Saturday, November 08, 2008

a tale of two video games

I decided to skip the pun in the title so I wouldn't get distracted like in my last post and never get around to reviewing the two video games. I've noticed a tendency to get distracted in my blog posts at times. I sit down to write a post about one topic, but then I get sidetracked and end up writing about an entirely different topic.

It's really just a matter of discipline, I suppose. I just need to discipline my writing like I need to discipline my caffeine intake. I quite caffeine some time back, but then I fell off the wagon and for the last few months, my caffeine intake has been increasing to where I'm up to three sodas a day. I'm starting to get the negative effects of acid reflux and long sleepless nights followed by lethargic days. I really need to quit caffeine again. I think I'll start tapering off tomorrow. I can't quit cold turkey from three sodas a day or I would get a horrific caffeine headache.

So, wish me luck in kicking the caffeine habit again.

a tail of two video games

Yes, I know the correct spelling is "tale". It's sort of a pun. A forced pun, but a pun nevertheless. See, I played both of these video games a relatively long time ago, so this review is sort of the tail of my interaction with them. Well, I said it was a forced pun. But I just realized that this could me the title for my next episode of "Heroes for Hire". I'm trying to make all of the titles from bad puns. The first two episodes are "A Guilding of Lillies" and "A Meating of Mines". I have to come up with a bad pun for "A Tale of to Cities". Or maybe "A tell of too Cities". You might think it impossible, but the rule with bad puns is that there are no roles. For the first episode title, I actually made up a word to make it work.

Now were was I? Oh yes, I was going to do a comparative review of two video games, Bioshock and Prey. But I think this post is already long enough so I think I'll just stop here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

why no vouchers?

This video from Head Noises betrays the real reason that the Democrats are opposed to school vouchers that would let parents chose which school to send their kids to. They say that it's the teacher's unions, but that's not the real reason. Why would the teacher's unions be afraid of losing money? Shouldn't they instead be excited by the prospect of private schools taking government money, and thereby creating leverage for the government forcing them to unionize? That sort of aggressive taking money by force is much more a typical Democrat strategy than just holding the line.

The real reason that the Democrats want to keep kids in public schools is because they control the schools and it lets them indoctrinate other people's children.

Whenever the Democrats talk about divisiveness (meaning Republican policies), think about that. The Republicans, by and large, are the ones who are willing to compromise, to let people live like they want. It is the Democrats who want to indoctrinate other people's children, who want to teach evolution and sex education to the children of people who don't want that taught their kids, who want the law to legitimize a particular sexual perversion and force people to accept it, who try to pass their cultural changes through the courts when they can't do it by democratic action.

The Democrats have policy decisions that are positively calculated to anger people and cause divisiveness in the country. The Republicans by contrast are willing to look at these areas of intense disagreement and try to find a way for each side to have freedom of conscience.

Judge Judy is a bitch

I haven't watched the Judge Judy show very much, but it seems like every time I've seen it, she was an irrational bitch who arbitrarily took one side or the other before any testimony was given, and spent the entire "trial" doing nothing but browbeating the other side, calling them a liar, and mocking them.

She shows no capacity for logical reasoning. Several times I've seen the person that she decided to hate trying to explain that she was missing something, making an unwarranted conclusion, or assuming something for which there was no evidence; it was obvious to me that the person was right, or at least plausibly right, but Judge Judy just dismissed their good arguments with contempt and insults.

I shudder to think of myself coming under the power of such an irrational, hostile self-righteous harridan. If I ever get sued, I expect that will be a powerful motivation for settling out of court. Just in case Judge Judy is a typical judge.

Monday, November 03, 2008

tabula rasa, SciFi games, and zombies

Well, I finally got that PlayNC game up and running. It wasn't worth the effort. The graphics are poor, the game play is stuttery, the back story is depressing, the user interface is baroque, the powers are cliche, the equipment is algorithmic, the maps are unimaginative, the missions are poorly designed, and the game crashed on me the second time I tried to play it.

The graphics, game play and crashing may be related to my system, but I'm afraid the rest of the issues I have with the game are systemic. I may try it again since I have until Saturday on my free week, but I'd really like to find something else.

Foxfier mentioned World of Warcraft, but for some reason the fantasy scenario just doesn't appeal to me in 3D gaming. Maybe it's because I don't think it can possibly match up against Nethack. Maybe it's because the 3D games that I've enjoyed most over the years have been Sci-Fi oriented: Duke Nukem 3D, Dark Forces & sequals, Half-Life & sequels, Unreal & sequel, Prey, Halo & sequels. Other settings such as Id's horror games and the plethora of WWII games were OK, but not as good. Then there was Far Cry, which was really good but only remotely Sci Fi.

By the way, isn't it about time to drop the zombies? I mean, how cliche can you get? Other than the Dark Forces games, a couple of second-tier games whose names I don't recall, and (some of) the WWII games, I think every first-person shooter I've ever played has you fighting against some form of grotesquely modified humans who have been taken over and rebuilt into some zombie-like creature. The zombies are the easily the least attractive feature of both the Half-Life series and the Halo series. Enough with the zombies already. I'm thoroughly sick of them.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

superstition and Christianity

Once hanging out in the lunchroom at my office, the subject of fortune telling came up. I was only mildly surprised that some of the religious Hindus from India believed in fortune telling. Sure, they were highly educated, but superstition was part of their upbringing. And if their education had not prompted them to give up Hinduism, then there is no particular reason to think that it would make them give up their other supernatural beliefs. What surprised me is that even the Americans in the room mostly believed in fortune-telling, and even the hard-core atheist would not dismiss it out of hand. This was a man who dismisses the idea of God as a silly superstition, but cannot bring himself to dismiss palm-reading and astrology as silly superstitions. What's going on here?

This article by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway may provide part of the answer:
... a comprehensive new study ... shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious ..., far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
Hemingway provides a pointed example of a man who thinks that he is too logical and grounded to believe in the superstition of Jesus:
"You can't be a rational person six days of the week and put on a suit and make rational decisions and go to work and, on one day of the week, go to a building and think you're drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old space god," comedian and atheist Bill Maher said ...

In fact, [Maher] is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman -- a quintuple bypass survivor -- to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.
And note that Maher seems to believe that Jesus was actually an alien visitor (this is a common belief of the out-there crowd), otherwise the reference to a "space god" makes no sense.

Furthermore, Maher has said that human-caused global warming is simply a fact and insulted George Bush for expressing doubts about it. Get that: he is a logical, fact-driven thinker who doubts that the Salk vaccine eradicated polio --one of the most well-documented facts of medical science-- yet anyone who expressed doubt about the most extreme interpretation of some sparse data and a few mutually contradictory climate models is an idiot.

It is pretty clear what is going on here, at least in the case of Bill Maher. His scientific views are driven by his socio/political views. He doesn't make up his mind on the basis of the evidence, but on the basis of what is most beneficial to his social and political agenda.

And I don't think this is unusual. Humans today --all humans, including hard-nosed scientists and skeptical atheists-- are no different than they were a thousand years ago when superstition was the reigning mode of thought. They like to think that the scientific revolution created a major change in human thinking, and that they, as the true children of that revolution inherited this new mode of right thinking. This justifies their sanctimonious condescension to everyone else. If you don't think like they think, then you just missed the revolution in thought; you are stuck in the old way of thinking.

What they don't know is that Christianity is the new way of thinking. It is Christianity that drove the spirits out of the trees and the demons out of the fire and made the world into a law-driven place. It is Christianity that made science possible. This idea of the battle between religion and science is a myth. It never happened. In the days of Galileo, there were Christians on both sides of the issue, so it makes no sense at all to say that it was a battle between the Christians and the scientists. This was a battle within Christianity over whether men would have the freedom of their own consciences or they would be physically forced to follow the doctrines of the Church. In reality, the trial of Galileo was a battle in the ongoing Reformation, the movement to break the chains of the Catholic church. It was in no way a battle of Christianity vs. free thought but a battle among Christians of enforced Catholic dogma vs. free thought.

Christianity has always been a force against superstition. Atheists blame the Salem witch trials on Christianity, but they neglect the fact that witch trials were an ancient custom, far predating Christianity. The Salem witch trials were not an instance of Christianity showing how superstitious it is, but rather the last gasp of an evil superstitious custom as it was stamped out by Christianity. Christianity continued to thrive long past the Salem witch trials, but witch trials died out. Why is that, if Christianity causes witch trials?

Actually, witch trials have not died out, they have just changed their superstitious grounds. Modern witch trials involve the "recovered memories" of unbalanced young women or the bizarre fantasies of young children who are kept in a room for hours and encouraged to make up sexual stories about their parents or daycare providers.

The fact is that very few people are really the hard-nosed materialists that they portray themselves as. Almost everyone has beliefs about the supernatural. Christian beliefs about the supernatural are largely centered around just what is revealed in the Bible. For non-Christians, it is whatever strikes their fancy. Fortune-telling and haunted houses and universal elixirs may be less common among scientists, but they have picked up modern superstitions in the forms of alien visitors who will one day rescue us from ourselves or who left us messages in the past, mysterious life forces that can be modified by crystals or magnets or needles, Kirlian photography, plants with emotions, pyramid effects, meditation magic, mental powers, reincarnation, recovered memories from past lives, thetans...

I've noted before how scientists are so horrified about creationism --which is about what happened in the past and doesn't effect us today-- but don't care about the real harm done by fortune tellers and superstitious medical quacks. Either they believe in these things themselves or they are not motivated to make a big deal out of it when they don't have the motivation of religious hatred. It is not science, but Christianity that preserves us from superstition.

programmer appreciation day

Programmer appreciation day is the day when we line up all programmers, and you get to slap the ones that have made your life miserable by stupid design decisions. My latest candidate is the people who do the install for PlayNC games. I recently tried to install one of their games. The first thing you download is a "downloader" program. I thought that was a great idea. The download probably takes a long time, so this program gets all of the information needed for an installation and then downloads and installs all at once while I go do something else. I'll just start it up, fill in the information, go away for an hour and then I can come back and play the game, right?

Not exactly. You start the download program and it spends the next couple of hours downloading the install program. Then it runs the install program which has you pick your folders, agree to the user agreement, and click a button, and then it starts installing. The installation takes forever. Then it asks for some more information and continues for another very long time. But it's finally done right? I can go to bed because it's late, but when I wake up in the morning I'll be able to start playing the game, right?

Not exactly. The next morning, you try to start the game and it has you agree to the terms again and then it starts downloading the update, which also takes a very long time. So far it has been running for twenty minutes and it is 1% done. In other words, all of the stuff that it spent downloading yesterday is just being thrown away and replaced with the stuff that it is downloading today. Those hours of downloading yesterday were completely useless. And it looks like my plans for the weekend --try out an online game-- are shot. It takes the whole weekend just to install the damn thing.

Some moron actually decided to do things this way. This isn't an accident like when your car breaks down or a pipe leaks and gives you water damage. This is the intentional behavior of the software, implemented by someone who either was too dumb to see the consequence of his design decisions or too lazy to do it right.