Romney Taps Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan As Running Mate
Political pundits often claim that part of the reason you pick the VP candidate should be to help win a key state. Obviously that wasn't an issue with Palin in 08 since Alaska is dark red, but Wisconsin has been light blue the last couple elections, and with Scott Walker surviving his recall election here, perhaps Romney is hoping Ryan will help flip the state red? As a native Wisconsinite I don't think it's too likely... The state hasn't gone red that often, in fact you'd have to go back to 1984 to find Wisconsin flipping red in a Presidential election. Still, past performance isn't always a guarantee and the Romney team might feel energized by Walker's recall victory. Then again it could just be that Romney is afraid the base thinks he's too moderate and wants a loyal Tea Party running mate to fire up the base. That has the potential to backfire though, since moderate voters might shy away from Ryan, and elderly voters will almost certainly have a hard time voting for the guy that prioritizes tax-breaks for millionaires over social security and medicare. And of course Ryan is now going to be thrust into the spotlight more than he's ever been in the past, with every last detail of his life examined and scrutinized. I have no reason to believe there's any skeletons in his closet, but if there are you can bet the media will dig them up. Overall though the VP pick is really only important in what it shows about the Presidential candidate, and Romney has had a problem of never really wanting to commit on issues since he's likely afraid whatever he says will come back to bite him. His VP pick is obviously something he can't easily walk away from, but I think it's too early to tell if it will help or hurt him.
Study Finds Frequent Gaming Changes Your Brain
How timely, I just read a blog post about brain plasticity. Basically, the list of activities that do not alter the brain is probably much shorter than the list of activities that do. The human brain is constantly rewiring itself. Here's an article about a study that shows brain plasticity may be even more radical than we thought, possibly even reprogramming the genomes of individual neurons:
Valve Announces Massive Steam Server Intrusion
Funny that I had to read about this on Slashdot. You think they could send out a mass email to everyone with a Steam account, especially when credit card numbers are involved (even if they're encrypted). I hate inbox clutter as much as the next guy, but Gabe himself says to watch your credit cards for suspicious activity (which is never a bad idea), but how are Steam users supposed to know to do so if we don't read the Steam forums, or read Slashdot? Seems like they kinda dropped the ball on the whole communication thing here...
Australian Aboriginal DNA Suggests 70,000-Year History
I know this is horribly OT but I can't resist. Rick Perry says evolution is full of holes and that nobody knows how old the Earth is (with the clear implication that he's pandering to the fundamentalists that say it's 6000 years old). So when I see an article like this about the real, actual science behind human origins I can't help but feel a combination of shame and rage that a candidate for the highest office in the United States is essentially sticking his fingers in his ears and saying "La la la, I can't hear you, reality."
Netflix Creates Qwikster For DVD Only Business
I agree with everything you wrote. Why Netflix is going to offer game rentals, and then I went to make a sandwich. Hey look a bunny rabbit.
I have to admit, that's pretty funny. Except, dear AC, in my post I did warn you that I was about veer offtopic in parenthesis (like these) in hopes that I would preemptively prevent comments such as yours. Bravo though, that was better than I was expecting. I fully admit that my style of communication is rather rambling, both online and in real life, because I tend to see abstract connections to topics that most people view as entirely unrelated. In fact going from Netflix offering game rentals to a rant about game demos is a pretty short stretch compared to most of my ramblings. So consider yourself lucky!
White House Proposes "Wealthy Tax"
What's going to be entertaining (in the sense that the sad circus of American politics is entertaining) about this whole thing is to watch the about-face the conservatives will make about how much money it takes to be rich. Recently, various state governments have been going after unions, and you see conservative commentators on the various shows talking about how teachers make enough money, how $30-40k a year is plenty when you consider union benefits, blah blah. Now these same exact people are going to go on the same exact shows and, with a straight face, say how those poor folks making a million a year are just struggling to get by and really need a break in this kind of economy while completely ignoring the fact they've spent a better part of a year telling us a teacher's salary is downright lavish. How does a conservative's head not explode from the cognitive dissonance? Do they actually simultaneously believe these polar opposite stances they take, or are they (like all politicians) simply bought and paid for by their masters and puppet whatever talking points they are fed?
For those of you who are going to dispute my point, here are some preemptive replies. First, I know that folks on the left do this shit all the time too. I remember Kerry's "flip flopping" helping cost him the 2004 election. But pointing to the other side and saying "See, they do the same reprehensible thing we do" does not actually make it okay. It's still downright disingenuous. My point is simple: How much money does it take to be rich? Because the conservatives in America have two different definitions that depend not on the amount income, but essentially on class. The fact that these same conservatives are the first to scream "Class Warfare!" at this kind of proposal is deliciously ironic and the whole thing would be fucking hilarious if the stakes weren't so high.
Reality check: to solve the long-term debt crisis, two things need to happen. Taxes need to go up, and spending needs to go down. Either side that says you can do one but not the other is living in some magical fairy-tale land where facts are superseded by what they wish were true.
Netflix Creates Qwikster For DVD Only Business
Missing from this submission is the news that Netflix/Qwikster will now offer game rentals. I suppose that's not a big deal to everyone. I'm sure gamefly isn't happy about it, but competition should be great right? Personally I rarely if ever rent games, since I tend to play a demo first (and if there isn't one, pirate) and if I like the game I purchase it through Steam, so that I can get up-to-date patches, play online, and have that warm fuzzy feeling of supporting the developers. I wish the industry was more receptive to demos, because they do work, for good games at least.
For example (an off-topic gaming story follows here), I recently watched X-Men: First Class and the American/Soviet ships primed for battle with each other put me in a Red Alert mood. I had never played the third game in the franchise, because when it came out I was raiding heavily in WoW and not playing anything else. Anyway, I went to check the price on Steam to find out if I had to get a pirated version as a sampler first, and to my surprise there was a free demo. The demo only offered two missions, but after spending an hour messing around with the various units in one mission I decided it was certainly worth the $20. Moral here is, game demos make sales, at least if the game is any good. But it seems to me like the industry simply expects you to rent the game if you want a sample, or else pay the full price, which is likely one of the driving forces of game piracy. Obviously the whole "free of charge" thing is a major draw for pirates, but I can imagine I'm not the only person who buys games, but won't waste $20-$50 until I'm certain it's something I will get several hours out of.
Women Remain the Ignored Audience In Gaming
I think the biggest barrier for entry for women gamers isn't the games themselves, but the gaming community. We all know of The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, but women get presented an even uglier side of online gaming. This site has some good examples: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/
It seems the moment a female gamer reveals her gender she's automatically the target of the most vile and despicable comments the online community has to offer. Granted, most gamers are thick skinned and can brush this stuff off. But it makes me wonder how many women have tried playing a game, had an experience similar to the ones at the site above, and gave up entirely. It would be nice if the online community were a little friendlier. We would all have more fun that way, regardless of gender.
Does Quantum Theory Explain Consciousness?
From a blog post at Cosmic Variance: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/09/29/seriously-the-laws-underlying-the-physics-of-everyday-life-really-are-completely-understood/
I've copy/pasted the relevant portion here:
Obviously there are a lot of things about the workings of the human mind that we don't understand. So how can we be so sure that new physics isn't involved?
Of course we can't be sure, but that's not the point. We can't be sure that the motion of the planets isn't governed by hard-working angels keeping them on their orbits, in the metaphysical-certitude sense of being "sure." That's not a criterion that is useful in science. Rather, in the face of admittedly incomplete understanding, we evaluate the relative merits of competing hypotheses. In this case, one hypothesis says that the operation of the brain is affected in a rather ill-defined way by influences that are not described by the known laws of physics, and that these effects will ultimately help us make sense of human consciousness; the other says that brains are complicated, so it's no surprise that we don't understand everything, but that an ultimate explanation will fit comfortably within the framework of known fundamental physics. This is not really a close call; by conventional scientific measures, the idea that known physics will be able to account for the brain is enormously far in the lead. To persuade anyone otherwise, you would have to point to something the brain does that is in apparent conflict with the Standard Model or general relativity. (Bending spoons across large distances would qualify.) Until then, the fact that something is complicated isn't evidence that the particular collection of atoms we call the brain obeys different rules than other collections of atoms.
The world will end ...
"End of the world" is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot but it could mean a lot of things. The end of human civilization? Or a dramatic transformation to the planet Earth such that it is either no longer a planet, or not recognizable as the one it was previously? The first could happen a lot sooner than the second. The Earth itself is a dense ball of rock with iron in the middle. It's built to last. Life, on the other hand, is a bit more fragile. Somewhere between 500 million and 1 billion years from now, the surface of the Earth will too hot for water to remain liquid on the surface. That's essentially a deadline for all life on Earth. The planet itself will get along just fine without a biosphere though, and is likely to survive up until the Sun's red giant phase 7.5 billion years from now, at which point it will probably be engulfed by the Sun. This is not entirely certain though, because the orbital mechanics are complicated by a number of variables like tidal forces. The good news, though, is that by this time the Sun should be hot enough that temperatures on Titan may be suitable for life as we know it. Maybe that's how solar systems evolve? Life grows ever further out in a solar system until the star "stabilizes" as a white dwarf. That reduction in temperature might kill off everything left, unless life evolved close to the white dwarf to benefit from the remaining light and heat. If so, such lifeforms would have a very promising future since white dwarfs take much longer than the current age of the universe (13.7 billion years) to cool into a black dwarf.
Celebrating the Sci-fi Ray Gun
I love Star Trek, a lot. I'm sure I fit every possible stereotype of a Trek nerd, including ones that are contradictory. But there was one thing that always, always bugged me about Star Trek, even as a kid.
Phasers are essentially inferior to contemporary firearms. For starters, they are actually slower than bullets. You cannot dodge a bullet (in real life, anyway). But there are several examples of the Enterprise crew dodging phaser/disrupter blasts in TNG. Granted, it's possible to retcon this by saying it's some sort of charged plasma that doesn't travel at the speed of light blah blah. But my point is not that it doesn't travel at light speed (which is obvious) but that it's actually SLOWER than a bullet. Which raises the question, why on Earth (or in the Alpha Quadrant, for that matter) would they use essentially inferior technology? If our present day firearms are superior to phasers, why the switch? It defies all logic.
And don't even get me started on the horrible scene in Star Trek: First Contact where the Borg have adapted to Picard's phaser so he lures them into the holodeck and mows them down with a tommy gun. So, 1940s machine gun > 24th century phaser. And they don't keep a stash of machine guns in a weapon's locker? Hell, they can't even replicate a few dozen? Sigh.
Really, it's easier to suspend disbelief about Warp Drive even though that violates everything we know about relativity and modern physics than it is to accept the concept of the phaser replacing the superior firepower we already have in this century.
Anyway, angry Trek nerd rant mode off. Sorry about that.
Porn Reportedly Found At Bin Laden Compound
Is anyone shocked when one of those "family values" politicians, preaching about the sanctity of marriage and the evilness of a culture that glamorizes homosexuality comes out of the closet? Or in the case of Larry Craig, gets busted trying to have sex in a men's room? It doesn't shock me anymore, since it seems the most passionate moral crusaders are really crusading against their own personal desires.
Hell, look at "culture warrior" Bill O'Reilly. Remember the Andrea Mackris thing? She had transcripts of alleged phone conversations that are clear examples of sexual harassment (and the detailed nature of the transcripts lead people to believe she had recordings). Bill O paid her a bunch of money to shut up and never spoke of it again. Sexual harassment is wrong when anyone does it, but it seems doubly wrong when you preach day in and out about morals and the "dangers" of things like rap music.
I guess, essentially, the gist of my post here is that people are often hypocrites, so hypocritical behavior does not shock me at all. So a group of extremist Muslims who feel strongly enough about their religion to blow up thousands of innocent (including Muslim) Americans happen to enjoy porn when nobody is looking. Not surprised. In fact, it makes me wonder aloud here if the religion is just an excuse for the killings, and if what people like bin Laden were really upset about was Israel and our support of it, that it's more of a territorial dispute than a religious one, but it's just a lot easier to get people to fly planes into buildings if you tell them 72 virgins will greet them afterward. I mean, I tend to notice the folks at the top of these terrorist organizations aren't the ones blowing themselves up. Think maybe they have some doubts about whether or not they end up anywhere afterward?
But then again I shouldn't read too much into this one incident, it is after all just some porn. Just a thought though - maybe if bin Laden's wives didn't have to be covered head to toe, he wouldn't need a stash to get off.
Guild Wars 2 Devs Aiming For the Top
funny, my opinion is that wow is in the best state it has ever been in. granted, with a game as old as wow, it is hard to recapture that shiny newness that a fresh mmo has. but wows endgame has never been better. now 10man raids are on equal footing with 25 mans since the loot is identical. this means players no longer feel forced to run both 10 and 25 mans to advance. this gives smaller guilds a huge advantage, making wows endgame more accessable than it has ever been. at the same time, the game is far from dumbed down - the heroic 5 mans are quite challenging (at least for pugs) and the raids have a mix of easy, somewhat hard, and crazy insane bosses. there is literally something for everyone now. anyway, if any slashdotters read this, i play as raymer on whisperwind alliance and will gladly help run you through some quests or dungeons and whatnot.
Microsoft and Nvidia Abandon PC Gaming Alliance
Gaming on the PC is not dead, even though some have been claiming the end is near for at least ten years now. But, gaming on the PC has changed quite a bit in the last decade. If you look at the gaming environment on the PC a decade ago, a bit longer even, in the late 90s with the launch of the first GeForce... gaming on the PC was a much larger affair - big budget games that took a big budget PC to play. Developers expected PC gamers to be on the bleeding edge, and for the most part they were. Sure, some developers tried to market to the low-end niche. But the general sense seemed to be, if you were gaming on the PC you had a beast of a rig for it, and all the big budget developers tailored their games with that in mind.
Now things have really changed. There a lot more PCs out there, but the high-end gaming enthusiast is a very small portion of computer users. So developers, with a few exceptions, tend to target those low to mid range systems out there, since that's where the market is... it's no longer reasonable for developers to expect a gamer to have a state of the art system. As a good example to this, I can't help but mention the elephant in the room when it comes to PC gaming: World of Warcraft. Easily one of the most popular PC games in the world. While WoW obviously requires more hardware than your average Facebook game, it's really not by much. They've made sure to design the game so it will run on a very low end machine, like the kind you can pick up at Walmart for under $500. Now, a game like WoW does have advanced shader features and DX11 stuff that can be toggled on for those with higher end systems, but none of it is required. Sure, the higher end machines make it look better and run faster, but it's a huge shift from the late 90s where developers just expected gamers to have high end machines to play their games at all.
Now, before someone points out that my example, WoW, is already several years old, I would point that Blizzard just released an expansion at the end of 2010, and if they wanted they could have totally reworked the game engine for high end systems (while that would be an expensive endeavour, if anyone could afford to it's Blizzard). They did not though, because Blizzard knows that having more systems able to run the game increases the potential market.
That's not to say games for high end systems don't exist on the PC anymore, since they obviously do, but they seem to be the exception instead of the norm these days. And a lot of those high end games are cross-platform, so they only require high end systems because they're competing with the current generation of consoles (which, I admit, isn't hard given this generation of consoles seems to have outlived all previous generations). I guess my long-winded point here is that the landscape of the PC gaming world has changed. High end systems are no longer the default assumption like they were a decade ago. I think overall this is good for gamers, since instead of being an expensive niche hobby, PC gaming is within the reach of anyone who can own a very modest PC.
My only complaint was the movie took a bit too long to get started. A lot of the intro scenes seemed kind of redundant. I felt like the audience didn't really need a background on the original Tron. Even people that haven't seen the first movie are going to know the basics because it's a movie that's sort of embedded into the culture somewhat. Sure, not to the extent of films like Star Wars, but if you haven't seen the first movie the time they wasted recapping it at the start isn't going to help you much anyway. And it's just a bit boring for everyone else. I did like that young Flynn felt ENCOM's new OS should be free, while the corporate drones wanted to charge for it. Seemed like a subtle nod to Windows and its free rivals. And I get that they want to establish him as kind of a rebel without a cause, so he can find himself a cause in the grid world. But it just dragged on a bit too long for me. Once he gets in though, wow. The visuals are stunning, and not just in the Avatar sense that it's really photo realistic (in some cases it's not, but that make sense). But it's visually creative. Watching them activate the bikes or planes, it's just amazing. The light-plane that they're flying too, it's a bit surreal. One very smart thing they did with this movie is after he gets out it's basically over. There's very few scenes in the real world afterward, because the filmmakers were smart enough to know it couldn't compare to what you've just seen on The Grid. Is the plot far fetched? Sure, but it for the most part is internally consistent and there weren't any issues with the plot that I found too distracting. If you want creative visuals with a surreal quality, this is the movie. As a piece of story-telling, there are better films, but it's not terrible in that regard, or at least not so bad that it distracts from the visuals.
Oh, and I know it's popular to bash 3D on Slashdot, but I saw it in 3D and I feel like it added something to it. One thing though, there's a bit of a disclaimer at the start saying some scenes were filmed in 2D (like the intro scenes) but to leave your 3D glasses on the whole time. Whatever - take them off for the intro scenes, you don't need them and it makes the film look a bit brighter anyway. But once he gets inside, definitely put them on and keep them on. It's worth it.
OS I'd Most Like To See Make a Comeback
But, BeOS does live on in Haiku.
I really loved BeOS back in the 90s. It was a solid, stable and insanely fast OS. Sadly I guess those things don't matter much when you've got nothing to run on it.
How much TV do you watch in a week, on average?
Can't say I have. So is your point that WoW has more potential for addiction than TV, and that's why it's less socially acceptable? I cited an extreme case in an effort to demonstrate that I don't feel like I'm an extreme case. With TV, there's examples of children re-enacting scenes from Beavis and Butt-head and setting the house on fire, etc. Does that mean that every child that watches it will do so? No. Likewise I think only a small percentage of people that play WoW will ever become addicted to it.
But lets take your point and move it to something else that's socially acceptable: alcohol. Now, I certainly have heard of people living in cars (or homeless) because of alcohol. Yet it seems to me that not drinking alcohol turns more heads than drinking it, even with its potential for serious addiction. Why's that? Just wondering...
How much TV do you watch in a week, on average?
I play WoW, but the amount of time per week fluctuates. Recently I went almost a month without logging in since I'm all prepped for the expansion and there isn't much else to do until then. When the expansion hits my hours played per week will spike up for the first couple weeks as I rush to 85, but then it will level off at probably around 10 hours a week at most. Now on to the topic of TV. I get really confused by the strange dichotomy between watching several hours of TV a week vs playing a video game for that same amount of time instead. I guess TV is more socially acceptable for some reason, but both are essentially mindless entertainment, I don't think one is really superior to the other. WoW offers a bit of a social outlet due to its MMO nature, but then I suppose some (sadly rare) TV programming offers educational shows. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, both are entertainment. Yet when I tell people I play WoW, and how often I play (again, usually no more than 10 hours a week, sometimes it spikes up a bit, sometimes it's much lower, but that's the average) I get labled a nerd or an addict. It bothers me, because I have run into real addicts playing WoW and I feel like I'm not anything like that. I've run into a kid just out of high school that got kicked out of his parents house for doing nothing but WoW all day, and lived in a car while playing on a laptop with WiFi spots in public places. That's addiction. Playing WoW 10 hours a week is not, and I wish people wouldn't be so quick to toss out the A-word. No one would ever be called a "TV addict" for watching 10 hours a week. Why is there a different standard? Why does society view one form of entertainment as more valid, and less damaging than another? Is it simply because people fear what they don't understand? I don't know, but it irks me.
FCC To Vote On Net Neutrality On December 21
I essentially agree with the content of your post, but this comment makes me want to post some off-topic and pedantic remarks:
God damn there outta be an IQ requirement to post here!
That might not help a whole lot. IQ doesn't really measure intelligence, but rather the capacity for it. A person can have an extremely high IQ but know next to nothing about certain topics, or be just plain wrong about a lot of them. A good example of that is Bobby Fischer, a chess genius with an IQ of 180, but he wasn't immune to xenophobic paranoia. Personally, I've taken two IQ tests and was in the 130 range both times, well above average, but there are a lot of things I know next to nothing about. For example, even though I have the capacity to understand it, I never learned much advanced mathematics because I simply lacked the motivation. An above average IQ doesn't make a person immune to other mental pitfalls. IQ also does not measure experience. I wouldn't tell a plumber or electrician how to do their job, since I lack the expertise they possess. Something that makes Slashdot discussions interesting is the fact that people have a variety of expertise here, and it's not uncommon to find people employed in whatever topic the article is discussing. It would be a mistake to discount the insight of those people if they failed to meet some arbitrary cutoff.
Anyway, I'm sure you weren't really serious and it was just a flippant remark, but I thought I'd comment anyway.
Satellites Spy On Black Friday Shoppers
For a dystopian look at the inevitable progression of endless consumerism, read Brave New World. It's a good book on multiple levels, but when I first read it 10 years ago, I thought the satire of consumerism was a bit extreme, bordering even on the absurd. Sadly, I don't think so anymore.
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Old People Are Funny
My grandmother is a fan of crossword puzzles. Since I have a lot of trivial knowledge, I often get requests for certain subjects. So when a computer question appeared recently, she had to ask me, even though she'd already worked out the answer via the other solved words.
Are you ready for this challenge, Slashdotters? The hint was: Move down a web page.
I'm not joking. That's what it said. Holding back laughter, I said, "Scroll down?"
She responded, "I can't believe you knew that!"
While this is an amusing story of course, I cannot help but feel a bit insulted. I don't think that was her intention, as she likely truly believed the question was challenging. Yet I've often attempted to explain to her that I assemble computers, and write code (or try to anyway, hehe). I've mentioned that there are thousands of lines of code in the open source programs I play with. I've attempted to explain concepts like Linux to her as well. All these attempts are met with rather bored, disinterested expressions.
But when I say "Scroll down?" she acts like I've invented cold fusion. I don't think I'll ever fully understand old people. Even when I become one, I don't think I'll be quite like that. I remember a teacher at the technical college I went to saying he enjoyed playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and was glad he was retiring so he could play more computer games. That's teh awesome. All old people should be like that.
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Flash Ads on Slashdot?
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I've been watching this Korean show called Summer Scents... It's a pretty basic love story. A florist who is engaged to a rather boring businessman meets a more spontaneous man, and she starts to fall for him instead. The only creative thought in this cliché story is that the spontaneous guy's former girlfriend recently died, and it just so happens that the florist received his old girlfriend's heart in a transplant operation! So of course every time she sees this new guy, a cheesy heart beating sound starts playing. Actually, I'm really only watching this show to... appease... the company I'm watching it with. ;)
Since it's Korean I'd figure I would try to spot something related to StarCraft. I've watched two episodes so far with no luck. I thought StarCraft was everywhere in Korea... but apparently it isn't found in the Korean version of a soap opera. I've got plenty of episodes to go, though, so not all hope is lost.
The funny thing is I'm pretty sure I know how this silly story will end. It just seems rather obvious that she's going to end up with this new guy instead of the boring businessman. Yet I get to watch twenty-some-odd episodes of the couple pretending they're not falling for each other, then probably some episodes of the businessman trying to win her back, and then the cliché ending where everything is happy.
I could be off, though... perhaps the ending will be sad, like a giant asteroid hits Earth and kills them all. I do not know much about Korean soap-operas, and perhaps that is a common ending?
I'll leave comments open, but if anyone spoils the ending for me I will... likely have absolutely no emotional reaction what-so-ever.
Heh. The things people do to... appease... members of the opposite gender...
In other news, today I created a sourceforge account. I've had a few ideas kicking around in the back of my head... and as soon as I have some files to throw there, I'll start a new project. One thing I hate, though, is fileless projects, so I'm never going to create that which I despise. All my new projects will at least have something to download, no matter how buggy and worthless.