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.