hurry

A few quick technical things before I start crafting a new playlist for tonight.

– I’m 90% certain that this is working in every browser now. A few people were having issues accessing my stylesheet from work, but I think I’ve tweaked Apache to resolve that. I still want to know if things are broken for you.
– Comments may or may not be acting weird. I haven’t figured it out yet. It doesn’t help that Blogger’s code allows very little customization of the commenting engine.
– The sidebar is gross, I know. IE won’t render the margins correctly, so I have to leave it looking halfway ugly for everybody (for now).
– I’m working on another background, primarily one that doesn’t cause lag. Slower computers are not having fun with the transparency, and that’s because of the background. This background was originally 1024×768 (which looked significantly better), but I opted to shrink it to 800×600 for the reduced lag. Even now, it’s not all that smooth.

I’ll leave it here, for now.

Fool’s Gold – Nadine (Memory Tapes Version)
youtube
download

Really hits its stride around 2:30.

consummation

Welcome, my sweeties, to what is (by my count) the seventh incarnation of this blog’s physical form.

I felt it a fitting way to begin writing with regularity again. I am simply too hip to allow myself to wallow in a default template. My words must be emphasized by a glorious, fixed background.

If you are experiencing visual aberrations, please let me know. This is all still a work in progress, and I expect problems. In particular, if it seems really slow or stuff is jumping around on the page, I am eager to hear the details of your internetting apparatus. As for the site, the header and sidebar are in for an upgrade, and the comments section is definitively under construction, but it all functions to a minimum level of coherence.

I must say that I am very excited.

a little break

I’ve been doing some writing by my lonesome recently, but I figured it would be healthy to share a little something on the less creative side.

I don’t consider myself a particularly gadget-crazy person, but I do read a large volume of tech and gadget news week-to-week, which keeps me up on the new and pretty things that I will never buy. I did, however, make one exception to this pattern in buying a Zune HD. I pre-ordered one a few months back, payed the extra two bucks for release day shipping, and got to participate in the communal excitement that occurs with the release of something new and delightful in the world of technology.

It’s not that I harbor anything negative against Apple; I hold little regard for blind brand-maligning on every side of the fence. I am, however, quite disinterested in the iPod line. Though highly functional and decently stylish, I know my tendencies, and I am certain that I would find myself becoming quickly bored with something I’ve used hundreds of times without ever having owned one. My vanity is also quite consistent; the thing simply looks far prettier than its competition, and if I’m to be using something each and every day, I would expect it to meet a minimum standard of fashion.

Thus far, my choice has served me extremely well. It achieves a level of design that I think exemplifies where the user experience should be going: it executes its intended purpose without flaw, and I daresay that the experience of that execution is so smooth that it borders on the feeling of pleasant and calming. Something that gadgetry to date has failed to emulate is the sense of responsive tactile fiddling. A book’s pages can be idly flipped to and fro. A pen can be clicked again and again, until the person sitting next to you shoves a sock down your throat. Even something as simple as a piece of string occupies your fingers, delaying a feeling of idleness. Similarly, the Zune HD’s interface is so well designed that I find myself flipping through menus and exploring the mass of stuff I’ve put on there without even thinking about it. It leaves me excited for where technology will go from here, and that’s a nice feeling to have.

It also happens to be an immense upgrade from my previous mp3 player. For years I’ve been carrying around an 8gb refurbished Sansa that would freeze up several times a day, had barely ten hours of battery life, and looked slightly worse than Frankenstein on a Monday morning. It served its purpose nobly enough, but the massive gap between what I had and what I have certainly feeds a bit of the glee I feel over the Zune HD (I’m careful to include the HD portion, as I was no fan of the earlier Zunes). The fact that I can charge it for less than an hour and go for four days of constant usage blows my mind. Being able to fit (just barely) all of my music on it is also a delight; I’ve been slowly discovering portions of my collection that I never even knew existed.

I’ve heard high praise for its integration with the Zune marketplace, but not being one to buy music very often, I haven’t investigated it much. The browser is good enough for what I do (almost solely Google reader), and the apps thus far are mildly entertaining – though the fact that they throw ads at you is certainly infuriating.

A worthwhile purchase, for my own.

solidarity

The feeling of being a part of something bigger and greater than yourself is something that many chase for the whole of their lives. Being a part of the generation that will determine the fate of the Internet’s usefulness is thrilling in its own right, and the opportunity to fan the flames of revolution from the comfort of home is immensely enticing. Yet I find myself more concerned, than excited.

Much of what happens on the internet is essentially narcissistic.

For one of my psychology classes, I did a report on altruism, and in my research I came across a study that suggested that contributions to the Internet are fundamentally about attention, not altruism. Certainly, less nefarious motives can certainly be found in every aspect of the web. I am not about to suggest that retwittering feeds from Iran is wholly selfish, but more that the drive to support freedom of speech and democracy would not be enough to set the revolution in motion were it not for some modicum of desire for recognition.

There’s an instinctive desire to be the first, when it comes to participation and discovery.

Who wouldn’t want to tell their children they were among the fleet of internet denizens that helped to topple the Iranian government? This isn’t so much about attention, but about being “ahead of the curve”. There’s a sense of pride that accompanies seeing a video, an image, a fad, or a meme before it went viral. Being first initiates a sense of ownership and responsibility for whatever ensues in the aftermath. It’s why so many comments on popular articles are battles for the first post. Perhaps the very reason I am writing this, is to feel that I am the first to point these things out.

There is very little regard for source in the content of the internet.

I wrote about this a while back, but memes are crowdsourced. Although someone sent the first rickroll, and another personal created the first lolcat, it would be pompous and foolish for anyone to attempt to claim ownership over such entities. They become what they are through mass participation, not because of the genius of its author. Similarly, the number of reliable sources for information of what’s actually occurring in Iran are sparingly few. The reports from those on the ground are certainly moving, and it would be callous to turn away when something is obviously awry. Yet the headlines on Digg, Reddit, and BoingBoing are more than just a little emotionally manipulative. Only the most intense and outrageous tidbits are passed along, because that is how content on the Internet spreads. As my long-time hero Ze Frank points out, only one Western poll has been conducted concerning the election’s actual results, and they did not point to a victory for Mousavi.

Obviously, there is more than just an election that’s being disputed here. It’s about transparency and peace and cooperation, about making a government that’s for and by the people. It would, however, be irresponsible to fail to recognize the other elements that are at play here. It is not as if the Internet suddenly rose up to altruistically defend the rights of the Iranian people. It happened for a reason, and those reasons may not be particularly pleasant.

The internet has a very short term memory.

Perhaps it is insensitive to label the Iranian election as a fad, but it fits the criteria. In several months, the avatars on Twitter will go back to their normal colors. #iranelection will cease to top the trending topics. The conflict in Iran may go on or it will be resolved; but with time, the collective interest in Iran will return to where it once was. Maybe it will become an artifact of internet history, receiving reference whenever a new issue is championed by the internet. Only time will tell.

flow

This is one of those posts that I’d probably be better off writing a thirty page paper on. Instead, I’ll over-simplify and under-explain!

The Internet is leaving behind a trail of destruction as it burns through each day’s newest fads and memes. Traditional mass media no longer serves as a standard of humor or a source, but as a supplement: Conan or Colbert are (technically speaking) nothing but thirty-minute Youtube sketches. Realistically, this is an exaggeration as these figures hold far more clout than your average Youtube sketch comedy. But for how long?

As these figures of cultural stability have declined in power and prominence, humor on the internet has become anonymous. Authorship for entertainment on the Internet is mostly disregarded. Nobody makes claim to having created the lolcat meme, nor does anyone seek ownership over any macros generated by this meme. It is its own entity that lives and dies regardless of the efforts of any single person or group. By contrast, a dip in popularity for Letterman’s show could be fixed simply by hiring new writers. Internet fads last only as long as they are fresh.

Take, for example, the Star Wars kid, or the Numa Numa guy. Released today, they would be lost in a sea of equally ridiculous Youtube videos and what’s more, no one would deem them even slightly entertaining. When they first went viral, however, they were immeasurably popular, and held universal appeal. Their landmark status and the associated nostalgia preserves some of that today, but strictly speaking they are not as amusing as they once were. Rickrolling, likewise, has lived and died in a matter of but two years. The humor of it was strangled simply by its popularization. Veterans of the internet were sick of it before it even reached the widest masses.

Nothing about the nature of humor has changed. A good joke is only good so long as no one’s heard it before. Humor relies on originality, upon being fresh. The Internet is a viral entity; it does nothing but communicate information from person to person as quickly as possible. It induces, if you will, a quick high with a very extensive hangover. The aforementioned anonymity also leaves us with fewer landmarks to think back to, meaning the videos and memes we laugh at today are simply being lost in the ever-expanding network of the tubes.

The problem worsens as this cycle of consumption quickens. In the space of five years, a whole new generation of consoles has lived and died. Multiple televisions shows and cartoons have been produced and canceled. Entire genres of music blossomed and wilted. Generation gaps have always existed, but I believe these gaps are not just widening, but becoming more frequent. Twenty years ago, there was already more media available for consumption than any single person could take in – and this was before the dawn of the Internet. Despite this immense growth of media, we’re also spending more time inside single pieces of entertainment, like World of Warcraft or Halo. The opportunity cost of a thousand hours in WoW is that much greater, when so much else is happening elsewhere.

Part of me sees this exponential growth of media, and despairs. The nature of consumption is such that once an item is consumed, it is no longer worth anything. If the Internet is merely a tool for consumption, the only possible outcome is quite grim: we’re eventually left with a giant mass of worthless one-hit-wonder media.

It would be ignorant to see the Internet as only that, however. It’s easy to look backwards and label any change from the norm as being unwelcome, especially when the Internet has created such a giant generation gap. Some have likened this void to what rock and roll did in the 70’s, but on a much more far-reaching scale. I can certainly attest to this gap – if my teachers, parents, or therapist are any indication, my generation is one that is not particularly well-understood outside of itself. I’ve tried to breach that gap with my parents, but I know they’ll never see my computer usage as anything more than just a passion or a hobby, rather than a way of life.

It sounds cliche and arrogant to call it a way of life, but what else could it be? My generation would be wholly different without the presence of this technology. It’s tempting to exchange ‘different’ with ‘better’, but we don’t know what things would look like otherwise. This is what we have, and despairing over change is worthless.

I recently discovered that much of PBS’ library has been put online, and in particular, its Frontline series of social documentaries. One in particular, Growing Up Online was pretty brilliant, and went through a wide array of examples for how the Internet impacts the lives of adolescents. It ended with the notion that it’s useless for parents to fear or fight the Internet, but that acceptance and understanding will get them much farther in their relationships with their children.

It’s hard for me not to be nihilistic about where the Internet is taking culture at large, but that feeling is silenced when I realize that I get to be a part of defining this century’s culture. That, ladies and gentlemen, is badass.

method

I’ve decided not to rebuild my computer for the time being.

My relationship with computers has always been a problematic one. The phrase computer addiction has been tossed around by a handful of people in my life, and while I am loathe to concede to such a suggestion, I am beginning to wonder if my existence is really any better off with the presence of a computer in my bedroom. While the internet’s most zealous proponents insist that the internet is totally different from TV because of its user-oriented, participatory nature, I am starting to think that perhaps, perhaps, the end results are ultimately the same for much of the internet’s usage. Particularly, when Wired starts claiming that the scientific method has been debunked in the face of the plethora of data provided by Google, I wonder if the internet has ultimately enabled nothing but glorified, slack-jawed navel-gazing, much the same as what happens when one watches television for a lengthy period of time.

Admittedly, this is also sparked by having seen Wall-E, a rather glorious film that unabashedly criticizes the focus of American culture. The human characters in the film live on a ship devoted to endless entertainment and ultimate convenience, and as a result, they’re all completely obese and self-absorbed. While this isn’t directly stated, they’re also immortal – they’ve survived for over seven-hundred years, but they haven’t done anything in that time except bitch at each other over matters of spilled milk.

This brought me back to one of the lectures I listened to at L’Abri, which had a rather unique analysis of different systems of culture. I can’t remember all of them, but here’s a few.

Communism: man’s greatest end is to produce.
Capitalism: man’s greatest end is to consume.
Materialism: man’s greatest end is to be entertained.

The more I think about it in these terms, the more convinced I become that Jesus was right in stating that man’s greatest end is to serve. I recently watched 12 Angry Men, and just tonight, Forrest Gump. While Henry Ford’s character and Tom Hanks’ character are quite different, their commonality is in their service. The remarkable thing about service is that it does not require one to be a genius, to be rich, or to have anything at all. We can serve at every moment and every point in our lives, and it seems to me that we are creatures made for serving.

Which brings me back to the start. Where does service enter in to the internet? How can a one serve anything but pwnage inside of WoW? How can one serve on facebook, youtube, or myspace? These are entities devoted to self-service. It would be like attempting to serve by watching Comedy Central.

My point is this: entertainment has its place, and I enjoy much of what popular media has to offer. But these cannot be the center of my life, if I’m to be a fulfilled human being.

Micah 6:8
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Entitlement

Young IT employees pose a challenge to many managers who say the Millennial generation holds employers up to unrealistic expectations and makes unreasonable demands for their services.

daftShadow>:
You may have little patience for people who demand more than they are worth; but this generation has absolutely no patience for companies unwilling to engage them at market value.

It’s simple economics. If a key employee thinks that he is worth $X salary, you evaluate whether or not he’s worth it. If he is, you pay it. If not worth it, you don’t. That’s it. These people are not quitting to go work at McDonalds, they are finding other work that pays them what they want.

The ‘retention’ problem is not because this generation wants the kitchen sink; it’s because these companies don’t have any money to buy kitchens.

Hao Wu:
How often do we here, “If you don’t like your job – QUIT already!”

So we do just that, and the six and seven-figure salaries in management still feel violated.

I say f- them. Either pay more, or quit complaining about our right to leave.

cayenne8:
I dunno…I have to say “Welcome to the real world”.

We’ve done our young people a disservice the past few decades….in schools and society, we’ve taken away anything that might hurt little Timmy’s self esteem…..everyone gets an award for ‘trying’, and everyone is taught they are all equal and will be treated that way.

Parents who work too much….have tried making up for it…by giving their kids what they want. It leads to people coming out of this sheltered environment, and being shocked that they don’t walk right into a job making the $$ their parents did….not instantly being a manager…and [shudder] having to work their way up from the bottom.

I’ll admit…my generation (early X) had a great deal of this too…but, not quite as bad as it seems the youth coming into the workforce now have.

I’m not saying it is all of them…but, this attitude does seem to be rising. Unless you can start your own business….you’re gonna have to learn that there is the golden rule…whoever has the gold, makes the rules. If you wanna work and make it…well, you’re gonna have to sacrifice and work hard for awhile, pay your dues as they used to say.

raehl:
30-50 years ago, if you went to college, chances are your parents were blue collar people who worked their asses off to save enough money to give you that opportunity, and you probably had to work your ass off to get more money and scholarships to make it. Yeah, there were a few kids of rich parents, but they were the minority.

Now we have a LOT more people in middle-class office jobs. They don’t have to pull double-shifts to get their kids into college. And their kids don’t have to work their asses off for it – they can just get financial aid and student loans, WITHOUT having to join the army for 6 years. Yeah, there are still kids out there who work their asses off to get into and through school, but they’re in the minority.

30 years ago most kids who graduated college were thankful they didn’t have grease under their fingernails when they came home from work like their parents did. Nowadays, more of the kids who graduate college are from families who never had to worry about anything. If your parents always had enough money, why wouldn’t you?

DoofusOfDeath:
“I say f- them. Either pay more, or quit complaining about our right to leave.”

There’s more to it than that. Someone just out of college may say, regarding his first 2-3 jobs, “This sucks! I’m not getting the {respect | money | office | projects} I deserve! F*** this. Bye.” But that person mistakenly thinks that he’s getting a worse-than-standard deal. So out of ignorance, he leaves a perfectly good job, chasing the mythical perfect job.

It’s that pointless churn that I think employers might reasonably be frustrated by. (Of course, those employees might find that they can do less work and get paid more by working in marketing. In that case, the employers are themselves getting a bitter dose of reality.)

aussersstene:
They’ve been promised the world by well-meaning educators, parents, and public figures for most of their youthful lives.

College is your ticket out of the ghetto, means a higher income, better work conditions, more freedom, more control over your career, more respect, blah, blah, blah. It’s true in a way, but the way a university education is described is often as the opposite of blue-collar work. That is to say that many kids are told (I know I was, all the way up through the end of undergrad) that I was going to college to avoid certain things:

– Being poor
– Having to get paid for what I “do” rather than what I “think”
– Being stuck in a “dead-end job”
– Having to “flip burgers,” “answer phones,” “make copies,” or other “menial labor” work
– Low pay (this is a biggy, and you hear it over and over and over)

Well… all of these things are exactly what you confront when you finish your bachelor’s degree. I know it was a tremendous shock to me after having been goaded on for years to get good grades in high school, then to go to college, then to hang in there—goaded using all of these reasons for sticking with it—only to find out that college doesn’t provide you with wealth, the ability to get paid for what you think, a way to avoid dead-end jobs, having to start at the absolute entry level, or getting paid nothing for all of the above… The only way up the career ladder is to climb it, from the bottom.

It’s the “all kids must go to college” culture that we have—we even direct kids away from the things they’re interested in in many cases using these kinds of arguments (which are really veiled threats in a way of what consequences await them if they don’t go to college) and then they graduate expecting exactly the benefits that have been used as selling points for all these years.

I can completely empathize. It took me a good five years to come to terms with the fact that I’d essentially been had and would now need to choose between going out and starting up the career ladder as if I’d just graduated high school with essentially no advantage, or going to grad school on the other hand (i.e. school for many more years and at great expense) to gain at least some measurable advantage for myself with all the hard work I’d done.

I chose the latter, but I often reflect on the fact that I could easily have chosen the former as well… there was certainly a point in my life where it could have gone either way.

Skreems:
In a way, what was promised probably used to be true, but not because college was such a great training ground. If only the relatively gifted went to college, say, 50 years ago, then they would probably emerge to find a creative career in a respected field waiting for them. Now that any monkey with middle class parents can bum their way through, the group of college graduates is no longer self selecting for those who are talented enough to secure the things they’ve been promised.

Now, I don’t think this contradicts your point, but it may explain it. I think people may have mistaken the self selection in the last generation for some magical property endowed by the act of going to college. But I will contradict you enough to say that SOME new college graduates do find that those expectations are met. If you’re at the top of your class, intelligent, and actually good at what you do, you’re never not wanted. It may take a bit of legwork to find someone who’s willing to pay for that, but they’re always out there, because a lot of people are really really bad at what they do.

pete_classic:
“If young people were going to develop responsibility, they would need to have a connection to what they’re responsible for, which means giving them real power in the world, which isn’t happening.”

This statement captures the problem beautifully. The world will be yours one day, want it or not. And if you’re a bunch of checked-out WOW playing crybabies it isn’t going to be much of a world. Nobody gives anybody anything worth having in this life. You get it by earning it. And if you don’t give a shit now, you certainly aren’t going to give a shit when the next generation is crying that you don’t do enough for them.

I advise you to get your ass off your shoulders and act responsible first. You’ll become elite within your generation.

-Peter

vorpal^
I worked for a company that was bought out a few years back. The new CEO came to visit us to “pep talk” us, telling us that we were currently number two in the marketplace and that we wouldn’t settle for number two: we had to be number one.

No one was enthusiastic in the slightest, and it wasn’t because we were in a new company. No, we weren’t pepped by his speech because it was clear to us that there was no advantage to us other than perhaps some prestige to being number one. All we would be doing is earning him and the stockholders more money.

We’re told that we have to earn our place in society, but from many of our perspectives, there really isn’t anything *worth* earning. What is the very best that most of us can hope for? A middle class position in an ever poverty-increasing society due to the tremendous shift of wealth towards a small number of businessmen? A marriage where we both work long hours in order to fatten a tiny number of people’s pockets, coming home so exhausted that we’re barely able to tend to the children’s needs and much less to each other’s, so we compensate ourselves by the accumulation of possessions? Some world we’ve been offered. I’m not sure that it will be worse off if we’re a bunch of WOW playing crybaby slackers.

I’m frustrated that despite all of human innovation and technological advancements, I have to kowtow to an alarm clock that rings at 6:30 AM. Where are the promises that technology was supposed to reduce working hours and make our lives more pleasant? No, we’re forced to work harder to compete with other organizations who also suffer the same fate as our own. I think many of us have realized just how much society *has* lied to us, about college, technology, etc. and we’ve grown apathetic and tired of the empty promises. I’d rather be a relatively poor slacker with time to myself to do what I want and to enjoy my family than a successful developer whose time is consumed with largely meaningless pursuits and whose life is filled with possessions.

iendedi:
“We don’t feel that we should be expected to “earn” the right to be part of the important goings on in our culture.”

It should be handed to you? Some sort of divine right?

“We feel that, even if we do “earn” what rights are available, we will still be pawns in someone elses game, and we have no more love or respect for their game than they have for us, so we don’t bother.”

We older people feel like that too. Very few people throughout history have been able to evade that feeling.

“We consume these “opiates” because we hate the real world we live in, we see no hope of changing it, and we have given up and fled to imaginary land. In our zoned out state, we do only what we must to exist, because we are not really here.”

And the inevitable result of your pathological lethargy will be the fading of America as a country of importance. Let us hope you are not all like that.

“Now, some of us haven’t given up. But we still don’t take jobs for employers, we become self-employeed.”
This isn’t different than any generation that came before you.

“None of us are interested in taking these “entry level jobs” in the hopes that we might be blessed with something better some day. We know that someday will not come.”

Well, most people recognize that gaining experience makes you more valuable and more capable of starting your own business. There is no shortcut when it comes to experience. By definition, you must experience something to become experienced at it. GTA won’t help you. There are no video games to put real-world business experience, real world technology experience or, …, well, …, real world experience into your brain.

“If young people were going to develop responsibility, they would need to have a connection to what they’re responsible for, which means giving them real power in the world, which isn’t happening.

If young people do develop a sense of responsibility, they are still not going to take jobs. They are going to take over.”

It is every young generation’s manifest destiny to take over from the older generations, eventually. But there are rites of passage. Those older guys know more than you do. They are tougher, meaner, smarter, more experienced, better talkers, better programmers, better negotiators, better strategists, etc.., than their younger colleagues. They are like this because they have been at it a lot longer. You will take over as they retire off and/or as you become experienced enough to outsmart and outcompete them. Again, there are no shortcuts.

So stop being a spoiled brat and go do the grunt work. You aren’t yet up to the task of the higher profile stuff. You will know when you are up to the task, because you will take over. Until then, you are just flapping your lips. And no, you aren’t worth the same amount of money as someone that has been doing the job for 20 years. In all likelihood, if you disappeared, they would hardly notice – as a green kid, the company is investing in you – you likely add very little value, so you are being payed more than they are able to extract in value from your labor. You are likely being trained, groomed and given experience in the hopes that your value will eventually increase past the point where their investment is, making you a profitable employee to have on board. If the 20 year veteran disappeared, the lights wouldn’t turn on, the database would stop working, nobody would be able to get a new release out, it would start raining blood, cats and dogs would be living together and the company would go into crisis mood. But you wouldn’t know about that, because you haven’t experienced it…

Delivery

If you go back a few days, I wished life were as easy to win as the internet.

I’m not so sure it isn’t.

Examining the elements of interaction is all it takes to see that dominating the way I communicate is merely a matter of adaptation and methodology. The formula increases in complexity when you bring it into real-life situations, and demands a much higher reaction time and capability to think on your feet, but the process is the same, in the end. Bear with me, here.

In any internet interaction, it’s always a matter of reading comprehension, followed by finding the pressure points in what another person’s saying. If you know what you’re doing, you can identify these sensitive spots just based on simple pattern recognition, with enough experience. Identifying familiar patterns goes a long way in saving your words for when it matters, which is necessary to preserve your own sanity, as well as the perception that will be drawn around you. It all comes down to what kind of persona you’re trying to emit, and how that persona is to counter the persona of your victims (or potential allies). So, I suppose the key tenets would be:

1) Don’t waste words. That doesn’t mean be reclusive, but save a response for when a response is both called for and productive. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be impossible to trap into circular or never-ending arguments (which degrade your image and sap your energy), and your words will be seen as something that shouldn’t be ignored.

2) Know your target. Identify your subject of communication, but more importantly, know your subject’s tendencies and qualifications. This is necessary to ensure that you aren’t trying to bullshit someone that knows more than you do, but also for stocking your bag of tricks. Watching how others communicate with your target is the best method for collecting knowledge on your target; approaching unknown entities is not advisable. Lurkers are dangerous for this same reason, as they rarely reveal enough to grant an understanding of their patterns, but often have the patience and the know-how to cripple any discussion on the table, and thus must be avoided, and confronted with caution.

The best knowledge will be in the form of key phrases and buzzwords that they react positively AND negatively to (depending on how you want them to react), an understanding of their favorite topics and the topics with which they have the most experience, a smattering of personal information (primarily gender, political affiliations, marital/child status, and location), and an understanding of their true personality. Their true personality is not what will be displayed at all times, but the causality behind everything they say.

3) Know your goals. Every interaction has a goal. Generally, you’re either looking to corner them as efficiently as possible, or you’re looking to generate a positive response (via humor, a thoughtful post, encouragement, or sharing interests). You can do both, of course, and it’s the best words that do just that. You have to know what you’re aiming to do. Aim for a simple goal (produce a quality counter-flame), and then work up. Not every encounter will be a supreme victory. To dominate, sitting on the sidelines to wait for the opportunity to rip face will just not do. Sometimes you have to settle for mediocre, to build up towards the truly winner moments.

4) Know your available methods, AKA know yourself. Knowing what you’re good at is what it’s all about. Focusing your strengths on the vulnerabilities of your target is what’s it all about, and unless you know what your strengths are, you can’t even begin to do that. That’s why arrogant newbies suck.

My point in writing all this is that if you’re careful in examining all of that, it’s pretty easy to realize that all of that transfers perfectly over to real-life interaction. The way I write about it sounds incredibly manipulative and subversive, but I’m inclined to think it’s just a realistic look at how people interact in a semi-anonymous manner. The rules and boundaries change when you bring it into the real world. The taboos change and what’s effective here isn’t worth a thing there. It’s all a matter of pattern recognition in general interaction, and then identifying what’s most effective for communication on an individual basis.

My preliminary tests suggest that I’m not off target.

Correspondance

For some reason, I feel like posting this here. It’s an email that I doubt any of you will find meaningful.

date: Sep 23, 2007 10:26 PM
subject: Communication & Moderation

D,

I have no real way of knowing how interested you are in the workings of the communities outside of SK.org. If you aren’t at all, then I can safely say this email won’t interest you. If you are, I’d like to ensure another player-run forum doesn’t blow up in the face of the game.

I’m sure you know by now that SKLogs.com has now sunk, javarmonkey.com being the replacement. While it is self-described as not being focused on SK, it does have a section devoted to SK. With that, it has the potential to enrich or degrade SK, just as SKLogs did. Communication goes a long ways towards ensuring that history doesn’t repeat itself. That might sound cliche, but there’s a lot we can learn from SKLogs.

The relationship between SK.org and SKLogs was abysmal, at best. Its origins were humble enough, but time saw a massive schism between the two, when really, they’re both working to try and make the game more fun for everybody. I don’t need to describe SKLogs’ devolution; we both know what the problems were and why they were so bad. But, I think it was a necessary problem for the community to face. SKLogs made mainstream what supamang and Chemhound did in the pseudo-underground. It forced the players and the staff to make a very conscious choice about how they played the game from an OOC perspective. Not visiting SKLogs meant sacrificing a huge wealth of information as well as a very large social connection to the other players. That wasn’t the case, before. Additionally, the wealth of information created an illusion of necessity – players seeking to maintain their status as knowledgeable and elite felt required to read and participate in order to stay on the “bleeding edge” of competition inside the game.

While it is easy to decry such an obviously weak attitude towards the game, most players don’t, even now, realize that they were so immersed in the cycle. History seems to indicate that there’s no way to change these trends – which is why a place without moderation became such a powder keg, self-destructing in a pile of chaos and flames. With this, we’re presented with the same situation, but with fresh experience and knowledge to learn from. A player-run site is a necessity for SK. As one forum passerby, Joebones notes: a strong player-run forum is a sign of good health in and outside of the game. There has to be a place where players can go to be moderated less strictly – otherwise they’ll get fed up, and something on the extreme will appear, like another SKLogs.

I am (for the time being) moderating the SK section of Java’s site. Her goal (as well as mine) is to eliminate the presence of information that detracts from the game – working out what kind of information that is, exactly, isn’t easy. That’s why I’m writing this. A successful player-run SK forum (or subsection of a forum, as they case may be) should be focused on complementing existing structures and material without fighting against the ideals of the game. I think I need your help to do that – if you’re willing to provide it.

From what I can tell, a major portion of SKLogs’ failure was derived from a lack of communication. What would you like to see in this player-run community? Where should it differ from SK.org? How can I make sure the two aren’t working against each other? How comfortable are you with any of this?

Thanks for your time and consideration. I hope I’m not too long-winded, but I thought I should be thorough about all this.

Salandarin / Tim

Budding Terrorists

From Slashdot:

“A student at the Houston-area Clements High School was arrested, sent to an “Alternative Education Center” and banned from graduation after school officials found he created a video game map of his school. School district police arrested the teen and searched his home where they confiscated a hammer as a ‘potential weapon’. ‘ “They decided he was a terroristic threat,” said one source close to the district’s investigation.’ With an upcoming May 12 school board election, this issue has quickly become political, with school board members involved in the appeal accusing each other of pandering to the Chinese community in an attempt to gain votes.”

One more, two more.

Some good comments:

I made a map of my school shortly after the Columbine thing, for Duke Nuken 3D.

I got extra credit from my Visual Arts teacher for being ‘creative’, and lemme tell you, I had a HELL of a lot more than a hammer for weapons at my house.”

(in response)

My Visual Arts teacher gave me an “Incomplete” for the course. I shouldn’t have made my map for Duke Nukem Forever.

Dude, you are way underestimating the seriousness of this issue. They found a hammer in this kid’s house…a fucking HAMMER. He could easily have knocked one, maybe even two people unconscious with that thing before anyone could do anything about it.

What does anyone need with a hammer in their house anyway? Forget about banning him from graduation, this little mini-Osama should get sent straight to Gitmo. There is absolutely no reason to have a hammer in your home unless you intend to commit a terrorist act.

Plus, if all that weren’t bad enough, this kid is ASIAN. Christ man, do you have any idea how crazy those Asians are? One of them killed a bunch of people at Virginia Tech just a short time ago. This categorically PROVES that all Asians are sociopaths just itching to shoot up a school. You can’t argue with this logic, it is completely impervious.

You have no idea what we’re up against here, man. This shit is SERIOUS. Don’t come crying to me when your kid comes home with a big nasty bump on his head because one of these little Asian al Qaeda wannabes smacked him over the head with a mallet. You were warned.”

(in response)

I spoke with Charles Hammerton about this, and you are neglecting many aspects.

He might have had the hammer for home defence. There is nothing wrong with some sport hammering from time to time. Of course, we believe that hammers should be licensed, and background checks done before a hammer can be purchased. Training is, of course, very important, and hammers should never be left where children could harm themselves with them. If appropriate, a hammer lock can be had at any high school that teaches wrestling.

Dont forget about the constitution, and the right to bear hammers.

Responsible hammer ownership is a right, and should not be infringed by a few nut cases.

As Charles said “you can have my hammer, when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers”.”

Dont forget about the constitution, and the right to bear hammers.

People are always misquoting that amendment. It’s the right to hammer bears. Which, as the supreme court affirmed in smokey v. ashcroft, means that you have the right to get a bear drunk if it’s more than 18 years old.”

(in response)

He could easily have knocked one, maybe even two people unconscious with that thing before anyone could do anything about it.

As a proud, lifetime member of the National Hammer Association, I must insist that we not go too far here. It’s part of our constitutional rights – the right to Arm and Hammer – to arm ourselves with hammers. This incident is merely one more reason that everyone ought to carry hamers everywhere they go – if others had been armed with hammers, this student would have had a serious disincentive to consider possibly carrying out the egregious act he was prevented from possibly committing.

Soon, crazy liberal will want to outlaw air hammers, jack hammers, Mike Hammers, pipe hammers – even Diesel hammers – you name it. Act now to preserve your hammer rights – join the NHA.”

(in response)

Hey! If we outlaw hammers, only outlaws will be able to put shelves up!

(in response)

Don’t underestimate the hammer. Remember the Blacksmith of Brandywine.

During the US revolutionary war, a blacksmith performed an errand for General Washington, only to return home and find that redcoats had murdered his family in his absence. The blacksmith took a heavy sledge from his workshop and walked onto the battlefield of Brandywine. There, before they finally brought him down, he slew 20 british soldiers. With a hammer.

No, I’m not being serious about a hammer being a viable weapon, not these days. (Although note that the Blacksmith story is true, from all references I can find.)

I just found it ironic, that the Blacksmith of Brandywine went on a murderous rampage in response to oppression from a ruthless government…and now, our government is so scared of our children that they’re even taking our hammers away.”

1. It is not illegal to create game maps for a first-person shooter game.
2. It is not illegal to show maps for a first-person shooter game to someone else.
3. It is not illegal to possess five swords.
4. The board had nothing to react to in the first place.
5. The student committed no crime for which the police could legally arrest him, at least pre-PATRIOT Act.

He, an honor student, was removed from his high school and forced to attend an alternative (read: for delinquents) education center, will not be allowed to receive his diploma with the rest of his class, and will probably have difficulty, if not being accepted to, at least getting financial aid for a good college. All because he went to a school staffed and parented by a group of reactionary morons.

How should the school have handled it? There’s nothing to handle. When/if parents complained, the appropriate authority figures should have repeated my response to #1: “It is not illegal to create game maps for a first-person shooter game.””

A terrorist under every rock, and a WMD in every child’s hand. When will this crap cease and common sense prevail?

Oh, that’s right: never.

I’d read the article, but it’s been Slashdotted.”

(in response)

Since I’m from the deep south (somewhere east of Texas and west of Mississippi) I feel qualified to say…

This is par for the course in this part of the United States. Ignorance, fear and xenophobia run rampant, white men run everything, and opportunism prevails at every turn. Police forces are treated as a paramilitary force, and zero tolerance is the rule in schools – even though it only means that more kids every year get fewer chances at straightening up and becoming successful.

Louisiana (and other population-losing red states) wonder why it’s best and brightest move away as soon as they finish college – crap like this is the reason why.”

An overreaction is when you lock up someone for life when they stole a loaf of bread. This doesn’t even accomplish their stated goal – to protect their school from an unbalanced and violent individual.

Let’s assume for a second that they are right. The guy is violent, mentally unstable and is using his home grown CS map to practice his planned killing spree (which was apparently to be carried out with a hammer). What do they do? They merely transfer him to a different school. In no way, shape or form do any of the school’s actions prevent him from entering the school again and carrying out his assumed plans. At best, they’ve moved the problem to a different place, and put others at risk that hadn’t been at risk before. At worst, it really pisses him off, and he escalates his planned violence (pipe bombs really aren’t hard to make). Any which way you look at it, the actions of the school and the police were completely irresponsible.

Factor in that the guy had none of these plans to begin with, and you’re looking at a massively incompetent school administration, board and police whose only goal is to cover their ass. They don’t care whether what they did solved any issues; all they wanted was to have something to point to if the student does go apeshit and the inevitable question of “who’s to blame?” rolls around.

The US is going down the shitter, and attitudes like these towards kids and education are the reason why. Way to ruin your future generation.”

I died a little on the inside when I read this. 🙁

(in response)

Don’t worry, you’ll respawn in Mrs. Crabapple’s classroom for round 2.

You Are a Pirate!

*hums*

Leave it to Iceland to create a song about pirates for children. They breed the pirates early over there. This song is actually quite old (I’ve known about it for some time), but I felt the need to reprise this for your benefit.

And, to set the election day mood:

BluECliQ: believing that Mcafee is going to protect you from hackers and viruses is exactly like believing that republicans can actually protect you from terrorists

Ninja_P: Okay, I just watched a guy puke in a glass, then drink it again
DragonAtma: Congratulations, you now know how congress operates.

Jim Kuhn: I just think it is silly that if I live in certain states in a ‘free country’ that I am not allowed to even read a poker forum.
DrSavage: What gave you an impression that you live in a free country?
bigalt: fox news

andyg721: i think it was on CNN
andyg721: Condoleeza Rice went to Asia
andyg721: the headline was RICE IN ASIA

I have this sneaking feeling that the Republicans will lose tomorrow.

SK, Revisited

Interesting article on Slashdot at the moment concerning game addiction. The comments in particular are quite insightful. I’ll paste some of my favorites here, because I know most of you are lazy.

Where are the parents in all of this?

“Seriously.

His parents were frightened of him because, weighing more than 130kg, he was too strong for them to confront. Eventually they threatened to kick him out unless he enrolled for a month of therapy.

You’re the parents, you make the rules. Pull the plug, take the computer away, do something, anything. You’d probably hit the roof if you caught your kid with a joint, but when he wants to wrap himself up in computer games you just fucking sit there and let it happen. That shit pisses me off. I hope this clinic is working with parents too to make sure they can control their child’s behavior.”

Re: Where are the parents in all of this?

“Maybe when someone is deciding how to handle a problem with their own child, doing anything isn’t good enough? Maybe they want to do the right thing

It’s odd to me that some Slashdotters take “the parents should be responsible” to mean “the parents should do all parenting alone”. Parents are responsible for the behavior of their children, but if the behavior surpasses the parents ability to moderate/fix/heal, then why on earth should we mock the parents for seeking specialist help? Are we going to make fun of all youth counselors and child psychologists now because “You’re the parent, you make the rule?” Part of holding parents responsible for their own children should be allowing them access to the tools they need to do that job right.”

Re: wha?

“Most people hooked on, say, heroin are forced to keep taking it for more reasons than mere lack of willpower. Chemical addiction carries signifigant withdrawl side effects, some of which can be life threatening. Trust me, if you’ve ever known a real addict, you wouldn’t just sum up their addiction as “lack of willpower”.

People hooked on things that don’t carry an external chemical componant, or are only very mildly chemically addictive, don’t have that problem. Yes, addiction can be purely neurochemical, with nothing added to the system, but that isn’t anywhere near as signifigant. People can get hooked on gaming, gambling, sex, religion, TV, violence or minimally addictive food or drugs like caffine or marjuana. Their problem is lack of willpower. Other addicts have the far more serious issue of major chemical dependancy, breaking away from which really does require a detox clinic, or support groups, or any number of other external sources of intervention.

I’m not saying that psychological addiction isn’t real. It is. It’s just not on par with what a serious addict has to deal with. Saying “Real addiction is all about lack of willpower” lumps cokeheads into the same category as people hooked on poker. And the people running this clinic are essentially lumping game addiction into the same category as drug addiction; this isn’t fair to either the hooked gamers or the drug addicts.”

[on a side note, I love this guy’s sig – “Erotic is when you use a feather, exotic is when you use the whole chicken.”]

Re: wha?

“Eight years ago, my father had a brain aneurysm and stroke and I am his sole caregiver. I was 21 when it happened. I’ve mostly been stuck at home taking care of him for my entire 20s while I watched friends finish school, get married, have kids, etc. Between the area where I live and the limited ability I have to go out to enjoy life with my friends, I really started losing touch with society and became depressed.

In 2003, my best friend bought EQ at the urging of one of his co-workers. After two months of him nagging me incessantly to try it, against my better judgement, I did. Everything started out fine, him and I would log on for 2-3 hours a night to play together and that was it. About two months into it, him and I were asked to become officers in our guild. At the point you become an officer, you suddenly feel a whole lot more responsibility and you feel like you’re important – everyone in your guild counts on you. Not long after, I became our raid leader and, given the absence of the guild leader for a long period of time, people began to see me as the guild leader as well. Eight months in, I was tagged with the guild leadership officially. I now had seven officers and in the neighborhood of 120 guild members counting on me to be there. By now, I wasn’t playing 2-3 hours a day, I was playing 8-12 hours a day. It wasn’t reality, but it felt real enough – I was important to people and interacting with “society.” Along the way, I met a girl from the other side of the US and we had a fairly turbulent relationship(mostly due to her being bipolar), but we were in love and planned to get married. I knew that EQ was taking up my entire life, but my girlfriend was there and that’s how we spent time together from 3k miles apart and I was the engine the drove hundreds of cogs. At our peak, we had 1039 tagged toons.

This spring, my relationship of two years ended with her and at the same time, the officers staged a coup as the pressures from EQ’s death throes were mounting (yeah, EQ is dying, netcraft, server consolidations and mmogchart confirm it). About a month after I left the girl and my guild, I realized that I no longer had a reason to play and I simply logged off one night never to return again. That was three months ago last weekend.

For me, it wasn’t a game I was addicted to, it was all the social interaction, feeling important and spending time with my gf. After years of being depressed, it was nice to be somebody even if it didn’t mean anything in real life. After the way things ended, my biggest regret is that the things that helped me break that addiction didn’t happen earlier. Oddly enough, despite becoming “nothing” again, I haven’t been depressed and I find myself enjoying the mundane things in life that I neglected for 2.5 years. I still frequently think about EQ and some of the fun times I had in it, but I have no urge to play it anymore… and I deliberately avoid anything that might suck me into a similar situation again. In the meantime, I’m trying to rebuild my life even though I feel that I’m fighting an uphill struggle now at 29.

Our brains are an electro-chemical system and I would argue that the stimuli that make you feel important and good about yourself can be just as addicting as putting that cigarette up to your lips, especially when you and the rest of the world appear to have given up on each other. At 21, when you still have pretty much everything going for you and life hasn’t completely knocked every one of your plans for the future out of whack, it’s pretty easy to think idealistically about how everyone should be able to feel/be/do exactly like you.”

Why is your experience not ‘real life’?

“Why do people think it’s ‘not real’ if it’s conducted primarily on a computer?

Before Everquest existed, I ‘was somebody’ online – ran a guild on a MUD (although not as big as yours), and eventually even ended up running the MUD itself. There were definitely some stretches where I’d often spend 16 hours a day on the computer.

But I’ve also ‘been somebody’ in real life too. I have a real job with real responsibilities and most of the people I work with I have met once, or no times at all, and interact with almost entirely via computer. I’m also the president of one national non-profit organization with a few thousand members I never see, and run another business with 30,000 customers I don’t see either.

And I find that I often spend 16 hours a day on the computer.

Now, most people would consider my job, my non-profit, and my business to be ‘real life’, and I enjoy them. So why are people who enjoy spending 16 hours a day doing something else on the computer not doing ‘real life’? I really can’t think of anything that’s much different between the 16 hours a day I spend playing networked computer games and the 16 hours a day I spend doing various forms of (enjoyable) work. And while you may have felt compelled to play more everquest because people were depending on you, how is that any different than me feeling compelled to go to work for the same reason?

Computer games are certainly no less productive than the time I’ve spent shooting pool at the bar. But somehow going out and shooting pool at the bar is OK while playing games at home is not – why? Also, why is someone who spends 16 hours a day reading books and/or watching TV considered to be doing ‘real life’? All you’re trading is a networked screen with a non-networked screen or page.

Playing on the computer a lot, in and of itself, isn’t an addiction. It’s only natural that you’re going to do the things you enjoy doing as much as you can, and playing computer games isn’t any different than reading or anything else, except people who do those other activities want to pretend their life is more meaningful than computer gamers I guess.

People need to understand what an addiction really is. If you are COMPELLED to do something so much that it interferes with your ability to pay your rent, feed yourself, or maintain relationships that are important to you, that’s an addiction. If it consumes all of your free time, that’s just recreation. And I think it’s a tragedy to try and label someone an ‘addict’ just because of their prefered form of recreation.

Anyway, the time you spend on EQ was real life. And it wasn’t because you were ‘addicted’, it’s because you enjoyed it. Not playing anymore wasn’t an addiction-ending event; you just stopped enjoying playing so you stopped playing. Simple as that.”

Overreactive Parents

“I think for the most part it’s a result of overreactive parents, combined with what I like to call “baby sitter syndrome” (“Why won’t the public school teach my kids morals?!?! Why won’t the gov’t baby sit my kids?!?! Oh my, my kids are playing video games all the time, and I can’t turn it off because they cry and scream and make a scene! I need a Gaming Clinic/Baby sitter to fix my kids for me!”)

Disclaimer: I don’t have kids of my own so the above is probably warped by views of other people who don’t have kids of their own, not to mention stereotypes are rarely all-encompassing. Don’t take it too personally. I was, however, at one point a kid, and I did have parents (who restricted my video gaming and computer time) so I think I still have some things to say on the matter.

Gaming for me was a phase. I always have enjoyed a good game, but it’s not the same as it was when I was a kid. I would play games for hours on end, but now it seems my standards are higher or my attention span lower, because games don’t tend to “hook” me as often as they used to.

I still enjoy a good game of course, but I think I’m still largely “gamed out” from when I was a kid.”

Being a normal teenager is not a crime or a…

“Medical condition. Before the self obsessed BabyBoomers started raising children the majority of young boys didn’t have A.D.D.. This is all just one more “What about me!” from the BabyBoomer generation. “My kids aren’t perfect! Fix them!” This is coming from the people who invented, “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.” “Free love” and your classic 1960’s 1970’s do it if it feels good self absorbed generation. As my hero George Carlin put it, “From cocaine to rogain”. “”These are perfectly decent kids whose lives have been taken over by an addiction,” said Mr Bakker, a former drug addict. “Some have given up school so they can play games. They have no friends. They don’t speak to their parents.”” Giving up school? Normal. No friends? Normal. Who didn’t feel isolated in high school? Not speaking to parents? Normal. Sounds like the kids aren’t watching TV all hours of the day and night and the new technology is frightening mummy.”

Game Addiction?

“We used to call this neurosis. The actual neurotic behavior isn’t really all that important. What is important is addressing the underlying causes, which often have little or nothing to do with the resulting behavior. This guy obviously has a problem, but obsessive gaming is just the symptom. He could equally well be compulsively plucking his eyebrows or watching TV.”

Mmmm…

Good Times

It’s times like this that I absolutely love the internet. I knew the very second I saw Zidane flat-out own Materazzi that it would become an instantaneous meme, and it is! Not that this is a hard prediction to make, but it’s insanely fun to watch stuff like this evolve.

For those of you losers that didn’t watch the World Cup Final, Zidane, one of the best soccer players of our time, used his massive bald head and headbutted a notoriously retarded Italian player, Materazzi, in the chest. Materazzi is reknowned for being a general piece of crap, and in this instance, he most certainly groped Zidane’s nipple (and that’s about the most eloquent way I could put it), and rumor mills say Materazzi used a racial slur concerning Zidane’s sister.

Zidane probably lost the World Cup for France, seeing as the ensuing red card took him out of the final shootuout. Sheer morale and the loss of France’s greatest player could most certainly be attributed here, although whats-his-face may still have hit the crossbar. We’ll never know now, will we Zidane? I’m positive France would have won if it had gone to Sudden Death, especially based on how Italy was playing, even while Zidane was out.

The truly great thing here is the immortality Zidane has reached via the interwabs. YTMND is, of course, the first out of the gate with the hilarity here. One, Two, Three, Four, Five!

I shall update with new hilarity as it is found. Also, the videos of Zidane headbutting may become harder to find, some of the better ones are being removed for copyright infringement.

Who Done It?

[geek]

Sony may have taken the cake (get it? if not, look at the first picture) with this stunt, but then again, this may be a journalist out to make a buck. I’m betting on the latter.

For those of you who don’t know, Sony may have just given Blu-ray an irrevocable death sentence. Basically, some guy is accusing Sony of totally faking a Blu-ray demo at a recent PR event. He opened up one of the laptops demoing a movie on Blu-ray media, to find that the thing was on a standard, hand-made DVD-R. First impression states that Sony was faking the demo because they either did not have the content or did not have the capability to play it.

However, upon the addition of a grain of salt, one will realize that there’s more to this than the journalist would have you see. There were, in fact, two laptops present, side by side. One was displayed the Blu-ray version, the other was standard DVD content. The journalist has provided no proof that the laptop was not the latter. Secondly, many people currently working with Blu-ray hardware have stated that they often use DVDs to hold the content – the drives can read it, they just can’t hold as much. It is certainly possible that this demo could fit onto a single DVD, especially with no special features or other junk, which is why it was bootlegged. In case you were wondering, the DVD isn’t actually bootlegged – Sony’s film studios own the movie.

Even still, it’s apparantly quite common to fake demos, especially with newer technology. This was not a high-profile event – only a handful of Sony employees were running this. There was no fanfare and no executive handshaking here. I call bull.

Besides, we all know what happens when we don’t fake demos.

This probably runs in the same line as GTHD running on a PC. Plausible, but unlikely.

[/geek]

This is not a Brothel

I’ve been increasingly frustrated lately over the fact that if I write something that I actually, truly care about, it is guaranteed that at least one, and probably two people will say they didn’t read it and/or don’t care. I don’t understand this – if you don’t care, then I don’t care to hear about how you don’t care. Seriously. It’s just obnoxious and, in the end, really just angering when people tell me they don’t care, when I never asked them to in the first place. Yes, I like it a lot when people read what I write, and it like it even more when people respond and discuss what I write. I know I can’t get you to be interested in everything that I am, but at least let me try?

A good example here would be if I wrote about the fundamental differences in the combat engine and character development between Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX, and what Square-Enix has to do to maintain the proper formula in the future without abandoning the basic idea of the TBC RPG. I can predict the following: Paul would probably respond by saying the FF7 sucked, but then continue to comment on what I wrote. An acceptable response. Someone else would say he stopped reading after the first paragraph. Someone else would say he never played FF7, and someone else would say he hated FF7 and/or FF9, with nothing else to add to the conversation. Someone else would say I have no life, and she would be right. And Ryan would probably leave some gem of wit, unrelated to the topic, and yet hilarious. Also acceptable.

I can handle getting fewer than ten comments on any given post, but if you look at each of those comments, not many actually stimulated true discussion of any kind. The actual number of comments lies somewhere between zero and two. I look at blog posts much the same way I look at books. Say you read the first chapter of a book, and you don’t like it. Do you proceed to write the author about the fact that you didn’t read his/her book because the first chapter sucked? Or do you write the author about how you didn’t read the book because it wasn’t about a topic you were interested in? Probably not.

Now, you might write the author after reading the whole book to disagree, or to critique the content or writing, or something. You might even go talk about the book with your peers, discussing its finer points or debating whether or not it sucked. Bottom line, you don’t actually talk about the book unless you actually have something to say. That’s what I’m asking for here.

That said, I’ve been considering a number of things. How about podcasts? Podcasts, as in, me, talking about something for 5 minutes, and then sharing it for you to hear. I thought this would be a fun thing to do, but, I won’t bother if everyone says no. Podcasts are fairly easy to do, so it’s not a question of effort. My bandwidth is large enough to support this, especially considering that the mp3s would be, at most, 3 or 4 MB.

I’ve also been considering starting a totally separate blog to talk about games and whatnot. Honestly, I’d love nothing more than to talk about games all the time to you, but as said before, I can’t get you to care. Alternatively, I could just post anyways and you could not read them. That, however, seems like it degrades the overall quality of the content here, mixes things up too much.

Finally, I will revamp the design eventually. I’m getting way bored of the current look, and you can be assured that things will change. It might happen soon, it might not. I’ve technically got a lot of work to do to catch up from being sick, but then again, I’ve stopped caring about school again. It’s all up in the air.

And I promise, I will post about Oblivion. Just not yet.

For the Love of E3

Notable stuff from E3 (if you haven’t noticed, there haven’t been geek tags on stuff, there’s just too much geek stuff to label):

  • Halo 3. The trailer itself is fairly standard stuff – I thought the music was especially well done, the graphics were noteworthy, and the plot might actually be interesting this time. I’ve got a lot of brewing anger from Halo 2 that Halo 3 has to resolve, so I’m expecting the world from this.
  • Sony’s Press Conference. It sucked. It sucked hard. It was definitely the most disjointed of the three – they would jump from talking about the PSP to talking about PS3 games, back to more stuff on the PSP, then about their stupid song service, and back to PS3 games. I exaggerate not. I noticed a fundamental difference in speech – where Microsoft and Nintendo called the users “players” and “gamers”, Sony called them “consumers”. Sony obviously doesn’t care – especially in the fact that their console is essentially going to cost $600 bucks. I couldn’t really care less about their assimilation of the 360 and Wii controllers, though. That’s just smart tactics.
  • Nintendo’s Press Conference. The best of the three. Not a lot of specs or details, but they’ve proven the ability of the controller, which is exactly what they needed to do. The Zelda demo looked freaking awesome, freaking awesome enough for me to buy it at launch come this November.
  • Microsoft’s Press Conference. Surprisingly good, aside from Peter Moore’s incessant clapping and complete failure to maintain dignity as he got a tattoo for freaking GTA4. Who cares? It was cool for Halo 2, so why go through the trouble? Beyond that, there were a handful of possibly nifty games, but nothing spectacular. The whole idea of connexting the 360 and the PC, though, was cool. It’s definitely part of their anti-Mac and anti-Linux campaign, by setting down a “games for Windows” tagline, but, so long as they keep it otherwise open, it’s just gravy. I’m still not sure how I feel about Vista, but, we’ll see.

That’s pretty much it for the moment. Today may bring some interesting things, or it may not.

Hot Coffee v2.0

As many of you should know, yet another video game scandal has boiled over, before even the mighty Jack Thompson trounced upon it (although we’ve only got, at best, a week or so before someone puts him on TV again). Oblivion has been modded to include teh nudities and was subsequently rerated to mature, at the protest of Bethesda.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. The last scandal was pretty ridiculous – there’s no reason a game should be re-rated based on material not intended for inclusion within the game, but really, San Andreas should have been rated AO off the bat, with or without the Hot Coffee mod. In the end, though, it wasn’t Rockstar’s or Take Two’s fault that someone uncommented some code. They shouldn’t be blamed for that.

I don’t feel so generous with Bethesda. Maybe their whole “pay us two bucks for a model of a horse with armor” deal put me off but, it seems that this is entirely preventable. Oblivion is an extremely well made game (and yes, I will eventually do that review thing I was talking about ages ago), and it also happens to have an engine comparable to that of the Source engine in terms of flexibility. They made it to be modded, and because their game contains female characters with an obvious need for breasts in order to maintain realism, they should expect someone to go out and do this. No, it’s not their fault if someone does, but, whose fault is it if someone steals your car because you forgot to lock the door? Not yours, but you certainly aren’t getting much pity from me.

What I mean to say is, why didn’t Bethesda take some preventative measures? I see two options here. One involves making it harder to toy with the skins on the models – this would be the lesser solution, as it would be punishing all modders for the possible actions of one modder. The other would just be to ask any and all Oblivion mod databases to not host any nudity mods. Honestly, I’m positive every one of them would comply. It’s totally reasonable. But, Oblivion didn’t do that, and now Jack Thompson’s got fresh meat.

A minor point of speculation on my part begins here. The degree of complexity to the nudity mod seems to be disputed – many people are under the impression that it requires some complex retexturing of the basic models, but that does not seem to be the case. Equally many people have described a much simpler process, one possible within the Construction Set (the editing program for Oblivion). I should stress the fact that when I was cruising through the thousands of available mods, I saw at least five mods claiming to add nudity (ironic wording there – “add” nudity). It’s one thing if the mod is mildly complex, but I don’t think this is the case.

As for the rerating of the game to Mature, I think it’s stupid that it was rerated over a mod. It’s kind of like (using the car analogy again) blaming the car manufacturer for car theft (there are obvious cases in which this is reasonable, but, stick with me here). Oblivion probably should have been rated M anyways, though. As many have pointed out, you’re gonna find rotting corpses, on fire, hanging from the ceiling, with knocked over chairs below them. And once you get close enough, you can take the gold and meat out, complete with a squishing noise as you open and close the inventory! I’m no proponent of the idea that we should ban anyone below 18 from buying such horrid filth, but really, there’s stuff in the game that makes me cringe occasionally. Are breasts really worse than decapitated corpses and festering zombies?

I think the ESRB generally does an okay job of rating games, but I just hate to see them become pawns of the lesser forces in our country. It is an inevitability, of course, but one that I hate to see nonetheless.

Pwnies for Christmas

To maintain the integrity of the below post, I’m now mentioning that I WILL be learning Photoshop and creating a new design, as well as implementing it. It will take a while, mostly to learn Photoshop, but, I’m not spending this week on my butt. I kind of wish I had a scanner to visualize my ideas more clearly, but alas, I have not such advanced technologies.

As a side note, I scavenged myself a new phone, courtesy of Christopher. It’s infinitely better than my old one, mostly due to the fact that the buttons are no longer exposed (the “new” one is a flip phone), and I have Bejeweled, instead of “sky diver” and “bowling” for games. It’s a year or two old, but works just fine. The numbers is the same (280 9288), but that’s irrelevant since I literally only had a total of like half a dozen calls that weren’t from my dad, and over 90% of the calling time (4 hours) was accrued while talking to just Daniel. Woo!

Oh, and go take THIS QUIZ! It’s actually ridiculously accurate (concerning terms and origins) – I came out “60% dixie”.

Call the Fire Department…

I’ve been put on SLASHDOT, YO!

None of you may understand the significance of this, but a hundred thousand people just read my question, and 100 were kind enough to leave really, really helpful responses.

The big idea I gleaned from this is that the math I’m doing now is far closer to Arithmetic than true math. Additionally, Computer Science, although math-based, can be understood with average math talent. There were also several really helpful suggestions dispersed throughout there as far as other careers – informatics, network administration (sysadmin, IT, etc.), and even being a lawyer.

The bottom line? Not so much video game design. According to them, that is possibly the most math-intensive line of programming in the field. Perhaps my feelings towards math will change in college – we’ll see. Even then, though the big thing I kind of realized is that I should probably just suck it up. Another encouraging point was that a few people said that those with the ability to communicate clearly and in a grammatically correct format are in short supply. This gave me a whole new drive to keep pushing for RPI (or whatever, I don’t really care where I go so long as it’s a tech school). This feels good.

I just hope it lasts.

[edit]

I love Slashdot. I got an email from a guy suggesting Interactive Journalism, which sounded pretty interesting. Equally notable was the fact that his email was from mac.com, which is most definitely Apple-owned. Slashdot, the place where 17-year olds get answers from Apple employees.

[/edit]

[edit]

//03:54:04 JRGuitar04: so…you could play like…NASA on your computer?
//03:54:18 salandarin: pff, NASA is old-hat
//03:54:32 salandarin: it’s all about the Department of Defense now
//03:54:51 salandarin: i can simulate the beaurocracy down to each secretary and unanswered paper!
//03:55:03 salandarin: oh wait, that’s Homeland Security

[/edit]

Blue Moon Syndrome

Every few milennia, something happens that one will probably not see twice. This is what as known as “things going as planned”. My 1 GB stick of RAM arrived today, and I was totally expecting it to be entirely incompatible with my current two sticks, which are all DDR 400, but would inevitably have different timings and voltages. Lo and behold, however, this was not the case. I’m happily chugging along with my 1.54 GB of RAM, which has pretty much transformed my computer into the monster it was meant to be. I’d never understood why my computer so consistently failed to Alt+Tab efficiently in any kind of application, but it was indeed the RAM causing the issue. The blame could also be placed on Windows / M$ for their inefficient event handling, but I only have so many fingers for pointing. Some fingers must be left available for playing Oblivion.

In any case, I was indeed pleasantly surprised to see this work. Perhaps it’s just balancing out how utterly screwed I am because of Mr. Briegle’s antics (or lack thereof), but whatever the reason may be, I am pleased. The end result is that I can finally play Oblivion at maximum settings without ripping my hair out every time a loading area appears. I still have to keep the grass distance down, but, I don’t really care at this point.

Other things are on the radar, however. Such as the fact that I’ve got a whole lot of work to get done in a short span of time – the marking period ends soon, and I’ve been lazy. And now, /. wisdom.

Anyone can learn these tricks at any time anywhere. They don’t need to go to a school to find them. If you think someone going to a boot camp is going to become some 1337 h4x0r, well you might as well also start advocating destroying the internet.”

“Agreed. I’m about to cost these bastards lots of money by giving away their secrets. Gang, listen closely. First, watch the film Hackers a few times and try to dress as they do. Nothing shows up a non-hacker faster than one out of uniform.

Next, install any CLI-based OS. DOS, Linux, doesn’t matter.

Now that you have a command prompt (with the blinking cursor, nothing else will do), you can hack anything! Type in a command like “reroute airtraffic > Boise” and watch all of those jets turn around. Steal the latest hollywood flick with “download harrypotter.movie now” Want to make your idiot neighbors power blink in and out, spelling “I am t3h fag0rz” in morse code? Go right ahead. You’re only limited by your imagination.

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for the misuse of the preceding information.

“Wouldn’t you also need a keyboard which beeps with every keystroke and a monitor which projects shapes onto your face as you work?”

“What about the exceedingly slow save program?

I want to make sure that whenever I save a file it goes extremely slowly and show’s me every percent along the way.

Oh, and it has to flash every bit of data on screen as it saves. I’m sure it’ll work out some sort of proper layout too.

Otherwise, how would I know it’s actually saving the proper data?”

Who Saves Daylight?

I hate Daylight Savings. Not because I dislike the extra hour of sunlight, but because of how it forces me to adjust my aural sense for time. My sense of time generally relies on the color of my wall as seen through the top left corner of my left eye, but that is no longer a reliable source, forcing me to turn all the way around to my clock, which is occasionally obfuscated by various objects.

Daylight Savings royally screwed me over last night, too. I was exiting Oblivion expecting the clock to read 2:00 AM, providing for a full 7 hours of sleep prior to Church. Nay, it was 3:00 AM, forcing me to sit down and watch cartoons that had been dubbed with fart sounds most hilariously (it was an April Fools thing).

As for April Fools? I’ve taken a liking to the internet version of this holiday. Generally I hate April Fools, but this year, it did not fall upon a school day, and waking up to a world of bizarre news was rather exciting, until I realized it was indeed April 1st. What I find more amusing about April Fools is what is unintentionally interpreted as a joke. But then again, Snakes on a Plane is quickly coming.

Speaking of movies, I saw Slither last night, as a sort of birthday doodad with Christopher and Jonathan. Akin to movies such as Army of Darkness or Bubba Ho-Tep, this movie, whether because it really was hilarious, or because I was just in the mood, had me laughing the whole way through. It was really, really gross, through. I’m no fan of gore, especially the visceral, intestiny kind that Slither had, but I still managed to find it really hilarious.

I won’t bore you with Oblivion details right now, but rest assured, it’s coming.

Along with a gig of RAM (should be here Monday or Tuesday).

Oblivion, lol

[geek]

I am now taking a short break to give you some preliminary (after 30 or 40 hours of playing) thoughts on Oblivion. Eventually, I’d like to do a nice, extensive review with some of my personal favorite screenshots and whatnot, but for now, I just want to jot down some interesting things.

The first being, the graphics, and my computer’s rendering capability. I am ever so close to being able to max out the settings in every category. My main limitation lies in the speed and capacity of RAM. PC3200 is standard, but contains no capacity for overclocking, and combined with the mere 512MB (hopefully being rectified tomorrow), my computer is unhappy with Oblivion’s extensive use of textures.

I’ve been running the game at 1024×768, with HDR enabled, and all other settings set to maximum. Because Oblivion uses floating-point HDR (Half Life 2 and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory use an “interlaced” version that is much closer to Bloom than true HDR), anti-aliasing is off by default. I have not yet tried forcing AA on, but judging from the performance I got with Bloom and 4xAA, I do not expect a strong display of computing prowess.

For those of you that do not know, HDR is a lighting system that attempts to simulate the intricacies of the eye – moving from dark areas to light areas results in greater brightness for a period of time, which is inversely true for the reverse situation (that is, moving from light to dark results in a very dark environment). However, the lack of native AA almost makes Bloom (what is generally referred to as the “cheap knockoff” of HDR) more preferable. I took some comparison shots which you can see here.

Anti-aliasing becomes a serious issue when I’m faced with large patches of grass. Much of Oblivion is covered with truly spectacular fields of grass that will make your computer commit seppuku if you are not properly prepared. I have not sufficiently played with the settings to rectify this situation, but that will come soon. Playing with the settings can be rather frustrating when you have to restard Oblivion for any kind of major settings changes.

As for the game, I can safely say this is the best game I’ve played in years. Is it the best game I’ve ever played? I don’t know, but it just might be. More to come later.

[/geek]

NO WAI!

Many things to report! The first of which, are my grades. They are good enough (I don’t know the GPA) to justify coming back, but I still have work to do. In fact, I have a programming project that’s now 3 days late that I need to finish for Monday.

So, the grades are like this:

English: B+ (one bad quiz and poor attendance)
US History: Pass
Math: Pass (bad homework, that’s because i have no calculator still, so i can’t do it)
APCS: A- (gonna fall with this next project)
Physics: B (i keep forgetting the homework! argh!)
CIM: B (poor attendance)
Digital: Pass (one bad test, keep forgetting homework, terrible attendence – it’s my first period class)
PE: A

Funny story with Digital – I walked in 30 minutes late one day and they had actually taken bets as to what time I’d get there. Mike was the winner with 8:20. When I say they took bets, Mr. Peters actually wrote down the bets on the board. The worst part is that the only scolding I got was from Mr. Briegle (read: he’s not even the teacher of that class). Digital has improved since like three people dropped the class a few weeks ago, though. Much, much improved.

I’ve basically been getting NO sleep. Generally around ten hours for every five days of school – this isn’t really because I’m playing games or whatever, it’s because I fall asleep when I get home for an hour or two (I’ve been walking home recently, so I get home at 4:00), and somewhere between two and three days a week I now have Judo. Keep in mind, this isn’t me complaining. I’m actually thoroughly enjoying finally taking on school and doing something with my time. I’ve pretty much adjusted to the sleep thing, and I’ve found I actually feel much better with 3 hours of sleep over 5 or 6. Moving on, though.

[semi-geek]

Several things have changed about my computer recently, which I think concerns each and every one of you. Firstly and most earth-shatteringly, I’ve switched to Opera. Opera, you ask? Opera was once the ad-laden alternative to Firefox, but has recently been purged of such foul inventions. Opera is, in general, significantly faster and less laden with “memory leaks” (I don’t care what you call them, Mozilla Foundation, if it sucks up 100 MB of my memory, it’s a memory leak). It’s, in general, just more awesome. It has some issues with AJAX/Flash, but it works just fine in general. The biggest selling point for me was that it played about 50% more YTMNDs natively than Firefox did.

The only unfortunate part is that the widget support (AKA extensions) isn’t as large as Firefox’s was. I’m using the 9.0 beta, which is the only version that supports widgets. The widgets themselves are more akin to the Konfabulator I once used, which is now called something else under Yahoo’s ownership.

[/semi-geek]

Other things I’ve gotten into? Last.fm is in there, which I had previously ignored for lack of knowledge of its radio-doodle. I’m now frantically trying to catch up with Zach and Paul in their track counts, which, considering my current Winamp stats, won’t take too long, but it will certainly take time. I cheated last night and left music on overnight (with the volume off, silly), but I probably won’t do that again. Note “probably”. Ahem.

[geek]

Most importantly, is the fact that the world will collapse in on itself with the arrival of Oblivion in a SINGLE WEEK! A SINGLE WEEK! AHAHA! I’ve not been this excited since the arrival of Halo 2! I scoured the internet for scans of the March 2006 OXM review of it (9.5 out of 10!), to no avail. Luckily, we get an early dismissal on the Thursday of that week, as well as a day off Friday. Truly, the heavens are aligning to accomodate the arrival of this magnificent piece of game.