Come 2030.

Gaming itself is changing, and the ways in which this nascent industry is evolving are many. The future of gaming is multifaceted, uncertain, and even frightening.

First let us take stock of the three current spheres of gaming, PC, Console and Arcade.

Arcades are where gaming started, but are now largely relegated to gimmicks and unique control interfaces to continue functioning. The fall of the Arcade can be traced to the onset of home portable gaming. PCs were the harbinger, but it was console gaming that stole the masses away from the coin glutted cabinets of the Arcade. While Arcades maintained graphical dominance even into the fourth generation of consoles, the convenience, cheaper cost, and portability of consoles and eventually PCs as well overwhelmed the graphical edge of arcades. Shipping a new machine to arcades was more difficult than releasing a new video game to retailers. Today all Arcades can offer is a unique experience.

PCs today are relegated to a few niche genres and casual, browser-based games. PC gaming was to the Arcades as television is to movies, similar but overall an experience of lesser quality. This situation was turned on its head by the third generation of consoles, with gamers spending in excess to build PCs capable of graphics equivalent to or beyond what was affordable in arcade. This subculture of gaming riggers continues to this day, and still acts as the driving force behind hardware advances. Still, most PCs aren't built for such intense processing, and many people aren't interested in giving their children a reason to compete for time on the PC.

Consoles currently dominate the gaming industry. Consoles are the youngest sphere of gaming, created out of a desire for Arcade quality gaming at home. This feat wasn't possible on PCs back when the first Atari was released. PCs eventually were able to, but Consoles were far cheaper and matched Arcades. These factors continue to push the dominance of Consoles, even as the lines between them and PCs are blurred. Getting cheap, convenient quality is a hard bargain to pass up.

This is where we stand today. The detail is present because it gives some sense of from where and how the industry has traveled thus far. This is important in considering where gaming is going.

First, Console gaming is dying. This seems a drastic statement, but the situation is as I have stated. In two decades consoles as we know them will cease to be relevant. Consoles are already far diverged from the machines we saw in the 1980s. They are almost identical to PCs, save for their unique form factors and input devices. In a surprisingly short amount of time Consoles will be little more than prefabricated gaming PCs much like Alienware makes now. Proprietary installations will likely continue for some time, but it's only a matter of time before the homogenization of features and hardware begins to defeat the purpose of separate machines.

Second, there will obviously be a resurgence of PC gaming, though PCs as well will have changed. As consoles become more PC-like and the industry transitions back, demands will come for consistent, stable hardware on which PC gaming can be supported. All current Console makers will surreptitiously transform their consoles into gaming PCs, attempting to become the standard. Eventually one, or more likely Alienware, will emerge as the basic standard, with the others being only tangentially supported.

Third, a new sphere of gaming is fast emerging. While gameboys and the like have been around for years, only those with more than a passing interest would purchase them. Now, however, everyone has a phone or portable device capable of playing game, whether they initially intended to use it for that purpose or not. This sphere will dominate the casual market, and even introduce new genres possible only such a widely mobile and ubiquitous platform. Kids will catch Pokemon not by moving a virtual character around a virtual environment, but by walking to school, to the cafeteria, running around the yard and more.

Fourth, the future of Arcades will depend on future technology. In order to survive, Arcades need a new technology that is too expensive for home use. They might attempt to cache in on mobile gaming, acting as hot spots for events and special rewards. Failing a new technology, Arcades in the US will become an antiquity, something novel but no longer critical to the industry. They will continue to have relevance in Japan, but that will also diminish without a significant, unique hook.

Most importantly, by the time all this has come to pass a point will have been reached where additional graphical power is largely irrelevant. A difference will remain, but it will be largely unnecessary for story-experiencing purposes. Gaming will experience it's own "impressionist" movement, moving away from photo-realism and graphical superiority to more creative and interesting uses of computational power. Corporations, however, will act to squelch or ignore such titles initially as they will continue to trust in the staple genres and styles.

See you in 20 years.


Manga, ka?

Reading humorous manga on four hours of sleep is an exercise in fits of laughter.

I think I'm going to read all hilarious manga while sleep-deprived from now on.



My guild made the front page on Wow.com.

First, Wow.com. Next, the world (of Warcraft)!


Paypal thinks I'm old enough to have a teenager who might want their own Paypal account.

I'm not sure what to think of that.


Zoom zoom.

My mother often complains about movies being too much like video games. It was for this reason that she didn't like the recent Star Trek film. At the time, I had a factual understanding of her complaint, though I lacked a visceral understanding. Academically speaking, her issue was that directors enjoy swooshing a camera in and around the action, but for people who don't habitually subject themselves to this kind of visual overload it's too much to keep track of.

Last night I totally went bonkers for the same reason as my mother.

After dining with my grandparents, we turned on the television to give ample time for digestion before desert. Choosing to edify ourselves through PBS, we watched as NOVA discussed human ancestry and anthropology, likely due to some recent discoveries in the field.

I can't really be sure, because I was horribly distracted by the director's incredibly annoying camera work.

Our new generations have grown up in an era where information is instantly available, where attention spans are ever shorter, and where video games now involve flailing in front of the television. I can understand that NOVA, as it was when I was a kid, has to expend some effort updating its methods of operation to match the changing times. To remain the same is to become a fossil.

That said, they should find better directors.

There are a lot of tools at a director's disposal. The more obvious the tool, the less often it should be used. Otherwise the viewer becomes aware of the tool and it ceases to be illuminating. Instead, it beings to obscure in proportion to how much it is abused.

The director of this episode of Nova had an obsession with two forms of zoom. Form one was to start close to a picture, just enough that most of the important bits weren't visible, and then quickly zoom out to a fuller view with an graphical blur and refocus, accompanied by an audible whoosh. Form two was to start zoom out from a picture, just enough that most of the interesting bits were too small to make out, and then zoom in with the same graphical and audible effects as the other form.

The intent was obviously to make pictures of skeletons and anthropologists exciting. However, the frequency with which these zooms occurred, and the short duration the technique alloted to actually look at the skeletons or interesting photos, created a situation where it was nearly impossible to actually appreciate whatever it was the director wanted you to look at.

I could almost have sworn there were two little kids fighting over the zoom function on the camera, all while talking in whoosh noises.

In addition to this visual repetition, the program itself was arranged with many, many repeated narrations. I can scarcely remember just how many times the narrator said, "For the first time in X years...", "Then, there was an amazing discovery...", and similar phrases. I could potentially see the worth in continually repeating the weird names of the skeletons, given that they aren't easy to remember of learn. But for the love of variety don't say the name with exactly the same inflection, tone, pitch and feeling every single time.

The whole presentation felt like a broken record being played over a projector with bits and pieces of a child's wild drawings thrown in. By the fifth amazing discovery I couldn't bear to watch it anymore. Not that I could have seen anything anyway what with all the blur-zooming going on. It might have been better if there wasn't that conspicuous whooshing noise there every single time.

Grr. Get off my lawn!


A Post

A post written here
only because I wanted
to say that I live.


Waxing and Waning

Oh wait. I have a blog.


Koei Hates Me

It's effectively official at this point. All that's left is for Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 to come out for the final nail in the coffin.

For those of you who have not followed this saga, Koei addicted me to Dynasty Warriors with Dynasty Warriors 3. It was a lot of fun, though obviously had room for improvement, and I played it a lot in college. Good times.

There was one feature I particularly appreciated, specifically the ability to choose the original Japanese voice actors. It was a very welcome reprieve from the amazingly horrible performances by their English-speaking counterparts. In fact, this feature made all the difference for me. Playing with the ear grating English voice acting was at best a distraction, and at worst impossible to deal with. Call me a snob, but giving an ancient mystic the voice of a surfer dude is only a good idea when you're attempting parody.

I skipped the fourth installment in the series as I was still enjoying the third, didn't have much money, and heard the fourth sucked anyway. I waited with anticipation for the fifth, but was grieved to hear it would not feature the original Japanese voice actors.

Reluctant to purchase the game when I knew my ears would forever curse me, I eventually gave in and bought it for the PS2. The very next day it was announced that an Xbox version was in the works, complete with an option for the Japanese language tracks.

Cursing my luck, I turned to Samurai Warriors, also by Koei. This game had the original language track available and so I thought my troubles were over. It turned out that the game punished you for improving your character. If you recall the review I posted in this blog, I didn't view this odd mechanic favorably.

Fast forward a few years and I purchase my first console of the new generation, the Xbox 360. One of its features was limited backwards compatibility with Xbox games. Irony itself must have compiled that list, as the only Dynasty Warriors game present was the fourth installment, the only installment to lack an original language track on the Xbox.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued with the releases of Samurai Warriors 2, Warriors Orochi, and Dynasty Warriors 6. All of these games looked promising, and all of them lacked the original language track. From the trailers and videos I watched, the voice acting remained as terrible as always. Dynasty Warriors 6 was notable for reducing the number of buttons to mash from two to one. I decided to simulate playing it by smashing my head against my desk.

At this point I had all but assumed that Koei was no longer interested in providing the original voice track. Despite the HD-DVD versus Blu-ray content war, they were content to avoid meaningless extras. I comforted myself with this thought and sought to move on.

Then they released Dynasty Warriors: Gundam. I had no interest in this game, and the demo didn't really impress me all too much. However, the game has its original language track intact and available.

Koei was toying with me.

I have spent considerable time on the internet attempting to find an answer to the question "Does Warriors Orochi 2 have an option for the original language track?" I was unable to do so for some time, so I added the game to my GameFly rental queue and waited patiently. My patience wore thin when after three returns they had still bypassed the game at the top of my queue for something in the middle.

In my frustration I searched one last time, and found an announcement for a PSP version of the game. The announcement made it clear that A) the 360 version has no original language track and B) Koei has been plotting to make me miserable all this time.

You see, the abominable PSP version is going to have the original language track. Not the 360 version with all its disc space, not any predecessors. No, the PSP version is the one they decide to bless with this feature.

Koei officially hates me. When Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 comes out and also sports this feature Koei's hate will be upgraded to pure malicious spite. I have no other explanation for my situation.


Today's Weather

Internet discussions are fickle things, rife with hyperbole and frivolous gestures. Watching them is often like watching weather patterns; while always unique, they invariable follow one or more predictable trends.

Today's trend is fairly familiar, though not as common as others. The often combative nature of discussions tends to draw roughly even or at least equally vocal battle lines. On some occasions, however, this equilibrium either fails to be established or is suddenly broken and the facts and fabrications of one splinter come to dominate a discussion.

The rough weather equivalent is a hurricane. The eye is the heart of the discussion. Here nothing is moving; the conclusions and premises that came to dominate the thread are now sacrosanct and untouchable. Surrounded by the swirling vortex of self-feeding repetition, no rhyme or reason may enter and break apart the storm.

A fairly good example of this, and the impetus for this post, is the Slashdot discussion of Blizzard's announcement that StarCraft II would not feature LAN support. The discussion is now thoroughly swamped with comments decrying the move. Playing over the internet will be many times slower than LAN play they repeat over and over, along with various comments about past transgressions by Blizzard and how they no longer care about customers. A general "woe unto us" attitude has developed, and any suggestion that things aren't as bad as they claim does nothing to stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The gale of self-pity is reinforced by the number of posters who join in. As each posts their lament it is validated by and adds strength to the others. No matter how solid the argument brought against them, their perception of majority status or superiority prevents it from being properly considered. Instead, their own repeated statements, whether they have any bearing or not, appear to them as nullifying the offending argument.

Eventually the frenzy will die down and the discussion moves forward. Until then nothing can be done but to find shelter and wait it all out.

This phenomenon is easily identifiable at a quick glance. Typically you will see a handful of instigators posting in constant repetition to one another along with the occasional individual, all sharing the same view. The chain is only broken occasionally by single posts which are never followed up upon due to either being ignored or the futility of the situation being self evident. On the rare chance that someone attempts to put up continued resistance, flame wars are often incited and the discussion is lost.

But fear not. Real life moves on, or as a wise man once said sarcastically, "Collective nerd rage on the internet is inherently representative of majority opinions."


Worst Video Game Ever

Leave it to a nutcase like me to come up with a game about office management of all things.

Seriously, while I was at work I thought to myself, "Hey, an interesting game would be one where you manage a software engineering project from start to finish, assigning engineers to important tasks based on their abilities, ratcheting up pressure through your managers, dealing with unexpected events and failures, and avoiding engineer burnout!"

I think I'm going to go into a corner and sob.


Information Ages

My father, in response to my previous entry on Iran, made the insight point that a key difference between his generation and later ones is how we view democracy. His generation, he says, had an idealized notion of democracy, whereas ours is highly cynical and even fatalist regarding government. I have theories as to why this is, and why this is likely to continue for some time.

Take, for instance, the recent insistence of republicans that the current clamp down on Iranian protests and their subsequent use of social networking tools such as twitter is akin to what republicans have been doing during the Obama presidency. Statements such as these represent a fundamental failure to understand the basic functions of how the world works, or at least to put enough effort into ascertaining the facts of a situation to make a clear, level-headed assessment.

It's this latter possibility that highlights the generational gap. How we process and acquire information is fundamentally different. The new generations are growing up in an era where all the information they could possibly need is at their fingertips. In such an era, it's fundamentally baffling as to why any of these responsible, important people are able to so consistently get fundamentally obvious and crucial facts wrong. They may be busy people, but at least their support staff could have looked it up for them, right?

At this point we're experienced enough to know that most often people fail to ascertain the proper facts of a situation when they have a vested interest in a reality that is unaffected by those facts. Whether this is emotional or financial, the interest precludes proper judgement. So, when we see politicians arguing that it isn't the nicotene in cigarettes which causes cancer but the smoke, ignoring the fact that the contentions concerning nicotene have nothing to do with cancer but addiction, we have to wonder whether they're stupid, emotional, or financially tied to organizations who have an interest in the outcome of the legislation.

This is the source of the cynicism and fatalism. We know so much about the world, its people, and its awe inspiring wonder, and yet leading us are buffoons who can't tell the difference between climate change and weather change. We want to be rid of them, but we feel it's futile because there are so few of us compared to the generations that came before who voted these 5-6 term senators and representatives into office year after year.

Of course, our cynicism along doesn't account for the amazingly voter turnout numbers. Even in last year's amazingly heated election, nearly half of all voters never reached the polls. Voter turnout is barely a third of all possible voters in gubernational elections. This all started before I was even born.

I can only explain, in part, why my generation doesn't seem to care. Why most of the country doesn't seem to care except for presidential elections (and in 1996 even then), I can't say.


On Iran

Iran is currently in a state of chaos. The results of their election, currently being contested under suspicion of fraud, have literally filled the streets with angry protests. There have been clashes with riot police, clashes with loyal supporters of Ahmadinejad, blood, tears, and fires. In short, social uprising.

First and foremost my heart goes out to the people of Iran. The tumult they find themselves in is surely frightening, dangerous and ultimately pivotal in how they may lead their lives over the next decades. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Secondly, these events throw numerous others on US shores into sharp contrast. From the Tea Party protests to the anger at AIG and similar institutions responsible for our economic collapse, a new light is clearly shed on their meaning and relevance.

For those of us who bother to keep tabs on the balance between Republicans and Democrats, the Tea Party protests represented a weak, pitiful attempt on the part of the former group to assert they had grass roots support and legitimacy on a level equal to or greater than Obama. The narrative they attempted to convey was that there was growing, angry opposition to Obama's socialist policies that would boil over into a political revolution.

Today we can see what a political revolution looks like, and it is impossible to do so without observing how little resemblence there is to the Tea Party protests. Revolution is infectuous, massive, and immediately garners forceful responses from those who oppose it. There is blood, violence, hope, despair, and most of all chaos. The entire country of Iran worries as to the outcome of these protests, no matter what their affiliation or beliefs.

Looking back as newcasters proclaimed the Tea Party protests a revolution, it seems at best a joke. One can declare a top a carousel because it spins and all that is proven is one's ignorance.

But that ignorance is important because it isn't limited to Fox News, conservatives or Republicans. The American people, as a whole, have forgotten what revolution is after nearly 250 years of independance. We have been so tamed by our freedoms that the idea of simply protesting something seems revolutionary. Consider the following quote:

"You know, you look at other countries, when they get upset they actually go on strike, they have riots. We just kind of send off e-mails in capital letters."

Jon Stewart touches on an oddity of American politics. For all the vitriol thrown about between parties and sides, however much ire one can draw from friends and coworkers over differing political views, few people put even a modicum of effort into expressing that intense emotion in a concrete fashion.

The massive economic collapse would, one thinks, have easily produced similar, massive demonstrations against the corrupt, disconnected executives who spearheaded our current situation. While we elected a very different president than our previous one, the uprising hasn't happened. Are we naturally more peaceful or naturally more apathetic? I have no special insight here.

Regardless, the American Revolution has long since ended, its memory faded despite frequent invocations. Revolution is not inherently good; the barriers and structures it destroys are not always deserving or necessary. However, it is a truly American quality to cherish and desire revolutionary spirit. One wonders where it has gone.


Post-war Japan

Was the Japanese post-war economic miracle a bad thing, or am I justifiably confused when an article rhetorically suggests that it would be bad to follow that model of recovery?


100 Dalamations

Oh wait, everyone's supposed to arbitrarily assign a grade to Obama today? I'm going with Pi, on a scale from paper to plastic.

I'm sure after all the reviews are in Metacritic will agree with me.


Who wants to Sing?

Susan Boyle is a great singer and now very famous. She is also old and homely.

Everyone and their twin brother has been dissecting her miraculous conversion of an obviously skeptical and even hostile audience into a standing ovation complete with tears of pure bliss. The judges themselves noted this, and seemed chastened by their personal failure to look past the book's cover. The event has been called a real life fable.

I have, however, the unique perspective of having read a week's worth of commentary before watching the video. That hasn't made the video less inspiring or heartwarming, but has tempered my measure of it's after affects. Susan Boyle will no doubt become as famous and lauded as her cited idol. Given the momentum she has picked up, and her obvious skill, it's assured. Unfortunately, the world will still think ugly, awkward people are naturally untalented and should be ignored.

We need another 10 Susan Boyles at least. The good news is that every talent agency and TV show will now be looking for them in order to duplicate the incredible phenomena, and television viewers across the globe will be as well. The bad news is if they find too many everyone will probably get a little tired of ugly people surprising them by actually having talent.

Even with the good news, I don't find myself particularly hopeful. Vogue won't really see their subscriptions or sales drop, ugly newscasters aren't going to crop up, and supermodels aren't going to find themselves starving and out of a job (just starving).

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but Susan Boyle isn't going to singlehandedly change how people think about being ugly anymore than Barack Obama was going to magically fix the economy, the world's opinion of the nation, and all our other problems just by being elected.


History Repeating

Demigod is a new PC game in the style of Defense of the Ancients, much like how the famous Tower Defense games are moving beyond their minority status.

I've read a few reviews, all glowing, none of which were able to categorize the genre with any particular ease. "RTS-RPG" was thrown around a fair amount, and I suppose that's fairly accurate. The old genres of gaming are now so interbred that any notion of purity has been long since lost, so it makes sense to label them accordingly.

But the RTS-RPG is not new, however much the reviews may imply it. Demigod is not the first video game outside of the customized maps of Starcraft and Warcraft to explore the genre. Dynasty Warriors has been doing it for years.

Alright, so Dynasty Warriors is more like an Action-RTS mutt, but really the differences are smaller than you think. In fact, the core difference effectively boils down to how you control your avatar. Do you A) Mash buttons to attack and use special abilities or B) Select targets, auto attack, and hit the odd key for a special? To auto-attack, or not to auto-attack, that is the question.

We could drive down into the minutiae of it, but in the end DotA is Dynasty Warriors with fewer buttons to mash and a different camera angle. This isn't a bad thing, it's just the truth of the RTS-RPG genre.

Incidentally, I plan on trying Demigod. Maybe now that Koei and Tecmo have merged a better Dynasty Warriors may result, but in the meantime I need my massive army slaughtering fix. If all the reviewers are as horribly addicted as they claim, Demigod might just be it.

Earl Grey, Not

I will begin by stating that the fundamental right of protest is not commutable, and am glad that the many people gathering today will be able to do so without fear of government reprisal. It is great to live in a country where such events can happen without people losing their jobs and/or lives because of their participation. I will continue by saying that I am nonetheless confounded by the odd schisms between the reasons for today's protest, the revolution, and reality.

The "Tea Party" demonstrations being held across the nation attempt to recall that first, pivotal prelude to the revolution. Unfortunately, nothing about the protest is remotely connected to the motives and atmosphere present in 1776. A cursory examination of the wikipedia article on the original event is more than enough to reveal the disparity,

The Boston Tea Party was not a protest of high taxes, or of taxes themselves. Rather, thousands of pounds of tea were dumped in the bay because of the old creed "no taxation without representation". The colonists weren't angry they were being taxed, they were angry that Parliament was making decisions concerning the colonies without allowing them to participate. Taxes were merely the most common, obvious way in which the government asserted its authority over the colonies.

Today's "Tea Parties" are protesting Obama's economic recovery plans. The basic talking points assert that he is only increasing the budget deficit (and thus the national debt), increasing spending, and increasing government size and authority. On the tax front the talking points assert that the Cap and Trade taxes, oil and gas taxes, and tobacco taxes will affect low income voters more than high income voters. Taxes are involved, but there's no lack of representation at work and thus the oddly common assertions that "this is what 1766 felt like" are off the mark.

However, the talking points are lost in the sea of posters, images and videos. The vast majority have little to do with any of the issues cited above, and instead focus on socialism, fascism, assertions of the Christian nature of the nation and attacks on Obama's character. Many posters claim that higher taxes have already cost them, despite the fact that the only economic recovery measures passed thus far have lowered taxes for all but a wealthy minority of Americans.

The sad, depressing truth is that these protests have become little more than an outlet for frustrated right wing supporters. The intelligent arguments that should, in fact must be made for the sake of the nation are being drowned in a sea of blind vitriol. What was already a somewhat incongruous use of the "Tea Party" concept instead drags that hallowed (arguably too much so) event through the mud. This is a shame; today could have been a landmark moment of revival and rebirth, one we very much need for our government to remain balanced.


Logical Connections

Recently a friend of mine told me that the most normal looking pictures he has of me all feature me engrossed in video games. By his account, my "Strange" is less obvious at these times. While not under the influence of the Matrix, I'm an oddball of sorts.

Despite my apparent irrationality, as exhibited by the roles "Crazy Uncle", "Irrepressible Nutjob" and others, I am very fond of logic. When evaluating circumstances, situations and problems I like to believe that my methods are logical and sound, even if the results, while logical, are not optimal. If I can spend Saturday in my pajamas, I don't really need to do my laundry just yet.

The problem with thinking logically is that you invariably run face first into the fact that human society is not in any way, shape or form. Logically, $19.95 is little different from $20. Logically, turn signals increase one's personal safety by alerting other drivers to your intended actions and should be used as often as possible. Logically, one effect may have a number of causes, and the presence of the effect does not specifically prove the presence of any particular one of them.

Of course, it's statistically proven that products sold at one to five cents less than whole dollar amounts sell better to a degree that isn't logical. Turn signals are often regarded as a mistake that might let the other bastard cut you off. Consequents are affirmed daily. Overall, irrationality is commonplace, and trying to think about the world logically is often fruitless.

I say all this now because I often forget this obvious fact, and repeat the "face, meet wall" experience on a regular basis. The most recent occurence of this involved my asserting only if P then Q, followed later by Q, only to be asked if P had ever happened. This happens often and I'm always struck by how obvious it should be, only to remember that I'm equally if not moreso oblivious in other fields.


Grammar: It may save your life

People on the internet scoff at those of us who hold ourselves to a higher standard. Spelling? Punctuation? What are they? Quality control is a lie designed to arbitrarily block your insightful and important thoughts from leaving your head the moment they are formed.

What these grammar skeptics do not realize is that their laziness may cost them their lives. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the Bible!

Judges 12:6
...they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.' " He said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.

As you can see, one man's failing resulted in forty-two thousand deaths. This isn't a "God kills a kitten" scenario, this is a "God kills you, your family, your friends, their friends, that chick or hunk who was totally into you, and everyone's pets" scenario.

I estimate it will only take 2 million grammar lazy people to wipe out the earth's entire population. Please, think of the humans.


Bad Game Designs: Rewards*

*Rewards are not guaranteed to actually reward, and may in fact turn you into a zombie, destroy your prize heirlooms, eat your soul, or otherwise act as the opposite of a reward.

When a player accomplishes something, whether it be a quest, a level, or a tricky puzzle it is natural to reward their success with a prize or acknowledgment of some sort. This isn't always necessary, but often adds to the experience.

No one would argue that one should penalize a player for succeeding.

Despite this, I recently encountered a game which did exactly that. Upon reaching level 8 in Runes of Magic I was awarded an item which would upgrade my weapon. In fact, I was lovingly gifted an entire stack of this item, promising the potential for a sizable increase in my character's potential. The fine print did note that "there is a chance of failure which may downgrade the weapon", but any reasonable person would understand based on such wording that the chance of failure was small, and the chance of a downgrade even smaller.


The stack, ten in all, resulted in one upgrade and nine failures. The very first failure removed all the good the upgrade had done, and the second removed the intrinsic good my weapon already had. If you're trying to encourage people to explore and enjoy new and interesting game features, such a mechanic is a dismal failure.

If I wanted to take one step forwards and two steps backward, I'd go play Ninja Gaiden on Master Ninja mode and stab myself after each death.


Alrof Loisp

I feel witty. Oh so witty.


So the Justice Department has been held in contempt of court for withholding evidence from Ted Stevens' defense team. His case is being dismissed without retrial.

Even if he was a horribly inept, pork laden relic, the usurpation of due process and fairness is never warranted. He'd probably still be a senator if this had been done properly.

Food for thought.


Gaming Taxonomy

As philosophical and analytical as I am, I must utterly cede all pretense of expertise to this incredible analysis of gamer motivations.

"Meandering Mind" suitably describes my jumbled, rambling thought processes. With enough discipline I might one day be able to mimic the precision displayed in the linked article, and perhaps I will make it a future goal. In the meantime, that blog has instantly become on of my favorite reads. If you are anything like me, you will enjoy it as well.


Media Rare

There is good news and bad news today. I like good news a lot more than bad news, but I like bad news more than what qualifies as "news" on television these days.

The good news is that our President is on the job. He have a very nice interview to 60 minutes covering the vast scope of all the crises our country currently faces, showing exceptional resilience in the face of incredible obstacles. He also fielded an interesting online forum today, even answering questions a typical politician might deem unseemly. It's good to have a president that's willing to get his hands dirty.

The bad news is the "news" didn't really care about that, and instead got all riled up that Obama laughed once during his interview with 60 minutes. You can get the whole story on that here.

The key here is less that the media blew something out of proportion, but more that they ignored important issues by doing so. This isn't an isolated incident, but a daily, even hourly occurrence. Quite simply, the 24-hour news networks are to insightful coverage what Trivial Pursuit is to a dissertation on the transformation of the nation's zeitgeist. CNN, NBC and FOX are great at provoking and expounding meaningless trivia, but are not thought-provoking or informative.

This is not only a shame, but harmful. Given 40 minutes of interview to pour over, discuss, critique, and grapple with these networks decided that a few seconds of rueful laughter were more newsworthy. I ask a simple question, "How does this help or inform the public?" The trick is that from the perspective of the networks I asked the wrong question. Their version of the question would be, "Does this entertain the public?" The public doesn't want to be informed, they posit, they want to be entertained. Thinking thus, the networks have evolved themselves into a faux-respectable televised tabloid.

While I can't claim I'd watch 24 hours of Jim Lehrer's News Hour, it would do the country good if such a channel came to replace these worthless husks.



I went to see Watchmen today. This is not surprising, except maybe that it took so long for me to do so. It was a good movie, also not surprising. In fact, I'd call the movie almost perfect, the issues so tiny and minute they can hardly be said to have occurred at all.

The conversation that the usher had with the couple behind me wasn't surprising either. Apparently some people bring their kids to R rated movies (if you didn't know this, you missed the 80s and 90s), some people also leave movies halfway through due to explicit sex scenes, and if you make a Venn diagram the two have significant overlap.

The surprising moment came immediately after the very explicit sex scene in the movie, and bloomed fully once the movie ended. It's not the scene itself that was surprising or anything that came before it, but rather that parents waited until that moment to decide to leave.

It's not that there are sex scenes beforehand, but that there are scenes of such horrific violence I would pause before I let someone in college watch them. In fact, I can think of many college friends who would be shocked at and cross with me were I to subject them to such barbarity. Many of those moments were truly gruesome.

It is, I think, indicative of the state of our culture that a bloodstain on the ceiling including a dangling, half-exploded arm followed immediately by scenes of women showered in blood doesn't warrant a quick exit for the sake of the children, but a couple of people engaging in an activity practiced by offendees themselves (I mean, they do have kids) is somehow worthy of their ire. It's nonsense.

I'm not advocating Japanese-like acceptance of sexual deviancy, but I am saying that we have our priorities utterly backwards. Everyone should recoil violently when someone is brutally murdered, not just during sex.


Like the Scent of Fresh Lemon.. you see.

I gave Cramer too much credit apparently.

When asked yesterday if Stewart had a point to his criticism, Cramer responded thus:

Cramer ... called it "a naive and misleading thing to attack the media."

"We weren't behind this. CNBC, in particular, has been out front on this," he argued. "I think there are people who bear so much more responsibility [than the media] that it's just wrong-headed -- the politicians, the regulators, the SEC, the lenders, the investment banks. ... It's just a naive focus, it really is Meredith."

Right, where have I head this one before...

Dad: You shouldn't have pulled up mom's plants.

Me: But it was her idea, and she pulled up more!

Cramer's argument childishly assumes that because he is receiving blame this precludes anyone else from taking their rightful fall. Were such an assumption true it would indeed call into question whether we were going after the correct person or institution. Thankfully it is not.

I had high hopes that Cramer was intent on actual reform, but they are now dashed upon the rocks. Neither he nor NBC seem interested in their faults or the correction thereof. This is, again, a shame and ill omen of our times.


Ah, the Days of my Youth

I'm going to quote two paragraphs from a Huffington Post article which includes a response from NBC's chief executive Jeff Zuker to Jon Stewart's interview of Jim Cramer. I am then going to point out something incredibly obvious.


Stewart has had strong words for CNBC on his Comedy Central show, arguing that journalists who cover Wall Street should have done more to warn of the financial meltdown through critical reporting, instead of acting like market cheerleaders.

Zucker said while interviewed on a stage by BusinessWeek that while "everyone wants to find a scapegoat," to suggest that the business media or CNBC was responsible for the economic meltdown is "absurd."

Funny, I have encountered this form of reprimand and rebuttal before. I think it went something like this:

Dad: You are not allowed to enter your sister's room without her permission.

Me: But I wasn't the one who knocked over all of her dolls!

It is irrefutable that I did not knock over her dolls (on that particular occasion). It is also a terrible defense when the alleged crime is trespassing.

I highly doubt Jeff Zucker watched the clash between his subordinate and some comedian. If he did, he obviously didn't understand the signifigance of the event. Pervading his response is this assumption that this was standard media outlet finger pointing, lacking any nuance or discernment beyond "blame X for the problem of the week/month/year/decade". The disconnect is blisteringly obvious from the two quoted paragraphs.

It's a shame, as Stewart's plea was so genuine and concerned. CNBC and similar networks could have mitigated in some notable way the impact of the current crisis, but instead lined up and drank the koolaid. They can still change and be helpful to the public, but rather than listen it's all blown off. However terrible Jim Cramer's advice has been, he at least has the guts to answer for it, admit he was at fault, and accept that change is in order. He deserves that much credit.


There are several elements of this recession that bother me. This discomfort and irritation stems from the lack of understanding I have regarding them. They don't make sense to me, and I don't see why they should make sense to anyone.

The first is AIG. They'll be paying out $165 million in bonuses to 370 people who are largely responsible for tanking the company. Now that seems unthinkable, idiotic, and stupid but hold your judgement. They're only paying the bonuses because they are contractually obligated to. Wait, what?

For the common worker, a bonus is something they get when they work hard and deliver for the company above and beyond the call of duty. It's an optional reward, usually tied to a specific, tight deadline or milestone. The average office worker is never guaranteed a bonus, they have to sweat for them. That's the whole point of bonuses, excel and you can reap the benefits. It's a pat on the back for a job well done, a reminder that companies value those who put in their best effort.

What in the name of sanity was AIG's HR department thinking when they made "bonuses" a contractual obligation. How can you even call it a bonus? I don't understand how that works or makes sense. It defeats the entire purpose and concept to award people who seriously fubar'd the company and economy such lofty sums.

The second confusion is short selling. I want to make sure I have this concept down. You borrow someone else's stock, which you don't actually own, and sell it. Then you rebuy it at a later date and give it back to them. You're betting the stock will drop, so that when you rebuy the price will be less than it was when you sold.

First issue: Whose stock are you borrowing? I want to know, because the idea that some creep can use my stock for such things is terribly upsetting. I can't walk into someone's house and sell their antiques, promising to buy them back later. It doesn't work that way.

Second issue: Doesn't this create a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts? Say Mr. Financial Guru suggests short selling stock A. A whole crapton of people follow his suggestion and low and behold the stock drops. Tadah, short sellers make money, while whoever was actually holding on to the stock loses.

The financial markets are seriously whack. Seriously.


On Journalism, Again

CNN recently noted that Jon Stewart might be the next Edward R. Murrow following the comedian's extremely precise dissection of Jim Cramer and the financial branch of the media in general. This is a dark day for journalism.

I ask, why are we relying on a comedian to fill the crucial role Murrow played? This is not to suggest that Stewart is incapable, but that it is ridiculous to think no journalists have the capacity. There is at least one journalist capable of Stewart's feats, as seen at Slacktivist, yet we live in a society where public media outlets cede credibility to networks featuring puppets making crank phone calls.

CNN also ineffectually complained that they exposed Cramer first back in October. I say ineffectually for two reasons. First, nobody noticed. Second, if you go to CNN.com's own website to their topic page "Jim Cramer" there is a single article from October which only mentions him once, in passing. The closest equivalent I could find to a takedown was an article on Chrysler mentioning Cramer's recent prognostication of automotive doomed while briefly criticizing him for the frequency and accuracy of his pronouncements. The article quickly returned to topic.

These points are especially illuminating. The media outlets are perfectly capable of making a story, any story, noticeable and important. We've had much ado about many nothings over the years and CNN's supposed takedown of Cramer could easily have been much ado about something. That it did not receive much notice is indicative of how important CNN itself considered the story, clearly seconded by the fact that you can't even find the story.

The difference in urgency is astounding. Jon Stewart felt this task was so important that he not only brought Jim Cramer onto his show, but went so far overtime with the interview that sections had to be cut from live broadcast. Rather than lose those sections, the full interview was made available to the public on the internet with references to previous episodes on the topic.

The power of the interview itself isn't only in the lack of kid gloves, the explicitness of the hypocrisy encapsulated in video clips of Cramer's own words, or Stewart's sagaciousness. What makes the interview authentic is the clarity of Stewart's goal, not damnation but redemption, not vengeance but reconciliation. It is true that a one sentence summary of Stewart's message would necessarily begin with "You screwed up", but the humble, hopeful admission and conclusion that follows is "and we need you."

That essential quality Stewart displayed in the interview, and his legendary appearance on CNN's own Crossfire, is completely lost upon those involved in CNN's discussion of the confrontation. They recognize neither that he spoke truth to power, nor that he spoke truth to self, but only that something newsworthy occurred and it garnered more attention than their own attempts in the same field.

It is impossible to say without the source itself, but I strongly suspect that CNN's takedown was an overprocessed, empty calorie blurb on the subject, diluted by the typical media outlet aversion to critiquing other media outlets. At best there or four people, none of whom would have been Cramer, might have discussed the hypocrisy or foolishness for five minutes. Were that the case, maybe CNN will take note that talking about someone behind their back is generally only interesting to the people doing the talking.

In any case, as grateful as I am to Jon Stewart for doing the job of CNN/NBC/CBS/FOX etc. for them, I am dismayed at the ill omen this event signifies.


On Journalism

It is a dark day for journalism when one of the White House Press Core refers to an interview conducted by comedian Jon Stewart as "serious journalism". Not because it isn't true, but because it is.



Strange beast engineer,
words they do not understand,



Work a single day,
the hours greater than one hand,
then comes peace.


Infancy and Pioneering

Those who know me are well aware that I love waxing nostalgic about anything and everything. Being so proficient, I recognize that in 99.9% of cases doing so accomplishes nothing but to idealistically color one's perception of past events and thus unintentionally skew one's measures of current times. The practice remains enjoyable, widespread, and just as flawed as ever.

As an example, on a semi-frequent basis one can find blog entries, comments and forum threads remembering the Good Ol' Days (TM) of World of Warcraft. The general themes of such posts lament of loss of said days, citing a "men were real men" paradigm and how ridiculously easy the game has since become. In conclusion, all said posts wish for the return of some particular element from the bygone era; the consensus is that through years of patches and improvements Blizzard has watered down the various elements such that the game, while being technically better, has been diminished. Logical, but flawed.

Overlooked in these throwbacks to the "Golden Age" is an understanding of social elements, how they were influenced by the old game mechanics, and how they have evolved. Blizzard's technical changes are a near zero factor in this matter. The cause, source, and mechanism for the watering down of the game are all the same, the players themselves. The changes that watered down the game were cultural changes.

This is actually a story common to all video games with a competitive element. At the dawn and infancy of a game all players are effectively equal and without advantage. During this period many "fruitless" activities are pursued because in the purity of the times they are fun and unspoiled.

However, over time pioneers naturally begin to learn the ins and outs of the game and take advantage. While initially small, the power conferred by this knowledge becomes impossible to ignore by the other players. The knowledge of the pioneers is spread to the rest of the population in a self-correcting attempt to return to the days of equal skill and opportunity, but the Good Ol' Days of innocence have ended.

From that day forward the culture becomes inevitably focused upon optimization and anticipation. Whether or not the game changes the pioneers continue their work, discovering new knowledge and taking advantage from it. The game becomes an arms race of sorts, who can acquire knowledge first and milk the advantage for all it's worth before everyone else catches on? Equilibrium is effectively lost forever.

What the nostalgic long for (though they often fail to realize) is not a return to the mechanics of the old era, but to the culture born out of innocence of those (or any) mechanics. Such a culture allows players to excel or remain contentedly average if they wish with no stigmas or negative repercussions.

Unfortunately, this is an impossible wish; innocence lost is lost forever. Like Dallben the culture is irrevocably changed, and with it the players.

Even when Blizzard releases a new game in the genre, or some other company produces a suitable offering, the mindset and skills that the players will bring have already changed. Though I may try to revel in the innocent exploration of a new game or new content, I am forever bound now to instinctually seek the optimal path and quickest advantage. I can no more change this than I can return to the playful oblivious youth I once was.

As joyous as those days of infancy were, nostalgia dangerously makes one see the worst in the current era. The rewards for exploring wisdom are bittersweet, but worth the toil.


Zoom Zoom


Some things are just cool.


I'm with FDR.

I'm going to summarize my opinion on the stimulus bill, the wrangling, the goal of bipartisanship, the criticism of the Republicans, the criticism of Obama, the editorials, the 400 point drop in the marker following Geither's bad speech, and my emaciated retirement savings in one succinct statement.

I'm with FDR.


The Economic Collapse in Song(smith)

Who knew a recession could sound so happy?


The Day the Music Died

No, it wasn't February 3rd, 1959 but a day far more recent.

It's.... just.... SO BAD.


Face, meet Palm

I'm going to be talking about one crazy man, so if you're still riding high from the inauguration you might want to skip this one. It's really that stupid.

Let's start with his thesis statement:

"Many American Christians believe, as an article of faith, that we are to pray for the success of our leaders."


Every church I have attended has never prayed for the "success" of the president or other world leaders, but that they might have wisdom, mercy, and justice in their governance.

But we're missing out on what's really ridiculous:

"...I do not hesitate today in calling on godly Americans to pray that Barack Hussein Obama fail in his efforts to change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state."

Read that again and mull it over a bit. It took me a few moments to recover from disbelief before I could digest it. This, my friends, is 100% fail from concentrate.

First we have a strange assumption: Obama wants to replace self-governance with central authority. I'm not sure how someone gets that from the first candidate in history who refused public funding because he was getting hundreds of millions of sub-$100 donations from voters across the country.

Second, we have a hidden, implicit statement: Self-governance and "constitutional republicanism" is more godly than an uncontrolled, infinitely powerful central authority.

Third, I have an obvious remark: What is God if not an uncontrolled, infinitely powerful central authority? I'm being facetious, but I found the implication hilarious.

More seriously he speaks as though to say that our former president was a bastion of self-governance and constitutionalism. This is the same president that skirted habeas corpus, expanded the authority and size of the executive branch, and nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That's about as diametrically opposed to "self-governance and constitutional republicanism" as it gets without degrading into a complete despot.

Obama has already signed an executive order forcing Guantanimo Bay to close within a year. The news has already aired people saying, effectively, that (constitutional) human rights be damned, this is a national security issue! I want to know if these people have hot daughters, and if they'd allow me to install cameras in their home (and showers) were I to tell them it would help me fight terrorists.

But of course, this insanity wouldn't be complete without insinuating the Obama is a blight against all that is good and right.

"I want Obama to fail because his agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's. Pretending it is not simply makes a mockery of God's straightforward Commandments."

The sheer hubris of this statement is staggering. Beyond the obvious fact that Obama hasn't been writing bills which require children to dishonor their parents or laws which give tax breaks to people who use the name of the Lord in vain. Beyond the fact that Romans 11:34 asks the pointed question, "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor?" Beyond the subtle implications of "I want". Beyond all of that is this:"

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."

Romans 13:1, quoted by he, himself in his very argument.

I'm not suggesting, as he works hard to contest before anyone can bring it up, that this verse or series of verses tells us to strictly obey our leaders. But this verse is the poster child for the commonly held belief and theology that God, being in control, appoints leaders according to his will.

The obvious conclusion is that it is impossible to claim that Barack's agenda is 100% at odd with God's unless you wish to assert that God has no control over the authorities of the world. Barack Obama is a part of God's agenda, his master plan. He may be, from some perspectives, a modern day pharaoh but messiah or antichrist he is a tool for God's will.

The diatribe ends as it begins, concluding with the strange notion that we pray for the success of our leaders however evil or unchristian they may be. From start to finish the argument presented was flawed, and only became tangled the further it went.

But more than anything else, I am saddened that in a time of great worry and woe that the most urgent suggestion given is for us to pray for the damnation of others rather than for grace.


Of Cabbages and Kings

The more I think about, the more there was one inarguable black mark on today's inauguration. Boiling, oily it oozed its way through the brilliant day. Yet as soon as its hideous existence was proclaimed the mar burbled away from the effulgence of the occasion, leaving only momentary confusion as the celebration continued without pause.

The moment was not the failure of the chief justice to remember the proper words to the oath of office, or the questionable content of the benediction. What I speak of is one of the worst poems I have heard since leaving college. I may color this discussion by saying so, but try as I might the more I review the poem the more failures I find. It is wholly unremarkable and unworthy of the honor it was granted today.

How foreboding do the words of the Fox News anchors now seem. As the orator approached the podium they noted that but a handful of inaugurations had featured a poet. By the time the poem had ended, the reason for this was painfully clear. Here is the offending script itself:

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

This is not a quality poem. I saw many like it during college from my peers and from myself. It has all the marks of attempted poetry, but none of the discipline of good poetry. It is less a poem and more a speech with some small measure of eloquence and a few poetic moments. I shall explain in detail, subjective as such things are.

Let us begin with the first line. I will state the obvious thought of every proletariat and bourgeois out there, "What the heck?" The grammar of this sentence is nothing short of awkward. The inherent problem is that while the sentence follows such a standard structure as "give thanks for the day" the first two words are very poorly chosen. "Praise song" can be read either as a noun adjunct or a verb-noun pair, with the latter falling in line with the aforementioned grammer structure. However, it is the former that will be first assumed by the majority of American listeners, particularly those of a protestant background. This confusion is an interesting grammatical exercise, but starts the poem off by tripping up anyone reading or especially listening.

Moving on, we come across a sentence that is bland and uninteresting until its end. The first, second, and third sections are almost entirely mundane save for "or not". One can argue that this might be intentional given the subject matter, which is the mundane itself. The following sentence is mildly less plain, but is repeated twice before we finally arrive at something one might truly find interesting. Here, finally at "bramble, thorn and din" we have poetry, imagery that leaps to mind. Yet immediately the concision, the picture begins to collapse again. "Each one of" is what my poetry professor would have called "excessive language". The image here is not enhanced by these words, but delayed.

The final sentence of the second paragraph begins a trend I find unfortunate. One of the basic concepts drilled into me by professors and teachers alike was the importance of avoiding "junk" words, that is words that are vague and undescriptive. "Things", "someone", "something", "stuff" and many other words offer no image, no palpable product. They simple are, taking up space and muddying the waters. These are not forbidden words, they have their place, but it is tempting to place them where they do not belong. Here we begin with "someone", though we quickly move into more precise languish, and end with "the things in need of repair". Despite the attempt to elicit mending, "things" squarely hinders the attempt to evoke a clear thought.

This leads into a terribly vague sentence fragment, "Someone is trying to make music somewhere..." There are a million words one could replace "someone" with, and "somewhere" is completely unnecessary, though if it felt right there are certainly a thousand locations one could describe in three words or less. The second half of the sentence could have been interesting, but the stage has been set as this vague nullity, a non-entity with attributes thrown into the void. The listener or reader is working against the poet to form images, which is the antithesis of poetry.

We have a brief reprieve of three sentences that are actually descriptive. They might have made decent prose, but we have just come from a fairly vague place, one filled with attempts at similar sentences. The constant repetition of the someone does something structure dilutes their impact.

Following this we recede. This is now the third time in one poem that we have encountered "someone". In fact, this sentence brings the grand total of junk words up to five (six if you count the vagueness of "others" in this context) and we're only halfway done. I remember my professor once refused a similar effort of mine, immediately handing it back to me. I had until he finished collecting my peers' efforts to replace the offending words.

This next sentence, employing a semi-colon, is not bad, but it highlights the extremely simplistic sentence structure the author employs. We have now repeated the same subject four times consecutively. We have repeated a subject, verb phrase, object structure nine times. Quite simply, this poem is repetitive.

Repetition is broken by this paragraph and it was perfect until the author couldn't stop at "edifices". "They would then" is an awkward segway into an even more awkward phrase. This isn't a Churchill moment; we don't need to radically alter the sentence structure to rid ourselves of "of".

And at last, we have come full circle. By the time the author has repeated "praise song" for the third time one might, at last, be able to clear the hurdle it throws down. Of course, then it beans you with "The figuring it out at kitchen tables". Figuring what out, the sign? *bonk*

The next two sentences are somehow meant to bridge the confusion we just crossed and lead into the an exposition on love. The author has the transition backwards. She starts with a well known statement on love, and moves away from the word in the next sentence before grabbing us by the collar and pulling us back to it.

And here, at last, we have something resembling poetry. These last sentences, up until everything is once again crushed under the confusing grammar of "praise song" we have a glimpse of the art we so love. I say a glimpse and "something resembling" because up until this point we've been enjoying a speech. Looking over this a hundred times, reading it to write this critique, I can't help but realize that this isn't a poem spoken publicly but public speaking with poetic tendencies. If you pulled me off the street and asked me to speak eloquently I might, if flustered, orate in this fashion.

"Praise song for walking forward in that light." Here at the end I can't help but wonder, what the heck did song ever do to warrant such praise?

I'm being very harsh, ridiculously so. I have no authority by which I make these statements, and I'm certain the author is determined enough that they would easily shrug off my criticism as plebeian. In my haste to write this I certainly didn't go into such detail as I could have. Yet, gracious though I may attempt to be toward the work I can not help but think of how talentless it seems. This wasn't an effort worthy of the honor of the day, it was at best an entry-level college homework assignment. It would not get full marks.

I'm certain that someone can argue over the minutiae that I went into, but I don't think any amount of nitpicking will be able to salvage this wreck. Perhaps I am an elitist.


Barack Obama is now President of the United States of America. This is strange.

8 years is a long time, a very long time in fact. Just as moving from home or college elicits strange feelings of otherworldliness, so too has it not sunk in that Bush is no longer the leader of our nation. It will be months before it makes sense that Obama is in charge.

But today is history nonetheless. 60 years from now my grandchildren (God willing), grand nieces and nephews, and neighborhood children I ramble to from my rocket powered rocking chair will look at me in bewilderment when I reminisce. What's so strange about a president such as he? 60 years from now thinking that he was any different than any other man is silly talk. Such is the innocent mind of children.



24 is a television series I don't watch. It is also a greater number of hours than Bush has left in his presidency. This brings joy to many people who are ready to shove him out the door and welcome our new president. Having voted for both men, I regret the callous nature of the public though I easily understand the mood.

There aren't many measures by which Bush was a successful president, and though I would argue he wasn't as terrible as some might say it would distract me from discussing the most important factor in his failings and worldwide perception. I personally think this to be the most important consideration of any leader and one that many people overlook.

The most important attribute of any president is his ability to communicate. I'm not speaking of eloquence or wit, but of the basic ability to convey ideas, excitement, purpose and character. This is an attribute Bush sorely lacked, and one that Obama obviously has in spades.

This affected not only the president but his entire administration through both ignorance and willful obfuscation Bush's presidency has been one of the least communicative in history. From explaining 9/11, to the justification for the war on Iraq, to standard press conferences he and his staff failed to make themselves understandable. This, unsurprisingly, turned America against them.

I say this not because I'm a particular expert on being president but because my experience as part of a leadership staff has shown me this first hand. The principle applies even in a group as small as a guild of fifty people playing a video game. When the leadership fails in communicating their intent, reasoning, and hope the relationship between them and those they lead crumbles at a staggering rate. Communication is as difficult as rock climbing, letting go is to commit to a freefall.

Freefall is a good word to describe our domestic, international and economic standings. Under a good presidency there would be some confidence that the president and the government cared, even if there were grave concerns about how such matters could come about in the first place. Under this presidency it was clear Bush and all who supported him were afraid of recession, and because they were afraid so were we. Bush missed his cue after Obama clearly stated "There is only one president at a time." He could have seized the moment, put on a brace countenance and showed us that he could lead, inspire, and bring about a better economy. Instead he faded into the shadows, leaving his most important job of instilling confidence to the president-elect months in advance.

Obama is beloved and adored not because he brainwashes his supporters, but because he communicates to them. That his ideas are large, hopeful, and inspiring unto themselves is helpful, but they are only ingredients, materials for him to cook and craft. It is his ability to communicate these ideas and how he thinks that has us so eager to see him inaugurated tomorrow. It is this ability that defeated more established politicians, and it is this ability that we will count on to make this a better nation.

But today I do not revel in the passing of Bush's presidency. Terrible as it may have been we are not blameless. A vote for Gore or Kerry is not a free pass, nor is a vote for Bush a damning mark. If, in the space between, you were a political non-entity there is no excuse. I look at today and think not only of the better job Bush might have done, but of what I too might have ventured and gained by seeking to participate more in a process designed to benefit those who would stand up for what their believe in, rather than sit down and watch it pass by on the television.


Case Study in Miscommunication

I spend a fair amount of time arguing with people over the internet. It's a fun intellectual exercise much of the time, and I avoid it when it is not. However, there is no better place to see the wonders of miscommunication than on the internet. Quite simply, reading comprehension is not what it used to be.

The following is something of a case study using a conversation I recently had regarding fundamental economic issues within World of Warcraft.

Before diving into the case study several terms need to be defined and clarified.

"AH" stands for "Auction House". Auction Houses are an ebay-like interface through which players may place auctions for their goods and wares.

"Enchanters" are a profession within the game. Enchanters can increase the power of an item or set of gear by creating an "enchant". Enchanting requires materials (often abbreviated "mats") in order to do this, which are consumed in the creation of the "enchant". In order to increase one's professional skill one must craft many "enchants", which can be a very expensive process.

World of Warcraft is divided into "servers". Each server represents an identical but separate version of the same universe, differentiated only by the players present there. Each server has its own population and economy emergent from these players. Players can change which server they play on, but only at cost. As such, players tend to play on a single server and take a possessive stance on them (referring to them as "me server", "your server" or "their server").

Terms defined, our miscommunication begins with the following message board post.

I'm curious if any other enchanters are having the following problem on their server. A number of enchanters, probably unaware of the upcoming changes, have been advertising that they'll pay gold to anyone bringing their own mats for an enchant if they skill up in the process. Typical "tips" are going between 10-25g.

This doesn't prevent enchanters from selling materials on the AH, which is obviously the most lucrative part of the profession, but it severely undermines attempts to sell vellums/enchants on the AH or to make gold by doing in-person enchants.

The player making this post has observed what they see as a new phenomenon in their local economy. Enchanters seeking to increase their skill have taken to offering money in order to increase the amount of business. The player has also observed an effect this has on the economy, the raw materials for enchanting are now more expensive than the finished product.

The crux of the post, however, is the very first sentence. The author wishes to know the magnitude of the phenomenon.

The response proves interesting.

Does it? I got a couple of enchants off the AH yesterday because they were cheaper than the mats cost, not to mention the convenience factor of finding someone to get the enchant done. If anything, it's a clever marketing ploy( although if they don't get a skillup, you're left paying full mats price, which may not be a bargin), but I don't think it has an affect on the overall market.

There are several puzzling aspects to this response. First, the information the origination post seeks is not mentioned. Second, the first sentences appear to be a rebuttal of the idea that the described phenomenon has the stated effect on the economy, yet instead provides supporting evidence. For someone looking to verify the magnitude of a new phenomenon this response seems, at best, to be wholly confused and fallacious.

However, a second look at the response reveals the miscommunication. The responder has latched onto the word "problem" and identified the problem as the second paragraph. From this perspective the issue isn't the specific practice. As such, he responds by explaining why there isn't a problem!

This isn't immediately obvious, and thus is born the following reply from the original author.

You effectively proved my point. Selling something for less than the cost of materials is selling at cost. You saved money, but the enchanter didn't. If one must sell at cost in order to reliably move auctions there's little incentive to go that route, hence an undermined market.

Offering money to bring in enchant business may be a marketing ploy, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it clever. Clever marketing ploys increase profits; this ploy decreases profits sharply. It doesn't matter if you whiff a skillup and don't have to pay, few people tip someone who was paying for business and there's no guarantee that people are bringing you materials from your own auctions. Additionally it sets expectations that put you out of business once you max out your skill. You can't keep competing with the people still offering money if they skill up, and the AH now reflects the fact that everyone expects enchants to be cheaper than their materials cost. In short, you were better off not leveling beyond the point where you could DE everything.

Again, the biggest profit is, was, and likely will always be the materials themselves. The point is that the incidental income and branching options for an enchanter attempting to maximize their profit have been cut off by lazy/stupid marketing ploys, and I wondered if this was a problem unique to my server or if it was widespread.

A resounding rebuttal, but the energy was wholly misdirected. From the author's perspective he's clearing up a fallacious argument to make room for the point of his curiosity, but in fact is only stoking the flames of confusion. His peer will see this as an attempt to reassert that this is, in fact, a problem.

There is actually a growing problem in this conversation. The original author is increasingly focused on the specifics, while the responder is diverging into greater and greater generality. What started as a simple misconception as to what was the crucial point is now diverging into a true chasm.

I think you're missing the point. You're treating the entire profession as a profit-driven venture, when for many, many people it's entirely not. I'm leveling my main's blacksmithing because I enjoy wearing the gear, not because it's going to be making me a profit( it's entirely the opposite of making a profit actually). Similarly, I'm not leveling my alt's enchanting, because it's far more profitable to sell _all_ the enchanting mats I get - and I don't care whether he's an uber-enchanter.

As for the giving gold for the privilege of doing the enchant, it's a "clever" ploy in that you're assuming no risk, you're offering a "cash-back" incentive, and your alternative in leveling is trying to sell the glut of enchants you're doing at below-cost anyway.

Notice immediately that what interests the original author has been relegated to a tertiary importance by the responder. Not only is it separated from the responder's most focused point, but it's subservient to the issue of its own cleverness! The responder himself remains focused on "the problem" and identifies the original author's viewpoint as a potential source of his inability to understand that "the problem" isn't a problem, or at least isn't new and interesting. Well-meaning as he may be, this will only open the chasm even wider.

The original author responds.

I'm treating the profession entirely as a profit driven venture because this is largely the goal of this thread and those posting here. Competing with the noted categories of people is an implicit part of doing so and not something that is likely to surprise anyone familiar with WoW's economy.

My three part point is simply this: There are people on my server paying to enchant other people's gear for skillups if they bring their own materials, this effectively undermines the profitability of anything but selling raw enchanting materials, is this a localized or widespread phenomenon?

What motivates these people isn't relevant to my question and concern.

The original author has identified that this discussion has veered wildly off the track he was wishing to discuss and attempts to reground the discussion with the second paragraph. Unfortunately the conversation is too far gone at this point. The second paragraph will be completely misunderstood, diluted as it is by the first paragraph and the concluding sentence.

The responder's reply:

In response to your single-pointed question: This hasn't changed, well...ever in my experience. So not only is it widespread, but it's hardly worth noting. The only interesting part is that it's a new and clever way of subsidizing the painful leveling process - much better than coming up with the mats and selling those same enchants on the AH below-cost. Since I've started playing, it's never been hard to find people willing to( and often advertising ) provide leveling enchants for free. The "tip" in these situations is the opportunity to get a leveling point. Sometimes you'll even find folks willing to give you the enchant with their mats, just so it doesn't go to waste. Less common now with the vellums, but not out of the ordinary either.

The miscommunication is complete. "The problem" has now absorbed the original author's point of interest. The responder will continue to discuss the general notion of undercutting while the original author continues to express his interest in a new, unique case thereof. Until one or the other identifies this issue no understanding can be reached.

This case study may be applied practically in either resolving communications issues on in causing them. Skilled trolls likely make use of these slight misunderstandings to perpetuate conversations that might otherwise end. By being only one step out of sync with their target they create a dissonance which any human naturally wishes to resolve.

This concludes the study. Though it should be noted that the original author did manage to identify the source of the conflict and, after a few attempts, managed to resolve the confusion.


Brave New World

I don't see the point in a technological future where tutorials crash and critical updates blue screen a computer.

I can see it now.

PICARD: Data, report on the anomaly.
DATA: I'm sorry captain, but our sensors have experience a critical error. A ticket has automatically been opened with FedSoft and they will be responding in the next 24 hours.
PICARD: A critical error? What was the cause?
DATA: The precise cause is unknown sir, but it appears that our sensor software was attempting to self-update when the error occurred.
RIKER: Captain! The anomaly appears to be growing, we're being sucked in!
PICARD: Full reverse!
CRUSHER: The engines aren't responding sir!
PICARD: Explain ensign!
CRUSHER: They were automatically shutdown thirty minutes ago by FedSoft Warpcheck. I can't override without rebooting the entire system.
PICARD: How long will that take?
CRUSHER: It claims 5 minutes, but in practice it always takes 15.
PICARD: And before we are absorbed into the anomaly?
DATA: Judging by our acceleration and the growing size of the anomaly, 12 minutes an 42 seconds.
WORF: Perhaps a controlled torpedo spread could contain the anomaly, buying us time.
PICARD: Make it so Mr. Worf, and I want those warp engines rebooted and online in 10 minutes, no more.
WORF: Captain, the torpedo systems haven't been fire since our last update and are asking if we would like to reconfigure them now.
PICARD: Ignore it.
WORF: Captain, it is giving a warning that firing without reconfiguring may yield suboptimal results-
RIKER: Just fire the damn torpedos.
WORF: I am entering in my account name and password to confirm now.
PICARD: Pray that this works.
WORF: My password has expired, I must choose a new password before I can continue.
PICARD: Could this get any worse?
DATA: Judging from past events it seem highly-
PICARD: That was a rhetorical question Data.
WORF: I have successfully changed my password, firing torpedoes now.
The Enterprise rocks violently. A random console explodes sending its operator flying across the bridge.
PICARD: Report!
RIKER: The torpedoes detonated before being fired!
WORF: Todsah! The configuration of the torpedoes reset when I changed my password!
DATA: Captain, shields are failing. We are being absorbed into the anomaly.
PICARD: Status on the engines?
CRUSHER: There was an error on shutdown, FedSoft is running a mandatory check before bringing them online.
The Enterprise is absorbed into the anomaly.

Q: Can I offer you an enterprise level solution with omnipresent help support?


Crayons and Physics

Sometimes, I just can't help but be impressed by the awesome some people have wrought. This puzzle game comes out tomorrow, and it's something I think even my Dad might consider a worthy investment.

Crayon Physics Deluxe from Petri Purho on Vimeo.

Doesn't hurt that the music makes you want to be a peace with anything and everything.

Religion and Programming

Are they really so different? Some think not.