogging bits of gore, or when I'm outside, where the draw distance can be a significant issue. The good news is that the game starts up and loads games pretty quickly, so it's not too big of an annoyance if they are only occasional.

I'll end on an obvious note: the situation is different. Rather than a consistent fantasy scene with magic and swords, you instead have a retro, post-apocalyptic scene with radiation and guns. But there are still the standbys: Good Guys, Bandits, Big Bads, and traders in town who are all too happy to pay good bottlecaps for a bent tin can.

Oh, and you can kill just about anyone.

So to recap: if you enjoyed Oblivion, buy Fallout 3. If you felt Oblivion could have been good but needed more guns, buy Fallout 3. If you did not enjoy Oblivion at all and guns were not the problem, do not buy Fallout 3. If you do buy Fallout 3, start with recommended settings, but be prepared to drop them down the moment you see a second crash out in the Wasteland.

What's with all the Europeans?

| Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Here's the one problem I have with English taking over the world. No not THE English. English the language. The English lost their empire and I have no comments for now on their gaining of it. But where the fuck did my point go?

Okay, everyone speaks English. At least according to the parts of the internet I frequent, the places where people speak English. My sample might not be representative.

This creates the problem that I cannot readily tell Americans from Europeans. It's rather disturbing. You know? It's like, you're talking with someone thinking they're perfectly normal and next thing you find out they're not American. It's just not right.

It gets worse. Based on my non-extensive investigation and poor counting skills I have concluded that a majority of the blogs I read are written my non-Americans. Mostly Europeans. But sometimes an Australian sneaks in. Or two. Maybe more. Do you see the problem? At any given moment I could be talking to an Australian and not even know it. It's not like they have that awesome, I mean terrible, accent when they're typing. And don't even get me started on the Brits*. Then there are those people from places like Belgium or Austria where they shouldn't even be speaking English, but they do, and then how are prisoners of war supposed to have secret conversations around them? Ugh. Just to make it worse, they have a more consistent, if not outright better, grammatical structure than I do, making me look bad, and that's not good.

So really, what's with all the Europeans in my blogroll? It makes no sense. Are Americans incapable of writing interesting (subjective, I know, but that doesn't mean other people aren't wrong) posts in a statistically significant manner?

If by chance you are ambiguously foreign and on my blogroll, could you give a confirm/deny? It's uh, for a list. That you don't need to worry about at all. Nothing bad could possibly come from making a list of different people.

* I really hope that isn't actually some horrible term. Only recently I learned that Vietcong is offensive, having never really heard it spoken or in any context I figured it was just one of those silly words that people make up, as opposed to one of those silly words that people make up to tell the world "I'm a horrible person." Oops. So my apologies and please tell me if I'm saying something awful. I mean, beside the actual content of the post. You people are polite like that, right?

P.S. Tomorrow I might actually write my review of Fallout 3. Or, I'll just end up playing it all evening, again. I guess it's a good sign when I'm too busy playing the game to write about it.

Appearance is not racist

| Monday, August 15, 2011
If you're too lazy to click the link, it's a drawing of a bunch of superheroes, Batman, Superman, those sorts, colored black, with the character drawing it explaining that she is "Makin' racists angry."

Can we all agree that white people and black people look different? Much like someone with red hair looks different than someone with brown hair?

As far as I can tell, comic book people like to rage over any change, no matter how minor. Appearance is no exception. Given that white and black people look different, changing the skin color of a superhero is going to cause nerdraging, regardless of the influence of racism. It would be like randomly changing the color of their costumes.

What I'm trying to say is that not everything related to race is racist.

Morality doesn't all win the same way

They have always connected the two which lead to players having to decide whether they want to roleplay or win the game; an interesting, but completely unfun decision.
- Nils commenting at Procrastination Amplification

Why is winning separate from roleplay? Or if you don't like that term, try choice of play or style of play. It doesn't make much sense. Would a Light character win the same way as a Dark character? Of course not. But beyond that, they'd define winning differently. For Palpatine it was dominance over the galaxy while for Luke it was freedom and protecting his friends.

Perhaps win isn't even the right word. Success. Goal completion. Different people have different goals. President Obama and Speaker Boener have a conflicting goal regarding the 2012 election. They have a shared goal in economic recovery, but their methods will be very different. So even for the same goal, the same winning condition, we see significantly different methods.

The win condition should not be a single absolute in a game with morality or other types of choice, but should instead be based on how the player plays. This could be done in a sandbox way, by allowing greedy players to get rich and murderous players to kill while altruistic players protect everyone. But sometimes people like their credit roll or victory screen. At the least it confirms that they've done what they thought they had, which in the specific case of "kill everyone" can be difficult to determine if the victims move around a lot.

Let's try the example of the Civilization series. There are definite winning conditions, all of which give a win (duh), but in different ways. The key part is that you win by playing well in the way you choose to play. Science victories come from technological progress while cultural victories come from cultural gain. You wouldn't get a conquest victory from either method, but instead from a different way: killing everyone.

Applying this to a gear-centric, or even just gear-using, MMO is not as easy. If you're +3 Light and your decisions tend to keep you there and there is a nice +4 Light cloak, the game would have to somehow not cause you to want the +4 Light cloak. Otherwise there is incentive to play away from the character's personality in return for reward, which is often not much fun.

The different Shades (Light-Dark) of gear could boost stats or behaviors related to actions which cause that Shade. For example, maybe a player does a little too much theft to be +4 Light, so the +3 Light cloak helps with theft, but less than a +2, and much less than a -4 Dark. But this carries many problems. For one, there are multiple reasons for a Shade and not all of them are stats to be boosted. Maybe a player has a murder but no theft, so the +3 Light cloak with added theft is useless.

Light-Dark power costs could be one source, with a Light Side and a Dark Side energy pool, each supplemented by gear. A +4 Light player would have little to gain from a +3 cloak that mixes mostly Light with a little Dark, while the +3 Light player would not want to lose the bit of Dark energy, and the flexibility, from going to a +4 Light cloak. Unfortunately this solution lends itself heavily toward gear/stat-obsession, but even worse, is really damn boring.

P.S. Yes, this is tagged Star Wars Galaxies. That's the tag I have and I'm sticking with it, search engines be damned.

I'm really good at having computer problems

| Saturday, August 13, 2011
First it was Civ V, which kept giving "incomplete installation" errors. After two redownloads and a lot of wasted time I narrowed it down to a problem with Avast! antivirus. That was also the cause of the 15 minute loading screens.

Then it was Homefront, which liked to crash during the intro cinematic. Eventually I fixed that with something or other with forcing it to use DirectX 9. Then it decided to crash partway into the last mission, conveniently before a checkpoint so I had to rewatch a whole lot of scripting every time I tried a solution. Somehow disabling cutscenes fixed that.

Now it's Fallout 3. It likes to crash when I'm in the Wasteland. 90% of the time it takes the form of Fallout quitting, with no error message and none of the usual symptoms of problems such as a hard drive that never stops or anything "not responding". Sometimes it seems to keep playing, so I can still shoot and possibly move and turn, with NPCs still doing their thing, which I can tell from the sound, but the screen is frozen. Hitting escape crashes it. And then there is the one where it has the animation of a window minimizing, but frozen halfway down the screen, gives no error and is still in the task bar, but is obviously not able to be played. Tabbing out causes it to crash and give an error.

I've tried all sorts of things with the common solutions: video drivers, multi-core fixes, sound somethings. I did seem to get some respite by not using quick-saves, but that was not a complete fix. Auto-saves were kept off.

So my review of Fallout 3 so far: It's like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with guns, which is pretty fucking awesome, except it crashes all the time, but only outside.

I'm considering getting Windows 7 if only to know that I have a perfectly clean, fresh install that knows how to use hardware and software newer than 2005. But that's at least $120 for debatable utility.

[edit] I had tried lowering my video settings earlier, with no apparent benefit. A second attempt seems to have helped somewhat. What is the point of a game auto-setting video settings if those settings are going to cause it to crash?

Ending the Investor Class

| Friday, August 12, 2011
To start off on a related topic: Tobold, labor is a cost. The cost is easily seen if you imagine what labor buys with wages. In that way you can view TVs and food as input costs for manufacturing, but the point is that labor cannot be ignored as a cost.

Moving on from that, the problem is still, as I commented, the existence of an 'investor class'. At first glance they seem necessary. After all, projects need capital, whether public infrastructure, research and development, or machinery for manufacturing. But what is capital? It is money. And what is money? It's an abstraction of labor or material goods, a way to generalize them to make them easily interchangeable. Is a dollar valuable? By itself, no, but it can give access to labor or products which are valuable.

Investment capital is essentially a way of regulating labor. It is a way to bring the labor of miners, engineers, welders, carpenters, and everyone else needed to one place. It pays them and is in turn paid back, plus interest, from the fruits of their labor.

Note that while the investor is essentially passive, since he does not build, gather, or even organize, he does still add value. That capital is needed to get things rolling. But is he needed? No.

Try this for an imperfect alternative: government using inflation to create a loan to the business, which is then gradually paid back. There is no need for interest, in fact that would be counter-productive, since it makes little sense to take extra money from productive companies if it (the money) isn't adding value (to distinguish it from the money we take from companies for salaries and taxes).

Here are the benefits: lower consumer prices, greater employment, redirection of intellectual labor to more productive pursuits, and a reduction in the dangerous concentration of capital.

Lower consumer prices:
What goes into the cost of a product? There are the obvious ones of labor and materials. Included in those are research and development. But then there's that strange thing called profit. Where does that go? It doesn't go to the workers, managers, or suppliers*, but instead is an added amount that is siphoned away by investors. It is a perpetual tax. By removing investors, companies would no longer need to run net profits. They would of course build up and drain capital for projects, but would not need to constantly shovel out money, money which they get by charging more than the real cost of a product (labor and materials). With the no-interest loan, companies could instead charge a slightly higher amount, temporarily, to pay off the loan, and once that is completed, lower their price, or perhaps pay workers more, either one of which could offer a competitive advantage in gaining customers or quality workers.

Greater employment:
Since interest is a cost to the company, and since higher costs discourage economic activity, it is obvious that interest is harmful to employment. Even worse, consider that to hire a worker may mean also buying equipment for them to use, which with interest is even more expensive, causing productive labor to be idled. Eliminating the interest effectively lowers labor costs (since the equipment is attached to the labor)

Reduction of dangerous concentrations of wealth:
Why do we desire representative government? Because it is safer than non-representative government. One reason is how it distributes power, taking some of the power of government and giving it back to the greater population. Wealth is a source of power, so concentrations of wealth are also concentrations of power, which are potentially dangerous. Now consider the specific power-holders, the investors, whose immediate interests are directly opposed to those of workers. Workers need money (or to fit with labor being a cost, TVs and food), while investors want profit, which draw from the very same pool of incoming money. But investors have a great deal more power in this situation. Unions used to counter this, by creating their own dangerous concentrations of wealth; Reagan dealt with that, but failed to finish the job by taking down the investor class as well.

Redirection of intellectual capital:
Supposedly investors are intelligent. Actually I'm fairly confident they are, based on their ability to accumulate massive personal wealth and power through little work and often without even needing to break the law, too much. So in theory they are also useful. Currently they are, but in an industry which could be replaced, much like telephone operators who were very good at what they did, but could be replaced by computers. They found other productive work, enriching other industries with their mental and physical deftness. Perhaps investors could do the same, turning toward directly productive activities, such as anything else.

Of course no one likes losing their job or seeing it happen to their friends or family, so I doubt this will be a popular idea. It's certainly imperfect and would need a lot of details to work out. But despite the disruption, the new system would be beneficial in the long run. Isn't that the creative destruction they love to glorify?

Ignorance was Bliss

| Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Dying. Nostalgia. Whiny. Legitimate? No no, not it.

I think I've figured out exactly, objectively, undeniably the one thing that was absolutely better in vanilla WoW and why no expansion, raid, or tool can ever bring that back. I was a noob.

No no, it's not the "first time factor." Like I said recently, I am still a but amazed by the sight of Ragnaros. The looping ride around the lake of Caer Darrow to Scholomance never wore off. I get a slight buzz when I get to runecloth or thorium while crafting: This is it, this is the final run! It isn't, of course. That last one is probably just nostalgia, so let's ignore it.

Being a noob is a wonderful experience. Not only is everything new, but the expectations are different. Oh, other players were still elitist and rude (less so than these days though) and corpse runs from wipes I caused took just as long, or probably longer. Personal expectations are different. I didn't feel the need to get into a raid. I didn't feel like I deserved anything. After all, I'd earned nothing. Raiding was some distant, strange thing. When I finally got to MC and knew that finally, after all those months of ending BRD runs with a peek at the two giants, finally I would get to fight them! I'm pretty sure I died that first time. We wiped even. That was fine. We had lower expectations. We were all noobs. And it was glorious bliss.

Unless Blizzard has figured out those red flashy things from Men in Black, it will never come back. That is why WoW will never be as good as it ever was, even as it becomes better than it ever was.

I'll try to have some happier posts later in the week, hopefully with no melancholy or riots.

England, I wish you the best of luck.

| Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Long before I was born Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and to put it mildly, many people were justifiably upset. But it doesn't take much for justifiable anger and protest to turn into riots. And looting.

At the time Chicago had a Mayor Daley, the father of our so recent one. He gave police the order to shoot arsonists. It sounds brutal, but I think it was perfectly justified. Vandalism and theft are bad, but are they truly dangerous? I don't think so. But fire, fire spreads, it catches innocent people, and it destroys on a much larger scale. Arsonists are potential murderers. So there's a line to draw.

Some of this is caused by people with problems who don't think the democratic process is on their side, or accessible, or however you want to phrase or spin it. I see why people in that situation would turn to riots, as a way to say... something (riots aren't good at coherent messages), when they don't feel like the 'system' will let them speak.

But riots are disorderly. And disorder attracts opportunists and criminals. Well fuck them!

The saddest part may be that violence doesn't encourage people to look for solutions to underlying problems, but to instead retaliate, crack down, demand justice, and then a lot of people lose their jobs and a lot of people go to jail and a lot of useful ideas get thrown out because they don't satisfy the desire for retaliation.

I hope nothing like that happens here. We do love our guns so much... It could be uglier.

Who could imagine a life after WoW?

| Monday, August 8, 2011
I might have been six months since I last played. Or maybe less. I'm not really sure. That day was a bit of a non-event, so it's hard to remember.

Thinking back to before then, I couldn't quite imagine not playing. I mean, sure, people quit, but it never quite made sense. It was like hearing about someone moving to Afghanistan. It's theoretically possible, but plausible? Not really. I mean, what does someone do there? Outside WoW? At the very least, there surely are not sufficient activities to fill all those hours. It would be like quitting sleeping. What does one possibly do with all that time?

Beside that, it's a familiar, accessible place. Press a few buttons and you're there. It's like a hangout just down the street, except closer. Would you suddenly just stop going? It would be weird. People would wonder what happened.

Intellectually I knew that there were things to do outside WoW. During times on intensive studying or research I'd gone days or weeks without playing. But it was still there, offering to fill a bit of spare time, if I had it. I knew that every day literally billions of people went through their days, even their entire lives, without ever having played WoW. Or even another MMO. I can't quite see why anyone would play EVE when real accounting is so much more lucrative, but it's there. And of course I knew that one day WoW would end. But that was on par with the ironically-named heat death of the universe: so far out there that we can't quite perceive it.

Now it seems flipped. I can't imagine playing WoW. Oh sure, here and there I think "I want to do [activity]", but then I realize, I cannot. Not only has the game changed to make it impossible (screw you, Cataclysm), but the very idea of playing seems strange to me. I could log in, pick a character, and then what? Kill a boar? So... what?

It makes me sad in a way, to think that something which was important to me for over five years could just fade aay into meaninglessness. Aw shit. Now I've gone all existential angst.

What did you think of life after WoW before life after WoW?

Homefront: It's like Call of Duty, except without the good parts

| Sunday, August 7, 2011
This post has spoilers. Don't worry about them. Nothing is spoiled because the game is already rotten.

Due to a Steam sale and a cool concept, I bought Homefront. It's about a group of resistance fighters in America, fighting against a North Korean occupation. Neat idea, right? I mean, who can possibly not enjoy a bit of "America! Fuck yea!" and killing those damn foreigners. Er. That one specific group of foreigners, right, no generalized anti-foreign attitude here.

I really like the idea of a FPS. After years of WoW, I enjoy a game where I press the mouse and something happens and where that something does not have a roll associated with it. I click and bullets hit bad things. It has immediate feedback, positive and negative. It's satisfying in that way. But I don't play a lot of FPS games. The last two I played were Stalker (sandbox game), Call of Duty 2 (rails on rails), and Half Life 2 (science!). Due to WoW there is basically a 4-5 year empty space in my game knowledge.

Then I saw Homefront and got a computer to run it. Since the game looked really fucking awesome, I was excited. At the risk of repeating myself, I loved the concept. Asymmetric warfare with us on the fun side? Hell yes! Who doesn't love a righteous defense of one's homeland and freedom? Oh man, I was really looking forward to using a variety of pilfered weapons and unusual tactics to defeat a numerically superior force.

If you've ever played Call of Duty, you're probably aware of the extremely on-rails nature of it. Maybe at best you have a courtyard that you can assault along the north or south walls, but that's about it for decision-making. In general it's point-and-click violence with few options. And you know what? That's fine! Sometimes I want to follow along shooting Nazis or North Koreans (surprisingly similar these days, though the Nazis were a lot more aggressive than Mr. Kim Chicken).

Given that the gameplay won't be filled with decisions, fun has to come from other sources, like the combat being fun, perhaps by having interesting gun choices, or from the feel of it, the atmosphere if you will.

Call of Duty had some pretty fun gun choices. Also, a lot of variety, thanks to carrying a small armory on your back. I rather liked the German assault rifle and the Soviet "no accuracy but a lot of bullets" SMG.

In contrast, the guns in Homefront feel more or less the same. They're all ridiculously accurate and recoil isn't much of an issue. There was a gun with a gigantic magazine which then reloaded really damn slowly, but that was about it for significant variety. Just keep an eye out for one with a reflex scope, since the iron sights aren't that great. Speaking of which, I hope you love staring through a reflex scope for the entire game, slowly creeping along, because firing from the hip isn't going to get you anywhere. Is this realistic? Well, I guess so. But when we're talking about what appear to be North Koreans in stormtrooper armor with no regard for personal safety and a player character who can recover from RPG blasts a foot away just by panting a bit, reality isn't really the name of the game.

But it gets worse! In what was apparently the climactic battle, notice that I say apparently, because I didn't realize it until the deus ex machina sacrifice ending (by which I mean, we're winning! No wait, the enemy magically has a ton of reinforcements! The only solution is to tell the air support to bomb the hero and the enemy!), I was surprised to see a friendly AI kill a hostile AI. Yes, I was surprised that the AI was something more than a source of noise. You know how in WoW there will be the endless battles between scripted NPCs and they just respawn forever? Imagine that, but instead of respawning, they are incapable of killing each other. At times I'd find myself seemingly done with an area, only to get killed by an enemy standing right next to a friendly AI.

While we're on the subject of gameplay, it's just plain not fun. Mowing down faceless enemies just doesn't feel very engaging. To make it even worse, the scripting doesn't seem to quite line up with the state of the enemies, so you might get yelled at to run to a location, but there are at least a dozen enemies in the way ready to mow you down the second you stand up. So kill them all, while getting yelled at to hurry up, and then run over, only to then wait around a bit for the scripting to remember what the hell is supposed to be happening to create the illusion of urgency and action. I'm at least thankful that the enemies do not appear to have infinite respawns based on the script, as they did in Medal of Honor.

If for some ungodly reason you decide to play this game, I hope you like repeating cinematics and scripted events, because there appears to be no quicksave function. Yep, start over from the last checkpoint. And guess what, it doesn't save dropped weapons, so I hope you had enough ammo then. This lack of a quicksave may be a blessing in disguise, since the AI likes to hang out sometimes, hiding, to shoot you, and only you, in the back when you run ahead when the objective is a generic "follow" or "regroup". Remember the useless friendly AI and incoherent scripting? Yea.

The uselessness of friendly AI isn't a new, unique problem. It doesn't even have to be a problem. I don't mind being the hero. Call of Duty had plenty of instances of "you're the only guy who can use C4/rockets/sniper rifles and must save the game". But here's what made things different: much of the time in those situations the AI was actually pinned down and hiding or in some way justifiably incapable of doing it themselves, rather than just being arbitrarily useless. On the subject of AI: If I and the AI can both die in a few hits, then they should respond to covering fire by covering, not by charging straight into my bullets.

Moving on to atmosphere...

The game spends a lot of time and effort trying to set up a gritty, occupied, oppressed country. You see mass graves and concentration camps. There is at least one betrayer. Early on a child watches as his parents are executed on the street in front of him. Later someone important dies. And yet somehow it doesn't quite work. In the end you're just running around, or slowly slouching, while shooting stormtroopers through a reflex sight and all that stuff just goes to the side. It's something that happens between the action and seemingly has zero effect on or from it. There is one fight in a house with a mother trying to shelter her child, but the extent of the influence is that it cries the whole time and the resistance leader yells to shut it up. Maybe I was supposed to shoot the baby? That doesn't seem likely, but it would fit with the general theme of him being an unlikable, abrasive jackass. So I guess there's a tiny bit of character development.

Here's how Call of Duty did atmosphere: Soviet campaign begins and you're on a transport boat crossing the river into Stalingrad. For the record, this was one of the most horrible battles of the war, partially a war unto itself in terms of casualties and destruction; making most war seem like a picnic compared to two sides fighting inch for inch in winter, with low ammo, low food, and psychotic leaders on both sides who refused to ever, ever retreat. So how do you get that idea across? How about seeing the boat next to yours get sunk by a German plane? Then someone jumps in the water to flee and the officers spend scarce ammo shooting him. Upon landing you get ammo, and no gun, instead being told to follow a guy with a gun and take his if he dies. You never get a gun, instead acting as decoy for a fellow Soviet, a sniper who kills German machine gunners, and also a Soviet officer (you needed to move back a couple yards to get to a radio and he didn't like that). Second mission, more soldiers are shot, and you as well, if they don't run out in the charge (still no gun!) at German fortifications. It isn't history class, but it sure does a good job of showing, making you feel, the extreme desperation and horrible situation for everyone involved.

In Homefront I never felt as if I was part of some besieged, desperate group. I never started a mission without full clips and ammo. In fact, the areas where I had a fucking semi-autonomous, nearly invincible robot with machine guns and missile launchers on it, made me feel as if I was part of an official and fully-funded army. Speaking of which, the rails problem isn't a problem when the game puts you in an army. Soldiers follow orders and have things like plans and commanding officers. Resistance fighters might be expected to have a bit more autonomy, not anarchy, but perhaps choosing to do something that hasn't been shouted at them. Homefront could have worked very well as a sandbox FPS like Stalker, with some definite missions and a central plot line, but with flexibility, not just in what to do, but how to do it and the path to take getting there.

One last thing before I wrap this up: what was so important about the Golden Gate Bridge that it called for what appeared to be the total commitment of US forces in the area? And while we're at it, why did the Koreans not take out the forces while they were seemingly just hanging out maybe half a mile away? We know they had air forces nearby, based on the first thing to happen being a bunch of helicopters getting shot down by North Korean jets. Also "I just need a password" is possibly the least plausible "I'm almost there and only need a minute" declaration from a supposed hacker. What's next, stealing a car and hearing "I just need a key!"

I want to end on a positive note, but I won't, so I will second-to-end with a positive note: Taking off in the helicopters for the final battle and hearing them start playing Time Has Come Today. Even then, I think there could have been better choices. But let's face it, less-than-perfect, but still good, music choice is pretty damn good in comparison to the rest of the game.

So to wrap it up: This game is worth, possibly, maybe $5-10. I wasted $25, lured in by a 50% off sale. It's terribly disappointing, since the backstory was so awesome. This is why I should just stick to my $5-10 rule.

P.S. Maybe the multi-player is good. I didn't bother to try, since the peak of FPS multi-player for me was many summers back playing the medal of Honor: Spearhead demo when having DSL meant I was screaming along and kicking ass against the pitiful 56k losers. Since then it has been all downhill. Except TF2, which is great for its silliness. And pretty good balance and amazing diversity of classes.

P.P.S. I forgot to mention the technical problems, such as crashing during the intro cinematic (best part of the game), which eventually turned out to not be a driver, hardware, or anything my fault problem. And another one again later in, which might have possibly been a RAM issue, or just terrible programming. Flip a coin.

Playing and Losing Network Roulette

| Thursday, August 4, 2011
For work reasons the home network was switched to a static IP. Obviously this had to involve shit not working.

First the Mac upstairs couldn't connect. We managed to fix that. Then my mom's new work laptop didn't work. Obviously a major problem, but we fixed it. So just to complete it, my computer stopped connecting.

Normally I'd have had "restart modem/router" at number 3 or 4 on my list, with "plugged in/turned on", "repair connection", and "restart computer" as possible winners. But when everything is taking turns not working and the most important things work, those being the two work laptops, the last thing you want to do is tempt fate by touching the router.

Not that I could have, given that it was no longer at the default address. Well, I eventually did, after what I'll call an hour of wasting time on pointless shit. So finally I managed to figure out where the router claimed to be and connected to it. Then I wasted more time trying to get anything done using the UI. You'd think "reset DHCP leases" or something equivalent would be easy to find, perhaps on the LAN -> DHCP page, but no. Add in more time as I finally...

One sec, I forgot to mention my adventures with manually setting an IP address for my computer. If it won't give me one, then I will take one! Simple enough. I can see that that one is 202 and that one is 204 and that one is 203, so 205 or 206 should be available, right? Okay, my iPod apparently took 205, because it thinks it is just that important to steal one of the only five available slots. But 206, bam, got it, refresh the page and firefox is oh my god loading google! WOOOO! I don't recall exactly what button I pressed, but next thing I knew, it was all lost. And to make it worse, it now claimed 206 was in use.

Skipping ahead, I finally found the unsearchable (firefox find didn't work) manual for the router software which eventually led me to the command line. Ah yes, command lines. The place where you can get shit done. If you know how. But now I did! Thankfully the Mac has built-in telnet (in Terminal) so I could connect to the router, log in as admin, and enter that glorious command: reset dhcp server.

And glorious working internet was mine again.

So now between two laptops, the Mac, and my computer, we have one single spare address. I'm not even sure I can change that. This seems stupid. I'm not quite sure who to blame, since my usual scapegoats don't really seem applicable. I mean, how can this possibly be the fault of Obama, Bush, Wall Street, Austria, Stalin, Tigole, Ghostcrawler, casuals, noobs, hardcore losers, kids these days, old people, Protestants, Catholics, heathens, Reagan, or God?

So guess what? No fun post for tomorrow. But here's a sneak preview of what I might write one of these days if I get around to it: so far, Homefront is a really crappy game. It's like Call of Duty except somehow fails to ever feel like much fun. And after wasting time fixing the new game crashing problem, it found a new random place to crash, with a new error to go with it. But I plan to finish it, if only so I can know for certain that it is entirely not worth playing.

Give me liberty and give me cheese!

A little bit back Tesh suggested that there's some sort of division in America best summarized as Statist vs. Libertarian.

I offer to you the story of cheese and liberty. It is 1940 and Britain needs an army, because of Nazis. Armies need food and cheese is an excellent one, so the British offer this excellent idea: ration and tax cheese, in order to have enough to fight the Nazis. Alas, there are a few too many libertarians. "Cheese and Liberty!" they cry. They explain that liberty, not more statism, is the source of freedom, and it sounds good, so we all agree to resist the oppression of the British government and reject the cheese rations.

There is no army and the Nazis win the war. They in turn take all the cheese. And a few people as well. We write to the Nazis and explain freedom, but they reject the idea, no matter how convincing our arguments. Perhaps we would have been better off with a bit less cheese and a lot less Nazi, but alas, we wanted our liberty, and all of it, now.

Libertarianism is founded on the absurd notion* that we can all just say "freedom and liberty" and it will be so. But it will not. If the government does not tell us what to do, the market will, or the corporation, or the mob boss. People desire power and inevitably some are better able to gather it than others, and from that comes oppression. We cannot eliminate it, but we can minimize it. A representative government can exert power, but in turn the people have power over it.

It's not a nice idea, that we cannot have total freedom, but it is true. Someone or something will always attempt to control us, so what we must do is ensure that we choose carefully, to pick leaders who are powerful enough to protect us from those who are too powerful.

I don't think we're in this situation right now. In fact, we're caught in a worst of both worlds, with corporations taking control of government, and through it, acting as the powerful leader.

This isn't a new idea. Once upon a time Americans opposed both big government and big business. They understood that both can take excessive power, to our detriment. Somehow the narrative was re-written and anything non-government became untouchable. Anything that wasn't government was classified as market, and you cannot question the market.

I like representative systems. Equal representation. This is why I don't buy into the notion of "voting with your wallet", because we clearly do not have equal wallets and never will, since communism doesn't work well beyond very small groups. In other words, wallet voting is unequal and therefore undemocratic. And it's self-perpetuating inequality. If I have ten votes and you have one, do you think I'd vote for anything other than myself? Perhaps I'd vote to give myself more votes.

So how about this for a different polar division: representative vs. non-representative. Now we don't have to make arbitrary distinctions between market and government, but can instead focus on what matters: not being horribly oppressed by non-representative leaders.

* I lied. Libertarianism is actually founded on the popular notion of "why should I care what happens to the sewage that I dump in your drinking water?"

P.S. I would have written about Civ V, but I was playing a game I just got called Homefront. I might write about it instead, because there is a lot to complain about.

Portal 2

| Wednesday, August 3, 2011
If you liked Portal 1, I think you will enjoy Portal 2. Let's just say that and try to keep that in mind, since my earlier attempt at a review ended up sounding very negative. I suspect I'm just a negative, awful, whiny person, but that's for another day, so let's move on to the game.

Portal 1 followed a formula: puzzle, snark, elevator. And then the near-death, run for life, boss fight. Portal 2 does that too.

The first stage isn't a whole lot of fun. GLaDOS is the problem, having gone from "you are expendable and now I will kill you" to "you killed me and I am dead-set on revenge, but rather than try to kill you, I will instead do the same testing that I did before". There is eventually an explanation of sorts, GLaDOS having a testing dependency, but that still makes the first murder seem strange. But that stage ends and it gets more fun. Oh and there is a neat boss fight.

Weatley is the second stage. And third. Note that these are sort of arbitrary divisions based on my rapidly-decaying memory of what I just played.

Second stage has you down deep in the very bottom (hence down and deep) of the Aperture Laboratories. Down in the first test chambers, where it all began. Just think of testing, but in addition to unsafe design, everything else, including materials and construction technique, are also unsafe. It's really quite impressive. I got a bit of a Bioshock feel to it, which I think may just be Generic Stereotypical Male-Dominated 50s and 60s and Maybe 70s Depending on Who's Counting.

On that subject, here's a tip: blue goo makes you bounce, orange goo makes you fast, and white goo allows you to make portals. I had to look up the white good after finding myself stuck and absolutely confused, apparently having missed the instruction sign.

Stage three is back up in the modern areas and is almost like a compressed Portal 1, in that you have a few test chambers and then next thing you know you're running for your life and eventually facing off in a boss battle.

Speaking of which: the Portal 1 GLaDOS battle was way cooler. Okay? Much better fight. Rockets are cooler than bombs. Tearing off personality cores and dumping them in fire is cooler than attaching corrupt cores. Also, silly as it sounds, size matters. GLaDOS was in a much bigger space, or at least that was my perspective, which could very well be objectively wrong, but subjective problems are still problems.

Just to be sure I'm not misunderstood: it's a fun game. But.

Action music, dramatic escape, fleeing and action dramatic music and loading... loading... loading... Er. I realize there are technical and performance issues to consider, but Portal 2 seemed to be great at putting loading screens in terrible places. I thought Half Life 2 was bad, having given me a fear of long corridors, but Portal 2 really took it to a new level of action interruption.

In terms of puzzles, Portal 2 was pretty damn fun. There were the ones where I found myself just staring at it, wondering what I was missing. Staring in utter confusion. Oh! Half the time these turned out to be really, really basic solutions, based on basic information, which I had somehow failed to process, leading me to try ever more absurd methods. This might have had something to do with my friends having left a bottle of whiskey when they were house-sitting. But you know what? That's fun. The Click is fun. The Light Bulb is fun.

It seems to me that they have fewer quick reflexes puzzles. This might be a good thing for some people. I thought it was, since sometimes certain puzzles could end up like some horrible single-player mimic of WoW raiding: I know exactly what to do but one errant click, one ever so slight delay, and all is ruined. Of course it's not as bad when it means a slight loading screen rather than a full raid wipe. On the other hand, adding light bridges, funnels, aerial faith plates, three goos, and lasers allows for even more complexity in puzzles. Here's a hint for that one puzzle: you disable the one thing so you can get through, then turn it back on to boost that up, but then be ready to use another portal to disable it to raise the platform back again, and also something with the laser. Was that confusing? I hope so!

I've not yet had a chance to try out the co-op, since I don't know if any of my friends play it and WoW has given me a fear of random internet groups.

So buy Portal 2, and if they're still doing that free copy of Portal 1 thing, give that to a friend, so they buy Portal 2, and give the copy to a friend, in an endless pyramid scheme of gaming and portals.

Maybe I should look up a guide to doing reviews; I have a lot of games coming down the line, thanks to the friends who left the whiskey, they also gave me one of their old computers, which I've mentioned, but sometimes they read this so I'm taking shots in the dark for a public thank you to them.

I am covering my ears while yelling "LA LA LA LA LA LA"

| Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Confession time.

I never played Diablo. I only played Diablo II a month or two ago, for a few days after some good friends suggested it. It was fun, but I hated the multi-player. I found myself perpetually lagging behind, confused, and wondering where we were going. It was just too damn fast for me.

My point is that I don't have much interest in Diablo III. Or maybe they use a 3. I don't care. Nor do I much care about Blizzard's official marketplace/auction house thingy. So my plan is to wait a few days for everyone to forget about this and find something else to complain about. My guess is that at least one female character will be wearing something that suggests the least subtle whore in the world. If they are not yet, it will happen, because that is how women dress when killing fantasy creatures. Note that there are zero recorded incidents of women killing real life dragons while modestly dressed Highly-accurate European Christian lore tells us that at least one muscle-bound male saint killed a dragon, at least proving that half of the dragon-killing appearance requirement.

In related news, my new deficit plan is this: default on 100% of all debts, at all levels of government, with the sole exception of two categories of Treasury bonds: those held by social security and those held by me which I am using to pay for graduate school. I want to go into government budgets and taxes, the very thing which may prevent me from studying them. This is why I do not believe in Karma, but instead in Irony.

And in unrelated news, I recently realized that my job involves a whole lot of time covering up flaws. Not mistakes, but flaws. My current job is home remodeling. In terms of functionality, we were done weeks ago: plumbing was in, electric was in, insulation, walls; we could have just shoved in a toilet, a sink, and a shower curtain and been finished with a fully-functional bathroom. But it would look terrible. So we use joint compound and this other stuff (it's yellow) to cover the gaps in the joints and smooth out any unevenness. Then we sand it down to get it perfectly smooth. Then primer before paining it all. Woodwork goes over that. Then caulk to hide all the joints and gaps. Then more paint because the caulk puts a white line everywhere. And all that paint has to be so damn accurate because an eighth of an inch waviness is more than enough to make the whole thing look terrible.

Maybe that has some greater philosophical meaning.

Tomorrow I'll write about Portal 2 or Civilization V. Assuming I remember to write a post and I'm not too wrapped up in playing Civ V. Preview: Portal 2 is silly and the AI is terrible at combat in Civ V.

Apple, I used to think you weren't really, really stupid

| Monday, August 1, 2011
iTunes is pretty neat. I like the store, though I'm too cheap for it these days so I just listen to the same songs I did five years ago.

My iPod Touch is pretty awesome. I love it. The iPhone looks cool.

Your computers are pretty, if pricy.

Your OS is a solid piece of work that for years (decades?) was leagues ahead of the absolute garbage that Microsoft produced.

The iPad is awesome.

But I didn't bring you here today to praise your impressive line of software and hardware. No, I brought you here today about this email address:

Does that mean anything to you? Anything at all? Here, let's try this. We'll open iTunes and try to play a song. What, not authorized? Okay fine, I have reformatted my computer and stuffed the hard drive in a totally different box. Even Microsoft got confused by this and demanded the same reauthorization of their cutting-edge and expensive Windows XP operating system, since it looks like a new computer, which I suppose it is. So fine, I will authorize my computer to play my legally purchased music.

You tell me it is linked to that email. Right. Well let's see... password... Not ringing a bell. Let's try a few that I know I've used before. Not that one. Or that one. Ditto on that one. Hm. Weird, since those last two were the previous and current ones I used for your app store on my awesome iPod.

Fine, password retrieval. Obviously the email send won't work since I wouldn't remember the password for an email that I haven't used in how many years. But I can answer some questions instead. Alright, birth date. Month, day. You think it's wrong? Let's try that again, maybe the intertubes mixed it up. Still no. Ooh, let's try reversing it, like maybe it wasn't Name of Month and Number of Day, but Number of Month and Number of Day so perhaps I have that backward so I can just switch them and... no. Maybe I had the month off by one? Day? How the hell doy ou not remember my birthday? I wrote it down for you!

Wait a minute... iPod. App Store. iPod that can still play all of my music. What happens if I use my App Store email and password?

Yep, that worked.

Let's go back to something before. Does that mean anything to you? Not a damn thing, right? Yea, I thought so. That email, that supposed Apple ID, does not mean a damn thing. So why the fuck are you telling me to log in with that?

Apple, that's just plain stupid. User experience is your thing. Seamless experience and all that jazz. Please no literal jazz, I don't enjoy it. So why, WHY, would you tell me to log in with the WRONG ACCOUNT THAT DOES NOT EVEN EXIST!?

While we're at it, stop asking me to update iTunes every single time it opens, even after I check "do not ask me again."

At least it worked, so now I don't need to pirate the songs that you attempted to steal from me. Jackasses.

"In 1776 a group of colonies assaulted the crown and were defeated"

Since it looks like America and its attempt at freedom and other nouns is coming to an end, I wonder what the history books would have looked like if it had never quite started. Something as simple as a lack of French support could have doomed our attempted revolution. With no navy and inferior land troops, what could the colonies have done?

On one hand, the end of the British Empire may have been inevitable. But I don't think it was inevitable at the time. The world wars ended the empires of France, Germany, and Britain (and some other places that are too lame to name), far after the American revolution. And who knows what a captive American colony could have done during that time to change future history. Can you imagine a World War I with Germany knowing that America would be against it? Only in hind sight does an American-British alliance seem anything close to inevitable.

Earlier American intervention might have made a difference. Or, continued control of American resources might have made Britain powerful enough to prevent war in the first place.

But this assumes a lot. It assumes that America would have been quite as badass under the crown rather than against it. I suspect this is not the case. Rebellion, and weakness, fuel innovation. We were a weak nation, something which we cannot quite grasp today, but the War of 1812 certainly proves my point. So we had to do more, and faster, than any other country, just to survive. Somehow we carried that a bit further and became the most powerful nation in the world. I do think that Britain with control of the American colonies, or whatever we'd be by then, would still be the most powerful country in the world, but not by so much.

beyond national psychology, there is politics and diplomacy. Would the Louisiana Purchase have happened under British rule? While the crown may have been eager to buy the land, would France have sold it? Almost certainly not! The sale was a great deal for France and America, giving is needed land, giving them money, and as a bonus for France, strengthening a potential rival of Britain. Maybe a Britain that didn't lose the colonies could have conquered the land instead, but I suspect the sale was a lot cheaper. Such a war may have cost both sides too much, leading to an even stronger Prussian/German state, which could have contested French continental supremacy, and next thing you know all of European history is completely re-written, though I predict it would still end with a failed invasion of Russia. But maybe being unable to sell Louisiana would have forced France into peace sooner, preventing the invasion of Russia, and depriving Hitler of that important historical lesson which he ignored anyway because he was an arrogant racist (redundant?), so really nothing changes.

On a side note, I do not believe that anyone has successfully invaded Russia or Canada. Obviously this should make us worried about a potentially invincible Axis of Cold Places. To make it even worse, neither country speaks English.

Without the Louisiana Purchase, or with it at a high military cost, would the Americans (with all the alternative history, and my lack of time travel, I've decided to go with the third person) have been able to beat up Mexico repeatedly for land? And without that land, would America have had enough worthless desert to send natives to starve to death before inventing gambling? The entire presidency of Andrew Jackson could have been nullified.

What would a stronger Mexico have done? My guess is, been marginally less horrible, but it would not have been the savior and/or destroyer of the world.

It would have been a scarier Soviet Union growing out of Russia, still in control of Alaska. Would Canada have fallen? I do not know, but know this, any history in which Canada is not free to be Canadian is not a history that I want to see. And Sarah Palin would have been a communist and had a totally hot Russian accent, unlike whatever the hell that is.

I do hope that by the time this post goes up our representatives will have worked out something. My vote is for a all the sane people to lock the Tea Party members in a basement storage room, hold the votes, and then let them out when we're done governing and can go back to screaming incoherently at each other. If not, well then there's one day before life gets more interesting than I'd like.
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