Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mongolian BBQ & Tips

Over on Tesh's Blog a culinary discovery led to him making a comparison between Mongolian BBQ and MMOs, which I promptly rerailed into a rant on Tipping.

If you're not aware, Mongolian BBQ is where you start out by grabbing a bowl (that's you, personally, who grabs the bowl) and filling it (usually to overflowing) with your choice of ingredients. You pay the cashier who takes the bowl and hands it off to the cook (sometimes they're the same person) who empties the bowl onto a large (very large) hotplate, stirs the mixture with over-sized chopsticks until the food is hot and any meat ingredients are cooked, before scraping it off into a second bowl which he hands over to you.

At some point I guess you're supposed to drop a dollar into the Tips jar, conspicuously placed on the counter next to where you're standing waiting for your food.

But why?

What service have you been provided that warrants a Tip?

Not only have the cashier and cook done nothing more than some other fast food places, they've actually done less.

You yourself "took" your own order by gathering together the desired ingredients. And while the staff had to put the food items out for you to be able to do that, but they did no more than the servers at Quiznos or Baja Fresh, who keep the salsa & condiment bar stocked with fixings.

All the cashier did was ring up your transaction, just like the cashiers at every other Fast Food establishment.

All the cook did was cook/heat up your food, and while he did so right there in front of you, he did nothing more than the guy at The Steak Escape who cooks your cheesesteak sandwich right in front of you.

Do you leave a Tip at Quiznos, Baja Fresh, or The Steak Escape? I don't. Why should I?

Now don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't believe in Tipping, because I do IF the service warrants it.

The waitress at Leroys? She takes my order, brings me coffee, refills my cup, brings me more creamer if I run out, and checks if I need anything, homemade salsa or marmalade, napkins, etc. She takes care of me. She works for, earns, and deserves her tip.

But the guys at Mongolian BBQ? What did they do to earn a Tip? What did they do above and beyond every other Fast Food place that makes them so special that they deserve a Tip? Merely working in the service industry does not warrant being Tipped. Just because you made my lunch does not warrant being Tipped. In my opinion if you want a Tip, you have to earn it.

Now maybe I'm wrong here, but if so, explain how.

Explain to me why I should leave a Tip at Mongolian BBQ, but not at Quiznos, The Steak Escape, and Baja Fresh?

What about McDonalds? Shouldn't I Tip them? Because let's be honest here, the staff at McDonalds do more to enhance my dining experience than the staff at my local Mongolian BBQ.
McDonalds provide me with a clean restroom, Mongolian BBQ doesn't.
McDonalds prepare my food for me. I have to do that myself at Mongolian BBQ.
McDonalds provide me with tables & chairs, which they keep clean; Mongolian BBQ don't.
McDonalds provide my kids with a place to play so I can relax and begin slipping into a food coma. Mongolian BBQ don't do that.

What does Mongolian BBQ do that their staff deserve to be Tipped?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Registered Sex Offender list

I saw a news article last night on some people getting upset about discovering a Registered Sex Offender was living in their neighborhood, and it made me stop and think as to whether or not the Registered Sex Offender List constitutes cruel & unusual punishment by facilitating discrimination against those offenders who have done their time and are now, to all intents and purposes, just trying to get on with their life.

"But wouldn't you like to know if there's a Registered Sex Offender living in your neighborhood?"

To be honest, as a father of two young children, yes, I would. But if we put emotion aside, why do I need to? Wouldn't you like to know if there's a convicted Murderer living in your neighborhood? Why do we only have a Registered Sex Offender List? Why not a Murderer List? Or a Mugger List?

Is it because unlike convicted Murderers, Sex Offenders cannot be rehabilitated and will always pose a permanent threat to society? That then leads to the question of why release them at all?

The only positive purpose I can see that The List serves is it gives the police a place to start looking in the event that a Sex Crime is committed within that neighborhood. Note that this means it doesn't prevent those crimes from happening, it only facilitates them being solved.

So that's a good reason for the police to have access to The List, but why do we, the public, need access to it? If the Registered Sex Offenders have been rehabilitated by their time in prison and no longer pose a threat to us, why do we need to know where they live?

And if they still do pose a threat to society, why have they been released?

Finally, if they cannot be rehabilitated and do pose a permanent threat to society, why should we waste valuable resources locking them up for Life? Why not remove them from the Game of Life altogether?

It's an interesting jump to go from not liking how The List facilitates discrimination against Registered Sex Offenders and may constitute Cruel & Unusual Punishment, to advocating use of the Death Penalty.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Immersion in Single-Player games

Although your character may play an integral part in the game world, and while the game itself may revolve around your character, the game world cannot, and for the purpose of immersion, should not.

MBP has been playing Mafia II lately, and is a little disappointed that unlike in the first Mafia game he cannot hail a cab or catch the train.

I remember being able to catch trains in both the very first GTA and GTA3, and unlike in some games featuring public transportation the GTA trains were not always waiting for you at the station. Sometimes it was you who had to wait for the next train, but this only helped to add immersion. It made the city seem more alive if things were happening when you weren't there. Clearly the trains weren't just sitting around all day waiting for you; they actually had a schedule to keep. And that's how a game world should be. NPCs need to have lives of their own. Even if it's little more than driving or walking to the store, talking to the NPC store owner, then going back home. It's little things like that which make the world feel alive, rather than random people, standing around in random spots, doing nothing.

How often do you see people in the real world standing on a street corner all day staring off into space? Except for homeless people, hookers, and the occasional alien invasion, probably never.

One immersion-breaking part of Mafia II was being unable to enter all but the most game-crucial buildings, such as Gun Stores and Diners. Fortunately this meant I was able to take refuge from the police (just a big misunderstanding, really) by hiding in a Gun Store. Unfortunately a roving officer found me, and he too entered the store. Unfortunately, for him that is, he came in with his gun drawn, and the Gun Store Owner responded to this apparent threat by shooting him. Amusing. Unrealistic and immersion-breaking, but amusing in a random kind of way.

Also unrealistic but not quite so amusing was the very strong bias of the Police to ignore any crimes (misdemeanors, etc.) where you were not the perpetrator. If you struck a pedestrian with your car the police would chase you relentlessly, but if you were the pedestrian victim of a Hit & Run, even if it occurred right in front of the police (yes, I deliberately set one up as a test), they would turn a blind eye and go on their merry way. Unrealistic, immersion-breaking, and not quite so amusing.

Single Player games which try to immerse you within their game world, such as the GTA and Mafia series, need to ensure that world feels as real as possible, but when your character is the only person in the world whose actions seem to matter, the only thing that does for immersion is break it.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Tonight I ran the 2 miles in 18m25s. I finished my first 400m lap in 2:12, while the second & subsequent laps were ran at a slightly slower (& saner) pace of ~2:20 each. Amazingly I ran my final lap faster (just) than I ran the first, in 2:08. Yes, after running almost 2 miles at 6mph I actually had enough left in me to finish strong. Tomorrow? I am wisely choosing to rest & recover.

Despite having preexisting injuries of a dislocated ankle, two torn ACLs, and one slightly torn hamstring (injuries which never heal 100% & leave life-long impressions) I'm actually not that sore.

Bring on that 10K Mud Run!
(But not too soon ;)