Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for December 2018

A SWPL feels intense guilt about killing mice

with 77 comments

I hate to break the bad news to this intensely guilt-afflicted SWPL, but the snap traps are just as “inhumane” as anything else, because half the time the mouse only gets trapped by a leg or a tail or something like that and is still alive and wiggling around.

Maybe he should try getting a cat.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 31, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Bobos

FFXIV and MMORPGs

with 9 comments

FFXIV is short for Final Fantasy XIV, a game designed by the Japanese company Square Enix, and what I think is the absolute best of the genre of MMORPGs, that is massively multiplayer online role-playing games, of which World of Warcraft (WoW) is the most well-known example.

Yes, FFXIV is definitely the better starting point into this genre than WoW. I’ve been playing it since Christmas weekend. Great way to kill time. (Yes, I am aware that killing time is a very low class thing to do. SWPLs want to use every ounce of time left until they die to do SWPL things like learning a foreign language or traveling around the world with the meager time left over from their hopefully self-actualizing career. Playing videogames is not considered to be self-actualizing, therefore it is low class.)

You do want a PC with a discrete GPU to play this game. I was able to run the game and get 15 fps at 720p resolution on a computer with integrated Intel graphics, but it’s not that great. The game looked choppy. With my Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti (but note that the GTX 1150 is probably coming out in 2019, making the 1050 obsolete!) I get 30+ fps running at 2560 x 1440 with all the graphics settings maxed out. And the game looks beautiful! While 60 fps is considered the gold standard in gaming, you really don’t need 60 fps in a slow-moving game like FFXIV.

MMORPGs are a dying genre of game. People have gotten accustomed to faster-moving games. Like Overwatch. Or Fortnite. Games that also cost less money to play. Overwatch is pay once than play as much as you want. And Fortnite is totally free to play.

I believe that most people playing FFXIV (or WoW) are older players, older meaning at least old enough to drink. Teenagers these days would be playing Fortnite or some other “shooter” game. The monthly subscription tends to keep away players that don’t at least have their own credit card. Most teens would have trouble convincing their parents that they “need” $12.99/mo or (or $14.99/mo for WoW) to play a time-wasting videogame, and besides, all of their friends are playing Fortnite or first-person shooters.

For the most part, battle in FFXIV consists of you pushing a button every 2.5 seconds, and then your skill automatically hits the enemy. In some fights, especially “boss” fights, parts of the ground turn a different color, a warning that something painful is about to hit, and you have a certain amount of time to run the hell out of the way to a non-indicated area. That’s the extent of the fast reaction time needed, which can still get dicey for a middle-aged person with middle-aged reflexes during intense fights where you have to dodge out of the way but still hit the right buttons to trigger your abilities. But it’s not like Overwatch where I am stuck below 1000 skill rank because I can’t compete against younger players.

While FFXIV has a huge amount of complexity with respect to the many things to do in the virtual world, the game slowly introduces everything to you. You just keep following the “main scenario quests” (which are clearly marked) and you will slowly learn everything about the game. Plus there are some important side-quests marked in blue with a plus sign that unlock things you may need. The other quests you can just ignore. If you select to start a character on a “preferred server,” you get double experience up to level 60, which means that you get all the experience you need by just following the main quests, without having to do any “grinding” or side quests. (“Grinding” means the repetitive killing of monsters or other repetitive activities to gain experience points or other beneficial things like better armor.)

The story behind the main quest isn’t horrible. While I find many of the cut scenes tiresome, some people might enjoy watching the story unfold. One of the important quest-giving NPCs is this blonde babe wearing an outfit that shows off her bare midriff. Yay for fan service!

And there are these evil guys called the Garleans who came from outer space in these steampunk spaceships. You know they are evil because they wear evil-looking armor, and evil music plays during their cut scenes.

The main quest line requires you to do “dungeons” and “trials” along the way, which are instanced activities requiring a group of four. Don’t worry, you don’t need to make any friends, the “Duty Finder” will assign you three random teammates. This is why FFXIV is such a better experience than WoW, because it mixes things up and coaxes you into doing group activities like that. Eventually, when you reach max level and get to the “end game,” most of your time will be spend doing group dungeons and raids. Furthermore, WoW is so old that most of its low-level content has become completely irrelevant to the current state of the game.

It is my understanding that WoW offers a better endgame for the top-tier players because it has the most complex 40-man raids, which I don’t think that FFXIV has, however I have never personally played WoW’s endgame, so I’m just going off of what I read on the internet. My impression is that FFXIV offers a sufficient endgame experience for regular players who are not completely addicted.

FFXIV has a free trial that allows you to play the game up to level 35, which is quite a bit of content. The free trial has no strings attached, the whole game is yours up to level 35, except that a few things that would be useful to gold farmers are turned off: no access to the marketplace (where you can buy and sell to other players), and you can’t initiate chats with other players (to prevent gold sellers from using the free accounts to advertise their wares). Unfortunately, to continue past level 35, you need to buy the game ($60, or $30 if there’s a half-price sale) and then pay $12.99/month.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 31, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Nerdy stuff, Technology

Star Trek TOS, S02E03: “The Changeling”

with 7 comments

The next episode is “Mirror, Mirror,” but I re-watched that last year and I’m not sure I want to watch it again. So I will probably skip it and watch “The Apple.” But “Mirror, Mirror” is a key episode to understanding the lore of Star Trek, much like Amok Time, so you probably shouldn’t skip it.

* * *

PLOT SUMMARY: An intelligent super-powerful robot (which was once a space probe called NOMAD) on a mission to exterminate all “imperfect” biological life thinks that Kirk is its “creator.” Kirk is able to save the galaxy by using his logic jujitsu to talk the robot into committing suicide.

“The Changeling” is not a great episode. The first time Kirk talked a computer into committing suicide, it wasn’t very believable, and by now the trope is becoming very tiresome. But the one consistent theme in the Original Series about intelligent computers/robots is that they are really bad news. No good ever came from a machine that’s too intelligent. Which is a strangely luddite point of view for a series that otherwise extols the benefits of advanced technology to improve mankind. For this reason, I could never stand how The Next Generation kept trying to tell us that Data was to be considered a sentient being with the same rights as humans. If Kirk ever met a robot like Data, he would have talked it into committing suicide.

Four useless red-shirt security guards get themselves killed in this episode.

I love this exchange between Spock and the robot (NOMAD), after the robot scans Uhura’s mind:

NOMAD: That unit is defective. Its thinking is chaotic. Absorbing it unsettled me.

SPOCK: That unit is a woman.

NOMAD: A mass of conflicting impulses.

In the 1960s, Star Trek was considered ahead of its time because it features women as officers in a quasi-military organization. But by today’s understanding of things, Star Trek is misogynist.

But then, the really creepy part of this episode is that the robot wiped Uhura’s mind clean, erasing all of her memories. “The knowledge banks of this unit have been wiped clean,” says the Robot. But McCoy and Nurse Chapel set out to retrain her. Huh? It sounds to me like if her mind was wiped clean like that, she’s for all practical purposes dead, and the new Uhura after this episode is a different person than Uhura up to this point.

I rate this the worst episode, so far, the worst of Season 2, and perhaps one of the top 10 worst episodes of the original series. But still no where near as bad as The Alternative Factor.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 31, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Star Trek

Who wins the Democratic nomination in 2020

with 44 comments

Only a lot of old geezers running. That leaves Beto O’Roarke as the only non-old-geezer.

Could Hillary Clinton return?

The Democratic Party decided to abolish “superdelegates” for 2020.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 31, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized

The French Connection (1971)

with 17 comments

I can’t believe I’ve never watched his movie until now. It was filmed on location in New York City, mostly outdoors, and you get an amazing view of the gritty underbelly of New York City and Brooklyn in 1971.

“Popeye,” played by Gene Hackman, beats up suspects, and calls a black guy the n-word. Great stuff you’d never see in a modern movie.

And of course, the car chase scene underneath the elevated subway is iconic.

Highly recommended!

* * *

And the movie harkens back to a time when drugs came from France rather than from south of the border.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 31, 2018 at EST am

Posted in Movies

Star Trek TOS, S02E01: “Who Mourns for Adonais?” part 2

with 12 comments

Read part 1 of the review.

I wasn’t expecting to write a part 2 of the review for this episode. But I realize that I failed to address a lot of important points about religion in the Federation.

To start with, the word in the title is “Adonais” and not “Adonis.” Adonis is a hero from ancient Greek myths, so some people think that’s what the title should be and there’s a misspelling. But no, the title is based on the word “Adonai” which is the standard English spelling for the Hebrew word that’s used in the place of God. And then an “s” is added at the end of the word to make it plural.

The episode has a powerful message for the rejection of religion. Kirk gives some great speeches.

No way is Kirk going to worship any gods:

KIRK: What is it you want?
APOLLO: You will worship me, as your fathers did before you.
KIRK: If you want to play god and call yourself Apollo, that’s your business, but you’re no god to us, Mister.
APOLLO: I said you would worship me.
KIRK: And you’ve got a lot to learn!

A miracle, to Kirk, is just a “bag of tricks”:

KIRK: Apollo, we’re willing to talk, but you’ll find we don’t bow to every creature who happens to have a bag of tricks.

And then again:

KIRK: You know nothing about our kind. You know only our remote ancestors who trembled before your tricks. Your tricks don’t frighten us, neither do you. We’ve come a long way in five thousand years.
APOLLO: But you’re of the same nature. I could sweep you out of existence with a wave of my hand and bring you back again. I can give life or death. What else does mankind demand of its gods?

In other words, belief in deities is superstition for our primitive ancestors who lacked the understanding of science, and now mankind has advanced beyond that.

And then, this brings us to the Sentence.

KIRK: Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.

If Kirk had just said “Mankind has no need of gods,” it would have been a powerful renunciation of god-worship.

It makes no sense to believe in monotheism after meeting Apollos. For next week, Kirk may encounter another super-powerful alien on a different planet who pretended to be the Hebrew “god” who sent plagues against the Egyptians and parted the Red Sea. And then a week later, Kirk might meet the alien who pretended to be Jesus.

So who put that second sentence into the screenplay where Kirk, out of the blue, appears to endorse monotheism, going counter to the message of the rest of the episode, and in fact the rest of Star Trek? No one knows for sure. Star Trek historians are certain that the Sentence is not the voice of Gene Roddenberry. It is generally believed that either NBC demanded that the line be inserted because the network censors were worried about the reaction from Christian viewers. Or that the line was inserted preemptively to ward off the network censors from rejecting the entire script.

Some have suggested that the Sentence could mean that monotheism has caused enough problems for mankind, so we certainly don’t need any more gods on top of that.

When Kirk tried to talk Caroline out of being in love with “Apollo,” if mankind of the future believed in Christianity, he could simply remind her of the First Commandment from the Old Testament. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Instead, Kirk gives a secular humanist speech:

KIRK: Give me your hand. Your hand. (she does) Now feel that. Human flesh against human flesh. We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, Lieutenant. By remembering who and what you are. A bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. The only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity. That’s where our duty lies. Do you understand me?

Kirk’s final words to Apollo before he disappears forever:

APOLLO: I would have cherished you, cared for you. I would have loved you as a father loves his children. Did I ask so much?
KIRK: We’ve out grown you. You asked for something we could no longer give.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 29, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Long range weather update 12/29 for NYC

with 3 comments

Rain on the evening of New Year’s Eve, ending early New Year’s Day morning.

No longer see any rain for next Friday 1/4. No rain or snow between New Year’s Day and Tuesday 1/8.

Saturday 1/5 will be cold.

Major winter storm with significant snowfall looking more likely for Tuesday 1/8 into Wednesday 1/9.

Another major winter storm possibility on Saturday 1/12 into Sunday 1/13.

* * *

I will be writing a second post on the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?”

ALSO, I sincerely intend to finish reviewing the Lord of the Rings, and will let you know when I write about another chapter.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 29, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Weather

Lion’s long range weather forecast for NYC, 12/28/2018

with 6 comments

Rain on New Year’s Eve evening ending early on New Year’s Day morning.

Possibly some rain late Friday 1/4 and early Saturday 1/5.

Unseasonably warm weather on Sunday 1/6.

Possibly rain on Tuesday 1/8, turning into snow at the tail end. This event has the most potential for a plowable snow accumulation (let’s say 6 inches at the most), but I think it’s mostly rain.

Possibly light rain or snow on Friday 1/11.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Weather

Hungary is a model for how we need to do things in the U.S.

with 43 comments

The media has been full of stories like this one claiming that Democracy has died in Hungary. Because why?

  • Because the mainstream Hungarian media is an “echo chamber” for right-wing views.
  • There has been gerrymandering to favor the party that’s currently in power.
  • The party in power appoints judges that share the same views.

Hey, this sounds EXACTLY like how things work in the United States, except that instead of the media being a right-wing echo chamber, it’s a left-wing Trump-hating echo chamber.

Thus according to the New York Times, “democracy” means left-wing people control everything, and “authoritarianism” means that right-wing people control everything.

* * *

I would say that the right-wing in Hungary is a lot SMARTER than the right-wing in the United States, because they understand the importance of controlling the mainstream media.

Viktor Orban has reduced the Hungarian budget deficit, raised taxes, and increased government benefits to the working classes, the exact opposite of standard G.O.P. policies. Hungary has a universal public healthcare system, which Viktor Orban does NOT want to repeal.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2018 at EST am

Posted in International

Quinnipiac poll on border wall

with 40 comments

https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2590

The border wall questions are at the bottom, so scroll all the way down.

Respondents who self-identify as Republicans support the wall 86-14, but respondents who self-identify as Democrats oppose the wall by an even bigger margin of 80-9, while “independents” oppose the wall 51-45.

I think that Democratic politicians will read this poll and think they have nothing to lose by adamantly refusing to deal with Trump.

However, it’s plausible that there’s an enthusiasm gap, and that those who support the Wall feel more strongly about it than those who oppose it, and if that’s the case then Democrats might be wrong about feeling so confident that they have nothing to lose by adamantly refusing to deal with Trump.

As far as why the electorate believes what they believe, it’s more about tribal identity (I’m in the Democratic tribe, and that’s the anti-wall tribe, so that’s what I’m supposed to believe) than any sort or reasoned analysis like I do on this blog.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 27, 2018 at EST pm

Posted in Politics

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