Best Purchase Ever

Sunday: The temperature is 80 degrees and I'm at REI. Some random neuron firing made me think it would be a good idea to see if they had any fingerless gloves. I left with a very economical pair feeling successful.

Monday: The temperature is 20 degrees (and dropping). My car is coated in ice as I leave work, I don't have an ice scraper so I have to defrost my windows by heating up the car. I make it home half an hour later and sit down at my computer. My hands are cold.

Best purchase ever. I love these gloves. I need an ice scraper.


8-Bit Jesus

My Dad will roll his eyes, but I think this is awesome.

Taking class Christmas carols, songs, and hymns and remixing them isn't exactly new. Taking songs and making 8-bit chiptune versions of them isn't new either.

8-bit Jesus not only combines these two concepts, but also the style of specific NES companies and franchises. There's We Three Kings as a Konami track, Super Mario Bros' version of Jingle Bells and the ever-peaceful Stille Nacht as a Mega Man theme.

I'm in retro-holiday awe and bliss.


Wrath of the Lich King: Leveling and Lore

Three steps away from the level cap, I am astounded.

Looking back on all the questing I have done I realize now that Blizzard has held true to their promises. They wanted story to be a big focus this expansion and by golly they threw the whole nine yards into it. It's wonderful.

The Burning Crusade was, and remains, Blizzard's huge gameplay fix. For the most part they tore up the foundations of the game in order to rebuild it all better. The job they did was superb and the expansion reflected that. Burning Crusade was built to test the new gameplay mechanics, to require the playerbase to learn them, understand them and love them. For those who could it was awesome.

For everyone else, or those who were tied down by everyone else, the expansion was half-baked. Blizzard's big mistake was assuming that all players, or at least most of them, would eventually come around and learn the esoteric intricacies of their carefully designed game. They found out the hard way that this was just as huge a barrier to entry as the required overhead of organizing forty people. Huge swaths of content were left undiscovered by the vast majority of the population because they could not, or would not, min/max to the extreme levels required.

On top of that, there really wasn't a cohesive story to Outland. It was steeped in history, brimming with interesting peoples, and had many memorable bosses. However, none of it really held together. The Burning Legion opens up the Dark Portal, forcing the Horde and Alliance to work together and push them back. Upon doing so they... wander around a marsh, help some ogres, relive Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, fight alongside mana sheiks, scale Medivh's tower back in Azeroth and generally fail to encounter any centralized threat from the Burning Legion. Oh, and Illidan dies somewhere in there.

Wrath of the Lich King is quite the opposite. Upon landing in Northrend you're surrounded by Scourge forces. While there are quests along the way which divert from battling them, everywhere you go the touch of Arthas can be seen and felt. The quest text that was occasionally interesting but mostly ignored in the Burning Crusade carries far more character and depth. With the simplification of many game mechanics the whole thing is in some ways an about face from the Burning Crusade.

I am only now nearing the completion of the third of nine zones (ten if you count Wintergrasp). It is likely I'll only have completed four before I hit the level cap, but I intend on completing them all. Meanwhile my Death Knight languishes.


Teatime Philosophy

From the BBC.

1. Should we kill healthy people for their organs?

At first the situations presented seem to build a clear set of dilemmas. If we're willing to run over the one person over the five, why would we hestitate to gun down one of our to save the others. If we're willing to do that, why hestitate to kill a person for their organs? The questions are disturbing not because the situations are analogous, but because it isn't immediately obvious why they are not.

The key attribute of the train situation is the powerlessness of the driver. Their only ability is to change which track the train travels, anything else is impossible. Nothing short of a miracle can change the fact that someone will be run over. In such a situation there is no recourse but to accept that someone must die, and the obvious choice that the fewer dead the better.

The kidnapper situation is starkly different. Despite being simply explained, the same hopelessness is not present. You, tasked to shoot one of the other hostages, have far greater command over the situation than in the case of the train. The gun you are given, and your own innate abilities, afford far more power than the hopeless driver of the train. It's dishonest to limit the question to the dichotomy of choosing one of the hostages or all of them, because there are more choices than two, however limited or ill-advised those options may be.

So when thinking about the situation with the patients, neither of the other hypotheticals are particularly helpful as they only serve to oversimplify the situation. It overlooks the potential for organ donors, the existence of other people outside of Bill, and the desires of the patients themselves. In short, the proper answer is that while Bill may have the right to sacrifice himself so that others may live, we do not have the right to sacrifice him. Rather, we should ask "Should all capable individuals be organ donors?"

2. Are you the same person who started started reading this article?

The answer is, simply put, yes. I am the same person, but I am not the same.

The question seeks to dive into the muddy and ever confusing realm of the self. Is a car taken apart and put back together the same car? What if you take two cars apart, and put them back together mixing the parts perfectly evenly, do you have the old cars or two new cars? These kinds of questions always arise, and for someone such as I must be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Starting backwards, the situation incorrectly assumes an absolute uniqueness of the self. It isn't just that one person cannot be in two places at once, but that two identical minds can not exist at the same time without being the same person. It's the second, implicit assumption that is at fault. One person can not be in two places at once, therefore two identical minds in two different places can not be one person.

What's important is to realize that while the two minds are theoretically identical, the instant either person awakes that is no longer the case. They see a different room through different eyes, and interact with different people creating different memories. While everything before a certain point is shared, they cease to be identical.

So we have two different people originating from one. This creates something of a conundrum, which of the two people is now "you"? Does it make a difference whether the original "source" was destroyed? It is undeniable that both people will wake up from the operation remembering what happened before it, their mother's gentle smile, and that they forgot an important meeting. Which leads us to the following puzzling conclusion.

Both people are the same person as the "you" before the operation, but are not the same person as each other. If we are unable to accept the importance of this kind of continuity of the self, then we much accept the article conclusion that the you from moment to moment is a completely separate entity bound to the others only by circumstance. I can not accept that conclusion simply because the circumstances themselves are continuity, and treating them as anything else is dishonest.

3. Is that really a computer screen in front of you?

Tongue in cheek: No! I printed out the article. HAH SUCKERS!

More seriously, my senses tell me that it is so. I can see the monitor, feel the monitor, hear the monitor, taste the monitor and even smell the monitor.

Note immediately that there are five senses corroborating the existence of the monitor. It is dishonest of the article to so haphazardly compare five senses working in harmony to one barometer. It acts as though the only method of verification we have is sight, which is somewhat discriminatory to a certain blind Republican I know who wrote lengthy (and hard to read) emails and browsed web pages.

One could attempt to argue it's irrelevant how many senses we have because they are all processed by the same brain and thus independant verification remains impossible. This is true, except that I can ask other people if the computer monitor is in front of me. They can verify its existance. At which point you question whether there are actually other people, and so it goes on until all of reality is untangled into a mess on the floor.

This question is a carefully disguised version of the age old quest for proof of reality. As I believe no one has yet found adequate proof of reality's existance, I'll ask the person who is posing the question to first prove reality exists. Until they have, I won't waste my time on people who don't exist.

4. Did you really choose to read this article?

I've actually answered this many times before, and the answer is yes. Being able to predict or know beforehand that someone will do something doesn't mean that the person had no choice, or was unable to choose. This isn't necessarily intuitive to Western thinking, but it's my viewpoint on the subject (and one that I'm not inclined to rehash again for the sake of this question).

Yay Philosphy.


Wrath of the Lich King: Death Knights and Dungeons

I haven't had much chance to progress much farther through Northrend, partly because of real life fun and obligations and partly because playing a Death Knight with my brother is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'll start there.

The Death Knight starting area is amazing. The first half hour we played was spent running around Acherus reading all the books and scrolls lying around. Some were humorous, some were informative, and some were dripping with the juicy lore and story that I love so much. The quests that followed were very story driven, interesting and fun. The slow and careful pacing of talent points also alleviated the possibility of being overwhelmed. The "Phasing Technology" which sounded very much like hype actually lives up to the press. While I can't see it being universally applicable, it truly makes the Death Knight starting area one of the best experiences in the game. Even if you're perfectly happy with your current class of choice, you owe it to yourself to run through the Death Knight starting area at least once.

Some highlights include receiving quests from raid bosses straight out of Naxxramas, the haunting whispers of the Lich King urging you to destroy everything, the incredible voice actors behind Darion Mograine and Tirion Fordring, and more.

Outland is now overrun with Death Knights. We know this because it's impossible to go anywhere in Hellfire Peninsula without standing knee deep in them. My brother and I were a part of Ramparts group starring almost exclusively Death Knights (one Warrior tagged along) that would have functioned better if we weren't the only competent members of the group. It was still fun, but also pretty psychotic (I can't count the number of times that if it wasn't for the direct actions of my brother and I, the group would not have succeeded).

So in short, Death Knights are extremely fun, particularly when played with your sibling.

I did manage to do some grouping for instances in Northrend, both Utgarde Keep and the Nexus. There were many complaints that the Burning Crusade's instance design was uninspired, linear, and largely boring. I don't think we'll find such problems in Northrend.

Utgarde Keep is linear, but it is also awesome. The trash isn't interminable or uninteresting, the instance itself is rustic yet engaging in style, and the bosses are non-trivial. The last boss in particular was incredibly fun. I can't think of another boss where the tank was required to flee periodically or face certain death.

The Nexus was stunningly beautiful, it is also the first instance I've encountered where the very first mob you see is the last boss. There are three interlinked paths to take each leading to a boss which, when defeated, will release a lock allowing combat with the final boss. The trash in this instance is also perfectly proportioned and interesting. One path involves unkillable flowers that will continue to pester you until the boss is conquered. The last boss is a huge challenge, sporting a debuff that requires you to move constantly or freeze to death. We wiped several times before mastering the fight.

One notable difference between the two runs was that I respecced away from putting my spare points in Protection to throwing them in Arms. This meant I lost Improved Thunderclap, which I noticed immediately upon multi-mob pulls in the Nexus. It wasn't terribly difficult, but it was noticeably harder to keep mobs attentive to the meat shield rather then my squishier comrades.

I'm really looking forward to the level 80 instances and whatever else I encounter along the way. Alas, more familial obligations and important events are looking to continue to keep me away from the frozen realms of Northrend. My virtual snow fix must wait.


Wrath of the Lich King: Initial Impression

This will be short, since I need to be asleep an hour ago.

1. Leveling is slow. It probably feels this way because I'm now adjusted to the mondo crazy leveling from 1-70, but it definitely feels sluggish. In a way, this is a good thing as it means I'll be able to savor everything better. At the same time, looking at my 6 other 70s and my Death Knight makes me wonder how long that joy will last.

2. It's subdued. Hellfire Peninsula was very much in your face at first, with such an alien landscape as to really draw your attention everywhere to its sharp contrasts. The Howling Fjord is far less brazen, feeling very much like just another zone in Azeroth. This is also, in some ways, a good thing though I'm disappointed that I'm thus far unable to capture the innocence I longed for.

3. The quests are very well designed such that it's easy to complete them even with competition.

All in all so far so good. I'm still waiting for that tingling awe moment, I wonder if I've simply become to good/calculated when it comes to the game.






I just deleted over 4000 emails from my email address.

I'll bet Dad's mail server feels like a hiker after taking off their pack.


How to Fail Christianity

In one easy step: Pray to the bull statue on Wall Street for money.


This kind of Fail should have been obvious. Even those who learned everything they needed to know about Christianity from watching Charleston Heston in Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments would know better than this. You could ask any agnostic, atheist, muslim, wiccan, or anyone on the street really whether this was in line with Christian teachings, and they'd all pass the test with flying colors.

I could only be more shocked if my Dad failed basic arithmetic.

While we're talking about Christians missing the point, here's another easy way to fail Christianity.


We have what is one of Christianity's most holy sites, and the six groups responsible for its keeping are too busy squabbling over it to fix the roof, build a fire exit or even take down a ladder.

Interactions between people are never simple, and interactions between six different groups are surely extremely complicated, particularly over something so important. However, one would hope and expect that Christians, of all people, would be able to practice the words of their namesake and get around normal human fallacies and work together. Alas.

At this point I wonder if it wouldn't be better if the whole thing collapsed (though the endless recriminations resulting from that would be unhelpful).


I Must Be Crazy!

Spammers have resorted to a new tactic, trying to convince your that you're crazy.

I just got an email from myself telling me to sign up for exclusive offers. What other madness occurs while I'm comatose?


The Wonder of His Work

I imagine I would have been dreaming this had I spent my election evening playing Mario to pass the time.


At the End of the Tour

Last night Obama secured his place as the 44th President of the United States of America. For twenty-two months I have followed his campaign with ever increasing vigor and intensity. For almost as long as I've lived in Texas this election has been at the center of my attention. It is over, and yet everything is just now beginning.

As I remember this election the chain of memories flows back years ago when my mother first uttered the name Barack Obama. She was reading, if I recall correctly, Obama's book Dreams my Father and said in her direct no-nonsense style "he makes a lot of sense, I'd like to see him run for President someday". I was in high school at the time, blissfully ignorant of politics, but the conversation we had that day stuck with me for reasons I couldn't possibly have understood at the time. My mother talked of how he represented a new generation of politicians, and how all the "old farts" in the system now needed to move aside. We needed people with a new perspective, young people who understood the new age and the generations that with which it would come. My mother's uncanny insight is now almost prophecy.

Barack Obama gave his speech announcing candidacy for the Democratic nomination nearly a decade later. By coincidence I turned my radio on as I drove to work and caught snippets. With just the fleeting glance the program provided I was overwhelmed by the ideals and goals it presented. Moments before I had given politics a disinterested and disaffected cold shoulder, but despite my cynicism I quickly pulled up the entire speech at work and listened with rapt attention as this candidate, now my candidate, made his first case. The resonance I felt was strong enough to break crystal.

It wasn't until much later that I made the connection. By then he had already won Iowa, lost New Hampshire, and recieved my first $25 donation. In viewing for the first time his famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National convention I remembered my mother's words and hope that he or someone like him would ascend into and transcend our politics. Even as the other candidates began to disappoint, both practically and in timbre, Obama continually defied my cynical eye I developed from being sandwiched between my adamanty republic college roomates and my sister's passionately democratic circle of close friends. In situations where another politicians would weasel their way around giving a definitive answer, Obama stood his ground and staked a claim. He gave clear, if non-Manichean, answers to the issues of Abortion, gay marriage and race. Each passing week reinforced my feeling that he was a democrat because of his positions, rather than holding those positions because he was a democrat. "Messianic" was used to describe him, an image that has a certain appeal in these troubling times.

His messianic purity is, of course, a myth. Obama would eventually disappoint me in how his campaign spun the various metrics used to measure success in the primaries, and his less than honest excuses for backing out of public financing. The former became moot eventually, though I really wish he'd simply said, "I'm backing out of public financing because I feel it best allows me to compete with the republican financial machine" in regards to the latter. These sins I have forgiven, though I will certainly pounce upon him should he fall short again. Still, two black marks in twenty-two months is an almost unreachable bar for politicians, it was uplifting to find one who could clear it.

And so, hundreds of gaffes, stump speechs, sound bites, polls and policies later we've come to the end. It's ephemereal and unbelievable, but the election is over. I don't have to mention John McCain, save for if he truly goes maverick and decides to thwart any Republican attempt at a filibuster. I don't have to read polls, demographic turnouts, projects and pundit analyses. The paradigm of these last years is over, and I am left in bewilderment.

In a way it's back to square one. In the past I paid as little attention to what happens after an election as I did to what happens before. Just as watching the primaries with intent was a new experience for me, so too is this period of transition. Yet for the time being a quiet elation wells within me as I think about how my support played a role in this outcome.

I pose a final question, one I think is entirely pertinent: Why does Kenya get to have a day of celebration and we don't?


In one moment...

In one moment I felt
the sound of the word
an echo from unknown waters


It's not just a right, it's a responsibility.


All I Want for Christmas

I have my two front teeth, but I don't have:

1) An Electric Razor. Mom's complaining I don't shave enough, my poor, bloody face is trembling at the thought of more than once weekly massacres.

2) Sony Vegas. It's $200, so I'll accept minor donations in lieu of the full package.

3) A Guitar. Low Priority, High Price. Not advisable, but I thought I'd throw that out there.

4) A Gamer Chick. Resumes accepted but direct interviews preferred.

5) An Obama Presidency plzkthx.

6) A Monkey Music Mix. This is a specialty job that only one couple I know can perform.

7) Music CDs. Classical, Techno, and anything you think is awesome is welcome.

8) Nerdy T-Shirts always accepted. Nice shirts and ties also a good idea.

9) Prayers that I actually get Christmas week off.



The following may seem like an odd statement to begin a dissection of the reactions to Barack Obama's informercial/documentary from last night, but I assure you it's pertinent.

My mom loves science fiction.

I can remember tiptoeing through her office and staring in bewilderment at the vast assortment of books my mom kept there. From high fantasy to christian literature, biographies to mysteries, textbooks to historical novels my mom's voracious appetite for reading was enshrined on the walls and bookshelves of her ever-cluttered workspace.

At center stage in the impressive array of culture were the science fiction novels and VHSs of old tv shows. Doctor Who and Star Trek stood proudly alongside such works as Earthmen and Strangers or I, Robot. Of all of the seemingly infinite possibilities contained in the books and visual media the room represented, these held the greatest of mysteries.

One such mystery is that of the alien, the "other", the incomprehensible. In contrast to the Manichean settings of fantasy or the psychological obsession of detective cases, science fiction often delves into the uncomfortable realm of the unorthogonal. Human protagonists deal with creatures that have as many dissimilarities with our often ill-fated stand-ins as they do human characteristics.

It is in this mode of thought where we first experience the horrific idea of the alien culture and thought process. Many of the stories I found in my mother's treasure trove told of spacemen who were so unlike us that "culture shock" could not begin to describe the situation. Aliens who not only perceive the universe in a different way, but whose basic fundamental processes of thought are completely incompatible with our own reason and logic. It's not that they're irrational, it's that their definition, were there one, of rationality is completely foreign and beyond our ability to translate.

How does one begin to communicate with a race whose culture is based on, from our perspective, completely illogical and unreasonable tenets? Where does one begin when not only the basic assumptions that allow us to communicate are blown away, but the very concept of communication is something completely different to those on the other end? It's a challenge that many protagonists and ill-fated adventurers have accepted, their efforts the thrilling narrative of the novels I so enjoyed.

Which brings us back to politics. *rimshot*

Joking aside, there's a certain objectivity, self-awareness and rationality one expects from responses to something as important as Barack Obama's half hour infomercial. Whether your response is adulatory or vehemently opposed there is an underlying assumption that while one's gut instincts play into it so too does one's reason.

With that mindset, take a look at the following reaction from Craig Shirley:

On the Barackumentary: After watching The One last night, I weepingly came to the conclusion that our country should change the national pastime from baseball to breastfeeding. Let's all hold hands and sing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," and have a national group encounter session where we can share our pain with The One.

I'm sure if I confess to being a white straight conservative male and thus by definition evil, we can start a national dialogue to help me see the error of my ways. If I try really, really hard and get in touch with my inner child that is.


Putting aside the ambiguity that this could just as easily be discussing the conclusion to the Matrix Trilogy, I must ask one question: "lolwut"

"Irrational" completely fails to describe this succinct diatribe. Rather than engage the infomercial on any intelligible level, he defaults to burning the most sissified strawman in history. Maybe the low price of gasoline was too great an opportunity to miss.

The web of assumptions, condescending notions and obsolete stereotypes is so thick and tangled that I can't even begin to unravel it. Where exactly did breastfeeding come, what does it have to do with baseball, and how did Obama inspire that completely irrelevant point (if there was one)?

Who is Craig Shirley? He is the alien, the other, the incomprehensible being. Our fundamental assumptions, even the concept of an assumption, can not be used to outline or fathom the processes by which this man functions. At best, we can figure out that putting anything remotely liberal in front of him will result in an odd collection of unrelated nonsense spewing out of his mouth.

Unlike the heroes of science fiction we don't have the driving force of narrative by which we can make slow progress. As we encounter these people we can only hope and pray that some potential bridge can be found or built. In the meantime, we must watch in awe and fear as people such as Shirley attempt to dictate the politics of the future.

It would be easier to ignore the existence of these aliens in our midst, but unfortunately they are here to stay, and they will have children who will think like them. The longer we wait in trying to break through to them the more of them there will be and the harder it will be to succeed. Hopefully whoever is president can fix the education system enough to facilitate the process at a young age.


In Sync

Hoorah for "debates".


Rant: A House Divided

You've seen it on the news, in the papers, across the internet and from the podium. Apparently John Edwards was only half right in talking about the "two Americas". There are two Americas divided by reality, not the poverty lines of Edwards' mantra.

According to Sarah Palin, Nancy Pfotenhauer and Michelle Bachmann America is divided into the Pro or "real" America and the Anti or "fake" America. If you're curious as to what exactly they said Jon Stewart can elaborate, though not without a few explicitives.

I am utterly beside myself in awe. It is beyond my understanding, my comprehension, my basic faith in the fundamental goodness imbued in us by God's own image that these kinds of sentiments can exist. Sparta? This is madness!

That precipitous insanity is the single most disturbing milestone of this election. The unruly and isolated extremists making a name for themselves at McCain rallies and on YouTube were stomach turning, Revered Wright was troubling, but this is above and beyond all other competitors. Unless McCain calls for his loyal supporters to rise up as an army against socialism, to bear their arms and strike out against the demonic liberals seeking to corrupt their nation, nothing can possibly dethrone this critical failure in rational thought.

There is no rational thought process to find here, no workable logic by which one can disqualify the very city that has defined America for decades. This crass and banal division of America is an unconscionable attack on the "other". "America" is now a buzzword for neoconservatives, not a country. Do not mistake their fervor for nationalism. What we see is entirely, and completely, about a national clique in its death throes.

The Republicans have an important choice, either toss the extremists off the ship or let the whole thing sink. It's a difficult choice because extremists are almost always activists, and activists are extremely important to running campaigns. Ceding such a significant amount of power is a painful suggestion, but it's the right thing to do. Ultimately, it's the best thing to do as anything else gravely risks complete self destruction.

Whatever happens, I'm still shocked and discouraged that these sentiments have been so boldly and carelessly thrown onto the airwaves by such important people. We have already eroded our foreign relations, must our internal ones suffer as well?


Non-Euclidean Logic

My father will quickly tell me that I'm abusing the notion of "non-euclidean", but that's currently how the following thought process looks to me. Quoth Rick Davis:

"Look, John McCain has told us a long time ago before this campaign ever got started, back in May, I think, that from his perspective, he was not going to have his campaign actively involved in using Jeremiah Wright as a wedge in this campaign.

Now since then, I must say, when Congressman Lewis calls John McCain and Sarah Palin and his entire group of supporters, fifty million people strong around this country, that we're all racists and we should be compared to George Wallace and the kind of horrible segregation and evil and horrible politics that was played at that time, you know, that you've got to rethink all these things. And so I think we're in the process of looking at how we're going to close this campaign. We've got 19 days, and we're taking serious all these issues."

The thought process displayed here is incredibly difficult to follow. In fact, it very much reminds me of the proofs I used to display to my father back when he was my math teacher. I jumped to conclusions spuriously based on misconceptions of the various laws I thought I was following, the results being obviously bad. I have to thank my Dad for the meticulousness he required; I'd be less aware of the egregious conclusion leaping without that standard.

We begin with two bad assumptions.

The first bad assumption is that Congressman Lewis' statements apply to all of McCain's supporters. The remarks the Congressman made are so clearly directed at McCain and Palin that there is little else to say. The leap here is equivalent to McCain's campaign self-righteously decrying the New York Times' recent report on his health as suggesting his fifty million supporters are all old.

The second bad assumption that Lewis is calling McCain and Palin racists. Lewis did not accuse them of being racist but of stoking the fires thereof. One does not have to be a racist to incite a racist to violence. It remains a strong and perhaps repugnant claim, but a different one nonetheless.

These two assumptions are but the first two steps in a triple jump of ludicrous proportions. Calling fifty million people racist is far more sensational than telling two people they're inciting racism. It's a lot harder to have a righteous tirade about the latter. Despite the factual nonsense, these statements lay the foundation for the third and final leap.

This last jump to the conclusion holds that because Lewis called McCain, Palin and fifty million supporters racists the door is now open to bring Reverend Wright back onto the stage. If this were the Olympics we'd be setting a world record. This is a non sequitur, or at least should be. It assumes that it is okay to return tit for tat, an eye for an eye, and end this election in a bloody fist fight to the finish. Somehow it's completely deplorable that Lewis has done this, but it won't be equally detestable to do the same in return.

Ridiculous doesn't begin to explain this logic. Here is McCain's big chance to put "Country First", to counter Obama's claim that nearly 100% of his tactics and ads are negative. Instead of seizing the opportunity his campaign is considering, publicly, bringing racism back into the election in force.

With this kind of thinking, is it any wonder McCain is losing? I can't help but think that from the moment he won the primary his party has been brow beating him into towing the weighty lines that have been failing these last few years. The McCain that many independents voted for in the primary is not the McCain who decried "the health of the mother" as a liberal wedge for killing babies. The McCain who now despises "spreading the wealth around" is not the same one who so rightly called Obama out on producing platitudes and rarely policy months ago. It's an unfortunate reversal I'd rather not have seen.

I wish I could fast forward to November 4th with all this nonsense is overwith.

Rant: Dollar Voting

Don't waste your vote by not voting.

You've heard it from the demographically obsessed media, X group is more important than Y group because they actually get up and vote. Politicians target people who vote or they lose. It's as simple as that. Not voting sends a clear message to them, "I'm not worth your time".

This is a clear and obvious aspect of politics from the local to the national level, those who participate get things done.

Corporate America is exactly the same. People often talk about "voting" with their money, but this is usually in the context of choosing between a purchase and saving rather than picking between a number of purchasing options. Companies don't track failed sales, they track the people who buy their products. They don't give any heed to people who just save their money, looking instead at who is going to their competitors and why.

Keep this in mind if you're avoiding a purchase or spurning a choice between two political candidates you hate. If you want to send a message, staying home and keeping your vote to yourself only leaves the decisions up to someone else. Even if you throw it at Joe's Custom Built Rickety Fridges/Political Candidates your vote is better used than if it isn't used at all.



The following YouTube video was cited as a reason Obama will lost the election.

I watched it, waiting for the "gotcha" moment that McCain has deplored and found nothing but one reasonable man talking specifics to another reasonable man talking specifics.

I'm sure Obama's plan seems like the end of times for some staunch Republicans, but I think it's safe to say that the candor shown in this video isn't surprising or catastrophic.



One thing that has struck me recently is the volatility of the McCain campaign. I'm not referencing Obama's attempts to paint McCain as "erratic" so much as the actions of McCain's own campaign which have contributed toward that perception.

The timeline here is of great importance. After the primaries ended both campaigns largely coasted with a few spikes of interest here and there. Both were roughly even, with a slight popular vote advantage to Obama. One can easily recall the subtle nervousness of the Democrats, and the tempered jubilation of the Republicans. Everyone had thought that Obama would be coasting to an easy win, but McCain was clearly challenging that assumption, particularly when, following the conventions, he took the lead over Obama.

The conventions were the most important events in this election, moreso than Reverend Wright, the debates or even the economic crisis. They set the stage for everything that was to follow, from message to methodology for each campaign.

Obama played safe with his running mate choice and has effectively been following that pattern ever since. Even when his party was in a state of panic following McCain's rise in the polls he held steady. Even in recent weeks when his party has seen opportunities for him to land crucial knockout punches, he abstains rather than risk losing balance. This strategy is unflinching in its disregard for criticism, although it's terribly boring and almost disappointing.

McCain took a large risk with his running mate, and has been taking big risks ever since. These gambles have often failed to pay off, resulting in the necessity to step back and thus create mixed messages. The obvious cases being the suspension of his campaign and subsequent showing up at the debate anyway, the Ayers attacks followed by stepping back from that rhetoric, and his recent back and forth as to whether he was actually going to make a statement of economic policy or not. This presents evidence for Obama's case that McCain is "erratic".

What many fail to recognize is that we've been here before; it was only earlier this year that Hillary Clinton experienced a similar period in her campaign. When her message of experience lost traction she began seeking a new track to follow. Unfortunately, she went through numerous messages trying to find one that would stick. The constantly changing messages on her podium drew a stark contrast to the ironically unchanging slogans of Obama. Even when she "found her voice" there were aftershocks of the "erratic" behavior, such as the comments about the potential for assassination.

The most striking part of the parallel is in the advice given to Clinton and McCain. Much as the Republicans are now for McCain, the Democrats and advisers at the time gave Clinton vastly disparate advice on how to take down Obama. It's an environment designed to foster disaster. Disaster is what we've seen. A well oiled campaign does not release a statement, double back on it, and then double back again. McCain's campaign has done this not just several times, but many times. More than anything else this hurts his campaign in the eyes of the most important voters at this stage, the undecided independents.

Clinton eventually grounded herself and moved on to thoroughly challenge Obama, but when she found her footing she had a good two months or more left to fight. McCain is down to three weeks with which to find balance, plant his feet and turn the election around. His last opportunity may be tomorrow's debate, after which it may be all but settled. A solid message to stand upon is required for McCain to win this election; If he fails to find consistency at the debate, his chances at establishing it thereafter are slim to none.



I just checked my 401k, and I've effectively broken even. I saw that because my employer generously matches my investment dollar for dollar to a point. Effectively they contribute 30% of what I do to my 401k.

Incidentally, with today's market drop I've just hit the 30% lost mark.

I've made the hard choice that I'm going to keep investing even in this time of crisis. I realize I'm just a drop in the pond, but if people like me who've invested so little pull out it won't help the people on the verge of retirement who just saw that dream fade.

I know I'd like to retire before I die, so I'd like to afford the same to those who've come before me. It's not much, perhaps a Pyrrhic gesture, but it's something I can do.


Pyramid Head

My first experience with the stock market was years ago in my father's "office". As I often did in fits of boredom I had invaded his space to see what he was doing. At the time he was looking at a web page with some measure of resignation. When I asked him what was up, he told me in his matter-of-fact, "life goes on" fashion that the other day he'd sold some stock he'd received as a bonus at work, but that the stock was up a dollar or so today which would have been another $500. Noticing my confusion, I got a brief lesson in the economics of the stock market.

In the following years I took an economics course, found out that my father's father had enjoyed investing in the market, and contemplated trying my hand at it. I was ultimately defeated by my lack of resources and fear. I watched the stock market go up and down without rhyme or reason, and that frightened me deeply. Matters which I don't understand do not scare me, but matters which I can't understand are outright terrifying. Trusting every dollar I had to such a beast was impossible.

Over the years I've picked up a better understanding of the system, but its fundamental principles bother me. It's obviously been on my mind a fair amount in recent days given the current economic crisis. The stock market is always topping the news, whether its about the latest drop on Wall Street or world markets, the presidential candidates stances on the issue, or the general knee jerk reactions people are having to the problems we face. EVer present are the tickers, the brokers and the news that yet another major bank is at risk.

So, as the Dow drops another 800 points, I pose the following question: What separates the stock market from your run of the mill pyramid scheme?

I'm not an economic powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but the fundamentals of how this works perplex and bother me. At the most basic level the stock goes up when people invest and goes down when people take back their investments. In principle this works fine so long as there's a constant increase in either the number of investors or the amount of money being invested. The obvious problem demonstrated by the Great Depression and perhaps the current situation is that once that assumption is broken the house of cards collapses.

This seems eerily reminiscent of the root cause of the credit crunch itself, where subprime mortgages were given out under the assumption that house prices would always go up. Once an assumption like that is broken the system breaks with it, taking down companies and victims in the process. We see this now as jittery investors begin to act in self-interest and pull their investments. I can't blame them for doing so, but it seems to illustrate perfectly the problem at hand; there's no benefit to being at the bottom of the pyramid.

So again, what separates the stock market from your standard pyramid scheme beyond its scope and reach? There is probably some fundamental mechanism I'm unaware of, some fact I'm ignorant of, but at face value It's difficult to see it as anything else.


Pet Peeve: Web Pages with "Free" Signups

I don't read the New York Times online. This is inconvenient, but I do it as a matter of principle.

There is, in my humble opinion, absolutely no reason to sign up a "free" account for such services. What's the point if it's free? What benefit do you, the reader, gain from having this superfluous hoop to jump through?

You might say, "Well, this allows them to customize the default page to my interests". News Flash: That's a nice feature, but why does this require that they block me from reading articles?

You might say, "Well, what's the harm in setting up the free account?"
This just in: Giving out your personal information unnecessarily is bad. That and I don't particularly like the oblique attempts at making me a part of their mailing list/random offers.

You might say, "Just make up someone and get a bogus free account!"

What we are suggesting here is that in order to circumvent a silly and superfluous concept, readers should fill in the free account with gobbledygook. This is an activity that generally doesn't require much time and effort.

This does not change the fact that the existence of this arbitrary barrier is unnecessary. This does not change the fact that it only serves as a tool by which they take your personal information, your browsing habits, and your email and use them for personal gain. All this does is allow me, one person, to circumvent the system and confuse their numbers.

Will I? No way.

I'm too deeply offended by their assumption that I, like the gibbering masses of uninformed internet browsers, am so ingratiated to them for publicizing their articles on the internet that I will gladly join their Big Brother Club and subject myself to their scrutiny. It's a needless hassle, a pointless hurdle, an inconvenient shenanigan and I won't even validate with a bogus account.

There is absolutely no benefit conferred to me by playing their games. I don't gain anything from having a free account between me and their articles. It's ridiculous and I will have none of it.

So you say, "Hey, it costs money to make that paper, they need to make cash somehow!"
Bulletin: The Washington Post and the Boston Globe don't cost money to view online, and they also don't require free accounts to do so. The whole account this is a voluntary perk, a benefit to those that truly want it.

If money was really a problem, they'd charge people to view it. As it stands they more than make up their operating costs on ads, and by suckering people into "free" accounts.

I treat all such institutions the same way. Any site that requires me to sign up to download something, to view something, or basically to do whatever it is I wanted to do with no noticeable benefit, I just turn the other way and go home.

I miss out on some nice things this way, but I think it's worth it.


My Tank is Fight

Or was it "My Economy is Tank"?

Today the house rejected the $700bn bailout plan. The majority of Democrats voted for, and the majority of Republicans voted against. More Republicans voted against than Democrats voted for.

I'm not an economic expert, but I personally think this is a good thing. I wouldn't have been terribly upset if it had passed, but the bill moved far too quickly through the system to have been properly vetted. As a corollary to Obama's excellent point from the debate, "$700bn is really freaking important."

In any case, the aftermath of this is going to be huge both economically and politically. Economically you might have noticed the 500 point dive on the Dow. Personally, I think investors are far too jittery; instant communication is not doing the economy any favors today. Politically, just wow.

Both Obama and McCain stand to be hurt by this. Obama may not have been quite as gung ho as McCain, but the general impression he has been giving is that of support for the bill. That won't help his image in the eyes of many people I know who opposed the bill. Similarly, the surprising lack of Democratic support (a full 40% of Democrats voted against) could count against him among those who supported the bill. The McCain camp has already made accusations to that effect.

However, McCain stands to lose a lot more than Obama. He made a huge show last week of returning to Washington to fix this, and has been worked hard all weekend to establish his role as a key figure in making this happen. That it didn't happen, and the way in which it didn't happen, destroys and corrupts this narrative.

That 65% of Republicans, his party he was supposed to bring in line, voted against the bill undermines his credibility as a leader in his own party. As much as he might complain about Obama's inability to do better with the Democrats, the total failure of the Republicans to support their candidate's crusade for a resolution is going to sting McCain and hard.

You might speculate that Pelosi intentionally gave a partisan speech hoping for just such a result, and malicious intent or no she deserves a serious "WTF" for thinking that was a good idea. Still, it was Republicans who stabbed McCain in the back. It's going to be more than difficult to blame the Democrats for failing to support a bill they outvoted Republicans on by a 2-1 ratio.

McCain is now in a very perilous position. He gambled, and lost, on this bill. When and if it passes, even if it were later today, the narrative of McCain as the leader and diplomat is shattered. He may even be seen as at fault for the failure by bringing in the disruptive influence of presidential politics into the mix. Whatever the consequences of his crapshoot, the economy will continue to be the #1 topic for the rest of the week at least as Washington scrambles to revamp the bill for a second go. Biden and Palin will face off Thursday which, barring a miracle or some extreme spin, will likely be less a debate and more of a massacre.

The most amazing thing about this is that McCain's campaign will continue, and with gusto. It always strikes me how little such enormous failures affect people's choices and considerations. Obama wouldn't be where he is now if this wasn't so. McCain's campaign will easily weather this fiasco and be strong as ever come the second debate, if the economy holds out that long.


Bad Literature


The premise of this contest has always amused me. I may have to enter it next time. Here's a potential contest entry.

Horribly beweaponed warship in hand, James Flannigan warped into space forgetting that one should be wearing a space suit and/or be resting comfortably inside the simulated atmosphere of one's spacecraft.




I've had an idea on the backburner for some time. Specifically, I've been thinking about making a blog that actually had a purpose beyond providing a selfish creative outlet. The idea has been gestating for some time, and it's finally looking to go somewhere.

The concept is to make a blog about World of Warcraft, specifically targetted at the subsection of World of Warcraft players who, like me, are generalists. You know how I play every last character in Super Smash Bros? Same thing, only a different game. There isn't a blog that I've found on the subject, or at least one that's remotely popular (bad sign perhaps, but whatever).

The problem I've come across is finding a name. Website names need to be short, interesting, and easy to roll off the brain/tongue. They also should reflect your website's theme. For instance, a title like "NoBlogForOldMen", while amusing and simple, wouldn't be good for a blog about candy.

I've come up with a few titles based on the term "alt" (short for alternative) which refers to secondary characters one plays in addition to their favorite. The point of this post isn't to decide between them, but to solicit more names as the following are inadequate. Suggestions don't have to include the word alt so long as they have a sufficiently witty reference to similar concepts (such as MPD, or any concept involving one person doing/being/seeming like many things).

So, the names.

Maximum Altitude - This one was and is my favorite. It's easily shortened to MaxAlt, has some clever wordplay and implies both an extreme and excellence. Despite that, it fails on a few counts. First, pronouncing altitude with the alt from alternative is potentially awkward. Second, there are already a number of websites and blogs by that name pertaining to climbing and similar pursuits.

Altitude Problem - This too has clever wordplay and implies an extreme (though a different one). It lacks the potential implication of excellent, the easy shorthand, while still maintaining the awkward pronounciation. However, there wouldn't be a million sites by the same name.

Altaholics Anonymous - Perhaps the cleverest wordplay yet. However, it implies an attempt to recover rather than to inform. Shortening it to AA would obviously conflict with another organization.

Alternative Reality - It's nifty, plays on virtual worlds, contains the expanded version of "alt" and implies a comprehensive nature. My issue here is it doesn't seem catchy. It's lofty, high in the air, and abstract.

Alter Boy - This is catchy, but I'm pretty sure it implies Catholic over Presbyterian. It also implies I'm a lot younger then I am. (Use of Alter over Altar intentional, though either could work).

Alt Addict - Very straightforward, abbreviable, and descriptive, I just wish it had more pizazz.

Obviously no name will be perfect, but I'm sure I can find something better. Again, I'm soliciting you for names. I'll keep tryig to come up with my own, but any help will be appreciated.


Disposable Email


Personally, this is the best idea ever.

Oh, and Spore comes out in a few days.


Factual Basis

I won't bother linking the video, but I was highly amusing by an exchange between CNN's Campbell Brown and the McCain campaign's own Tucker Bounds. The exchange is reported to be the cause of McCain canceling his Larry King Live appearance.

The "interview" was interesting in that Brown asked an obvious and basic question: Given that the McCain campaign has made foreign policy experience a major issue, what experience does Sarah Palin have that qualifies her in this regard? It's a question you'd assume any decent campaign spokesperson would have an answer for.

Instead, Bounds fumbled the answer in an amazing display of political shystering. The best moment was when Brown pointed out it was the Pentagon, not the state governor, who had the authority to send the National Guard overseas. Bounds responded saying "On a factual basis they certainly do."

I like that, "on a factual basis". The implications of that statement are many and delicious.

Implication 1: There's a functional nonfactual basis the McCain campaign works from.
Implication 2: Factual bases are simply one of many at one's disposal, perhaps not even a major one.
Implication 3: Sarah Palin has no foreign policy experience worth speaking of, and hasn't made any notable executive decisions, but that's not going to stop us from making some up.

I'm riding hard on this not because I think this is at all indicative of the McCain campaign as a whole (though someone else might think that way). It's just that you'd think a campaign spokesman sent to talk with the largest news network in the nation would be better prepared to answer the single most obvious question they could be asked. This was Bounds' chance to lay a solid thwacking on Obama while building up Palin, which he blew quite solidly.


Rant: Stories and MMOs

So my brother made a blog post a few days ago about MMOs, and that spawned this thought process.

The problem with having a story in an MMO is that inevitably there are too many actors. Everyone wants to be the hero, but you can only have to many heroes without a story feeling cheap (see Sluggy's recent commentary on respawning evil quest mobs). When the NPCs are the supporting actors, you end up having hundreds, thousands, even millions of star actors.

But that's entirely the wrong train of thought. MMOs don't need a story, or at least those that I've played. The story is the players themselves.

The weakness of such MMOs isn't that they limit what players can accomplish. Players have no final effect on their environment aside from their effect on other players, which could hypothetically be part of the motivation of griefing. This lack of investment in the Player's ability to shape their environment is ignoring the strongest pull for play.

What you need aren't the tools for players to design their own worlds, but to have an effect on their own world. To have players create by playing.

In an MMO where cities can be sacked, leaders killed, nations conquered the players are motivated to make history. They can recall "I was at the battle of Fanador, and was at the forefront of the suicidal charge through the gate". They can say, "Ah yes, I gave my life defending the King of Pelas". They can wax nostalgic, "It was I who furnished arms for the High Guard of Tornoth before they made their final, wild charge to death and glory." This is exciting, this is visceral, this is history.

It's the ultimate solution to the "consuming is easier than creating" problem. For almost everyone reading history is infinitely more boring than making history. Give the reins of history into the hands of players and you have the truest form of digital crack possible.

Granted, there are amazing hurdles to surmount. Balance is a nightmare, the disconnect between impermanent death and permanent world effect could be offsetting, what are the incentives for being a part of the wars, and what if the scale makes it too much like the real world where the effect of one person feels too small?

But these are problems equivalent to those other MMOs face today. The MMO I've described here has a completely different dynamic. It doesn't require leveling because your investment is in the world as much as the character. It doesn't requiring grinding the same mobs over and over again, battles will never be the same. It trades one set of problems for another.

Now someone read this post, steal the idea, and make the MMO for me. I'm lazy.



I am slow as molasses to change. For all my philosophical musings on the dangers of sedate living, I'm a homebody, a mama's boy, and extremely stubborn when it comes to moving forward.

At the moment the dams of stubbornness are bowing under the stress of a building desire to do... something. Whether it's whip myself into better physical shape, learn the guitar, start a World of Warcraft blog or do all sorts of 1337 video editing something's probably going to give...

...in the next year. Hey, I did say slow as molasses.


A Good Answer

I like to think, and as a thinker I'm naturally drawn to two kinds of thinking. The first is purely exploratory, engaging such thoughts as "What are the practical implications of pokemon in a real world?" The second is the problem solver's paradox, most of the time one spends thinking is on problems you don't succeed in solving.

Abortion and homosexuality are issues that fall under the second category, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about them. While I've come a long way from my evangelical naivety I haven't come to any hard conclusions about either. In the end, the best that I can come up with is that these issues are both symptoms of greater problems in society that won't go away until those greater problems are solved.

Having spent so much time failing to come up with a practical solution, I found myself impressed upon reading the following excerpt from the Compassion Forum held at Messiah College back in April. Bolded sections are my emphasis.

REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL HISPANIC LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Senator Obama, the vast majority of Americans believe that abortion is a decision to be made by a woman, her family and her doctors. However, the vast majority of Americans similarly believe that abortion is the taking of a human life.
The terms pro-choice and pro-life, do they encapsulate that reality in our 21st Century setting and can we find common ground?
OBAMA: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. Number one, it requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.
The second thing, once we acknowledge that, is to recognize that people of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.
And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.
And we've actually made progress over the last several years in reducing teen pregnancies, for example. And what I have consistently talked about is to take a comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children.
But we also recognize the importance of good medical care for women, that we're also recognizing the importance of age-appropriate education to reduce risks. I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process.
And if we do those things, then I think that we can reduce abortions and I think we should make sure that adoption is an option for people out there. If we put all of those things in place, then I think we will take some of the edge off the debate.
We're not going to completely resolve it. I mean, there -- you know, at some point, there may just be an irreconcilable difference. And those who are opposed to abortion, I think, should continue to be able to lawfully object and try to change the laws.
OBAMA: Those of us, like myself, who believe that in this difficult situation it is a woman's responsibility and choice to make in consultation with her doctor and her pastor and her family.
I think we will continue to suggest that that's the right legal framework to deal with the issue. But at least we can start focusing on how to move in a better direction than the one we've been in the past.
MEACHAM: Senator, do you personally believe that life begins at conception? And if not, when does it begin?
OBAMA: This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates...

I had previously been concerned about Obama's support for abortion rights, as while I dislike the approaches of the extreme right toward the issue (to put it lightly) I find it very hard to justify the cancellation of potential life post-conception. My personal squeamishness, however, is not in and of itself a convincing argument to others.

But the very idea of a convincing argument is in itself flawed. The theoretical omnipersuasive argument doesn't exists, and Obama clearly responds with that in mind. Clearly outlining both his beliefs and his position on the issue, Obama's response shows that this isn't a subject he's thought about only in passing. Rather than attempt a solution to the problem of resolving the views of diametrically opposed groups, he instead suggests diminishing the object of their conflict.

In and of itself this isn't a solution to the problem, but it's an achievable pathway to making solutions possible. That's how one circumvents indestructible barriers and accomplishes change.

Obama remains far from 100% perfect, but I'm confident at this point that despite his faults he is willing and capable of effecting the change he calls for.

What remains is for McCain to prove that he will be the maverick in office he has been in years past. He, in my mind, is at a similar crossroads that Hillary encountered during the primaries. She took a wrong turn then, destroying much that she had accomplished in attempting to defeat Obama. I recall McCain's speeches a month prior to Obama's victory, in which he sharply criticized Obama's calls for change as not being policies but instead platitudes. That McCain was a maverick, and not afraid to call Obama out where he was weak without being negative. That McCain has also been strangely absent since Obama won the primaries.

Hopefully I'll encounter a excerpt of McCain's which gives me similar faith in his abilities as a President. I'd very much like that to be the case. The idea of having to choose between candidates not because they are both bad, but because they are both very good is one I've been keen on since this all started.


Why Am I Not Surprised

Would it be at all surprising if I stated that the nature of the politic debates at Messiah College was continually that of extreme polar opposites squaring off over trivialities without any interest in mutual understanding and world betterment? No? Didn't think so.

It's not that there weren't dedicated Republicans, Democrats, and Moderates with intelligence, poise, eloquence and grace. It's just most didn't want to bother with the shouting matches and those that did either were drowned out or roasted alive.\

In any case, now whenever I have to explain to my coworkers what college I came from I can always say, "You know that ridiculous woman who illegally discriminated in her hiring practices for the Justice Department? Yeah... I went to the same college she did."


E3 2008: The Doldroms

It wasn't long ago that the entire gaming community was breathless every May as the much vaunted E3 exploded with fantastic claims of supremacy by the big three console makers, amazing demos of soon to be blockbuster games, and plenty of speculation as to the market's future.

This year, very little of that happened.

The E3 of old is truly dead and gone, a relic of an era coming to a close. The first steps toward making videos an accepted form of mass media have been taken, and the rest can only follow.

What makes E3 2008 so unremarkable is not the shift of focus to a wider audience, but rather how little things have changed in the past year. Nintendo is still reaping the incredible rewards of their strategy, Microsoft is still blindly scrambling to hop on board, and Sony is still drifting. There's nothing new under the sun.

There were various points of interest. Nintendo announced a new attachment for their Wiimote, supposedly this one will allow for true 1:1 mapping of movement to control. Microsoft announced more changes to their Xbox Live interface including insidiously familiar avatars (they essentially look like the "hip" version of Miis), and Sony once again heaped incredible pre-rendered footage and promises at our feet, begging for just one more year to get their act together as another exclusive title became not so exclusive.

Nothing that particularly shook the status quo happened.

Sure, the usual herds of insanely rabid fanboys swarmed the internet trolling forums and news sites claiming X, Y or Z spelled the ascension or continued dominance of one company while A, B or C spelled doom for another. This time, however, people largely didn't bite. No one cared to, what was the point?

Sure, Final Fantasy 13 is no longer a PS3 exclusive, but it's not like any of their exclusives thus far have been that spectacular. Harping on the PS3s games library at this point is like harping on President Bush for his bad foreign relations.

Sure, the new Wii attachment could be seen as basically admitting that the Wiimote alone wasn't sufficient for true 1:1 motion capture. That revelation is as old as the Wii's release date. It's sudden rerevealing doesn't mean that Nintendo suddenly loses its profits, marketshare or mindshare.

Sure, Microsoft's presentation once again stank of their impossible attempts to understand the house that Miyamoto built. Once again, this has been pretty obvious from the get go. Acting as though their continued inability to comprehend what lies beyond the realm of teenage to college-aged male gaming is anything new is disingenuous considering they've been at it since last generation.

So for the hardcore gamer, this year's E3 was something of a bust. Both Nintendo and Microsoft were focused largely on people other than you, and Sony had nothing interesting except the stuff we we've been hearing about for two to four years already. At a time when typically salvos of new games taking hardware and game design to new peaks are being revealed, instead we find ourselves watching as our kid sibling the "casual gamer" gets all the attention.

It's a tough pill to swallow for people who've been the center of attention for two decades. The pendulum is swinging away, and for a while the old guard is going to be largely ignored except for misguided attempts at more Halo-like FPSs. Eventually it'll swing back our way, then forth again, and back again until eventually the momentum dies entirely and we have a nice equilibrium.

For now, I'll just look forward to Spore, the next WoW expansion and my currently vastly underplayed library of cool games that have already come out but I haven't beaten (Twilight Princess, Trauma Center, Ninja Gaiden 2, Armored Core 4 etc).


Seabass 2008

Four years ago my forum friends and I started a campaign. Neither Bush nor Kerry were adequate to lead this country, and so we turned to the one man we knew who could do the job.


He was intermittently active on the forums, Canadian, and didn't seem particularly rational. Given that the other candidates were similarly unqualified, we couldn't think of a better man for the job. Besides, his avatar was a guy with an exploding head.

Seabass didn't get elected that year, we blame Mexico. However, we continued to lie in wait, biding our time for the right moment to try again.

That time is now.

Seabass is obviously the best candidate for the job. As a resident of Canada, he has far more experience with foreigners than either candidate. As a man with an exploding head he, more than anyone else, is aware of the calamitous results of bad security policy.

Truly this man should lead the country.

Seabass 2008.


People and Places

I've stated numerous times that the reason I'm drawn to World of Warcraft over other games. While I am an introvert, I need a human presence in my gaming. My dependency on my fellows is continually rehighlighted as I play.

Sometimes it's for good reasons. Downing a boss for the first time as a guild is always an adrenaline powered high. Running around an arena having a massing FFA is also quite exciting. Often it's just the simple, if hilarious, guild conversations. Usually I can ride these waves through levels, grinding, and more mundane activities.

Other times events happen that completely stymie my ability to play the game at all. Someone leaves the guild for selfish reasons, a member displays a bad attitude, a miscommunication occurs, and many other events can sap the will to play.

The people in WoW are what make or break the game. Whether they're your friends, the bums vandalizing trade chat, or the gold farmers, I can't escape the connections personal and impersonal within the game. It's both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of the game.

We'll see how this double edged sword cuts this summer.


Spore: First Impressions

Spore is that game at its conception blew me away. Three years after my father bemoaned the eventual sycophantic siphoning of his sons' creativity, the leeching has finally begun.

Earlier this week EA released what one might call a minuscule portion of Spore to the public. Though the game itself will not be available until September, the editor allowing the creation and sculpting of creatures is available for download. In true EA fashion it costs money, but thankfully there's a version sporting only 25% of the available biology one can try for free.

I spent a meager hour and half with the editor last night in order to give first impressions. Realize that not only have I little experience with this super playdough, but I also was working with only 25% of its potential.

As is my wont I pushed the limits of what the editor allowed me to do. In doing so I made a few interesting creatures I'll have to share later. However, I encountered the following nuisances. It may be that I'm still a novice and haven't found the mystical keys to overcoming these obstacles, but the barriers were present and, as always, vexed me.

1) Forward is forced. There's a pointy end to the disk upon which you play creator, and that is the direction your creature considers forward. Feet will always face that direction, and creature actions will all function based on the assumption that this is their facing. This results in humorous, if frustrating, results when you have a creatures slimy maw on the other side of its body. It will dash in the game's sense of "forward", but fail to turn around for its strike. It also doesn't seem to want to walk backwords, often awkwardly turning in ways that doesn't look natural depending on your creature's design.

2) Multi-pronged limbs are limited. It may be that lacking multi-jointed limbs prevented this form of exploration, but I wasn't able to have limbs branch off one another. Given some of the demonstrated creatures, this was disappointing.

3) Complexity is very abstract. There's a meter indicating the complexity of your creature. When it fills, nothing more may be added. However, some seemingly simple changes can fill the meter much faster than adding dozens of doodads one might consider complex.

Despite these setbacks the editor is a lot of fun. I could easily lose an evening perfecting my mutant races like the Xel'naga. I do hope some of the limiting issues are dealt with before release, though if they're releasing the creature editor at this point I have my doubts there'll be much difference.


Shameless Ignorance

Normally I like to think of myself as a gentle, diplomatic person who tries to bridge gaps and break down communication barriers. To that effect, I generally avoid throwing around names, blame and anything similarly antagonizing wherever I can.

Not today.

A week ago a common catchphrase was "If Hillary doesn't win I'll vote for McCain". Today it's "If Hillary doesn't get the VP slot I'll vote for McCain" when it isn't "Because Hillary lost I'm voting McCain". I have a brief message for all the people expressing these notions.

You're idiots.

This is not because voting for McCain is idiotic per se, but because the implicit motivations for doing so are. None of the people I've seen making a big deal about voting for McCain in place of Hillary are doing so over policy or presidential potential.

I have plenty of Republican and moderate friends who can and will make an excellent case for voting for McCain over Obama. One of the reasons they will not give is "because I'm whiny over Hillary losing". That's a ridiculously stupid motivation, and it's equally disrespectful to all of the candidates involves.

You might dispute that this is the reason you're declaring that you'd never vote for Obama, but if that's the case back it up. Put some bite behind your bark because otherwise you look like a political idiot. Obama's policies and positions are too similar to Hillary's for people to assume you know what you're talking about when you leave it at "Obama sucks, I'm voting McCain".

There are bound to be people who are switching from Hillary to McCain with a sane mind and reason, but I highly doubt they're the ones making a big stink about their choice.

In conclusion, get over yourselves and the primaries, then make an informed decision this fall.


What can you do in eight minutes?

Answer: Review the entire timeline of the Democratic Party Primaries.


Druid Haiku

I like writing poetry. Unfortunately, the following haiku are entirely topical to WoW.

Seeing Treants burn,
only you can prevent them,
wisdom from Bear Form.

Start with highest rank,
with second best repeating,
proper Moonfire spam.

Great saga of durid,
knowledge ageless and humble,
teaches Alamo.

As an aside, I spend some time debating the proper syllable count for "Moonfire". The way in which "Fire" is pronounced makes it difficult to peg. It's technically one syllable, but it's pronounced (at least by me) as Fi-er. It doesn't feel smooth enough rolling off my tongue to count as just one. However, I deferred to the dictionary to maintain the phrase.


Almost there...

A lot of people, myself included, are looking forward to June 4th. On that day, the final tallies will be counted, the numbers processed, and the pundits will give their epitaphs for the election. There will be nothing left to discuss, and we as a country will move on to better and greater things.

Wait, no, I'm wrong.

Come August will be the Democratic National Convention. There, finally, we will have our official branded conclusion. Our next President will be decided, and we can all take a deep sigh of relief and relax.

Hah, who am I kidding?

The Daily Show with John Stewart termed it best, "The Long, Seemingly Endless Bataan Death March to the White House". This won't be over when the last Primary is done, and it certainly won't be over when the convention starts. There'll be a brief period where there isn't any primary fuel for the political news tsunami, but there's plenty of secondary kindling in the form of vice presidential speculation, shots over the bow from both sides, and Hillary's refusal to bow out.

So if you were looking for much political relief in the month of June, you'll sadly have to wait until January. In the meantime, my views on the current political situation.

The current polls of who would win which state in the general election at this point are like predicting who will win a Marathon after the first mile. To say "a lot can happen" is a vast understatement, almost everything has yet to happen. The general election might be as exciting as the democratic primary, or it might be the single dullest general election ever. We can't tell.

The vice presidential searches going on will be more interesting when some actual names are dropped. I don't know enough politicians or politics to have any sense for what would make sense.


There have been a number of allegations recently, spawned by the once vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, that Hillary Clinton lost due to sexism. While I'm sure that sexism has naturally had some small measure of impact, I think that pointing it out as though it were the major or sole cause of her demise is foolhardy and disrespectful to the harsh realities that women face every day.

Look at the playing field. Every last white, Anglo-Saxon male democratic candidate was absolutely positively demolished, by a woman and an African-American no less. There should be people singing praises for how both candidates have overcome boundaries once thought unbreakable, but apparently that only counts if you get elected.

Generally, I tend to rule out sexism as a major contributing factor because it strikes me that racism is probably an equal barrier for Obama, if not a greater one. It's tough to say as no one took polls on misogyny, but with recent wins for Hillary showing 20% of people admitting they're racist... one has to stop and wonder how much of a disadvantage she really had.

Clinton had key advantages starting out. She was slated to win before it began, she had massive name recognition, money, allies, and super delegates who had already thrown their support behind her. News coverage was basically Clinton vs Everyone Else, with Everyone Else losing soundly.

What lost her this campaign was complacency and short term thinking. She was presumed to be the 2008 nominee as early as 2004. A good contender doesn't rest easy when they're on top, but Clinton did. Her campaign was set up under a number of really bad assumptions as to the nature of the primary season and it showed.

It was assumed that there wouldn't be any substantial competition. The campaign worked from the top down, convincing first the all important local politicians and going down from there. They'd be crucial for the general election. However, in a contested primary this is a very bad strategy. Working from the bottom up not only tends to get more votes (and more people to caucuses) but it also ties the hands of democrats who are still somewhat sour over Al Gore's 2000 popular vote win and presidential loss. The local politicians won't go against the popular vote unless they feel bold enough to risk the ire of their constituents.

It was assumed it would be short. This lead to several separate issues.

Short campaigns don't need to ration money. Once "Super Tuesday" ended the Clinton campaign was effectively bankrupt. They had assumed that would be the end, and Obama's uncontested victories throughout February were the result; completely reversing te gap Hillary had established.

Short campaigns don't need careful consideration. There were a number of promises, positions and policies Hillary spoke about early on which were completely reversed later. Comparing her words from last year versus a few months ago versus today is like looking at three separate people. As a result, her trustworthiness is down the chute.

Short campaigns don't need a unifying theme or message, which Clinton did not have until well into the primary season. Without a clear purpose or response to Obama, he was granted a free ride on his rhetoric for months. It took the internet to find his crazy once-pastor and finally break the invincible bubble.

As much as Rudy Guilliani's campaign will go down in history as how not to win a nomination, so too will Hillary Clinton's.

Right now, Clinton's main arguments are the unseated Delegates in Florida and Michigan and her greater potential for the general election. Lets look at the situation.

I won't go into the math because it's boring, finicky, and pointless. By Obama's math he's obtained a solid majority of pledged delegates in addition to his lead in the popular vote. By Clinton's math no majority has been reached yet, and she leads the popular vote.

The difference comes down to two things, caucuses and the disenfranchised states of Florida and Michigan (a deed effectively done by their own legislatures). Clinton doesn't count caucus votes in her popular vote totals, and she is firmly of the opinion that you can't have a majority without taking into account Florida and Michigan.

I personally find both disingenuous. The former because it's stupidly selective (lets subtract all states that used a particular kind of ballot, had their primaries in months beginning with F, or looked at me funny), and the latter because it actually doesn't help her any.

In the case of the latter, allotting the delegates based on her wins in those states loses her the nomination. Obama retains his majority on pledged delegates and, by any sensical way of counting it, his lead in the popular vote. Hillary closes the gap significantly, but is still so far short that more than 70% of super delegates would have to back her in order for her to win.

This is why so many pundits, talk show hosts, newcasters and political analysts have called the election for Obama. The democrats can not hope to field Hillary as a candidate without alienating their support base. The kind of "screw you" nomination theft that would have to occur would completely obliterate the hopeful people who have set record turnouts and made this primary season as big a deal as it is and was. A very significant portion of Obama's supporters, myself included, would be disheartened, depressed, and ultimately disinclined to ever care about politics again.

The democrats want a democratic president too much for that to happen.



It makes more sense if you watch it at 3AM while your phone is ringing.

In other news, according to the Democratic delegate counter Hillary could win all the remaining primaries 77% to 23% and still lose the primary if the undecided superdelegates are split 50/50. On the other hand, Hillary could convince 70% of the remaining superdelegates she's the best candidate, and Obama would still win splitting the remaining primaries 50/50.

It will be interesting to hear how Clinton plans on continuing her case for the presidency in the face of such odds.


Someone's MADD

I'm generally supportive of MADD and its attempts to curtail drunk driving. My mother was a member last that I could remember, and I agree that drunk driving is unarguably a Bad Thing(TM).

I distinctly remember playing with cars on one of my grandparents' oval rugs like it was a raceway. Along with one of my siblings, we crashed cars and joked about one of them being a drunk driver. My dad quickly curtailed that joke, lecturing us on the severity of the consequences of drunk driving. I must have been only four or five at the time. This was a Good Thing(TM) for him to do, as we were developing children.

However, MADD is currently attacking Grand Theft Auto IV for including the ability for the player to drive drunk. And I quote:

"'Drunk driving is not a game, and it is not a joke.'"

Taken by itself this is a reasonable sentiment. In the greater context of being a direct criticism of GTA IV I find it somewhat ridiculous. Here are several responses, in no particular order.

1. So, does this mean that prostitution, gang violence and drugs are games and jokes?
2. It's a game now!
3. I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your complaint over the sound of the tanks chasing me across the city.

Alright, those were all snarky and completely unhelpful responses, I'll admit to that. Pardon me for indulging in ridiculous answers to a ridiculous problem.

In short, I don't see drunk driving being a good enough reason to bump GTA IV from an MA rating to an AO rating, nor do I see the need to recall the game or stop its production. This is not because I love violence or feel that we should have a reverse prohibition wherein alcohol is available to all ages. It's because I believe that video games are a new media form that needs to be given its chance to grow and flourish.

We have plenty of books, cinema and radio programs that sport references to sex, violence, drugs, drunk driving and worse. They are appropriately judged and restricted from those who might be impressionable. There is an implicit understanding that what is contained within these media is not always appropriate for children.

My continual vexation is that people still do not have this implicit understanding when it comes to video games. We often hear the argument, "It will end up in the hands of children anyway." Why? Studies have shown multiple times that it is the children's own parents buying them these games, despite the warnings of both the box and the store clerks. Either these parents don't care, or they still make the bad assumption that video games are purely a child's entertainment.

I would no more buy GTA IV for my child than I'd buy them Memento. Some things are just not meant for children.

Eventually our sensibilities will catch up to the fact that video games are just another media form and should be treated appropriately. For now, I shake my head again as unnecessary controversy is stirred.


Music of the Spheres

Space is a strange place. While there is so much yet for us to know about our own planet, there is an infinite multitude more of untouched knowledge past the great voids. Sometimes I think one needs a reminder of the awe of what lies beyond.

The sounds of Jupiter are peaceful, haunting, and otherworldly.

For another take on the sound and music of space. Carmen of the Spheres is an interesting adaptation of planetary orbits.



So there's been much ado about Obama's comments stating that people are bitter about watching jobs go away for 25 years and never come back. The best insight I've read on the incident is that this was the kind of comment a social scientist makes, not a presidential candidate. In my mind, that's the obvious failing on Obama's part, he wasn't a good enough politician.

However, I'd like to rail a bit against Hillary and McCain, not because they're wrong to rail on Obama for this (indeed, it's an excellent opportunity to score some political points), but because they're wrong about bitter people.

Here's a picture caption I've lifted from the BBC's article.

"Mrs Clinton said the remarks did not reflect the values and beliefs of voters."

I'm going to cynically note that this statement is absolutely correct. Bitter people don't vote (most of the time). So, obviously this doesn't reflect the beliefs of voters, who are the people Clinton is really concerned about.

It's wrong for me to make that italicized generalization as there are a number of the bitter that do vote. However, I'm willing to wager that the "bitter" vote is not a motivated one, and doesn't show substantially at the polls.

My argument here is that Clinton's statement may reveal the truth behind her, and other politicians, motivations. They're concerned with the people who vote, and not with "getting out the vote". Anyone who isn't voting isn't on their radar.

So in effect, Obama's practicing Nintendo's philosophy: When you're being beaten in the current field, find a new one. He's turned to the bitter.

As a fringe bitter person, I've actually found some of Clinton's remarks offensive. Take the following as an example.

"Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans, certainly not the Americans that I know."

She has made a series of similar statements, calling "Americans" such adjectives as resilient and hopeful. From my perspective these are flat out insults to people such as I.

Firstly, I'm going to latch onto the "certainly not the Americans that I know" bit. I'm going to assert that Clinton obviously doesn't know any bitter people. Given my experience that there are plenty of bitter people, at least respective to government, I'll further assert that this statement is downright insulting to bitter people. It implies that not only are bitter people not "Americans", but also that they aren't important enough to know someone like Hillary Clinton.

Secondly, the insults continue (backwards) as bitterness doesn't fit into "American" values and beliefs. Bitterness was what spawned this nation, bitterness at unfair government. If anything, the bitter are the most American people here.

Lastly, bitter people are, contrary to what's implied by Clinton, resilient. You don't survive being bitter because you're brittle, you survive because you toughen up and deal with the harsh reality.

So in short, I think Clinton's trying to score brownie points with the voters.

McCain's comments are far less insulting, although they're equally oblivious to the reality that, in fact, a number of people lean more heavily on the items that Obama mentioned when bitterness and hardship come their way. I'm sure he understands, what with his Vietnam experience, but he may simply have a more positive outlook.

In any case, the whole thing has been blown out of proportion, but it's given Hillary yet another chance to put her foot in her mouth (at least for me).


Shifting Goal Posts, and Other Musings

First the argument was made that Clinton would win the Democratic nomination because of her lead in delegates.
When that fell through, the argument was made that her overall lead counting the superdelegates made her the prime contender.
As that argument was dashed to the rocks, one was made that should she get the popular vote she would have to be the candidate.
Now, as even that argument falls apart, it is now being argued that Clinton won the states that matter in the general election, and that her electoral vote count would be greater than Obama's.

I'm not naive enough to think Obama is squeaky clean in this area. The practice of over-emphasizing the silver lining is pretty standard. However, this shifting of goals isn't a silver lining at all.

The implicit message when a candidate gives a "silver lining" talking point is that "this is why I'll overtake my opponent". Obama didn't say that the popular vote, delegates or super delegates didn't matter when he was down and some thought soon to be counted out. He highlighted his breakthroughs in demographics no one would have thought could vote for him, the piecemeal nature of his donations, and his message. At times it certainly was a stretch, but it was at least honest.

What the Clinton campaign, now down a chief strategist, is doing isn't pointing out the silver lining, it's attempting to change the rules. Rather than taking the positives (of which there are plenty) and bringing them out, the Clinton campaign seems content to dismiss any accomplishment made by its opponent. This is ridiculous, as these are the same accomplishments it would be lauding where they its own.

Should Clinton win the nomination it will be anyone's guess who I vote for. Had this question been asked back in December I probably would have blinked a few times. McCain over Clinton, are you crazy? However, the manner in which the Clinton campaign has been waged is not befitting of anyone attempting to distance themselves from the errors of the republicans.

For example, the recent row with Clinton's chief strategist. His sin was, effectively, that he maintained his cushy CEO position and other corporate jobs while taking heaps of money from the campaign to make a horrible mess. This is a kind of heresy for the democrats, or at least hypocrisy. Normally that's the kind of problem you expect from the republicans.

In fact, the entire Clinton campaign has played out exactly how no democrat's should. It was divisive, petty, hypocritical, dishonest and pessimistic. The beautiful moments, ironically, came when Clinton broke from the established strategy and simply was Hillary Clinton.

In conclusion, I honestly believe that if Hillary Clinton wins the democratic nomination, McCain will win the general election. Her campaign has undermined every talking point she can bring against him. We have months worth of material that McCain can use to knock the Clinton Campaign silly. All McCain has to do is simply point, and laugh.