Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh, Snap

Hint to hedge-fund 20-somethings with scammy Internet charity sites: don't astroturf AskMetaFilter and expect to get away with it.

Heh. That's why I love that place. That, and the pancakes.

And you gotta figure that if the founders of that site are as unprincipled in person as they demonstrably are online, their "administrative costs" are probably sky-fucking-high.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Horrordays!

I'm fed up. I'm sick of this shit.

Our president is EVIL. And the Democrats are QUISLINGS.

I have nothing good to say.

Merry Fucking Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Got My Ass Handed To Me On Metafilter Today

So someone threw up a lame one-link FPP about British women vs American women. The poster probably (surely, I'd bet money on it) saw it here.

Now, MetaFilter has been abuzz for weeks with a sexism meme (which has been accompanied by all sorts of tempest-in-a-teacup internet drama like long-time members resigning and thousand-post threads). I didn't contribute a lot to those threads. I followed them, and I think I made a couple of posts in one. But I was neither instigator nor propagator. Least, I tried not to be.

Anyhoo, I was contributing to this admittedly lame thread today and suddenly one of the mods yanks it. WTF? All we were doing was piling on the author of the linked article for being a shallow dumbass.

So, being a consummately moronic individual, I go and call the mod out in MetaTalk. You know, as I write this, it becomes more and more narcissistic and masturbatory and stinking of fail and overweening irrelevance that I may not continue.

Lemme take a breath.

Needless to say, I got torn a new one.

I may revisit this post and put down some more meat as to why I called the mod out on the deletion -- I mean, it's like the mere whiff of men talking women IN ANY CAPACITY is now verboten on MetaFilter, and that's not only stupid, it's patronizing and lazy.

But I hate to be lumped with the "I'd hit it!" sexist fuckwads, which is what would happen if I said that on MetaFilter.

And I think I'll frame the issue more clearly with a bit of sleep.

Consider this post a marker. More To Come. Wait With Baited Breath, All Three Readers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

48 Seconds

...is how long it takes a Texas cop to go from pulling a car over speeding to shocking the driver with a taser.

The cop, who according to online records was hired by the force in 1994 and as of the time of the stop in November 2006 had risen to the lofty rank of corporal, one whole pay grade in 12 years, which probably tells you all you need to know about this dingus, starts off by being an asshole and then find s a whole new gear of "violent asshole" when the driver actually complains about being pulled over for doing 70 in a 65. Oh, and it's a white male cop tasing a black woman who's only other offenses besides a rinky-dink speeding charge seems to be that she didn't have a socket set to attach her rear tag, she had to fumble in her purse for her license and proof of insurance, and oh yeah, she's black and in Texas.

I shouldn't post stuff like this. It's pointless. It just jacks up my blood pressure and makes me angry and sad.

Do cops not understand that THIS IS WHY EVERYONE HATES THEM? Do they not get that a speeding ticket and an illegal tag is not grounds for ENDANGERING SOMEONE'S LIFE?

It used to be that when I'd see a cop, I'd be mildly annoyed and irritated. Now when I see a cop I'm actually afraid of getting tased, beaten, shot, or worse. That may be completely irrational. But I'm sure I'm not alone.

I'm sure it's tough to be a cop. They have risky jobs that make them do unpleasant things to unhappy people. I get that. But the attitude of cops toward the people that they have sworn to serve and protect frightens me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If You Hate The Hold Steady, Skip This

Someone please tell me why I should hate this band. Beside the fact that they do everything wrong: derivative licks, pretentious lyrics, frat-boy posturing.

I wish I hated this band. But I am not cool enough to hate this band. I love this band. I love the way they find that expansive big riff that carries the song. I love the way they shamelessly worship gesture rock. I love the way they sound like Social Distortion meets Molly Hatchett while The Fall mediates the peace talks.

I'd like to see them tour with the Drive-By Truckers, so folks could see side-by-side what a trying-to-sound-like-a-rock-band band sounds like next to a real rock band.

There's a deep sad irony in why Lucero and DBT aren't the shit yet The Hold Steady manages to garner significant press. Don't get me wrong: I love this band. Like, I play "Arms and Hearts" over and over again. I love 'em. But they have copped that hipster pose that allows them to ape authenticity without having the responsibility to back it up. DBT backs it up. And Lucero is simply too good for people to grasp until the band dies horribly or saves a baby from a well.

Leach the irony from a Hold Steady song, add pedal steel, better songwriting, and a Southern drawl and you have the Drive-By Truckers.

But DBT has been honing their craft in bars for 20 years, and The Hold Steady arose from the remains of Lifter Puller (an admittedly pretty good band)....like, Tuesday.

DBT actually thinks that there's a vernacular rock and roll that matters to people. They still exist at the locus of rock, R&B, country, and blues. The Hold Steady sees that as a pose and tries to take something from the dead parts and build a zombie out of it.

Both approaches have merit. Guys go for looks, girls go for status. That's hard to argue with.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mass Effect: Further Impressions

I had about ten hours of game play done and I kept getting my avatar's ass whipped and I realized that I was fundamentally DOING IT WRONG so I deleted all my save games and started over. Yeah, I know. But isn't that how other people play RPGs? You're not committed to that first game, right? It's just for experimental purposes, to try stuff out. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. Playing as a female vanguard instead of a male infiltrator, and enjoying the combat much more -- it's really fun to cast warp into a crowd of enemies and watch their knees buckle as they collapse to the ground. Whipping through the early plot points with the intent of getting the Normandy and accumulating as many paragon points as possible in the process, I also have taken the time to pick up a lot more Citadel quests. I thought I'd explored pretty thoroughly the first time through, but there was more to see and do.

I've scanned 20 of 21 keepers, and have no idea where the last one is (yes, I found the one in the docking bay and the one on the balcony behind the bar near the embassies). Wrex killed Fist, and I chided him for it. Garrus and the quarian have joined the team. I haven't picked up one p[arty member yet, and by the outline, I'd say it's an asari female. Don't know when she'll appear. I hope I haven't someone permabanned her by turning down a branching plotline inadvertently. I'm trying to finish all the Citadel quests before going forth to explore the galaxy, my thinking being I'll have more skillz at a higher level than I did before, so the combat should be a little easier. Or maybe I'm just a n00b who can't figure out the subtle nuance of Mass Effect's combat system.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mass Effect: Initial Impressions

Can't talk, playing Mass Effect.

I'm about three hours in. Haven't gotten command of the Normandy yet. Exploring Citadel Station and finishing the prologue. I hope that's a true indicator of the scope of the game: more than three hours to finish the prologue.

Here's my first take, which will of course change as I figure the game out and get deeper into it:

This is KOTOR on steroids. That's a good thing and a bad thing. The good: buckets of plot in which to wallow, the best NPC-conversation system yet devised, and a rich backstory that makes you feel like you're starring in a 1980s science fiction movie. The bad: talk talk talk talk talk talk, I still feel constrained by invisible walls, squad members get in my way when trying to select objects or talk to NPCs. Also, the tutorial-to-handholding ratio is weirdly skewed. There's an acre of text telling me how to use the (simple and intuitive) mission computer, but not a word anywhere about how decryption works, exactly.

The combat is odd, but fun so far. It's easy to pause the action and issue squad commands, but the targeting (or absence of) is weird, I haven't figured out how to use the sniper rifle yet, and I'd like an indicator in my HUD telling me how many medkits I have available.

Visually the game is gorgeous, and the pop-in and frame-rate stutters that other reviewers have mentioned don't seem that bad. I've yet to see the game really rev up for a big boss battle yet, so that may change.

Thoughts so far: do you like words? Lots of words? Spoken, displayed, and scrollable words? Yes? Then you'll like this game! I'm enjoying it, but I can see how people with less patience would toss away the controller. I'm looking forward to seeing how the world opens up after I get command of the starship.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Country Music Sunday

Been feeling rootsy.

Here's what's scratching the itch these days:

Dale Watson
Bobby Bare Jr.
Bradley Walker
The Meat Purveyors
Kelly Hogan (she usta be in the Jody Grind!)

I'm even rockin' rootsy:

Two Cow Garage (Warning: MySpace link)
Matt Mays and El Torpedo
The Sadies
Scott Miller and the Commonwealth

Next week I'll be back to the usual screamin' rawk, but for right now, on a gray Sunday afternoon, nothing suits the mood better than Dale Watson. Why is this guy not the biggest star in country music? Oh, that's right. Because country music isn't country anymore.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Open Letter to Mayor Langford

Hi Larry.

Congratulations on your election, until such time as it is overturned on a technicality because you don't really live in Birmingham. Of course, I don't either, and I care about the city, too. I can't really blame you for being confused by all the redistricting and gerrymandering and meandering squiggles that geographically represent money and power and influence fleeing the city limits -- you'd have to be like a county commissioner or something to figure that shit out.

You may not remember me, but a while ago I was a cashier at the Fish Market downtown and you ate there frequently. We chatted. I think you once offered me a cigarette, which I accepted, and we sat in the sun on the bench on 21st Street and talked about public transportation. I was the skinhead-looking dude. I'm different now, but that's not the point. You're different now, too. You're the Mayor.

All that hard work has finally off.

But I gotta say that I'm torn, Larry. Torn like an old sweater. On the one hand, I know you're a smart guy who's always working the angles. You're energetic and enthusiastic, and this town needs a good swift kick in the ass. On the other hand, you're the Machine, man. You've made a career out of picking up a taxpayer-funded paycheck (I know, you worked for Birmingham Budweiser, too, but was that really a job job, or was that a "job"?) and then erecting some boondoggle while raising sales taxes and swiftly moving on. We don't need a goddamn dome in Birmingham, Larry. We really don't. We need cops walking beats, we need to sell off some fucking land to the rich municipalities who want it, we need to take advantage of a crumbling but miraculously largely intact downtown infrastructure (sans Terminal Station) and make Birmingham COOL AGAIN.

That's right, cool again. When was it ever cool, you ask yourself? And I answers: it was cool when it was a filthy, unsafe, industrial cesspool full of syphilitic Greek prostitutes and steelworkers. The 1920s.

Think about it, Larry. Hookers on every corner. Cops on the take. Liquor stores and gin joints and knife fights under the gaslights along the trolley line. A simpler time, Larry. A time when the blacks lived in one-room shacks on one side of town and the whites lived in two-room shacks on the other.

OK, maybe not.

I do have some concrete suggestions, though. One: stop hiring consultants. City-wide moratorium on any new contracts. Consultants don't actually DO anything, you see, and your campaign slogan seems antithetical to that premise. Two: take your energy from the dome project and focus it on selling downtown retail space to a good grocery store/pharmacy in walking distance of the loft district. Tweak the city code and allow merchants to live above their shops again. *Waves at cousin Jimmy, defiantly living above his shop for years* Let's get a neighborhood established downtown. That means COPS HAFTA WALK BEATS, Larry. Not drive them. Bike them, maybe. Remember, city limits are gonna shrink. Three: speaking of bikes, let's figure out how to move people around more efficiently. That means sidewalks and bike lanes and stuff. It doesn't mean more parking decks and corkscrew off-ramps.

I've gone on too long, Larry, and I know you've got a lot on your plate. So I'll wish you well and let you get to work. Just, please Larry. Don't steal us blind. That's sooooo been done.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Toys For Troy

Maybe if we send Troy King something to fuck he'll stop turning his raging moralistic hard-on on us. That seems to be the thinking behind a recent "Toys For Troy" proposal, dreamed up by Alabama's finest shit-stirrer, Loretta Nall. With our lead lawman sporting major wood and gunning for Hoover's own Love Stuff, purveyor of skimpy lingerie and butt plugs, the time has come, citizens, to take matters into our own hands.

And when you're through, towel off, wash up, and finish reading this post.

There. Feel better? Cigarette?

I am trying to imagine just what it is about the sale of sex toys that has King in such a lather. As usual, my imagination is not equal to the task. Why would anyone waste tax dollars and time pursuing this? Does Troy King really think that dildos and fucksleeves and nipple clamps are a problem? Why? Is there a mad, nipple-clamped dildo bandit on the loose? That actually might explain the gaping assholes recently exhibited by a host of GOP ne'er-do-wells, but I haven't read anything about it in the papers. What's the basis for this? If not for a general fear of sex and sexuality and honesty about the naughty bits?

Troy, c'mere man. See that? No, I'm not going to touch it. That right there? That's your PENIS, Troy. And you know what else? God GAVE YOU that penis, and He made orgasms fun for a REASON. And those orgasms, Troy? WOMEN HAVE THEM, TOO! I know, huh? Who'd a thunk it? And sometimes your penis may not suffice, or perhaps you climaxed when she removed her burqua, and then she might need a little artificial stimulation. Because making women happy during sex is OK, Troy! Really, it is. And while we know that YOU have never suffered from any sort of sexual inadequacy, God forbid, others HAVE. And in order for them to stay married and keeping pushing out babies to create the great Christian army, sometimes they require ASSISTANCE. In the form of a BIG FAT BLACK VEINY DILDO.

I'm glad to see that your ban on sexual aids like Viagra and Cialis is working so well. What's that? You haven't declared war on THOSE forms of sexual assistance, just the ones that you find titillating? S'OK. I'm sure you'll get around to it.

Meanwhile, the state constitution is the laughingstock of the developed world, Northern paper companies continue to evade property taxes that would fund rural schools, Alabamians' access to hospitals and primary care doctors continues to decline while our insurance rates skyrocket, and METH LABS ARE TAKING OVER SOUTH ALABAMA.

But please, continue your crusade against sex toys. It'll make us all a harder, firmer, more tumescent state.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pop Has Eaten Itself

I'm kinda glad the cake is a lie, because there is no spoon. I was just thinking about a plate of shrimp, though.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Alabama Court Watch: Huh, What?

My main crush on teh intarwebs, Loretta Nall, has invited me to participate in the Alabama Court Watch blog, and I have accepted her gracious invitation. I have naught of value to offer besides drunkenly bilious semi-coherent bathos, so I will refrain from posting there for the time being, but know that I am hovering, always frowning in disapproval at bad grammar and sloppy spelling. So, Loretta: it should be "I and another Court Watcher attended...", not, "myself and another Court Watcher attended", for fuck's sake.

And when I was in court-mandated brainwashing and was subjected to several watch-me-pee sessions in Shelby County, I was always, without fail, offered a receipt. Never even had to ask for one, at either the court referral officer's office in Columbiana or the dank windowless warren of torture rooms that is the Shelby County Mental Health Whatchamacallit down 31 near the Alabaster city hall. And I don't remember anyone there not getting a receipt or complaining about having to ask for one. In fact, I specifically recall one time the network was down in Columbiana and dude had the old-fashioned spiral-bound carbon-copy receipt book out and had been scribbling in it all day by the looks of it. So, while human error or authoritarian malfeasance is never out of the question, I tend to think tweaker dude was lying his ass off about not getting a pee ticket.

And getting called onto the carpet and publicly humiliated by your public defender is probably good formative character development for a mopy emo kid, whatever the reason.

emo cat

So I look forward to participating in this project (largely by throwing bricks from the sidelines). I gotta ask about this, though:
Because, we are convinced that the majority of the defendants that make up the bulk of drug court case loads are adult marijuana smokers who are not breaking any laws other than possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Really? Surely there's hard data on that. Don't we pay people to keep track of this stuff? I imagine what we'll find is that marijuana is the most common illegal substance found but rarely the actual arresting offense. That's a guess, pulled directly out of my ass, but I suspect I'm right. Guy gets a DUI, cops find a roach in the ashtray. Guy gets popped selling pills, he's got a bong in his apartment. Gal picked up for public intox has a gram of kind bud in a cigarette pack. Pot's like the bonus bust for cops. No extra work, plenty of extra profit.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nerding Out In Eve

After what seemed like waaaaay too long, some Level II missions started showing up for me in Eve Online. I'm feeling cocky, rocking the Caracal, 30 million isk in the bank, another 10 or so in minerals and material back in the hangar. I figure I'm wrapping up the Level I stuff. I've got enough BPOs to replace any decently rigged Kestrel with barely a dent in my mineral inventory, so even "Worlds Collide" is cake. Got a full back-up set of the shitty low-level implants in case of poddage. Stretch those wings and fly, you Caldari mission-runner, you.

The first Level II mission I get is "Stop the Thief" or something like that. Here's how I have the Caracal fitted:

High: 1 x Heavy Assault Launcher I (Terror), 1 x Heavy Launcher I (Havoc), 2 x Compact 'Limos' Assault Launcher (Bloodclaw), 1 x Salvager I
Medium: Named Afterburner, Medium Shield Booster I, Small Shield Extender I, Shield Boost Amplifier I
Low: Power Diagnostic Unit I, Ballistic Control System I

Like an idiot, I warp to zero, and I'm in a pack of elite mercs who have chewed into my armor within seconds. (It's a fucking Caracal, so my armor is basically a thick layer of gray paint.) I kite, take two mercs out, and warp out, chastened and shaking. I was seeing red rainbows, deep in hull, and I hit warp just in time to watch what would have been a ship-destroying clot of enemy missiles sail through the empty space where I'd been a moment before. Holy shit. Maybe I need a battlecruiser to solo Level IIs.

I limp back to station and drop over 200K on ship repairs. Reload the launchers. I brood. Then, without really thinking about what I was doing, I undock and try again. This time I warp to 30K. I immediately target the nearest guy, hit the afterburner, and head away from the blinky red crosses of death. Kiting the whole lot of them works like a charm. By keeping the nearest guy locked and hitting him with the light and assault missile, I could still have the next guy out well into armor with the heavy launcher and the other light launcher. Judicious shield boosting kept me at about 3/4 shield throughout the fight. Still, pretty hairy. And no good loot!

But.

I'm gonna need better heavy launchers, and more of them, if this is what Level II missions are like. And that means they'll use more cap, which I ain't got, either. So. I can't afford to buy a Drake, much less fit it and fly it. I can run through a pretty much infinite number of humbly fitted Kestrels, but that would be suicidal, not to mention counter-productive.

And I really, really, really hate losing ships. I know, I'm playing the wrong game. But losing that Caracal, which fits out so nicely and I know so well, would really fucking suck. Especially losing it on a mission, for Pete's sake.

What to do?

I can see why people play this game without ever really playing it. Just sit in station and skill-train for three or four years until you're uber. Skills are another thing. Having purchased all the learning skills, I now feel the obsessive need to max them out, even though I know this is supremely illogical, and No Real Fun At All. I read somewhere that it takes 456% as long to train a skill to V as it does to go from I-IV. Egad. But that month I'll spend will shave a whole week off the time need to get that Titan! Yeah, right.

And this is what I really love about Eve: I'm not gonna decide right now. I'm gonna skill all the basic learning skills to IV, get all the secondary ones to III, and keep running missions until I have amassed a back-up Caracal BPO and all the assorted fitting BPOs. That's probably ten times more expensive than buying a Drake, but it suits my sit-at-the-edge-of-the-pool-with-one-toe-in-the-water style.

So by the time I buy a Drake I'll be rated to fly a Raven. That's the plan within the plan-without-a-plan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yeah, Well....

Eleven days is a long time between posts.

Fuck you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Texas Juvenile Corrections Proud Of Accomplishments

LICKSPITTLE, TX -- With the publication of a report in todays' New York Times detailing shocking squalor and violence in Texas youth detention centers, the acting director of the Texas Prisoner Creation Program proclaimed her work a success.

"By turning these potentially troubled young men and women into decidedly fucked-up adults, we have ensured a constant source of revenue for our the Texas correctional system," she declared at an impromptu press conference held atop a flaming pile of skulls. She continued, "...and this stream of wretched human cattle ready for lifelong warehousing at taxpayer expense has been achieved with as little expense as possible on the part of our partners in this enterprise, the great people at EEVL Corporation in Boca Raton, FL. Thanks for the mai tais, guys! We'll see you at the winter team-building conference!"

The agency faces state and federal investigations into sexual abuse by corrections officers, and a report disclosed October 1 states that juvenile detainees at one center were denied outside recreation for weeks at a time, fed bug-infested food, and forced to defecated into bags due to broken plumbing. But the director thinks they can do more. "Only forty-three percent of juveniles leaving our care have intestinal parasites," she stated. "Our commitment for the upcoming fiscal year is to get that number into the fifty-five to sixty percent range."

The director warned that the agency should not rest on its laurels, but must press forward with its work. "We look forward to the day that we will be able to break the spirit of every child in Texas, not just the juvenile delinquents. Only then will rich white people be safe. Thank you, and God bless Texas."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Lonesome Death of Gary Aldridge

[this is me trying to be John Prine]

Well I like to feel constricted
Though I've always been constrained
I think Jesus doesn't care about our pleasure,
just our pain

But sometimes the two slop over
and I can't tell them apart
I've got a dildo up my ass
and the Good Lord in my heart...


Won't you hold me,
won't you hold me oh so tight
Come enfold me
wrap me in the darkest night

You can say that I'm conflicted
Or that I'm a hypocrite
And you'd be right
So come enfold me,
Come and wrap me in the night...


I'm so sorry that I left you
To clean up this sordid mess
I was a good man and a father and I did my best
I guess

You deserved a whole lot better
I suppose my flock did too
but I was bound by faith and rubber
And to neither was I true so


Won't you hold me,
won't you hold me oh so tight
Come enfold me
wrap me in the darkest night

You can say that I'm conflicted
Or that I'm a hypocrite
And you'd be right
So come enfold me,
Come and wrap me in the night...

until I...

see...

stars...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rock Hall Of Fame Announces 2007 Inductees, Rush Cries Like Little Canadian Girl

No Black Flag, Husker Du, or The Minutemen, either.

Quel surprise.

But really, if they're going to put second-rate hacks like Jefferson Airplane in the Hall of Fame to please the hippies, then it's about time to start pleasing the punks, too. And for that matter, if you're going to include Willie Dixon and Leadbelly, how about Mother Maybelle Carter and Vassar Clements?

*looks at inductee list further*

That Madonna and the Beasties get in before Minor Threat and Bad Brains is a travesty, veritable proof of a godless, cold, mechanistic universe aligned against the forces of good music.

And Jesus God, the fucking Eagles. But no Warren Zevon.

And Clapton gets two gift baskets, I guess, as a solo artist and with Cream. Wait, three, the Yardbirds are in also. Fuck Eric fucking Clapton.

And now I notice as I pore once more over the illustrious roll of inductees, an obvious and glaring omission: The Stooges. Now I get it! It's a scam, designed to get people to visit Cleveland!

From their website:
Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.

The Foundation’s nominating committee, composed of rock and roll historians, selects nominees each year in the Performer category. Ballots are then sent to an international voting body of more than 500 rock experts. Those performers who receive the highest number of votes - and more than 50 percent of the vote - are inducted. The Foundation generally inducts five to seven performers each year.
Yet nowhere is the term "rock expert" defined. Hmm. That's shifty. And you know, I'm such a dork that I actually wondered how much real research is getting done behind those glittery walls? Just for a sec, tho. Of course, the hall seems content to be more of an archival resource and party palace than a real museum where real academics do real work. And I'm glad they boast holdings of "virtually every song of every performer inductee" but don't we already have that? It's called teh intarnet.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In Which Nick Saban Outcoaches ESPN

Live-blogging the Bama/Georgia game.

Note to ESPN camera and production crews: Tuscaloosa is a vibrant, colorful place that is no doubt filled with interesting people and vibrant images. The football game, however, is happening in that big stadium over there. You might want to put a camera on it.

Throughout the first half of the game, ESPN cut away to tailgate parties and crowd shots during the middle of drives. Then they'd abruptly cut back to a pile of players heaped on the field, and the announcers would be forced to tell us what we just missed.

I know you guys are accustomed to Alabama football proceeding in geologic time, but it's a new era. They might run a hurry-up. Especially when, yuh know, there's two minutes left in the half. Keep cameras on feeld, plz. Kthxbai.

Leigh Tiffin sucks. OK, he hit the field goal at the end of the second quarter. Hooray. He'll miss one before the game is over. Maybe at the end of his college career he can start a consulting service with Scott "Wide Right" Norwood.

Oh, wait, Scott Norwood was GOOD in college, that's how come he got to miss field goals in Super Bowls. Leigh Tiffin will be selling used ATVs from a dirt lot in Wetumpka. (Bad Bama QBs become car salesmen, so I guess bad kickers get slotted slightly further down.)

Pass interference on Simeon Castille. I call bullshit on that, he was going for the ball and he never altered the receiver's body position. Bulldogs score on the next play. Alabama secondary's arms becoming more and more alligator-like. Ruh-roh.

If Alabama's offense can't put together some time-eating drives and let the defense rest, this could get ugly. Punt punt punt downs punt punt.

C'mon, Saban, they're sitting back in the zone. Screen pass! There we go. Oh well, Bama punts. I smell a trend.

Later: uh-oh. Down by ten with less than 12 minutes left. Gotta get movin', guys.

Wow, what a catch over the middle by Keith Brown. And a nice call on the next play, too. Let's see if they can sustain it.

Oh, wait, first let's cut away to an update. ESPN, I hate you.

From second and inches to 4th and a bunch. WTF? Fourth-down try fails, Georgia ball. Or not! Huh? DJ Hall was NOT out-of-bounds. Suddenly, I like instant replay in college ball. This replay is taking forever. At least they get it right: first and goal on the seven.

Gah, field goal.

Stop the run, Bama. Stop the run. Nope. First down. Dammit. Then the defense shows up, Georgia punts. Cool.

Dude, Keith Brown ROCKS. Hellz yeah.

Wow, Bama isn't folding like a stale cracker. Maybe these folks are getting their $4 million worth. TOUCHDOWN!!!!!

And the game is tied. Huh. Whuddya know.

It must be like a jet taking off in that stadium right now.

Well, fuck. Hooooo. Field goal went wide. We're goin' to OT!

And then in OT, Leigh Tiffin......MAKES a field goal. And the announcers start talking about.....Britney Spears. They are on drugs, and I am not, and this makes me sad.

First snap from Georgia in OT: touchdown. Game over.

Oh well.

I'm tired of writing this, anyway.

A Taste Of Eve Online Banter

Shadow XII > Hello. Just testing your signature radius
Angel Rio > stop it
Shadow XII > Just testing your shields
Angel Rio > seriously, stop.
Angel Rio > OMG! STOP SHOOTING
Shadow XII > Just testing your armor.
Angel Rio > STOP SHOOTING ME DAMMIT
SShadow XII > Just testing your structure.
Angel Rio > OMG
Shadow XII > Just testing your pod.
Angel Rio > WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT FOR?
Shadow XII > You failed the test. Good day.


.....courtesy of omgrawr.net. Actually, I stole it from them, so there was no courtesy involved.

Funny, though. No one talks in local in the system I'm usually mining in. Paranoia is a side-effect of Eve's gameplay mechanics. I gues once I have some ships and isk in the bank I'll be a bit more free-wheeling.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In Which I Preach Wisdom To Ancient Republicans And Fail Miserably

So it's seven in the morning and I'm having coffee with my neighbors. We're enjoying the perfect weather, the cats gamboling across the grass, the blooms on the butterfly bush. I, of course, have been up all night, drinking.

But I'm neither swaying nor incoherent. Indeed, I'd barely begun my binge by 3 AM, at which time I caught a cab and went to Marty's for some sorely needed shots of Bushmills. Insomnia and available credit is a combinatorial bitch.

My 85-year-old neighbor asks me who I'm going to vote for. I know better. This woman is slightly to the right of Hitler and thinks the New Deal opened the door for a socialized America. I should ease off and slowly step away. But no, I'm wearing tattered jeans, a ponytail, a bushy beard, and a T-shirt that sez "I JOINED DAN SARTAIN" with a picture of dude blowing his head off. Rawk. So I respond, just to piss her off, "Ron Paul, of course!"

She shakes her head sadly.

"Who are you supporting?" I ask, not really wanting to know.

"Romney!"

"Really? Even though he's a member of a polygamous cult that believes we all become gods of our own personal planet if we heed to the rantings of a racist 19th-century illiterate?" I wish that were a paraphrase, but it ain't.

"No, he's going to be tough on terrorists. He wants to expand Guantanamo."

After collecting the shards that resulted from my head exploding, I responded.

"You know that habeus corpus has been suspended by edict under this administration, right?"

"No. What's that?"

I explain to her that prior to the Bush administration she had the right to an attorney and a trial by a jury of her peers, just like it sez in the FUCKING CONSTITUTION, YOU STUPID BITCH, AND NOW YOU DON'T.

OK, I left out that last bit, at least the cussing and capitalization part.

"Well, that just applies to terrorists."

No, that applies to anyone the US government SEZ is a terrorist, whether you're a bomb-strapped raghead or a bong-clasped pothead. We've ceded those distinctions to a government that is out of control, out of line, out of ideas, out of smarts.

"Well, I'm 85. They can just come arrest me whenever," she snickered.

So I choked her to death. OK, not really. But I wanted to.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Don't Drink Don't Smoke, What Do You Do? Oh, Yeah, Fuck Like Rabbits

Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in Mobile County are TWICE as high as in Washington, DC and THREE TIMES as high as in that latter-day Sodom, New York City. According to public health officials, that means that 1 in every 87 people in Mobile County have one of these STDs.

How's that abstinence-based sex ed workin' out down there, y'all? Itchy, ain't it?

Condoms in schools aren't a moral issue, people! They're a matter of public health.

I wonder if our state legislators practice fiscal abstinence when confronted with a sexy, willing spending bill? Or do they just fuck the shit out of it and feel guilty afterwards?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why I Love YouTube



Conway Twitty and The Residents.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I Know More About Rock'n'Roll Than You Ever Will, Part One Of Many

Why's Tool so cool, but none of their indie fans have ever heard of Neurosis? You know the fans I mean: the we-got-here-via-The-Pixies, tiny-glasses-wearing, retro-tattoo-sporting, I-never-liked-metal-except-for-Master-Of-Puppets-and-then-I-was-on-shrooms kinda hipsters?

Them?

Well, fuck 'em.

I'll put Given To The Rising up against any Tool record. It's bolder, chancier, and more coherent a piece of music than anything Tool has ever made. And yes, I HAVE listened to all of it, both Given To The Rising and Tool's catalog. I don't hate Tool; I'm glad they're there. I'm not a big fan, but I'm first to admit that they're better than 90% of what passes for rock music. Nothing wrong with Tool at all, or A Perfect Circle, for that matter. And I know personally that Tool has done a bit of dues-paying, in that I saw The Melvins open for them on a nasty, windy, rainy night at what was then Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. I was trashed, and spent the whole Tool show hollering, "Bring back the Melvins!", much to the dismay of the people I was with.

*looks knowingly at Chappy*

But here's Neurosis, steadfastly doing their own thing, running their own label, spawning their own whole genre of heavy music. Fugazi gets nominated for sainthood for that shit. And much of Neurot's catalog, unlike Dischord's, is damned good.

But Tool's somehow carrying the torch. I don't get it. I guess that doesn't fit the narrative, the comfortable story. There's a comfortable indie rock story, just like there's a comfortable Iraq war story and a comfortable election story and a comfortable that-cunt-in-a-hat-from-The-Libertines-gets-his-cat-high-on-crack story.

I think there's some weird anti-prog-post-punk backlash going on.

MMO Pony Request

Beta impressions of uberdork Richard Garriot's new MMO, Tabula Rasa, are in. Results are, well, mixed...leaning toward meh.

Props to the developer for trying something different, but barring major tweaky from now until launch, the game sounds dead on arrival. NCSoft has deep pockets, so maybe not dead, but on life support.

CCP should buy it and work it into Eve Online.

OK, I know. I just blew your mind. Take a moment. Think about it.

What do Eve players want, more than cheese, more than a unicorn fucking a rainbow? They want to walk around. They want to be more than a ship.

What is Tabula Rasa? It's a sci-fi pseudo-FPS that's about an alien invasion. It's about walking around. While fighting, sounds like, but still walking around. In a science fiction-y kinda way.

OK. What does Eve have more of than any other game ever created in the history of human civilization? Give up? I'll tell you: empty space. Some of which is filled with moons and planets that are little more than a) places to warp to when you're getting your ass kicked; b) a handy bookmark for dropping a can of goodies for your corp; c) pretty.

What if your ship scanner could detect, say, evidence of life on a planet? Maybe you could land there, or teleport there, or ride a unicorn-fucked rainbow down to the surface. And there you would find the Bane, the baddies, the invading BEMs. And you could fight them. While walking around. Or maybe, there's no Bane there, just a dusty field with a bored tower controller and a seedy brothel upstairs from a bar selling crunk juice in front and illegal implants in back. Or just a field, with a couple of curious three-eyed lizard-like animals chewing their cud and swatting flies. Or a barren moonscape that seems empty until a dropship of Bane soldiers roars overhead.

Nifty.

And Eve could continue to be the hardass MMO that we know and love. Like, who's guarding your ship while you're on the planet? I assume it would be orbiting, awaiting your command. Hmm, tempting. Die battling the Bane? Surely your clone is up-to-date. Maybe asymmetric instancing, too: you find a Bane planet, land, and you wipe in a single blow. Mark it up to experience, and come back later, after finding an easier planet to conquer. Or send your more-experienced corp buddies to clean the place up.

Of course, I have no idea how this could work, or even if it's possible. I could spout some nonsense about instancing and servers and shit, bit I don't really know what I'm talking about.

But, wouldn't that be COOL?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Marching Bands Are Cool, Sometimes Even When Not Marching


Yes, that's Coltrane they're playing.

The New York Times again delights in discovering a phenomenon Southerners have known forever:
“We have the great drumline and the high caliber of music,” said Tory Randle, a mellophone player in the [Prairie View A&M "Marching Storm"]. “Up North, they’re just pretty. We’re mean, too.”
Yes, Southern HBCU marching bands rock. Well, duh. And it's hot down here, and the food's really tasty but bad for you. Tell us something we don't know.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Can Rick Rubin Save The Music Business? Um, No.

Rick Rubin is the luckiest man in the world. He has risen, bemused and Buddha-like, to the apex of the music industry, charged with the lofty goal of transforming the industry itself. He has risen on the strength of that most ineffable quality: taste. Rick Rubin has good taste. He does not deign to twiddle knobs. He does not deign to play an instrument. He does not deign to have a desk, phone, or office. His job is to just show up and drop the knowledge. Because he's Rick Rubin, see?

So they think his impeccable taste is going to save the industry. This guy produced the third Slipknot record, people. What are y'all thinking? OK, Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" excuses a multitude of sins, but still...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Translation Assistance

Hope you don't need this page, but it's always best to be prepared.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Suggestion For My Atlanta Falcons

....go 0-16 and take Colt Brennan with the first pick of the 2008 draft.

Ten Years For Nothing

People have forgotten about Steve Tucker.

It's because he was in prison for ten years for the crime of "conspiracy to manufacture marijuana", a federal crime that he was prosecuted for despite there being no evidence that he had owned, possessed, used, sold, or transported marijuana. All Steve Tucker did was work at his brother's hydroponics store.

Oh, and he told a DEA agent who wanted to put hidden cameras in the store to go fuck himself.

And it wasn't just Steve. His brother, Gary, died of cancer after being neglected and not getting medical help while serving a 16-year-sentence. Gary's wife, whose only involvement was to do the store's books part-time, was imprisoned, too.

Because they were selling light bulbs. Because they wouldn't roll over and cave in to the threats of DEA thugs.

Click the title for the full story.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We Resemble This Remark

Leadership in this society here would naturally fall to the paranoids. . . . But you see, with paranoids establishing the ideology, the dominant emotional theme would be hate. Actually hate going in two directions; the leadership would hate everyone outside its enclave, and also would take for granted that everyone hated it in return. Therefore their entire so-called foreign policy would be to establish mechanisms by which this supposed hatred directed at them could be fought. And this would involve the entire society in an illusory struggle, a battle against foes that didn’t exist for a victory over nothing.
--Philip K. Dick, Clans of the Alphane Moon, 1964

I stole the quote from an interesting rumination on Dick by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker which comemmorates the publication of some of Dick's best work by the Library of America.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove Resigns, Sees Opportunities To Maximize Evil In Private Sector


I have grave doubts about this. From today's New York Times article:
...from the time he leaves office, Mr. Rove will no longer have the protection of White House lawyers and will be more on his own when it comes to dealing with Congressional subpoenas
Well, sure, but Bush will just command him not to testify about anything. How convenient. And when he was asked in today's Wall Street Journal whether he was leaving office to avoid scrutiny, Rove replied,"I’m not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob.”

Hi Karl, we're the mob. And while we are provisionally pleased that you are leaving, we have doubts as to whether that matters much at all. Because you'll always be a phone call away from W, who just don't know how to function without his beloved Turdblossom. And now that you're in the "private sector" you can drop even the pretense of conforming to any sort of normative ethical standards.

And the "spending more time with my family" excuse has really become a ritualistic slap in the face.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Get With The Times, NFL

It's 102º outside and football season is almost upon us. Thus, an overheated post about the NFL and the DMCA.

Law professor Wendy Seltzer brilliantly demonstred the down-the-rabbit-hole absurdity of the state of intellectual property law by posting a clip of an NFL broadcast to YouTube for her students' reference. The clip in question is that exact paragraph that NFL fans have mocked as long as it's been on TV -- you know, when the solemn voice intones:
"This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent, is prohibited."
She posts this to YouTube as an example to her class of a copyright holder overstepping their bounds; think about it -- they're essentially saying that you need their permission to discuss the game with your friends the next day.

And here's where we go down the rabbit hole. Prof. Seltzer is explicitly demonstrating the ideas behind the principle of fair use to her class, so what does the NFL do? Yup, they send YouTube a DMCA takedown notice and YouTube pulls the video. So Prof. Seltzer sends YouTube a counter-notification (.pdf). They put the clip back up.

Great, system worked, right?

Not exactly. Twelve days after the clip was put back up, the NFL sent another takedown notice, and YouTube pulled the clip again. So the NFL leans on YouTube twice to get them to take down an example of how the NFL was already over-reaching as a claimant of copyright. Head-spinning yet?

Well, it just gets worse. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (a trade group with members like Google, Yahoo!, Red Hat, Oracle and Sun that has a sunnily positive attitude toward use of copyrighted material) has petitioned the FCC, and blogs are busily overthinking the matter.

Seems like if the second sentence of the NFL disclaimer read "Any other unauthorized use.." that'd take fair use into account and everyone would be happy. I guess that's too simple.

And in a similar vein: If you are a baseball fan and a stats freak, you have great resources available online. I can lose an afternoon playing with this site, and I'm not even that big a fan.

There's no similar repository for football information, though this site comes close. Or you can get some basic stuff straight from the league. But I'll bet they wouldn't be pleased if I scraped their site and dumped the data into, say, an Excel spreadsheet I could use for fantasy football and team tracking. Why not? That's a perfectly legitimate use of the data, and as long as I'm not selling the spreadsheet, what's the problem?

The problem is that all the major sports statistics are compiled by one company, the Elias Sports Bureau, and they don't let just anyone have it. In fact, their website is like a brick fucking wall that says, "Move along, nothing here to see." So fans have to compile their own stats, and there is no quality control over that data other than a good faith effort.

This is stupid. For every game in every league, there should be a an official file of stats that is not only available but useable by anyone.

So let's start a blog crusade, sports fans! FREE THE STATS!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Agoraphobia! Or Maybe I'm Just Lazy. Or Both.

I find myself increasing reluctant to leave the house. I've never been the hermit type, but with Mom pretty much housebound I find fewer and fewer reasons to go anywhere. I make it to the bank, the post office, and the grocery store, but every excursion is coming to seem like an adrenalin-fueled white-knuckled ordeal instead of just running to the store to buy milk, eggs, and bread.

I hate answering the phone (so I don't), I jump when the doorbell rings, and my daily human contact is usually mediated through the Internet.

That can't be healthy. But I can't join a gym -- when would I go? I'm sure not going to church or signing up for pottery classes. And pretty soon the few friends I have will stop calling when they realize I never answer my cell phone, which has been set to silently vibrate for weeks now.

Oh well. Poor poor me.

Huh. As I typed that, my cell phone rang, and it was my pal Ace who is down here from Yonkers for a couple of weeks to see his parents. He's coming back from Apalachacola and is going to swing by to see me and Mom. Cool! Socialization, and I don't have to leave the house! Best of all possible worlds!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ending Before It Even Begins



Tyrone Prothro's professional career, that is. With the fifth-year senior being declared "medically ineligible" to play this season, hopes dim that the standout wide reciever and kick returner will ever be able to play football again. Does anyone besides me remember that Alabama had a 31-3 lead over Florida in the middle of the fourth quarter when Shula put Prothro back in? Snaptacular call, Mike. To celebrate what could have been, view the highlight reel, above.

Friday, August 03, 2007

RSSkolnikov

Always wanted to read Crime and Punishment but can't find the time? Break Dostoevsky's 1866 meditation on murder and madness (which was, after all, originally published in serial form) into a more manageable 241 parts and read one a day in your RSS feed at DailyLit.

This is totally gimmicky, but it may be the only way I'll ever be able to make myself read Middlemarch.

On the other hand, it'll be nice to have these guys waiting for me in my browser...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How's Your House?





This video by Ian Hunter is one of several promoting the New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund. All proceeds from album sales go to helping musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Touchstones

Now that I have an iPod, I've found it interesting to track the stuff that I keep coming back to over and over. So, here's my list, the ten songs that keep recirculating:

1. Stiff Little Fingers -- Suspect Device. This might be the greatest punk song of all time. Every note shreds, the vocals are a desperate scream, and the whole thing seems somehow empowering.

2. Drive-By Truckers -- Gravity's Gone. This is the perfect pop tune: achy, knowing, smart, nostalgic. I fucking love this song. Cooley rules.

3. Russian Circles -- Carpe. Metal for smart people, background music for a massacre, whatever. The way this song builds and shifts is brilliant.

4. Glenn Gould -- Bach's Goldberg Variations. OK, that's a bunch of music, but I return to it over and over again because it clears my head and gives me faith in the fact that people can create universal beauty.

5. Minutemen -- Jesus and Tequila. As clear a statement of purpose as I need.

6. Dexateens -- Neil Armstrong. Stupid, happy pop that makes me smile.

7. Eels -- Bus Stop Boxer. Cathartic, eleegaic electronica that seems to reach out and encompass the world.

8. Godspeed You Black Emperor! -- Terrible Canyons of Static. The beginning, middle, and end of every thirty minute drive. I wish I could tell you why I like this so much. It just tugs at me.

9. Lucero -- Watch It Burn. Chunka-chunka guitars, with just the right amount of sneering. Sincere, knowing, and catchy. Actually, this whole record trips my trigger.

10. Shane MacGowan and the Popes -- Danny Boy. Yeah, that song. I cry every time. I want it played at my funeral.

What're y'all listening to?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rawk!

Best cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" EVAR!!!!!1!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Damn! Now I Hafta Be Smart Again!

Alabama's favorite libertarian gubernatorial candidate gave me a shout-out on her blog today, so I'm expecting whopping double-digit pageloads (no offense, Loretta) as curious folks check the blog out, read a few of my moronic dribblings about videogames, and never come back. For those who got here via my recent comment at Docs Political Parlor, there's lotsa stuff in the archive that goes into almost physically painful detail about my experience with Shelby County and its stellar and effective law enforcement community. Check it out, some of it's even funny.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Indie Rock: How To Age Clumsily

Listen up, 25-year-olds. Ima drop da knowledge bout what's fidna happen to y'all in the next 15 years (musical-taste-wise):

Next five years: Bands get lamer. Nobody's doing anything interesting. Old bands you liked in high school and college have broken up, except for the sell-outs, who still cough up a good song or two. That ex who listened to jazz wasn't so bad, except for the heroin. You get some Miles Davis.

Subsequent five years: All this shit sucks. Everything everyone else knows about popular music is wrong, wrong, wrong. You know -- you have perspective. You get some Bach, but you don't play it around your friends.

The meteor of age 40 strikes planet You: Maybe the music of the past few years hasn't been THAT bad. Younger people seem to like it. Maybe there's some of it you didn't hear that doesn't totally suck. You are adrift. Tastes have irrevocably shifted, and you are No Longer Cool. You try, you struggle, you fail. Some of the stuff you hear is, in fact, good music, but it's derivative: it echoes the stuff you liked twenty years ago.

You sigh, and listen to The Book of Knots.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Demonstrable Results Of Becoming Irate

Before she got sick, my mom subscribed to everything. Magazines great and small, specialty coffee, catalogs, sweepstakes, the whole rich panoply of American junk mail spewed forth from her mailbox six days a week. I've spent the past year trying to get out from under that deluge, and I've been reasonably successful. Usually a "cancel my account" note dropped in the payment envelope suffices, and though I did have to go a couple of rounds with some particularly pernicious and weaselly magazine subscription services, on the whole it hasn't been that hard to stop the crap cavalcade.

Except for that damned coffee company. For months I wrote "CANCEL MY ACCOUNT" in big red letters on the bills. I marked all their deliveries "Return To Sender" and dropped them back off at the post office. I called customer service and got friendly, perky people to assure me that the account was cancelled and to provide me with cancellation numbers that subsequent friendly, perky people claimed not to be able to recognize. Still the packages came.

Until they didn't.

Last November, I thought they had gotten the message. The packages of Hazelnut Dream and French Roast Very Special ceased. Cool, I thought.

Then today, I come back from running errands and there's a big fucking box from the coffee company on the front porch. "Welcome to [Shitty Coffee Company I Refuse To Advertise For]!" said the big letters on the box. Attached, of course, was an invoice. Now, I know for a fact that I have personally gotten the mail out of the mailbox every single day since I've been taking care of mom. I have to; that's the only way the bills get paid. And I know for a fact that I have gleefully fed to the paper shredder every single beseeching piece of promotional material from Shitty Coffee Company since we canceled the account.

So this company is obviously hallucinating if it thinks anyone at this address ordered this crap.

I get on the horn to customer service and within moments of connecting to an actual human being (a lengthy but tedious process I shan't dwell on here) I am catapulted into full-blown, vein-in-the-temple-throbbing, shouting rage. It went something like this, but with more swearing and exclamation points:

No, I don't want to add to my order. I want to send this Shitty Coffee back to you, at your expense, and have you never contact me again. I will remain on the phone with you until you, or your boss, or your boss' boss makes this happen. No, like I said, I do not want to CHANGE my order. I do not have an order, and I should not have an account. I am not paying for your Shitty Coffee, young lady, and I'm sorry if I'm yelling but your company's idea of customer service is Chinese water torture and I refuse to have anything else to do with you and raising my voice, I've found, is a convenient way of adding emphasis.

No, I do not wish to keep the free coffee-maker. In fact, I wish to glass you in the face with the free coffee-maker. No, I'm sorry, that's not true, I understand you are simply a representative for a larger entity that needs to be glassed in the face.

Long story short, I got another confirmation number, her name, her boss' name, and other information that will prove useless when they send me a second notice next month. But that is then; and now, my rage expended, basking in the almost post-orgasmic euphoria of a customer-service-induced hissy-fit, I think I'll go take a nap.

And I'm totally keeping the coffee-maker.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Armchair Astronomy

When you've finished correcting Wikipedia and you've done your time in the virtual sweatshop of Amazon's Mechanical Turk, take a few minutes out of your day to do some deep-space astronomy by helping the good folks at Galaxy Zoo classify some galaxies.

There's millions of pictures of them, and humans are better than computers at classifying them. So if we all pitch in and do a few, we can get them all sorted. The site walks you through a five-minute tutorial showing you how to sort out the images, then you just click through them. Pretty easy, kinda dull, but then you realize that the chances are good that the picutre you're looking at is of an object in the universe probably never before seen by human eyes.

That's cool.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grow Pot? You're A Terrorist!

According to the US "drug czar", pot growers in northern California are violent criminal terrorists who "wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get ino the country with the aim of causing mass casualties". Meanwhile, it appears that 4 months before the September 11th attacks, the Bush adminstration gave the Taliban 43 million dollars because they said something dramatic about cutting opium production, all the while doing precisely the opposite.

I propose that northern California pot growers make some sort of public announcement about how much Jesus hates weed. The ensuing torrent of cash from the Bush administration should guarantee bumper crops for years to come. Because nobody makes rational public policy decisions like a bunch of misguided, self-righteous, willfully ignorant assholes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Podkilled!

I know. It's my own damn fault for taking a tiny little Cormorant into 0.0 space. I figured I'd take a peek, turn tail, and warp back. No chance. Webbed and ganked within 5 seconds, the ship going kablooey well before I could even get her turned. Didn't get a shot off. I was dead before I could target lock.

Now THAT'S humiliating.

So, needless to say, I've sworn eternal revenge etc etc etc. Ship was insured, clone up-to-date, so all I really lost was the million isk or so it'll take to kit out a new cormorant and the time it'll take to fly around buying all those modules and getting back to the right side of the freaking universe. In other words, a few minutes of curiosity lost me about three or four days of game progress. Eve is harsh.

But I SO look forward to dealing out that kind of grief to other players in the months to come.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bad Week For Rich Kids (The Ones On Pills, That Is)

First Al Gore III and now Brandon Scrushy.

Gore got stopped while speeding: stupid. Scrushy had the Shelby County Goon Squad come crashing in. Dude. And he and his three friends had about 3000 pills. DUDE.

Maybe Daddy's friend Jesus can help, but I fucking doubt it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

Dear outside world,

I have started playing Eve Online. If you do not hear from me in weeks, please save me, and come prepared to hose the Cheez-Its off my bloated form and pry my eyeballs off the screen and my hands from the keyboard.

Eve has been described as a spreadsheet simulator with a near-vertical learning curve. It is true that if you get right down to it, the game could be played in Excel with a timer.

But it's real purty. And it's soothing. Much of the game involves doing absolutely nothing at all, a skill at which I excel. Figuring out a 7-jump trade route and then sitting back, clicking auto-pilot, and watching the scenery roll by is immensely satisfying. It's also convenient for me, as I'm simultaneously playing the game and keeping an eye on Mom. She likes looking at the planets going by, and I can park my ship in station and fix her lunch, take her for a walk, and get her cozy for an afternoon nap while I train a skill and my market orders tick down.

Did I mention there's a market? Yeah, and not just a go-repair-your-armor-and-buy- more-arrows-and-healing-potions market. The market is the heart of the game. Want to use rocket launchers? Go to the market and buy the skill, the launcher, and the rockets. Could be that a player made the launcher and the rockets. Could be that you notice that four jumps away, rockets are selling for a lot cheaper, so you go there, equip, fill your cargo hold, jump back, and sell the surplus at a profit. There's an escrow market, too, and an ersatz futures market. (NB: I don't really know what I'm talking about.) But some of the fun of the game is logistical. Buying low and selling high pleases the Scotsman/Jew/Chinese capitalist in me.

Of course, to get your goods to market, you might hafta jump through some pretty unpleasant places. Space in Eve is a) completely fucking huge and b) mostly dangerous. Security ranges from 1.0 to 0.0, with 1.0 being safe as houses and 0.0 the Wild Wild West.

Doesn't matter, right? I'm playing an MMO, where death is a minor hiccup, a matter of "resting" and repairing, right? Wrong. Eve ain't like that. In Eve, "you" are basically whichever ship you're in at the time. You can own as many as you please, and you can leave them scattered all over the universe. You get ganked, you lose your ship, your cargo, whatever modules were on the ship, and the respect of your friends. "You" float away in a tiny little escape pod.

That other players can target. And kill you dead.

Or not. Because they may be merciful, or you may (you should) have a clone. You hafta buy clones as you age in Eve, because they'll only hold so many skill points and skills=time. So death, which can come at ANY MOMENT, has grave consequnces. It's expensive, inconvenient, and embarrassing.

And it's clever, with all the good and bad connotations of that word. For instance, there are no levels or classes in Eve. There's just a skill-tree that's beyond complicated, that's interwoven with every single useable item and which (get this) you train ONE SKILL at a time. On a real-life tick-tick-tick TIMER. Like, to train Gunnery I may take fifteen minutes. To train Gunnery V? That may take a WEEK. Not an in-game, time-flashes-by week, a real 7-day, 168-hour week.

Well, that sounds stupid, doesn't it?

It isn't. It works, in several ways. It means you can be God of Rocket Launchers without spending six months getting to Level 40. But you won't be able to do much else. So it encourages cooperative play. Corps ("guilds" elsewhere) are a huge part of Eve, and struggle titanically for control of unclaimed star systems. Fleet actions involving 200 ships have happened.

And that's another cool thing. Eve Online is one world, there are no "shards". Every person in the world (excluding China, who get their own server for undoubtedly odious political reasons) plays in the same game space. You may log in one day and find that your normal gravy-train trade route is borked due to internecine corp warfare. It's not uncommon to flit through system, check the local channel, and see Cyrillic characters fillng the chat window. So because it's one world, what you do MATTERS. You could, theoretically, corner the market on livestock or narcotics. You could band with your corp buddies and go on a region-wide bloodbath. You could never leave the noob system you start in, do nothing but mine the asteroid belts, and grow extremely rich (and bored).

I'm reporting this like the game was released today; I know it's like five years old. But, I'm new to the party, so it all seems new to me.

Expect a bitchy mournful update when I lose my first battlecruiser to some 14-year-old.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

In Case You Were Enjoying Your Day

...allow me to direct your attention to the Most Depressing Webpage Ever. (Flash)

I like to just leave that page up and weep silently. S'fun. Go ahead, stare at it for a second. Did the "earth temperature" and "barrels of oil" figures make you wanna scratch your eyes out? It did me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Guv Sez: Pray For Rain

I hear that he's also planning on declaring July 8-14 Rend One's Garments and Lament Unto the Heavens Week.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Random Weekend Thoughts

When Barry Bonds hits homer #756, baseball fans everywhere should go out and buy Ken Griffey Jr. jerseys.

Speaking of baseball, Braves' manager Bobby Cox got ejected from his 131st major league game recently, tying the record. He should totally shoot for 162. That'd be a whole season of asshattery.

Why do people think Drive-By Truckers are a jam band? I'm kinda glad they do, though, because there's a shitload of live shows available for my listening pleasure. Stupid hippies. DBT = Punk As Fuck. OK. Maybe not. But they rawk, and jam bands do not rawk, by definition. If you disagree with this, you do not know the rawk.

Speaking of music, Russian Circles sounds like Slint playing metal. This is a Good Thing.

Why isn't Birmingham radio playing The Dexateens? Oh, yeah. Because Birmingham radio sucks big burlap bags of cocks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"You and I"? OK, She Wants To Lose

Hillary Clinton is many things, but she is not an idiot. So the choice of a Celine Dion song as her campaign thene song is puzzling.

I mean, I really don't get it. NO ONE likes Celine Dion. NO ONE. Even the people who like Celine Dion don't really like Celine Dion. Plus, she's French-Canadian. And, she looks like the bastard daughter of Barbra Streisand and Mr. Ed. And her voice makes baby Jesus cry.

But even if Celine Dion were the coolest, hippest, most au-courant artiste imaginable, "You and I" would still be a terrible choice for a campaign song. The title alone smacks of the kind of condescention and pandering that everyone hates about Hillary to begin with. Does she really think this song is going to inspire anyone? Or is it just a transparent ploy to seem somehow less of a sharp-elbowed political hack? Either way, it's disingenuous.

I'm not saying she needs to roll out a Shadow's Fall tune and start banging her immaculately-coiffed head, but....jeez. Celine Dion? Really? REALLY?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Those Thievin' Albanians!

Watch our President get his wristwatch stolen by someone in the adoring Albanian crowd. The theft happens between :54 and 1:02 on the video, and it's clearly visible if you watch closely. You'll see a man's hand slide down the President's arm to steady it as he removes the watch, a classic pickpocket technique.



Of course, the White House press office is saying, "Who you gonna believe? Us, or your lyin' eyes?" because I guess it's important to not offend Albanians now....and funnily enough they have about three versions of the story going around, I guess to see which one tests better. If anyone still needs convincing that this administration's reflexive position is to LIE need look no further than AlbanianWristwatchGate. Why not just say, "Yes, someone in the large crowd stole the President's wristwatch while he was shaking hands. Next question." Because they are TERRIFIED that someone would look at that and see weakness or bumbling, and it is better to LIE than to be perceived as a weak bumbler, especially when you are, in fact, a weak bumbler.

Smart people grow out of this mindset by middle school.

(Random Albanian jokes: Why's the Albanian economy in crisis? Their donkey died! How do you stop the Albanian war machine? Shoot the soldier who's pushing it!)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Drink Up Kids, Mommy's Got To Step Out For A Bit

A stay-at-home mom gets 27 months in jail for providing booze for a party of teenagers during which:

A) No one tested was legally intoxicated.

B) No one present was allowed to leave, much less drive.

WHAT THE FUCK HAS BEEN SUBSTITUTED FOR OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM?

Should she be prosecuted for providing alcohol to a minor? Sure, and given probation. But 27 months in jail?

Don't we have better ways of using our community resources?

Oh, that's right -- the prosecutor has to get re-elected.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Dammit

I get everything squared away, all chores done, I sit down, and I'm ready to play LOTRO.

The servers are down.

Dammit.

Rock For Light

Do some good and get a rocking tune: Green Day's cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" is on iTunes. Your dollar (less one cent) goes to Amnesty International.

It's actually better than I expected it to be.

Favorite New Band

Lucero.

I hate the fact that I missed these guys opening for DBT last winter. I've made up for it by plopping down cool green on everything available from them on iTunes.

They really scratch my alt-Skynard itch. Countrified rock songs, or rockified country songs? All I know is that whiskey rasp and twang makes me wanna drive fast and howl at the moon.



Love Ben's comment in the interview: "I don't mind ripping Bruce Springsteen off. That's not done enough nowadays."

Prettiest Girl At The Dance

Beware: dorky gaming post ahead.

I worked my first toon up to 20th level and became increasingly irritated. Hunters are useless against multiple mobs, and frustrating in fellowships because all the mobs will gallop past the champs and guards to get to Mr. Feeble, the hunter. This is NO FUN, so I started a second guy with the idea that I would go in a completely opposite direction.

So I rolled up a dwarf minstrel, and the game is fun again. Minstrels are LOTRO's healing class, but most of their low-level heals also do damage. I realized how much better this class was when I got jumped by three mobs, all at or above my level, and after a somewhat protracted battle found my toon standing over their bodies with most of my MP left. Cool.

But the best part was completely unexpected. Minstrels are a necessity in fellowship quests, and there seems to be a dearth of them at all levels. So I can mosey out to whatever site I want to work on and it's almost guaranteed that there's a group of tanks (and a couple of fifth-wheel hunters) looking for a minstrel. It's like being the easy girl in high school: sure, you get a lot of attention, and afterwards you feel sorta used...but it gets you LOTS of experience.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Babs Gives Rosie Reach-Around, Sez Joe

On WFAN/MSNBC this morning Joe Scarborough said that Barbara Walters "gave Rosie (O'Donnell) a reach-around" by not explicitly repudiating her tinfoil-hat 9i/11 conspiracy theories.

This tasteless comment would have made for funny morning talk had the assembled chatterboxes not then spent the ensuing five minutes snickering about how naughty Joe was for saying it.

He had a point: Babs' dewy send-off for Rosie was a disingenuous bit of theater, and sitting next to her "dear friend" for months on the show should have afforded Babs the time to give Rosie the thirty-second overview of structural engineering necessary to debunk that looniness.

Remember back when Barbara Walters was a real reporter?

Yeah, me neither.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Video Camera, A Tokyo Sushi Bar

Someone placed a video camera on the conveyor belt in a Tokyo sushi bar. The resulting four-minute video is a warm and welcoming relief from misanthropy. The almost invisible smile on the woman's face at 1:13 is delightful. It ends too abruptly in that it would be nice if the camera made it back around to the couple who placed it there, but it's four minutes of cheerful healthy awesome.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Democrats' Plan: Run In Circles Shrieking And Flapping Hands

I'm so disgusted by the Democratic gutlessness on display on Capitol Hill today. Nobody's willing to stick their neck out and take a stand on their principles. And then we wonder why our kids are disaffected and shallow. I could just spit.

I expect arrogant and gratuitous acts of senseless incompetence from the Bush administration. But this latest war funding bill is another pork-laden slap in the face to the idea that the Democrats are anything more than a timid bunch of quislings.

Cause here's the truth about "timetables" that I've yet to hear any pundit say out loud: no one, not a soul, truly believes they mean a damn thing. The terrorists don't really think that if we SAY we're gonna leave on June 3, 2008, at 6:52 AM that we'll really DO that. The US military doesn't really believe that if Congress TELLS them to leave on June 3 that they actually have to be gone by that date. The public, wearily well-acquainted with a lying, secretive, incompetent administration, doesn't believe anything anyone says.

So Democrats aren't even willing to set HYPOTHETICAL boundaries on Bush's madness. Cowards! Yellow-dog, craven cowards!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Pall In The Air

The wildfires in Florida and a breeze blowing in off the Gulf of Mexico have conspired to cast a smoky gray pall over Birmingham. People sniff the air nervously and pick at their clothes. It's like walking around with a little alarm going off deep in the reptile brain: there is a fire somewhere, run! But cats seem nonplussed, so I'll take a cue from them and not worry about it.

Today is check-up day for Mom, and after multiple grumps about, "I hate going to the doctor," she's fresh as a daisy and looking forward to a ride in the car. Maybe we'll go eat lunch afterwards, but the les time I have to spend out in the muggy soup that passes for air today the happier I'll be. I guess we picked a good day to hafta wait in an air-conditioned doctor's office.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Topper Price, RIP

If you spent any time at all in Southside Birmingham in the past 20 years, you probably met Topper Price. He was a harmonica player and fixture on the local bar scene. That wailing harmonica that opens the one hit song Brother Caine had? That's Topper.

He was found dead in his Southside apartment Friday. He was 54. That sucks. I won't pretend I was his best friend or anything, but I had met the guy numerous times, and I know people who played in his band, The Upsetters. Topper was a smart, funny, cynical guy who was the living embodiment of "local character". He'll be missed.

Alcoholic Blackout

Tonight, I went to Atlanta to see the Arctic Monkeys.

I guess they rocked.

I really don't remember anything about the show. I mean, nothing. I remember seeing the opening band, Be Your Own Pet, but the rest of the night is a blur. The Tabernacle in Atlanta has a smoking section beneath the main stage, and the bartender in charge of said section took a liking to me and started feeding me shots of Cuervo Gold, leading to a a genuinely huge memory lapse.

For what it is worth, Be Your Own Pet fucking rocked.

My friends tell me I liked the Arctic Monkeys. Can't imagine how I wouldn't -- it's a great space, acoustically true, accommodating and tilting down toward the stage, like every good theater. I'll bet that I look good on the dance flooor, don't know what I'm dancing for. There is evidence that standing beneath a high ceiling increases creative thought, and while I can't vouch for that, it does seem true.

I went with Tim and Terry, which made for a good mix. Tim has every twittering neurosis known to man, and Terry has hereditary spastic paraparesis, so he's forced to be calm. Being with Terry is a weird blessing: it makes me aware of the stuff I can see that he can't (he's one of the roughly one percent of folks with his condition who have ocular and mandibular complications, meaning he's functionally blind and very difficult to understand). The huge crane hanging over that office building, the 8-year-old kid with the "Sarcasm Is A Free Service" shirt, the girl with the slutty tattoo , The Mark of the Skank, peeping from beneath her T-shirt. Describing this to him makes it more real. Plus, Terry says surprisingly illuminating things, like when Tim was commenting on the abundance of cute young girls at the show, he remarked, "Yeah, and they all smell like soap and lavender", which instantly made them all the more desirable to me. I guess the old cliche about smell compensating for sight has some validity, or else Terry was going around sniffing people, which is entirely possible. Just because he's a blind spastic doesn't necessarily mean that he's a nice guy.

Rock music isn't dangerous any more. Guys with strollers were negotiating for balcony seating as we went in. It was odd to see people with 3G cellphones setting up the shot and acting like National Geographic photographers.

I felt old.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Moral Majority Membership Now At Zero

"The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country."

"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

"There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution."

"I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One's misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status. Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc., are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status."

"The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior."

" If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."


For more of these priceless gems of timeless wisdom, see Positive Atheism's big scary list of Jerry Falwell quotations.

Falwell also said on CNN a few years ago that he was confident he would see Jesus return in his lifetime. How'd that one work out for you, you smug stupid fuck?

Rot in hell, Jerry! Garcia and Falwell, for that matter.

Pat'll be joining you there before too long. And Dobson's getting up there, too, though one would think that being so vituperatively bilious can't be very heart-healthy. Maybe once those two shuffle off to eternal damnation, comparatively sane people will take over. Like Rick Warren, who looks he should be holding a festive cocktail on a veranda somewhere while hosting an infomercial; or Joel Osteen, who's every bit as creepy-looking as Pat Robertson but who sounds more like Tony Robbins.

One down, two to go.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Chappy, The Game Was Called Zork

...but it wasn't the first one, it was several generations of Zork down the line.

I've got my guy up to level 8 in LOTRO, but... did everyone playing this game decide to by an elf hunter (I mean, an elf who is a hunter, not one who hunts elves)? Or is it just the server I'm on?

God, I'm such a fucking dork.

But I hafta admit the game is getting more fun. I'm just now starting to grasp the crafting system and the game economy. Actually made a "friend", in that I helped him finish a quest and then he helped me finish one and we added each other to the "friend page" thingy. We went goblin hunting, and since he was also an elf hunter (I'm really uncomfortable with the slipperiness of that terminology, and wish "hunter elf" were used in its stead. See single-sentence paragraph, above.), we could set a couple of traps and then fill the trapped goblins with arrows. And if one broke through, one of us would engage it and the other could keep firing arrows. It worked pretty well. Until there were five goblins, and we were getting our asses kicked, and some sympathetic minstrel wandered by and healed me enough to finish the fight. And it doesn't seem like any of the healing potions work in combat, which is fucking stupid. Or maybe I just haven't figured out what the right equippable item is that heals in combat.

And my character is wearing a silly-looking hat, but I can't seem to find a better replacement. I chose "explorer" as my professional, only to read later that I've essentially doomed my guy to the life of a serf, harvesting resources for others to profit from.

But monster play kicks in at level 10...

So there's that...

Friday, May 11, 2007

In Which We Are Bored By Virtual Worlds

I played Ultima Online for like a minnit back in the day. It was more frustrating than fun. I futzed around with Active Worlds, too. No joy there. That's the summation of my experience with "virtual worlds" or MMORPGs.

But I've just gotten the Internet access back on at Mom's house, and with a shiny new computer and a cable modem (plus an old crazy lady to take care of, which requires, it seems, a specific form of focused inattention) I figured the time was ripe to try another online game. Oops, I mean "virtual world". Cuz an "online game" would be something like Counterstrike or Halo, you know, something fun, whereas a virtual world implies that I have a persistent identity in a staged milieu, you know, like life would be if God were a game designer.*

I knew I didn't want to play WoW, because everyone I know who plays WoW is WAY too into it, so I considered EVEOnline. I'd heard it described as "a spreadsheet simulator...in space" and that sounded rather appealing, actually, because I am a dork.

Then Lord of the Rings Online caught my attention. I'd read Tolkien as a kid, and just as I'd tossed aside my Big Wheel for a real bike I'd tossed aside Tolkien for "real literature". (C'mon fanboys, hate on that. Tolkien took 200 pages and entire geneologies to invoke a sense of wonder, Borges can do it in a paragraph. Who's the better writer? Oh, that's right...Tolkien fans don't read outside the canon.) But I have fond memories of the books, and I liked Peter Jackson's films, and I figured the Middle Earth mythos might weed out a certain percentage of the usual numbskulls (this logic is akin to thinking that the best place to pick up smart girls is at Star Trek conventions -- I think the women at Star Trek conventions probably ARE significantly smarter than their barfly peers, but...there are trade-offs involved).

So I gave LOTRO a spin. Logged on to a newbie server, made (heh...I almost said "rolled up"...I am so old...)an elf hunter, Fithion of Mirkwood.

The server was filled with elf hunters. Elves, at least. OK, that's cool, let's just scope stuff out. I'll reroll a hobbit burglar later, because that's what I really wanted to play, but I figured everyone else would want to play that as well, so I defaulted to elf hunter. So did everyone else. The game begins and NPCs are yellin' at me to do stuff. Huh? I don't even know the controls yet! I'm a console guy -- WASD doesn't come naturally. Plus, having not RTFM, I don't know how to communicate with other players. Where's that window? How do I...oh, I see. Gosh, this is pretty. Ooh a goblin! What's "attack"? Hm. I'm "incapacitated". I respawn. I have a bow. Let's click the red thing with an arrow in it and see what that does. Cool. I have little trouble dispatching the onrushing goblin pincushion with my "Dull Knife". But I still haven't mastered the controls. It doesn't feel right. I wade through a few more goblins. Some dude, elf or human, can't really tell, helps me out when I'm suddenly jumped by a lynx. Thx, I type, or thought I did, when the map comes up. Dammit. The guy stands there for a second, obviously communicating with me in some window I haven't found yet. I really need to RTFM. I find the NPC with the glowing ring over his head, like a perpendicular halo. Hey! I leveled up!

I could go on, but basically I ran around for an hour or so killing lynxes, looting my kills, and practicing basic combat skillz. I see that I reheal over time but my equipment damage is cumulative. I think anything that accumulates damage should have a meter I can see, but maybe I just don't grasp the interface yet. Again, RTFM. I get a quest to bring back lynx pelts. Covered, I think, then realize my inventory consists of lynx PAWS, not lynx PELTS.

Overwhelmed by the semantic distinction and its implications, I log out.

I have Much To Learn. But do I want to learn it? What do I get out of my investment of time and energy (not to mention $$$)?

Here's what I'll do. I'll play the game long enough to master the controls, I'll RTFM, and I'll make an effort to do something besides solo. I may go surf right now and see what I can learn. But initial impressions are not positive.

I mean, I love the idea. I spend half my time online reading about the construction and analysis of virtual worlds, because I do believe that this is a technology in its infancy and we've not yet reached our Buster Keaton, much less our Orson Welles, to push the film analogy until it breaks. But between idea and execution lies...an uncanny valley.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mama We're All Krazee Now

American culture is schizoid.

We spend billions on porn and preach abstinence in schools. We have draconian drug laws and we consume more drugs than any other country. We "demand educational excellence" and then practice social promotion. We teach our children not to lie or to steal...until they get to business school. We uphold "family values", but we have the highest rate of single mothers in poverty in the developed world. We talk about "freedom" and we lock up more people per capita than anyone on the planet. Beer ads urge us to drink their products...in moderation. But not behind the wheel of that car designed to do 130 mph, 'cause the speed limit is 65. The "Partnership for a Drug-Free America" PSA is sandwiched between adds for Zoloft and Cialis.

All this sprang to mind after I read this. The state of Alabama, Big Brass Buckle of the Bible Belt, in the form of the House Education Policy Committee (their motto: "Keep 'em dumb and fulla cum!") is considering a proposal for "Christian Heritage Week" in our schools.

Feel that icy shiver down your spine?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

XBollixed

The gaming press is awash in stories about the Xbox 360's unreliability. Huh, thought I. Mine works fine.

Well, it did until yesterday.

The Red Ring of Death. Three flashing red lights, in a pattern the woefully incomplete manual does not mention.

I call Microsoft Xbox 360 Customer Support. This, I think, will take all day and make for a bleakly funny blog post.

At first it seems my instinct is right. "Max" answers, a creepy electronic voice that oozes the same sort of false bonhomie as the robots at the beginning of "Westworld". Max uses hip, slangy words and phrases like "Gotcha!" and "Great!" and "No problem!". Max soothes me with the promise of help (after regretting to tell me that due to call volume help may be delayed)and offers a list of possible things I can say to make Max keep talking to me. Suddenly it seems very important to keep Max talking to me, as I have now invested a good eight minutes of my life listening to him. I say, "three flashing red lights!", one of the phrases Max has suggested.

"Gotcha!" sez Max. "I can help you with that!" Hooray!

Max walks me through the process. Patiently. Gently. He guides me step by step. Unplug power supply, decouple hard drive, replug power supply, boot, check power supply light, look at console and there should be a pleasing green glow. Turn off, unplug, recouple hard drive, replug, reboot.

Max wants me to succeed. I can hear it in his voice.

"Did this fix your problem?" Max asks.

Max, I have failed you. Three flashing red lights. Max is silent a moment. Thinking, perhaps, or mourning the loss of a brother machine. Max recommends I visit the website and check out document 90345667122345356832345^3. I sigh. Max has turned against me.

"If you would like to speak to an agent, say 'agent'," Max suggests, but now he sounds hesitant, like he doesn't really mean it. Max is giving me mixed signals, and it's creeping me out.

"Agent!" I say, and Max blips me over into telimbo, without so much as a goodbye, a simple humble acknowledgment of our time spent together. Robot asshole, I think.

But before I can even complete the thought there's an actual human being on the line. I marvel at a "hold" actually being a "hold" instead of an "interminable wait until you lose patience and hang up". Kudos, Microsoft, I think.

But before I can complete THAT thought, said human being, whom I can clearly hear breathing and rustling paper amidst the background chatter of the call center, disconnects me.

Click. Bzzzz. "If you'd like to make a call..."

I've worked in call centers. Dropping calls like that will get your ass fired. She should have just muted me and rode the call for three or four minutes before hanging up, or whatever length she needed to shave her talk time without looking like she's shorting calls (which is exactly what she's doing). That's what I would have done. I sigh and call Max back.

"Xbox console Xbox 360 three flashing red lights agent," I tell Max, who must be ashamed of how we last parted, as he is much less vocal this time.

After a similarly short hold, a real person smoothly and professionally gets my registration information and informs me that I have a hardware problem, my console is still under warranty, and they'll send me shipping materials to send it back to them prepaid via UPS.

Oh.

I don't even get to fight about this? I don't have to storm into Best Buy waving my extended service plan and demanding satisfaction? I can just...send it to you and you'll fix it?

OK.

I mean, I have a washing machine that I paid like $130 bucks for fourteen years ago and it runs like a top. It's a wet, spinning electrical appliance, for fuck's sake. You'd expect something to go wrong. Of course, when something DOES go wrong, I'll just buy a new one, since the new ones are probably more efficient and probably still don't cost much more than $200.

But a sleek $399 whangdoodley console, that gets used WAY less than our washing machine (OK, maybe not, but it's close), that's nothing more than an expensive paperweight unless you feed it $60 games, goes tits-up in less than a year. They damn well better make it work!

I don't have an end to this, because the story really isn't over yet - I've yet to receive the shipping materials, so we'll see how this all plays out.