Of Hedgehogs and Plumbers

Ah, yesteryear. The whims and blissful ignorance of youth. An age when cotton candy was the best reason for going to a theme park, girls had cooties, and Mario and Sonic fought battles to the death in the minds of future geeks, nerds and dorks. Ah, nostalgia.

Theories were always flown express between the battle lines, detailing how and why Mario was better than Sonic, how Sonic was better than Mario, and occaisionally why Luigi or Tails was the more underappreciated sidekick.

Perhaps the news I bring is but the precursor to even greater news, but by the end of the year we can settle at least one question regarding the great video game rivalry of the early 90s. Who would have won the Olympics?

As the universe has not been torn asunder with great rifts in reality, I can only assume that this is a Good Thing (TM). Perhaps this game will finally brook understanding between our Red and Blue brothers and sisters. Or it will give us some measure of opportunity to finally put all those arguments to the test.

This announcement brings with it a great hush. Yes, this game will allow Mario and Sonic to compete. However, there is a greater competition which our eyes draw too. On the horizon is Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, and it promises third party characters to fight with and against. All of nerdom holds its breath, wondering if perhaps we shall soon hear of a greater, less amicable battle to be fought. One where blood shall flow, or at least percentage points.

It will be totally awesome if we see an announcement stating that Sonic will be in Brawl, and this seems ever more likely. Until that is confirmed or denied, we will have this as substitute for our desires to see the age old rivalry played out in violent arenas of destruction, doom, and d-pads.



Our dear chaps Wallace and Gromit are apparently spearheading a push for invention in Great Britain.

Were I a native, I'd suggest a new form of transportation. A hamsterball you would ride on top of powered by a robotic hamster fueled by giant sunflower seeds. I'd call it the Hamsportation 1200 LX, featuring Sunflower SEED AI.

Instantly Improved Vision

I have glasses now. It's nice being able to sit on the couch and be able to read the tiny text in my video games. It's also nice being able to read road signs before the point of no return.

It'll take time to get used to having glasses. I don't need to wear them all the time, but just the idea that I am now in the subcategory of nerd with the attribute "wears glasses" is weird.

Anime Glasses Cliches:

1. Pushing glasses up to the bridge of the nose while expounding some insight or intellectual tidbit or otherwise showing mental supiriority.
2. Glasses completely sheen with light indicating a menacing, silent anger and vengeful machinations.
3. A quick flash of light crosses glasses just before an attempt to do something incredibly epic, incredibly overblown, or incredibly likely to be followed up by a swift kick to the nuts by a hot female.
4. Spirals for lenses portraying the "Coke bottle" varietry of eyewear.


Hai, nihonjin desu. Usojanai!

This afternoon I'm going to be posing as a japanese person in order to download a demo of a game onto my Xbox 360.

It makes some sense to me that there might be reasons for restricting game demos to certain regions (e.g Super Japanese Game, Never Coming to America TM) but in the case of one which is being released in all of 4 days... I'm not so sure.

In any case, there's a demo of Armored Core 4 that's been availible to the japanese for a week now. I'm going to get my hands on it before I leave for Baltimore this Wednesday. In order to do this, I must accomplish the following.

1) Create a silver Xbox Live account using a japanese hotmail address.
2) ???
3) Profit.

The not-so-obscure reference aside, the workaround is pretty simple. Take step one, add downloading the demo. The only difficult part is filling in information that is passably japanese without giving out some random japanese person's phone number. I wonder what my old cell phone number was...


Mech it so

Shock, awe, excitement. It's time to endlessly distract my brother with tales of Armored Core 4.... almost.

I don't think I've ever had a game series I enjoyed thoroughly ambush me before, but Armored Core just did. I found out, by accident, that the latest game in the series will be coming out 3 days before my birthday. Needless to say I am entirely psyched, and at the same time disappointed because I'm flying to Baltimore the 21st to visit my sister. Why do they have to release it right when I'm leaving?

Some time ago it was to be a PS3 exclusive, but I was happy to find out that it will also be on the Xbox 360. The previews say that for the most part it's sticking to the good old formula, and in my mind that's all good. This game is probably the epitomy of a hardcore mech title. Piecing together death machines carefully from a wide array of parts, throwing in some weapons of mass destruction, and then wielding the power of your creations has always been highly appealing. This is despite that fact that my brother is my supirior in the design aspect.

So now I have 300 to look forward to in theatres on Friday, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on my birthday, and this sandwiched between.

March loves me.

PS3 Phone Home

This will be brief, I've already bombarded what readers I have with two monolothic rants in the past few days, and I can be reasonably terse about this.

Sony has announced Home, a service meant to simultaneously rival both Xbox Live and Nintendo's Mii Channel. It's an impressive tool, and almost a game unto itself. It has graphics reminiscent of the Sims or Second Life, and features minigames, scenery and other interesting tidbits. There'll be lots of opportunities for those "microtransactions" that the industry loves these days.

My biggest critique of the system is that it missed the point of both Live and the Mii Channel. The power of both is in simple elegance. It is not difficult to use Live, or to use and create Miis. They are designed to be easy and effective. In this way, they can appeal to casual gamers. Home is neither of this things, and seems to offer more complication than simplification. This will definately be great for already established gamers. They've basically been training themselves to be adaptable to new user interfaces starting from when they first played. It's the casual gamers and the non-gamers, the ones who will be increasingly important as the industry moves forward, who won't want to bother.

Is Home bad? Nah. However, it's innovating in the wrong direction.

Rant: Lumping

Rar rant time.

Lumping is a term in Physics used to decribe when one combines two objects which, for the purpose of the problem or experiment, can be considered one object. This is most commonly seen in situations involving friction, acceleration, and blocks sliding on slopes. The first Physics class I took in high school the teacher taught us how to properly employ lumping. It was a useful tool with two entirely critical points to remember.

1) Although lumped, the two objects are merely represented by one object.
2) Unlumping must take place when there comes a point where the two objects can no longer be treated as one.

These two fundamental points did not sink into much of the class properly, and some very, very bad Physics resulted. The teacher rued the day he attempted to teach lumping and struck it from our syllabus. He outright forbade its use from then on, swearing heavy penalties for its use. No matter how many times he's reiterated these points, too many students continually forgot them.

There is a very good reason I went into that nerdy Physics stuff, and that is because it is an excellent analogy for another form of lumping.

I really enjoy debate. Thinking about other people's positions, wrestling with what answers will or will not make sense, asking the tough questions, these and more are aspects of a good debate I enjoy. There are a vast number of fallacies, idiocies and downright crazy things people do in debates that turn them sour. Lumping is one of these.

Lumping is closely related to the flaw of generalizations. Generalizations always have exceptions, otherwise they would be rules. As a brief aside, a commonly cited paradox is the "all generalizations are false" generalization. I have come to the conclusion that this is not a generalization itself, but is in fact a rule. Rules do not have exceptions, otherwise it defeats the purpose of a rule (see Sherlock Holmes).

To return to the topic at hand, lumping is when a person putting forth and argument or point "lumps" a group of people together. This happens all the time, it would be hard to talk about "the American people" or "martial artists" without lumping. However, much like its Physics counterpart it requires two points to be kept constantly in memory.

1) While lumped, the numerous people are merely represented by the category or term.
2) Unlumping must take place when there comes a point where the numerous people can no longer be treated as one.

I recently participated in a debate over the blindness of faith. For reference, here is my response to the parent comment which began this saga. Someone had made the statement that "faith requires lack of reasoning". I responded with a correctionary statement that "blind faith requires a lack of reasoning". They responded in turn to say that "All faith is blind". I probably should have seen the warning signs immediately, but I didn't.

I proceeded to lay out arguments that there is a fundamental difference between faith that is oblivious, willfully or otherwise, of any contradictions, and faith that actively acknowledges these and wrestles with them. I've been working on my terseness, so I kept it simple and short (although I worked in a somewhat subtle reference to The Raven). I did not meet the expected outcome. The partner in this debate saw no difference between the two.

I then compared the latter type of faith to the scientific method, noting the parallels in hypothesis, in testing, and in observation. I specifically brought up how theories and hypothesis are labeled such because they aren't conclusively proven, meaning that on some level a step or leap of faith must be taken to believe their veracity. I probably shouldn't have wasted any more of his or my time after this point, as it should have been painfully obvious what was going on. He proceded to dispute the idea that there were any parallels between science and religion at all, declaring science's ability to "turn on a dime" and trumpeting the dogmatic practices of religion.

The specific instance that spawned my concious realization of his fallacy came in his final response, final because I stopped responding. Aside from demonstrating he wasn't informed on Cold Fusion, he also brought up how when the Shroud of Turin was carbon dated, "Religion" denied the acquired date stating "carbon dating is a sham". This was when I had my epiphany as to what was going on, one other than him being a zealous, dogmatic, and simultaneously ignorant scientismist. That's judgemental of me, and possibly unfair. I probably looked quite the zealous defender of "Religion" myself, except I wasn't the one who brought up God, religion, or the Shroud of Turin. I was arguing in entirely scientific terms until non-scientific ones were brought in, with the possible exclusion of "faith" itself.

In any case, my opposite in this quarrel demonstrated a remarkable talent for improper lumping.

He used the extremely broad term "Religion" when referring to the reaction to the Shroud of Turin's carbon dating. To my knowledge, the only affected religion was Christianity. I'm not aware of any Daoists, Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindi, Wiccans, or Muslims who raised an outcry about this. I'm pretty sure Scientologists were equally indifferent.

That was only the outer-most level of it, while there were certainly Christians raising a cry over the result it certainly wasn't all Christians. I'm fairly confident that large portions of the Church did not participate in the outcry, did not care, or even accepted that the Shroud of Turin might not really be what it was cracked up to be. I'd even wager that there wasn't a single major denomination which was completely unified in its response.

What we have here is a failure to unlump. The actions of a small fraction of "Religion" or "Christianity" are attributed to the whole when the representation no long holds. This would have gotten a big ZERO on those Physics tests.

Perhaps I have misjudged the person, but their tone and message seemed rather clear to me. They seemed condescending, selective in their evidence and facts, and lumped people and events into "Science" and "Religion" in ways that were fair to neither. I will not claim that my points or ideas were perfect. However, I do feel that my "grey" arguments collided headlong into "black and white" thinking.

I suppose I frequently post these altercations here for a second opinion. I want to know if I'm being mean-spirited, dogmatic, "black and white" or otherwise judging unfairly. When I'm arguing over the internet, this is the only accountability I have.



There was a recent entry of my sisters that sparked some interesting notions and ideas. In response to my comment, my sister linked the wikipedia entry for Serrano and an interview as well. My primary concern being his motivation and ideas, the wikipedia entry failed to help me much.

The first time I started reading the interview I literally closed the browser out after two sentences. Something fundamental about the man's attitude offended me, and I was entirely unable to even so much as look at the interview without the feeling resurging. It was an unnerving experience, though a silent one. An apt term might be that I mentally retched, not at the man himself but at the ideas he put forth.

The following is my nitpicky response to him. He may never read it, but it is necessary to rest my soul and to avoid a disservice to the man by not properly ingesting his words. On some level I may still be unfair to him as I will only cite sentences and small phrases, but it is still the entire context of what we are given in the interview on which I am basing my assumptions and statements.

"As a former Catholic, and as someone who even today is not opposed to being called a Christian, I felt I had every right to use the symbols of the Church and resented being told not to." - Serrano

I can understand the resentment he might feel, but it does not appear to me he understands the resentment others feel. This is exemplified in his use of the word "right". In his view it is an intrinsic right for all who are or have been Christians to use the symbols of the Church. I completely disagree on this point. The use of any symbol, the taking of any artistic license, is a privilage. It is a privilage protected by the right of free speech, but it is based on the good will and faith of the people. It was perfectly legitimate for him to use the symbols, but that does not make it a "right". His having been Catholic does not grant him any additional privilage or right over a Muslim, an Atheist or a Wiccan in using Christian symbols. Better insight, a relevant point of view perhaps. A greater likelihood to be taken to Christian discussions and forums perhaps. But no intrinsic right or advantage over his fellow man.

More importantly, having been Christian he should have known the importance of Christian symbols. These symbols do not belong to Christians but to God and Christ. We are caretakers and nothing more, and it is our witness and use of these symbols that are evaluated by the people around us and by God. They are not things to be taken lightly or passively akin to a company logo. They are sacred.

It was entirely possible in my mind that Piss Christ was a work whose intent was purely good, and whose message was obscured by the medium. Thus far, there is a taint of arrogance which sullies the purity of his labors. As he has stated thus far, this was merely formed from "obsession" rather than any endearing message. Perhaps I judge too quickly.

"I like to believe that rather than destroy icons, I make new ones." - Serrano

The issue at stake isn't the destruction of icons, it is the marring of symbols, it is the issue of harm, and it is the necessity of new icons. Is harming the imagery of the cross and other important symbols in Christianity worth the creation of new icons? Are these new icons necessary? What is the purpose of these new icons? I have not found an explanation of Serrano of the Piss Christ or any specific work, and that vexes me. Perhaps it is my computer-oriented mind enjoying definitions, perhaps not. In any case, I dislike the artistic tendency to obfuscate intended meaning. As a poet and writer, I find that the explicit statement of intended meaning does not prevent the stimulating exercise of finding alternative interpretations. He says that he is at least attempting to create new icons, something sacred, but his method is inherently sacrilegious. I feel as though he has not considered the harm his work may cause to the symbols he obsesses over, and to the people for whom those symbols are important.

"I am just an artist. That is the way that it should be." - Serrano

At least on this point I can agree. I have never believed that ethnicity should somehow be tied into profession as though it enhances it somehow. Different ethnicities and cultures may have tendencies, but merit alone should suffice. Michael Jordon is a basketball player, being black isn't important. Bill Gates was CEO of Microsoft, being white isn't important. Serrano is an artist.

Much of the later interview does not deal directly with what bothered me, and is also largely boring. One graceful moment is where Serrano acknoledges that the controversy forced him to connect with people and become less anti-social, that the whole tihng confused him and hurt him, and that it caused him grief.

I'm going to conclude that Serrano meant well with his work, but was ignorant of the consequences thereof. Refusing until that point to connect with people, he failed to understand that his work might be viewed in a radically different light than his own. I don't believe it was his intent to begin a controversy. However, the consequences of his actions are still his. He is imperfect, as I am, and will always be. He must deal both with what harm he has caused and what help he has given.

Despite my favorable evaluation of the man, I must express my dislike for much of his work. Though growing in connection with people, much of his art causes upset without direction for reconciliation. His ideas are interesting, but in action he does himself little justice. In closing, his photography of the KKK and homeless people intrigues me and gives me hope that more of his work will touch on sensitive subjects without drawing out conflict, but rather creates a small gnawing of discomfort that prefaces social change.


Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring...

... banana phone!

For some time now, I have wished to imbue my nifty cell phone with nerdy and silly ring tones. To this end I scoured the internet attempting to find some method by which my extreme geekiness might be profoundly adapted to my portable communications device. At ever turn I was thwarted by inane policies, monthly subscription fees, and abominations pretending to be faithful renditions of 8-bit classics.

I had all but given up.

Last night I had an epiphany. I encountered a service that sent video game mp3s to your phone, for some stupid price again. However, the transparent nature of what was occuring lead me to conclude one thing, all I had to do was find a way to send an mp3 to my phone. Finding the mp3s that I desired would be no issue, I have such things in great numbers. All I needed was the delivery.

Eureka moment in hand, I immediately found a website which would send my mp3s to my phone at no cost. This tool is so freaking awesome.

It not only works with mp3s, but just about any other commonly used sound file format (such as ogg/vorbis). You can select the starting second, the duration (between 5 and 40 seconds) and more. It has a comprehensive list of all phone models and carriers, and simply is amazing. The only thing it asks is patience, as it cna take up to 72 minutes to send.

You can donate if you like, and doing so allots you some credits you can use to speed up the time it takes to send the files. I'm planning on donating a lot.

Why this altruism? Because quite simply it's the first site with a sane setup for dealing with ringtones, and also the most liberating of any. Every other website was charging some ungodly price for a midi file of the Super Mario Bros theme written by some failing music student who'd obviously ignored video games up until someone paid them $5 to massacre a tune. Some services even required you to start paying before you could even browse to see if they had anything remotely interesting. The whole ringtone thing is the most sinister plot to rob us of money in recent times.

This website lets me take MY mp3s and put them on MY phone! THIS SHOULDN'T BE SO DIFFICULT A CONCEPT. Why is it that so many companies want to make it hard for people to do what they want? It's simply baffling. That I have found a service that enables me to do the simple, obvious thing for no cost only lends credence to the idea that these other sites are the ringtone equivalent of those fake ebay and paypal e-mails. There is absolutely no intent but robbery.

Without further ado, here is the link to the website. I've already tested it and found it worthy. All that remains is to have my phone blurt out "OHNOESITSYOURBROTHERANDHEISCALLINGYOUQUICKPICKUPTHEPHONE