36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

April 30, 2010

Total Sense

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness, Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 5:06 pm

A re-drawing of Europe. I cannot foresee any problems with this.

Public Employee Of The Year

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 4:30 pm

This is a pretty funny SNL skit. What’s sad is that I know all three types of people…

April 29, 2010

Inconvenient Truths

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 6:33 pm

So Henry Waxman realized that if he opened hearings on why companies have to follow GAAP regulations, bad things would happen.  Bad things like pointing out, even more clearly, that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” was quite wrong.

April 28, 2010

The Threat Of Greece

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness, Economics — Kevin Feasel @ 5:33 pm

Megan McArdle is very pessimistic about the fate of Greece (and the other PIIGS countries).  Her concern is that Greece’s sovereign debt crisis will not be handled well enough to prevent the country from running into problems big enough to foment a second global depression.

I’m not quite sure what to think.  I’ve been pessimistic about the long-term prospects of the Euro, as well as the European welfare states (and, in a generation, the American welfare state), so I can agree with her analysis.  I also want to see the Euro go as an economic zone—I greatly prefer a free trade zone with separate monetary and fiscal policies, sort of like the EFTA.  But this would be a high cost for such an outcome.

UPDATE:  Angus, meanwhile, thinks outside the box.

April 27, 2010

Interesting idea for football draft

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:58 pm

The Wall Street Journal has an article on setting up the draft as a silent auction. presumably to keep people for not drafting top notch talent for signability reasons (a much bigger problem in baseball than in football). I can’t honestly say I like the idea — there’s very little on the proposed solution and without that, it’s difficult to evaluate — but it is at least an alternative to the current system.

For the record, I think the NFL Draft is fine the way it is. Sure, some high picks flame out, but most of the time, it’s fairly clear why the decision failed in hindsight. Whether it’s the Browns drafting a QB without an offensive line or the Raiders drafting players in the first round because they’re fast, bad draft picks are usually bad decision making, not random luck. The MLB Draft needs fixing much more than the NFL Draft.

April 26, 2010

We Need More Weapons

Filed under: Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 7:29 pm

Stephen Hawking is right:  if aliens are out there and visiting, they’re probably going to try to conquer us.  As a result, we have to build better, stronger, more powerful weapons which will destroy them.  The problem is that we won’t have any idea exactly what will destroy their ships, so we’ll have to branch out in a number of directions.

Update:  Eric Crampton is probably working for them.  I don’t know who they are yet (if I did, that would give a better indication of which weapons we could use to destroy them), but even though he does make sense regarding minerals, there are other reasons to colonize and/or conquer, from habitability (supposing that they thrive in a similar atmosphere, climate, and gravity) to sheer domination.  They may also be space pirates, or worse:  space bureaucrats.

How do you stop Vogons again?

April 25, 2010

Interesting, But Probably Unworkable

Filed under: Computinating, Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 8:53 am

Stewart Baker notes that certain malware sites differentiate between spiders and non-spiders, serving up harmless content to spiders (to prevent them from noticing problems) and malware to regular users.  Baker wonders, then, if it would be possible to cloak regular browsing by hiding it under the guise of a spider.

The problem (as one of the commenters points out) is that spiders customarily observe a robots.txt file, which regular browsers ignore.  This robots.txt file has historically been used to prevent spiders from creating links to pages that webmasters would prefer not show up in searches.  The major search engines abide by this regulation, so if you start sending users out to a site, you can quickly differentiate regular browsers from spiders:  put up a robots.txt file and watch the regular browsers burn right past the forbidden pages.

But it is possible to spoof spider behavior through browser settings (as noted in the comments as well).  This provides a bit of a mixed blessing:  on the one hand, you might prevent some malware problems and may get access to certain sites which allow spiders to index sites behind a paywall; on the other hand, however, many sites block pages from spiders.  Your browser might ignore that block, but if the end site has someone doing their job, you might just be blocked next time you try to visit.

April 24, 2010

Grand Theft Auto IV Episodes from Liberty City: A Review You Can Use [tm]!

Filed under: Reviews you can use [tm]!, Video Games — Tony Demchak @ 2:30 pm

Since the fundamental game hasn’t changed (you can see my review here), this will be a bit more free form, focusing on what each episode brings to the table. The graphics are a bit dated, but still good, and the engine has few problems.

The Lost and the Damned

One of the intriguing parts of both episodes is how they integrate them into the main story, but using peripheral characters so both stories seem fresh. This episode centers around The Lost, a motorcycle gang headed by psychopath Billy Grey. You control his right-hand man, Johnny Klebitz, who is also Jewish. You don’t discover how this episode is part of the main story until much later — Johnny is in the original game, but you don’t see him very much. The main thread is Johnny wrestling with the fact that Billy is completely insane, yet also the head of the gang.

To be honest, Johnny isn’t that great a character. Billy is much more interesting and well developed — you see flashes of why he was leader in the first place at times. Johnny just bitches about the decisions Billy makes, then does them anyway, until the inevitable confrontation. The girlfriend system from the first game is gone; you do get benefits from the other gang members (Clay can get you a bike anywhere in the city, Jimmy has an awesome gun van that sells for much cheaper than AmmuNation), but there’s no reason to hang out with them, since it doesn’t even fill in the back story.

A big selling point is the grittier feel; after all, this is about a motorcycle club. The dynamics of working with the gang are interesting; you have to stay (roughly) in formation until you become gang leader, and this is where most of the story is filled in. The club house is pretty slick — they added some new mini-games, including air hockey, hi-lo, and arm wrestling (which is stupid). You can also check your e-mail and go on the internet. They added some new sites, but there’s very little you can do with it.

The missions are satisfyingly unspectacular — steal this, blow that up, kill them — but they’re all solid and very enjoyable. New to the series are checkpoints — for the longer missions, you don’t have to necessarily start from the beginning. The most epic mission is the final one — you have to break into a prison to kill somebody, and it’s just a ridiculous over-the-top firefight. The gang system is kind of new — it’s slightly RPGish in that the more you take the gang out on your missions, the better they get, including upgrading weapons.

There are new guns (like the grenade launcher) and new vehicles. It’s a solid addition to the franchise, if occasionally uninspired.

The Ballad of Gay Tony

The Lost and the Damned is at times uninspiring — not true with the second new episode. If you download these on PSN and can only afford one, go with this one, because it’s much better.

The integration is absolutely ingenious — the main character, Luis Lopez, is actually an innocent bystander during a robbery in the middle of GTA IV. Luis is a Dominican who helps Tony Prince manage his two night clubs as well as acting as a killer for hire. You get more back story on Luis than you ever do on Johnny — even down to Luis’s brother and sister and his mother. He originally worked as a drug dealer, but got picked up and thrown in jail — Tony Prince helped him when he get out. He was also a formerly accomplished cage fighter, and you can continue this if you wish.

Tony Prince, or “Gay Tony”, is absolutely priceless as a character. He’s extremely compelling. Prince is a neurotic club owner, who owns the two hottest clubs in town — one straight, one gay. He’s not overly flamboyant (his partners definitely are), but apart from his drug problems, melodrama, and repeatedly borrowing money from the wrong people, he’s basically a good guy. So is Lopez, although his past is much more checkered. Yusuf is another great character, an extremely wealthy and over-the-top Arab who has a hankering for gold and has Luis steal some of the craziest shit (like a subway train).

The missions are often unique, and with the reintroduction of parachutes (from San Andreas), you’ll have much more varied experiences. Base jumping is addicting, even though there are only 15 jumps, as they have you land on moving vehicles or go through rings on the way down to the ground. One of the most fascinating consists of dealing with some PR problems — a blogger gave Tony’s clubs a bad review, so you “gently” persuade him to change his mind, including a dramatic scene where Luis shoves him out of the chopper, then dives after him, catches him, and lands safely, while the blogger quite literally shits himself.

There are a couple of new weapons, but for the most part, they aren’t terribly helpful (except the automatic shotgun, which was brought in from the Lost and the Damned but with new exploding ammo). The missions are more difficult at times, but not overly so — the final two missions are worth the price of admission, even if they can be very frustrating.

All in all, both new episodes are worthwhile additions to the GTA franchise. You can get them both on disc, if you don’t have your original copy, or you can download them on PSN. These aren’t new, since they’ve been on XBOX 360 for months, but they are new to PS 3 owners. The Ballad of Gay Tony is almost like GTA 4.5, and is well worth the purchase price by itself; the Lost and the Damned, although not as good, still adds great new content.

Round 1 (and 2 and 3): FIGHT!

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:55 pm

I remember how cutting edge it was when Mortal Kombat had speech! Granted, so did Double Dribble, even though it took me years to realize they were saying “Double Dribble”.

Following the format of Kevin’s post:

Cleveland needs: pretty much everything except left OT and center. Perhaps a get out of jail free card for Shaun Rogers.

Cleveland gets: DB Joe Haden, DB TJ Wilson, RB Monterrio Hardy, QB Colt McCoy, OG Shawn Lauvao.

I would have preferred Earl Thomas at #7 since Berry was gone, we just got Sheldon Brown and Eric Wright isn’t awful. However, I’m still excited that we addressed defense early on and I think Haden will be a fine cornerback.

Wilson is something of a project; given Cleveland’s horrible luck (or perhaps medical staff), I’m not sure an injury-prone safety is worth a second round pick. Will Carrol at Baseball Prospectus often says health is a skill; I think this applies to medical staffs just as much. On the plus side, if healthy, he’s almost a prototype safety — great in coverage and will smack the everliving shit out of the ball carrier.

I know next to nothing about Hardy, and unlike Wilson, the NFL Network guys were busy talking about the Broncos, despite the fact they had not picked and would not pick in the next five or six picks. I do know I’ve been screaming for an elite running back in the draft for years. He may or may not be it.

Colt McCoy was an absolute steal in the third round. The big knocks on him seem to be only mediocre arm strength and being short for a QB. The first is correctable, the second is not. I personally don’t think size matters a damn, as long as he’s tough enough to absorb hits from NFL defenders. From the little I saw of him, he does seem to have the requisite toughness. He will benefit from an excellent offensive line as well, particularly on the left side. It’s clear Delhomme will start and Wallace will be the primary backup this year; I’ve no problem letting him develop for a year or two.

Lauvao was simply filling a need, as the Browns lost both guards in the off season. I was getting tired and didn’t listen to the run down for him — I went to bed instead.

Overall, I’m fairly pleased with the draft. Cleveland’s defense is much better now. We absolutely need to find another nose tackle, since Corey Williams is gone and Shaun Rogers… well… McCoy is a project, but if it pays off, Cleveland may finally have a QB that plays for a few years instead of the revolving door we have now.

April 22, 2010

Round 1

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 10:38 pm

Buffalo needs:  good offensive linemen, big nose tackle, good quarterback, more good offensive linemen, solid tight end.

Buffalo gets:  small running back.

Yeah, CJ Spiller may turn out to be a fine running back, and he is the type of back who doesn’t need a great offensive line to work (fortunately for him!), but unless Buffalo gets some big talent in the next few rounds, _and_ gets something out of dumping Marshawn Lynch, all the hippin’ and the hoppin’ that CJ Spiller does won’t mean a thing when he’s taken down for a loss of three due to having five turnstiles* at the line.

* – Okay, I’m actually a fan of Levitre and Wood.  So three turnstiles, as long as Wood is healthy when the season begins.  Meredith is a potentially good future tackle as well, but still…

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