Thursday, January 16, 2014

Monday, January 06, 2014

Notable Quotables

While plowing through e-books I'll regularly highlight portions that I find clever.  Below are a few quotes that I'm pulling from my various e-readers.

In the book The Forever War a space marine recounts his first encounter with the extraterrestrials that he's tasked with fighting:
I didn't want to see them dead, but I'd just as soon not have seen them in any condition.
An interesting metaphor to be sure; I'm sure troops sent to Africa carry a similar train of thought!

In a passage in Martian Time Slip PKD predicts the dawn of academic "paper chasing" wherein people become more and more educated for more and more menial work (keep in mind the book was written in 1964):
He himself had emigrated due to his having only a B.A.  Every door had been shut to him, and then he had come to Mars as nothing but a union plumber, and within a few short years, look at him.  On Earth, a plumber with only a B.A. would be raking up dead locusts in Africa as part of a U.S. foreign aid work gang.
Only those with their PhDs in plumbing will be accepted!

In Metro 2033 the protagonist who lives in a post-apocalyptic Moscow metro system, comes to the realization that mankind will never reach the heights that he once had:
Only now did he start to sense how far man now was from his former achievements and conquests.  Like a proud soaring bird, mortally wounded and dropping to the ground in order to hide in a crevice and, having concealed itself there, dies quietly....
Now, when Artyom himself was able to evaluate from what heights mankind had fallen into the precipice, his faith in a beautiful future evaporated once and for all.
One does not have to survive a nuclear war to have that opinion.  I'm sure inhabitants of Europe during the dark ages didn't have that different of an attitude.
Within the Metro system in the book are various factions which adhere to every ideology under the sun. The most successful and enviable clan is the one that controls the ring and when the protagonist, who had survived fascists, cultists, communists and other near-do-wells comes in contact with this clan it turns out to be controlled by a clan which espouses free markets and individual success.  This clan is careful to keep its success close to the vest and is leery of letting anyone in, to which the protagonist remarks in regard to immigration:
The number of places in paradise is limited; only in hell is entry open to all.
In the book Roadside Picnic a comment is made in regards to the inevitability of the types of "trades" that some men fall into:
Pigs can always find mud.
Elsewhere in the book a comment is made in regards to the deviation to ignorance (or more kindly, "normalcy bias") that the vast majority of people default to:
He knew that billions and billions didn't know a thing and didn't want to know and, even if they did find out, would act horrified for ten minutes and immediately forget all about it.
At the back of the book, the author makes some comments in regards to getting his book published.
On commie control freaks who kept the book from being published for many years:
I don't even want to mention them here-let them be swallowed up by the past, like evil spirits, and disappear...
A statement on small minded control freaks (PC zealots, I'm looking at you):
The only people who boggle at what is perfectly natural are those who are the worst swine and the finest experts in filth.  In their utterly contemptible pseudo-morality they ignore the contents and madly attack individual words.

In Starship Troopers, the character played in the movie by Michael Ironside goes on a pages long rant against communism, all of which is very good but too much to quote in full.  However, along the way he also makes some social commentary; on the failure of criminal justice, specifically in regards to juveniles:
As for 'unusual', punishment must be unusual or it serves no purpose.
On social workers:
...except that the time-tested method of instilling social virtue and respect for law in the minds of the young did not appeal to the pre-scientific pseudo-professional class who called themselves 'social workers' or sometimes 'child psychologists.'  It was too simple for them, apparently, since anybody could do it, using only the patience and firmness needed in training a puppy.
What inspired this post was an excellent line from the PKD novel Counter-Clock World:
I mean, we all lie to ourselves; we tell our own selves more lies than we ever do other people. 

Sunday, January 05, 2014

(Not) At the Game

The Doctor sends me a link about the NFL blacking out local games if they're not sold out.  I know out-of-towners are always amazed by the fact that for the entire time that I've lived in Cleveland and watching the expansion Browns these past 15 (15?) years there has never been a locally blacked out game.  In this case it's interesting because even though the games are not blacked-out, the Browns have no issue selling tickets to fans who don't mind paying exorbitant fees to go freeze while watching a mediocre team.

A few weeks ago I almost sucked it up to go see the Bengals throttle Minnesota but I called off when Mrs. Sandmich said that she wasn't interested.  And why should she be?  The best and least expensive tickets I could find were on the NFL's resale service for $80 a piece (original price closed in on $100).  Add in parking, beer, driving to and from Cincy and the total toll would be closing in on $300.  My fallback plan illustrates the issue that the NFL faces as instead I went to BW3 and got to watch every game in HD and racked up only ('only') an $80 tab after tip for myself and Mrs. Sandmich.

The article at the link though points out the fact that the NFL derives some government favors in the fact that they can selectively blackout their games (point probably being that the NFL can choose not to broadcast the game at all, but ordinarily wouldn't be able to selectively blackout individual markets).  The question hanging in the air though is whether there is even direct correlation between blackouts and sellouts.  

In Ohio the two teams suggests that there may not be.  Cleveland fans seem to show up no matter what.  On the other side of the coin is Cincinnati which has fielded a respectable team for the past ten or so years but regularly doesn't sell out games.  Some of this might be political (many years of intentionally poor PR by Bengals owner Mike Brown has turned many potential fans into enemies) or the janus style* of play and coaching of the Bengals; but the point stands: blackouts do not help the Cincinnati Bengals sellout games any more than the threat of blackouts hurt the Browns chance of selling out games.  The point could easily be made that blackouts hurt ticket sales since a game that's not on doesn't exist to the casual fan.

Of course the game that shocked a lot of people this week was the Green Bay game which also needed corporate saviors to sell-out.  This is a team that has no issue selling out regular season games but couldn't get their fans to show up in horrible weather for a playoff game.  Many a commentator pointed out that in December, even "sold out" stadiums would be half empty (I know the Browns always suffer from this late in the season when "sold out" games are embarrassingly empty), so the actual interest in attending may be overstated.

What's the fix?  This seems to be one of those sports conundrums like the 'designated hitter' or 'all-star games' for which there isn't a very good answer.  Ideas that I've heard include more TV screens so that those at the games can watch other games or angles of the current game, more personalized service, official support for more vibrant tailgating (most munis seem to discourage tailgating), more manageable prices (riiight), and more indoor venues (because despite the love of "real football weather", no one actually likes to sit in it).  

I must confess that I'm probably not the best person to help with this since none of these ideas get rid of what I hate most about attending sports games in general and pro events in particular.  Whenever I get free tickets (typically from a vendor) my mind despairs at the crowds, traffic, parking, etc. that make even lightly attended Indians games a painful maze to navigate**.  Homebodies, alas, are probably not the target audience for sports game attendance.

*Marvin Lewis has been a great coach for the Bengals compared to what they had previously and is far preferable to what other teams, and especially the Browns, find themselves going through year after year.  That being said, it seems like he can never get his team to show up when it really matters.

**It's interesting that when it comes to parking and traffic, Cincinnati has, in my experience, been pretty good in this regard.  The number of highways and parking garages make getting in and out for games rather effortless, but that fact doesn't seem to help Bengals ticket sales either.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Year End Notes

Video Gaming 2013

Running a year late as usual, my favorite video game of the year was Far Cry 3, many a critic's game of the year for last year (2012).  The gameplay is so solid that I played this game through several times on every difficulty despite my issues with its story.  I even picked up the O-K Blood Dragon version which is a re-do of the game with a somewhat 80s theme (as visualized by people who were born in 1985).  All good fun.

I also played through the Bioshock series and got to the end without seeing what all the hype was about.  Sure they had a deeper story than most video games, but lets face it, that's not saying much.  Beyond that the combat is clumsy and crowded (a lot of fights felt like I was dropped into my bathroom with a dozen Al Qaeda dudes) and the well done artwork seems to go nowhere, like an end unto itself.

Running up for my game-of-the-year-that-I-played was Infamous 2.  A minor tweak to the "evil" (and/or "good) ending would have made it one of the greatest games ever, but the fact that it took an easy way out turned the game into a bit of a retread.

A closer runner-up is the latest iteration of Deus Ex.  Yeah all the endings were dumb, but this game felt like one of those great PC games from the late nineties/early singles.  It has that rare combination of linear gameplay and freedom of movement that makes a game completely engaging.

Death by Lethargy

Unfortunately at the moment I'm suffering from rather painful lower back pain.  I know that you're thinking that I pulled a muscle while moving a dresser full of clothes or hauling orphans out of a burning building, but it's actually more mundane.  I get a week and a half off for Christmas and this year we decided to be lazy homebodies.  Not that I'm usually a model of overactivity, but I guess my non-stop video gaming/football watching couch potatoism (with occasional trips to the liquor store gym) took a toll and my back got bent out of shape from sitting on the couch too much.  Oof, a lesson that I should travel during my break to be sure!
Another Year, Another Dollar

How about that Obamacare?  How about that (lack of) global warming?  How about that knockout game?  It seems like the media occasionally, and begrudgingly gets off their duff when issues get too big to ignore.  Still in the "ignore" bin is the poor state of the economy and the overhang of worldwide debt.  My workplace is going to match even more 401K money.  I'm torn on this since it's free money from work but every government on the planet has telegraphed the fact that they plan on destroying these plans in some way, shape, or form.  I dunno, I guess I'm stuck with the status quo for now since alternative options aren't all that great either (ironic!).