Saturday, October 29, 2005

Battlefield 2

After a LAN party a few weeks ago, wherein the crew played this very game, I got the urge to pick it up. I already had it installed (I'd used some community CDs at the party), but now I had my new key. Don't worry, this isn't another rant about piracy.

I let it sit for about a week and a half before I actually got the urge to play it. Boy, did I stink it up the first few hours. I'd be lucky if I got one or two kills a round. It was just the learning curve for the game, though, as I didn't experience anything I could consider bullshit (like the common occurence in CounterStrike of putting a whole AK clip into an enemy, just to have him turn and put one bullet in your forehead to get the kill).

Until last night. I found my preferred class (Support. I like's me some light MGs), and I was owning bitches in the face. Then the bullshit happened.

I came around a corner and dropped to my belly. My radar showed an enemy about to round the opposite corner, not 20 feet from my position. I lined up the barrel and waited. He came around the corner, and I opened up. I must have put, at the very least, one bullet in him. At the most? 15. In the middle of my hail of fire, he leapt into the air, and came down on his stomach, facing me. I adjusted my aim downwards, still firing, when he put a snap shot right through the top of my head. I was dead, he wasn't.

What? What the fuck is that? This game prides itself on putting you on the battlefield. Join the Marine Corps and go to far away exotic places and blow Afghanis away. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think our troops, or anyone else's troops, have ever used tactics like that. "Oh noes, someone is teh shooting me! I'd better jump as high as I can, do a belly flop, and then pwn them in teh face!!!11"

And this is as much of an indictment against the players of the game as it is the game itself. Just because the game allows you to do bullshit like that, doesn't mean you should. Certain servers have rules against stupid bullshit that the game allows you to do, and that's a very good thing. Like say, for example, taking a plane and crashing it into the enemy's spawn point. That might have been the historically accurate thing to do if you were the Japanese forces in Battlefield 1942. But Kamikazes don't exist anymore, and it's a stupid bullshit way of racking up kills in a game, where there are no consequences for death.

On the other hand, there are things the game allows you to do that make perfect sense. For example, the support gunner is called so because he has extra ammo bags to resupply teammates. When I get caught dead-to-rights by the enemy with my ammo bag out, I know I don't have a chance to switch to my weapon and gun him down. But I'm not going down without a fight. So what I do I do? I pull out a grenade and toss it. He gets me, but they never notice the grenade. Boom, baby! Death from beyond!

BF2 is really fun, if you're playing with good players. As with all human interaction, though, there's always the complete fucking idiots that bring everybody down.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Copy protection robs us of nostalgia

What follows may be the most bizarre argument against digital media copy protection, but bear with me. I'm not condoning piracy, just hear me out.

In the near future, copy protection on (PC) video game discs will not allow gamers to return to their "roots" and play the old school classic games we loved so well. It's really started already, but the more time that passes, the more widespread (and more bulletproof) copy protection will become, effectively locking us out of our own games. You might not be following me. Let me back up.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling nostalgic and decided it was time to play through the Monkey Island series again. So I went looking for my "Monkey Island Madness" disc that I purchased as part of the Lucasarts Adventure Archive Vol III. It was nowhere to be found. I double-checked, no dice. I started to panic. I got the Archive from the Lucasarts store at least 4 years ago, when they were still selling it retail. You can't get the Archive anymore. Well, not for a reasonable price, anyway, and then it's used.

I really didn't want to plunk down upwards of 80 bucks just to get the first two Monkey Island games again. So I called Justin and asked him to check his collection, perhaps I'd let him borrow it. Score! He had it. After I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief, he made an excellent suggestion. We both have our share of classic games that you can't pick up cheap, or simply just can't get anymore. He said we should back them up on DVD and put them in a safe place, so if any of them should ever be lost, we're not screwed.

I did just that, but I ran into a handful that had copy protection. I managed to circumvent it, so that I could make a perfectly legal backup of a game that I purchased legally. But what happens when the copy protection gets so good that you simply can't make a copy of a game? Wait, it already exists. As far as I know, Starforce is absolutely impossible to crack.

Now we reach my point. Ten years from now, when we gamers want to go back and revisit the classic games from the turn of the century, if we managed to lose or ruin our original game discs, too fucking bad! We've lost the ability at that point to kick it old school, because of the goddamn copy protection.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Movies? We Don't Want Em

I know I've already talked about it, but Serenity was a great movie. Not only do I think it's the best movie I've seen this year (and will probably hold on to that title), but it's easily entered my Top 10 of my favorite films of all time. Why, then, did it go 3 and out? I suppose it's still showing in some theatres, but not any near me. After 3 weeks. I bet Star Wars is still showing on a handful of screens somewhere.

I can hear you now, "But Heath, Star Wars is so popular, no one's even heard of Serenity!" Well, why not? They showed ads. Critics liked it, they wrote reviews. It opened at #2. Everyone I know who saw it thought it was great. Someone had to fucking hear about it.

As I said, Serenity was great. But for any number of reasons, it failed to do as well at the box office as it should have ($23 million in 3 weeks). For the sake of comparison, let's look at the performance of some other films this year that are nowhere near the level of greatness that is Serenity.

Flightplan. Some shit about Jodie Foster and her kid on a plane. $74 million.

In Her Shoes. Cameron Diaz doing her stupid shit in a chick flick. $23.5 million.

Just Like Heaven. I didn't like it the first time when it was called Ghost. $47 million.

The 40 Year Old Virgin. Funny, but completely forgettable. $106 million.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I didn't like it the first time when it was called The Exorcist. Plus, it's not based on a fucking true story, alright? Neither was the Amityville Horror. It's based on made-up shit, which is what every other fucking movie that isn't a documentary is based on. Jesus Christ. $74 million.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I hate Johnny Depp. I also hate unnecessary remakes. $205 million.

Star Wars Ep III: Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, that's right. I said it. $380 million.

I could go on, but I won't. I think you get the picture. All of those movies made more than Serenity, and most of them aren't worthy of carrying Jayne's jockstrap.

Which brings me to my point. The American movie going public has no idea what makes a good movie. They know what they like, which is brain-dead, nonsensical drivel. So that's what movie studios give them, and that's what the theatres run. Genuinely good films like Serenity don't do well, and original, interesting films like Good Night, And Good Luck are never released to a wide audience. And that, gentle readers, is bullshit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

South Park's jumped the shark

I can't pinpoint the exact episode in which South Park "jumped the shark," as I don't watch it often enough to tell, but it's just not that funny anymore. Sure, there may be the occasional chuckle, but I laughed more in the first 5 minutes of Drawn Together than I did during the entire half hour of South Park.

I know it's a huge cash cow for Comedy Central, and it has fan boys all over the place. And I'm not one of those people who don't "get it." I got it, in fact, I have the first 3 seasons on DVD. You know, back when the show was consistently funny. I may pick up Season 4, and possibly, Season 5, but just for Red Sleigh Down. In fact, that's the last episode of South Park I've seen that was more good than bad. But there comes a point when their tool for "yelling at America," in Trey and Matt's own words, gets old and stale. Tonight's episode was a jab at the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which might have been funny when Jon Stewart was doing it a month ago, when it was actually relevant.

Another example was the episode from last season about picking the school's mascot, and they had a choice between voting for a giant douche or a turd sandwich. We get it, guys, George Bush and John Kerry were equally bad, as are all politicians. Ha ha. Although I did like P. Diddy's "Vote or Die, mother fucker, mother fucker, Vote or Die" campaign.

As I said, I once enjoyed South Park, and there have been some truly classic episodes over the years. But now we're on 9 seasons? Come on, time to pack it in. The Simpsons wasn't even any good after 9 seasons, and The Simpsons is widely agreed to be the best animated TV show ever.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Stem Cell Research Breakthrough

A new study on stem cells has produced what I think is spectacular results. Researchers were able to gather stem cells (from mice embryos) without destroying the embryo. Here's the full article. (Link's broken. What the hell is it with Yahoo News and their links breaking after like a week? Do they not archive anything? Oh, well, here's an article, it's only relevant for two days, then we'll throw it away, wheeeee!! WTF.) Here's an excerpt.

One of the new mouse studies borrowed a lab technique used in fertility clinics, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. It is used to screen embryos for genetic disorders.

In the study, researchers plucked a single cell from eight-cell mouse embryos, which were about two days old. While fertility clinics use such a cell for genetic testing, the researchers cultured the plucked cells and found they behaved like embryonic stem cells. The embryos, meanwhile, went on to produce mice.

The result suggests that when clinics do PGD, they could let the cell they remove divide into two, and use one resulting cell for genetic testing and the other to establish a stem cell line, said Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., an author of the study.

That's fantastic. Now the fundies don't have a leg to stand on in their relentless opposition to stem cell research. If you can get stem cells without destroying an embryo (or in their words, "taking a life"), then what's the fucking problem? Well, a lack of a logical reason never stopped fundies. Look at the very next paragraph of the article.

But Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of pro-life activities for the Catholic bishops conference, said PGD itself is unethical. It poses a risk of harm and is mostly an effort "to select out genetically imperfect embryos," he said.

Aww, it poses a risk of harm. A lot of prenatal procedures pose a risk of harm, like the sampling of amniotic fluid to check for birth defects, or CVS testing. Does that mean they shouldn't be performed? In some cases, yes. But just because the chance for harm is there, doesn't mean it outweighs the possible benefits.

And what the fuck is wrong with selecting out genetically imperfect embryos? I wouldn't want a kid who would have a significantly lower quality of life than normal because he had Down's syndrome, didn't physically develop properly, or was going to have a terminal illness and not live past the age of 10. Oh, but that's right, fundies don't like abortion. Every life is sacred, even if it's a fucked up one. They take the moral highground, but if push came to shove, they'd think twice about carrying an "imperfect" baby to term.

Let's look at the other technique outlined in the article.

As with normal therapeutic cloning, they took eggs whose DNA-containing nuclei had been removed and inserted in each one a nucleus from a body cell of a mouse. But before the insertion, they blocked the action of a key gene in the nuclei, to ensure the eggs could not produce an embryo that can implant in a uterus. Yet, the eggs divided and grew enough to yield stem cells.

This modified technique, called altered nuclear transfer, has been championed by Dr. William Hurlbut of Stanford University, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. He said the abstract cluster of cells the egg produces is not an embryo but a "non-embryonic entity" that lacks an embryo's developmental potential.

"You don't create a living being," he said.

That's also fantastic. What do you have to say about this one, fundies?

Doerflinger disagreed, saying the technique appears to create and then destroy an embryo, which would make it unethical.

The technique appears to create an embryo? It appears? Is that your professional, scientific observation? No, it's just your kneejerk reactionary bullshit. Let the folks with the doctorates say what appears to happen, dickwad.

But not all fundies are as ignorant as Doerfucker, there.

But the Rev. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, called the approach a step in the right direction. Scientists are already discussing a modified version in which adding the nucleus to the egg would result in a single stem cell, not an embryo, he said.

Seen in that light, he said, the mouse study "is very encouraging. It reminds us that we have certain tools at our disposal in the scientific armamentarium that can be used in the direction of seeking an answer to the ethical impasse."

He's not saying this is the answer, but he's not putting his fingers in his ears and humming, either. Maybe this means we'll actually have some real progress in the stem cell arena, and start fixing shit. Maybe. I wouldn't count on it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Andy Milonakis is a Moron

No, that's not strong enough. Andy Milonakis is a fucking moron. Unlike probably everyone else on the planet, I'd never even heard of this douchebag until a few weeks ago, when he was the guest on Too Late with Adam Carolla.

Before he came out, Adam showed a video clip to familiarize us with his "work." It was this fat bastard kid singing a song about how the Superbowl and other things were "gay." Already, I hated him. I actually watched the whole show, even though absolutely nothing that came out of his stupid mouth was funny. Adam was still funny, but even so, it was definitely a net loss of funny.

I completely forgot about him until tonight, when I was watching a video clip of a house party at Kevin Smith's place, and guess who was there? That's right, Andy Milonakis, stinking up the place with his stupid, kiddie bullshit that apparently everyone thinks is funny but me. I then got the urge to look him up on IMDB, because I wanted to know how the hell this dumbass got to be famous. I didn't find that out, because I was too dumbstruck looking at his birthdate.

January 30, 1976. Now, IMDB is not typically known to be 100% reliable, but if something's clearly wrong, it doesn't stay that way for long. I also checked Wikipedia (again, not exactly the best source of information, but generally correct), and it says the same thing. In fact, the Wiki entry states that he has a growth hormone disorder.

So let's say that's true, and this asshole really is 29 years old. Is he fucking retarded? Because that's the only reason I can think of why he would act like a 12 year old without actually being one. And if he isn't 29, he's a still a fucking idiot for lying about his age and expecting people to believe it, even though he's clearly a snot-nosed punk kid who thinks all his "jokes" are pure gold. Fuck Andy Milonakis.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An Open Letter to Firefly Fans

Dear Firefly fans,

Fuck you. Fuck you in your stupid asses.

Allow me to explain my vitriol towards you worthless bunch of degenerates. I, myself, am a Firefly fan. While I didn't catch the series during the short time it was on the air, I did check it out on DVD at the urging of a friend. I fell in love with the series, and purchased the DVD set a few weeks later. That was about a year and a half ago.

So when I found out that there was going to be a Firefly movie called Serenity, I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait for it. When I heard about it, the release date was set for April of 2005. What a fantastic birthday present that was! I was extremely disappointed when it was pushed back to September, but I waited ever so patiently.

On opening day, Sept. 30, I got off work, ate, and went to the theatre to buy my ticket. There was a large line, and I seriously hoped everyone in the line was there to see Serenity. Unfortunately, they weren't, and the theatre was less than packed. Still, my experience in that theatre was totally unique. The movie was amazing, the audience participation was great, the acting was fantastic, it was just awesome. I couldn't wait to see it again.

What's more, is that I knew, I just knew, Serenity was going to take that opening weekend. It would be #1 at the box office for that weekend, out of all the other movies that were playing. It had to be, since I felt it was better than Episode III (and I thought Episode III had been the best movie of the year).

I wanted to hit someone when the report came out. Flightplan was #1? Some bullshit about Jodie Foster's kid on a plane made more money than Serenity? Ok, Serenity was #2, but it only pulled in a measly $10 million? The DVD sold half a million copies at roughly $40 a piece, to say nothing of how many times those DVDs have been rented at Blockbuster or loaned to friends, or how many people have downloaded the episodes off the internet. So of all the people who've been exposed to Firefly, only a million of them could be bothered to buy a ticket?

Everybody and their grandma saw Star Wars, simply because it's fucking Star Wars. But where were the Firefly fans? Why weren't they telling their friends to see Serenity, because it's fucking Serenity? I know I did. Where was the word of mouth? Joss depended on you to spread the word, and get people to go see Serenity, because the marketing campaign wasn't nearly enough. When there's a property that no one's heard of because the fan base is so limited, it is the fans' responsibility to make people hear about it. Sure, you ranted and raved about it on your cliquey little sci-fi web-boards, but does that shit ever get out to the mainstream? Hell no, you're preaching to the choir, dipshits.

Clearly, you dropped the ball. Serenity only opened in 2000 theatres (which is a hamstringing right from the start, Flightplan got 3400), and now, in only it's third week of release, my local theatre cut it down to 2 showtimes. And how did Serenity fare last weekend, after opening with $10 mil at #2? It slipped to #8 with only $5 mil additional, bringing the grand total to 18. 18 million dollars is fucking pathetic for an awesome flick like Serenity when shit like Just Like Heaven pulls 43, Flightplan gets 60, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose rakes in 72. I bet The Fog will make a mint, too, even though the film it's printed on isn't worth wiping my ass with.

So fuck you, Firefly fans. If it's anyone's fault Serenity doesn't do well, it's yours. The responsibility was on your shoulders to make Firefly live again, and you failed. Miserably. Congratulations on killing a great series. I hope you're proud of yourselves.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Saw an ad for Gametap on TV tonight, but I had no idea what it was, since the ad was some shit about the alligators in Pitfall talking about teeth whitening. Then I was reading Computer Gaming World and saw an ad for it that actually made sense. It showed a bunch of screens for classic games, and said "A new world of video games has arrived" and that I could play them from my broadband connection.

This intrigued me (why couldn't the commercial have said that?), so I checked it out. It's a monthly fee service kind of thing, but you can play old school games on your PC. I watched the tour video, which explained there are "hundreds" of games at your fingertips, just load em up and play. I should have thought about that hundreds comment, but didn't, and instead started geeking out at the thought of playing some Mutant League Football, or Final Fantasy 2 (of 4, or 5, or whatever the hell it is in the continuity, it was fucking 2 on the SNES, goddammit), or Mega Man 3, or Eternal Champions, or...I could go on all night.

Imagine my chagrin when I took a look at the list of available titles. They've got some 32X games, quite a few Atari 2600 titles, two (2!) Dreamcast games, a shitload of Genesis games (including Eternal Champions, sweet), and some Windows and DOS games, but no Nintendo games.

At all.

How the hell can you have old-school games without Nintendo? I fucking grew up on Nintendo! I still remember my Dad giving me a stereo for my 5th birthday, and feeling extremely disappointed (I wasn't into music then). He asked me what I really wanted, and I told him I wanted a Nintendo. So he took the stereo back and bought me an NES. Hot shit, man, that Nintendo started it all for me. And here's Gametap, who had lured me in with a shitty commercial, an intriguing magazine ad, and a sexy video tour, only to kick me in the nuts by not including Nintendo games.

Now, in Gametap's defense, there are some possible explanations for this. 1) They're a new service, so perhaps they haven't gotten around to adding Nintendo games yet. If so, great, I'll partake of the gameage once they do. 2) Nintendo is being a bunch of dicks and not allowing their content to be distributed in this way. Perhaps because of the rumored feature with the Revolution having access to Nintendo's back catalogue. Again, if this is so, that's ok, because I can get my Nintendo fix with the Revolution.

So even without the Nintendo games, Gametap is still a very interesting idea. But given the extent of their PC titles (Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow is one of the games available) I would think they could also throw in some PS1 and PS2 games, hell, even Xbox games. And they've got Master System, Genesis, 32X, and Dreamcast games, where's the SegaCD love? Perhaps those are part of the "new titles added weekly" bit.

I'll be watching, Gametap. You're not getting my money yet, but you might.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What the hell?

I don't live in the ghetto. I don't live in the best of neighborhoods, but I can honestly say that there aren't drug dealers on the street corner, O.G.s aren't busting caps in people's asses, and the crime rate is probably average compared to the city as a whole.

Why, then, does some asshole have to squeal out at 11 o'clock at night? Every fucking night? So you've got a fast car, whoopty shit. Great job on the tires, there, do you go through a set once a month? And just what the hell are you in such a goddamn hurry for?

Maybe it's a "guy" thing. He's got the fast car that compensates for his tiny dick, and by squealing the tires, he's demonstrating to all his bitches that he's the shit. That's great, but how about you do your stupid fucking mating call in someone else's goddamn neighborhood.

Armchair Economists

Even though I am one, I hate economists. Insert old joke about how economists predict the state of the market the way meteorologists predict the weather, but it's true. We apply simplified models to an immensely complicated real world, and we're not always right (in fact, we're usually not).

But if you had asked me six months ago, a year ago, or even 5 years ago what I thought was going on with the real estate market, I would have told you the exact same thing: we're in a bubble, that won't last forever, and it will burst, sooner or later. So why had I been hearing, from economists no less, that the real estate market is not in a bubble? That high home prices and low interest rates were here to stay? They took the same classes I did, studied the same models and theories I did, why the disparity in our predictions?

I really don't have an answer to that question, other than the aformentioned joke about predicting the weather. What really pisses me off, though, is that once a month for the last six months or so, every time I open the business page, I see another report on the state of the market. The first report, about six months ago, was something along the lines of "Prices continue to rise, no end in sight." Next month, it was, "Prices will continue to rise, just not as much as expected." Then, "Prices beginning to level off, but still increased." It was about this time that the Fed increased interest rates for the second quarter in a row. The next report was like, "Prices rise slightly, but will most likely not decline." Then, "Median prices remain the same." Finally, the Fed raised rates again, and I saw, "Prices fall slightly, but may bounce back soon."

Do you see a fucking trend here? I sure as hell do, and you don't have to be an economist to recognize or understand it. Home prices cannot keep rising indefinitely, not when rent is staying the same, more houses are constantly being built, and the Fed keeps raising interest rates. Sooner or later, Joe and Nancy Shmoe aren't going to be able to afford the payment on a 30 year, $600,000+ mortgage. The only reason they have been able to is due to low, fixed rates. Once folks can't afford the payments, they aren't willing to buy new houses. Once enough folks stop buying new houses, while construction on new houses continues, prices come down. When prices start falling, the speculators who thought real estate was a "good investment" start selling, which forces prices down further. This phenomenon is called a feedback loop, and it could go on for a while. That's where the bubble bursts. How far will prices fall? I have no idea, but they will fall.

So, getting back to the armchair economists that seem to think this real estate bubble is any different than previous bubbles, I have a question for them. What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you get your degree online, is that it? Or were you too busy drinking and partying with your frat buddies to actually learn the material? Or maybe you're just too fucking stupid to apply the theory, so you spout the same nonsense every other non-economist is spouting about how it's a "new economy." It wasn't a new economy then, and it's not a new economy now. Dipshits.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's Aliiiive!

It was never actually dead, just...dormant. But I'd like to get back to semi-regular blogging. It's so cathartic to write about whatever, get things out and such.

I went back over the existing posts and made some edits (deleting certain company names so as to avoid any possibility of retribution, making updates to situations, etc.). To bring you current in my situation, I've left COP IT not by my own volition (I was laid-off, as the budget no longer allowed for my position), and after a long and painful 5 and half months of unemployment, began work as a CSR (Customer Service Representative) at Kaiser Permanente. Yeah, yeah, I know, big step up. But I see it as a stepping stone. Kaiser's a huge (servicing 8 million members nationwide, and 6 million in CA) organization, with tons of potential for advancement. Just a matter of time, really.

Not much else to tell right now. I've got a couple rants on the real estate market, gas prices, and a few political situations (even though I don't follow politics nearly as closely as I did before), but I'll save those for later when I'm more awake and angrier.

I leave you with an anecdote. A few weeks ago, Justin and I were on our way to a movie, when these two kids (in their early 'teens, I'd say) just strolled out into the street. Justin had to slow down considerably and actually swerve, and the kids never picked up speed, but rather glared at us as if we were at fault. Look, I understand the whole "invincible" feeling when you're a punk teenager. I remember that. But this sort of behavior is not limited to idiot kids, it exists in adults who should know better and don't. Never put your life into someone else's hands, even if you trust them, and especially if it's just some guy who you've never met. I mean, it doesn't even take a bad or drunk driver for you to be killed in that kind of situation, what if he dropped a cigarette in his lap? What if the sun temporarily blinds him? What if his brakes fail? Whoops, you're fucking dead, asshole, all because you thought it was cute or funny to stroll out in the middle of the street.