May 2008


I was just catching up on some e-mails I got from an Atheist mailing list I am subscribed to at work and came across quite a bit of interesting material. I also stumbled onto some curious quotables:

[On the subject of displaying atheist symbols at work and how this can cause friction.]
What it comes down to, as I see it, is… if you’ve argued passionately with someone about the nature of the universe, you’ve learned that they believe in an inconsistent mythology and they’ve learned that you’re forever damned to hell – how do you go back to bug triage from that?

I find that pretty hilarious. It’s also true, but that’s not the main reason I like it.
But because of something like this I haven’t “come out” as an atheist to everyone I work with. Certainly other like-minded individuals are aware (we know who we are and when it’s “safe” to bring up specific topics), and I’ve mentioned my views to a coworker who is largely apathetic to… well, anything. But I don’t bother to announce my convictions to people who have shown themselves to be religious in one way or another.

It’s obvious what some people believe in (many religious people let it out by their clothing, their religious jewels, their, at the same time, wearing a beard, having a religious book in their office and disappearing several times a day at precisely the same time every day, etc). Do you let this interfere with your ability to work with them? I don’t, and I hope not many people do, so “coming out” with our beliefs should be fine, I don’t think we should hide who we are or what we think (subtly, though; really boasting it out couldn’t do us any good). I’m just saying that we better leave it at that and not start trying to convert each other or debate religion at work, as this clearly won’t be beneficial for Microsoft (thus our careers ).

And that’s just more on the previous subject.

I find that books on atheism are largely boring to me, usually going over territory that I’m already familiar with.

This is what I felt about reading “The God Delusion”: I’ve heard this stuff before, tell me something different. Oh, it’s a good book, just not always interesting.

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Hell of a way to start a morning:  ‘Witches’ burnt to death in Kenya.

Eleven elderly people accused of being witches have been burned to death by a mob in the west of Kenya, police say.

Anthony Kibunguchy, the provincial police officer, told the BBC that the eight women and three men were all aged between 80 and 96 years old.

The mob dragged them out of their houses and burned them individually and then set their homes alight, our correspondent says.

Villagers told reporters that they had evidence that the victims were witches.

They say they found an exercise book at a local primary school that contained the minutes of a “witches’ meeting” which detailed who was going to be bewitched next.

I’m not even sure what to say about this one. I thought that people in this country were hasty to give in to superstitious nonsense…

Just a post detailing random things I’ve seen in Liberty City over the past hour or two:

I was driving like a maniac, as usual, and smacked head-first into an SUV. For some reason, I got out (this is unusual since I generally don’t bother to hang around the scene of an accident). Well, the other driver got out as well. What’s the difference between me and him? I wasn’t on fire. On. Fire. That’s right, the guy climbs out of his car and he’s a human torch. Cute, real cute. The game is so detailed, SUV’s catch on fire at the slightest bump, killing the people inside. Just like in real life.

There are internet cafes scattered around the city and, surprisingly, you can actually access the in-game web. It’s a collection of dozens (if not hundreds) of sites and a veritable multitude of webpages of hilarious, raunchy, ridiculous and sometimes offensive content. And there’s internet dating. Niko, the game’s protagonist, can arrange to go on dates with the women he meets online. (I’ve tried asking a few guys out, so far they all said no. But I’ll keep trying.) One of the women I went out with is a lawyer or she works at the DA office or something like that, I can’t remember. Well, after two successful dates, I get a phone call from her informing me that whenever I need, I can call her and she can get the cops to stop chasing me. Oh, this is too sweet: a Get Out of Jail Free card!

As I’ve mentioned before, cab’s are awesome. I started this post while my character took a cab to a friend’s house. I then stopped writing, flew a helicopter around, then jumped into another cab, basically told the guy “just drive” (I wish you could do that, but you do have to choose a destination, so I just told him to go to some far-away place in the city) and continued writing this post. Sure, I could have paused the game, but then my Addiction Level wouldn’t increase: right now I’m at level “Fiend”.  I have no idea if that’s good or bad.

This is, among other things, a review of the 15th episode of the 4th season of “House”.
Spoilers follow immediately after the jump.

(more…)

Once again, a considerable amount of time has passed without a new post appearing in this space. But this time I have valid reasons! It’s even plural, as in there is more than one explanation for me dropping the ball on blogging once again.

The main reason (look, I even ranked them!) is that my right arm is in a splint, which translates to “no typing, no driving, no sushi, no gaming“. Man, that’s really harsh, since I love to do all of those. In short, it means that since this Monday I haven’t been working, blogging, driving myself or having sushi. I have come up with a way, of sorts, to play GTA IV, but it’s not a perfect solution that starts to hurt after a few hours, but it’s better than nothing.

All this spare time is damn ironic: I can come up with things to write about or stuff to do at work, but Ican’t actually do anything. Bah. I did manage to get some work done on Friday, but it was slow going. So here are a few things I can remember at this late hour.

PostSecret for May 11th

Aside from the usual commentary about the secrets (one to follow), I have my usually-negative commentary about PostSecret: I don’t like “themes”. It’s sort of boring to see a whole page of the same damn secret, over and over. Sure, there’s a bit of variety, but, for instance, most of this week’s secrets are “I wuv you mommy” or “I wuv my kids”. Big whoop. I’m not sure if all the secrets are so similar naturally, or if that ass-hat of a “blogger” specifically biases the collection for his own reasons.

I read about this a few weeks back and I gotta say, “what’s the big deal?” It’s just a woman who became a man, kept her reproductive organs and then decided to become pregnant (his wife is unable to have children). Big whoop. The guy went on Oprah and called this a miracle. Ha. It’s not a miracle, it just another (genetic) female giving birth. It happens every day. It’s not a miracle. Considering that the father is on hormones, it might be a miracle for the baby to turn out to be perfectly fine, but that’s about it. There’s nothing interesting about this.

To the author: (1) it’s your imaginary friend, you can come up with reasons for doing this, and (2) what do you care if a pseudo-man is pregnant?

To the author: chicken-shit.

GTA IV

I love cabs! Often times there are instances when I need to get from one end of an island to another, or even to a different island, so I simply jump into a cab, point the driver the right way and enjoy the ride. I use the time to admire the city, wonder at the great level of detail or make mission-related phone calls. Or, hell, just chill out and listen to some conservative gun-nut on the radio. It’s great.

But now, after just unlocking the second island, I stumbled onto something even cooler: helicopter tours! Now I can admire the city from above while listening to a right-wing, crack-pot tour guide who goes on about the downfall of society. How awesome is that? And since this is GTA, you can always finish your tour by pulling the guy out of the cockpit and beating him to death with a baseball bat. I haven’t done that yet, but it’s certainly on my mind.

Oh, and speaking of beating people to death: it seems you don’t actually kill most people in Liberty City. I can shoot up a pedestrian, but give them a minute or two and they’ll get up with the minimum amount of health and try to stumble away. Curious. Though that’s only for non-mission NPC’s: if you pop a cap in someone’s ass in the course of the story, they’re certifiable fish-bait.

Argh

Typing with only my left hand is a royal pain, not to mention it’s so gorram slow and error-prone, that I must call it a night. Perhaps sometime later I’ll write down some more of my rambling-like thoughts from this week, but don’t count on it.

Oh, I’ve also started reading “Snow Crash” and aside from being good cyberpunk (I wish “Neuromancer” was more like this), it’s a hilarious book loaded with great similes and LOL-worthy expressions and acronyms. A must-read! For those who read.

I just stumbled onto this list of Game Commandments put out by Cracked. Some of the mentioned rules include:

#7. Thou shalt let us play your game with real-life friends.

The advantage that consoles have over, say, PCs, is that you can play from your comfy sofa. The reason the sofa is considered the pinnacle of furniture technology is because there’s room for other people on it.

#5. Thou shalt not force repetition on the player.

Well some video games are like tossing cards: sports games, fighting games, racing games. The fun is in repeating and practicing them. But other mission-based games are like having sex. There’s a specific progression and goal in mind, and repetitive interruption only ruins the mood.

#3. Thou shalt admit when enough is enough.

No one has ever liked an escort mission, ever, in the history of gaming. So why do they still exist?

The average gamer has killed more Nazis than the entire Russian army. Where the hell are the World War I games?

Read the article, it’s fairly funny, especially if you’re a gamer.

I have one complaint I’d like to add to the list, as well:

#8. Allow people to map their keys.

I can’t believe that so many of today’s games are so anal about their control scheme. Honestly, is there a good reason not to allow people to, for example, switch the jump and the shoot buttons in Crackdown? It’s not like those values are hard-coded in the game. And if they are, well, we’re all up the creek at that point.

Some of the older games allowed us almost infinite freedom when it came to changing controls. Now, there are usually “profiles”, settings that affect the entire scheme and not individual buttons, but it’s becoming more common for a game not to present the user with any options at all, save for the obvious “invert y-axis” setting.

Why?! Will it cost you more money? Will it take away from the overall experience? Sure, some people might be painting themselves into a corner when they remap the controls to DOA4 in such a way that some button combinations are impossible or even dangerous to attempt, and maybe in such cases some structure would be nice, but let us make that choice!

That is all. I will now go home and play GTA IV, a game that offers no ability to remap any of the controls.

In one of the more bizarre pairings, here’s GTA IV and Toosie, brought to you by Conan.

While we’re on the topic of GTA IV, and that’s a topic that I am constantly on, I am really loving this game.

I’m just learning to use the cover system and I have to say, it’s a welcome improvement from the older games in the series: it makes firefights more exciting and longer. Well, not so long, since the cops do show up in large numbers, but it’s still great.

I’m also enjoying the in-car free-aim mode. Whereas in the previous games you could only fire to the left or to the right of the car (without using a cheat), now there is a clear separation between where you’re driving and where you’re shooting. Last night I did a spectacular run from the cops where I reversed down the highway and shot at the police cars as they were pursuing me. I’m still horrible at aiming, but I did manage to shoot out the tires of one car and actually made it flip over!