Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Orange Burgers: The Best I've Ever Had

I'm not really one to brag about food I've eaten, but this is too good to pass up. It will make for something different to round out this month of blogging. There's a new burger place in Little Rock, and it's called Big Orange. I've eaten there a total of three times now, and each time has been absolutely wonderful. The restaurant itself has a very modern aesthetic. Lovely bold colors adorn the walls with some interesting Americana-esque pop art. It also has exterior seating.


The first time we went there we both got their classic burger and shared a side of fries and a chocolate shake. All the toppings are on the side so you can decide what and how much of something you want. The cheese was on there and I added the lettuce and a touch of ketchup. It was the best burger that I've ever had in my life. The bun was so wonderful. The beef, perfectly shaped, seasoned, and cooked. The toppings were wonderful. The fries were so absolutely good and the chocolate shake was divine.


The second time we went, I got their hickory smoke burger. I had it with the barbecue sauce, cheese, and fried onion strings. This was also a very good burger. This last time I got their atom bomb. I didn't put the peppers or the mayo on it. Since it was something very new to me I want to step my way up to the full thing. This was a really great burger and I look forward to experiencing the full thing. 


The real winner that last time I went was what I drank. I had a J.K. Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold Cider. This was the most delicious alcoholic beverage I've ever had. It was 22 oz of 6% alcohol for $8 of absolute deliciousness. The saddest thing is that I can't find it anywhere else so that I can consume it at home. For other sample of their amazing drink selection, check it out here.


This is absolutely one of the best places I've been, and I definitely plan on going there many more times in the future. If you aren't into beef, they also have turkey burgers, burgers made with a veggie/bean patty, and salads.  This restaurant comes form the same people who run Zaza's, a local pizza and salad place. Would definitely recommend.

Big Orange on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Demo Roundup Part 2: From Dust, Payday: The Heist, BloodRayne: Betrayal, and Sideway: New York

I really wasn't expecting for all of these to be downloaded, but apparently signing up for Playstation Plus has perks I didn't realize. I logged in and it had updated my firmware, downloaded patches for games, and finished downloading all these demos (and more) during the previous night. Very Nice.


From Dust 
I've heard several complaints about this game, but I actually enjoyed it. I think I'll go ahead and purchase the full version. The graphics are nice and the terraforming gameplay is unlike anything I've done before, and I'm always looking for new play experiences.

The controls are a little sensitive and the camera could be a bit better, but I imagine that I'll overcome those difficulties in time.

Man, does anyone else remember how awesome Populous was? I only had a demo for it that came with SimCity 3000 and it was fantastic.

Payday: The Heist
I'm not normally one for first-person shooters, but this was sufficiently different to hold my interest. It's a 4-player cooperative objective based shooter.

The demo level had me robbing a bank and breaking into the vault. It was actually quite interesting. The shooting was solid and the game features non-linear levels and solid action. Overall the experience was very fun.

The levels are apparently somewhat random so you get a different experience each time you play it .


BloodRayne: Betrayal
Does this image interest you in it? I bet it doesn't.
The demo actually reminded me of Shank, except it seems to be much better than Shank was. The art is repetitive and somewhat low quality, but the gameplay is actually really solid.

The thing that's great about it is that it seems to fully embrace the campiness of the series. From the gameplay videos I'm seeing, the levels get much better later in the game. I'm definitely interested in this game now.

With an excellent combat system and good encounter design, this get's my recommendation.


Sideway: New York
Hmmm...a visually innovative platformer with a shallow gimmick. Yep, it's not very good. The idea of this game is that you've been transformed into a graffito and are platforming around with graffiti powers on the side of buildings. You'll go around the corners of buildings and walk on their roofs. If you approach a roof from a different wall, the gravity while on the roof will be different than if you approached form a different wall.

The problem with making a platformer is that an interesting gimmick isn't good enough. If the baseline platforming isn't solid enough the whole game just falls apart. The most important part of a platformer is the jump. If you don't have a good jump, it's over. And overall, I'd say that the jump in Sideway is just too floaty. It'd be like Halo platforming, and that's definitely a bad thing.

They couldn't have all been winners today.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Preliminary Talent Builds for Mists of Pandaria


There are some preview versions of the revised talents system for Mists of Pandaria at Wowhead. I've taken the liberty of putting together some preliminary builds for my current max level characters.

Guardian Druid (aka, the new 4th Druid spec for Bears)


Bears are getting their own specialization now, making the druid the only class with four. I'm really looking forward to what new abilities this will afford us since we won't be sharing with cats anymore. There are, of course, some holes in the descriptions for these abilities, so I'm excitedly waiting to see how those turn out.
  1. Displacer Beast - because as a tank if I'm turning into a cat, I need to do it after I'm put distance between me and what's attacking me. Good for getting out of effects that are happening right on top of you.
  2. Renewal - You can't argue with 30% of your health being restored.
  3. Typhoon - something about the idea of opening my mouth and knocking away all the enemies with a wave of water is very appealing to me. 
  4. Incarnation - You become a better bear. I'm mostly waiting to see how this one pans out. I'm also very interested in the new Force of Nature. Typhoons and Treants and Bears oh my!
  5. Ursol's Vortex - This is for more NPC control. We bears have trouble with that. :-(
  6. Disentanglement - There are spare moments in boss battles where you can shape shift (especially combined with Displacer Beast) that should make this a very interesting choice.
The theme here is mobility and mob control. I'm really looking forward to playing a new bear. RAWR!


Atonement is probably going to become baseline for discipline, which is something that I'm particularly looking forward to. Many of my choices here are about increasing discipline's AOE healing potential.
  1. Psyfiend - This was a tough call, as none of them particularly appealed to me. This seemed better than Psychic Scream, because it seems less chaotic.
  2. Body and Soul - I use shields often, so this seems like a no-brainer. Although it can often be disorienting for the affected person to be suddenly running very fast, if you have a dedicated group, they'll get used to it. This will also call for more situational awareness on my part, which will be an enjoyable challenge.
  3. Divine Star - An AOE heal? Sure, let's see how it goes. I'm also a big fan of From Darkness, Comes Light.
  4. Angelic Bulwark - I'll take stronger shields on my self to prevent me from needing a 30% heal or an auto-shield.
  5. Serendipity - Combine this with From Darkness, Comes Light to make your spells have this great positive feedback loop.
  6. This is a tough tier. I'd pick Vampiric Dominance but there's no way that's going to come through exactly the way it is. If it doesn't get nerfed, then it's definitely the one I'm picking. I'm also interested in Vow of Unity, but I'll have to see how it works out in a practical setting.

I love playing an enhancement shaman. I also love playing a restoration shaman. One of my favorite things about being an enhancement shaman is being able to contribute heals when they're really needed, so I'm putting some effort into that.
  1. Earthgrab Totem - I'm honestly not a fan of any of these. When I tank I hate it when the DPS manipulate the mobs like this, because it makes it hard to build threat/rage. If called for as part of the strategy, these things can be very helpful. Any choice here is good. Frozen Power would be my second choice.
  2. Stone Bulwark Totem - I like to defend myself from incoming damage,don't you? Astral Shift also seems like a good choice. It will come down to how each one of them plays.
  3. Improved Ghost Wolf - I had to go with the selfish choice on this one.
  4. Ancestral Guidance - I also really like Healing Tide Totem. However, I'm kinda expecting this one to scale better for enhancement shaman. I also think it will be a good way to save one particular person who is taking too much damage, whereas Healing Tide Totem is more of a helper, not meant to save anyone in an immediate fashion.
  5. Nature's Swiftness - I'm hoping the haste will make up for the damage loss from not taking Echo of the Elements. Throwing down an instant Chain Heal or Healing Rain is a favorite pastime of mine. Will Enhancement Shaman even have Healing Rain in Mists of Pandaria, though? Who knows? Echo of the Elements may very well end up being the better choice.
  6. Totemic Restoration - I don't often end up moving my totems. If I PVP'd more, I probably would. I don't know how valuable being able to have multiple totems of the same type will be, but being able to cut down the cooldown of my totems seems very valuable.
One thing I noticed is that the various shield spell aren't mentioned here. Will they go on the chopping block in Mists? It seems like they will since they aren't very interesting, just fire-and-forget.

Overall I'm very excited for these talent changes. They've also stated that they want talent changing to be relatively easy, like glyphs. We might be able to alter our talent builds between boss battles easily, which would be wonderful for me, since I love to min-max for each circumstance that way.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Stupidity of 9-9-9 Tax Plan

May I rant for a second?

The 9-9-9 tax plan is the dumbest shit I've ever heard. I'd really like to see Herman Cain go to the presidential election trying to convince poor people that they'll be losing a little less than 20% of their money to taxes. If you're sufficiently poor, you're going to lose 9% of your income to federal taxes, and then everything you buy will cost an additional 9%. You know that $400 dollar XBox 360 bundle you want. Well, it's not really that much any more. Add on, let's say, 15% combined sales taxes and it's now, $460. Have fun with that. Try adding another 9% sales tax to your car purchase and lose a couple thousand dollars.

People allegedly like this idea because it's simple. Guess what, simple usually isn't good. Tax code is a reflection of what we think people owe back to the government. Things such as donating to charity are considered to absolve you of some of your tax burden. Life, income, and economics are complicated, so it makes sense for the tax code to be too.

In statistics, the most accurate systems are also the most complicated. Adding more variables to your analysis can only increase the accuracy of your model. That's why our tax structure is complicated, but it's also good that it is. The only real problem with it is that there are these complicated loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes. The tax loopholes for businesses also need to be sealed up.

By the way, this isn't just bad for the poor. What about the elderly? The elderly have no income, and thus no income tax burden. However, they'll become saddled with additional sales tax burden. This will throw off the retirement plans of people who've had everything set up for 30 or 40 years. This would also add to the price of medicines, which our country already has a million problems with. Oh, and with a business tax, you can bet your ass that pharmaceutical companies are going to increase the cost of their products, further compounding the problem of sales tax on medications. You could, of course, always exempt medications from sales tax.

So what would the government do to correct the problem of sales tax burden on the elderly? They could either a) increase social security benefits or b) let the elderly suffer. If they increase social security benefits they'd either have to increase the social security contribution of income earners or businesses (increasing tax) or let some of the sales tax feed back into social security. They could also create exceptions where the elderly don't pay the sales tax.

It seems, just from this cursory analysis, that the 9-9-9 tax plan creates several problems. These could be fixed with exceptions to the rule, but that kinda defeats the point of it's simplicity, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Demo Roundup

I love the echochrome music


Rochard
This is a fairly acclaimed puzzle platformer which features a gravity gun as the major mechanic. I just couldn't get into it. I just didn't like it. As a platformer, it's too slow. For a puzzle game, it's too inaccurate. For an action game, I don't have enough control. It okay at three different things which means that I don't feel pulled towards any one of them.

Sonic Generations: New Sonic Type
I guess I just don't care about this type of Sonic gameplay.

Killzone 3 w/ Move
I bought a Playstation Move on the cheap recently, with the gun attachment. I decided to try out several demos with it. One of those demos was Killzone 3. The sharpshooter is the gun attachment that man Wii players have wanted for a long time. It's so well designed and made, it's crazy.

That said, controlling a shooter with a motion controller instead of a traditional controller is still incredibly difficult. Killzone 3 is an early attempt at Move controls for a shooter and I really hope that later games will have better Move controls.

I'm not sure if it was easier playing with the Move with or without the Sharpshooter. Both forms had their own difficulties. That said, the game was very fun, and although I didn't try it with a traditional controller I know it would have been a very smooth experience with one.

echochrome ii
Shine the light to make the shadows to get the guy to the goal.  Fun, but not as fun for me as the original Echochrome.

Mercury Hg
I had trouble telling the yellow from the green in the original Mercury. It reassuring to know that no steps were taken to improve color distinguishing for color blind players. Also, controller Mercury with a PS3 analog stick was much harder than doing so with a PSP analog stick.

Ape Escape Move
This was pretty much shit.

Playstation Move Heroes
I couldn't play it. I started up one of the minigames and my character couldn't move. Oops.

Dungeon Defenders
An Action RPG/Tower Defense game. I tried this with the Playstation Move controls, which were terrible. The camera was also far too close to the character and there was no map. This meant that I had no way to know when an enemy was sneaking up on my defenses or on the crystal that I'm supposed to protect. It's not an instant loss if an enemy gets there but it's very frustrating nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shaman Abilities and Other Changes, Adventures in Amateur Games Design part 15

Get it? Get it? Get it?
It's been a hell of a long time since I worked on this at all, other things began to occupy my brain spheres. Also, my mind encountered a bit of a road block when working on this so I took a detour through other topics, like voting.

It's been forever since I actually talked about this class (or this project). I don't even think it was called the shaman until just now. Earlier it was the priest. I think the word 'shaman' better fits the kit that I'm going with, though. Life/Death has been replace with a nature based tree.

Nature:
  • Given Ability: Draining Ivy - Vines fire from your arm, attaching to the opponent and draining their life, giving it to you.
  1. Vine Wall
  2. Vine Whip - A vine comes from you and whips the opponent, lacerating them.
  3. Some type of heal that does instant healing with a heal-over-time component. Plants grow in the wound.
  4. Meadow - an area-of-effect heal
  5. Log Throw - log appears and fwops the opponent
  6. Tangle - Creeping vines grow from the ground and trap the opponent
  7. Wild Mushroom - a mushroom grows on the opponent and eventually detonates. Upgrades to add spores that will make more mushrooms.
  8. Decay - Weakens the opponent
  9. Poison Bolt - deals damage-over-time
  10. Summon Treants
Fire/Ice:
  • Given Ability: Antipode - A fire projectile and an ice projectile that can target separate targets.
  1. Fire Wall
  2. Flame Jet - cone of fire damage
  3. Hot Steel - heats a weapon to deal extra damage
  4. Healing Waters - a direct heal
  5. Fireball - boom
  6. Tidal Wave - a wall of water pushes the opponents
  7. Water Cut - a blade of water slices at the opponent
  8. Freeze - locks down a body part of the enemy
  9. Engulf - sets the foe on fire, dealing damage-over-time
  10. Undecided water/ice ability
Earth/Wind
  • Given Ability: Undecided
  1. Rock Wall
  2. Rock Armor
  3. Rock Shoot
  4. Earthquake
  5. Shackle - manacles of rock hold down the opponent
  6. Buffet - push back
  7. Speed of Wind
  8. Lightning - The shaman separates the charge in a pocket of air, releasing it to electrify everyone in the area. Not a lightning bolt.
  9. Cyclone
  10. Asphyxiate
The recent changes to how the World of Warcraft progression systems work has given me some question as to whether I should change how my progression systems work. I'm wondering if I should change how abilities are learned and customized. I'll definitely admit that my current idea how character customization has completely daunted me and is really keeping me from moving forward with my idea. I think I'm going to do it. I just need to find out what way will work best.

Fighting Back: Getting Revenge for the Loss of Theramore

I know I used this recently, but it's just so damn good.

It's come to light recently that in a pre-Mists of Pandaria event that Theramore, in Dustwallow Marsh, will be destroyed in a Horde attack. This is meant to ignite the preexisting Alliance/Horde tensions to launch us into the story for MoPTo be clear, it hasn't been clarified/indicated if the Alliance will be losing Dustwallow Marsh as a question area or if Theramore will just be rubbled. Regardless, many people are crying out over this, claiming the Alliance lost enough in the transition into Cataclysm and calling for similar Horde losses. If it's done, though, then where?

It wouldn't suffice to just say that I have ideas.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gaming Update: Donkey Kong Country Returns is Bullshit and More

I just want to quit....

beat Donkey Kong Country Returns a while back but I went back to do these secret dungeons that unlock a final secret level. The secret dungeons were pretty cool, even if sometimes unnecessarily hard. There were high concept levels, which was nice. The final secret level, however, was bullshit.

It was just a stupid gimmick level where are the platforms were various fruits. The platforming was hard, but in the lame, erratic movements, kind of way. And the reward for doing all of this? Mirror Mode. The levels are reversed and you don't get Diddy Kong, items, and only 1 health. Like I'm going to play an even more bullshit version of a game I already thought was hard in an incredibly lame way.

Screw that.

I'm about 270 pages into REAMDE and it seems like it's reaching towards a conclusion. This is weird for me because it's an almost 1,100 page book. Then I realized that it's broken into separate parts and I'm still on the first part. This makes me feel better, as it makes me feel better about my reading pace.

In other news, I'm probably going to start playing WoW again. I don't plan on doing the endgame stuff, at least not right away. The changes for Mists of Pandaria really excite me. Also, buying a year's subscription gets me Diablo III for free, so that's pretty damn cool. I'm going to level a Tauren paladin.

My Gamefly sale games came in, so I'm looking forward to playing Naughty Bear, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and (possibly) Metroid: Other M. Where I shall find the time I have no idea.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Questionable Content's Questionable Characterizations

First World Problems

Something dawned on me recently about Questionable Content. The female characters are all essentially defined by their issues. The male characters mostly seem to be 'bros' without major issues. Let's begin with the ladies.
  1. Faye Whitaker - she witnessed her dad commit suicide and has severe relationship and drinking problems likely because of it.
  2. Dora Bianci - anxiety and trust issues ended her relationship with Marten
  3. Hannelore Ellicott - Chatham: Has OCD. Although, this doesn't actually seem to affect her much, other than making her a neat freak, good at math, and out of touch. I don't feel that she has truly had a serious problem because of her OCD and it mainly seems to get trotted so she can be quirky and lonely internet boys can develop moe-esque feelings for her. 
  4. Raven Pritchard - Ditzy
  5. Penelope Gaines - She and her boyfriend Wil are both lit/artsy people. However, she's the one who comes off snobby about it.
  6. Tai - Has lesbian issues
  7. Marigold Louise Farmer - has weight, nerdiness and social anxiety issues.
  8. Cossette - is clumsy
  9. Padma - has a kid, a sick grandmother, and must move away
  10. Momo - Marigold's Anthro PC who just got a human-like body and is dealing with those issues
Now for the boys.
  1. Marten Reed - former indie music snob and current dubstep snob whose only issue would have been that his mother was (is?) a dominatrix but he seems to have dealt with it remarkably well. He seems to be a somewhat empty shell, somewhat Bella Swan-esque in his lack of characterization. Seems to serve almost as a foil for the other characters.
  2. Steve - a bro through and through. 
  3. Sven Bianci - he does have promiscuity issues that ruined a relationship he had with Faye. Sven is, however, a tertiary character at best.
  4. Angus - Faye's current boyfriend who doesn't seem to have any issues.
  5. Wil - similar to Penelope, just not snobby about it
  6. Eliot - in really into Padma
This really came to light recently. Jeph Jacques (the creator) was coming up with a new character. He wanted to know what gender the people would like. The overwhelming response was to make it a male character (being sick of female characters, since the dudes are almost never around). He made the character male, he appeared in a handful of strips (less than 10) and has disappeared. In the interim we have been introduced to Padma and Momo got her human-like body.

Is it because, as a man, he views men and women in different lights? Does he break down women by their issues and men by their bro-ness? It's hard to tell. Is this a problem for male writers in general? I don't know, but it was something interesting that I noticed and has really affected my ability to enjoy the comic.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

LGBT Representation in WoW Lore Characters

It's actually relevant.

During the World of Warcraft Lore Q&A panel at Blizzcon, a young woman came up to ask a question on behalf of her girlfriend. The question was regarding the lack of representation of LGBT characters in WoW. Chris Metzen, Senior Vice President President of Story and Franchise Development, fielded the response. He said that they would certainly like to do an LGBT character, but just needed the right time to do it. Here is a paraphrasing provided by mmo-champion:
Everything is gravy as long as its just a great character. There is the possiblity of adding them, as long as the story is compelling, might see it in the future.
That isn't a direct quote. His actual words more more eloquent.

I think it's great that Blizzard wants to do an LGBT character justice. It'd be very easy to add one in and it be a poor representation. I also think that maybe they shouldn't wait for it to just happen. I think it'd be possible to deliberately add one without it seeming forced.

But let's play devil's advocate for a bit and talk some stuff. How many characters in WoW actually exhibit heterosexuality and gender normativity? Truthfully, 99% of characters don't exhibit any sexuality at all. Is a character only LGBT if they outwardly show it?

And how would a character show they sexuality? Other than professing a desire for a particular person or gender, it's through their actions. Other ways would be through speech and manners of dress. Many WoW NPCs have no voice. And the manners of dress for all WoW characters is pretty outlandish. That being said, there are medium-level characters that do have speaking/acting roles in the game where it could be done in a way that is respectful. There are also major characters who appear in cutscenes and throughout the game where it could be done.

With regards to a transgender character, how would that be signified? You could either have a character explain that they used to be of the opposite gender, which would seem forced. You could have an NPC of one gender that is always referred to as being the opposite gender, which might come off as a bug. Perhaps the character would always appear as one gender because of a magical transformation they've undergone, but the spell occasionally wears off and the have to reapply it, showing their birth gender. It's a very tricky issue.

In conclusion, there aren't any clear LGBT characters in WoW right now. But with the majority of NPCs in the game it's impossible to identify anything with regards to their gender/sexuality. Even if they do make a character that is LGBT, it's very easy to get it wrong. However, none of this means that Blizzard shouldn't go out of their way to do it, and do it properly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Embarrassing Story


As I said before, if I got my BlizzCon predictions wrong. I'd tell an embarrassing story from my past. I was right about getting a World of Warcraft expansion, and the Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm news, but we didn't get a Diablo III release date (we did get the box art and collectors edition details). I'll tell the story of how I tried to make a webpage.

When I was younger, I used the computer and the internet all the time, but I didn't actually know anything in depth about computers. I wanted to make a webpage but I had no idea how to do it. I knew nothing about servers, DNS, etc. I also didn't bother trying to learn how to do it. No Google searches for me. So how did I do it?

I opened up Microsoft Word and I typed out everything that I would want on the webpage exactly the way that I wanted it. I added pictures. All sorts of stuff. When I finished and everything was exactly the way that I wanted, what would I do? How would I make this a webpage?

It's simple you see. You save and tell Word that you want to save it as HTML. I typed in the URL I wanted into the 'filename' box and hit save. I then opened up Internet Explorer and typed in the URL to see if it worked. It, of course, didn't. So I deleted the file from the computer and just left, ashamed.

You might think, awww....that's so cute. It's really not. You see, I was probably in seventh grade or so at the time. And the webpage, it was about Pokemon. I even had a picture of Charizard  in it. It was so great. It was so sad.

That is my story. That is my shame.

Blizzcon - Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm New Units

Heart of the Swarm 2011 Trailer
In my second batch of Blizzcon impressions, I'll be talking about Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. There are lots of new units for Heart of the Swarm for each race. Let's see about it.

Terran
  • Battle Hellion: A transformation for the Hellion that gives is more defense in exchange for speed. It's attack also becomes stronger and the attack becomes a slight cone instead of a line.
  • Warhound: A mini-Thor with an AOE anti-air attack and an anti-mech ground attack.
  • Shredder: a mechanical unit that emits a radiation field that damages any non-Shredder units, including your own.
  • The Thor will become a much stronger unit that you can only have one of. It also requires a Fusion Core.
My biggest complaint about the Terrans is that the factory level tech was quite underwhelming. Siege Tanks are very good, but the others are very situational. This gives the factory some much needed variety. I'm really looking forward to the Battle Hellions.

Zerg
  • The Ultralisk is gaining a burrow charge to help it deal with its bulkiness
  • Viper: a flying caster that's replacing the Overseer. Has Dark Swarm and a Death Grip like ability that pulls a unit towards the Viper. 
  • Swarm Host: A ground unit that releases waves of timer-controlled small zerg units when burrowed. Used for siege.
Zerg mid-game has had big issues and these are meant to address that problem. The Swarm Host will hopefully be the Lurker without being the Lurker. The Viper may be hard to adjust to where it's useful, but not too useful.

Protoss
  • Tempest: An large air unit with and AOE air attack and a non-AOE ground attack. This replaces the carrier.
  • Oracle: A caster air unit designed for harassment w/o damage. Can shut down buildings and cover up mineral patches to stop mining. No attack. Mothership removed for this unit.
  • Replicant: A ground unit that can transform into any non-massive unit that's in vision, including enemy units. Expensive.
I'm really not sure about the Replicant. It seems like the only way they really have to tune this unit is to change the cost. It will either be too expensive to be useful, or too cheap and too useful. I don't imagine this one will make it to the live game. It seems like a really cool idea that they really love, but it just doesn't seem viable. I really like the Tempest, I felt that the Carrier was too powerful. The Oracle will make an interesting addition for the Protoss.

In general, I worry about them adding too many units. Will they be able to add units again for the second expansion, Legacy of the Void? I was really imagining one new unit and one transformation ability or unit replacement/unit redesign. The Protoss are getting a pretty even trade, but I worry that the Terrans and Zerg are getting too much with not enough lost.

I'm still SUPER psyched for Heart of the Swarm, particularly the single-player campaign. I loved Wings of Liberty's campaign mode.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blizzcon Monk Impressions and Concerns


The monk seems like it's going to be a very compelling class to play. It's a hybrid tank/healer/DPS class with a unique resource system. My current understanding of its function is that it doesn't have an autoattack. Certain moves generate Light Force or Dark Force. This is then used to use special abilities. The concept, even for healing, is that you'll be in melee range and doing damage.

I'm really not sure how this is going to work for healing. Targeting seems like it will be an issue because you'll have to target an enemy to stack force up and target a player to use your heals. You'll have to be in melee range which is very problematic if you have to run to switch targets. This could be easily fixed by having basic heals that still operate at range and give force.

There is one problem that can't be fixed by that change though. A big mechanic for healers is mana management. Healers can spend large amounts of mana to get lots of healing done quickly and they can spend very small amounts of healing in low stress situations. The current operating description of the monk's abilities implies that he has no mana, even when healing, so he can't choose to go heavy or light on the heals. He'll just have a baseline level of healing and have to deal with it.

The ability to manage one's mana is something that really distinguishes healers of different skill. And the threat of running out of mana because a fight is too hard is a way that Blizzard balances healers and fights. If they don't run the risk of running out of resources, the other healers will either have to stop worrying about mana or the monk will have to be weaker than the other healers. Both of these solutions would never really work for World of Warcraft.

I'm very excited for the monk, I want to make a tank and Sarah wants to make a healer. I think that the monk, at least for healing, is going to have to have mana as a resource. At least to back up the Light/Dark Force system. It's a good thing we have betas.


Update: The class Q&A panel updated us that the Monk will have mana and Light/Dark force when healing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm Bad at Refrigerator

I <3 U U-1
Ever since I started this full-time job, I've had problems properly using the refrigerator. It's been pretty bad, we've lost food because of it. Allow me to regale you with storied of my troubles.

It started out in the morning, I'd make my cereal, pour a glass of milk and then not properly handle the milk afterward. The first time I left it out on the counter. Where it warmed up and went bad. The second time was a bit more interesting. You see, I keep my cereal on top of the refrigerator. Well, that day I decided that the top of the refrigerator was where the milk goes and that my cereal should remain on the stove.

Then there was a long period where I didn't fail at using the refrigerator. We moved, things were different. Our refrigerator is now the type with two side-by-side doors with the freezer on the left. My problem has since changed. It's no longer milk that I'm ruining. Twice now I have gotten out the ice-cream, put some in a bowl, and put it back, not in the freezer, but in the refrigerator. I put it in the top part of the refrigerator, where most freezers are, but not where it belongs. It doesn't get discovered until the next morning, where it has melted and is no longer any good.

I seriously have no idea why I'm having so much trouble with this. This hasn't happened ever before in my life. I'm worried about where this is going to go. Sarah is thinking about revoking my refrigerator rights.

Potpourri: I bought 5 games from Gamefly's clearance sale. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Metroid: Other M (I'm a sucker, I know), Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Naughty Bear, and 3D Dot Game Heroes. Because I clearly don't already have plenty of things to play.

I was thinking about writing a blog post about tea dissolving in hot water and why it gets so bitter in those last few drinks. I then realized that it was a completely stupid thing to write about, even for me. I mean, I write about some shit that wouldn't interest most people but that crosses a line.

STAY TUNED FOR A POST CONTAINING A PROOF THAT THE ALGORITHM I CAME UP WITH TO DISTRIBUTE SEATS IN MY CONGRESSIONAL VOTING SYSTEM SATISFIES THE FAIRNESS CRITERION THAT I DEVISED.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tutoring Website

Kingdom Animalia, 'cause boobies, we got em.

Sometime I have great ideas for websites, my last one was Congressman Drinking Bird, a website where you can see just how well your congresspersons match you on the issues by pitting them up against a randomly voting drinking bird. My latest one is a tutoring website. I don't have a catchy name for it, but I do have some great ideas.

The genesis of the idea was for an official website for clients to find tutors. Furthermore, if the tutor set it up to work this way, they could auction off their sessions to the highest bidder. This would work well for a tutor who worked out of a public area, like a library. It could also just work as a place for a tutor to post their schedule and their subjects so that clients can find someone who works for them. Another way to connect clients and tutors would be that if a client couldn't find someone to suit their needs and schedule, they could post a bounty for tutors to find. The last way I can imagine would be to hold a webcam tutoring session.

The site would have a rating system, so that people would know if a tutor was bad. Furthermore, the tutors would also (secretly) rate the students to know if the student was trouble or not. They could also post comments about the student's problem areas and progress that would be visible by the other tutors. 

As with anything like this, there are issues. Warnings would have to be posted and reminded about regarding safety, such as meeting in public places or at your own residence and having adult supervision.

There is the issue of monetization. Ads are a definite way to monetize. Centralized tutoring services (such as Sylvan) could advertise on the site. Textbook/ebook sales are another definite way to generate revenue. The other way would be to have payment be handled by the website and have a commission for each session plus maybe a monthly fee for the tutors (only if they book a session that month, to remove the barrier to entry). 

The risk with handling the money is that now the site becomes responsible for it. If the tutor doesn't show up, they should be paid. If the student doesn't show up (without canceling ahead of time) then the tutor should still be paid. A system would have to be put into place to verify that the tutoring session happened/didn't happen and why. My best idea would be to have an email be sent to the tutor that, when opened, would have a link to the site. Once there, the student or parent would have to enter a special code/password to verify their attendance. I still don't have the logistics of it worked out so that it's foolproof. Another is to have some sort of geolocation tied to IP addresses or maybe a smartphone app tied to the GPS to verify locations. It's rough idea.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rant: Skyward Sword's Right-Handed Bias

Oh god her elbow!

When Twilight Princess came out for the Wii, I was disappointed that they changed Link to be right-handed for the game. I understood the decision, more people are right-handed, and I understood that since Twilight Princess was a late-game addition to the Wii's lineup that left-handed support (in the form of a left-handed Link) would probably have been a difficult addition. Quite frankly, many other people felt the same way.

You'd think that since Skyward Sword was built from the ground up as a Wii game, and because of the knowledge that many people wanted a left-handed mode for Twilight Princess that such a mode would have been included for Skyward Sword. This is unfortunately not the case. I'm really disappointed by this.

Why am I so disappointed by this? It reflects a lack of caring on Nintendo's part. I know that it's not a big deal for to include left-handed support because left-handed people can still play the game just fine. It would have been a really nice gesture toward left-handed players, however.

Link had, until Twilight Princess, been left-handed. It had actually been an error, at first, but Nintendo rolled with it and kept him left-handed for all subsequent releases. I have always loved Zelda games and when I realized that Link was left-handed like me I only felt more attached to him. Then I realized that we were born at nearly the same time, so to speak.

I was born at 6:00 AM on February 20, 1986. When you account for the time difference between America and Japan, it was 8:00 PM on February 20, 1986. The Legend of Zelda was released four hours later in Japan, in February 21. This proximity of births made me feel even closer to Link.

What's funny is that normally, languages have a built in bias against leftness. 'Right' implies correctness, freedom, moral goodness, and immediacy. 'Left' is also the past tense of 'to leave'. In other languages it's worse. In French, 'adroit' means right and skillful whereas 'gauche' means left and clumsy. In Latin, 'dexter' means right and skillful whereas 'sinister' means left and unskillful or even harmful. In English, 'sinister' means evil.

When I played Twilight Princess, I stubbornly played it with the remote in my left hand. The hardest part was actually learning how to use an analog stick to move with my right hand. I will continue this tradition forward into Skyward Sword. Quite frankly, if I'm impaired by this in some way, such as a left-to-right swing functioning differently from a right-to-left swing, I might just stop playing.

In German, 'links' means left. If only he would have stayed that way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Donkey Kong Country Returns Finale

Bramble Scramble

I finished Donkey Kong Country Returns today. By 'finished' I mean beat the final boss. There is still secret level to unlock (more on that later). Overall, I'd say I enjoyed the game, but I definitely have complaints.

My first complaint is regarding the difficulty. It seems to be aligned along the path of "This is hard, and not in the 'Oh! I figured it out!' sort of way, but we're going to give you plenty of lives to deal with it." This means that you'll often get stuck in sections that have precise timing requirements and die repeatedly. I really wouldn't expect kids to beat this, they'd get frustrated far too easily.

Secondly, there are these sections where you fly a rocket barrel (no doubt borrowed from Donkey Kong Barrel Blast. There are particularly frustrating since you go from taking 2-4 hits to die to just 1. They have finicky controls and ask the player to make some fairly precision movements.

Health and DK barrels come too few and too far between in many of the more frustrating levels. You'll go for very long times without your little buddy. All the boss stages start with a DK barrel, but none of the boss battles do. So the first time you try a boss, you'll have full (4) health, but if you die and retry the boss battle you won't.

One distinct praise that I would like to have for it. Each level has 4 K.O.N.G. letters and a certain number of puzzle pieces. Collecting all of one of those groups for a stage gets you a medal. This is integral to unlocking the final super bonus level. However, you (thankfully) don't have to collect all of them. If you collect enough of them in a 'world' you unlock a secret level for that world. Beat all those secret levels and you unlock the final super bonus level. I hate having to collect all of something in a game, because some of them are particularly hard to collect. I really like having the flexibility to not collect all of them.

I'd have to say this game was enjoyable, but I it's a very tenuous enjoyment.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pandemic!


Sarah and I bought Pandemic at Barnes & Noble today and tried it out this evening. It was a really fun game and we really enjoyed the two games that we played. In short, Pandemic is a cooperative board game for two to four players.


In Pandemic, the players travel around the Risk-like board, treat infections and discover cures for diseases. The goal of the game (and its win condition) is to discover the cures for all the diseases. Every turn, the diseases build up on the cities where they are, and if the infection in the city becomes too large an outbreak occurs and it spreads to neighboring cities. The players have to move around the map and lower the infection levels while they try to discover the cures for the diseases.


Discovering a cure for a disease allows the player to more easily treat infections of that type. Diseases are cured by discarding 5 cards of that color while at a research stations (which are established throughout play). Each player gains two cards at the end of each turn. Each card has a color and a city. Cards allow the player to move to that city, establish a research station at that city, or can be discarded in groups of 5 to cure that disease.


Occasionally, a drawn card will be an Epidemic card, for which Sarah and I like to yell, "Crisis Alert!" (see video above). An Epidemic causes an immediate rise in infection and increases the rate at which the infection spreads.


There are 5 classes that the players can be, each with various abilities. The researcher only needs 4 cards to cure a disease, the medic treats diseases more easily, etc. 


It was an incredibly fun time. I highly recommend it.


Bonus Potpourri: REAMDE is consistently getting better. Sarah has finished the first Percy Jackson novel and really enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

BlizzCon Speculation


Sarah and I attended Blizzcons '07 and '08, but haven't attended one since. We have watched it online, just not the gone. What's funny is that now that we don't play WoW, we wish we were attending more than in past years. Next weekend is Blizzcon, so it's well past time to wonder what it going to happen at the show.

It's pretty much a given that Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm details will come out at the show. They've been teasing silhouettes of units on the official twitter account for a while now. The show would be a really great followup to the reveal that happened a couple months back.

Not as much of a given but definitely my prediction, I think we'll get a Diablo III release date. The game is in beta right now and all of its secrets have been spilled. Furthermore, Blizzard hasn't had any big reveals at foreign events in a while, so if there ever was a time to dramatically do this, it would be now. I don't think we'll be getting any new information about the game. I'm pegging it for a holiday release for this year.

This one is a bit of a wildcard and could definitely not go this way, but I'm sticking with it. I thin we'll hear about a new WoW expansion at Blizzcon. Why?

  1. The last patch for the Cataclysm expansion is currently being tested on the public test realms. No new info could possibly be revealed about it that hasn't already been.
  2. This means that a new expansion shouldn't actually be that far away.
  3. There have been a lot of good things about this past expansion, but staying in old Azeroth hasn't been one of them. People want to explore new lands. Blizzard seems eager to get the players out of here.
  4. A trademark filing for something called "Mists of Pandaria" was filed by Blizzard a while back that includes it as a trademark for game software. It isn't conclusive, but it doesn't take away from my point either. I don't necessarily believe that this will be the title of the expansion.
  5. There's a ton in this schedule that hints at a new expansion announcement. There are several generically labeled 'World of Warcraft' panels that take place before the 'World of Warcraft: 4.3 Raid and Deathwing' panel at 5 pm on the opening day.
Tell you what, if I'm wrong about any of this, I will publish an incredibly embarrassing story. Believe me, it's really embarrassing and, to this day, only one person knows it.

The Plight of a Colorblind Gamer


(This was an article that I had originally had published on Nitpixels on June 28th, 2011)

A recent College Humor roundtable discussed the topic of enabling disable gamers. In the video, they featured a quadriplegic gamer who plays Call of Duty multiplayer (rather successfully) with just his face. This gamer, Chuck Bittner, is petitioning game developers for one simple thing: custom button remapping. If the button layout for a game is a certain way, he can't play it. So he wants the ability to change the layouts to something that works for him.

I can't play Aquaria because I can't tell the differentiate the colors for the different songs well enough. I didn't buy Super Puzzle Figher II Turbo HD Remix because I couldn't tell the difference between some of the blocks. I have massive trouble with Zuma because my eyes have trouble telling the difference between the blue and purple balls and the green and yellow balls. When I play Risk: Factions I can't tell the difference between the green and yellow territories and have to ask my fiancée which ones are which color.

That's four statements that I shouldn't really have to make, but I have to because I'm red-green color blind. Normally, my colorblindness doesn't affect my gaming. For example, I have never had problems in World of Warcraft because of it, apart from the fact that I didn't know that the experience bar is a different color depending on if you're rested or not. However, when it does affect my game playing, it usually does so in a very significant way.

I firmly believe that making the design choices or putting in the options to accommodate color blind gamers wouldn't be hard. Several games already have colorblind modes where they will place patterns over the colored objects to help the player tell the difference.  But not all color-dependent games have features like this. My appeal to game developers everywhere is to allow us to edit the colors, to have or allow us to turn on easily distinguishable patterns, or be more considerate and thoughtful with color choices. It would really make a difference for those of us who have this problem

For Chuck, he is arguing that we should be fighting the game and not it's controls. For me, I argue that I should be fighting the game and not struggling with my eyes' ability to see color. These changes aren't going to give the disabled a competitive edge. Even if they did, then everybody could elect to use them. It's two small things that would really improve the quality of gaming for many people.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Books Galore


A couple weeks ago Sarah and I went to the local Barnes and Noble to pick up some book, because we like books. We weren't planning on getting much while there, just one thing. We left with much more.

Sarah's Picks:


The Night Circus
She had initially dismissed this book because of all the hype that it was receiving. She had since read a sample portion online and decided that she had to get it. She devoured the book in the week after we got it and she loved it. I really don't know much about it's plot, because I intend to read it and I HATE spoilers. I like to go into a book knowing as little as possible.

The Lightning Thief
This novel is easily summarized as Harry Potter but with Greek mythology and stuff. I don't really know much about it. Sarah's started reading it. She doesn't have much to say about it yet. It certainly hasn't grabbed her as well as The Night Circus and Harry Potter have.

Fray
This is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book set in the future, with a new Slayer. I don't know anything about this one, because she hasn't started reading it.

Henry's Picks:


REAMDE
This novel was my first pack and has been really interesting so far. I'm 120ish pages in already and I can't wait to get trough the other 900 or so. I central feature of the book is the fictional MMO of T'Rain, which wasn't just designed to be a compelling game, it has certain, other special features that make it incredibly interesting. There's also a plot separate from the game. Weird, I know.

Starcraft: Ghost -- Spectres
Do you enjoy psychic, sci-fi space assassins? Now, would you enjoy them more if there were even more dark? That's my understanding going into Starcraft: Ghost -- Spectres (Which I had originally thought I should write as Starcraft: Ghost: Spectres. I chose the way Amazon and Blizzard's site has it. The Starcraft wiki has it the double colon way.). I haven't started this book yet, but I will once I finish REAMDE in a couple months. I have a secret love for Starcraft novels. I've read far more than I'd like to admit. This leads me to...


Starcraft Frontline: Volume 3
A collection of short stories in graphic novel format. Again, I love Starcraft, so why not buy a short story collection set in that universe? Exactly.

Gnomes
A coffee table book about the fictional gnomes upon which garden gnomes are based. It also details the garden gnome's many relatives, such as dune gnomes. It's a pretty strange book, but I like much of the artwork, and I have strange affinity for gnomes. One page features gnome boobs, so that was pretty traumatizing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Population Growth



It's big issues week on my blog apparently. So here, have another.


There is a certain problem that we, citizens of the world, face. There's too many damn people. There's only so much farm-able land, and thus only so many people can be supported by the world's ecosystem. If we reach that tipping point, where there is literally not enough usable land to feed the population, things will be disastrous. I feel like massive uprisings and revolts would result, with the poor and hungry rising up against the wealthy and fed. This will compound on the fact that as the population gets larger, disease spreads more easily.

So how do we combat population growth? Let's start with the United States first. Maybe we can set an example and be progressive for once (that's right, I went there).
  1. Remove the child tax credit. Simple enough. Why reward procreation? That will only encourage it. This would also help that whole deficit problem. Granted, you couldn't just remove it wholesale, that's ruin people. Gradually step it down over the course of 18 years.
  2. Take some of that new money from removing the child tax credit and fund conception preventing. Fund Planned Parenthood, fund non-abstinence only education, give away condoms, add birth control as a government subsidized pharmaceutical.
  3. Fund education in general. I'd be willing to bet that there are studies that show that more highly educated people have fewer children, and they have them at an older age. Both of these things will decrease the population growth rate.
  4. Address the issue of gender equality. Women need to feel more confident to refuse men. They need to be able to say 'no' to sex, say 'you have to' to him wearing protection, and say 'no' to having children. 
  5. Work to reduce the rigidity of gender roles. Women should be allowed to work if they want to, no questions asked. Encourage them to. Let them say 'no' to men who wouldn't let them.
  6. Stop funding abstinence-only education. It doesn't work. 
  7. Make/Keep abortion legal. (I have very mixed feelings about abortion in general, but in the end I support  its existence)
  8. This last one is probably very minimal in effect but it's there. Support homosexuals and homosexual rights. We don't need closeted/shamed homosexuals entering into heterosexual relationships and having children. Quite frankly, having more homosexuals would do wonders for the population growth issue.
This list attacks the population growth issue from multiple angles. Because of it, not only should people be having fewer children, but they should be having them later in life. Both of these factors will slow population growth. Maybe for once we could address something before it becomes a really big problem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Violence and Gender Norms


I was listening to a Savage Love podcast and the topic of transgender violence came up. In particular, he noted the rise in anti-transgender violence. He never talked about possible reasons for this. If I had to conjecture, I'd have to say that it's the result of a combination of factors.

  1. More people are probably realizing that they are transgender (is that the proper way to phrase it? If not, let me know).
  2. Those who do realize it are probably more likely to identify as such.
  3. Homophobia is becoming less acceptable in society, so haters have to have a group to hate on.
  4. Transgender people are being more vocal about deserving equal treatment. They have gone from a very fringe group to being a more common group that is asking for the equality they deserve and insist that, while they are different, they aren't abnormal. It's the insistence of equal treatment that I think sets haters off.
  5. This leads to an increase in violence against transgenders and the last part is that the victims are probably much more likely not only to report the crime, but to report it as an anti-transgender crime.
That's not my main point with this though. What I really want to talk about is the bullshit that people give in the anti-transgender argument. One argument is the idea that transgendered individuals are attacking or trying to undo gender norms. 

Gender norms aren't a thing. Gender norms are a statistic. A gender norm is looking at a population and saying, "Most men are like this, and most women are like this." Gender norms are a function of society, society is not a function of gender norms. You can't destroy gender norms, they'll always exist. The problem with gender norms is how people view them. Supporters of discrimination view gender norms as rules and not as a description of what is typical.

So why does it matter if someone challenges your ideas of gender? It doesn't change who you are. It doesn't harm you in any way. As far as 'protecting gender norms' goes, that's as dumb as 'protecting the sanctity of marriage'. Gender norms are just a description of trends in society, and the sanctity of marriage is something that's just plain made up. 

The lengths to which people make up bullshit to justify their bigoted ideas astounds me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Random Stuff 2: With Frontalot!

My last post on tattoos left me wondering, "What books should I definitely NOT get tattoos of?" After some quiet deliberation, I decided that Choke would be a bad choice. I can only think of anal beads for that one. I think I could break down all the Tolkien books down. The One Ring for The Hobbit. The Gates of Moria for the Fellowship of the Ring. Helm's Deep for The Two Towers. Sauron's eye for The Return of the King, or the White Tree of Gondor. The Magicians and The Magician King could also be separate, with the button for the first and the seven-pointed star for the second.

I'm definitely open to adding iconic video game symbols too. The Aperture Science aperture is a good one in my mind right now. Other things include, a metroid, an E-Tank, the master sword, an Arwing, a Moogle, a bandana, and many others. Granted, I may not actually get all of this stuff, or any of it, but it's fun to think about.

Blizzard announced an in-game pet for World of Warcraft that is bought with real money, but can be traded in-game. This has been labelled as Blizzard experimenting with real-money transaction. However, unlike the previously released pets, this one doesn't apply to all of your characters. So if you want to have it on all your characters, you'll have to buy it multiple times. This has people upset.

I really don't like it when people to mad about shit like this. You can disagree with it and wish it were another way, but don't get mad. You have to realize that you're getting mad about something that doesn't affect yours or anybody else's gameplay and is completely optional. Blizzard never had to ever even make this stupid pet, and if they hadn't, you would have never known the difference. You lose absolutely nothing by this pet existing. Stop it, stop being mad about it, it's not worth it.

Then again, is me getting mad about other people getting mad about shit that doesn't matter any better? Probably not. Probably not at all. On an unrelated not, I miss Umaro and Gogo. They were the best. I need to beat that game with a party of Umaro, Gogo, Mog and Gau. And Gogo can't use any 'added abilities', just Mimic.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tattoos


I've been thinking about tattoos for a long time. I've never been able to come up with a design or idea that I thought was great and where to put it.

An idea came to me the other day that I do like. Iconic symbols from my favorite books, each roughly 1 square inch, down the side of my left upper arm. I've already come up with several of them:

The Symbol of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter


The Mockingjay from The Hunger Games



The One Ring from The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings


The 7-pointed blue star from The Magician King


I need to really go through all my books to see if there is anything else I would like to do. If the symbol is for a series, I may do a different symbol for each book in the series, depending on the number of books and the strength of the symbol.

I really like this idea because it's expandable, explainable, not trashy, can be done in parts easily and, most importantly, because it's cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Symphony



Today, Sarah and I went to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's John Williams concert. We got good tickets for incredibly cheap because my place of work is a major corporate sponsor. The conductor for this year (and last year) is the very noteworthy, up-and-coming Philip Mann.

It was an incredible show, covering a great range of John Williams's music. It began with the Jaws theme, then played a march from 1941, then did music from Schindler's List, and moved into a Star Wars suite. Darth Vader came out and force choked Philip. Two storm troopers dragged him off the stage and Darth Vader conducted the Imperial March by staring down the orchestra, it was awesome.

After the intermission they played music from Fiddler on the Roof, the Olympics Theme, the NBC News theme, and wrapped up the show with the Indiana Jones theme and the Jurassic Park theme (which, according to Philips is noted to be played "Reverentially."). We were a little upset that there wasn't any Harry Potter on the program, but they gave it to us in an encore, which competely made up for it.

It was a truly fantastic show and we definitely plan on attending more this season. We'll probably be attending Happy Holidays, Russian WinterValentines in New York, People's Choice, and Wicked Divas.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Voting: The Algorithm

How does one fairly distribute votes among a number of parties? Last time I came up with a criterion for what constitutes a fair distribution. Stated mathematically, if you had two parties, numbered i and j. If v(x) is the number of votes that party x receives and s(x) is the number of seats that party receives. Then for any value of i and j, v(i)/[s(i)+1] < v(j)/s(j).

Along with the definitions above, let v be the total number of votes cast, let s be the total number of seats available.

I call the algorithm, lowering the bar. The algorithm is as follows:
  1. Let p=v/s, the beginning number of votes required to make a seat.
  2. For all i, let s(i)=v(i)/p rounded down. This is the initial number of seats that each party is given. Because of the rounding down, the total of the s(i) values will be less than or equal to s.
  3. Then, calculate p(i)=v(i)/[s(i)+1], the value of p that would give that party an extra seat.
  4. Set p=max[p(i)] and if x was the party that gave the maximum p(i) then set s(x)=s(x)+1. If there are multiple parties that are tied for the maximum, give all such parties another seat. If there aren't enough seats to give them all an extra seat, a runoff election has to be held.
  5. Repeat at Step 3 until there are no more vacant seats.
How this works with the Single Transferable Vote system is that after seats are distributed, the party with the least number votes that also has no seats has all the votes cast for them redistributed to that ballot's next choice. This repeats until all the remaining parties have at least 1 seat, at which point the seats have been finalized.

It's very easy to see how our standard election works. The winner has the most votes. This system is harder to keep track of. So, to build trust in the people and ensure fairness, the information about all the ballots cast would need to be available to the public. It would also have to be anonymized.

I won't bother with the proof of how this satisfies the criterion that I listed above (at least not in this post). Rest assured that it does.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Work Frustration + 3 videos!


Calamity? Check.

Hilarious Dr. Who parodies on Community? Check

Pokemon fart jokes? Check.

Hilarious Tweets? You betcha.

Four things I didn't create? What is this? Tumblr? Let's get started.

I had one of those hard-on-the-brain kind of days at work today. All I needed to do was adapt some SQL code so that it would do something slightly different, right? Well, that would have been too easy. I started to read into the code before I tried to do it and it was the weirdest and seemingly dumbest thing ever.

(Don't worry, this doesn't get very technical.)

One of the most basic things you do with SQL is say, "I want to make a new table with the lines from this table, but only the ones that meet this certain criteria." After you do that, whenever you work with your new table, you don't have to re-specify those criteria. So why was this happening ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE IN THIS CODE.

There are very is ways to say, "I want all the lines that DON'T fall into these categories." So why did the person who wrote this do it in THE MOST CONFUSING WAY POSSIBLE. Allow me to explain. He made a table of all the thing that he doesn't want, left joined it with the original table under the criterion original.(unique identifier)=(stuff I don't want).(unique identifier) and then specified the criteria that he only wanted the lines where original.(unique identifier)!=(stuff I don't want).(unique identifier). I know most of you are confused by that and you think it's just because you don't know SQL. Well guess what, it's confusing to people who do know SQL also. It works, it's just bad.

And none of this is commented, none of it at all. To make sense of it, I had to PRINT IT OUT and WRITE ON IT WITH A PENCIL. I had to summarize sections of code so I knew what they meant. He created tables that he literally never used at all. They were just dropped at the end of the code. Which, by the way, isn't supposed to be done as
DROP TABLE1; DROP TABLE2; DROP TABLE3; ... 
It's supposed to be done as
 DROP TABLE1, TABLE2, TABLE3...;
Lastly, the names of the tables that were created were not helpful. Such tables were "BASE9", "BASE8", "BASE81", "BASE181", "BASE281",  and so on. Using the suffix 'BASE' is ok, but why not number them with 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. It would work tons better for me.

It wasn't very fun. And, of course, none of it was commented. I just don't get it. Tomorrow, I'm going to rewrite the shit out of that code.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Potpourri


My supervisor has a somewhat lax time policy. Because of it I work an extra 30 to 40 minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Thus gets me out an extra 2 to 2.5 hours early on Friday. It's really nice.

I played the demo for Eufloria on the PSN. It was pretty fun. It's a stylistically distinct RTS-esque game not unlike Mushroom Wars. I'll probably be buying it. I'm also thinking of getting a Playstation+ subscription. I buy enough off of there for it to pay for itself.

I've started reading Reamde. I'm only about 50 pages in at this point but it's really grabbed me. It starts at a family reunion in present time. The main character is of the baby boomer generation. It really captures that weird feeling I always had at large family gatherings when I was growing up because of the large generational differences. The grandparents are very traditional and low tech. The baby boomers grew up in that traditional way but have embraced the technology of today. The children didn't grow up on the farm and know nothing of the traditional ways but have greatly embraced technology which causes this disconnect, lack of understanding and resentment between the generations. It really resonated with me.

I've started bringing headphones to work. If I'm doing something thought intensive I listen to music. If it's not thought intensive I listen to podcasts. I currently listen to the Nitpixels podcast for gaming, the Weekly Weinersmith for science/geekdom, and the Savage Lovecast for all that provides. I always find the Savage Lovecast to be interesting.

Also, The Magicians is going to be made into a television show. So, I might talk about that if/when details come out. ANYWHO. Bye.