Archive for the ‘Nerdy stuff’ Category
In FFXIV, I’ve been hunting the rushes I received from Final Fantasy XI, a frustratingly idiosyncratic MMORPG that, at times, felt like a punishing inside joke. Some monsters attack by sight, others by sound, and if players don’t consult their mental Excel spreadsheet of imminent death every few steps, imminent death will soon become inevitable. Often, in FFXI, players are forced to cross huge swaths of a zone saturated with belligerent mobs. Before hitting an outpost, they might die a half dozen times. And this all happens before level 20.
And you can’t go back and play FFXI even if you wanted to, because it no longer exists in it’s original format in 2003 when it was released. Also, if you enjoyed computer games in 2003, you may be too old to still enjoy them in 2016.
Sorry for this extremely nerdy post.
I haven’t played this game yet. Should I bother?
Yes, the headline of this post may sound like a joke, but it’s not. A study showed that playing World of Warcraft has mental benefits for seniors:
Researchers from NC State’s Gains Through Gaming laboratory first tested the cognitive functioning of study participants, aged 60 to 77, to set a baseline. The researchers looked at cognitive abilities including spatial ability, memory and how well participants could focus their attention.
An “experimental” group of study participants then played WoW on their home computers for approximately 14 hours over the course of two weeks, before being re-tested. A “control” group of study participants did not play WoW, but were also re-tested after two weeks.
Comparing the cognitive functioning test scores of participants in the experimental and control groups, the researchers found the group that played WoW saw a much greater increase in cognitive functioning, though the effect varied according to each participant’s baseline score.
“Among participants who scored well on baseline cognitive functioning tests, there was no significant improvement after playing WoW – they were already doing great,” McLaughlin says. “But we saw significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus for participants who scored low on the initial baseline tests.” Pre- and post-game testing showed no change for participants on memory.
I believe it, because it makes sense that stimulating the brain in a way that’s novel to the study participants would have beneficial effects.
The problem is, how to I get my grumpy, senior-citizen, computer-hating parents to play World of Warcraft?
So can anyone recommend a good computer game? (And yes, I know that computer games are a huge waste of time and almost as evil as porn.)
My Baron Fig “Confidant” notebook arrived in the mail today. That’s a paper notebook, not a computer.
Baron Fig, it’s kind of a weird name for a premium notebook company. Sounds like some sort of small sweet fruit, similar to a royal date.
I discovered these surfing the web after I blogged about Moleskine notebooks a few days ago.
The argument against Molekine is that you are supporting a huge publicly traded Italian corporation and the notebooks aren’t even made in Italy, they’re made in China. With cheap paper that’s said to suck with fountain pens. Although the Baron Figs are also, presumably, made in China (what isn’t made in China?), at least you are supporting four hipsters in New York City instead of a big Italian corporation. And the Baron Fig hipsters claim to have made improvements to their notebook. Maybe they did, maybe it’s just marketing bogusness. The Confidant has a nice clothbound hardcover and it comes in a single color, light gray. This lack of color choice is actually an advantage from a branding perspective. In case I ever see someone else using a clothbound notebook that’s the same color, I will know that we are both members of the same exclusive club. I also give Baron Fig credit for not emblazing their logo anywhere plainly visible (it’s printed at an out-of-the-way location on the inner back cover). As Paul Fussell could tell you, big legible logos are prole.
Missing from the Confidant is an elastic strap to hold the book closed. It was my understanding that the elastic strap was one of the key features of the Moleskine. Maybe it’s not so key after all?
The only place to buy a Baron Fig (that I know of) is from their website, and the price is $16, which includes free shipping from their warehouse in Long Island City. A few dollars less expensive than a Moleskine, plus you get better paper and all those other alleged improvements.
To test the fountain-pen-friendliness of the paper, I wrote a line of text with my fine-nibbed Lamy Studio filled with Waterman Florida Blue ink. Pass. No bleed-through. And now that I’ve broken it in by writing in it, I hopefully won’t feel too intimidated by the high cost to write more stuff in it.
Except I have no idea what I’m supposed to write in it or why I need it. It was more of a “wow that looks cool” impulse purchase rather than something I have any need for. If I had a job at a company where they have meetings at which notebook computers are banned, I suppose I could use the Confidant to take old-school pen-and-paper notes, but I never worked for that kind of a company, and I don’t have any job now at all.
The marketing material says that their notebooks are “for creative people and their ideas.” The problem is that I must not be very creative. Surely if I were creative, I would have had a much better life experience than being middle-aged without any prospect of finding a job worthy of my talents, or even a crappy cubicle job that’s beneath me. I guess that companies like Baron Fig sell the hope that maybe your problem is not a lack of creativity, but the lack of a high quality and expensive notebook in which to write those lucrative creative ideas which, until now, just got lost.
I looked up the origins of that idiom (using “toast” to mean in serious trouble or finished), and was quite surprised to discover that it came from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters. It seemed to me like an idiom that always existed during my lifetime and not one that first began to appear in common usage in the late 1980s (when I was in college).
This was certainly the best space opera type of series to appear on television in between Star Trek the original series and Star Trek the Next Generation.
BSG was also ahead of its time, because it had a season-wide arc. Ironically, this may have hurt the series because this was before even VHS was a widespread technology, so if you missed the first part of a two-part episode you probably felt screwed.
BSG had great music, and great special effects for 1978. Amazing actually. The special effects were far superior to what we saw in the movie Logan’s Run which was filmed only two years beforehand, and Logan’s Run won an Academy Award for special effects, cheesy as they were. They did re-use a lot of the same footage whenever there was a space battle or whenever a Viper was launched, but it was pretty good footage and they did have a limited budget, you must forgive that.
People can say “it’s not original, it copied Star Wars,” but few TV series are truly original. In fact, BSG was very original for a TV series, as I said giving us the best special effects ever seen in a TV series up to that point in time, and introducing the season-long story arc. Plus there was Lorne Greene and Dirk Benedict, both great actors. Richard Hatch was OK as Apollo, but he was outshone by Greene and Benedict. Maren Jensen who played Athena, the Commander’s daughter, was absolutely gorgeous; not a very good actress, but so beautiful to look at, and she was an ethnically ambiguous babe, quite common today but an original casting concept in 1978. Plus the introduction of weird mystical elements poached from Mormonism; this is common today (minus the Mormonism) in a lot of sci-fi type of shows, but was definitely original in 1978.
Readers tired of leftist propaganda in their television will enjoy the right-wing propaganda of BSG, in which the Cylons obviously played the role of the Soviet Union, and the clear message of the show was peace through strength and never trust your enemy to honor treaties. Plus there was no sex, even though one of the main characters was implied to be a prostitute in the first episode, Saga of a Star World; they seem to have forgotten* that aspect in later episodes.
Unfortunately, in between the episodes that were part of the story arc were some truly horrific episodes, and they are no doubt responsible for significantly lowering people’s opinion of the series.
My advice is to watch the series (now available on Netflix streaming) and only watch the good episodes which advance the story (and which also received the most of Glen Larson’s tender-loving care and the bulk of his special effects budget). The good episodes are:
Saga of a Star World (three parts, the introduction to the series)
Lost Planet of the Gods (two parts)
The Living Legend (two parts, skipping past six extremely crappy episodes)
War of the Gods (two parts)
The Hand of God (the last episode of the series, skipping past seven uneven episodes, not as bad as the earlier crappy episodes which we skipped)
One of the episodes we** skipped, Experiment in Terra, was the idea behind the series Quantum Leap.
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*Internet research shows what I suspected. ABC censors told Glen Larson that he couldn’t have a regular character who was a prostitute. Cassiopeia was supposed to be killed in Saga of a Star World, but Glen Larson decided to keep her because Maren Jensen sucked so bad as an actress, so he needed another cute female main character. He had her become a nurse instead of a prostitute.
**You should defintely skip those six episodes between Lost Planet of the Gods and Living Legend. They suck really bad and you are likely to give up on the series before you get to the really good episodes. I suppose the episodes that take place after War of the Gods are worth watching. They don’t advance the main story, and there’s the occasional out-of-place campy element, but they are mostly decent television. In addition to the episode that was the idea behind Quantum Leap, there was also an episode where Fred Astaire guest starred.
On Sunday, the game Vainglory was featured in the NY Times Bits blog:
Touch-based games, said Jens Hilgers, the founder and chairman of ESL, which operates large e-sports tournaments around the world, have “the potential for being a broader e-sport because there’s a larger audience that wants to play games there.”
One of the first games to test that proposition is Vainglory, which came out late last year for iPhones and iPads and just recently for Android devices.
I’ve been playing Vainglory for months. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I suck at it. Maybe I’m too old.
Unlike with football, I bet that no Vainglory team has ever lost a player because another player punched him in the face and broke his jaw.
In Season 1, Wesley Crusher was the only smart guy on the Enterprise who could save the ship from all sorts of disasters. In Season 2, however, Crusher never does anything like that anymore, and sometimes he seems sort of like the screw-up Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island. What a difference a few months makes!
In this episode, a beautiful teenage “humanoid” girl comes aboard the Enterprise. She is being transported to her home world where she will become the planet’s ruler. Wesley instantly develops oneitis for her, but he has too much social anxiety to do anything about it. So he then proceeds to ask advice from the two bridge officers least qualified to know anything about human adolescent psychology: Worf, the Klingon and Data the robot. Wesley then asks Riker and Guinan for advice, and although they would be a better source of advice than Klingons or robots, they blow off Wesley because they are too busy play-flirting with each other.
But Wesley does manage to talk to the girl. Because she has been sheltered all alone on some planet for a long time, she doesn’t realize that Wesley is a beta male that no girl with more choices would be interested in.
And then Wesley gets all pissed off at her when he discovers that she’s not really a humanoid girl at all, but a shape-shifting space monster. For real, that’s what happens. (But it’s the good kind of monster, not an evil violent monster.) I guess this is even worse than meeting a girl on Match.com and then discovering that she weighs 300 pounds when you meet her in person. Or that she’s not really a female at all but a transsexual.
I am very sad. I already miss him. The NY Times obituary is very good. Obviously it was written well in advance of his death.
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A comment posted at the NY Times:
As a girl growing up in the 60s in Singapore, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be calm, collected, impeccably logical and unfettered by life’s messiness. He was my hero and when I think of people I gravitate towards, they have that essence. Love him.
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There was a question about Leonard Nimoy’s politics. Unfortunately, a quick internet search provides evidence that he was a Democrat, but I am unaware that he used his fame to lobby public opinion or that he made any mean-spirited remarks about Republicans, so I don’t think he’s one of the bad guys.
If he was a Democrat, perhaps he was an old-school Democrat who believed in economic equality for regular working Americans, and considered his wealth to be accidental luck and not something that entitled him to pay low taxes.