Posts Tagged ‘Rants’

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.


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!

Missoula Sold Its Soul (For Adult Contemporary)

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Well, the Rolling Stones are finally gone, having sucked the life out of our great city Wednesday night. They turned our quiet little campus into a madhouse of 40-somethings looking to recapture that ineffable feeling of youth and 18-somethings screaming “I can’t get no sa-tis-fac-shun!” out of their dorm rooms and reminding those 40-somethings that, hey, it’s okay to be old. Everybody was grabbing for a piece of the pie, and nobody’s hands were greedier than our very own University. It’s not enough to wash our credibility down the drain by signing an exclusive contract with ‘Killer’ Coke, they now sell our campus down the drain, too, just so some geriatric old fucks can waltz in here, play a few songs they penned 40 years ago, and make off with all our money and most of our pride, to boot.

From what I can tell from the reviews I’ve read, the Stones managed to do what everyone expected — they played a lot of hits, one or two new songs to remind us that yes, they’re still making records, and fire off a lot of fireworks to distract us. From what? From the maddening realization that the Stones hadn’t written a song that was actually relevent in two score years. It was all part of the show, the six story stage, the roaring spotlights, the old chestnuts, not new to anybody’s ears in decades, and we all suspended disbelief. Where the hell was the emotion? Somehow, these dangerous boys, who had the gall to declare their Sympathy for the Devil, were nothing short of… familiar. It’s hard to seem dangerous when half your audience is made up of people who have to be up at 7:30 A.M. so they can drop their kids off at school.

The emotion died a long time ago, along with the danger. It’s been replaced with glitz, with 70 tractor trailers and a six-story stage. It’s been replaced with 20,000 screaming fans, not screaming because they might share a moment with Mick or Keef, but screaming for the sake of… screaming. Real rock ‘n roll died a long time ago, certainly before I was born, and even the fringes — punk rock and death metal, for example — are gasping for air. It’s not rebellious anymore. It’s packaged. It’s merchandised. It’s $80 tickets. It’s 70 tractor trailers. It’s withered old farts, appealing to something they helped create, but not letting sleeping dogs lie, making a joke of the very thing they helped to create.

Why iTunes 7 (7.0.1, too) SUCKS

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

When I heard that iTunes 7 was out, I was excited. Then I found a massive list of bugs that made it next to worthless. iTunes 7.0.1 came out, and I was hoping it would fix the following problems, but it didn’t. From what I read on the Series of Tubes, other people are having similar problems.

  1. I can’t listen to music on my PC while I play UT2004. I could with 6. If I try, the music starts stuttering more than Bob Newhart.
  2. When I listen to my shared playlist streamed from my PC to my laptop, it frequently stutters. Occasionally, when Song A ends, iTunes will say it’s playing Song B but I will hear Song A again.
  3. Randomly when I’m listening to a shared playlist, one song will end and, despite the fact that it’s not the last song on the playlist, playback will stop. Then, I will not be able to play anything from that playlist unless I eject it (eating one of my 5 per day connections, by the way) and reconnect.
  4. For no apparent reason, I’ll get this really washed-out, overdriven sound when listening to a shared playlist.
  5. Grats, iTunes: You now use 40% of my CPU all the time.
  6. I cannot view iTunes Store movies on my laptop anymore. I downloaded a few pre-7.0 Mythbusters episodes that ran fine, but I tried to watch the first episode of Heroes and all I could get was A) stuttering audio and B) my laptop locked up. Also, iTunes was eating 99% of my CPU.

I should point out that with the exception of the last one (maybe Apple’s using a fancier codec than my 2.4-gHz, 1GB RAM P4 can handle), all of these things were not a problem with iTunes 6.

It seems that the transition from iTunes 6 to 7 is going much worse than the transition from (Mac OS) System 6 to 7.

Not everything about 7 is bad. I like the CoverFlow feature, and gapless playback, but neither alone is worth the constant slowness, stuttering, distortion, and strange behavior that iTunes 7 brings to the game. I don’t want 6 back, I want 7.0.2, and I want it to work this time.