Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goodbye 2012: Blog Year in Review

Goodbye 2012. We had a good blogging year; go ahead and browse through the archives on the side panel if you don't believe me. We rescued a cat, helped with some Dragon Dice, played some Final Fantasy and even talked a bit about Star Ocean, looked at America's Greatest Enemy and spent some time at the Smithsonian. Somethings were too high, while other things were just all around bad ideas. Also, a lot of goose poetry. I don't know why.

The Supreme Court made some big decisions, and I thought we may have outgrown MMOs as a genre. We also talked some theory on gaming and talked about how writing all sorts of things is hard. However, despite all of this, I have managed to keep on keeping on with my side projects. In fact, this blog has some of my better (and worse) stuff. But, before we end 2012, how about a Fiction of 2012 Review? Included here are two pieces (at the bottom) that I think I have not shared before. Let me know if any of the links don't work for you; older files might require a download, mattering on if your copy of Google Docs has updated to Drive or not.
Here are the non-page-a-day fiction that I've uploaded for your reading pleasure
So, have a Happy New Year, and let's see about making 2013 as interesting as 2012. I'll again try for a page-of-fiction-a-day, which gives me tomorrow to figure out what the first story of 2013 will be. I'll need to come up with a few other resolutions, too, I guess.

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    Selective Enforcement of the Law Is Wrong

    If David Gregory were a member of the Tea Party, we would not even be having this discussion. Look, try this (actually don't, since you're not important, you'll be arrested.) Go down to Washington and wave around a high capacity magazine. Inform the police you are going to make a demonstration with one. When told you cannot do so, do it anyway. Publicly flout any other law you want, and you will usually quickly be faced with consequences. This is how the law is supposed to work.

    Sometimes, though, there are are bad laws. These are laws that are so bad, people willingly break them as an act of civil disobedience and use their immoral (but technically legal) incarceration to protest against the law in question. That is not what is happening here: Gregory is not for the legalization of these magazines in the District. He wants them to stay banned, in fact. So, to prove how important they stay banned he... goes on TV to break the law and people now insist he should face no consequences for breaking the very law he wants to see strengthened? If he thinks the law is reasonable, he should pay the piper.

    I'm not the only one who thinks that enforcing laws is a reasonable thing to do, by the way.

    If David Gregory can go on TV and blatantly disregard the law with no consequences, why should any other citizen expect to suffer consequences for breaking the same law? Some people might claim it is a waste of resources to run him in; it is not. Not only that, but I have some other questions: How did he get possession of the magazine? Was the initial purchase legal or illegal? Did he use a straw buyer? Did he smuggle it into the district illegally? Did he use his name when purchasing it? How many laws was Gregory willing to break to, essentially, wave a prop in the face of someone he was interviewing? That's the beautiful thing about our legal system: Breaking one law usually entails breaking any number of other laws, some of which are much more serious than the minor infraction you're initially brought in on.

    There should be an investigation, and we should ask him the same questions we'd ask anyone else seen carrying illegal weapons. Because that's what he did. On television, in the full view of millions. A press pass may get you in to some places, but it is not a magic shield to protect you from prosecution. You know what would be a good way to avoid these thorny legal issues? Don't break the very laws you advocate for, lest you get hoisted on your own petard.

    UPDATE: Althouse links to here. Let's take a few of the thoughts and show why Kurtz is wrong. First: "Let’s get real here. People who don’t like Gregory, or his network, or the media, or gun control are using his little stunt to express a bit of manufactured outrage, as though he were some kind of criminal."

    O'Keefe called and would like to know where Kurtz was when he needed him. Oh, that's right. Kurtz doesn't like O'Keefe, his network, his media or what he stands for and doesn't seem too concerned with protecting him. As to the police probe being a waste of time: See above where we need to know how Gregory went about breaking this law. He may have done worse than just procure and own an illegal object.

    Next: "Gregory had no intent to commit a crime; he was committing journalism instead." Intent is written into certain statutes; this one does not care about intent. Intent, like ignorance, is no excuse.

    Finally: "Gun owners often say they want the government to leave them alone; why then are some clamoring for Gregory to be prosecuted?" Who would have guessed? Law-abiding gun owners like to see the law upheld and not used solely as a tool to oppress Kurtz's political enemies. Funny, that.

    ----

    P.S.,

    If this were the only time NBC had messed up in a major way recently, maybe we could ignore it. It is not. Whoever is running things at NBC is running it shoddily, letting their on air talent violate the law and their behind the scenes talent to screw things up. NBC needs to clean house.

    Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Final Fantasy 4: Onward to The After Years

    FF4 is a surprisingly quick game (completed in under about 17 hours played.) There are a few points of real difficulty, but even those can be breezed through by simply doing fights as they come. I reached the end game on the moon at about level 57 across the party by the time we used the crystal in the last fight. Simply knowing how the Active Time Battle system works this time changed the whole world. I knew what counters were used by what monster; Behemoths were no longer a long, drawn out fight once I realized they countered every hit with a nasty attack. Rubicant was no longer a stopping point once I realized how his cloak works; and the water turtle demon Caganazzo, or whatever, was a push over.

    Friday, December 21, 2012

    Final Fantasy 3: The Last of the NES Era

    After beating the Cloud of Darkness, we say a fond farewell to the NES era Final Fantasy games. Even though I was playing the remake, I still felt the danger of things going wrong in the battles enough, and there was a real hint of danger throughout the game play. Coming off of FF2, the body count among our heroes is much lower, and the tone is lighter. Most of the world is not destroyed, and our friends are reunited in the end. FF3 sets up a nice, hopeful spot between the depressing worlds of FF2 and FF4.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    Journalistic Ethics: Interviewing Kids After Tragedy

    There's a lot of talk about interviewing the children who survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school. My initial instinct is to shun the idea of exploiting the kids for a media circus. This, I think is a correct instinct, but it assumes all journalists are vultures. However, I think I've come up with an acceptable compromise that builds off of the nonsense of quote approvals for public figures.

    The point of the quote approval is to protect the speaker; when dealing with PR people and public figures, that seems silly. But, when dealing with elementary school students, that seems incredibly prudent. Here's my compromise: Allow the interviews of the children provided the following:

    1. Parent/guardian approval
    2. The interview is not live
    3. The interview is only conducted after appropriate grief counseling as required
    4. The final tape of the interview is signed off on by appropriate parent/guardians
    5. The kid maintains anonymity throughout

    I think this would help balance journalists' desire to get stories out there with our actual need to protect these kids. Is this a reasonable compromise, or do you think that there simply should be no interviews whatsoever?

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Squirrel!

    For all your distraction needs.
    Squirrel!

    Get It Right -- Even If You Don't Get It Fast

    This is a lesson we're supposed to learn every time there is a terrible tragedy. We are always told that we should slow down, wait to have all the information before making ill-formed opinions and statements. I've discussed this before here and here. So, we're back to this pressing question: How can we encourage the media to actually do their job and get breaking stories right before accidentally sending out loads of incorrect information? In what other field, besides blogging, politics and journalism, do we allow this level of incompetence to go unchecked?

    So, when you decide to report on a mass shooting, it behooves you to get the right suspect, describe the attack correctly, identify your victims correctly and behave like decent human beings while doing so. Not getting things right also causes people to wonder why journalists might accidentally embarrass themselves in other ways. Journalists: These sorts of stories are easy lay-ups if you would be patient and not be suckers.

    Verify your work. It's not that hard, and if you were in any other field and routinely turned in such shoddy, poorly checked work, you would be fired. Sometimes, it is OK to be a little slow if you can get it right without having to embarrassingly backtrack and say "Never mind." Ignore the Second Amendment issues for all purposes on commenting and focus on how we can convince the media that accuracy is more important than showmanship.

    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    The Public Says It Wants Compromise

    Namely, they want it on the fiscal cliff. Yet, every action the public has taken gets in the way of compromise (electing a divided government, remaining blissfully ignorant about Simpson-Bowles, kicking the can down the road for decades to reach the fiscal cliff, not punishing politicians who won't even pass a budget, etc.)

    Compromise requires both sides to give something up that they want, and it often requires what is given up to be a little painful for both sides. It requires parties to negotiate in good faith, and it requires stakeholders in the negotiations (that is, average Americans) to pay enough attention and hold people accountable.

    If you want compromise, then vote for people who are likely to reach compromises as opposed to political ideologues, whether they be Tea Party extremists or Pelosi-wing Democrats. America will not get compromise if we keep rewarding behavior that has never, in the past, brought about compromise. Now, doing something is not always better than doing nothing, and if the something being offered by both sides is unacceptable, then the only something that will happen is sequestration.

    Now, here's the interesting thing about sequestration: Like any bargaining position, you should not agree to it or make a threat unless you are willing to pull the trigger on it. You don't kick in the door to your bank and yell at them about bad service unless you are willing to cut a check to yourself for your entire account and walk to the next bank over and open up shop there, for example. So, everyone who agreed to sequestration made a sort of tacit agreement that this was a worst-case acceptable compromise if they couldn't come up with anything better.

    So, just remember that if it happens, and act accordingly.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Condemn Political Violence

    Sometimes, the press serves up a nice, slow ball right across the plate. It just begs to be hit over the fence. Then, sometimes, a P.R. person screws it so epically bad that I just can't imagine what possessed them to force an error. While batting. Can you even make an error on offense in baseball?

    Here's a quick, easy guide to public relations. When someone asks you, essentially: "Do you condemn violence to silence someone's political opponents?" You say no. You do not waffle.

    You do not say: “I haven’t see those comments, and I’m not sure they mean what someone interprets them to mean." You say: "No. There will not be blood. We should not encourage the being there of blood. In fact, I would suggest everyone stop mentioning the being or not being of blood."

    This is a really simple, basic P.R. tip. I'm not even going to charge for sharing it. When given the chance to condemn political violence, condemn it.

    ----

    P.S.,

    Violence is rarely the best way to persuade people. Your right to swing your fist ends at another person's nose. Or the back of their skull. Or their personal property. Beating people and drawing knives on them to slash their property are not protected by the First Amendment.

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Photos From Zoolights

    I also had a picture of the raccoon that was at the front entrance that I came in, but that was before I realized you needed to fiddle with your camera to get even half-way decent pictures of Christmas lights. Now, some people will tell you that it was not a raccoon, and that it was a red panda. Those people are wrong. What did we learn from last night?

    1. Raccoons are better than red pandas
    2. My camera has settings I never knew it had.
    3. Frozen yogurt makes everything better.

    Probably my favorite picture I took.

    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    Men, Women, The Wars There Of

    So, after I gave such a bang up review of the Demise of Guys, there's a new book that seems to want to talk about the same theory (though I don't yet know what it suggests.) Now, obviously, Men on Strike has not been released, so I can't make any judgment what-so-ever on what it says. This is important for you to remember. I have no intention of reading that book either, it really isn't my cup of tea.

    First of all, I don't think there is a War on Men, though I do agree with the author's point that we should not solely be looking at men as the cause of the problem. It's a very feminist and egalitarian opinion I hold, but: I think both genders are contributing to whatever problem (if indeed, there is one) with lower marriage rates.

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Extra Credits Video

    Video here.

    This is something that I try to explain to people, that I think this video does better than I could. One thing I try to explain when playing games is the difference in power in classes, strategies, etc. For example, in most Final Fantasy games, you can pretty much ignore much of the complexity the game offers by simply finding the exploitable bits and exploiting to the hilt.

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    One Reason I Don't Watch a Lot of TV

    ... is that I notice things.

    For example, I like Frasier. So, to fill in between writing, I am half-watching it. Little things bother me all the time, but sometimes, there's just a big thing. In Episode 4, they set four places at the table; only after Niles arrives does he tell them Maris isn't coming. If that's the case, why do they only set four places?

    This is why I can't have nice things.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Spheres of Competence, Gun Violence

    I'm going to be up front. I don't know anything about football. I accept that as a fact, and because of that, the only time I make pronouncements about football is in a tongue in cheek manner, like that the Mets will win the Super Bowl. It is one of the greatest gifts for any speaker to ever get to learn their spheres of competency and know when they are about to say something that will not go over well. Many of these people, if they something stupid enough, cause a backlash against either their brand, business, employer, religion or political party.

    Unless you are Bob Costas. Then, everyone, I guess, just sort of accepts that you were an idiot saying idiotic things. Here are the three things that Costas appeared to want to be talking about in the "90-second weekly spot:" “The football culture, the gun culture [and] domestic violence.”

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Tax Law: Eagle Art




    Interesting tax question: Should art be valued what it is technically worth (in this case, the appraisers are right in my opinion: It is worth zero dollars since any sale of it is illegal) or what it would be valued at on the open, non-law influenced market? Several important folks came to my same decision: "Since the artwork couldn't be sold, logic dictated that it be listed as having zero value, which is what the Sonnabend family's three appraisers, one of them Christie's auction house, did."

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Final Fantasy 2: Complete

    I finished Final Fantasy 2 yesterday evening. One of the most interesting things about this is that it was actually, for all its NES-level story-telling capability, a fairly dark game. A lot of heroes end up dead, and our heroes do not reconcile with each other at the end. Leon is sort of a proto-Kain, but he pulls it off better since he doesn't seem to slip in and out of mind control as easily as a cartoon character. As with FF1, the early limitations really showed in the game; grinding by hitting yourself and your friends in the head is... thankfully a system Final Fantasy dropped. The other problem with FF2 is that, much like some of the later Final Fantasies, your characters start to blend together, ability wise, if you're going for max effectiveness. By the end of the game, Firion, Mariah and Gus were only different in that Firion swung two lances, Mariah used two swords and Gus had two axes. All three could heal and buff effectively, and attack magic was of nominal use.

    This is another game that is fun in the sense that you get a feeling of overcoming challenges, until you hit the mid-game when some odd combination of equipment and spells lets you sit on easy street until a random encounter in the final dungeon with monsters that do a percentage of your max HP as damage. Then, once you clear the two floors they are on, it is smooth sailing. I expected the boss to actually transform into a super powered. final true evil form. He did not. Oh well, on to Final Fantasy III, which brought us the Job System as we think of it.

    Below are some pictures from my failed adventure to the Air and Space museum today, as the lecture I was hoping to attend was canceled.