It's like Mardi Gras meets the bombing of Dresden...
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Go Ahead College, Crush my Initiative
This Calvin and Hobbes strip accurately describes my feelings toward my World Civilizations II class. Today at 2:00, I have to hand in a paper that deals at least in some way with the topic of "Freedom and Domination" and it has to deal with pre-industrial Europe. All in all, not that bad of a topic. The prof made it deliberately vague on purpose, allowing me to choose my own topic, but then ruined a perfectly good paper assignment with a couple of ridiculous limitations.
  • The paper can be no longer than five pages
  • No outside research material can be used other than the two textbooks required for class
To make matters worse, our two textbooks are filled with the obligatory politically correct crap that you can expect from a class taught by a postmodern (just because a four paragraph summary of the scientific revolution doesn't mention any women doesn't mean the author was exercising some prejudice! It means that just about every major scientific discovery during the Renaissance happened to be by a man, and four paragraphs isn't enough to do justice to them, let alone force in women inventors of little consequence to satisfy politically correct pressures. Descontructing text like that is stupid! It's academically irresponsible!) prof who went to college in the first co-ed class at a fairly radical (formerly) women's college. So instead of fairly objective cohesive historical fact, we get articles on "A Dutch Massacre of the Algonquian", "The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico", Olaudah Equiano's memoirs of being a slave, and fluffy intellectualism like "Women and Marriage in Europe and China"- which would be interesting (I agree that the European model of allowing women to work outside the home played a key role in economic expansionism by offering cheap, exploitable labor) if it wasn't constantly reframed as the male exploitation of women. (On a side note, am I the only person who thinks reframing five thousand years of history because of changes in gender relations during the last forty years is ridiculous?)

Originally, I wanted to write a kick-ass paper on Mercantilism and how a worldview that forces nation states to compete for what is believed to be a finite amount of resources leads policy away from mutually beneficial trade agreements and places added emphasis on war and subjugation, making colonialism and the exploitation of native peoples the logical conclusion. However, I can't because a) a paper of this sort would need no small amount of substantiation and b) I'm pretty sure I can't do it in less than five pages without being overly reductionist and leaving huge gaps. So, instead I'm turning in a half-ass generic paper barely over three pages that is neither interesting to read and was much worse to write. From time to time I entertain the thought continuing my education because topics such as the above interest me, before my daydream is squashed by the nature of modern academia. Thankfully I only have to write a couple of these a semester or I'm pretty sure my desire to learn anything ever again would be thoroughly crushed.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Weird Science and Videogames
I've read this article a couple of times, and I'm still not sure what it means...

Also, recently I've been playing a good deal of Spartan: Total Warrior for Xbox. Overall, it's a pretty sweet button mashing hack and slash. The controls are intuitive, the violence is bloody, and the soundtrack blends techno and epic music without feeling contrived.
Suffer the wrath of my Socratic irony!

Granted, a lot is really going to have to go wrong before I refuse to play a game that allows me to battle my way through hundreds of years of history and myth (sure Beowulf doesn't belong here, but that dosen't make fighting him any less cool) as a badass Spartan warrior, but the game suffers from several major design flaws. A few of these are game specific, but the rest represent things that I can't stand in any videogame.
  1. Objectives involving protecting NPC's or objects- This has been a staple of videogames for years, and it really needs to be discontinued until either AI gets exponentially smarter or game designers find a way to make it not suck. Nothing frustrates me more than fighting off a legion of enemies only to have the protectee walk casually into some hazard and force me to redo the mission. In the case of Spartan- forcing me to protect multiple grainstores from hordes of barbarian warriors just sucks the fun out of gaming. The physics of existence require me to be in one place at one time, and asking me to violate this just makes me angry, especially when my cadre of allies can't recognize enemies across certain invisible, arbitrary boundaries.
  2. Poor AI in general- Sure, the first time I knocked over a flaming brazier and knocked some Romans into it was sweet. However, this was tempered against discovering that I could quickly dispatch of fifty enemies by running from one side of the fire to the other, while the mongloid soldiers chased me directly through the flames, killing themselves. I'm all for being able to use the environment to your advantage, but a central tenet of this is NPC's should also be dynamic enough to recognize obvious traps and dangers.
  3. Arbitrary boundaries- if the game has to be linear, then don't go through the trouble of animating extra space protected by invisible walls. Only make the level as big as what can be used. I can't remember exactly what game it was, but in one WWII game I remember having to fight my way down a narrow street protected by multiple machine gun nests, when all I wanted to do was run around the barn and flank, but couldn't because of a two foot high fence. I recently took a poll of WWII veterans and imagine my surprise when 100% of them responded that they would rather climb a fence than walk straight into machine gun crossfire.
  4. Poorly designed checkpoints- remember playing Halo and getting a checkpoint with one bar of health right before having to fight four platinum elites? It sucked. Now imagine that, only without the option to restart the level and with the checkpoints placed at larger breaks in action. If I just had to massacre two hundred Romans in a courtyard before running off to the other side of the city in a cut scene, it isn't ridiculous to ask that my health should be refilled before jumping into action again. Especially when numerous archers have the option to pick me off before I can engage them. On a semi-related note, don't animate cut scenes for frequent tasks like opening chests if I'm immobilized during the scene and my enemies aren't. A quick example would be me standing immobilized in front of a chest waiting for it to open, while the Hydra gets a free chomp. If it has to take me time to do it and it's crucial that everyone else still be able to move, then don't put it in a cut scene and give me the option to cut the action short if need be.
  5. Recipe bosses- I can't stand fighting a boss and having him instantly kill you multiple times before you learn the pattern and then easily dispatch him without taking any damage. This almost makes me wish for turn based combat, but not really...
Monday, February 20, 2006
Does this count as posting?
Where I am when I'm not posting (in case you were wondering)-
  • Golf Team Stuff
  • Day Classes and Night Classes
  • Selling my blood plasma
  • The Bar
  • Working Out
  • Buying Groceries with blood plasma money
  • Playing Beer Pong
Things along with posting I wish I had time to do-
  • Read
  • Watch the stock market
  • Work
  • Laundry
  • Sleep
  • Clean my shower
Things I'm thinking about-
  • I hate college
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Bad News
I had to take a basic computer science test today to fulfill my requirement for the intro to computers class here at college (because apparently two programming classes, Business computing, and the fact that I'm not an idiot wasn't enough). I had to get an 80% to test out, and I got a 79%. The worst part is that I missed 6 (out of 100) points because I wasn't familiar with MLA format. Yeah, I still can't figure out why I needed to know that either.

For the part of the test where a sample Word document was to be created, half of the points (6 out of 12.5) were contingent on putting up MLA headers/margins/font/etc... which lead to this conversation with the proctor after I had finished the rest of the test.

"What are the MLA margins?"
"You're supposed to know."
"Why? I thought this was a computer literacy test?"
"It is... that's something we cover in CSC 100."
"That has nothing to do with computers- whatever, I don't even care..."

Two minutes later-

"You can't look it up on the internet! That's cheating!"
"What? Why? Doesn't that just show how totally computer literate I am? I thought the whole point of this test was to prove I could use a computer? You should be giving me extra points."
"You are the one trying to test out of the class, you're supposed to know what the class covers."
"Well, if I was trying to test out of an English class, I might have gone out of my way to learn it once before I never used it again..." I guessed on the margins, fantasized about kicking the proctor in the kidney, turned in my paper and walked out, and missed the grade by one point, which means I'm going to have to pay $550 this summer to take one class where I learn what a keyboard is for, and how to make an Excel spreadsheet. This is the type of thing that makes me want to drop out of college and move to China to play and sell online role-playing characters for $75 a month, or at least drop out of college...
Monday, February 06, 2006
On Douches
I'm sure by now everyone has heard of the Mohammed cartoons (they can be viewed here) that have sparked "global controversy." I'm not going to attempt to add anything of value, decontruct the arguments of either side, or foster dialogue. All I'm going to do is tell a quick story and let you see if you can figure out how it applies.

A couple of years ago, one of my friends had just purchased the yellow and black nextel phone that is supposed to be pretty much invincible. Unfortunately for him, he walked outside with it into the middle of a water balloon fight. Realizing he was about to get worked, he preempted the toss by holding up his phone and saying that he didn't want to get it wet. Ordinarily, this would have worked. However, he had earlier made claims that his phone was so tough that he could basically fall into a lake and his phone would still work. Seeing that he was being a baby, but not wanting to directly hit his phone with a water balloon, I threw one at a proximate wall, hitting him with some spash damage. He then got really mad, swore profusely, and didn't talk to me for three days.

I'm sure something like has happened to you, most likely following this form-

1) Person A has a certain douche quality or does something douchey.
2) Person B, seeking to make a relatively innocent joke about the douchiness, says or does something calling attention to the douchey property.
3) Person A overreacts, causing everyone to forget the small, funny douche characteristic, and realize how big of a douche the Person A actually is.

In conclusion, Muslims are douches.