Browsing the blog archives for July, 2006

Flying at Tree Level

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Games, Unreal Tournament

Been a bit busy working on things lately and my D&D group has been on hiatus so I figured I might show off this Unreal Tournament 2004 video that I saw recently. It’s fairly entertaining (though this is speaking as someone with a high level of investment in the game), but I take it as pretty emblematic of the problems with UT2004. This is almost purely a stunt / trick-jumping video and it shows off the ways that UT2004’s movement system can be exploited and how this has affected the game as a whole.


(Original, higher quality video: here. Warning, 100MB.)

If you watched the video you can probably tell just from basic spatial experience that some of these jumps are beyond absurd. Just to give some numbers, a character in Unreal is 80 Unreal Units, thus 80 UU is approximately six feet tall. Some of the jumps in the video cover distances of nearly 10240 UU, or the equivalent of 768 feet.

The Empire Strikes Back

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Culture, Politics

So a few days ago I came across an article about Ben Barres’ article in Nature. (Very meta, I know, writing an article about an article about an article.) You can find a hundred of these with no effort, simply search on Google for “Barres” and “Nature” — The specific one I read isn’t important. Just for easy reference, here is the version from the Boston Globe that I’m quoting from.

In an interview with the Globe, Barres said his understanding of what it’s like to be a woman and a man in the sciences proves that women face significant discrimination. But he did not become an active feminist until January 2005, when Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers, who stepped down two weeks ago, suggested that women lack the same “intrinsic aptitude” for science as men.

Barres’ article is part of a coordinated media campaign to control the aftermath of the Larry Summers affair. According to the papers, Barres’ personal (anecdotal) experience outweighs the reams of evidence that support the fact that Men and Women are biologically different and that these differences can explain some of the variations of distribution we see in the real world. Anyone with even a moderately scientifically informed world-view can see that Barres’ experience is just that — His own. The thesis being presented here is, “Larry Summers spoke in heavily qualified terms about well-established scientific and common sense facts. One man’s experience shows that Summers was wrong!”

The statements that Summers, Pinker, and Mansfield made about women “are all wrongful and personal attacks on my character and capabilities, as well as on my colleagues’ and students’ abilities and self-esteem,” Barres wrote in Nature. “I will certainly not sit around silently and endure them.”

The agenda here is truly preposterous, so I was glad when I saw Agnostic over at Gene Expression do a takedown of Barres’ article. Agnostic does a better job at demolishing the antiscientific attitudes behind Barres opining than I could do, so read the whole thing.

Tyrian Travels: Ascalon Adventures, part 3

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Games, Guild Wars

In my quest to become a Grandmaster Cartographer, I decided I should probably finish off one entire section of the map so I went ahead and did the Frontier Gate area even though I had been planning to do the Nolani Academy mission next. The Frontier Gate is the area that lies outside of the Ruins of Surmia, and as I suspected, there’s some not so insignificant portions of land that I missed when I first came through this area looking for Surmia.

I started the area by heading out from the Frontier Gate. I went North, beyond the northern wall, and then East, away from Surmia. As you can see I quickly came across some unexplored territory.

GW300

A little bit further inside of this area, I see even more uncovered land before me — Looks like I hit some substantial uncovered territory here.

GW301

Looking out from a different direction.

GW302

I explored some substantial areas for a total gain of approximately 0.2%, and then headed south. Here I am looking at a landmark.

GW303

Hope in ruins.

GW304

I ran around for a bit in the southern area of the zone, making sure I’d gotten all of the areas of land. There’s one rather substantial plateau of land that I never bothered exploring previously. This area netted me an extra 0.1%. Here’s a picture of me looking out onto it.

GW305

With construction like this it’s no wonder the Charr have no trouble overwhelming Ascalon.

GW306

Here’s the map after my explorations. I did a once-over after this again to make sure I didn’t miss anything else.

GW307

Total gain for this area: 0.3%. Not bad for one area, and certainly more heartening than the .03% gains I’ve been seeing in the missions lately.

Three Others Point Back at You…

1 Comment
Culture, Politics

For awhile I’ve been meaning to talk a bit about the situation over at Jeff Goldstein’s Protein Wisdom. If you haven’t been made aware of this situation, a slight recap —

The immediate situation involves one commenter on Jeff’s site, namely “Southwestpaw” who made some pretty sick remarks to Jeff. To wit:

Thanx for replying, Jeff. I’d rather shoot you too – as I said elsewhere, if I woke up tomorrow and learned that someone else had shot you and your “tyke” it wouldn’t slow me down one iota. You aren’t “human” to me. I get the feeling the feeling’s mutual.

I thought it would be fun, seeing as you’ve allowed all kinds of gross conversation about me and my body parts, to talk about your “tyke” some. Is it a girl? A boy? How old? I really want to devote some verbal attention to your tyke, the way your buddies have devoted verbal attention to me. I want to know what types of orifices your “tyke” has, how big they are, etc. before I start my shpiel.

So if you could just tell me the AGE and SEX of your “tyke,” I’d be stoked!

Thanx!

Ooh. Two year old boy. Sounds hot. You live in Colorado, I see. Hope no one Jon-Benets your baby.

Are you still married to the woman you humped to produce the toddler?

Jeff: Never should have brought my kid into this, Deb. Big mistake.

Oooh. I am one scared troll, Jeffy boy. You tolerated your pissants making disgusting comments about my body but now that I’ve dragged your pathetic progeny into the picture, your panties are in a knot. Just as I suspected.

Now you are threatening my livelihood, making veiled threats about Wal-Mart.

I reiterate: If some nutcase kidnapped your child tomorrow and did to her what was done to your fellow Coloradan, Jon-Benet Ramsey, I wouldn’t give a damn.

I feel bad about all the Iraqis and American soldiers who have died for a lie. I wouldn’t cry a single tear if your offspring were offed tomorrow.

This infuriates you and makes you want to retaliate by threatening my livelihood.

I say, Jeffy boy, bring it on. Show us all what your are made of, you pathetic, failed scholar, writer, intellectual. This is your intellectual claim to fame – this fourth rate den of blathering.

Protein Wisdom=Lipid Stupidity.

Got neurons, you stupid mofo?

It’s 9:03 where I am (Eugene, OR) and I predicted you would ban me by 9:00.

My understanding is that you haven’t banned me, but you are threatening my livelihood. That is, Jeffy boy, you have threatened to “tell on me” to someone that you perceive to be “my boss.” That’s actually more sissified than banning, if you think about it.

So, Jeffy boy, could you clarify what you have done or intend to do to try to derail my livelihood and send me off to work at Wal-Mart? Could you come out of the closet and say what you have done or intend to do, you pathetic little tattle-tale, neutered, rightwing a-hole?

Give your pathetic progeny (I sure hope that mofo got good genes from his mama!) a big fat tongue-filled kiss from me! LOTS AND LOTS OF SALIVA from Auntie MOONBAT, if you don’t mind!

Somehow, Jeffy boy, I think you get off on the possibility of Frenching your pathetic progeny, even if it is a boy. You seem like a VERY, VERY sick mofo to me, bro.

There are a few unusual things going on here: The first is that the commenter in question, the aforementioned “Southwestpaw,” posted under her own identity. Her comments linked directly to her own website, www.debfrisch.com. Apparently, Deborah Frisch was a professor at the University of Arizona (she has since resigned).

Agam’s Gecko comments:

Remember, this wasn’t coming from nobody@nowhere.com. She was proudly doing this as Deborah Frisch, adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, providing a handy link to her own website containing years of her own inane writings and “poetry.” A cursory check of her history on the inter-tubes also showed that she had previously held a position at the National Science Foundation (!) as a “decision scientist” specialising in “risk management” (!!). Someone turned up a webpage detailing her invitation to FBI headquarters at Quantico, as a resource for a workshop on how such fields relate to terrorism investigations (!!!). I’m sorry, but it’s completely impossible to make this stuff up.

The behavior above is absolutely shameful, and it’s really horrendous that any adult human being would engage in it, but it’s one thing to do so as an anonymous commenter venting your frustration, but quite another to do so and willingly soil your own name. That fact alone shows there’s something more at work here — Most likely the obvious candidate that the “Southwestpaw” Deborah Frisch has definite mental issues such that she craves attention, even negative attention.

But this is only part of the story. I wrote earlier about Jeff Goldstein’s dustup with another professor, Thersites. During that dramatic episode there was a mysterious anonymous comment left on Thersites’ blog suggesting vulgar things about his [Thersites’] child. Thersites tried to parlay this into a condemnation of Jeff, but was unwilling to collaborate with Jeff when Jeff offered to help discover the identity of the anonymous commenter.

Naturally these things go back even further — Who can say when Jeff Goldstein became an object of fetishized hatred? Whatever the beginning, it continues unabated. Personally, I wonder how long Jeff can take it. Even looking into that realm where he is constantly beset by disgusting bile gives me a headache — How much worse to be the one who is actually being attacked on a daily basis?

In any case, things escalated even further: Jeff’s site was DDoSed several times (I’ve lost count). Deborah Frisch, in the meanwhile, tendered her resignation to the University of Arizona, offered an apology and then reneged upon it. She began claiming Goldstein manufactured her comments (this is after her own guilty conscience led her to resign from her position at the University).

What really concerns me is not Deborah Frisch nor her comments. What concerns me is the ongoing efforts to whitewash Frisch. InsideHigherEd wrote a piece downplaying Frisch’s improprieties without even contacting Goldstein for his take on the matter. Not really news to me, as some acquaintances of mine were similarly mistreated by InsideHigherEd’s shoddy reporting a few months ago. The Tuscon Citizen has a story up that frames the story as a case of incivility gone wrong by both parties. Jeff’s no angel, granted, and I have issues with his rhetoric, but the moral equivalency here leaves a black scar upon every hand that practices it. And these are just somewhat reputable outfits — Scratch the surface and you’ll find a hundred blogs with a thousand comments to the effect of, “Goldstein deserved it” and “Goldstein got his feelings hurt, Frisch lost her job, which is worse?”

Unbelievable.

Deborah Frisch is an insane individual, such outliers exist in every walk of life. But what does it say when substantial numbers of liberal bloggers devote more time to equivocation than condemnation? Let’s be clear here — It’s anyone’s right to ignore the issue, and I don’t expect liberal bloggers to answer for this nutcase. But when the issue is broached, how it’s broached is important. Most of what I’ve seen so far is fingers pointing back at Jeff and that’s just unacceptable. It doesn’t matter what Jeff behaves like online, it can’t justify bringing his wife and kid into that cesspool of hate. We can ignore Debbie but we can’t ignore those fingers.

In this post a few days ago about Eve Fairbanks’ story I mentioned that I thought her terminology was telling. Apparently she thinks it’s a “betrayal” or a “guilty pleasure” to have … independent ideas about politics. I think, fundamentally, this is what drives a lot of the insanity against Jeff. Jeff should have been on their side, but he’s not. He’s a betrayer, which wouldn’t be so bad except — well, he’s been showing up Thersites and other true believers on his blog for years. The boy is a regular Lucifer, so he must be cast down. You say that a third of the stars shall fall? So be it.

Related: Matoko Kusanagi on Defector Theory. The Futurist on related themes.

Celestial Images

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Art, Personal, RPGs

I was browsing PopURLs.com today, as I usually do, and came across a link today to some high quality versions of constellation artwork. The images in this post come from Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas, and the site which hosts it also hosts some other quality artwork of a similar style.

In general I really love the woodcut artwork in old books; There’s just something extremely classy about the artwork — It has some medieval sensibilities in its typical flattening of perspective, but has renaissance figures and stylization. Even mediocre artwork of this type has a complexity and craftsmanship that I find intriguing. Usually the quality of images of this sort that you can find on the internet are absolutely garbage, so the nice resolutions on these make them particularly good finds.

Aside from my aesthetic interest, it doesn’t hurt that I’m always on the lookout for artwork for material for running RolePlaying games– I’ve been thinking of trying to run a Mage: The Awakening campaign lately and this sort of imagery is perfect for evoking the sensibility of the Illuminati, the Masons, and other occult groups. My own campaign setting has a degree of this as well, although the constellations would have to be renamed (at the very least) to fit in with the constellations of the setting. A mite obsessive? Well, yes. But then unfortunately I don’t know how to make amazing looking artwork in this style either.

Literary Fiction

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Art, Culture, Literature

Over at 2Blowhards, Michael Blowhard has a post up on the phenomenon of “Literary Fiction.” Literary Fiction and its general “emptiness” is a common theme at 2Blowhards, and the post is just one of many in a more extended conversation about it.

Quoth Michael:

… despite its intending-to-awe name — “literary fiction” represents nothing more than another shelf in your local bookstore’s Fiction section. It’s one menu option among many, and nothing more.

This is a pretty common but very important realization. It’s rare for me to encounter people outside of my close circle who really enjoy reading frequently — But when I do it’s even rarer to find someone who sees through the cloud of marketing to realize the fiction world’s tastemakers are just glorified advertisers, selling books in a genre whose sole purpose is to be exclusive club. If you’re the right sort of person with the right aesthetic sensibilities, the right opinions, and the right connections you too could join the club.

More Michael:

There’s a problem with thinking of lit fic as a legitimate genre. It’s this: Real fiction-genres arise out of something alive. They’re the result of an informal collaboration between audiences, publishers, and writers. They’re based in live tastes, live markets, live creative urges, and live audience enthusiasm.

They arise semi-naturally, in a word. “Literary fiction” has no such organic basis. It’s a willed creation, one that has been given form from the intellect on down. Its audience is largely made up of students, educated people who attend creative writing classes themselves, and people who are still young and credulous enough to read what the magazines tell them is important. … Lit fic is an artificial world, without any vitality or pulse of its own, and in need of ever-renewed artificial respiration. Which is also to say that it’s constantly on the verge of collapse and annihilation.

There’s some insightful comments to the post itself. A commenter named BTM has this to add:

Now you bookish types know what we painters have had to deal with for the last 100 years. Don’t think for a minute that this artificial distinction will disappear. On the contrary, it will only grow, and the “highbrow” types will continue to heap praise, major prizes, and media coverage on those “serious” writers, at the expense of their far more talented, readable, prolific, and “middle-to-low brow” peers.

I find it a fascinating, and apt, parallel to draw. It goes to show that the same sort of rot that has set in the art world has pervaded literature as well. BTM writes another comment on how the status quo came to be:

A lot of it revolves around money. In the painting world, there is a system of influential galleries, critics, high money collectors and museums, government-funded academics, and so on. Since painting really isn’t popular anymore, public input doesn’t act as a corrective influence. So the insiders tend to pick out who they want to become a big shot, buy the early work, rave it up, award the new big shot prizes, and then sell the early work later for big money. Its really kind of corrupt. Of course, there is always a market for the smaller collectors who really love stuff. But the art market is manipulated to a degree by insiders, like any other. And they use the same modern advertising techniques to get money out of moneyed, but ignorant collectors-the appeal to celebrity, obsessive concern with the “new and improved”, the appeal to supposed “authority”, etc. I don’t think its a coincidence that so-called “modern” art sprang up at around the same time the Industrial Revolution was taking off. Modern advertising was developed to distinguish and sell the surplus goods that were available from mass production. Now the cultural world has the same problem of tons of product, with relatively fewer buyers.

The real question is how to solve this issue. How can it be that we’ve let a country club of self-promoters become the premier cultural authorities for art and literature, and how can we fix it? I’m hoping the internet’s worldwide advertisement will serve as the advertising and distribution mechanism for artists of all stripes, but it strikes me that we’ll never rid ourselves of this art-elite subculture, even if they decline in relevance even further than they already have.

Focus on the YTMND

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Miscellaneous

YTMND.com is the paragon of internet humor, so I figured I might share some of the funny things I’ve seen over there…

This image caught my eye back in June when I saw Shamus post this link to anime-style adult versions of the Peanuts characters. Unfortunately the directory where the YTMND got the image from seems to be mostly pornography, with no other “alternate Futurama” drawings in sight. I’d be really interesting to have something like this, even if only a ten minute concept version, looks like it would be really fun — The only one that needs to change is Leela. C’mon, she’s supposed to be attractive.

(Side note: Can you believe this has been sitting around for an entire month? Geez.)

Original YTMND: http://theychangedfuturama.ytmnd.com/

A particularly funny audio clip from Gamespot with a caller venting his frustrations about the Playstation 3. I used to be partial to the Playstation 3 and Blu-Ray DVDs, as I really despise Microsoft, but Sony has completely botched their situation. I’m hoping Sony falls flat on their faces now, their arrogance is unbelievable — and so is the humorousness of this clip. I saved a copy here just because I think it’d be a shame to let this fade into obscurity: MP3 Audio.

Original YTMND: http://angrysonyfanboy.ytmnd.com/

She was Working…

12 Comments
Culture, Politics

A classic story of He Said, She Said, with a twist. A Slashdot user, Guy Montag, was recently featured in an article about the dating site ConservativeMatch.com in The New Republic. Apparently, the young Eve Fairbanks was assigned to go on dates with men she met via ConservativeMatch and then told to write stories about them. His experiences on the date and responses to the article can be read here. The article he is responding to is reproduced in its entirety here. (Strange coincidences: The blog where the article is reproduced is made by the same designer as the one I’m using — No wonder it seemed kind of familiar.)

To be fair, I didn’t have a heck of a lot of problems with Fairbanks’ article: It seems like she did a bit of exaggeration in the name of either writing a more interesting article or appealing to political stereotypes, but on the whole she seems pleasantly surprised by her experiences. Guy seems to take issue with a lot of minor things, but at the same time I can’t really blame him — If it were my character being misrepresented by some deceitful journalist I’m sure I’d take them to task on every piddling little error as well.

The main issue is simply this:

A subversive note or two of liberalism is a feature of many profiles on ConservativeMatch–and of everyone I went on dates with. Shooter told me he drives a hybrid car. One poster does yoga..The edge of guilty-pleasure liberalism in people’s profiles creates an interesting tension on ConservativeMatch… Some of these betrayals are not so benign.

The tone she creates here, intentionally or unintentionally, is one in which her political adversaries are presented, as Guy himself insinuates in later commentary, as “Gorillas in the Mist.” Guilty-pleasure liberalism? Betrayals? This really tells us more about Eve’s own internal caricatures and cliquish perception of politics than it does anything else. Personally, I’d worry if I knew anyone who took having different political ideas as being a betrayal.

Encoding

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Miscellaneous, Personal

Recently I got this email in one of my inboxes. I don’t really know why I opened it, as it’s most likely spam, but something about it seemed unusual. Partly it was that the sender doesn’t seem to be the usual spam “Fake name” type, that the email wasn’t sent to me, and that the subject line gives me deja vu.

Subject: conciseannoy
Body: the torpedo on bartholomew a convalescent it’s basilar in endogamy but heterogeneity it ewing a beneficial
may dodecahedra but wrest a refute what giraffe and animal or insure that thereafter what cowardice may algeria not bystander was additional a wrote may effie and firewood but penetrate may blockage
a expression and watson a constant it’s blinn not pyrite the rectilinear when confute when earmark and henderson
may abelian may varitype that pocketful it’s sial the sedan what particle as dunedin when acquiesce the stint may abbot or amphibious in deflector it’s cowbird some tail some adore

I have a feeling there’s a message in there somewhere.