Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blizzard and WoW kill PC gaming

Purely hypothetically, of course ;)

Several years ago, before I began playing WoW, I used to buy a new PC game every month or two. There were probably a lot of folks like me who did the same. The PC Gaming Industry survived because of our never ending search for The Perfect Game®.

Then I found it, or at least I came the closest I've ever been to finding The Perfect Game®. I got sucked into WoW and it was glorious! Even with the subscription model I rationalized that at $13/month, it was cheaper than buying a new game every month or two. In fact with a new PC game costing $40 to $50, it was like slowing down my habit of one game every month or two, to just one game every three months. The big difference of course is that now I was buying the same game every month, over, and over, and over again. Instead of my money going to various, different gaming companies, it was all going to Blizzard.

And there were/are probably a lot of gamers like me.

We ceased our search for The Perfect Game®, because we'd actually found it (or a Close Facsimile Thereof®). We stopped buying a new and different game every month or two. We stopped funding innovation. We told the PC Gaming Industry, "We like This Game. If you ever want to see our money again you'll have to make a game just like this one, only better."

But the small gaming companies can't make a game just like WoW only better because that costs a lot of money, money which they didn't have. And they didn't have it because we, the Gamers, were no longer buying their games.

Not too long after I began playing WoW, rather than look at racks & racks of shoes with my wife, I wandered into a Best Buy and made my way to my favorite part of their store.

No, wait. These are PS2 games.

Here? No, X-Box games.

Then...where are??? I found a clerk.

"Excuse me. Where are your PC Games?"

He showed me one shelf.

One shelf of games. Filled with rows of WoW and Everquest, and oddly enough boxes of the very same puzzle games you can download off the 'net for free then pay $10 to $20 to "unlock".

The shelves of innovation were gone. The gaming companies that survived on me, and others like me, buying their games every month or two? They'd fallen by the wayside. They'd been driven off the road and left eating the dust of an 18-wheeler with WoW on the side.

PC Gaming is dead, but the Consoles cannot take the credit; that dubious honor belongs to the World of Warcraft, the PC Game that killed PC Gaming.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Local P.D. What's in your speed dial?

A long time ago I reprogrammed the #9 speed dial on my cell phone from 911 (its default) to the dispatch for my local Police Dept., and it's come in handy more than once when I've needed to reach my local P.D., the most recent occasion being today.

I'd picked up my kids from school and was two blocks from home when the light at the intersection ahead of me turned Red.

Cool, I thought to myself, I'm first in line. I don't have to sit behind someone in the left lane and wonder if they're going to switch on their turn signal after the light turns green.

Just as I pulled up to the intersection an SUV on the cross street to my left tried to make a left turn in front of a car on my right. And the inevitable happened.

I stared at the two cars on front me and the mess of glass, and looked at all the cars backing up on my right (the direction from which most of the traffic was coming), and my first thought was of self preservation.

Crap, I thought to myself, they're blocking the intersection and now I'm stuck.

Then almost without thinking I grabbed my cell phone from under the radio (where it was charging), flipped it open and pressed & held 9 to engage the Speed Dial.

Then my light went Green and miraculously the cross traffic stopped, and thank heavens I have a little car because I had room to get around them, even steering with one hand, as I spoke to my local Dispatch who'd answered within seconds.

"Hi. We've got a two-car collision at..." I reeled off the intersection. "We're going to need at least one unit and possibly paramedics."

I could hear the quaver in my voice and the dispatch girl (it always seems to be the same girl) asked me to repeat the intersection, then started asking me about the accident, what cars were involved, their color, etc., then she thanked me for calling and hung up. I drove into the 7-11 parking lot right on that corner and pulled into a parking spot, got my kids out of the car, and hit 3, the Speed Dial for Home, as I walked over to the corner.

The young lady driving the sedan had got out practically as I drove behind her car, and she was now on the corner with her little brother. She was also on the phone, but she was obviously talking to her parents, and she was freaking out. By now I had calmed down, explained to Liz that we were going to be a tad late but if she wanted, she could come up to the 7-11 and pick up the kids. She declined. Before I'd finished talking to her we could hear the sirens, and it must have been a slow afternoon because we had two cars, a K-9 unit, a Fire Truck and the Paramedic's Truck all pull up.

They wasted very little time in assessing the situation and quickly had both vehicles moved out of the intersection and also parked in the 7-11 lot...fortunately beside, not behind my car. Then I noticed the 7-11 Clerk beside me. As we're both immigrants from British Colonies we have a bit of connection, so we chatted about the accident. He'd been on his break and seen it happen, too.

Eventually I gave my statement to one of the officers, and when he asked who'd been driving the SUV I said I thought it had been the guy. He asked if I was sure. I said I wasn't positive, and explained how the young lady had got out and been in the road as I drove around her, and after parking my car I was more concerned with keeping her out of the road as she tried to go back to her car. Apparently the couple in the SUV were saying the girl was driving, and maybe she was. I thought I'd seen her in the passenger seat of the SUV but I couldn't be positive, so I told the Officer I couldn't honestly say Yes or No either way, and he seemed satisfied with that.

Finally we were finished and I bundled the kids back into the car, and home we went.

And this is exactly why I like to have my local P.D. speed dialed into 9 on my cell, instead of the default 911. In California, if you dial 911 from your cell it doesn't go to the closest Emergency Dispatch Center, it goes to CHP. I've called 911 before from my cell, they're not always quick to answer your call. And in my case today they'd have needed to reroute my call to my local P.D., or notify them themselves, and that all takes time. Today, within seconds of dialing, I was speaking to my local Dispatch, and within minutes we had emergency services on the scene.

Isn't that the response time you'd like to see if(when) you have an emergency?

Software EULAs

Are they worth the paper they're not printed on?

Your rights as a consumer are fairly varied, but in most cases, if you're not satisfied with a product, you're usually entitled to a refund or some form of remuneration.

Buy a shirt, take it home, try it on and Ow! That tag scratches! So you take it back and get a refund.

Buy a pair of jeans. Take them home and...woah! My butt looks huge in these! (Yes, yes, it's the jeans. Of course it is :P) So take them back.

You order a Medium Rare steak at a restaurant and they bring one out that's Medium Well, so you send it back. They bring you another, this one Medium. You send it back. Now you've pissed off the Chef so this time you get a steak that's seared on the outside but not even cooked in the middle. You call the Manager over, the Chef gets chewed out, and you get your meal for free.

You buy a PC Game. Take it home, start to Install it and the EULA pops up. So you sit there and read it.
You read the EULA??? Sure you do.
No really, you do. You read the EULA and you decide that you cannot in good faith Agree to it. So you click Cancel, or Disagree, and the EULA window closes along with the Installation program. Unless you Agree to the EULA you cannot Install the game, so you package it up and return it to the Store and get your money back.
HA!!! That's almost as good as the one about you reading the EULA!!! Get your money back for opened software? Yeah, right!

Why can't you get your money back?

The software contains a EULA to which you were not privy at the time of purchase. At least not unless you went online prior to purchase and checked it out, but, is that a reasonable expectation? I doubt the Courts would think so. The Courts usually like all terms and conditions of a contract to be made available at the time into which said contract is entered.

If I read the terms of the contract, decide I don't like one part and change it, we now have a new contract. If you'd already signed it, I cannot make the change then sign it and insist we have a binding contract. We'd both have to initial & date the change to show we both agree to it, and if we do so, then we'd have a binding contract.

Likewise changing the terms of the contract after the contract has already been established requires both parties to agree to it. This is what makes a EULA enforceable: you agreeing to it, ipso facto. You've already purchased the software. You take it home, start to Install it and the EULA pops up. You scroll down and click Accept and away you go. You accepted the terms of the EULA, so you now have an established contract between you and ACME Software Company for Game®. The only thing that makes the EULA unenforceable is if it places unrealistic demands or expectations upon you, the consumer.

1. You, the User, agree to become a walking billboard and will allow us to tattoo ACME Software Company on your forehead.

That's not going to be enforceable.

1. You, the User, agree that ACME Software Company retains the sole, property rights to all virtual objects created or acquired through the use of Game®.

That's more likely to be enforceable.

So you read that first line in the EULA and say to yourself, "Hell NO! I'm going to eBay everything I make/find in Game®."

If you click Agree to the EULA, later you'll be in violation of it when you do try to eBay your virtual goodies.

But if you don't agree to it and you click Disagree, as stated earlier the EULA window closes, as does the Installation program.

Now you've got an item you purchased that comes with a EULA with which you disagree, so you cannot in good faith install and run said program.

With that said, why are you unable to return Game® to the store for a full and total refund?

Technically, you'd be well within your right to do so. The Store may have an internal policy that opened Software can only be exchanged for the same title, but in your case that creates a problem. You don't want another copy of Game®, you want your money back. At the very least the store should offer you Store Credit, but realistically they should offer you the Refund you're demanding. If they don't, you could file a case with the Small Claims Court. You're entitled to a Refund because the product you purchased came with an additional Terms Of Use to which you weren't privy at the time of purchase, you'd probably win your case, too. Unfortunately in California, filing with the Small Claims Court costs you $30 (at this point in time), so you pay $30, win your case and get your $40/$50 back. You win! Or do you?

On the plus side, most establishments hate drama as much as Average Joe hates causing it, so if you're willing to stand up, be a loud mouth, and insist on a refund or you're going to file with the Small Claims Court, you're probably going to get what you want. But don't expect to shop at that store much in the future, because they're well within their right to refuse you service from that point forward.

Everyone has rights. Know yours.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Instancing in Wizard 101

I dinged 15 this weekend, completed practically all of the Wizard City quests, found the entrance to Krokotopia (the next major Questing area), and got the quest to enter the first W101 Instance known as "The Sunken City".

If you thought WoW was MMO 4 Dummies, but you've never played W101, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Oh, before we get started, one other accomplishment I achieved this weekend was collecting a second Potion. In W101 the number of Pots you can have is limited (at least at the start of the game), but using a Pot will fully restore ALL of your Health & Mana. You could have 1 HP & 1 MP and using your Pot will still completely fill your Heath & Mana. So I managed to obtain a second Pot, which is really only useful for Instances as any other time you can just go play a Minigame to restore your Mana & Health. The Minigames are also, coincidentally, where you refill Pots, too, unless you're pressed for time and want to pay the Pot vendor 150g per refill.

I decided to have a go at Sunken City so I went to the entrance and waited to see if anyone else was interested. A couple of people turned up.

"Hi. Want to do Sunken City?" I typed. (I can do that, because I enabled Text Chat in my account).

"Yes, but I'm waiting for friends," replied the girl who first arrived.

Another fellow turned up, hit X and started the Countdown Timer. I hit X and followed suit. The girl joined us (so much for friends, or maybe he was one of them), and in we went.

The Instances are a little tougher because you're often facing multiple Mobs. In most areas outside, if you're fighting one Mob by yourself, other Mobs will (usually) wander up to your combat zone then despawn. It's only in the tougher zones where you'll face multiple Mobs, but similar rules still apply. If 2v1 Combat is allow, and you're already facing two Mobs, other Mobs approaching your combat zone will despawn rather than join the battle.

The Sunken City provided us with a quest quiver who sent us to the first Tower to retrieve a Key to unlock the first gate. Naturally there's a Miniboss in this Tower guarding said Key. The Group I was in was able to coordinate our battles fairly well, and it was amusing to see almost all aspects of combat in a more developed MMO are also present in W101.

As an Ice Mage I'm technically the Tank class. As I level more I'll be able to get Spell to Taunt Mobs & Bosses so they'll attack me, rather than my allies. Because of this the Armor for my School tends to provide more health & mana than that of other schools. To counter this potentially making the Ice School over-powered, my spells are often less damaging or powerful than the other Schools. There's also a Life School (& its counter, the Death School) which naturally can be the Healer class, capable of healing not just themselves (as most Schools can do) but also others, including the entire Party. There's the standard Heal spells, group Heals, and even HOTs...and yes, that means there's DOTs, too. There are Spells which can Stun Mobs for 1 Turn (most likely higher level Mobs can Stun players), and there are Spells to summon Minions. There are even AOE spells, as I saw utilized by a Fire Mage in Sunken City.

Getting back to that.

The problem with Combat in W101 is you cannot break away from Combat without Fleeing, but Fleeing reduces your Mana to just 1 point and works as if you were a Paladin Bubble Hearthing. If you get defeated in Combat you also "flee" and this is actually a good thing for Instances, as I later realized.

We killed the first Miniboss, got the key, unlocked the first Gate, and received our second quest to unlock the second gate. These quests do reward you with XP and by the end of the Instance, after completing the entire Chain, I'd put on almost a full level.

The final Tower contained the last Miniboss who was guarding the key to the Boss's chamber, and we fought our way up, floor by floor. With each fight my Health got lower and lower and that was when I realized being "killed" in W101, even in an Instance, is not really a big deal. There's no repair costs, and as I mentioned, unless you're in a hurry, you can just play the Minigames to recoup your Health & Mana.

We got to the final Miniboss and I decided against drinking my last Pot, foolishly wanting to keep it until before the Boss battle. I was hopeful we could defeat the miniboss without suffering any casualties, specifically mine, but that was not to be. As my health was reduced to zero (or zero point one, perhaps ;) I typed "I'll be right back." and I "died" and Fled from battle.

The point at which you spawn after Dying/Fleeing from battle is right down the road from the Pot vendor. I quickly guzzled my second Pot, totally rejuvenating my Health & Mana, then ran to the Pot vendor and bought two refills. And it was then that another aspect of W101's simplified play style came in very handy.

Earlier in the Instance the four of us had made "Friends" with each other, and as Friends can Teleport to each other's location with a few clicks of the Mouse, it was a piece of cake to rejoin my comrades in arms, with full health and mana.

"Did you miss me?" I typed. Yeah, we all know I'm a bit of a smart arse ;)

The Miniboss went down and we made our way to the Boss's chamber. The fight was long, but not overly taxing. The most annoying aspect are the defensive spells Mobs can throw up, mitigating in some cases up to 80% of the damage your spell would have done. A clever Wizard learns to use his Wand to dispell these, although it's not so much dispelling the debuff, but rather using a low level spell to negate the effectiveness of your target's protective spell. Which would you rather do? Wait 3 turns to use a powerful spell, only to have it do 80 points of damage instead of 400? Or use your wand and have it do 10 points of damage instead of 50 ;)

With the Boss defeated I earned myself another title/achievement: "Sunken City Survivor". Now other players can see my avatar and know that I've conquered Sunken City.

Clicking the Home button on your Map act as a Hearthstone with a cooldown of 60 seconds. Yes, I'm serious. So I Hearthed then looked through the Loot I'd got out of my run. There were a few decent Items in there, but none suitable for an Ice Mage, or at least not upgrades for me. One or two would have been good for JE's Myth Mage, and that's the downer with not being able to Trade Items among each other, not even those you get from regular Mobs in non-Instanced areas. Several times I've picked up Items that would have been great for JE, but I couldn't give them to him.

/sad panda :(

Anyway, that was my first PUG'd W101 Instance, and I must say it was inherently less painful than any WoW Instance I've done, and understandably so given the target audience of W101. That said, from start to finish I think it still took us well over an hour, maybe even close to two (it was long enough that Liz was getting pissed because I hadn't done the vacuuming :P) It was not exactly a walk in the park...more like a walk in an overgrown park where you have to hack your path with a machete ;)

It was actually fun :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taunting in PvP

Blizzard totally dropped the ball on this, making up some ridiculous excuse about not wanting players to lose control of their characters.Then what the fuck are Fear and Sap and Polymorph? What are Seduce, Banish, Wyvern Sting, and Mind Control? They're all means by which players totally and completely lose all control of their character.

A thumping great Tauren Warrior standing almost 10-feet tall and weighing over 500 pounds wades into Melee and roars a challenge. Are you seriously trying to tell me nobody is going to turn and look at him? Bullshit! You know almost every head is going to swivel in his direction. And when he picks your face out of all those in the crowd, stares you down, then points at you bellowing "You! You're next!" Are you seriously telling me you're going to ignore him?

Blizzard's outrageous statement about Taunts not being in PvP as a "player control" issue is pure bullshit. They either don't want to do it and are afraid of the backlash, as if it's not okay to be forced to target another player for 10 seconds, but it's okay for a Priest to Mind Control a Hunter then have him kill his own Pet, or...Blizzard can't do it. Maybe that's the real reason. Their programmers literally cannot implement Taunting into the PvP game.

Taunting should exist in PvP, and there's absolutely no logical reason for it not to. The only reason it's not in the game is because Blizzard have an ulterior motive for not implementing it, or they physically cannot do it. Claiming Taunting causes Loss of Player Control and they want to avoid that is just a bald-faced lie.

Oh, come on!

I know I'm enjoying it, but is Wizard101 really this popular?
That's an average of 25 Unique Visitors to my Blog each day this week. Sure, I know my traffic increases for a day or so when I leave a comment on Tobold's Blog, that's to be expected, but this?

Now admittedly a few of those are hits from Search Engines, one of which came from www.boxing.com Yes, a boxing website, as in "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" kind of boxing. They landed on my dual-boxing in W101 entry. I don't think that's the sort of boxing they were looking for.

But an average of 25 visitors per day? That's over double what I usually get, and it's sustained, not a spike. And what have I been blogging about all week? The fun I'm having in W101.

Oh yeah, someone did come here from a search for "John Master Karaoke", and my Blog (at the time of writing this) is in the top 5 search results if you Google Wizard101 Game Installer.

Checking the stats for the last couple of weeks it seems I had a FHuge spike on Sept. 17 (that'd be the Tobold Phenomenon), then the number of visitors dropped back down to my usual level on the 20th (probably because I didn't post anything for a few days) but on the 21st the number of visitors jumped back up into the 20s, then you stayed here.

So, to my new lurkers and virtual stalkers (and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways), thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed your 5-second visit ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dual Boxing in W101

JE finally got his 1,600 gold and promptly spent it all on a Red & Black Dragon Pet. But he'd also dinged lvl 10 so for 560g he could have bought a bigger Spelldeck allowing him to field more Spell cards, meaning instead of going into Battle with 40 Spell Cards to choose from, he could have 50. (Those number might not be accurate, they just exist to illustrate my point.)

After the happy little Dragon Owner went to bed I logged into his account and played some of the Minigames to get him some more gold, and I discovered an interesting thing about one the minigames that I normally wouldn't have played. I could play it using the chaos theory, and I could make more gold in less time than by playing one of the mini games that I'm actually good at it. Just rapidly & randomly clicking and moving my mouse cursor around was more successful than actually playing the game properly. But also very boring. And tiring if kept up for extended periods.

I'd made JE about 460g when I gave up on the Minigames and decided to do some quests. But I decided to be sneaky about it. I was already logged in on JE's account, so I Alt-Tabbed out to Windows, fired up a second copy of W101, and logged in on my account. This is known in the MMO world as dual-boxing and with graphically intensive games like WoW, Everquest, Warhammer, etc, it takes a decent gaming rig to be able to do this without suffering severe slowdown.

With a game like W101, dual-boxing is a piece of cake. I looked at our quests. We needed to talk to a Witch a couple of streets over. I ran my Wizard over there and...remember I mentioned that Friends in W101 can Teleport to each other? Well, I ran my Wizard over to the Witch, Alt-Tabbed to JE's Wizard and Poof! Teleported him straight to my Wizard and the Witch, who wanted us to talk to her apprentice on the next street over.

I ran JE's Wizard around the block to the next street, found the Apprentice, Alt-Tabbed to my Wizard and Poof! Joined JE's Wizard next to the Apprentice. The Apprentice wanted us to collect some items from barrels in the nearby Cave. I ran my Wizard into the cave, found the barrels, collected all my items and Poof! Teleported straight back out to JE's Wizard and turned in the Quest. Alt-Tabbed to JE's Wizard, rinse & repeat. We...I mean I :D I did this all the way up to the end of the Quest, for which the final step was defeating a Boss Mob.

And that's when the slower-paced, card-based, turn-by-turn combat of W101 works brilliantly with dual-boxing. I'd select my Spell, then Alt-Tab to JE's Wizard and select his Spell. You get up to 30 seconds to choose a Spell so even if my PC was a slow & clunky machine (which it's not) I'd have still had plenty of time to Alt-Tab between our two Wizards and choose their Spells. With another MMO, the few seconds a slow machine would take to Alt-Tab between two open programs could be enough to cause the death of one or both Toons. With W101's turn-based combat, a few seconds is irrelevant.

The Boss went down faster than Divine Brown, and the Gold we earned from completing all the Quests in the series meant JE's Wizard now had the 560 Gold he needed to buy the bigger Spelldeck.

Actually, that also highlights one aspect of W101 which exists as a double-edged Sword. My Wizard has over 2,000 gold. JE needed 560 to buy a new Spelldeck. In almost any other MMO I could have just given him the Gold, but W101 does not allow any Trades between Players except for Treasure Cards, which cannot be sold to Vendors anyway, so there is literally no way to move Gold between players.

/sad Panda :(

This means W101 will never see Gold Sellers (which is a good thing), but we may see some companies farming high quality Treasure Cards and selling them. But even if Treasure Card Farmers/Sellers do immigrate to W101 they'll have a lot of trouble hawking their wares because of the limited chat features. W101 will never suffer the plague of Gold Farmers/Sellers seen in other MMOs, but it also means there's no way to loan a friend some Gold, thus it came to me dual-boxing in order to make some Gold for my son.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wizard101: One week later

With the placement of our home PCs (mine being in the family room while JE's is at his desk in his bedroom), and with W101's limited in-game chat option (coupled with an 8/yold being a slow typist), solving the communication problem between JE and I while we played W101 together was paramount, but easily solvable, nonetheless.

One desktop microphone, one download & install, and JE and I were talking as if we were right next to each other, instead of in separate rooms.

"OK, mate. What quests do you have?"

"I need to defeat the Harvest Lord. Four Lumbering Trolls. Find the Fire Alley Smith..." he basically reeled off every quest he had. He can read alright, he's just not a proficient Typist.

I picked a quest that I knew was part of a Chain and off we went.

In WoW, Warlocks can summon party members if they have a couple of helping hands.

In W101, two players who are Friends can Teleport to each other's location as easy as clicking the Mouse a couple of times.

Unfortunately dedicated Grouping is not (yet) part of the game, and the combat mechanic meant that when I ran into JE's battle sigil to help him fight a Lumbering Troll, a Lumbering Troll of my own entered combat along with me, so we ended up fighting two Lumbering Trolls, which worked to our advantage because we needed Quest Drops from them. But that exact same game mechanic could lead to Griefing if Players Train Mobs into Combat with other Players then Flee, leaving the original Player facing two or more Mobs. Although some people did join our battles, we never experienced any griefing. The Quest Item Drop Rate is also pretty good, and when JE needed 6 items from a particular Mob for one quest I think we killed about 10 Mobs to get all 6 drops.

We took care of several quests in the Chain before we were up to the Boss Mob quest. Most Boss Mobs are in Mini-Instances of their own, usually nothing more than a one-room Tower. While Players cannot "group" in the traditional sense, outside the Tower are four Entry Sigils and players can "group" to fight the Boss by meeting at the entrance then pressing X at the same time (or within 10 seconds of one another) to move into an Entry Sigil. As soon as the first player presses X to move into an Entry Sigil a 10-second countdown timer appears in the doorway, and at zero all players who occupy an Entry Sigil (my term, by the way) teleport inside the Instance to face the Boss.

* * *

A couple of nights ago while helping JE, another player stopped next to us and asked for help defeating a Boss that was just down the road. I agreed, as I knew JE would think it cool to fight a Boss, and off we ran down the sidewalk. Yes, sidewalk (or footpath, if you will). Most zones in W101 have paths alongside the roads, and if you stick to the paths you can actually avoid most of the wandering Mobs, which is kind of neat. Even if they're a high level Mob they won't Aggro onto you if you're on the path. We got to the Boss's Tower, the other Player hit X, as did I, then I quickly ran next door (this was pre-Skype) and told JE to press X to join us.

"I am," he yelled, "but it's not blue!"

The 10-second timer meant I had no time to trouble shoot and I ran back to my PC as I zoned into the Instance. The other Player and I defeated the Boss & his Minion, then we zoned back outside again.

I ran next door to find a tearful JE almost getting ready to quit the game. The Entry Sigils outside the Tower were not glowing blue for his avatar, as his level was too low, so him pressing X to enter the Boss Instance with us was pointless. I told him we'd go back to fighting the Monsters we'd been working on earlier, then ran back to my PC.

The other player had just asked for help with another Quest.

Quickly I hit the Pulldown Chat icon and found...Ah ha!

"Sorry. I'm helping a friend."

"Okay. Goodbye." was his reply, and off he went, and JE and I resumed our questing.

* * *

Tonight the Boss we were about to fight was for JE's Quest, so I knew the Entry Sigils were lit up for him and he wouldn't be left out in the cold like the previous night. In we went, and with Skype it was very easy to coordinate our attacks. Most W101 Bosses (that I've encountered) have Minions, who may not be as strong as the Boss but are not push overs, either. JE and I focused on the Minion first to burn it down. JE also summoned a Golem Minion of his own which helped with our Damage Output, and in very short order both Boss and Minion were defeated.

With that Chain done we started on another Chain that I was already on.

One good thing about W101 is that in some MMOs, if you group up for collection quests it makes it harder to gather your Quest Items, but in W101 there's no such thing as a Loot Ninja. When a Mob drops an item, every Player who helped defeat that Mob gets the item (at least that holds true for Wandering Mobs outside Instances), so on collection quests every Player on a collection quest can get an Item from the same Mob. We ripped through the Quest Chain and in no short order were standing outside another Tower, ready to face our second Boss of the night. He went down to our coordinated attacks just as quickly as the first Boss we'd faced.

By the time we'd beaten the second Boss it was getting very late and we were drawing wife/mom aggro, so I called it a night and started getting the kids ready for bed.

After JE was in bed I took care of a few things for him. I logged into his account and sold all the useless armor he'd picked up, then ran around and took care of a few Messenger Quests and a couple of Kill Quests; I ended up getting him within a Quest or two of dinging level 10. Finally, knowing he's saving his gold for a Dragon Pet, I hit the Minigame Faire. At the Faire there are several, basic puzzle or arcade games, and if you score high enough you get rewarded with gold and armor. I say Armor, but as everyone plays a wizard you're looking at cloth hats, robes & boots, just some items have stats/buffs more beneficial to certain Schools of Magic than others. After playing several games and selling the prizes, I logged for the night leaving JE with a shade over 1,000 gold.

Mike, you were wondering just how much fun W101 is compared to WoW. The two games can't really be compared because they're both targeting different demographics, and other than both being MMOs they're not really that similar. But if you've got two (or better yet, three) PCs on a home LAN within close proximity to each other (in the same room would be excellent), I strongly suggest you download & install W101 on each PC, then jump in and start playing with your two boys. You'll be amazed at how much fun you all have, and what a kick you will get out of playing an MMO alongside your sons.

If you're playing by yourself W101 won't have the appeal & polish that WoW does to a solo player, especially as there's no Guilds, so no Guild Chatter in the background to keep you company as you single-handedly kill every last Kodo in Nagrand. Just like WoW, though, your W101 experience will be greatly enhanced if you're able to play with family or friends. After all, that's how MMOs are meant to be played ;)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sushi, Asahi, and Karaoke

Not having seen Xinh or Natey for a while, we made arrangements to hang out with them this past Saturday night. Natey had been talking about a sushi restaurant he frequents where he doesn't so much order sushi as tell the Sushi Chef "surprise me," and Liz was keen to try it out.

After settling in at the sushi bar and placing a couple of orders (I ordered Jalapeno rolls: Jalapeno, Crab meat, avocado, cream cheese - fried then drizzled with Eel Sauce) for some reason the waitress wanted us to move to the end of the sushi bar, so we obliged her, picked up our chopsticks and wasabe and relocated.

The Sushi Chef asked us what we'd like. "Surprise us!" I shouted, over the karaoke machine and the girl doing quite a good job on a Celine Dion song. "No octopus!" shouted Liz.

"What did you order?" asked Natey.

"We said 'Surprise us'," I said.

"That can get expensive," said Natey.

It actually wasn't too bad, but as Natey eats there a lot he is pretty sure the Chef comp'd us a couple of dishes. It probably also helped that this Gaijin was enthusiastically eating everything he put in front of us. There's nothing like a very happy & appreciative customer to make you pleased with your career choice.

Did I mention the karaoke machine? When we entered, the girl doing a very good (albeit somewhat nasal) job of singing Celine Dion was actually a young, teenage girl eating there with her parents. After she sang a few songs Dad got up to sing, and it was immediately apparent that she didn't get her voice from Dad. When Mom got up to sing my suspicions were confirmed. Mom could sing, Dad could not. I applauded them both, anyway. Even the truly dreadful singers need to be applauded for doing Karaoke, if for nothing more than having the balls to actually get up and sing in front of a bunch of strangers.

I'd asked the waitress if they had a song list I could peruse. They didn't. If I wanted to sing, I had to get up on the stage. The guy running the karaoke machine was pretty good himself, at both singing and playing guitar, although we did notice he seemed to be singing the wrong words every now and then. I discovered (when it was my turn) that it was because he had an Asian karaoke machine, and the lyrics had been entered by someone for which English is not their first language. Lucky I know many Beatles' songs by heart, because there were one or two words that weren't quite correct. I belted out a trio of Beatles' songs then plopped back into my seat at the sushi bar.

But the fun didn't end there. The food kept coming, the conversation flowed like Asahi, and every now & then I'd jump back up on stage to sing another song or two. As well as the first family another woman and another guy also took their turn singing. We were there for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, and we had a great time...perhaps I had an even better time than Liz, Xinh, & Natey, or maybe they enjoyed my singing as much as I did :D

As we'd never been to Natey's house before, we popped in before heading home and got the midnight tour. The previous owners had obviously done a bit of renovation, converting one of the bedrooms into a massive closet/storage area accessible off Natey's bedroom (the master bedroom). With a little bit of work he could actually convert it into a secret room and nobody would know it was there...except that I've gone and blabbed about it :P

Xinh took video footage of my karaoke efforts, and she promised to email them to me. She said she'd prefer I put them up on Youtube, that way I can't get mad at her for doing it :P I'm guessing she had a busy day today, because I haven't seen the videos nor has she updated her blog, yet ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crunch time

I just checked my WoW account. It's set to expire/renew itself (with another 6-month block) on September 18th. Two days from now.

I normally buy a 6-month block of WoW for $78.

I could also do three months for $42. That would have me playing for a month or so after the release of Wrath of the Lich King.

I don't believe I'm seriously considering bailing on the World of Warcraft, for Wizard 101, but I am. I'd save $50 by not buying Wrath. That's practically a 12-month sub to W101 right there. And 6 months of WoW is more expensive than 12 months of W101.

Oh boy.

Wizard101 Launcher problem

Well, I'd consider taking out two Wizard101 subs, except for one problem. While I was able to play W101 last night for a couple of hours, tonight the Launcher crashes on me within seconds of booting up.

I have no idea why it's doing this, and while I am a wizard at finding stuff on the 'net, I'm unable to find any solutions to this particular problem.

So, has anyone else encountered this problem, and resolved it?

More importantly, did you resolve it in such a way that you were able to continue playing W101? Resolving the problem by uninstalling W101 and not playing it, is not the solution I'm looking for ;)

While $60 for a 12-month sub is a pretty good deal (IMO), it's not such a good deal if I can't play the damn game.

*EDIT - As a WoW player I'm a little paranoid about keyloggers, so I have NoScript, among other protection, on my PC. Wondering if this was a Java-issue caused by NoScript I went into my PC's Control Panel and double-clicked the Java icon to access the Java Control Panel.

Whether or not this did something I don't know (maybe force-loaded Java?), maybe it was just a coincidence, but the W101 Launcher booted up and ran w/o crashing, and I was able to get in and play W101, which promptly downloaded a bunch of patches. I kept it running in the background while I played Warcraft, for a good couple of hours. Other than getting DC'd from the W101 server for not remaining active (which is to be expected) W101 stayed up the entire time.

I also installed W101 on Liz's PC last night and it ran just fine, but then it also ran just fine on my PC the first night I installed it, too. We'll see what happens tonight. Still, if anyone has any suggestions for why the Launcher might be crashing (and a reinstall didn't help at all), or even experienced this problem and resolved it, please feel free to let me know what you did.

* EDIT - The game booted up fine again, tonight. Possibly whatever the problem was, it managed to resolve itself on its own.

Wizard 101

I was amazed to see a television commercial for Wizard 101 the other night. JE saw it too and his eyes grew big as he watched avatars summon beasties to fight Mobs. So I was compelled to download and install it on his PC last night.

The interface is very simple, and the graphics are pretty good, for a free-to-play (to lvl 10) online game. It took a while to download and install, but a nice touch was while it was DLing the textures and finishing the install, you could actually start playing by answering a few questions to create your avatar, which you could then customize by changing the face & skin color, and hair & hair color. You could also change the color & trim of your hat, robe, & boots, but as I discovered when I downloaded the game on my own PC, you quickly upgrade your hat and robe with drops from Mobs, so the time you spend coordinating your outfit at the start is quickly rendered moot.

The gameplay is very simple and child friendly. The initial quests are the simple "Talk to NPC Smith" variety, and your first introduction to combat is about the 3rd quest where you fight a Puppet Wizard, who doesn't fight back and is defeated in two moves. However, this initial fight serves to explain the combat system and the card layout. Yes, comabt is turn-based, with you using cards to attack your opponent & defend/heal yourself and allies. Playing cards can use Mana, but you have some cards with low level attacks which use no mana, so even when you're tapped out and are trying to get to the mana clouds floating around, if a Mob drags you into combat you can still defend yourself.

Combat is rather interesting, and takes place in a small in-game arena. When you enter combat a sigil appears on the ground surrounded by eight circles. You are moved (by the game) into one of the circles, and your opponent takes his place in the circle opposite yours. You choose a card and when it's your turn to attack (maybe you go first, maybe your opponent does) your avatar casts the spell automatically. There is the animation, which naturally differs for each spell. You might summon an Ice Beetle which sprays ice onto an opponent, someone else may summon a Fire Cat which blows flame, and someone may summon a Sand Beetle which leaps into attack. And of course there are many other Spell Cards obtainable, depending on the School of Magic in which you specialize.

The quests are very simple (at least at the start). One objective could be "Find the Guard hiding in his house. You look at your Map and it will show you where the Guard's house is. When you get to his house the Guard may ask you to kill 3 Skeletons, so he can return to his post. Yup, 3 Skeletons. Not 10, not collect 10 Skulls, just kill 3 Skeletons and the Quest is complete. The really child-friendly thing is even if you're not in a Party with someone, if you're both within close proximity and you both enter combat at the same time, you will move to adjacent circles on the same sigil, and when you defeat your Skeleton mob and your ally (who's not even in a Party with you) defeats his, you get credited with two kills. If your ally's spell fizzles and combat enters a second round, you can cast a spell to attack his skeleton; it's not Kill Stealing, you will both get credit for the kill.

The game is free-to-play to level 10, that is you cannot advance higher than level 10 without subscribing. I made it to level 4 last night with an hour or so of playing, so level 10 is probably easily reached within a few hours. As JE and I ran around (not together, I didn't start playing until he was in bed. Maybe we'll do that tonight.) I saw other players with Pets/Minions. I'm not sure if they're available before level 10 or not. Probably not, it's probably one more hook to try to get you to subscribe.

Wizard 101 may not be the WoW beater you're looking for, but it is a cute little game, and it's very child friendly. One of the more child friendly aspects is there's no General Chat window like you get with WoW, which is often filled with random, inane, and obscene messages from bored & immature players. In Wizard 101 you communicate with Emotes/Chats selected from a Pulldown Chat menu. General Chat is available, but only if you subscribe (another hook) and only if you register as being 13-years or older, and then only other 13+ y/old subscribers can see General Chat.

When I installed the game on JE's PC and set up his account I used my email address, and the game recognized that I'd already created an account (on my PC) using that same email address. It then asked if I wanted to combine the two accounts, which I agreed to do. I guess (I hope) this means I only need to subscribe once, and that both JE and I will be able to play and level past 10. That would be a very cool feature (if it works that way). Imagine being able to Install WoW on two PCs under one Account, but being able to log in on both PCs at the same time, because one is a Parent and one is a Child account.

If you have younger children and you're looking for a child-friendly alternative to WoW for them, Wizard 101 just might be what you're looking for. With it being free to play (to level 10), the cost just to check it out is more than reasonable.

Note that if you do decide to subscribe, that right now (as of Sept. 17, 2008) you can get a 12-month subscription for just $60. That's about the same price as a new video game, and is just $5 per month. My WoW sub costs me $13/month and that's only if I buy a 6-month block. So both my son and I could play Wizard 101 together, for a year, for less than the price for me to play WoW, alone.


Thy name is Geoff Paine.

Geoff is a fairly well known actor in Australia, at least physically memorable. Even though he's starred in two of Australia's biggest Soap Opera's, one of those being Neighbours which helped launched the careers of Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce, most people probably know Geoff's face but wouldn't remember his name.

On a recent trip to the Australian Consulate in west Los Angeles I passed Geoff going down the escalator. I immediately recognized him as an Aussie actor, but I was darned if I could recall anything he'd been in, and I certainly couldn't remember his name.

The most recent show in which I've seen Geoff is actually The Adventures of Lano & Woodley. In "The Pool" episode, Geoff plays Garth, an Olympic Gold Medalist who has been reduced to dressing up in a penguin costume for various television commercials, and as 'Penguinman' Garth receives far more recognition than he ever did as an Olympic Gold Medalist, and this is a very sore point for him. So much so that he suffers a nervous breakdown and when Colin Lane (Lano) dresses up as Penguinman, Garth chases him down and tries to kill him.

It's probably a good thing I couldn't remember where I knew Geoff from (until much later), or I might have blurted out "Oh my God! Penguinman!"

Warhammer Online. Why wait?

This is a screen grab from Best Buy's flyer, viewable online at their website.

The pertinent part of that ad is that Warhammer Online will be available after 2pm, today. Forget tonight's midnight launch, standing out in the cold (did that with WoW:BC, never again, and yes, it can be chilly at midnight), you can stop by your local Best Buy (or reputable PC Gaming store) in the middle of the afternoon and pick up a copy of Warhammer Online, and you can do that today, even though the launch is not until tomorrow. This lets you get the game installed and your account set up, ready to start playing at midnight tonight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stupid "internal" policies

This one is most definitely a Rant!

A couple of weeks ago we had a parcel delivered to me at work. Nothing unusual about this, we do it all the time. It's easier because then Liz can go out and not worry about missing the Mail Carrier, and having to stop by the Post Office the next day and wait in line to pick up the parcel, etc.

The Tracking Number we got said the Parcel was delivered on Wednesday, so Thursday I went looking for it, but no parcel was to be found. Our Front Desk staff said they hadn't seen it. I went home wondering where the parcel was. Friday was my day off.

On Monday I got into work to find an email in my Inbox, from Mail Services at City Hall. They had my parcel and I had one week to come in and pick it up. But the email was sent Friday, Sept. 5th, and the one week grace period they claimed to be giving me, they said ended on Sept. 4th.

I was a little pissed off because I knew they'd received the parcel on Sept. 3rd.

Everything worked out though, and I made the journey to City Hall and picked up my parcel, and I emailed the head of Mail Services and thanked him and his staff for taking care of my parcel until I was able to pick it up.

Then we ordered a Ground Loop Isolator from Overstock.com, which we had delivered to my office. Apparently the Mail Carrier attempted to deliver it yesterday but left a Delivery Notice instead.

I contacted Mail Services at City Hall: "Nope. Don't have it."

Well of course you don't have it! The Mail Carrier never left it! What he did leave was a Delivery Notice, which I could use to pick up the parcel from the local Post Office, if I had it!

"Mail Services doesn't leave any notices regarding personal mail."


I went downstairs to the Mail Room in our building. The woman there showed me the log of incoming mail. Only one item arrived for my floor, but it wasn't for me.

I checked with the girl at our Front Desk. She never saw the Mail Carrier yesterday.

I strongly suspect someone at City Hall's Mail Services refused to sign for my parcel ("That's Personal, we don't sign for Personal mail."), took the Delivery Notice and instead of looking me up and emailing me or putting my Delivery Notice in the Internal Mail...tossed it in the trash.

This is what happens when Bean Counters are in charge of Operations. Everyone is so intent on covering their arse and watching their backs, that something like holding an employee's personal mail until they can pick it up is eliminated, because company resources are being devoted to a non-business related activity, and we can't have that happening.

I'm going to keep an eye on Tracking for this item, and if I see the Post Office made another delivery attempt and left a notice, I'll be emailing Mail Services again. But this time I'll change my tune.

Yes, this item is addressed to me personally, and yes, it's coming from Overstock.com. It's an A/V item we need for our conference room television and we're paying for it out of Petty Cash. So either accept my parcel, or tell the Mail Carrier to deliver it to our building WHICH IS WHERE IT'S BLOODY WELL ADDRESSED TO!!!

Unfortunately I suspect the Mail Services Manager would double check with someone else here if that's correct, and then I'd be the one on the end of an arse reaming.

Fucking bureaucrats.

*EDIT - Now the Tracking website shows my parcel was delivered yesterday morning, at 9:30am. So while I was running around like a headless chook, being told by everyone that they didn't have it, somewhere, someone did sign for it.

These girls are crazy!

(but should be admired, nonetheless.)

A few of my female coworkers are teaming up to take part in the Ketchum-Downtown YMCA Stairclimb event, which helps raise money to support the YMCA's various community programs.

On Friday September 26, 2008, the four of them (& many others equally crazy) will climb the stairs of the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. At 1,108 feet tall (with 75 stories and approx. 1,500 stairs), the U.S. Bank Tower is the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

You can show your support for these crazy young ladies, and the YMCA, by making a small contribution to their cause. Don't worry about their health & safety, they're young, fit, and as government employees have a great Health Insurance plan ;)

Visit their team webpage here to read more about the Ketchum-YMCA Stairclimb, and show your support, if you feel so inclined.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Samurai Sudoku

Holy Crap! This thing is making my brain hurt!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Body Fat % pwns the BMI

As I mentioned in my previous entry, the BMI should not be taken even with a grain of salt...actually I never said that specifically, but let's pretend I did. The BMI is useless, and someone with enough money and better lawyers than me should be going after the BMI and preventing any and all organizations from using it in any manner, specifically NOT to determine how healthy someone is.

A much better statistic to use to determine how healthy (or how overweight) you are, is calculating your Body Fat Percentage. You can't actually calculate that, well, you can if you're a Personal Trainer or know one, but it's a lot easier to get one of those sets of scales that does it for you. Punch in your age, your height, your gender, and hop on, in bare feet, with as few clothes as you're comfortable not wearing. You do want to get an accurate reading, don't you?

As of tonight, I'm now down to 190±2 pounds. My scales, which can calculate my BF%, said I'm at 22%. It would be nice to know what the first decimal place is, but the damn thing only shows whole numbers. A BF% of 22 is Acceptable (according to Wikipedia). It's not amazingly healthy, but it's not unhealthy either. I recall when I first came here I had my BF% calculated and I was at approx. 12%, which is pretty freaking good! Now I'm fat :P

This is another good site to check out, and explains the calculations behind determining a healthy BF%. Yes, just like following the archaic BMI is not healthy (unless you're a waif), having a goal that will reduce your BF% below a certain level is also not good for you. You can actually reduce your BF% to dangerously low levels.

Ok, now it's getting confusing. I just found this site, which calculates (approximately) your BF% based on your height and waist size. At 190 pounds with a 34" waist, it decided I have a BF% of just 14. Wow! I'm fitter than I thought. Hooray!

But that just helps to further prove my point. Take everything with a grain of salt (except for the BMI, don't take it at all) and rely more on your knowledge of your own body to determine if your current weight is healthy for you.

Let's say my scales were correct, and my BF% is really 22. That means I'm carrying around approx. 42 pounds of fat. If I can get my weight down to 180 I'm going to lose at least 10 pounds of fat. That means I'll be carrying approx. 30 pounds of fat spread out over my 180 pound body, for a BF% of 16.6 (recurring). That puts me pretty much into the BF%'s "Fitness" range. Now that I can live with, even if it means the Wii Fit and the archaic BMI think I'll still be Overweight.

Capn John's Blog

Now with Blog Tags.

I just spent a decent amount of time "tagging" my Blog Entries. You'll see them at the bottom of each entry, showing which Tag/s I think is/are appropriate for that entry, and you'll also see them in a new Menu on the right.

The Journal Tagged entries are mostly to do with my day to day activities, what I did on the weekend, etc.

Warcraft more your flavor? Click the Warcraft Tag link to see my Warcraft-related Blog entries.

It's pretty self-explanatory.

If you read an entry and you think it's missing an appropriate Tag, just let me know. Just keep in mind a lot of my older Entries are yet to be Tagged, so if an Entry has no Tag at all it's possible I haven't got to it yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wii Fit, an update

A few weeks ago I weighed in at just shy of 200 pounds (or 90kg), then we got the Wii Fit. After playing it for a combined 100 minutes (about 3-4 nights) I unlocked the basic Rhythm Boxing exercise.

Rhythm Boxing is not unlike Step Boxing. Lots of stepping and punching, and stepping back & blocking (hold both Wiimote & Nunchuk together in front of your face), in different combinations, for three minutes. After doing the Basic level a few times you unlock the Advanced level (or maybe it's Expert) which is more of the same, just with some slightly trickier combinations, repeated for 6 minutes.

Do that a few times and you unlock the Expert (or maybe it's Advanced) level, which is even trickier combinations repeated for 10 minutes. The Wii actually credits you with 13 minutes played for the highest level, so it's obviously counting the down-time between each combination when your Trainer shows you the next combination.

Your Trainer is a standing Heavy Bag (or maybe it's the Boxer who demonstrates each Combo prior to you doing it), and after each routine, i.e., 13 minutes for the highest level, you're given 15 seconds to throw as many punches as fast as you can, which can really tire you out if you throw serious punches.

Once I unlocked Rhythm Boxing it was pretty much all I did. Ok, I did trounce the High Score tables on Ski Jump, Slalom, Soccer, etc, but that was playing. For pure exercise, nothing beats the Rhythm Boxing if you do it properly and force yourself to actually work out. My daily routine is two sets at the highest level for 26 minutes, followed by a couple of Yoga/stretching routines for a couple more minutes. That's 30 minutes, daily, of aerobic exercise and stretching. Not too bad, really.

As I said earlier, prior to getting the Wii Fit I weighed in at approx. 200 pounds, but last night the Wii calculated my weight at 191. Admittedly I've been trying to eat a little healthier, such as no pastries when I get my daily Soy Latte. I used to get at least one Latte per day, if not two, but most days I can resist the urge and I'll have brewed coffee from the breakroom, which is not only less calories, but cheaper, too. If I get a snack from the cafeteria I resist the fatty snacks and get a bag of nuts or some fruit. But the Wii Fit still deserves a lot of credit.

It's convenient. It's right there in the family room. It takes just a minute or two to put on a pair of shorts and start working out, as opposed to getting my gym kit ready, getting into the car, driving 10 minutes to the gym, etc, etc.

It's also fun and interactive, a lot more so than an exercise DVD or a treadmill. With Rhythm Boxing if you get the timing of your punches spot on, the explosion from your glove hitting the bag is a lot bigger and louder, and you get extra points. Your Trainer also eggs you on, "Nice Punch! Nice Block! Watch your footwork!"

At 5'11 and 191 pounds, I'm still in the archaic BMI's "Overweight" category with a score of 26.6, but considering I'd need to drop to 178 pounds, or 80kg, just to have a high but Normal BMI, I'm not too fussed by that. Where the archaic BMI really falls on its face is thinking I'd need to get down to 160 pounds, or 72kg, to be in the middle of the Normal range. I think if I were to get down to 160 pounds, my family would probably start planning my funeral. Even in High School when I rode my bicycle everywhere I weighed 180 pounds, and I looked skinny at that weight. Well, more trim than skinny. If I can get back down to even just 185, I'll be happy.

Finally, remember in my initial review how I said the Wii Fit can be insulting? The bunny played it the other night, and when you start each session it sometimes asks you how another registered User is looking, and in this case it asked my daughter how I was looking.

One of the choices was "Toned", so I selected that.

The Wii Fit's response was one of disbelief. "Oh? Toned? Well, I...guess that's possible."

For a lump of plastic and circuit board, it sure can be sarcastic.

*EDIT - Cooling down from my Workout last night I did a couple of Ski Jumps. On one set of jumps I landed a 180+m jump.

"Don't mess up the second jump," I told myself, but of course I choked and finished with a combined score of barely 310 metres.

At the High Score screen Liz asked me who had the Top Score.

I do, I said, scrolling up...and my jaw dropped when I saw my wife's name was in the number one spot. She'd pipped me by about 3 metres.

Well done, dear :)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Maybe it's just me...

although from what I read on the Internet, it's not, but Russell Brand, the alleged comedian who hosted last night's MTV VMAs, didn't seem that funny to me.

For starters, when has MTV been about politics? Is there a silent (invisible) P in there somewhere?

Two, if there's a good reason to vote for Obama, "To prove you're not a racist" is not it. How would you feel about someone who said, "Obama has done nothing which warrants him being a Presidential candidate, but I don't want people thinking I'm racist so I'm going to vote for him, anyway..."?

Three, George W. is a "retarded cowboy"? How long did it take Brand to come up with that drivel? Or did he just watch the last few VMAs and steal Chris Rock's gag? Perhaps he just watched reruns of The Tonight Show, or The Late Show. A "retarded cowboy"? Wow. He insulted retards, cowboys, and most of Texas, all in one hit. Actually, that's pretty good.

Four, I fail to see the humor in making fun of a group that, while working in an industry that surrounds them with promiscuity, still tries to promote a message that abstinence is A-OK. In a world where teen pregnancy is rampant to such an extent that (at least) 17 High School-aged girls made a pact to deliberately get themselves pregnant (thanks, Wolfgang ;), we have Pop Stars (who are role models, as much as real moms and dads might wish otherwise) who are trying to promote abstinence and say "It's okay to say No to sex", and this idiot is making fun of them. Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

I will say this, though. Russell Brand has a lot going on up top; It's just a pity all of the activity seems to be occurring on the outside of his head.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I'm already being watched...

(I think) so fuck it. Let's take this ball and run with it :D

The problem with a political system where you really only have a choice between two parties (because a vote for anyone else is just wasted) is that neither party serves your best interest, in fact neither party really serves anyone's interest except for those people closely associated with those two parties.

In the U.S., the Democrats and the Republicans cooperate and work a lot more closely together than the public realizes.

Paranoid? Conspiracy Theorist? Moi? Heavens no. Sarcastic bastard? Maybe just a little.

But if I'm paranoid, explain why a Presidential candidate would threaten to walk out on a nationally televised debate if anyone other than The Other Party's candidate was present?

The Big Players in the Democrat and Republican parties know how fragile their hold is. They know a Two-Party system doesn't serve the people's best interests, and they don't care. What a Two-Party system does do is make it a lot easier for either Party to retain power, or help them regain it.

Think about it. It's you and one other guy. Would you want a third person coming in to the mix and reducing your chances of winning? Hell, no! So you form an alliance with the other guy to keep everyone else out. Only we're not talking about two guys, we're talking about two political parties, working together, to ensure anyone else is labeled as a crackpot or a whacko or just plain paranoid.

Are you reading this right now and thinking, "He think's the Dems and Pubs actually work together? What a crackpot!"

I'm not a crackpot. You're blind to the truth.

See how that works? We keep on insulting each other and what do we accomplish? Nothing.

What do the Dems and Pubs accomplish? One thing, but it's a Big Thing.

They accomplish Everything.

They kept us fighting each other instead of working together, because the minute we stop fighting each other and see through their facade and begin working together, they lose everything.

Can you imagine a Presidential debate set up between three candidates? I can't.

When I put a third person into the mix, I see Black and White on each side...and a Mediator in the middle. I can't even imagine a three-way debate. The system is not designed to facilitate a three-way debate. You've got a candidate on each side of the stage and...where does the third candidate go?

Between them? So he gets attacked from both sides?

Maybe between them, but set back a little? Where he won't appear quite as important as the two front guys.

Maybe we should just have them all sitting down at one long table.

Maybe I just haven't participated in enough formal debates. I wasn't on the debate team in High School or College, but my recollection of Debates was always the Pro-side and the Con-side. But running a country is not about Pros and Cons, there's a lot of Gray areas.

Where's the Party that thinks it's ok to execute criminals, but won't automatically treat gun owners as such?

Where's the Party that makes the distinction between Church and State, and realizes Marriage has nothing to do with a State-recognized Union?

Where's the Party that thinks homosexuals (of legal age) should be allowed to enter into a State-recognized Union and receive the same Rights accorded to heterosexual partners entering into the same?

Where's the Party that advocates less government interference and involvement in individuals lives? (Are you serious? A Party that wants to put itself out of a job???)

Those are my biggest concerns.

The first labels me as a Republican, while the next two make me...a Democrat???

And that last one? Less government interference?

That last concern labels me a 'crackpot' Libertarian, which is what I really am, and which is what most people in the U.S. are, too.

Most people in the U.S. just want to go about their own life and make their own choices, and they don't really mind what their neighbors do, as long as nobody gets hurt and no laws get broken. If that's you, you're probably a Libertarian.

But the Democrats and Republicans made "Libertarian" a dirty word, an undesirable label, much like Socialist and Fascist, which is why the Democrats and Republicans prefer their current labels.

More people in the U.S. are Libertarians than the Democrats and Republicans would like you to believe, possibly more Libertarians than Dems and Pubs put together, which is why they're labeled crackpots. Nobody wants to be labeled a crackpot, so you reluctantly put yourself down as a Republican or a Democrat, even though you're a gun owning, anti-criminal, pro-homosexual rights kind of guy.

Libertarians? Bunch of paranoid crackpots, if you ask me.