Saturday, August 2, 2008

Last Week [chat]

Last week. But, of what?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blizzard Achievements

Blizzard Achivement Points to span all games:

“Your ‘WoW’ score would be just one factor that will go into your Blizzard Level. And rather than call it a ’score,’ we just wanted it to be like you’re leveling up on Blizzard games… You’ll have this Blizzard identity, and you’ll be able to see things like ‘Oh, this guy was great at Diablo III, but he never played Starcraft and he was mediocre in WoW. That sort of thing.”

Wonder how it will work...

Off to Lollapalooza

Cary and I are off to Lollapalooza for the weekend. Follow Live updates at

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mike Gallagher on Obama Presents

Mike Gallagher was on Hannity and Colmes talking about Obama not giving his children birthday and Christmas presents and...well, just read the transcript...

Mike Gallagher: I mean, Sean, did you notice in the big cover story in People magazine this week, it was revealed that the Obamas don't believe in giving their children Christmas presents or birthday gifts?

Sean Hannity: Yeah.

Mike Gallagher: Now -- we've been looking for proof that they're socialists. There it is. There's proof positive that this is a socialist family. These children are going to have a lifetime of therapy to have to contend with. They don't give them -- they don't give them Christmas or birthday presents? You've got to be kidding me. I'm telling you, I'm -- I'm worried about these kids not getting Christmas and birthday presents.

Sean Hannity: I'm with you, Gallagher.

Mike Gallagher: I mean they're going to wind up -- Sean, they're going to wind up on a bell tower someday if we don't send them presents.

Evolution: Cancer and Genetic Disorders

I've been watching House a lot over the past few weeks. As I've listened to their method of diagnosis and read about the terms and diseases they discuss a question has formed. So, let's talk about what a few words mean.

Evolution: While the definition of Evolution is articulated differently depending upon the particular source of the definition its core is that "Evolution" is the concept of replication with change. A species or class or type changes over time, mutates over time, and those changes and mutations are passed along through various particular manifestations of a species or class or type via, in biology, its genes.

Cancer: Cancer is the term used to denote a class of malignant Neoplasms or "growths". While Carcinogens promote the propagation of Cancers a particular organism's response to exposure to a carcinogen will be influenced by that particular organism’s inherited traits of susceptibility, its genes.

Genetic Disorder: A Genetic Disorder is a detrimental abnormality in a particular organism which results from an abnormality in its chromosomes or genes.

Here's my poorly worded, unnuanced question: Are not Genetic Disorders and Cancer particular manifestations of the core concept of Evolution? Are not Genetic Disorders and Cancer the result of that which occurs in the process denoted by the word "Evolution"?

For the moment let's abandon the social implications or understandings of these concepts and rather assess these concepts without bias. The idea of Evolution is that fundamental structures of life change over time. For example, the finches Darwin observed are said to be related but not identical. Each particular manifestation of a finch was an example of a modification to the larger category of "finch". How are Genetic Disorders and Cancer in human beings not the human equivalent of a change to beak structure?

Evolution is not sentient, not a god-esque force in Nature making decisions and assessing merits. Evolution is change; unbiased, unencumbered change. Darwin noted that species which evolve to have characteristics which are detrimental to survival die off whereas species which evolve to have useful characteristics thrive. But evolution does not make a conscious decision of "detrimental" or "useful". Evolution is merely change. Reality is where those characteristics play themselves out and "detrimental" or "useful" is observed based upon the impact a particular mutation has on an organism's survivability.

When you think about it? Cancer and Genetic Disorders are instances of Evolution, of that tendency for mutation which is a fundamental component of life within this reality. Treating Cancer, treating Genetic Disorders, is really an attempt to treat Evolution. Yes, in some instances doctors treat the result of evolution. But in others? They are attempting to treat evolution itself, to take particular biological instances of Huntington's Chorea and somehow modify these results of Evolution to not have that which they have evolved to have.

While we could focus on the boring, arbitrary conversation of whether or not treating these "diseases" is right or wrong, beneficial or detrimental, it would be more interesting to assess whether or not I am correct. Are Cancer and Genetic Disorders part of the process of Evolution? Are not these changes and mutation merely the result of the facticity of the reality in which we live, that fundamental process which occurs in the reproduction of the species? Evolution is replication with change. Are not Cancer and Genetic Disorders little more than that replication with change? Are not Cancer and Genetic Disorders the sorts of things which occur through Evolution?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Zero Punctuation: E3 Trailer Park

Half-Blood Prince Trailer

WOTLK Potion Sickness: Frustrating

The latest bit of news to come from the WOTLK Beta is a new Debuff one gains upon consuming a potion:

Potion Sickness: Unable to consume potions until you rest out of combat for a short duration
This means that in any given fight one can only consume one potion. The crux of the problem is that, presently, in a 10 minute boss fight potions are the means by which healers replenish mana, casters replenish health and mana, and various classess buff themselves via potions. With Potion Sickness that ability is removed. Here are some of the Pros and Cons offered by the masses:
- Minimizes emphasis on potion guzzling.
- Lessens the grind (herb farming, gold farming) presently required to amass potions.
- Places more emphasis on gear/spec.
- Makes alchemy less profitable.
- How will Raid Healers/DPS replenish their Mana/Health without mana/health potions on 10+ minute fights?
- Fuck change.

The Pro arguments can be met with the stance that the "problems" they raise are not actually problems; that this change is not needed. The Con arguments can be met by changing class mechanics to minimize the need for potions and by ignoring their being irritable. What I think is more interesting is to acknowledge both the Pro and Con arguments and ask the bigger question: Why change?

The problem I have with assessing World of Warcraft changes is that I do not know what the developer's end goal is or even if they have an end goal. Are they adding Potion Sickness to solve some problem or simply for the sake of change? What changed when Paladins and Shamans went from being faction specific to being available for both Horde and Alliance? Why were Warlocks able to summon players into instances, then not, then able once again? Is Blizzard constantly tweaking WoW in an attempt to actualize some desired perfect balance, or is there no such balance and they simply enjoy tweaking?

Is it problematic that casters can drink a Destruction Potion every two minutes? Well, I cannot answer that question because I do not know what "problematic" means to Blizzard. From my stance as a Warlock who consumes Destruction Potions every two minutes during a 10 minute boss fight? Yes, this change sucks a bit. But what of the situation from Blizzard's standpoint? That's the question I cannot answer, the question which needs to be answered to assess this change. Is it change for the sake of change, a balance issue, some striving towards another goal? Why make the change at all?

That's the frustrating part of this whole thing: We do not know what Blizzard is trying to do. So we can talk about how it personally affects our class, our group, our raid. But we cannot talk about how this affects the overall situation of WoW. Because, really, only Blizzard knows what that is.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ted Stevens Indicted for Corruption, Tubes

Republican Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has been indicted on seven charges related to a corruption probe. A federal grand jury in Washington has handed up the indictment against Stevens -- which the Justice Department is set to announce very shortly. Stevens, 84, faces seven counts of false statements involving VECO, the oil services company in Alaska, and the renovations done on his home.

When questioned about his home renovations Stevens replied, "They're not a big truck. They're a series of tubes!"

*Update*: Stevens Pleads not guilty.

Spencer Taylor: Not The Joker

Ok. Even if we assume that Heath Ledger's Joker was right and acknowledge that rules and laws are little more that social constructs meant to allow for survival of the species? If we abandon our suckling at the teat of indoctrinated bullshit and rather objectively assess reality in a pursuit of Truth?

That DOES NOT MEAN that we dress up like The Joker and attempt to steal posters from the lobby of the cinema in which we watched Dark Knight, Spencer Taylor! No, Spencer Taylor! Bad, Spencer Taylor!

First of all, materialism is fucking stupid. Which, if you had watched Dark Knight and listened to The Joker, you would have fucking understood. So, if you're dressing like The Joker in order to steal Dark Knight merchandise? Sorry! You've missed the fucking point the guy you're dressing like tried to make.

Second of all, FUCK YOU, Spencer Taylor, for making fans of Dark Knight that much lamer by comparison to your stupid, worthless, fanboy ass. If you had just tried to steal the posters sans makeup and costume? Ok, not too bad, you're just a fan. But when you put on makeup and wear a damned costume? SORRY! You've delved into that other realm of fanboy which is lower and far more miserable and disgusting than those who simply hop around wearing cat ears.

I would like to assume that Spencer Taylor is just a fan who wanted to steal things related to the movie. But my real fear is that Spencer Taylor is one of those jackasses who hears a fictional character deliver a monologue about the futility and absurdity of organized society who then decides to go smash mailboxes and throw firecrackers at cats. Not only does motherfucker completely miss the fucking point of the monologue, but THEN he uses it as a half-assed excuse to be a moron who puts on face paint and tries to steal posters. And who the fuck steals a movie poster? The damned things are like $20 on Amazon.

Gah! There's nothing more frustrating than a jackass who misses the fucking point. And you, Spencer Taylor, completely missed the fucking point.

Government Bans: Phthalates and Popeye's

It's been my experience that human beings tend to shy away from particular, nuanced arguments that focus on nit-picky details and rather embrace a more broad, overarching view of reality which favors black or white comparisons rather than intricately explored shades of gray. That being said, let's pick some nits.

Southern L.A. apparently has too many fast food restaurants. So, the City Council plans to vote on Tuesday to enact a one year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in an area of Southern L.A. dominated by fast-food restaurants. In a seemingly unrelated move Congress is working to ban the use of Phthalates, a common toxin used to make plastics more flexible. So, what possible relation can there be between Phthalates and fast food restaurants in Southern L.A.?

Both of these situations utilize a top-down approach to governing; a government body enacting its judgment on the population. One government body is set to ban the creation of more fast-food restaurants while another government body is set to ban Phthalates. So why do these two situations feel different? Why does placing Phthalates and Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits on the same status feel odd?

Part of the conversation is a discussion of government oversight versus personal responsibility with regard to toxins and Popeye's. Think of where personal responsibility seems more sensible within your own world view. Does it make sense to ban the creation of new fast food restaurants, to attempt to compell people to consume less fast food? Is it more or less sensible to ban the use of Phthalates? If consumers can identify unhealthy foods could not they also identify unhealthy Phthalates? Are individual consumers more equipped to assess foods or toxins? Does the government have a responsibility towards consumers with regard to foods and toxins or does that responsibility shift depending upon the particular conversation?

I can appreciate the consistency in these situations. Fast food is not healthy, Phthalates are not healthy, so government steps in to attempt to modify the situation. But what of that act of banning and control? Do we accept the notion that the government may ban that which it deems unhealthy and beneficial for the population or is there a role for individuals to make their own decisions? Ought we allow customers to eat Popeye's every day if they want to? Ought we allow customers to buy their children toys which contain Phthalates? What are the similarities and differences in these situations and in what way do those impact our views of the particular situations?

Interesting to me is what this says about the free market. If we have to actively prevent the free market from over-saturating an area with unhealthy foods AND we have to actively prevent the free market from poisoning babies...whence the "good" in the free market?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert Novak has Brain, Tumor

Robert Novak has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and is suspending his journalistic work.

I always thought Robert Novak was not biologically a man but rather his image was projected forth from a black, fathomless void of hate and ignorance much in the same way puss is projected from an infected wound.

But I guess the fucker has a brain. And that brain has a tumor.

McCain: Gay Adoption, Family Values

From the Transcript of McCain on “This Week”:

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the “New York Times” you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn’t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it’s not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it’s not the reason you’re running for president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think — well, I think that it’s — it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it’s very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too. I’m running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent — families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know. And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. And I’m running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved

Pet Theft as Confusing as Pets

A few weeks ago someone asked me if I was "one of those animal rights people". My initial reply was "yes", because at the time I thought that answer would piss her off more than a reply of "no". But as I've thought more about it? I'm not sure where I fall. I'm stuck in a duality of acknowledging the need for responsible pet ownership (picking up one's dog's poop) while also ceaselessly bitching about how fucking stupid it is to subject one's self to a situation in which one must pick up poop. Needless to say this article by Kim Campbell Thornton about pet theft has not helped the situation.

First of all, the article itself is incredibly shitty as evidenced by it's method of establishing fact:

Police reports don't make a distinction between pet theft and other property theft, so there's no way to pinpoint the exact number of stolen pets each year, but anecdotally, officers say that pet theft is increasing this year.
Anecdotal evidence? AWESOME! Next to hearsay and conjecture, anecdotal evidence is my favorite kind of evidence! But do not think that simply because anecdotal is this article's preferred evidence type it will have no hard facts or statistics:
In the first five months of 2008, the AKC noted three times as many dog thefts as the year before. (The organization tracked 30 from news reports and customers; the entire year before they only recorded 10.)
Whoa! Thirty pet thefts? That's a fucking epidemic! What possible reason can there be for such an astronomical increase in pet thefts?
Sometimes people steal a dog simply because it’s a cheap or easy way to acquire one, especially in a tanking economy.
And here we reach the point at which the discussion springboards into a rant.

The premise of the article, or one of the premises of the article, is that the "tanking" economy of the U.S. has driven some people to pet theft. Except stop and think about that for a moment. Either people steal pets because they cannot afford to buy them OR people steal pets so that they can sell the pets. But how are either of those sensible when "tanking economy" is the motivational force? Oughtn't pet acquisitions be decreasing rather than increasing in a tanking economy? Why would either thieves or the customers of thieves place upon themselves the financial burden of pet ownership if the economy is in the shitter? It doesn't make any sense!

The answer may be that pets are wholly contradictory. It's the sentiment one finds in that odd recognition that one must care for and foster the well-being of a dog but at the same time recognize that it's a fucking dog. It's the problem of creating a hierarchy of owners and pets (note how the first quote referred to pets as "property") while also knowing the problems which result from speciesism. It's the duality and self-contradiction found in the reaction to this quote:
Two armed men forced their way into a Los Angeles home last year, ordered the family of four to lay on the floor and stole four Yorkshire terriers puppies and one adult dog.
That situation is hilariously tragic and tragically hilarious. Yorkshire terriers stolen at gunpoint? That is fucking hilarious and incredibly depressing when one recognizes how that puppy theft had to impact that family of four.

Pets are odd. Pets exist in an odd legal limbo by being both property as well as something more. Pets exist within an odd ethical limbo by being alive yet members of another species. Pets exist in an odd social limbo by being both non-human and members of our families. Through a mixture of empathy, anthromorphism, and objective analysis we've managed to create this self-contradictory view of pets which really doesn't make a damn bit of sense. But we embrace it anyway.