Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

The Death Penalty Is Wrong

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Warning: I am very, very upset and thus this post uses very Not Safe For Work language.

I don’t give a flying fuck about whether Troy Davis was guilty. You fucking look me in the eyes and tell me it’s okay to murder another human being. You tell me that taking someone’s life without their consent is ever justified. You fucking tell me why. You tell me it’s okay to do that in my name, in all our names. I don’t have numbers, I don’t have facts and figures, I really don’t even pretend to have logic on this issue. I just have a feeling deep down in my gut, telling me that it’s never okay for the state to take somebody’s life. The death penalty is wrong.

Every human life has value. You can’t prove that it doesn’t — because you can’t prove a negative. Take the most foul, wretched excuse for a human being you can imagine, and try to tell me that his life has zero value, that in fact his mere existence is a detriment to society, so much so that he must be murdered, and I’ll tell you that you’re not looking hard enough. Every human being on this planet has something to offer, some whole greater than its parts that is irrevocably lost when he is snuffed out. The wonders of existence are so vast that every sapient being in history is to me as close to a miracle as I’ll profess to acknowledge. I’d like to point out the potential each living human (even the murderers and worse) has, but that’s going down a road that smells a little too anti-choice to me… I’m angry and being irrational right now, but I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth. I’ll put it this way: you can do absolutely horrid things, but then you can turn around and do amazingly beautiful things. This doesn’t justify the horrible things, but it should give us all pause. The death penalty is wrong.

Don’t talk to me about justice. Murder is not justice. Get it wrong once, in the name of everybody, and we’re all culpable. How many people have been wrongly killed in the name of justice? How many of those shameful deaths are acceptable, fucking broken eggs to make an omelette, to get whatever payoffs might or might not arise from the death penalty? Can you name a number or percentage of the population? That would be an abhorrent calculus of life and death. Yet such a number does exist, although we may never know it. The answer to me is clear: zero. The death penalty is wrong.

We have been making good progress at eliminating barbarisms and injustices for thousands of years. We are not moving fast enough to eliminate this one. In the developed world, slavery is gone, women can vote, LGBT persons are (generally) accepted (yes, we could use more work in this area), and we are free to seek our own destinies and believe and say what we want. Yet our country is one of a backwards few that still murders criminals in the names of all the people. This makes me angrier and sadder than I can possibly express. The death penalty is wrong.

[Penn and Teller have done a much better job of explaining my position than I ever could, in an episode of Bullshit.]

Fight or Flight and the Spirit of Compromise

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I have never been more disillusioned with the state of American politics. And that’s saying something, considering that I came to political awareness during the Bush years. Those eight years were an era when nothing could be more black and white, when you were either with us or an enemy, when the sky was falling and we needed to be constantly afraid and bellicose, like a terrified and jumpy man holed up with a shotgun through a dark, dense night. And somehow, miraculously, inexplicably, perhaps inevitably, things have gotten worse.

It turned out that the real threat to our livelihood and security didn’t come from without; it came from within. While we were pushing up walls and fences to protect us from the big, scary reality of the rest of the world, we had our backs turned to the real problems and the real threat. Our economy imploded. Jobs started disappearing. Panic set in. These were huge issues, much too large for the average American to even wrap his head around, much less try to solve. Luckily, we had a whole team of experts on our side, people whose jobs it is to deal with crises like ours on a regular basis. We had Congress, and they dropped the ball. Big time.

While I lean to the left and want to blame the right, I can’t because the facts don’t support it. The truth is that everyone screwed up, but the Democrat are much more to blame for our toxic political landscape. It was a Democratic majority in Congress starting in 2006 and through 2008, when things really started to stink. And it’s a Democratic majority right now, when we should be fixing things but are not. Sure, the Republicans share in the blame, but they are not exclusively to blame for events leading up to this crisis. Those of us who lean to the left are going to have to get past this if we want to break this political stalemate.

The problem is that both sides have forgotten how to compromise. As a result, everyone — Tea Party supporters, Socialists, and every shade in between — is going to suffer.

The Republicans have taken the stance that nothing is going to work unless they get their way. Unfortunately, they haven’t been quite clear on what they want. As near as we can tell, they don’t even want the opposite of what the Democrats want; they don’t want anything to happen. To say this is infuriating is an understatement. After all, it was a solid six years of Republican craziness, of Bush Affirmation, that helped get us into this festering abscess of a situation to begin with. Carrying right over from George W., the GOP refuses to learn a lesson and refuses to acknowledge that they had a hand in all this. They would much rather score points with their diminishing base than face the truth. But the GOP has never been good at looking ahead, and they can’t understand that if they don’t do anything now, then they’ll get into office in the future, but they’re going to be dealing with a much worse problem that’s stagnated while they’ve been stalling.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have been the Party of Disappointment. They managed to squander an incredible amount of goodwill starting with Obama’s inauguration. November 2008 put them in charge of a government sourly in need of reform and an ailing America eager for change. Not “change” the campaign slogan buzzword, but real, honest-to-goodness improvement in something, anything. I cannot fathom how they’ve managed to fail so utterly at getting their agenda accomplished, not even token victories. They’ve taken a massive supermajority in the Senate and wasted it, compromising their position until it’s worthless. They lost Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat precisely because they’ve been so impotent this last year. It wasn’t angry Republicans upset about Universal Healthcare or Gay Marriage or one of the other conservative bugaboos that did them in, it was their own base. Their base didn’t care enough to vote, and it cost them. Believe me, it’s going to cost them a lot more this November.

It’s a classic Fight-or-Flight Response from both parties. Here we have this massive source of stress (the Financial Meltdown), and each party is embodying one of the two responses to the detriment of us all. The Republicans have gotten the urge to fight, but they’re misdirecting their aggression. Instead of tackling the problem, the real threat, they’re trying to make the Democrats looks bad. This tactic might help them win an election or two in the future, but it’s only going to wind up hurting them (and, more importantly, the People) more. The Democrats, for their part, are terrified and running away. Not just from the financial and social problems that hint at ruination, but from the Republicans, too. They’re high-tailing it right out of Washington and into early political obsolescence, and they’re so deluded that they can’t comprehend why everyone hates them so much. So they run faster, and the people get angrier.

It really is a season of anger, isn’t it? Joe Wilson’s outburst last September during President Obama’s Health Care speech wasn’t just the tip of the iceberg, it was the canary in the coal mine. Anger and outrage can do some marvelous things if properly channeled. The Tea Party has molded their anger into something symbolic, if not constructive. Meanwhile, there is no equivalent on the left — getting angry and aggressive is not something liberals are good at. We’re much more likely to be passive aggressive. That means staying home this November and bidding the majorities goodbye. The sad thing is that the Democrats won’t understand why they got voted out of office. They never learn. They’ll think it’s because the American people (the same ones who gave them a massive mandate last November) hate them for their policies and want them to be more like the Republicans. That’s half the truth. We are starting to hate the Democrats, but it’s because they’re doing nothing and making it worthless. Meanwhile, the Republicans are also doing nothing, but they’re convincing people that it’s worthwhile.

Is it too much to ask that somebody, anybody, do something that’s worthwhile?

Dear NBC: Please Don’t Ruin Next Week’s “The Office”

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The Office premiered a few weeks ago, and it’s been a pretty good run so far this season. But there’s a ‘special event’ coming up this week *mdash; Jim and Pam’s wedding — and I’ve got a certain feeling of dread thinking about it. Let’s face it: TV networks love to let us down. So I’m asking you, NBC, from the bottom of my fanboy heart, not to ruin what should otherwise be an enjoyable and eventful episode of your fine show. I realize that the show is already in the bag, but I want to complain anyway, so I will. Got that?

Please, no drama. The Office is a comedy, after all. Drama can be good every once in a while, but you don’t need to inject it into every damn episode. This week’s show is a big one, and it would be nice if, just for once, everything could go off without a hitch. Can you imagine that? A fun episode through and through, with no cold feet or misunderstandings about such-and-such or reappearances of sketchy former boyfriends to install a feeling of doubt or any of those other tired, old wedding clichés… it would be refreshing.

The trend over the last decade or so has been to inject drama into sitcoms, and it’s worked pretty well in general. But… there’s always to danger of too much of a good thing. Just because it can make a certain series interesting and engaging (Scrubs comes immediately to mind, ditto Pushing Daisies) doesn’t mean that every episode ever needs it. Sometimes, I just want to laugh. There once was a time when adding a bit of emotion into an otherwise funny show was a rare thing and something to be admired. But then it became a fad, and everyone started doing it. I blame Friends, and Ross and Rachel. But as it has become the norm instead of the exception, it’s become a bit old. And now we’ve come half a circle, NBC, and you can do the new and different thing by not injecting some sort of crisis or epiphany or disaster into this week’s episode.

I’ve been pulling for Jim and Pam for a long time, NBC. After all, Jim is a guy I can relate to, and Pam is smokin’ hot. I just want them to be happy. The best moments on the show are the ones where we see them as a pair, happy and glad of each others’ company and relating like human beings. Yes, their drama worked early on and even drew me into the show, but now is the time for smiles and celebration. I want to see Michael be an idiot, and Dwight show some of that weird, off-putting ‘expert’ charm, and Andy fail with the ladies. I want to see all those things. But I also want to see Jim and Pam smiling and happy at the end of the episode, without some formulaic romantic comedy grade BS to foul up the hour. Is that too much to ask?

The biggest surprise of all, NBC, would be if you were to surprise me with no surprises. Just let things happen the way they should. I want a sense of finality when I turn the show off, not some lingering cloud of doom over the characters’ (and my own) heads.

Streaming Video: A Rant From Twitter

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Why can’t streaming video player programmers EVER get their buffer size prediction algorithms correct? Or, failing that, just make them more fault-tolerant so they buffer more than is necessary to start playing? I’m watching Amazon video on demand, and golly gee, it would be nice if I had control to buffer as much as I wanted, instead of what the moronic algorithm programmed into it thinks is enough.

Other irksome things: When it has to re-buffer, it takes away the progress indicator. This is because during 33% of rebuffers, the connection cuts. This way, I have to guess where I was on the movie when I re-load the page. Amazon, I know you’re trying to idiot-proof your software, but can you please put up something so we have some semblance of control? All I want is a truthful indicator of the connection status, and control over the buffer… is that too much to ask?

Oh, one more thing: If I pause, that’s your opportunity to LOAD AS MUCH BUFFER AS POSSIBLE. I’m hoping some progress has been made since this rant started, but I highly doubt that.

Smash Bros Brawl Has a Broken AI

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Try this experiment:

  1. Start a game of Smash Bros Brawl on Free For All. Use stock mode.
  2. Just play with one player, set the rest to CPUs on level 9.
  3. Start the game, and time how long it takes for the game to end.
  4. Now, replace yourself with another computer on level 9, and time that match.

Which game took longer? Nine times out of ten, it will probably be the all-computer match. Does the first game end quickly because the AI on Smash Bros Brawl is just that good, that three of them can usually beat a human player? Does the second game take longer because the computers are excelent players?

No, it’s because the AI is biased against humans. In FFA matches, the computers actually target the human players, leaving each other alone relatively. If you need proof of this, play FFA with two humans and two CPUs. If you and your friend are halfway decent and unbiased, you will probably be the last two standing. You can also try a 1v1 in FFA, you against a computer. It’s a lot easier. Even 1v1v1 is better. But when you get three computer players all ganging up on the one human, the game becomes a lot harder.

Need some examples of this bias? Read on. From what I’ve seen, Free-for-All with 3 CPUs is really a team match, human vs. 3 computers. The game has been kind enough to activate team damage, so every once in a while they’ll hurt each other. Here are some examples:

Final Smashes

This is where it gets ridiculous. They computer will, without fail, target the human players. If you happen to die right before a CPU gets the Smash Ball, that player will wait until you have come back to use it. If you wait up on your platform while you’re invincible, so will the CPU. He will not even consider using his Final Smash on his teammates. The other CPUs will not even consider trying to take it from him. The most ridiculous cases are Lucas or Ness. It looks like the programmers gave each character a final smash AI, so they know how to use it. A lot of characters (Captain Falcon, Meta Knight) need to be close to use their smash. Ness and Lucas don’t, however. Their final smash is screen-wide. But they usually try to get near the human player before they deploy it.

Even worse are the Final Smashes that involve controlling direction. For example, the Star Fox characters use their big, stupid tanks. Sonic flies around the stage, as does Pikachu. It’s especially fun to get into a corner where Fox’s tank can’t reach, or to lead him somewhere he’ll get stuck. If you stand still, he’ll try to get at you but not go anywhere, even if the other CPUs are easily accessible. Similarly, Super Sonic or Pikachu will try and hammer you. They might hit another CPU in passing, but they’re not fooling anybody.


This is the most infuriating. True, you can dodge it, but you need split-second timing. If one CPU gets this, he will target you mercilessly. Even if the other two CPUs are standing in a tempting cluster, the CPU will prefer hitting the human player for one kill over getting the other two computers for two. Like with the Final Smash, if you die just before they get it and wait to come out, the CPU will wait until your invincibility wears off before attacking you.

The Chase

Try playing a large stage, like the Zelda Castle or the custom ‘Maze’ stage. Right at the start of the match, run from the CPUs (all three will immediately begin chasing you when the match begins). You can lead the other three CPUs on a chase, round and round the stage. They will occasionally take swipes at each other, but they’re only love taps.

No unbiased person can argue that the CPU itself is unbiased. They hate human players. They even taunt the humans after they’ve killed them — but not other computers. Way to rub it in, guys.

So what can you do? Well, you can always play with at least one other human. People may develop grudges from time to time, but they usually mix it up after they’re told to piss off and stop targeting one person. You can’t do that for the AI. Unfortunately, if you just want a quick game by yourself, you’re SOL.

I’ve tried playing 1v1v1 in team mode, with me on one team and the other two players on different team. It seems to end up the same way.

For now, I guess we’ll just have to treat FFA like a team match, humans vs. robots. The Smash Bros Brawl AI is not the hardest alone, but with three ganging up on you, the sheer force of the numbers is enough to trip you up. The only upside to this situation is that if you keep practicing, you’ll probably get really good against other humans.

Why Cloverfield Will Suck

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to see it, I’m excited as hell, and I’m pretty sure they’re gonna show the monster in all its glory — but I know the movie’s going to suck. Here’s why:

  1. There will be no buildup. My guess is that it starts out at the party, and goes from there. How about five minutes of strange incidents from around the globe, à la the viral videos already released? I don’t want to come into the movie and miss half of it because I’m too lazy to waste time clicking through tie-in websites that pretend to give you vital clues to the plot.
  2. There won’t be a plausible reason for the monster to attack NYC. Perhaps some suspension of disbelief is in order, but the fact that the film is a ‘realistic’ documentary will not play into the plot. Obviously, a gigantic creature that lives underwater will head to NYC, with a million buildings in the way and irritating explosions, to spawn/have fun/feed. I’m pretty sure there’s more food available in the ocean — including that tantalizing Slusho ingredient!
  3. We won’t get more info than what’s on the ‘recovered’ tapes. I love back story, and the shit we’re spoon-fed on the viral marketing websites won’t explain anything about the monster. So we’ll never know if it’s an alien, or a mutation caused by man, or something else. Some will say that this enhances the ‘mystery’, but I’ve had enough uninformed fan speculation from the lead-up to the movie. I want some goddamn answers, not more fanboy theory. I want to know A) what it is, B) why’s it’s pissed, and C) how they stopped it.
  4. There will be an epilogue, but it will leave more questions than answers. This is, after all, the product of J.J. “Lost” Abrams.
  5. They’re gonna waste time on the ‘parasites.’ You know, the little creatures the main monster exudes? The ones that are probably taking a bite out of that chick’s neck outside the medical tent from the 2:00 trailer? I don’t want an Aliens-style crawlspace suspense terror-fest — I want a Godzilla-style smash-the-buildings monster movie.
  6. Is anything more cliché than “I’m going into the city, I don’t care about the 100 story-tall freakazoid, but she’s there and I have to save her?” Stupid romantic subplot detracts from awesome Statue of Liberty-munchin’.

I guess I’m just being pre-irritated by all the hype. I could be wrong; I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

R.I.P., Pushing Daisies (Prehumously)

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Hmmm… a show that is funny, yet dramatic, creatively visual, and has a quirky premise. How many episodes is Pushing Daisies going to last? Four? Seven? Probably, the network execs (ooooh… those vilifiable executives!) will decide that the show’s budget is too high for the ratings it gets, and will push it to… I dunno… Thursdays at 3 a.m.? Or they could kill it outright by moving it to the Friday night death slot.

And then, of course, the inevitable articles lamenting its death, and possibly pointing to the fan outcry as a possibly means of resurrection. Fifty bonus points to each journalist who ‘creatively’ suggests that maybe the should could make a comeback if only it could use the main character’s power on itself!

Or, they could let a show thrive. I’m not brilliant network executive, with private jets and 3-martini lunches, so I can’t interpret the show’s ratings. Maybe it’s doing spectacularly? It would be a sin to kill a show that started so strong, and has so much room to grow.

It really makes you question the nature of death. Can there be a God when a vile, wretched show like Desperate Hosewives will live, probably forever, sucking the blood of the innocent and sinless shows in its wake, while something as cute as Pushing Daisies is almost certain to kick the bucket.

A note to TV show producers

Friday, April 6th, 2007

You may post new episodes of shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Office on the iTunes store, but you have to do it faster. I can usually find a new episode of such a show from the BitTorrent network an hour after it airs, and can have it downloaded before the night is over. If I miss my show, I want to see it ASAP, not 24 hours after it airs. Get your shows up faster, because I’d much rather pay for and download a new episode right away with the iTunes store instead of waiting for my P2P download to finish. As long as I can get it faster via P2P, I will.


Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

I constantly find reasons never, ever to trust technology enough to become an astronaut.

Reason #1: The iPod-cum-brick. Today, there was an Adobe User Group meeting. On the way across the oval (which has recently become an uncrossable sea thanks to constantly freezing and melting ice sheets which once were snow. It’s pretty neat, because your shoes simultaneously come into contact with 1) water 2) ice and 3) mud, which means that you can get your shoes muddy, soak your feet, and fall on your ass, all at the same time!), I was listening to it just fine. Full charge, no problems, no skipping, nada. I put it away for the meeting. On the way back, the damn thing wouldn’t do anything! No apple screen, no iPod-sticking-his-tongue-out, nothing. I tried to fix it at home, first plugging it into its power adapter. No dice. Then my laptop’s USB. Still, nothing. Reset, reset, reset — zilch. The ‘5 R’s’ yielded no results. So now I apparently have a dead iPod. The worst part is that this isn’t the first time this has happened! About a month ago, I actually had to call tech support. For some reason (and this is before I got through, so the tech-guy-gadget-fixing-auro wasn’t in effect yet), on my twentieth attempt at restarting it (hold-on, hold-off, Menu and Center pressed and held together), it started working. Oh, yeah, and this isn’t even my first iPod! My first one died one day for similarly inexplicable reasons. Gee, Apple, you’d think for a grand total of $650 dollars I could possibly not by an unreliable piece of crap… twice.

Reason #2: Retarded torrents. For some reason (possibly the alignment of the moons), every time I’m downloading sweet TV shows via BitTorrent, nothing works. Usually, setting my client’s encryption to forced or enabled (whichever it currently is not set to) cures the problem. Not tonight. I tried four or five times, then snagged a torrent I knew would have seeds, all to no avail. So I got started on Reason #3 (see below) and came back to it after half an hour when — voilà — it started downloading. Of course, my episode of Heroes was going at 100 k/sec last night, but now, with only a third left, it was going at 20 k/sec, despite having the same number of seeds.

Don’t you love that? It seems that, regardless of your method of illicit p2p download (BitTorrent, Gnutella, even ancient Napster), you always wind up having 5 minutes left on your download for at least an hour, often more time. I assume my seeders are all d-bags who coordinate their efforts to frustrate me just enough so that I come back for next week’s episode.

Reason #3: Tried to write a paper about Python (the language, not the aeronautical beast). Finished it. Tried to upload it with the shitty Blackboard upload applet (that’s right! Start the JVM to accomplish something that can be done with a plain old HTML form!). Guess what? FireFox crashed! Tried in IE — now the whole box crashes! And I’m not running a bunch of crap software, as far as I know. After the restart, it went right up. But I found it amusing that submitting the paper took about 3% of the entire time spent on the damn thing.

Wait. It wasn’t amusing. It PISSED ME OFF.

By the way, while writing this I must have clicked out of the form text area and tried to delete something, because I hit backspace and immediately navigated away from the page. My blood boiled for half a second as I realized I might have lost this entire rant. To Blogger’s credit, it did warn me. But I’m so used to irritating popup messages that I typically click through familiar ones without thinking them through. Thankfully, I’m paranoid enough to copy and paste (
just did it) after ever sentence as a poor man’s save.

And I was going to try to install Windows Vista on my computer tonight. With my tech karma right now, the setup would probably error out so immensely, so enormously that I’d wind up reformatting my Mac’s hard drive, too.

Pissy-Pant Pusillanimous People in… Boston

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Have you heard about the bomb scare in Boston? Advertisements for Aqua Teen Hunger Force were placed in 10 locations around the city, in a ‘guerilla marketing’ campaign. They feature the Mooninites, and, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, each device “had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires.”

A battery. And wires. Soooooo scary!

Christ. I own so many things that could be mistaken for bombs, I must be a threat, too. We better outlaw all Lite-Brites in Massachusetts, too!

What really gets my goat about this whole thing is the overreaction. Even after Turner Broadcasting has admitted that they’re advertisements for their show, the authorities are still taking them down. So as the bill for a simple bomb scare climbs into the ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ (according to the Boston authorities), they’re still wasting money when they know there are no bombs. The article even mentions that NORAD is watching over things. That’s good, in case the Mooninites form the Quad Laser, right?

Boston’s mayor called the campaign “outrageous”, and blaming it on “corporate greed.” Come again? In this context, then all advertisement is about corporate greed, right? After all, having a product (in this case, a TV show) and wanting to sell it is a greedy thing to do. It sounds to me like the Boston authorities are being the greedy ones. If they can, they’ll try to get some money out of this from Turner. All because of their overreaction to perfectly harmless light boards!

Edward Davis, the Boston Police Commissioner, had this little nugget of wisdom to comment on the scare: “In the environment nowadays … we really have to look at the motivation of the company here and why this happened.” If there is an ‘environment’, then I’m thinking it’s one of fear. Terror… even. So, if we react to terror in such a pusillanimous way, aren’t the real terrorists (the ones who kill innocent people to scare others) getting exactly what they want?

This has me so angry, I’m going to watch all of the ATHF Mooninite episodes back-to-back-to-back. I just hope that nobody sees Ignignokt flipping the bird through my window, or they might call in a bomb scare!