Trouble Thinking

April 29, 2011

The Politics of Resentment: Michigan State Sen. Proposes Foster Children Be Given Only Second-Hand Clothes

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 12:58 pm

So there’s not a ton more to say about this. A State Senator in Michigan, is feeling a bit rankled that some children who are already generally shit on in every way possible get to have anything new. So he wants to make it law that they be restricted to second-hand clothing.

Note that his “it’ll save money” comes long after his insistence that he had it much harder than these greedy orphans. It’s not about what is practically useful, it’s about pretending to be tougher in order to feel better. He’s not harming these kids, see. He’s just forcing them to go through the same character-building process he did because they’re whining about life being hard but they don’t even know.

Everyone feels hard done by sometimes. There’s a significant point in your interactions with other people where you decide whether to do what you think is best or to be resentful. Ignoring the fact that it’s much easier to remember disappointments than it is to chart the good in your life (I imagine Senator Casswell didn’t simply get handed second-hand clothes, then become a Senator through force of will), why should people suffer as you suffered? If your parents were beaten, but became good people, does that mean they should beat you? Using the shitty parts of your life to assert how much more you deserve and how much tougher you are is a bad idea, but doing it in contrast to fucking foster kids is just plain fucking evil.

I don’t care if this saves money or not, you know why? No one would check, because no one cares. This, and any support for this, doesn’t come from a place of wanting to be fiscally responsible. It comes from the same place that ridiculous sibling rivalry bullshit comes from. Resentment, ignorance, and entitlement.

There’s an old Slacktivist post that goes into more depth with more grace than I can manage:

This is why whenever I hear someone say, “We’ve got to make the tough, painful choices to balance the budget” I know that I needn’t waste any more time listening to that person. He’s not really interested in balancing the budget, he’s interested in imagining himself as someone who is “tough.” And he’s so preoccupied with this need to feel “tough” that he is unwilling to do the arithmetic and see that the most urgent need when it comes to balancing the budget is not a “painful choice” but the choice to ease pain. Putting people back to work is not a painful choice. It’s what those people want — what they long for, hope for and pray for. It makes people happy and actually solves the problem. And for both of those reasons, the “tough” so-called “deficit hawks” don’t like the idea.

April 27, 2011

Are You on PSN? Might Want to Cancel Some Credit Cards…

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 11:08 am

So, it’s been about a week of PSN being down.

This is an "Online Webcomic" called "Pennies Arcade" discussing the topic!

The story seems to be that at some point in mid-April, someone hacked the Playstation Network. In response, Sony just straight shut down PSN to deal with it. They didn’t tell anyone for a week why it was down, which is super nice of them. They’ve just recently announced that they hope to have it back up in about a week. Oh! Also, if you’ve ever bought anything on PSN, your credit card info, birthdate, and (presumably) secure password might have been stolen. But they don’t really know that’s true so they figure eeeeh they’ll let you deal with that as you will. And maybe not really tell you in any way, shape, or form! People are reporting that they’ve not received any sort of email notice even now of PSN being down, much less that they might have to get a new card number. They did put an update on their blog, though.

For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone, and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information. Sony will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. If you are asked for this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking. When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them, as well.

To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to remain vigilant, to review your account statements and to monitor your credit reports. We are providing the following information for those who wish to consider it:

U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.

Of course, Sony only recently released the PSP Go, a device that entirely depends on PSN for all of it’s content. Hope you didn’t buy one in the past week, because it’s a brick. And I mean, frankly, I guess I’d recommend not ever buying one because get this: PSN apparently isn’t that stable or secure a service!

I think this would rile a bit less if they hadn’t simply been mute for a week about it. They probably hoped it was something they could resolve in a weekend and then pretend was some sort of routine downtime.

Edit: I just saw a great write-up about this on Eurogamer.

The pull quote?

The whole notion that password details have been taken defies belief. There’s a reason that most internet sites can’t tell you what your own password is and can only reset it – it’s because the server itself doesn’t actually store it at all. Your chosen password is hashed when it’s first transmitted, and only this checksum is stored. When you enter your login, the password is hashed again and compared to what is on the system – if we have a match, you are granted access.

In short, there is no actual need whatsoever for your password to be stored server-side at all. Sony’s statement suggests that it was actually storing sensitive information in plain text format, which defies belief. The only other explanation is that hackers only got access to the hashes and may have compromised a small minority of passwords by running this data through something like a dictionary look-up. However, from the tone of Sony’s apology this does not appear to be the case.

Seriously, get your shit in order and avoid suspicious requests, people who use PSN. Name and address are enough for a clever fraud, much less the extra shit Sony may have unnecessarily made vulnerable.

April 25, 2011

Playstation Network Down for 5th Day Straight: That’s Weird.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 5:38 pm

So, the Playstation Network died recently and still isn’t back. Hell, a spokesperson announced today that they have no fucking clue when it’ll be back up.

I know you are waiting for additional information on when PlayStation Network and Qriocity services will be online. Unfortunately, I don’t have an update or timeframe to share at this point in time.

As we previously noted, this is a time intensive process and we’re working to get them back online quickly. We’ll keep you updated with information as it becomes available. We once again thank you for your patience.

It’s an event that makes it clear that modern gaming depends on an active internet connection in a big way even if not everyone is playing online. Sony really shit the bed on this one. They’ve cut off a large portion of the usefulness of their device without a real explanation as to why (“defense from intrusion” is about what we’ve got), or when things are going to be resolved. There’s no sense of a real person explaining what’s up and why we should all calm down, just a monolithic corporate edifice telling us that probably no one got their credit card info stolen.

It’s funny, I don’t really think about my console as being an internet-connected device, but I mean tonight I’m planning on trying out my last 20 minutes of time with the excellent new Section 8: Prejudice demo, which is an online-focused game that I downloaded from XBLA. Man, I bet people with PS3s are super mad.

April 22, 2011

Cargo! Released Without Warning!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 9:28 am

One of you mail me a $20, I need to get this.

Okay, so as I mentioned in a previous post, Icepick lodge is a Russian game developer with a penchant for releasing odd, dada-ist horror games that seem to revel in their incomprehensibility.

They’ve decided that their current game is going to be accessible and fun! So let’s see how they did with tha-

Oh! OH

Oh good lord. Okay, so they might be like that dude from Nightmare Before Christmas, unable to conceive of fun without tinging it with terror.

That’s cool though!

Basically the game seems to be: you create vehicles in a little crafting screen, then use them to get places. Once you get places, you make sure the horrid little people there have fun, which involves anything from kicking them to dancing with them to jumping them off ramps. Then, when you’ve got enough fun, you make shit drop from the sky, rebuilding earth one weird-ass thing at a time.

Dropping an iceberg releases carnivorous penguins.

In all seriousness, this seems like an interesting game developed by people who… well, I’m not going to say they have a record for making fun games, but The Void was the single best game narrative period, so I give them a lot of credit for being kind of genius types. Hopefully their disturbing attempt at making something fun works out!

Read longer impressions from someone who actually bought it at Rock, Paper, Shotgun!

April 20, 2011

Storm: Kind of Douchey, But For Real People Stop Believing Annoying BS

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 2:40 pm

So I like this little poem/animation. And not just because the guy doing the reading has a dreamy voice.

It’s a 10-minute bitch by Tim Minchin about all those silly little nothings of non-science that we all tacitly support by not correcting that one friend/aunt/uncle/parent/co-worker who just insists upon the absolute transformation they went through after purchasing a $30 magnetic Hyper Healing Band to keep the blood flowing to their right hand, which has always bothered them.

It’s always bothered me that with the sheer vast amazing incomprehensible universe we’ve got the opportunity to take a peek at, people prefer close the curtains and write ‘I don’t know, magic?’ on them. And I don’t mean that you’re not allowed to have wrong hypotheses about things. I have a shitload of wrong hypotheses, even pet wrong hypotheses that are embarrassingly revealed to be about as solid as those doodles in my notebook I made when I was reading too many terrible 90’s comics. Yes, I still hold some affection for Raven Talon: Monster Slayer to the Stars, but there’s a point at which you have to be willing to look at your own work and admit that you didn’t really put in the hours to make it something solid.

I don’t think you’re dumb for believing that maybe aliens built the pyramids. I do think you’re dumb for believing that without bothering to pay any heed to the alternate explanations, and for doubling down  when challenged instead of adjusting to fit the available evidence.

Ideas that cannot stand up to mere conversation, much less debate, are probably not actually worth having. They’re just an excuse to get huffy. Plus, not being a gigantic wuss-pants about your ideas allows you to actually have a stable of of them instead of 2-3 horrible ones that you hold on to forever. It’s like writing or drawing, being able to fail over and over allows you to get better at formulating something with some real meat on it. Better to be continually embarrassed than stagnant.

April 19, 2011

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is Something Pretty Fun Times

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:42 am

Pictured here: a delightful family dinner during which no one is hero-inspiringly murdered.

So Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a puzzle-RPG that was released on the Nintendo DS last year, and in my ignorance I didn’t bother picking it up. It looked a bit weird, the box art was generic as all get out, and everything for the DS stays at $30 until the end of time. I was so very wrong to do this, and thanks to the magic of X-Box Live Arcade I have the chance to correct my ignorant mistake. You know, when I have the cash to pay for it (though $15 is a lot more attractive than $30)

Briefly: the game plays out as a series of puzzles in which you attempt to kill your opponent by attacking with your army, and defend from your opponent’s attacks with your army. The game uses a simple but surprisingly effective basic puzzle to play this drama out. You’re given a certain number of troops on the field lined up in rows and stacked in columns. If you want to attack, you simply take one of your few turns (2-4 usually) to move troops so that there are 3 of the same type and the same color in a vertical line. To defend, you use your moves to line troops up in rows of the same type and color. After X turns, your attacking troops attack, and your defending troops defend against those attacks. So if you’ve got an attacking group that does 7 damage, and it goes through a 4 strength wall, you deal 3 damage to the commander of the enemy troops. Idle troops “defend” in the sense that they usually die, but they take away a bit of the power of the attack too.

And that’s honestly about it. There are clever things like combining troops to make super-units, troops with powers that depend on the stats of your commander character, the ability to mix and match your layout of forces according to your preferences, individual levelling up of you and all of your troop types, “linking” attacks to make stronger ones, hero spells and abilities… it’s a pretty solidly fun time.

And actually, that’s the important bit. Solidness. At no point during the demo did I feel like it was unfortunate that I had to fight some demonic whatsit. It wasn’t grating, because it was always an opportunity to see if this fight  I could really wreck the bastard in record time. There’s randomness in terms of troop layout, but the feeling that any given grouping of your army can be molded into a wrecking crew with the right couple of moves is baked right in there in the tastiest of manners. It’s one of the most tactical feeling games I’ve played in a long while.

Also, it looks like it’s kind of surprisingly long. The demo was at least an hour of play-time for me, and there are 5 campaigns plus multiplayer in the full game.

So anyways, go become enchanted with it by downloading it on XBLA/PSN, or just buy it on the DS. I gotta say though, I like the cartoony graphics scaled up to a big HDTV. They’re nice and crisp looking, it’s a style I think works great for downloadable games.

Edit: Hunh, also according to this article, the XBLA/PSN version of the game comes with significant improvements, meaning it’s both half-off and the definitive edition. So. Don’t bother with the DS one unless you love your DS in a manner most states have deemed illegal.

April 15, 2011

Donald Trump Pulls Ahead In Polls, Seriously.

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 3:33 pm

So according to a recent report by Public Policy Polling (available here in PDF form) Donald Trump is the current front runner for the Republican primary.

Donald Trump. A man who lost money on a casino. A man more famous for shitty hairpieces than intellect, integrity, or even a bare minimum of business acumen.

The most interesting aspect of that poll is probably the response to the question “Would you be willing or unwilling to support a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination who firmly stated they believed Barack Obama was born in the United States?”

23% of Republican primary voters percent said no.

Only 38% said yes.

Now, it’s not that these people who said no actually believe that our president wasn’t born in the US. No, they just want to make it clear that stating anything nice about our president, regardless of whether it is factual, is not allowed. “Would you vote for a person who said President Obama was definitely not a Skrull?” would have the same layout of responses.

I just… I know that we like to hate on people, obviously. I had great fun hating on President Bush back in the day. Hating our president is one of the pleasures of being a US citizen. People in other countries routinely forget they even have heads of government because they’re boring.  But at a certain point it’s just a different, less useful conversation. You’re not saying “I hate the president because he does/does not/will/will not do this” so much as you’re saying “I hate the president, and to indicate how much I hate him I’ll say he does this”. You may as well just take a picture of yourself scowling and attach it to the poll.

I hate when people refer to these polls and act like they represent actual opinions. “In other news, 45% of children will literally die if you try to give them any more vegetables. That’s a shocking figure, Tom.”

This is an indicator that Trump’s success will be short lived, though. This pre-pre-pre-polling is an opportunity for people who are extremely supportive the Republican party to express how sincere they are in their belief that the current administration is bad, rather than offer any sort of actual opinions. Trump gets to ride this wave because he’s not actually playing to win. Can a person claiming the sitting president is a secret Kenyan and suggesting we make our foreign policy consist of saying “hey, how about we maybe break your legs” to our allies win the general? Obviously not. We’re a weird country, not a completely insane one. But in the pre-election fervor, it’s a ticket to stardom. Because pre-election isn’t about what we want, it’s about how sincere we are. And in general, we prize loyalty and sincerity over you know, saying true things.

I can’t wait until things calm down and everyone just says that the President “comes from a different upbringing”.

April 13, 2011

Yet Another Humble Bundle! Frozenbyte Games, This Time.

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 11:55 am

So it looks like that wacky $anything sale is on again!

Developer Frozenbyte, who I mostly know for the delightful Trine, are offering their games up for anyone who wants to take a look and maybe donate money.

 

Seriously though, by now these things should have given you about $250 worth of games for somewhere around $whatever. If you haven’t been hitting these up you’re probably a dumb.

April 11, 2011

Slutwalk Toronto

Filed under: News — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 12:59 pm

So, apparently in Toronto earlier this year a police officer speaking to a class at Osgoode Hall Law School said that a good way for women to avoid being raped was to not dress like sluts. Because as we all know, rape only happens when you’re saucy enough to deserve it. Sort of like how cancer can only kill you if you’re a smoker, or how you can never get in a car accident so long as you’re a good parent.

Slutwalk Toronto, earlier last week, was a protest designed to draw a bit of attention to the sort of ridiculous victim-blaming that sexual assault seems to bring out in people. Be sure to read the comments, particularly the ones that say “I know it’s not PC but…”

There’s something about pretending to be a tough person, someone who understands that the world is a hard place and can deal with it, that really appeals to people talking about tragedies that don’t affect them. Completely ignoring the fact that of course the actual terrifying part of the world we live in isn’t that you can only avoid danger and harm by being appropriately tough and smart, it’s that you can’t ever guarantee your own safety because terrible events can occur no matter how prepared you are. Knowing the risks only takes you so far, because at some point that bus might hit you even though you’re at a crosswalk.

But so long as you can convince yourself that you’re smarter, tougher, better than whoever was just brutalized you know you’ll never have to worry about something happening to you. Of course, the moment your mom dies of cancer, suddenly I’m the asshole for telling you that it’s mostly her fault because I heard somewhere that if you just stay inside you can’t get skin cancer. Duh, use some common sense.

A particularly affecting example of why this sort of pretend-toughness is incredibly awful to engage in is this tweet by Sarah Nicole Prickett, “”A lot of signs here are angry, but one made me die inside: ‘Xmas 1985. 14 years old. Bundled in layers. Was it my fault too?’”

And of course, the best part is that like all “Common Sense” advice, there’s absolutely no evidence that it’s got any basis in truth. So that’s nice, too.

April 6, 2011

Portal 2: Aperture Science Investment Opportunities!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 7:29 pm

So Portal 2, priced at actual real-game price, has to kind of justify that. I got the original Portal in a pack with other games that were also amazing, so the fact that it was only 4 hours long and kind of had one or two puzzles per concept didn’t really bother me. Also I totally played the extra-hard puzzles for like an extra 4 hours.

One of the ways Portal 2 is justifying the price tag is by having some really fucking excellent voice talent make the game funnier. So far I’m aware of Stephen Merchant and JK Simmons lending their golden comedic VA to the project. Merchant is on the Ricky Jervais podcast/show/thing and is pretty danged funny (and has a less annoying laugh than Jervais), so that’s pretty sweet.

Simmons is primarily known for being on “Law and Order” and therefore television every 15 minutes or so all day every day. Also being the best J. Jonah Jameson that you could ask for. Here’s a series of funny videos of Simmons portraying Cave Johnson, Aperture Science CEO and all around great human being. You may remember him from the surprisingly extensive Portal/Portal 2 Alternate Reality Game, where you could log into the “secret” Aperture Science files with the username “cjohnson”.

They’re kind of awesome.

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