My Xbox One Story

So I kinda wanted to surprise the guys on my New Year’s party, but I must get out the word on how much Microsoft kicks ass and how I walked away with two free games.

Really. Read on to find out.

Continue reading ‘My Xbox One Story’

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Work in Progress

=Corporate Personhood=

Text: All rights herein described by this document are applied only to living humans not dependent on a biological or mechanical host. Organizations other than the press may be regulated for speech.
Thoughts: Needs work.
=Equal Rights=
Text: No human shall be discriminated on basis of race, sex, gender identity or sexuality.
Thoughts: Also needs work.
=Right to Bear Arms=
Text: Congress shall regulate the ownership of overly destructive arms to those it sees fit.
Thoughts: Maybe a bit too broad.
=Presidential Elections=
Idea: Axe Electoral College, use preferential voting.
=Congressional Elections=
Idea: Double preferential balloting. Double the house and senate size, persons vote in preference and the first two past the post win.
=General Elections=
Idea: All election methods must be regulated and standardized based on the standards of the federal government.
Thoughts: Gives the federal government the ability to regulate elections again.
=Term Limits=
Text: The term limit of any federal office shall be at max of 12 years.
Thoughts: Supreme Court, Congress, President (left locked at 10 years already).
=Senate Confirmation Limit=
Text: For positions requiring senate confirmation, a vote must be held on the appointed confirmation within 60 days of nomination. If the senate fails to do so, he or she shall be confirmed automatically without delay.
Thoughts: Having to throw in recess appointments to get the government to function is not governing.
=Personal Control=
Idea: Right to treatment based on own desires, removes ability of parents to deny medical care on religious reasons, zaps anti-vaxers and soforth.

Video Game High School Season One Review

“You can make a good movie out of anything.” -Bob “Moviebob” Chipman

With season two coming out, I thought it would be a good idea to remind you not to bother with watching this.

At first I was excited at the idea of a feature length something from Freddie and Brandon. The concept sounded awesome with a private high school for the instruction of playing video games. This idea is silly on its face and downright implausible, my problem with it is the way the series seems to go out of the way to make it more impossible. To wit, our story: Our Hero, Brian, is playing his Call of Duty: Modern Warfare clone of the day (Firefield) when he gets an extremely lucky break of one kill on a player (The Law) who happened to join his game and is supposedly the best. Okay, not a bad starting idea but this does not translate well to VGHS’s world. If you have played any game of this sort in your day, a player capable of an X/0 K/D ratio in a full match is either without a life or cheating, but we are told The Law does this regularly. Brian through force of his sheer ineptitude gets the one-in-a-million chance to attend the titular VGHS (without explaining how this is paid for, mind you), meets a wacky sidekick (who happens to be the son of an overbearing father played by Freddie himself), the girl of his dreams (Jenny) and a host of bullies in a cliché and not at all convincing world.

By the way, there are eight writers in this series, which sounds like it contributed most of the problems (for reference, The Avengers had two).

Video Game High School (the school, not the series) is a high school where all the courses in math, sciences and soforth replaced with video game related ones, like First person shooting, Driving Games, etcetera with the sports teams replaced with specific video games. In addition, all students are ranked on an arbitrary (and poorly explained) system, where if you get too low in the list you get expelled. I suppose this replaces grades but how is it determined if it’s too low is never properly explained either. Then again, who’s funding this school anyway!?

The main story is how Brian copes and advances with his new high school life. At first it sounds like a dream but it quickly drains into “this does not make sense”. Ignore the fantastical setting and replace the video games with varsity sports and you have Saved by the Bell as re-imagined by gamers. That was not hyperbolic either. I really think that if the writers had to leave video games out of the story it would still be terrible. Brian ends up doing terrible in all his matches making him quite a boring character to watch. I would have preferred something more like Takumi Fujiwara where there’s a hidden kick ass somewhere inside him. Instead he gets clobbered, close to expelled, clobbered again, gets in a physical fist fight, actually gets expelled, takes over an arcade overnight and must have Jenny (still girlfriend of The Law) snap him out of it by playing the DDR Rip Off. Which seaways me nicely into the next piece. I have yet to meet a gamer completely embarrassed by the idea of playing DDR (or related). Sorry, they just don’t exist. But it’s on full display here where Brian wants to bond with Jenny over it, but is constantly embarrassed by the idea he plays it as opposed to being the tough guy playing Firefield. Don’t buy it. In the end he sorta wins a match against the law and ends up getting the girl.

Let’s talk about Firefield for a moment here. It’s the shooter video game that is played by the main characters, using the players as their own avatars in the game. The only thing that does not make sense is how you’re supposed to play it with a typical PC setup.

There’s also a B story involving Ted which is funny since I cannot see Freddie having children. That’s not a blatant insult, it’s just a simple observation based on the writing of this series. Ted is under pressure from his father (Freddie, playing himself obviously) to become the best at Guitar-I mean-Rock-I mean-”", when he’s conflicted and would rather play Drift, your generic realistic car racing game. That could have made for an interesting story on it’s own there. Anyway, Ted meets a girl at a party (Ki, using a white actor but I can excuse this one) and his opening gambit to court the girl is “Wanna watch me play video games?” Any girl worth her salt would have thrown their drink in his face and told him to piss off, but she not only goes along with it, but acts coy about it. I had to rewind a bit to ask “Did this just happen?” and apparently not only did it happen, but I could not put my face into my hands fast enough. The girl seems to like creating games more than playing them which I can totally respect and if VGHS also instructed game design and programming I would totally believe it could exist as a college. Anyway, the chemistry between them seems to be of Ted’s tear between his Dad’s wish and his own with Ki providing the moral support and by moral support I mean coyly signing him up for the VGHS Drift team instead of “”. He gets mad, they do not break up and I wonder what was the point of this all. Freddie does not even come around to support his son which, again, goes back to my thought of not seeing Freddie have kids.

If there is one thing that I have to give in the series favor is that the acting is fairly good. Josh Blaylock (Brian) puts in a good enough performance that you want to punch him in the face (ala Kamina from Gurren Lagann) and seems totally game for how absurd the whole concept is. Ellary Porterfield (Ki) has coy down to a friggin’ science, Johanna Braddy (Jenny) is sincere despite the horrible dialog she has to spit while Jimmy Wong (Ted) acts like the socially awkward nerd expected of him. But obviously the scene stealer is Harley Morenstien as the Dean Ernie Calhoun. I mean, how do you translate Epic Meal Time himself (really) into the VGHS world? You let him be Epic Meal Time. He pulverizes with his commanding voice and towering presence (almost 2m tall), though what he’s given to say makes very little sense.

Which brings me to the entire problem of the series. I am under the impression that all of the writers have never felt love before. Two girls are on the writing staff, but I question if they were paying any attention. The relationships just do not work and that is not a chemistry issue with the acting, it is a genuine misunderstanding of how a healthy relationship is supposed to work. There are so many secrets and betrayals that really all the leads should be at each other’s throats. People genuinely do not act with real human emotions and if this is the future of human relationships (outside the context of this series) I fear our future.

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THQ is no more…

I’m actually rather sad about this since it was sold off piecemeal. But I have some comments and questions still.

Volition was sold to Koch (no not that one) Media. This may be the end of Volition as a company since the next Metro and Saints Row games are reported to be produced by their other developer Deep Silver which means I have no idea what they are working on or if they will survive. But, Deep Silver made the X series of games which are set in space and involve trading. Could we see a FreeSpace 3 then? I hope so.

Relic was sold at the highest price of everything THQ ($26.6 Million) to Sega. Considering Relic does strategy best and Sega has Total War I don’t have much of a problem with this. My concern is who/what owns the Warhammer 40,000 license right now. My guess is that since Sega owns the license for Warhammer Fantasy that they now have the 40,000 license as well. If that’s true I expect things to be good there.

Finally Vigil who did not have a buyer. This puts Dark Millennium into an even bigger limbo than it was and Darksiders may just end with the second game. Sad. I liked those games.

Update: Platinum Games’ head has expressed interest in buying Vigil.

Drain the debt

So the first post went over decently, so how about my thoughts on taxes and spending?

Taxes

Churches and religous organizations are no longer tax exempt if their congregation building or site is valued at over one million dollars – This is (really) to prevent stuff like megachurches from existing. But my point for this is to prevent money from being drained out to give a lavish life to a pastor (who often lives in said church). This also protects smaller organizations from taxation into oblivion. On that note:

Churches and religious organizations must file income and spending with the IRS – Just like every charity and Tax-Exempt organization

Income is income, no matter the source – Capital Gains no longer will have a different rate than ordinary income

Estate Tax at 20% starting at one million dollars of estate value

Tax Rates: $250,000 – $999,999.99 at 40%, $1,000,000 – $9,999,999.99 at 60% and 10,000,000+ at 91% – This is what was done durring World War II to pay for it. We’ve put (by my count) six wars (Korea, Veitnam, Afghanistan, Iraq Afghanistan again, Iraq again plus other unnamed and undeclared wars) on the debt since then and we need to recoup the costs.

Cap Charitable Deductions on buisnesses and individuals at $500,000

Companies making more than $10,000,000 in profit are not eligible for tax subsidies – Cuts the oil industry’s teet off

Punish individuals and corporations using offshore tax havens, which can be done by looking at sales data for a company or if an individual is being paid into an offshore account directly and seeing if the books are being cooked - Explains itself mostly

Punish corporations using inshore tax havens, such as using incorporation in a state not of their headquarters (For example, a state is headquartered in California but incorporated in Nevada and files it’s taxes that way to avoid base taxes) – Punishment is taxes in the incorporated state are to be kept by the state then additional taxes and penalties are paid in the headquarters state.

 

Cutting Spending

Cut military spending by 5% over ten years to 50% at the end – Some $.30 of every tax dollar paid goes to the military or veterans beneifits (Not saying cut the VA). My hope is that it will choke the Millitary-Industrial Complex. On that note:

Trash the F-35 – Way overbudget, a decade late and now useless with the current state of warfare. Also, sue the contractors for the overages.

No Private Millitary Contractors – They can make weapons, equipment and train millitary on use, but they cannot be deployed with soldiers or provide them any other services.

Aid to the middle east is gone until they get their peace house in order – Especially Isreal

Cut off grants to private colleges, including G.I. Bill

Representative Income chained to Median Income, Senator Income to Median Income + 50%, President to Double Median Income and Supreme Court Justice to Median Income + 75% – At time of writing, Median Income is about $51,000, and the president’s salary is $300,000.

 

Increasing Spending - Economic Stimulation, if you will

Science Budget (includes NASA) upgraded to 2.5% of federal budget (from 1%) – Because I can?

Block Grant NASA $100,000,000,000 for a reasonable return to space program – Like instead of a space station, can we have a research station on the moon? The figure I pull out is about the cost for the Apollo Program (adjusted for inflation)

Grant for renewable energy on federally owned buildings – Solar Panels on the White House, capital, etc.

I’m sure I could add more thoughts, but they are running dry on me.

The SavedState Dictionary Contains Inconsistent Data and might have been corrupted

Ever see this before?

“The SavedState Dictionary Contains Inconsistent Data and might have been corrupted”

My solution was to make sure that the installer has no custom actions for actions and then remove them from the setup project’s custom actions. So in this case I had installer hooks on install (Start Service) and uninstall (Stop Service), but I had custom actions on all four items. If there is no committ or rollback functions, don’t bother with having custom actions for the assembly.

My thoughts on gun laws

I’ve been mulling over this for a while so I feel I need to write it down. Here are the regulations I think are reasonable and should be put into place.

 

Purchase control

All gun sales require a background check – No buts

Private gun sales from a non-dealer to a non-dealer must be presided over by a dealer who will perform the background check – Closes gun show loophole.

All owned arms with serial numbers must be in a national database – For tracking of crimes and trafficing

All gun owners must go through regular mental competency evaluation

All gun owners must have liability insurance – Like car insurance

All gun owners must obtain a “license” – Safety and use course sort of thing, again just like cars

Ammunition or ammunition loading supplies must be purchased in person from a dealer with registration of purchases – Excessive purchases will require explaination

No gun sales to those on terrorist watch list or no fly lists, but person much have chance to remove himself from list

One gun, per day, per person

Felons are barred from buying or owning guns from double their sentence, starting from the release of jail – So if someone is in jail five years, the ten years after release they are barred from owning a gun

 

Assault Weapon control

Guns that fire more than two shots in one trigger pull are banned – Prevents fully automatic weapons, but allows for double barrel shotguns to still exist

Bullet weapons have a 10 round limit, pellet weapons have a four shot limit – The only reason Jared Lee Loughner was taken down was because he was stuck reloading from his 33 round magazine (he also dropped it, giving an even bigger opening). As much as people think it’s possible, nobody can really reload at Call of Duty speed.

Modifications to make guns fire at an faster speed than their original design are banned – There’s a stock modification that uses recoil to turn an M4 Semi into something very close to an automatic. This sort of thing would be banned.

Specialty ammunition is banned – And by this I mean Shatter-point rounds, armor piercing rounds, incendiary rounds and soforth. Shotgun ammo excluded, provided it’s all solid

 

Carry control

Guns cannot be carried on the property of schools and children’s parks, law enforcement excluded – Probably won’t prevent anything, but it would make me feel better

Guns must be in locked cases for transport with ammo in separate cases

Guns must be in semi-hard holsters or slings when on person, not in pockets or bags

If there is a child living in the home, all guns must be locked in a combonation safe when not in use – This prevents some child killing or subduing their parent, grabbing the keys and going for the safe

 

Contemplative ideas – The stuff I can’t quite figure out how I feel

Concealed Carry – I can’t figure out how I feel about this. I suppose if I had to give something, make this harder to get than the gun license.

Sound and Flash suppression – Where to draw the line is a big question I don’t have the answer to, but a better question is that it’s unnecessary, so why buy them?

 

Why?

The question of course remains, why these specifically? Most gun owners hide behind the second amendment as their right to own weapons like these. To me this is silly. Let’s look at the text:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

But here’s what it doesn’t say: What kind of arms. Those involved in the ratification of the bill of rights probably never could have imagined cartridge based weapons (as in brass, not paper) let alone fully automatic weapons.

A typical response to my ideas is simply “What if we have to protect ourselves from a tyranical government?” My answer?

“Drone Strike”

If you think a pea shooter is going to effectively go up against a hellfire missile shot (or more accurately dropped) from 5 kilometers away, you are delusional. If the government has become so corrupt that civil war is on our hands, the rebelion will be crushed under the weight of assault aircraft, armored infantry fighting vehicles and battleships. There is just no excuse for this anymore.

An open entry to a girl I love

I don’t usually write like this but I couldn’t help myself.

I remember you from class. A wonderful girl who opened herself to me and never anyone else before and perhaps never after. Someone who didn’t seem helpless nor a whore. A reserved girl who actually wore clothes instead of slutwear. Someone I could be with, but someone I didn’t understand. You always had a guy around, I thought I knew to stay off. I was never sure. I hung out with you, met your parents, tried to know you but I always felt so distant.

The desire was there but the spark to light this inferno was not. I could never understand my emotions. We graduated school, I went to being a total shut in and you disappeared from my life. I went off to school and you went to California. I learned but always felt lost. I longed and you seemed long gone.

How long and wrong I was.

Forced into things you didn’t want to do. Met with some guys who weren’t like me. Raped by one I thought to be my best friend. Impregnated without the desire to have a child. Moved around by circumstance. All while I sat from the sidelines wondering about girls I would never have.

In the end I was just too much of a coward. Too afraid of my own feelings. Too afraid of confronting anyone. Too hateful to forgive myself, but now I just live with the memory of saying three words could have changed your life and saved you from all this.

“I love you…”

Dire hatred,

Zero Serra Serenity – Shut-in geek

Anime reviews

A few months back The Escapist had a contest for an anime reviewer. I thought I would jump on it and try it, but I don’t think I was selected. Here are my reviews for Ouran High School Host Club and Gurren Lagan for your pleasure.

Ouran Host Club:
I am not a completely masculine dude and I find myself watching plenty of Soujo anime in my spare time between mainlining Gundams (the older ones) and ultra-violent stuff. Ouran High School Host Club was recommended to me by an Australian friend who’s into this stuff more than I am (he wears Salior Fukus to cons).

The first thing that hits me when watching this series are the character designs reminding me of something CLAMP would do. While the entire cast of characters doesn’t fall under the bishonen category just about every group including that is represented. Haruhi Fujioka is a girl mistaken for a guy who racks up a massive debt breaking something and must work to repay that debt. While it’s obviously been done in other series (He is my Master comes to mind), the use of a cross dresser as the lead is it’s point of originality. For characters there’s the prince, the badass, the silent, the incest twins and the shotacon but the characters are surprisingly well rounded for being a stereotype. As a turn off to me the shonen-ai theme seems to run thick with characters constantly fawning over each other and themselves to the point it gets rather bland by episode three. With the exception of Haruhi the entire female cast feels incredibly flat; as most end up as one episode girls without real stories and feel like they’re all the same girl with a different head. In fact only one girl has a different shape and she appears for a total of ten seconds. On the other hand while this does fall under the category of reverse harem it doesn’t take the traditional role of focusing on the relationship between the main character (Haruhi) with the other characters and instead it focuses on the characters themselves and not just the character and the lead.

That being said the humor that the series sells itself on is rather stable and sudden. Even when situations get serious at times a quick comedy jab at the wrong time keeps you from thinking about the drama too much. While characters seem to fit a common mold for this sort of thing they writers seem to find new and interesting ways to make them funny. Unfortunately towards the second half of the series the jokes begin to stop being funny. This isn’t because it’s reusing the old jokes since it doesn’t, the new humor just falls off as not being as creative. That being said most of the drama in the series is totally forgettable with most story arcs only consisting of one episode.

The overuse of roses as a backdrop whenever someone is bragging does get quite old but characters look alive. However, animation does seem to have some corners cut when characters get farther away from the “camera”. Otherwise, it’s solid, bright and colorful and characters close up seem exceptionally detailed.

I should probably make a quick mention that since I don’t know Japanese and hate reading subtitles I watch it dubbed unless absolutely necessary. In the case of this series generally the voice actors work. I’ve heard a number of complaints about how Vic Mignogna is the dealbreaker for the series but that’s not the case. Even at 48 years old and well over 6′ tall he does his best work with the eccentric types. I will say that Mitsukuni (Luci Christian) is probably a little too feminine and Haruhi (Caitlin Glass) isn’t deep enough for the roles they have but you get used to it and it fits well. The rest of the cast is quite pleasing. Music is nicely varied between pop, light rock and instrumental backgrounds featuring a Victorian theme. Weirdly the opening and closing songs are redone for the English release but unlike previous attempts at this (say Sailor Moon) this one is actually worth it’s own salt to the effect I didn’t even know it wasn’t the original tune until it was pointed out at me.

Extras:
Comes with Actor Commentaries, Outtakes (thirty-three minutes of ‘em), clean opening and closing with samples from the Manga by VIZ media. Unfortunately the Manga samples are a little hard to read when in standard definition format that comes on a DVD.

Bottom line:
Generally entertaining for the first half of the series then begins to lose some of it’s charm. It’s worth checking out to enjoy yourself, though you might find yourself bored by the time the ending hits.

Gurren Lagann Short Review:
When I heard Gainax put out another anime that was hailed as the next big thing I was immediately skeptical knowing my .500 average with me liking whatever they put out. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is their latest offering prompting me to take a second look at my average. Let me do the run-down for you. It’s your standard Super Robot anime but we’ve upgraded to digital animation and bigger…um…eyes. But all the classic themes and characters are accounted for, disillusioned main character, eccentric support fellow, the bleeding heart, the princess love interest, the suspiciously feminine male engineer and a complete disregard for every law of physics and chemistry. Is the series good though? Well I think it’s great. There are a few minor complaints but in general the pacing for the series is incredibly good building up from small time nobodies to the saviors of the universe. On that note, character development is very good with characters being very intuitive and being very intelligent about their environment and the situations they are in. Generally very entertaining with points of comedy brilliance and an absolutely spectacular climax it is definitely worth a watch.