Shower Curtains

I'm not ready to review Portal yet, as I've only completed the story and not all the bonus challenges. However, the game is quite simply the most spectacular puzzle/platformer game to date.

I do warn you, do not play the game if you have just returned home late in the evening after initiating a sugar rush via refreshments provided after an hour and a half long presentation by you and the choir prior to which you practiced for an hour. You will get nauseous under these conditions. In simpler terms, Choir Practice + Vivaldi (and extras!) + COOKIES + Tired + Portal = Nausea.

The following is over a year old, but effectively captures what Portal is about like any good preview should.



1 ≈ .9999999999999...

For anyone who is familiar with math headaches, this is one of the major migraines. You can easily find all manner of argument over the internet as to the matter. I am not going to claim that in one short blog entry I can once and for all close the matter, but I can at least refute one argument.

Specifically, the following argument.

The precise mathematical proof consists of assuming first a number N which is defined by:

1) N = 0.999999999...

If we now multiply both sides of the equation by 10, we obtain:

2) 10N = 9.999999999...

Now substracting N from each side of the equation, we obtain:

3) 10N - N = 9.999999999... - N
4) = 9.999999999... - 0.999999999...
5) 9N = 9


6) N = 1 = 0.999999999...

It seems pretty conclusive, but there is a subtle mistake that is made at 5, specifically in the subtraction on the right hand of the equation. It should read as follows.

5) 9N ≈ 9


5) 9N = 8.9999999...9991

This is because trailing the end of 9.999... is an additional 0 (due to multiplying by 10), while trailing the end of 0.999... is a 9. That single digit difference is what unravels the issue. Either it must be admitted that step 5 is only an inaccurate approximation made because we are too lazy to actually travel down the path of infinity to find the "last" digit, or we have to account for the difference and display the equation appropriately.

And in case you were wondering, .8999...9991 / 9 = 0.999...

Another common argument is the table of nines.

1 / 9 = 0.111...
2 / 9 = 0.222...
3 / 9 = 0.333...
8 / 9 = 0.888...
9 / 9 = 1 = 0.999... = 0.111 * 9 = 1 / 9 * 9

Again, this is slightly disingenuous but in a slightly different fashion. Rather than ignoring the relationship of two separate infinites, this one ignores a fundamental concept learned in grade school. Specifically, the concept of remainders.

Trailing the edge of 0.111... isn't a pure 1, it's a 1 R(1/9). Evaluating the remainder is what gives us our next decimal place in infinity, but it will also, always have it's own remainder of 1/9. This remainder is unrepresentable in machine terms/thinking without evaluating it, hence infinity and the erroneous concept that 1 / 9 "ends" in a simple 1.

It is this remainder that, when multiplying 0.111... by 9, evaluates to 0.000...0001 and ticks the value over from 0.999... to 1.

Q.E.D. I am a nerd, thanks Dad.


Retro Nerdage

I'm not entirely sure who thought of this, but it is absolute nerd awesome.



Comb moon ick ate shun

Being a new hire is difficult for a number of reasons irregardless of where you work. This is a fundamental truth I have encountered, and there isn't a whole lot a company can do about it. It's an inherent issue stemming from the method by which we educate our youth, and the generational gaps that stem from this.

For the first 18-22 years of our lives, we are sheltered in an environment comprised almost entirely of people our own age. Thus, outside of a few authority figures, we grow accustomed to our generation's culture, our methods of communication, and our own "language" of sorts. What no one tells you is that outside of the interactions you'll have with people your own age post-education, none of that will be very helpful for communication in the working world.

When bright, dewey-eyed intern/new hire enters their first job, they will probably be as oblivious as I was to the nuances of office communication. I'm most certainly still ignorant of many fundamental necessities that doubtless are obvious to the people who have been here for years. Basically, I have found that everything I knew was true about communication in college is not true here.

For example, e-mail. In college, e-mail was the cornerstone of communication. With the volatile schedules and activities of college students, phones and instant messages were very inadequate. If you wanted someone to get a message, you sent them an e-mail, and whenever they checked their e-mail they'd respond back.

On the job, things are very different. E-mail very often vanishes without a trace into the ether, or so it seems as no response is forthcoming even after a week. This unfortunately leads the inattentive new hire to simply sit on their hands and wait, rather than send reminders or actively pursue the person. They'll get back to you when they can, right?

I've found myself battling my college habits in terms of time management and communication on a daily basis. A number of times significant balls have been dropped because I hadn't grasped that people outside my generation do not religiously respond to e-mail. Even now as I write about it, I'm sure that I'll have to consciously work to avoid falling into habit and just sitting around wondering why no one ever gets back to me.


A Nerd Power is Rising!

Playing World of Warcraft is nerdy enough as it is. However, I can now claim Mr. T and William Shatner among my peers.



I was contemplating my incoming niece, for whom this post is named, when I chanced upon the word "ruthless". Now, obviously, if one can be ruthless one must also be able to be ruthful. I investigated.

Apparently, ruthless is actually a conjugation of "rue". Thus someone who does not rue, does no ruing, and has rued, rues and will rue nothing, is not a ruer but is ruthless (and not rueless). However, a practicing ruer can be said to be either rueful or ruthful, have ruefulness or ruthfulness, and speak ruefully or ruthfully.

This is your nerdy grammar lesson for the day.


Thunderdome: Hellgate vs Warcraft

Before we begin, allow me to indulge in a brief preface. Hellgate will not be the end of the World (of Warcraft). Despite popular perception, it is possible for MMORPGs to coexist, especially ones with vastly different settings and gameplay styles. All other technical reasons aside, such talk is nonsense for these reasons alone.

That said, we begin our match.

Round 1: Launch

Warcraft had a number of issues at launch, some of which were so severe the game lost several awards it had received. In summary, there were numerous minor glitches and rampant server stability and reliability problems. By the time I picked up the game these had been dealt with, but that was six or so months later.

Hellgate, similarly, has issues as well. While it shares in the numerous small glitches, Hellgate lacks the rampant server issues of Warcraft. Instead, Hellgate has various minor nuisances throughout its user interface and instruction.

Judgement: Draw.
Explanation: By all accounts the glitches are pretty equivalent, leaving the judgement to a measure of server issues against interface problems. Here Hellgate might seem to come out ahead, as server problems prohibit play entirely while a slightly unwieldy interface only makes play more difficult. However, server issues are more readily repairable. A later judgement may be able to better weigh this contest, but for now it shall be judged that the one is even to the other.

Round 2: Character Creation

The character creation systems in both Hellgate and Warcraft are remarkably similar. There are very minor differences, but someone who has seen one can very easily understand the other.

Hellgate has several advantages, and a small disadvantage over Warcraft. Rather than cycling through hair and skin colors, Hellgate has a drop down palette that makes such choices far easier. Where Warcraft has races to differentiate height and breadth, Hellgate has sliders to allow for that kind of differentiation. Both games have class and faction descriptions present.

Where Hellgate errs is in the depiction of the character. Rather than show what your character will look like initially, the game shows them as they might look in higher level gear. This can be confusing, as it isn't clearly stated anywhere a casual person might look. Some people might see this as an advantage, but for the most part it is more of a hinderance than a help.

Judgement: Draw.
Explanation: The color palettes are nice, but it's as minor as the depiction mistake.

Round 3: Initial Impression

Warcraft treats you to a sweeping tour of your character's starting area at the offset complete with dramatic voice over explaning your backstory and place in the world, before dropping you in front of your first quest giver. From there, you are asked to embark on your first genocidal quest to cleanse the area of some unfortunate animal, and slowly familiarize yourself with the game's basics. Any tutorials are in the form of tips at loading, or clickable during the game.

Hellgate's backstory is almost completely conveyed by the game's opening cinematic. Your place in the grand scheme of things is explained only in the manual. However, Hellgate's tutorial is somewhat more proactive in helping you get a feel for the game. It's very friendly, very helpful, unrestrictive, skippable, and short. Basically, everything you could want from a tutorial. There's are a number of things that aren't covered, but Warcraft is more than guilty of this as well.

The impression Warcraft impresses upon you is one of awe and an eagerness to explore. Hellgate, on the other hand, is more content to let you be excited about your character and their abilities.

I'm going to fault both, however, in that neither really take care of their own. Beyond the very most basics of the game, very little is explained. It's enough to get a player unfamiliar with MMORPG conventions up and going, but it leaves them to flounder about every which way. Each has their highs and lows in this area, but neither really comes out on top.

Judgement: Draw.
Explanation: While we could argue that Warcraft's interface is more intuitive and thus user-friendly/impression making, that's a separate round unto itself.

Round 4: Interface

Mods are excluded from this round as outside parties. I will not delve into them, nor into the ability of either game to support them. Should it come up, it will be in the inevitable rematch.

Hellgate's interface, as one might guess from earlier notes, leaves a fair amount to be desired.

First and foremost, the game has issues remembering your account name. It will only keep track of it so long as you do not exit the program. Even in this case the cursor defaults to the account name field, meaning it must be moved lest one absent mindedly start typing their password in the wrong place.

The next obvious failing is that of the helpful tips on the loading screen. Specifically, their propensity to burn through several hundred of them in less than a second during the loading process. This, however, only obscures the complete lack of any visual measure of loading progress for a minute or two. While the loading screen is aestetically pleasing, it would be nice if some indication of the current status of the effort were present.

Also vexing the user is the method of logout. If one wishes to stop playing, the "Exit Game" option is chosen. Rather than exiting the game, however, it only pushes you back to the log on screen. This appears to be some deranged compromise between actually exiting the entire game, and providing an option to exit to the character selection screen. As it stands, a player must "Exit Game" and then log in again in order to switch characters.

The other notable nuisances are the lack of any efficient system to trade items between characters, the unintuitive and obfuscated choices in console commands, and the similar difficulty in item management. There isn't any way to transfer items between your characters save for handing them off to a trusted friend and relogging. The console commands, while following the standard /[command] syntax are longer in name than necessary and are not described either in the manual or in the game. Lastly, Warcraft has a universal key one can hold down while clicking to move the chosen item into a bank, buy or sell from a vendor, or trade it to another player; Hellgate only has this function for vendoring.

Meanwhile, Warcraft boasts mailing systems, an auction house, helpful guards, and will soon sport an enhanced minimap to make finding quest givers, trainers and vendors easier. As a whole, the Warcraft interface is also intuitive and consistant. If something functions in one place, it functions the same way elsewhere. It also mimicks standard operating systems enough that there aren't any surprises for anyone.

Judgement: Warcraft wins the round.
Explanation: Hellgate's glaring errors don't impact actual gameplay, but they make getting to the good stuff significantly harder than necessary.

Round 5: Gameplay

Warcraft and Hellgate come from two vastly different schools of thought in terms of MMORPG gameplay. Warcraft follows the tried and true Everquest paradigm, while Hellgate sticks to the roots of its creators and takes after Diablo. Both styles of gameplay have their merits and their detriments.

Warcraft's gameplay is much more forgiving to the player, but much less so towards the player's time. Most notable accomplishments in the game take a significant investment of one's free hours. It is possible to spend hours just preparing for some other task, and getting nothing done other than "housekeeping".

Timewise, Hellgate can be played in short spurts or over large sessions. While it has similar directives to Warcraft, the time between setting out to complete a quest and returning victorious is far shorter unless you are going in over your head. The lack of a cohesion in Hellgate means the game doesn't suffer under the need to establish a sense of distance in a persistant world. As such, all of the traveling around to find vendors and services is absent. The presence of instant teleportation to other party members, and to and from town, significantly shaves off the time investment required.

Additionally, the pacing of each game varies as well. The actual meat of each game, quests and killing of monsters for loot, experience and glory, follows the same pattern. Warcraft has a much more leisurely pace, while Hellgate is more action oriented without necessarily being more difficult. Hellgate's leveling curve is far more forgiving than Warcraft's as well. They both start out even, but where Warcraft's begins to slow Hellgate continues to charge forward at relatively the same rate.

Hellgate is also far more forgiving when it comes to items. There is no concept of "soulbound", items can be freely traded and reused. Items are easily upgraded, customized, added to and more. While Warcraft has significant crafting advantages over Hellgate's professionless system, the freedom Hellgate offers is an unavoidable advantage.

Warcraft, however, is more forgiving in one area. Hellgate offers no ability to reselect skills and spells after they have been allocated. Once you have made your character choices in attributes and proficiencies, there is no going back. This does, however, suit Hellgate as it did its predecessors. While for a beginning player the time necessary to level a character will be significant, experienced players will likely be able to reach "high" levels over the course of a weekend.

Judgement: Hellgate wins the round.
Explanation: While actual judgement of the respective gameplay styles is subjective, Hellgate has a key advantage in allowing you to get from login to gameplay much faster and without as much effort. The "Time to Fun" as it were, heavily leans towards Hellgate.

Round 6: Social

Warcraft is an odd duck when it comes to matters of society. It seems to preclude having a social life, while at the same time being a heavily social game. It encourages bonding with other players, while seemingly attracting the kinds of people who fail to realize that "plz" is not an endearing subsitute for "please".

However, the kind of bonds that form from grouping and raiding in Warcraft are not easily replicable in Hellgate. There isn't content in Hellgate that makes deep friendships a commonplace thing. You don't have the same kind of dungeons, raiding and group questing that bring people together. Rather, Hellgate is more oriented towards incidental fun with friends you already have.

Judgement: Draw
Explanation: To summarize, Warcraft is a much more social game but comes at the cost of social life elsewhere. Hellgate may not have as much social depth, but it does allow for it in a more casual sense and at the same time does not have any draw to preclude other social engagements (beyond basic addiction).

Bonus Round: Overall

We could try and compare Warcraft as it was against Hellgate, but that's a bad comparison. Whatever Warcraft was, it has since evolved. Telling people that Warcraft was a fun game nearly 3 years ago is about effective a suggestion as telling people how wonderful this town was before all the carpet baggers came. The suggestee can't take a bus back to yesteryear.

As such, Hellgate must face off against the Warcraft of today.

Judgement: Warcraft wins the round.
Explanation: The amount of content, it's quality, the long fixed bugs, the smooth servers, and the excellent interface come together into something spectacular. Should Hellgate improve on its shortcomings the same way Warcraft has, it could easily boast a victory later. For now, Warcraft is the better experience.


Review: Sea of Shadow

Be forewarned, this is going to be less a review and more of a rant.

I recently began and finished a book titled The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow. A Japanese high fantasy novel, it was recommended by a friend. Incidentally, it's also been converted into anime form.

Before I delve too thoroughly into the book I'll give some context as to why I am going to be so harsh toward it. Quite simply, the end left me disappointed. I was willing to forget the novel's flaws because of its significant merits, but then it was abruptly over. It was so sudden and incomplete that it reminded me of when someone is in the middle of a sentence and they

I probably wouldn't even be writing this if it didn't bother me so much. The book wasn't good, it was fantastic. The story, the characters and the world were all excellent, though not flawless. What kills me is how amazing everything was right up until the point where it ended.

The story builds magnificently towards a climax that never comes. It opens up thousands of questions that are never answered. For all intents and purposes our heroine checks off box #1 on her list of "epic achievements I need to complete before this story ends", magically checks off box #2 in about two pages of story, and then we get checkboxes #3 through #7 in a brief history-like epilogue that lasts two paragraphs. Meanwhile, we have answers to burning questions #1 through #7, but #8 through #33 are left completely unanswered.

For those of you who have read Tolkien, imagine it like so. What would you have felt like if the story had ended immediately after Bilbo escaped Gollum with the Ring? It's certainly a milestone in the story; a worthy achievement of our shoeless shorty. It is not, however, where anyone in their senses would recommend to stop.

Disappointed probably isn't the right word to describe how I felt when I reached the end. I felt betrayed. Through the course of the book and the revealing of the small, subtle details chiseled into the author's world was the feeling of a promise, a sworn oath of a great story that in concluding would open up the world to greater epics. It felt like the Hobbit; an incredibly engrossing introduction into a larger universe. Then, without much warning other than the waning number of remaining pages, it ended before it was even halfway there.

It is almost as if the author, excited at the prospect of writing the greater epic, cut short the all too important introduction. That or perhaps the publisher wasn't going to wait any longer for the book to actually be finished.

There really isn't an effective way to convey the confusion, mild anger, buzz kill, and other assorted negatives I felt when I closed the book, knowing that it was all over.

I can only sit here and wonder, why is the fun gone?



Balance in anything is hard to achieve. We're supposed to maintain a balance of work and play, eat balanced meals, balance our checkbook, and maintain our balance when the temperature inexplicably drops 60 degrees overnight causing a mysterious patch of ice on the front steps.

Of course, foreign policy also requires balance. Here to speak on the subject is Jon Stewart.

Be aware, he uses some "choice" words, one of which fails to be "conditioned".


Ice Cream

I received an email from a good friend today. You've probably gotten hundreds like it, but at least this one didn't promise eternal happiness if I forwarded it to 10 friends and damnation if I didn't.

Quote: (Edited only to reduce hideous spacing)

If all of the desserts listed below were sitting in Front of you, which would you choose (sorry, you can Only pick one!) Trust me....this is very accurate. Pick your dessert, and then look to see what Psychiatrists think about you. After taking this Dessert personality test, send this e-mail on to Others, but when you do, be sure to put your choice of Dessert in the subject box above.


Here are your choices:

1. Angel Food Cake
2. Brownies
3. Lemon Meringue
4. Vanilla Cake With Chocolate Icing
5. Strawberry Short Cake
6. Chocolate on Chocolate
7. Ice Cream
8. Carrot Cake

No, you can't change your mind once you scroll down, So think carefully what your choice will be..............

OK - Now that you've made your choice this is what the Research says about you...

SCROLL DOWN---No Cheating

That's part 1. Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd take some brownie, some chocolate, and some angel food cake and combine with ice cream for desert euphoria. Unfortunately, I am only allowed to pick one. Alas, integers.

Having chosen ice cream, we proceed to find the following about me.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it be Baseball, football, basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy Watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote Control. You tend to be self-centered and high Maintenance.

Statement 1: Moderately accurate by itself, but taken in context of statement two it is highly suspect.
Statement 2: Blatantly false. I don't watch sports, except for the odd World Cup, Olympics, or Red Sox World Series attempt. If I could, I would like to participate puts it lightly. I can't stand to sit back and watch. I'm either playing, or I'm not there. This puts statement one in a bad spot, as it's vague context looks good until this is brought up.
Statement 3: I'm more than happy to give up the remote control, or video game controller. You just have to ask me. Standing there looking pensive doesn't cut it. That's not to say I haven't pulled the old "give me a minute" hour long delay before, but that's more of a mistake than anything else. I don't think introverted and self-centered are the same thing, and I don't think I'm high maintenance.

Here's the rest of them, in all their glory.

1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzy items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at the end of the Day. Others perceive you as being childlike and Immature at times.

2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, And are a champion of underdogs and a slayer of Dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your Saber. You are always the oddball with a unique sense Of humor and direction. You tend to be very loyal.

3. LEMON MERINGUE -- Smooth, sexy, & articulate with your hands, you are an excellent after-dinner speaker And a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew gum At the same time. A bit of a diva at times, but you Have many friends.

4. VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not very grounded! in life; very Indecisive and lack motivation. Everyone enjoys being Around you, but you are a practical joker. Others Should be cautious in making you mad. However, you are A friend for life.

5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in return. Intuitively keen. Can be very emotional.

6. CHOCOLATE ON CHOCOLATE -- Sexy; always ready to give and receive. Very creative, adventurous, Ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a Cold exterior but are warm on the inside. Not afraid To take chances. Will not settle for anything average In life. Love to laugh.

7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it be Baseball, football, basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy Watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote Control. You tend to be self-centered and high Maintenance.

8 . CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, Who likes to laugh. You are fun to be with. People Like to hang out with you. You are a very warm hearted Person and a little quirky at times. You have many Loyal friends.



1. Am I the only person who finds it odd that the Angel Food Cake person eats ice cream?
2. I would like all brownie eaters with a saber to raise their hands. I would like all dragon-slaying brownie eaters to raise their hands. Maybe it's metaphor, but it's vague metaphor. I could read into it that I get up and conquer great challenges, or I could read into it that I'm imaginative or something else.
3. All teachers who chose something other than Lemon Meringue, please burn your certifications and quit your jobs. You obviously aren't a good teacher, or you would have chosen this one.
4. I'm trying! to figure Out this grammer. Still, it is confusing.
5. Numbers 1-4, 6-8. You're all uncaring fiends. You weren't really crying when fluffy died. Heck, you possible poisoned the cat in the first place. Not to mention that all the other numbers that are "sexy" aren't romantic, so they aren't getting anywhere regardless.
6. Do not read the first sentence with your mind in the gutter.
7. Ice Cream!
8. Everyone else isn't fun to be with. That's right, some of you might be sexy, romantic, humorous, remote giving etc. but only people who eat Carrot Cake are fun to be around.

Maybe I'm a little harsh, but I think I derive some kind of joy in torturing these concepts. These are glorified fortune cookies, with the exception that sometimes people take them seriously (Read: Horoscopes).

One of these days, I'm going to put an ad in a newspaper begging some random name not to go to work because I had a horrible vision where they were in a car crash and lost two limbs, came home to find their spouse murdered because they forgot to lock the door, and their winning lottery ticket is accidentally burned during the cremation. Maybe nothing quite so blatantly stupid as that, but something similar.

If I ever do that, I'll let you all know how many calls I get.


Need for Speed

My brother rocks.

End of line.


Prognostication: Shock and Awe

Before I get into the meat of this, I'm going to touch on Lucas first.

Lucas is from Mother 3, putting him in the 'Maybe' category I prognosticated before. However, his description asks a question, "Is it possible he can surpass even Ness???". Ness fans are probably going to freak out, because it looks like he might have been given the boot.

For the moment, I do not believe we have enough information. Much like Ike and Marth, we need to see how similar their fighting styles are before we can make an informed opinion. If they're all too similar, I'll make a hard call then. For now, Marth and Ness are teetering on the edge of 'Maybe' themselves.

That said...


Sakurai decided, apparently, to take my elegant argument about why we wouldn't be seeing Sonic is Brawl and burn it at the stake. If you just figured it out, go to the webpage NOW. I'm not kidding.

I expect that the entire internet has been going "OMGWTFBBQ" for the past 3 hours without me.

Curbing my excitement for just a moment here, we have all of 7 weeks left before go time. The current roster of fighters is at 22, out of the 40 that Sakurai was aiming for. If they succeed in that goal, which is not necessarily going to happen, then there are a few possibilities.

1) The website will keep updating after release, including introducing some of these characters.
2) These characters will be kept secret.
3) We're going to be getting bombarded with awesome for the next 7 weeks with 2 or more characters being introduced a week. Possibly weighted towards release.

In any case, just when you thought hype was going to die down about the game they pull Mario's biggest Rival out of their sleeve. Amazing.


MWAK: Medium?

Intelligence is one of those games with a default "Impossible" difficulty. There really isn't another explanation for what I am about to tell you. This is the first ever official Monkey with a Keyboard (MWAK) post, and it will be obvious why before long.

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a James Randi binge lately. Maybe it's because I'm an inherently trusting person and I very much dislike the notion of people preying on trusting people. Maybe it's because I'm a religious skeptic of sorts. Mostly it's because he's awesome.

While I was perusing some clips from a TV show he did back in 1991, I followed a trail of Youtube videos until I came to one titled "James Randi's Scam". I thought it was about his Project Alpha experiment. It turned out to be the confusing ramblings of a self-proclaimed medium about how Randi is a hack.

I haven't linked the video here, because it honestly doesn't deserve any attention.

However, here is a comment made by a supporter of the video's creator, going by the nickname skepticslayer1234.

I applied to be tested for the million and Randi lied to get out of testing me. He rejected my application saying I wanted no photos taken. Truth is I insisted the whole proceedure be video taped. I have offered Randi ten grand to meet me in public with his proof I wanted no photos but he runs from my "Honesty Challenge". Randi is a cowardly liar. Bill Perron

Now, being the skeptic I am, I needed to investigate this. I happen to know that the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) keeps an online record of all applicants. If this Bill Perron applied, as he claims, he and his application letter would surely be listed on the website.

This is the text of his application, copied here because it needs to be disseminated all over the internet as a casebook example of MWAK.

And I quote the unmodified, untranslated work of Bill Perron (sources following):




Sources arehere and here.

I'd like to highlight a few things.

Firstly, this application was hand written. I would have said, "this guy is an example of everything that is wrong with the internet", except he actually took a pen and wrote that out, in all caps. I don't know what OBSERABLY, FRAUDENTLY and TRINES are, but they must be the angels of his swift justice against Randi.

Secondly, this man has a computer and printer. It's part of his whole computer horoscope medium profession. Was it impossible for him to type up the letter instead? Would that have jived with the vibes of his electronic equipment or something? Was he afraid that somehow, Randi would be able to infer something about his computer from the paper and sabotage his ability to do horoscopes? It just baffles me that someone claiming to be able to use a computer for something as complex and important as prognosticating intricate information about a person and their future is incapable of typing up a letter and printing it out.

Thirdly, I believe this guy was yelling this out as he wrote it, one word at a time. Maybe he didn't, but it's a hilarious picture to imagine a grown man furiously scribbling in all caps, yelling out each word with long pauses. Pure speculation, humorous image.

Fourthly, I'm wondering if this is the same way he turns in job applications. I'm not sure McDonalds would accept anything written in that style.

Fifthly, I'd be interested in statistics of his accuracy versus the length of marriage + courtship for couples. I wonder if the general assertions of a horoscope are more likely to ring bells with newlyweds over marriages going on 25 years.

Sixthly, as an officer in my guild I have to sort through people submitting applications. Admittedly our process is simply "Talk to us, if you're sane you're probably in", but a surprising number of people fail miserably. Specifically, their conduct and style of writing are expressly indicative of the maturity of a 6 year old child. Given that we're just a guild in a video game, that seems relatively understandable; chances are half of them were 6 years old. However, when someone's applying for a million dollar prize and drops sentences such as, "THEN I WILL OBSERVE HOW MR. RANDI FRAUDENTLY GETS OUT OF PAYING ME THE MILLION DOLLARS THAT I WIN" I can't help but shake my head.

Lastly, the old adage "a person is smart, people are stupid" needs updating. This man defies it, too bad there's no million dollar prize for that.

Thus endeth the first MWAK. I pray there aren't more to come.


Double Dose of Randi

In case you were wondering, the long rant was inspired by reading an article about James Randi scoffing at claims of a seven thousand dollar audio cable being "danceable". Specifically, the claims made by a review of the cable were for all intents and purposes supernatural. While better audio quality is probable, neither Randi nor anyone else looking rationally at the situation find it likely that the cable has some special power to make you want to get up and dance that is lacking in the $80 (and also overpriced) equivalent.

In any case, for an example of Randi at work, observe the following video. Below the video I will post some reactions with time stamps matching the video.

1:21: "That seemed to be the right one."

I don't know about you, but her explanation of how she made the choice isn't particularly satisfying. It's barely an explanation.

I'll admit as a writer of sorts that very often we pick words that "seemed to be the right one", but then again writing is a subjective art. The profession of healing people would, I hope, entail slightly more precision. Doctors may as "what seems to be the problem", but they at least poke you painfully in places, or X-ray you based on what you said, rather than just pulling remedies out of a hat.

1:42: The Muscle Test

That test seems far from scientific already. Is she really just pushing down on the arm? I would have thought that strength is a somewhat quantifiable measure. The love machine at the local pizza parlor qualified me as "Flaming Hot" with my right hand, "Eligible Bachelor" with me left, and "Prince Charming Himself" when I cheated and used both.

1:58: Testing testing....

And lo and behold, her arm isn't limp! It's a miracle! Get the Pope on the line! I don't know why just get him on the line we need to talk to him! No I don't speak Latin, maybe she has a crystal for that too!

If I sound unimpressed, it's because I am. Maybe I'm not giving her enough benefit of the doubt, but I'd rather prefer to be the one pushing on the arm myself. That, or use a machine to measure it. She was "Snores in bed" before, but with that crystal she's obviously upgraded a "Whoa Mama!" level of romance.

2:35: Randi has it in the bag

This is why Randi rocks. My test is too obvious. His is too awesome, yet should be so obvious.

Actually, it's interesting. He's a magician, how much do you want to bet that the crystal isn't even in the bag anymore, even though it looks like he put it in there?

That might cause the woman to call foul on the test though, so maybe he'll be honest.

4:22 If chance alone...

I'm going to bet alarm bells started ringing in the woman's head when Randi said, "If chance alone were operating here..."

5:00 Rats!

He was honest, but oh the hilarity of using rat poison.


Obviously the crystal had to be naked, because that would explain why one out of five times the rat poison worked.

I hope you all enjoyed watching that debunking as much as I did.

Rant: Several Steps to Better Thinking

Regret is a dish best served microwaved.

I can't speak for anyone else, but personally there are several events in my life ranging from absolutely pathetically small to "How did I ever do something that was so monumentally in defiance of my basic, underlying principles and beliefs?" which reheat themselves from time to time and remind me of how I've failed in the past. Feelings of guilt, sorrow and the aforementioned regret take over until such time as the leftovers cool again and recess back into the depths of my sadistic subconscious. Approximately 101% of these events happened principally because of one reason.

I wasn't thinking.

Actually, it's somewhat deeper than that. I certainly was thinking at the time, but at a significantly reduced quality than standard. There wasn't a lack of awareness of what I was doing, or even a lack of self-consciousness, but a distinct absence of several streams of thought which normally keep those extremely idiotic suggestions from being carried out.

The severity of some of my transgressions troubles me deeply; they represent the kind of failings I very often criticize in others. I suppose I pride myself on my ability to think logically and rationally in any situation, such that when I fail to do so in a common situation I normally have mastery over it is humbling to say the least.

In any case, I'm a firm proponent of proper thinking. Proper thinking requires three things.

1) Awareness of oneself.
2) Awareness of one's environment.
3) Awareness of what assumptions are being made, and why.

The absence of any of those three spells immediate failure to engage in effective thought. They are three pillars that are unable to support an active mind should any fail. The more pillars that fail, the more startling the wake-up call is.

For example, one of my more silly regrets was counting pennies out of a "give a penny, take a penny" in Spanish. I was ten at the time, and my awareness of myself was limited to the language I was speaking, the environment constrained to the pennies, and I had no awareness at all of any assumptions whatsoever.

When the store clerk angrily threw the pennies back into the small bin, it was a wake-up call that made me keenly aware of everything I'd been missing. A) My methodology for counting had been obnoxious and even condescending, B) The clerk was obvious Spanish himself, C) I had assumed it was okay to take 10 pennies from the bin, when I only had a nickel of my own. I ran out of the store crying.

My "vision" of all three points was narrow to the point of uselessness. My startling wake-up forced by the clerk's reaction helped me learn that one's mind must be wide open at all times or we do some very, very dumb things.

So, and without further ado, here are some steps to better thinking.

1) Stop.
2) Step back.
3) Observe.
4) Contemplate.
5) Test.
6) Conclude.
7) Repeat.

And to elaborate.

Step 1: Stop

The first step towards better thinking is to stop oneself from not thinking. Not thinking is the same thing as auto-pilot, and is a very easy thing to do. We do it on the way to work, in the grocery store, as we play video games, and even while watching movies with loved ones. When we are only doing and not thinking, we can end up getting ourselves in trouble.

Step 2: Step back

The second step requires us to pull ourselves out of our own perspective. This is probably the most difficult step. Pull away from where you are, even who you are, and get yourself in a position outside of yourself, where you are, and what's going on. This is so that we can more readily...

Step 3: Observe

In order to think straight, one must be aware of whatever facts are available at the time. Observe yourself, how are you feeling? What is on your mind? What was on your mind before? Observe the environment, are you shivering? Who else is there? What sounds are you hearing? What are you doing? Observe the assumptions, are you assuming it's okay to be out this late? To be falling asleep on this person's couch? To be eating hot wings?

Be careful not to get ahead of yourself. This is not the time for steps 4-7. You shouldn't be trying to figure out why you might think it's okay to eat hot wings, you should only note that you are assuming it is.

Step 4: Contemplate

Now that you have facts, it's time to evaluate them. Try and understand the hows and whys of the situation. For example, you have noted you are shivering. So we ask, "Why are you shivering?" We don't know, but we know that the room is not cold, so that can not be why. We know that you are feeling well, so unless this is a symptom of a sickness that is oncoming that can not be why. We know that a beautiful woman just rested her head on your shoulder. We also know that your heart jumped several beats. There is the possibility that you are shivering because of her.

Step 5: Test

If you're picking up on how this is similar to the scientific method, excellent. It is like the scientific method, and with good reason. When applied introspectively, accounting for factors both environmental and abstract, the scientific method is an "easy" way to be aware of what you're doing and why.

Unfortunately, this step is also very difficult. We have to ask, what is there to test? If we're trying to understand our feelings for someone, testing to see if we're shivering because of them doesn't have many sound environmental options (too many are likely to dramatically change the nature of the situation and alter far too many variables at once). Most situations require very specific, tailored tests.

In our current scenario, we have to ask ourselves "Do I like her?" as our test. The obvious answer is, "I don't know." Testing is now complete.

Step 6: Conclude

Conclusion is a very easy step. We have an answer to our test, and the answer is sound. "I don't know", while not helpful, is an answer. So, we move on to the next step.

Step 7: Repeat

This step is also straightforward. Go through all the steps again. Some of them will be significantly easier this time (unless you're getting all fluttery as you think, Stopping will be rather easy), and some of them will take more time (Contemplating "Why don't I know?" can take hours). However, this is the basic process by which one can think better.

Obviously these steps are largely guidelines. People think differently, and even my application of this method is not exactly in tune with this. However, it's a great starting point to figure out where your mind rails run.

The major advantage to thinking effectively is a much keener awareness of who you are, and why. People who think effectively aren't afraid to have a highly skeptical person ask them, "Why do you believe in God?" not because they can talk about what God has done for them, or how God speaks to them, but because they can answer the skeptic on their own terms. For example:

"It is obvious that I can not explain why I believe in God to you by describing my experiences through prayer. It is doubly obvious that I can not conclusively prove God's existence by my experiences in prayer, in church, or at other times. It is entirely possible that I am delusional to the point of being committable to an asylum. However, I believe in God (in summary) because the Big Bang doesn't explain where the matter came from in the first place. Neither the matter nor God have any better scientific explanation for their existence except that they have to be. At the same time, humanity has an observable need for spirituality among other aspects of the universe that point to but do not prove the possibility of a greater being. So long as I do not cease challenging my assumption that God exists, I judge this belief to be healthy."

I may not agree with all of the beliefs of James Randi, but I respect him a lot for his willingness to challenge his own and other's assumptions and beliefs. I enjoy reading about him, what he does, and watching his videos on youtube because he asks the fundamental questions many people overlook. "Why?" and "How?"

Having a similar ability to think rationally, actively, and without ceasing will help one in everything from video games, to gardening, to blogging. Although, it certainly didn't help me keep this short.

Thanks for reading.


Zombies, Friendships, and Warcraft

I'm simply amazed at the artistry some people are capable of when using video games as their palette. Yes, similar things have been done with Anime before. Yes, Anime Music Videos can also be awesome. No, that doesn't dilute my point.

I think what draws me to these videos, beyond the familiarity I have with the game engine they're using to create them, is both how much and how little control they have. The in game models can only have so many faces, hair styles, forms of dress, emotes and other such visual elements, and yet people are able to take them and make artful videos ranging from amusing to insightful and all artistic adjectives in between.

While much of the merit can be based on the choice of music, (e.g Jonathan Coulton's Re: Your Brains) some are simply artful in and of themselves.

Particularly, the following:

I'll admit that for someone who doesn't play World of Warcraft, a number of the elements in that video may be confusing. Still, I felt I had to share.


Rant: Why to Homeschool

I think this documentary is reason enough.

The following is a series of comments I made to a friends blog upon watching that video. I'll note beforehand that this is all highly reactionary, and that homeschooling is a very large, very difficult undertaking. It is only worth it if you can remain dedicated for the 16-18 years it takes to educate your child in readiness for college. Any slacking can cause more harm than the public school system.

That said, we begin my commentary in three sections.


This is going to be largely a running commentary on what I see. I was fine for the first seven minutes, until they got to the teacher protest. The following quote caused the reaction in the title.

"There is nothing that money can't fix."

Right, because money's fixed Iraq, it's fixed the blatant corruption running through our government (our politicians have oh so much money) and it's obviously a blanket panacea to all our problems.

Money alone is worthless. It is not the solution, it is only something that enables solutions. Assuming that money will solve your problems is as bad as assuming an unregulated and unchecked government will. Don't throw money blindly at something that isn't already working, or has no history of working.

At least they brought an intelligent person on board to point out how blatantly stupid the quoted statement was. Make that two people. Holy crap, that second guy's school is giving me strange shades of what people already do in Japan. Maybe that's not the only/best solution, but hey, someone has enough humility to look overseas for an alternative.

Concerning the guy who couldn't read... no duh 1v1 would have helped him incredibly. Same for the grandmother earlier who trained her daughter. There's a reason why home schooling is popular in homes that can support it. It has major drawbacks for everyone involved, but it'll do the job if you put in the effort.

We've finally reached the principle that should have been obvious to begin with. Bureaucracies and safety nets don't mix. So long as airlines, public schools etc. know the government will bail them out, there's no reason to make things better. Whether vouchers are the solution, I can't say.

Maybe I'm premature, but I've got that gnawing depression building in the back of me that's telling me that if anything is going to change, it's going to be because we dragged the people in charge kicking and screaming from their beds in the middle of the night and dropped them in a lake somewhere to make a point. This is one of those controversial and largely accurate reports that gets everyone mad, but remains to be seen whether it's enough to get them to act.


Look at the average SAT scores, South Carolina is tied (emphasis) for last at 993. Texas comes in slightly above at 995. Florida comes in at 996.

"We are ranked #1 in the country for improvement on SATs."

Congratulations, you still flunked, just not as poorly. I can't imagine how bad your students were doing before. Oh, so now we can't judge states by SATs. If you could provide us with another standardized test commonly used through the US, we'd be more than happy to oblige your blatant stupidity. Telling us you're making great progress is every intelligent manager's klaxon that something is horribly wrong. If you can tell me in detail what progress has been made, I'll believe you.

And apparently half the kids in South Carolina high schools can't graduate in four years. That might be okay for college given the various circumstances and notable difficulty of various fields of interest, but high school? It shouldn't take more than four years.

As an aside, companies are infinitely innovative at screwing you over with technology. Your phone service may now be cheap, but they're still needlessly preventing you from making your own ringtones on the cheap wherever they can. They've learned to be sneaky, but service is still better.

Oh they just hit another nerve, and I'm about to pour out the nerd.

In World of WarCraft, raiding must be done to get the best gear. Originally, raids consisted of 40 people fighting through a dungeon to this end. When Blizzard expanded on World of Warcraft, the new dungeons were only for 25 people (with a few capped at 10).

It is very difficult to convey exactly how much whining there was about this, and how very little all that whining reflected the vast majority of people playing. For a period of about a month if not longer, the general forum on the official website was practically plastered with topics on the subject, with a very large number of people expressing very loud and obnoxious disagreement with the idea.

Why would anyone do this? Because people are lazy scum bags. The truth of 40 person raiding was that at least 15 people were potentially afk, useless, or intentionally worthless. As few as 15 were doing all the work, because they were dedicated and awesome. Thus, Blizzard made a change to remove the leeching scumbags. The 25 person raids require 95% of everyone involved to be involved, and not just pushing a couple buttons while watching TV. Attention is required, because otherwise you'll miss out on the fact that the boss just began to cast an easily avoidable spell which will wipe anyone who wasn't looking.

Now, who would guess that lazy scumbags with job assurance would complain about losing that absolute security?

The vouchers or a similar system, should it be properly implemented, are a direct threat to the job security of the School Boards, the teachers, and the PTAs. Suddenly tenure is thrown out the window, because the school's survival suddenly depends on your performance. Slack off and you walk, because no principle wants to lose their cushy job (the obvious result of a failed school). Of course people who want to be able to sit on a job for 25 years without actually doing it would object to this.

Maybe the initial revision of school vouchers wouldn't allow children to attend the good private schools, but if it meant they could choose which of the public schools they went to it would at least begin to make things better. There'd be overcrowding for a while, as well as some undercrowding, but eventually equilibrium will be reached. If we let states like Texas and South Carolina who are already screwed try it out first, we can probably see how to do it with less pandemonium.

And low and behold, we now address unions, and how the exceptional get the same treatment as the mediocre. WOW I JUST COVERED THIS!

"There aren't really bad teachers."

And there aren't really bad players in World of Warcraft or Halo. And the internet is full of literate people. The war in Iraq will be over before Christmas. I have a hot and beautiful woman waiting for me in my bed when I get home tonight.


I think what ultimately gets me about these teachers is not that they have a monopoly, or that they protect those among them who are incompetent. What gets to me is that they literally are capable of holding our children's education hostage for their own ends. I don't think anyone should have that power. And saying it's the people who don't have that power who "don't really care about kids" really convinces me.

This really highlights the incredible danger of what a person will do for something they don't even know about themselves. People who are normally caring and compassionate will kill kittens in the right circumstances if there is the subconscious perception the felines are a threat to their secure existence. They don't even realize they're arguing against something cute and fluffy for selfish reasons.

Well it's over, and my semi-stream of consciousness is probably frightening.


Prognostication: Everest at Range

I had listed the Ice Climber's return as "Probable" and here they are. At the same time, they've been completely overshadowed by today's announcement.

Super Smash Brothers: Brawl will be playable over the internet.

I don't know about you, but I can think of several dozen people who just cackled maniacally, expounding upon dire machinations of my doom with tumultuous thunder crashing in the background.

Sakurai makes a note that should be common sense to just about everyone, things over the internet experience lag. This is probably the most honest I've ever heard a game developer when it comes to internet gaming. If you listen to comments from developers about Halo 3's online cooperative mode, or Unreal's fragfests you don't hear them saying "Well, we can't promise the same twitchfest action a LAN allows." There's no acknowledging the obvious with them, but Sakurai is humble enough to admit that his code is not some magic panacea for the ailments of the internet. There will be lag, it will suck on occasion, and a little electric rodent is going to defeat your brave swordsman handily because of it.

We'll see how this all pans out, but I would again recommend getting a Wii now even if you don't intend on using it for months. December 3rd they will be sold out, guaranteed.


Rant: Physics

Apparently, science is too hard for students in Britain. This exam is their answer.

For reference, page 34 of this pdf has some sample SAT physics questions. The exams in question are analogous to the SATs to an extent. They are taken around the same age, and serve many of the same purposes.

I am aware that not everyone has a knack for physics. I am aware that not everyone easily understands science. I am aware that some students are just really, really bad at studying. I am aware I don't know the UK's education systems well enough to be an authoritative commentator. However, I am not aware of any high school level physics exam that is a greater waste of time and resources that this.

Is science really that hard? Is there some magic to my brain that isn't present in others?

Call me elitist, but people who failed Physics should be able to score high marks on an exam like this. It's the biggest joke of an exam I've ever seen. If my child came home with this exam in high school I'd go ballistic. Fourth graders should know 90% of what's on that exam.

Maybe I'm delusional, maybe I've lost touch with how hard things really were back before college, but I'm beside myself in terror that this is what people are being tested against. I think I'd cry myself to sleep if my high schooler came home after being one of the apparent 55% who couldn't score an average level grade on this exam.

I'm going to have to guess that there are simply enough people like me in Britain that the statistic is skewed by people storming out of the examination room in disgust at the insult.


Prognostication: Princesses and Monkey Business

Double the fun in this post because I didn't particularly bother before.

Peach is in. She was in the "Sure Bets" category. I don't think there's much to say here, except I hope her final smash is a giant radish.

Diddy Kong looks like he'll actually be an interesting addition. I don't expect to see anyone else from the Donkey Kong zone, and I still only expect a total of two from the "Maybe" category. This means that Toad, Black Shadow, Wolf Link/Midna, Dark Samus, some character from Mother 3 and Star Wolf are all going to have to duke it out to see who is in the game. However, I'm officially downgrading Toad to "Iffy". Peach clearly can still use him as a shield; fighting him at the same time would be awkward.

The pace for character announcements has been about what I expected on average. There was a dry spell for a while, but we've been recently hit by a slightly greater number of characters. I'm personally still waiting for Luigi, I'll never get enough of the Green Missile.


Automatic Mario

There are at least eight of these for you Mario fans. The audio sometimes desyncs, but they're amazing. Who'd have thought someone would use Mario as a kinetic sculpture of sorts?



At 3:30 PM today my grandmother died. This picture is her with my brother, seven and a half years ago on her birthday.

I am eternally grateful to God that I had the opportunity to see her one last time when I vacationed back in Massachusetts several weeks ago. I became melancholy during my time in Japan almost two years ago when I realized that I might not see her alive again.

Callous is the person who, even preparing for the certain and coming death of a loved one, feels nothing at their passing. Though this day has been approaching for months and years, though I have said my final goodbyes and showered my dear grandmother with my love at every visit, though I have comfort in God I find upon my cheeks the caking salt of tears.

I despise the role of the eulogist, it is impossible. How can one possibly take the lifespan of one person and memorialize it properly? How can one distill the love, the person, the memories known and forgotten, the places and times, the world as it was and now is, the others who passed and have since come, the meals and gatherings, the lessons and mistakes, the heart and soul of any one person? It is a fool's task. Should it ever be asked of me, I will do little but stand at the podium and break down in tears. There is nothing else that befits the position.

Words, those tools that I have often plied with great precision and care, and other times with incredible inaccuracy and wanton abandon, completely fail their master. I could apply any number of adjectives, descriptors, stories and prose to attempt to capture the essence of who my grandmother was; I would certainly scrawl a miserable account that could not even begin to describe this woman.

For now I shall simply grieve.

Rant: Stuff

People have too much stuff. I submit the following as proof.

The white house on the right, the tiny one, is where my grandparents used to live. The house on the left is indicative of what has happened to all the other tiny houses in the area. The two door garage only looks like it's as big as my grandparents house, it's probably only almost as big.

I'll say it again, people have too much stuff. I will openly admit that for a number of families my grandparent's house would be a little uncomfortable. I'd recommend a house of my parent's size for 3+ children any day. For reference, here is said house.

Now, despite my mother's continued complaints about room for her books/art, her desire for a larger kitchen, and my dad's passive tolerance of his notably cramped office this house is quite nicely sized for a family such as ours. There were minor inconveniences to be sure, but there are minor inconveniences no matter what house you have.

There are situations where a large house is useful. Three generation families can definitely use large houses, as could a family with a sizable number of children. I'm not naive to the endless possibilities where such houses are not only justified but arguably necessary for comfortable living. However, even taking into consideration such situations there still should not be such demand for mansion-like houses.

From this, I can only conclude people have too much stuff. Right now I'm living in an apartment, and I have too much stuff. There is lots of stuff I have that I don't use, lots of stuff I used in the past but probably won't again, and there's room for more stuff that won't be necessary to my continued existence or happiness.

In short, consider your stuff. If you need a huge house for it all, you probably have too much of it.


Rant: Gnus

There's a reason I don't watch TV for news.

The cafeteria at work as some televisions showing the news, and every time I sit down to eat I become less impressed with the broadcast. Today really highlighted the problem.

There have been a number of interesting food and health product recalls lately, most involving China. On the news today, the anchorwoman boldly announces there has been yet another. Piquing my interesting, I listen to hear what has happened now that I should be aware of.

But first we'll cover some cross-dressing shoplifter, Britney Spears, and a guy who takes photos of teenage girls in thongs and latex while their parents watch!

The fundamental question: How is any of that crap or even Karl Rove's resignation more important than my health and well-being? Seriously, how can we call any news agency "responsible" if they blatantly refuse to inform me of something supposedly dangerous to my continued existence.

Imagine if you went into your doctor's office and during the examination there a brief moment of awkward silence signaling the obvious discovery of a ailment. The doctor speaks, "Well, that's possibly going to kill you." Afraid and curious you ask, "What is?" The doctor shakes his head, "First, lets measure your weight and height, and then we can talk about your children's Flintstones vitamins."

In the end it was just more toothpaste; a complete waste of time. I certainly didn't stick around for their latest spreading of fear, uncertainty, and doubt for any reason other than that I was still eating.

The news is supposed to relay information to us about what we should be paying attention to. We are supposed to be made aware of things we otherwise wouldn't be made aware of. We are supposed to be shown issues that are hard to keep track of. Instead, we get the kind of setup that out paces even an ADHD's short attention span. I didn't even get to read where a church shooting was before they'd moved on to the congestion at the LA international airport.

It's a bad day for journalism when people who can't even be bothered to type out "you" are more informative.

Prognostication: Pokeyman Championships


I have to admit here and now, I didn't see this coming at all. I had reasoned as followed.

1) Many, many people would love to beat the ever-living crap out of Ash or a look-alike.
2) Ash or a look-alike are both completely devoid of viable combat skills.
3) Therefore, Ash and/or a look-alike are not viable as fighters, although they'd make excellent shoe-in replacements for the home run bag.

Obviously, Nintendo thought differently.

Sadly, we will not be able to beat the ever-living crap out of the trainer himself, but only his pokemon. This is fine, so long as they don't use Ash's whiny voice. I will change the voice options to Japanese without blinking if I hear that horror upon horrors again.

In any case, it looks like we're going to see a lot of very unique fighters. Ridley's chances just shot up, in my opinion.


Fury of the Winds

Warning: Another World of Warcraft related post.

Blizzard has hotfixed the Windfury totem such that its effect no longer activates on 'yellow' damage save for 'On Next Swing' abilities. This has caused another uproar on the forums.

I made a thread defending the change, arguing that the totem was a crutch. All Melee DPS was depending on that one buff, and as such there was a single point of failure. Most Melee DPS classes arguably were overdependent upon the totem, and now can receive buffs to increase their individual capabilities.

I did acknowledge that no such buffs have been received, and that there are no details on buffs for the Warrior class which was the most dependent on it of all Melee DPS. However, I still happen to have faith that Blizzard knows what they're doing (this change is evidence in my mind).

My thread generated a rather large amount of interest/flames, and now sports 3 posts from a 'Blue'.

What is interesting is the utter hostility I received, although it isn't surprising. While there are many factors, I believe that in any situation where a mass of people are upset about something any dissenting view that they're overreacting will quickly be punished. The idea that anyone could be content with the horrific change is one to be eliminated immediately. Hence, I was on the receiving end of a fair amount of anger, ad hominems etc.

Personally, I'm excited about the possibility of buffs to offset this.


For the living!

Hellgate: London was recently announced to be launched on October 13st. Here I had thought I'd never look forward to Halloween again.

For the uninformed, Hellgate: London is a game being made by a group of ex-Blizzard employees largely responsible for the Diablo series, including the legendary Bill Roper. It's a game that looks quite capable of being all things to all people.

It can be played in third or first person perspective, you can pay to play like an MMO or just play for free minus a few spurious benefits. You can be a technophile, a holy warrior, or a demonic spellcaster (all cliches perhaps, but well crafted). The game looks good.

This is going to be a good fall. Halo 3, Brawl and Hellgate. I may just have to quit WoW.


Date an Ugly Person

You don't have a choice. Allpeople are ugly.

The standards that the media have concocted for what a woman or a man should look like are absolutely ridiculous. Don't abide by them, because there isn't a beautiful person alive if they are the measure.

So date an ugly, hideous and twisted visage of all that is right and natural*. You'll thanks yourself later.

On a side note, this site lead me to that link. Visiting is highly recommended. You might not agree with the man, you might not like him, but he's more than willing to talk about whatever subject with you on equal terms, so long as you aren't being a jerk. He'll make lots of fun of you if you're a jerk.

*according to cosmetics companies.



There's an interesting article from the bbc talking about why we play video games. I find the idea that we like video games because of the learning aspect fascinating, but that's not what I'll address here. Give the article a good read, it's short.

What struck me about the article was summarized very nicely by a quote from withing the article itself.

" And - here's the kicker - games aren't just boring, inconvenient, and over-priced. They're designed to make you feel like a failure.

There's a very good chance - a certainty in most games - that there will come a point where the game will beat you. Where you'll sit in your own house while a bit of software you paid big money for, and devoted hours to, calls you a loser."

That portion stood out to me. I immediately wondered when the last time she tried some new hobby was.

For those of you adept at [insert hobby/skill/talent here], it can be very hard to remember when things were difficult. That first G chord on the guitar was probably sour, bit into your fingers, and you probably took a minute or two to even get your fingers in the right place. The first time you fell off a bike probably wasn't 15 second after the first time you got on one. The first time you strung a sentence together your handwriting was likely unreadable, your grammar reminiscent of a Neanderthal, and your spelling resembling a typewriter's nightmare. In short, from the very beginning you were a loser (in the sense the article portrays one).

Perhaps video games are special in the wealth of learning they provide, but they are not unique in being repetitive or punishing. How much time must one spend "grinding" their guitar skill before that G chord is passable? How much more before you can even attempt to play those nifty music pieces that inspired you to try? How many pancakes or eggs must one cook before one's hands are no longer frequented by burns from skimming the heated metal pan? These things are incredibly time consuming, frustrating, and even cause direct physical harm. They, like video games, require a fair amount of repetition before one has "beaten" them.

That is my only real critique of the article. From here we could spiral into endless musings about the differences between video games and other hobbies, but I think I've made my point.

Prognostication: Missing Links

What's this? Another successful prognostication by yours truly? Indeed, once again I have correctly divined the future of Super Smash Brothers Brawl's roster of fighters.

But wait! This is blasphemy, this is madness! There has been no update to the official website that details such juicy information! Madness? This is a helpful URL to information from Eiji Aonuma!

That's right, Sheik and Ganondorf will be returning. There is nothing official as to any changes, drastic or simple, to the legendary villain's moveset. However, chances are we will see him more in tune with the recent Twilight Princess interpretation.

Now I really need to beat that game.

Lastly, in honor of an excited friend and my last successful prognostication, I end with the following image.


Rant: EA Sports

A lot of gamers often criticize their more casual, sports-oriented fellows for continually buying the regurgitated sports games every year. I've stated it before, but the mind of the pure geek doesn't understand the worth of the updated rosters, seeing them only as arbitrary math values, and only sees the lack of worthwhile other features.

I am not one of them, as I can understand the value. However, I despise these games for a completely different reason. Specifically, I think EA Sports is exploiting these gamers.

No, it isn't charging $60 for an updated roster that bothers me, it's the completely unprofessional quality level these games exhibit. Maybe it's because there isn't anything better out there, but the gamers who buy these games year by year are buying crap.

For example, the box covers. Look up an EA sports title and tell me you don't immediately notice that the production value is less than that of some fake video game someone made for giggles on the internet. The Logo is professional enough, if placed somewhat low, but the rest is absolute blah. Too cheap to actual hire their own photographers, they take stock photos of popular athletes and paste them awkwardly onto the packaging. It only gets worse from here.

The in-game main menus are frighteningly reminiscent of menus I saw on early 3D shareware games in the 90s. Random and poorly chosen pictures dominate the screen, changing with the menu option while not providing a shred of useful information. The menu options themselves are strangely ordered, small, unemphasized and poorly laid out. It makes one wonder if these people were asleep during the part of their classes teaching the absolute basics of GUI design. Has no one heard of visual noise?

The games themselves lack any sense of polish or finish. I know that they aren't arcade games, they are simulations. They are, by definition, attempting to bring as accurate a sports experience as possible home. EA Sports games do not accomplish this. The controls are clumsy, which certainly doesn't help, but there's more than that. Maybe this is "Hollywood Fencing" syndrome where they slow everything down for the benefit of the audience, but any football team that takes 3-4 seconds after the hike to actually collide with the other defenders is in serious trouble.

There are exceptions, I've seen a number of decent games from EA sports. But I am continually astounded by the horrible games that manage to not only be released, but sell well.

Gaming sports fans, do yourselvesa favor and ask for more. You deserve it, you're paying for it, and you're not getting it.


Prognostication: Ike

As an FYI, I'm good.

Ike was just announced as a playable character. If you'll recall, I called that just a few days ago. As an encore, I predict lots of whining from Marth and Roy players before they even know how he fights, with a mild bit of tempered commentary from people who are intelligent enough to wait and see.

Also, the lottery numbers will be 6, 32, 17, 63 and 4 with the bonus ball being 12.


Newcomer: Pong

I pay a lot of attention to Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and anyone else who pays as much attention as I do will probably have seen at one time or another a thread concerning a character someone wants to be in the game. These threads are incredible slugfests between fans who seem to think that allowing any other character than their favorite into Brawl will somehow jeopardize their favorite's chance.

Do I have news for them.

What follows is an overly thorough explanation as to who's in and who's out in Brawl.

There are two major attributes with two values that each character in Brawl may have. They can be a veteren or a newcomer, and be from a previously featured franchise or an unfeatured franchise. For the sake of this analysis we will start with featured franchises and extend them as far as seems feasible.

It is important to note that Sakurai Masahiro, the director of the game, has stated he is aiming for a roster 40 fighters strong, with 3 (hopefully) being third party.

Beginning with the obvious, we have the denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. Officially, we already have four of them confirmed, Mario, Yoshi, Bowser and Wario. Ignoring Dr. Mario as a clone, we have Luigi and Peach from past games who will very likely reappear. The question becomes, will anyone else new appear from this franchise?

The answer is "probably" but there's only one that comes to mind, Toad. Outside of him, the number of appealing candidates is very thin. The various basic Mario baddies would universally be long stretches, Waluigi has never been in his own game or featured his own moveset, and Wart's crew also doesn't have much room to expand upon. So, we turn up the following list for Mario:

Confirmed: Mario, Yoshi, Bowser, Wario
Sure Bets: Luigi, Peach
Maybe: Toad
Iffy: Waluigi

Moving on we reach Donkey Kong. He's been confirmed, but looking at his series he's the major star. It's possible they could expand his frachise's presence with Diddy and Daisy Kong, but beyond that everything's a stretch. I'd be surprised if they didn't do something to expand there, it's just a hard question of what. So, for Donkey Kong:

Confirmed: Donkey Kong
Maybe: Diddy Kong, Daisy Kong
Iffy: Cranky Kong

Next is Captain Falcon. He is all but confirmed for the game, as we've seen stages and items relating to him. Still, official is offical and for now he's only a Sure Bet. Expanding on his series, however, is somewhat confusing. The character many thought was an obvious shoe in, Samurai Goroh, turned into an assist trophy. Almost all of the other racers are completely forgettable, or at least not popular enough to make an appearance as a fighter. This only leaves the villains as likely candidates, Black Shadow and perhaps Deathborn, but it seems tenuous. So, for Captain Falcon:

Sure Bets: Captain Falcon
Maybe: Black Shadow
Iffy: Deathborn

We have now reached the Zelda series. Link and Zelda have already been confirmed. Ignoring Young Link as a clone, that leaves Sheik (Zelda's alterego) and Ganondorf (not ignored for his importance) as unconfirmed but extremely likely combatants. Ganondorf is, however, extremely likely to see a moveset remake. It is unlikely we will see him featuring moves that mirror Captain Falcon.

As far as expanding the Zelda series showing in Brawl, there aren't a lot of options availible. You could bring in Windwaker Link, but it would take a fair amount of work to differentiate him from Link. More likely might be a Wolf Link/Midna pairing, but even that is questionable. Chances are, we might not see much more from the Zelda series at all.

Confirmed: Link, Zelda
Sure Bets: Sheik, Ganondorf
Maybe: Wolf Link/Midna
Iffy: Windwaker Link

The Metroid series, for only having one character, doesn't have much room for expansion. Beyond Samus and Zero-Suit Samus, the only plausible options are Dark Samus (tough to not make a clone) and Ridley (a rather popular option). Motherbrain and Kraid are simply too big, immobile and uninteresting.

Confirmed: Samus, Zero-Suit Samus
Probable: Ridley
Maybe: Dark Samus

Kirby and his Dreamland, sadly, don't have much to offer either. Following Meta-Knight the only other consistant (and plausible) character is King Dedede. Still, we could have a good three from Kirby.

Confirmed: Kirby, Meta-Knight
Probable: King Dedede

I'll hit on a few series without any expansion possibility. Ice-Climbers and Mr. Game & Watch don't bring with them any possibility of expansion. However, in order to hit the 37 Nintendo characters we will likely see them returning.

Probable: Ice Climbers, Mr. Game & Watch

Now we reach Earthbound. Of all the series currently featured, this one has the highest growth potential. Beyond the possible additions of Jeff and Poo from Earthbound, there are more potential characters from it's Japan-Only sequel. Sadly, most of Paula's abilities were stolen by Ness, and I find it unlikely Ness will be revamped to allow room for her.

Sure Bets: Ness
Probable: Jeff, Poo
Maybe: Mother 3 Characters
Not Happening: Paula

Star Fox has some interesting possibilities. Beyond Fox being confirmed, Falco is popular enough of a character that he will likely return in some heavily modified form. In addition to those two, there have been a number of calls for Star Wolf to be playable, and a nigh torrent for Krystal. I find the latter more likely than the former.

Confirmed: Fox
Sure Bets: Krystal, Falco
Maybe: Wolf

500+ Pokemon, and I can't think of any that are obvious choices to be added to the game. Pikachu, Jigglypuff and Mewtwo all had significance in that they were critical characters in the anime series. I have long since stopped watching that series. If any new pokemon is to appear as a playable character, they are going to be related to the anime.

Confirmed: Pikachuu
Sure Bets: Jigglypuff, Mewtwo
Probable: Another Pokemon
Not Happening: Pichu

Lastly we reach Fire Emblem. To tell you straight, I don't expect either Marth or Roy to return. Roy is a clone, and Marth's series is both old and largely unknown in the US. Chances are we'll see Marth replaced by a nearly identical Ike, accompanied by characters from his recent entries into the series.

Sure Bets: Ike
Probable: Titania, Soren
Not Happening: Marth, Roy

Lets take a quick census here.

Confirmed: 13
Sure Bets: 10
Probable: 9
Maybe: 8
Iffy: 4

Gasp! What's going on? That's more than 37!

It is, and this means that not everyone seen here is going to make an appearance. We can expect at best one of the Iffy characters to be playable although that's very unlikely, we'll see one or two Maybe characters, most of the Probables, and if I have to tell you whether or not Sure Bets and Confirmed characters will be in or not you need more sleep. That means approximately 33 accounted for.

Who are the remaining 4? Good question. There could always be a few more from the Maybe category, but from frachises ot featured we could have some of the following:

Probable: Captain Olimar
Maybe: Something from Custom Robo
Iffy: Paper Mario

As for Third Parties

Confirmed: Solid Snake
Probable: Mega Man, Belmont, Arucard
Not Happening: Sonic

Yes, no Sonic. Mario and Sonic at the Olympics is a title lauded for being their first meeting in friendly competition. Having them meet in a violent brawl beforehand takes the wind out of the sails.

So there you have it. My predictions regarding Brawl. December 3rd can't come quickly enough.


Wii iz 4 fite!

There were a lot of good games on the Gamecube. Such incredible titles as Metroid Prime, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Pikmin, Eternal Darkness and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles graced the system. However, there was one game that dominates the console to this day:

Super Smash Brothers.

It's third iteration, Brawl, is on the way. If you are blissfully unaware, check out the official website. For someone long since used to Blizzard's style of information update (Read: You might learn something about the game after it comes out), this website is absolutely stunning. In fact, it puts the entire industry to shame.

Every weekday you get another tidbit of information. Usually it's something minor, like an in-game item or some previously announced character's moveset. Sometimes you get some neat new information, such as a new character. Today we got a 15 second teaser of actual gameplay footage, and the release date of the game!

Anyone planning on buying the game for Christmas should probably A) Reserve it at a local video game store as soon as possible and B) Start searching for a Wii now. The closer we come to the holidays the harder it is going to become to find one. This summer is probably the best time to look.

If you can't tell, I am very excited about this game. I am guaranteed to be reserving this tomorrow or Saturday, and I'm sure a lot of other enthusiastic gamers will as well. Quite simply, it's looking really sweet.

In other news, Mario Kart for the Wii comes out early next year. I don't remember if Brawl is online capable or not, but Mario Kart will be. Thus, if all my siblings are able to pick up a Wii, fun times will ensue!

You know you want to do it! Your future children/spouses will love you! Really!


E3 2007: Gut Reactions

I haven't actually watched any significant portion of the news conferences, the Sony conference isn't even over, but I thought I'd share with you my gut reactions about this year's E3.

Firstly, it's obviously very different. If you watched the conferences from previous years you'll note a significantly less active crowd. There are applause and cheers, but it feels unenthusiastic compared to the past. If it wasn't universal, you would think each of the big three gaming companies were in trouble.

Microsoft seems to be attempting to join the mini-games bandwagon with a Viva Pinata game of that flavor. Halo 3 looks absolutely awesome. Microsoft seems content to stay their course for the most part, while attempting to ramp up support for more casual gaming.

Nintendo annoyed a lot of hardcore gamers by focusing largely on casuals with their conference. Most of what was seen will be more of the family fun stuff like WiiSports and Wario Ware. There were tidbits for hardcore gamers (Mario Kart in the first months of 2008, Super Smash Bros Brawl on December 3rd 2007, online play and more), but it wasn't the focus of the show. Expect temper tantrums to continue before hardcore gamers realize that they aren't going to be the sole focus of gaming anymore.

Sony didn't impress me. The incoming games they've described show a lot of great ideas, and that's to their credit. They don't seem to have done anything extremely stupid this conference, so far anyway. However, I am going to level one severe criticism at them, namely the redesigned PSP. There are legitimate reasons for having done this, but the way they seem to have gone about it leads me to believe they are simply trying to duplicate the success of the DS Lite. As much as the DS redesign helped sleekify matters, I don't believe the already sleek PSP is going to benefit in the same way.

It's hard to know what to expect from the rest of E3. It'd be nice to get some news on Spore or Hellgate: London, but I'm not going to hold my breath as the layman is not the target of the new conference.


WoW: Raid Progress

Last night was an interesting, and fun, experience.

We delved into the wizard's tower and experienced our first "raid" as a guild. Several interesting things happened.

  • We were slaughtered by spectral steeds (they came from.... behind).

  • I died in the defense of the weak (twice).

  • I lived in the defense of the weak (more than twice).

  • The first boss was defeated at our hands, and there was much rejoicing (yay).

  • We were slaughtered by the ghosts of angry barmaids, masters of drunken martial arts (more times than we want to remember).

  • We were slaughtered by the wizard's butler (apparently he doesn't like unannounced guests).

  • After many hours of trial and error, we left the wizard's tower, swearing we would return and conquer it on the morrow.

Despite only a few of us having any experience with groups of this size, we did extremely well. Working with nine other people to defeat the dangers of the tower was a blast, especially when the unique traits I brought to the group were required. Though we largely failed to accomplish a whole lot, most groups are able to clear the whole tower in half the time we spent in there, it was a blast and an experience I'd love to repeat.

The only problem is that there are a limited number of players allowed inside, and we have more than that number eager to participate. Some people had to be left out, and I hate leaving people out. When the time comes I'll gladly serve my time outside of the wizard's tower, knowing that I'm letting someone else have the fun I had.

I'll continue updating as I participate in the guild's progression.