Monday, June 30, 2008

Horror Story Indeed

From an IT 'horror story' published in Redmond Magazine:
This place proved to be something right out of the big book of "IT Professionals' Worst Nightmares," even though this particular office was located in the beautiful town of Hamilton, Bermuda.
Bermuda huh? Well unless the nightmare in question involves certain nuclear annihilation, no one cares that you had to log a few extra days of 'work' in the Caribbean. The whole lame thing is probably just a story he made up for his boss as an excuse to stay longer.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Death Judges

Talking heads are debating whether or not child rapists should be eligible for the death penalty while the real debate should be whether or not we should expect congress to impeach the 'let them eat cake' judges or if a pitchfork wielding mob storming the Supreme Court is the way to go. McCain should be hitting Obama hard and fast on this (and other things, like voting for higher food prices, bank bailouts and whatnot) as we all know that Obama would appoint more child rapist lovers to the Supreme Court than not (McCain really needs to be more 'Teddy Roosevelt' if he wants to pull out a win).

One caveat that's brought is that there's plenty of people on the right who hate the death penalty as well. However, these people are misguided. I found a pertinent quote from one Ibn Khaldun, arguably the last intelligent Arab social scientist (circa 14th century AD):
Towns, by contrast, are the seats of the crafts, the sciences, the arts, and culture. Yet luxury corrupts them, and as a result they become a liability to the state, like women and children who need to be protected. Solidarity is completely relaxed and the arts of defending oneself and of attacking the enemy are forgotten, so they are no match for conquering nomads.
The point being that only pampered elites like Justice Kennedy could think that society doesn't need to be defended in the strongest possible ways against the monsters that slip into a Supreme Court hearing under the guise of some Rube Goldbergesque law argument. Jonah Goldberg (unrelated to Rube so far as I know) points out:
The death penalty used to be constitutional for barn-burning, horse stealing, fairly minor thefts etc. I completely agree that our evolving standards of decency make that seem like overkill, pardon the pun. But is it really a sign of our evolving standards of decency that brutally raping a child is also on that list? Are we more decent because we don't consider that a capital offense? I don't really see it.
And the reason horse stealing and such were punished by hanging was because it was viewed as insane that society would pay to keep career criminals alive in a pampered state (pampered by criminals standards). Just because we may find ourselves able to financially maintain an ever growing 'lifer' prison population doesn't mean we should.

Others (Bill O'Reilly being one such proponent) have wanted to create a labor camp in American Siberia; but it's rather idiotic to think that the same forces who complain that the terrorists at Guantanamo aren't getting fat enough, are going to roll over and let us build a Gulag in our own territory. Even others still have brought up the fact that *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* the child rapists will be much worse off in prison than death row. That point of view makes me sick. If you think that's just punishment then grow a pair and pass a law that makes 'Austrian Dungeon' one of the sentencing guidelines, otherwise justice shouldn't be left up to chance by outsourcing it to people who are, at best, unreliable.

On another judge note, check out this piece of work:

This is Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge who is local to the northeast Ohio region. Nothing like a judge with a picture of a mass murderer on his wall (that would be Che not Obama). One would think that given his hero that he would be pro-death and thus would have nothing against the death penalty per se. That thought would make sense, something which has no place in the liberal world view. Once Judge Burge was elected he promptly sued the state using the county's money in an effort to find that lethal injection is 'cruel and unusual'. Yes you read that right: the people's judge sued the state he serves on behalf of a criminal who doesn't even have standing since, at least at the time, he hadn't even been convicted yet, let alone sentenced to die:
The case gets more interesting for two reasons. First, Rivera, who is charged with capital murder (which carries the death penalty), has not been yet convicted. There has never been a case in Ohio, or anywhere else, where the method of execution was challenged before the trial. Second, one of the two lawyers involved in the Rivera case is American Civil Liberties Union's Ohio legal director [ACLU] James Gamso. Gamso is challenging the State's right to use the 3-cocktail mixture. Rivera's trial lawyer, Kreig Brusnahan, argued that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment based on the execution of Christopher Newton. Prison officials had trouble getting the shunts into Newton's arteries. It took almost two hours to prepare him for execution. Brusnahan argued that waiting two hours was not his idea of a quick and painless death.
At least Ohioans get the option of voting this guy out in 2012.

Update: I've read that Obama came out against this Supreme Court decision; however, I can't decide which is worse: the fact that he'd knowingly appoint and vote for judges who favor leniency for child rapists, or the fact that crap like buggery and partial birth abortion rank higher in his mind than bringing society's worst to justice. At least the former would have some universalist social justice claptrap logic being it; the latter is just throwing his fellow citizens to the wolves because he isn't talented enough to convince people of the logic behind his bad ideas.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Senate Loan

So two senators get sweetheart financing deals from a mortgage lender and then, lo and behold, a bill is produced that seeks to bail out the lender for their poor decision making. Coincidence? Only on planet CNN where the '(D)' after the senator's names gives them the benefit of the doubt. Not do be outdone, Rich Lowry at NRO rushes to the senator's "defense" as well:
What an unfortunate coincidence: An innocent loan inquiry and Sen. Conrad gets put on the phone with a CEO with myriad high-stakes interests before Congress. Most people asking about their mortgages don’t get put through to the CEO, but they don’t live with the burdens of senatordom. Conrad was particularly vulnerable because, apparently a financial naif, he’s only chairman of the Senate Budget Committee that sets the parameters for the $3 trillion federal budget.
Not to fear though, the Sandmich always has a solution in mind!:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stick to the Tech

Unsurprisingly a lot of tech trade publishers are based out of San Francisco, close to the American tech homeland of San Jose. Equally unsurprisingly tech publishers have roughly the same political outlook as Pravda. For example, they make excuses for the physically nearby Apple and philosophically nearby Linux while continually damming Redmond based Microsoft.

A little bad history never hurts either. One Roy Mark comments:
Perhaps Congressman Frank Wolf is just disappointed that President Bush is ignoring his advice to not attend the Beijing Olympics as a protest against China's human rights abuses. It could be his concerns that history will "never, ever, ever forgive" Americans for attending the Olympics. Maybe he just misses Ronald Reagan.
I could really care less about the Olympics - the athletic equivalent of the U.N. - but I'm afraid Mr. Mark is thinking of Jimmy Carter when referencing presidents who boycotted commie Olympics during the Cold War.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Section 8

Ever the source for politcal incorrectness, Steve Sailer has a new article up discussing the dynamics of section 8 housing.

But Rosin shows at great length that it's not “paranoia” at all—poor people really do destroy suburbs. The tearing-down of Memphis's inner city projects, while making Memphis's historic downtown more fashionable for young white professionals, has launched a crime wave in the inner suburbs.
This peice actually solves two issues that I've been too lazy to rectify in my mind:

  • First, what has made so many inner city areas suddenly habital again? There's even slick condos on Clevelands near west side, an area given up for gone no more than fifteen years ago.

  • Second, why have so many formally decent suburban areas gone to pot? Forest Park in Cincinnati and Maple Heights in Cleveland both spring to mind. I'm sure some demographic issues don't help, but still.
It turns out that the two are directly related through, get this, government mismangement*.

First, inner city government housing which should have never have been built in the first place is torn down under assumption that the hellish conditions of the projects are caused by concentrated poverty rather than the hellish inhabitants. Second, section 8 housing is handed out to those same occupants so that instead of having to work hard to live in a nice area, said occupant can just mooch on the efforts of others. All this is done with the thought that when the moochie beholds his neighbor struggling to actually pay for his house while paying taxes so that the mooochie can live next to him; that Mr. Mooch will realize the errors of his ways and start working smart and hard for his place in society which he gets for free anyway. Or something like that...
"… the match was near-perfect. On the merged map, dense violent-crime areas
are shaded dark blue, and Section 8 addresses are represented by little red
dots. All of the dark-blue areas are covered in little red dots, like bursts
of gunfire.
The rest of the city has almost no dots. … they were amazed—and
deflated—to see how perfectly the two data sets fit together."


*Mr. Sailer trys to make the point that section 8 is part of long term, well thought out government strategy to aid developers. I only wish our politicians were smart enough to be that corrupt.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Econ 201

Being more about logic than actual math, I usually enjoy a good accounting puzzle, like this one that's related by one Johnny Debacle:
Here’s how it works, according to Richard Bove, an analyst at New York-based Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. A company decides to designate $100 million of its subordinated bonds as subject to mark-to-market accounting. The price of the bonds drops to 80 cents on the dollar from 100 cents. So the firm books $20 million on the “presumed savings that you have on your liabilities,” Bove said.
It took me a minute to figure out what they're trying to do on this, but I finally figured it like this: let's say I have $100,000 loan out on my house, but my ability to pay it back is in question so the most the bank could sell the loan for is $80,000; so since I could technically buy my own $100,000 loan for $80,000, then I can say that I'm only in the hole $80,000 instead of $100,000. The point though is that if the loan has been devalued because of my inability to pay, then I certainly don't have $80,000 sitting around with which to buy my own bad debt.

However I and Mr. Debacle shouldn't underestimate the limits of American ingenuity:
Next month, Michelle Augustine plans to walk away from her four-bedroom house in a Sacramento, Calif., subdivision and let the property fall into foreclosure. But before doing so, she hopes to lock in the purchase of another home nearby.

"I can find the same exact house as what I live in right now for half the price," says Ms. Augustine, 44 years old, who runs a child-care service out of her home. She says she soon will be unable to afford her monthly payments, which will jump to $4,000 from $3,300 in August, and she doesn't want to continue to own a home that is now worth $200,000 less than what she paid for it two years ago.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another Government Bailout of Idiocy

From here:
When Kathy Wiebold moved into her ranch-style house a couple years ago, people assured her it wasn't in the flood plain and had never flooded. So she didn't purchase the extra insurance.
OK here's the thing for dipsticks like this: if your house is on a flood plain then not only is that a good indication of the likelihood of flooding, but it also means there's a good chance that your house is more prone to water damage since it's downstream from all the other dry land.

I'm sure what worked into her decision though was that she figured if the flood was that bad, then some ex post facto government insurance would be on the way.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Economic Seventies

It's bad enough when those younger than the Sandmich do not know of the poor monetary discipline of the seventies, but those ten or more years older than myself should have vivid memories of the double digit inflation and the double digit interest rates that failed to bring it under control. However, it looks like it's collective amnesia time as everyone seems geared up to make the same mistakes all over again!

What got me in this train of thought was this news story. I wouldn't recommend watching it; it's thirty five years old and basically the same crap you see on the evening news today. The only difference is that back then they blamed big American manufacturing firms for dumping dollars in some bizarre effort doom their sales, rather than today when they blame big (mostly) American oil firms for being unable to buy oil with an increasingly devalued dollar.

Meanwhile "Uncle" Ben Bernake is on the case!
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the economic outlook has improved from a month ago, and central bankers will ``strongly resist'' any waning of public confidence in stable prices.
Too bad he's about a year late on his 'strong resistance' after printing all that money for his buddies and allowing congress to pump a bunch of fake money into the system via low interest rates. Maybe he should've asked the economic pundits at Nintendo how much purchasing power is left in the dollar:
"The LA Times is reporting that the new Nintendo Wii Fit is hard to find on US shelves, due not only to strong demand but also the United States' declining
status in the world economy: '"[Nintendo] is also is shrewdly maximizing its
profit by sending four times as many units to Europe, reaping the benefits of the strong euro," says Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. "The shortage demonstrates one consequence of the weak dollar. We're seeing companies ignore their largest market simply because they can make a greater profit elsewhere."'"

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Destroy All Humans

Destroy All Humans!



Pluses: Great artwork for the special effects, large maps with fairly entertaining open ended gameplay.



Minuses:Only one of the large maps is set in a fun urban area and the four textures in the rest of the maps get old quick. Instability problems, boring missions, and intellectually vapid content round out the errors.



The concept is solid: take mid-twentieth century pop sci-fi themes and set up a one 'man' alien invasion that takes place in the fifties. Unfortunately the actual execution winds up being a little rough going down.

Playing as Crypto, a smallish alien with an unimaginative Jack Nicholson voice, players are tasked with completing various tasks. While some are enjoyable, most boil down to drab "dress up as a human and sneak around" type of missions. I've no real love of stealth/concealment type of gaming and even the non-concealment geared missions wind up being a game of hide and seek with the game's AI. This is due to the fact that showing your alien face in public leads to a rapid escalation in the alert status (which affects how many and what kind of people are hunting you) and it isn't too long before you're running for your life with no chance to use your alien super powers.


Gaining guilty pleasure from destroying Washington D.C. was one of the games highlights.



And the faults pile on thereafter. The game has a shop for upgrades, but the ability to unlock the mediocre upgrades it provides advances way too slowly. Mind powers (similar to Jedi 'force' powers) are fun to use, but the gauge that maintains them drains too quickly to make much use of them. The game is also occasionally buggy and while lockups are rare, they further highlight the lack of checkpoints and saves for long and complex missions. One of the reasons it took me so long to complete the game in the first place is that the game locked up on a load screen halfway through the final mission which left me rather....upset.

My workaround for many of the games faults was to use cheat codes. I don't mean using a Gameshark or other items like it, this game comes with cheats built in, a rarity now a days. To me this is a sure sign that the inadequacies in the game had to be addressed, but the developers didn't have enough play testing time to get the game balance correct so they stuffed some official cheat codes into it. After reading some other reviews I've grown convinced that most reviewers made exclusive use of these cheat codes, or some beta version that had them activated since playing without them is a hard lesson in pointless aggravation.

However, playing without the cheats leads to one of the game's most aggravating aspects: leftist propaganda. While reading people's minds in order to keep the 'mind gauge' full (something that has to be constantly if cheats aren't enabled), the minds of the inhabitants of this take on the fifties are full of latent homosexuality, alcoholism, and bored, undersexed housewives who have to resort to valium in order to remain sane*. This is topped off with the view that people were unjustly and overly concerned with communists being in every nook and cranny. At one point in the game some scientists brainwash some citizens into seeing commies everywhere and as an added side effect they also "vote Republican". Even BDS comes into the game when a soldier laments that he should have joined the Texas National Guard since that's 'easy service'. It's bad enough that I have to ignore over politicalization in music, books, magazines, TV and movies (one big reason why I avoid them all) and it's disappointing to see this manifesting itself in a medium I enjoy so much.

In the end the game was muddy and unfocused with pointless missions, two dimensional characters, and a mediocre story. The effort was a least partially salvaged by some explosive all out assaults that resulted in massive amounts of destruction a'la Rampage, but like Rampage it's a shallow experience. While watching a progression reel that was included in the game and narrated by some of the developers it became clear that the initial vision that the developers had put together didn't make it into the game. The fact that the vastly superior sequel to this game, which I shall speak more to later, corrected most of the issues with the first leaves me thinking that this game was pushed out the door a couple months too soon.


*Echoing so many liberal stereotypes of the fifties in one small window is enough to make me think that the left is awfully insecure about something. I'm of the belief that the decade has to be framed by the left in the worst possible terms via exaggerations and fabrications in order to cover for the failure of the panacea they ushered in roughly a decade later.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Microsoft to a 'T'

I got another renewal notice for MSDN* magazine which had this listed as the first step:
Log in to MSDN Subscriber Downloads (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/default.aspx) by clicking on "Sign In" in the upper left.
Which of course means that "Sign In" is located, well...

I noticed this two or three months ago when I had to change the delivery address and figured it was a one-off thing, but I guess not.

*MSDN = Microsoft Developer Network

Monday, June 02, 2008

Gaming Curtain Call

It might not look it, but both of these games have something in common: 90% of their content comes directly from the original game on which they are based. The storylines are so thin and the artwork so stale that the only draw is the chance for players to revisit some of their favorite characters from those previous games as replaying the original is a hollow experience.

I guess I should feel taken when a game provides so little new content yet demands so much of my time, but I must admit that I enjoyed playing through both of these games for the exact reason for which they were made.



Final Fantasy X-2


This game includes two of the original player characters from Final Fantasy X along with visits (and 'visits by proxy') to the rest. There were even visits to all of the NPCs, most of whom I had forgotten (including one that would have died in the original game depending on your dialog choices). The story starts out interesting (to players of the first game), but devolves into a rather uninteresting mush. The combat system was much the same as it appeared completely overhauled from the original game, until I realized that it was just a different take of the system in a completely different Final Fantasy title. Probably the least attractive portion of the game is that it is divided into 'chapters' where it's all but expected that you'll walk from one end of the map each time and talk to EVERYONE. This wouldn't be so bad but for the fact that the nostalgia starts to wear thin for those of us who have already spent 100 hours or so in Spira.



Warriors Orochi


In lieu of the eventually released Dynasty Warriors 6, this game represented a last minute cash-in and the final Warriors game for the Playstation 2*. It's essentially a mash up of Dynasty Warriors 5 and Samurai Warriors 2 with some modest art changes and a handful of new character moves. The story finds a way to combine the 1800 year old 'Three Kingdoms' story from China and Japan's civil war from the 1500s** and is, to the say the least, groan inducing. However some redemption is found in the fact that everyone seems to be in on the joke and the game winds up being what it is: a last chance to see your favorite Warriors characters in their classic vestige before being overhauled for the next gen platform. This game is also saved for me personally by the fact that I never played Samurai Warriors 2 (after being disappointed by the first) so it was the first time I had seen half the maps and characters.

*Update: I had forgotten what a bunch of money grubbing trolls Koei is and they've continued to port Warriors games to the PS2. What horrific concessions they had to make to cram the game onto that system I know not.

**The cartoonish, over-the-top stylings of the Dynasty Warriors games was always forgivable since the actual people and events from so long ago are mostly given over to legend. There's simply not much to get worked up over when someone takes liberties with a story that is in all likelihood 90% fabricated in the first place.

With Samurai Warriors though, the history is a little more fresh and well documented. Japanese history is to Samurai Warriors as actual military life is to the old GI Joe cartoon. The characters and their interactions draw b-movie style eye rolls from anyone mildly familiar with the actual history. I should note though that Kid Sandmich took the opportunity to look up his favorite characters in order to find out what they were actually like.

The whole experience makes me ponder the idea of an 'American Civil Warriors' game. Sure to be an abomination to history, but it'd be pretty fun to see Abe Lincoln wandering the battlefield with a six barrel musket or something while mowing down hundreds of Johnny Rebs.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Link Trap

From here:
According to federal law, attempts to download child porn, whether successful or not, can result in prison sentences of up to 10 years, and a court found Vosburgh guilty of just that, “attempting” to follow a link, a link set up specially by the FBI to trap pedophiles.

Now, this is interesting for a number of reasons that should worry all of us in the IT industry.
Firstly, not that I have direct knowledge of such matters, but I've heard that roughly 90% of the explicit links on the Internet point to 'lolitas' link to 29 year olds in pig tails (some of which are women). The rest go to small stock pump and dump scams, but anyway...

The article goes on to point out a worst case scenario where a businesses server precaches an explicitly worded link trap, bringing the power of the Federal Government down upon your place of work through no one's fault in particular. This would no doubt result in the loss of some or all of the businesses computer equipment as part of the investigation.

However, my thoughts thought of the more malicious types who could engage in high cyber terrorism by spoofing a company's IP address block and then submit traffic patterns in line with what the Feds are looking for. I must admit that I would be at least mildly amused to see GEs or some other large company’s servers being marched out the door wrapped in yellow tape because some Chinese agent found a way to set them up.

All those looking to control the net apparently haven't learned that there's almost nothing more fallible than the Internet.