Arthur in the Dumps

I had previously, via facebook, this blog, and another blog, lauded the fact that Arthur magazine was coming back. The original (first?) version of it lives in infamy on various torrent sites and usenet back alleys and it was worth a read. Even if you didn’t agree with it, you could understand the reasoning for how they got there. It was sort of like what Rolling Stone should have been if it was more interested in cultural movements than making a point.

The problem is, the new Arthur (weirdly edited by Jay Babcock) wants to make a political point. I never remember it being like this. It’s so retarded I had to actually google make sure it wasn’t another Jay Babcock with the same name. It’s not. He’s just another washed up living corpse on the shores of lake LSD with no braincells capable of reason anymore. The post which had me remove Arthur from my RSS, facebook and two blogs was Repeal the Second Amendment. The original magazine was witty and funny and had this Mad sort of illustration. It toured music and culture.

Jay Babcock weirdly tries to pull an appeal to authority by saying “Well I edited SWAT magazine”. Well here’s an issue (GET IT?) – he never edited SWAT magazine. I’m not a huge fan of SWAT magazine, I can safely say I never knew it existed. On the other hand, I can google, and no-where is Jay Babcock credited as an editor of SWAT magazine. Modern Gun? Nope. He didn’t do that one either. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say maybe he edited under some sort of pen name but neither magazine turned up any references to him as an editor.

Now this gives us a particularly interesting problem – if he’s not being truthful about his editing of the firearms magazines, how can we trust him as a cultural commentator? We can’t. More importantly there’s now a serious issue where not only is he lying, but if someone submitting content to a magazine which “has no gatekeepers” and it doesn’t toe his line, we can expect it to be removed. This isn’t about free speech, Jay Babcock is just a huge a nazi as the “publishing gatekeepers” he claims to “destroy”.

More on the point, a magazine is just a thing, it’s a medium. He should be able to publish what he wants, just like SWAT should be able to publish what it wants. It’s sort of this live and let live environment where he claims professional and mutual respect. The problem is that instead of then condemning murder as wrong and recognizing that there is evil in the hearts of men (incredibly ironic given his “insider position” in “that culture”), he claims we should repeal the second amendment. He doesn’t, of course, suggest that freedom of speech and a culture of violence (teen slasher movies, violent TV, making the killers a household name on the news and magazines) influence people more than actually holding and owning a gun. Far be it from him to ask we repeal the first amendment to prevent the glorification of violence than to repeal the second amendment which somehow would prevent people from just reaching for their kitchen knife, or truck full of fertilizer, lime and diesel fuel.

Between Babcock being a liar and the new, low standard of content on Arthur, I’m sorry to see it’s back. I can’t help but shake my head at the terrible irony of a culture commentary magazine that doesn’t recognize print’s contribution to culture. Adios, Arthur.

Drones Over Berks

This story is amusing me greatly: Activists Drone Shot out of Sky for Fourth Time Their argument is that “canned hunts” are somehow unethical and unlawful. I think the obvious counter argument is that there’s nothing wrong with canned hunts anymore than a farmer walking up to a canned cow and shooting it in the head with his captive bolt gun. It’s just how farms work. If farmers actually gave the animals the same chance as the birds, they’d cut the cow loose in a field and have to chase it down. The birds are actually doing better than the livestock. Why don’t the cops seem to care? The reason is because the SHARK idiots are in violation of the PA state law. Chapter 34 Statute 2302 concerns Interfering With the Lawful Taking of Wildlife. The answer is – “You’re doing it”. One drone landed on the property, almost all the other drones enter the airspace of the club. If the club is wingshooting, there’s no difference between this and driving an ATV into a deer herd. More on the point the drone obviously comes down near the operators, but if there actually is someone in the woods, then the drone is out of control by their own admission and nearly hitting people. If it was a car, it would be reckless endangerment. Here’s the video they posted:

What’s conspicuously missing? The cloud of shot and the wadding. I would expect to see one (or both) on the videos. It’s more damning to them than the gun club to post this, so I took the liberty of mirroring it locally so I can repost it if the link goes down.

But the real comedy gold comes at the 2:42 minute mark (video quality is poor because they only uploaded at 480p)…

Does that look like a wire that’s been shot? Nope, you can clearly see the copper stranding, which is much thinner than the insulation, which means it wasn’t covered in insulation to begin with if the stranding is all exposed in different directions. My guess is they bought the drone at a yard sale for losers and just twisted the wires together (hence the stripped insulation) and when it fell out of the sky they decided it had to have been shot down. Then they spend three minutes yelling at nothing in the woods, and post it to youtube. Hur dur.

 

Morality in Religious Asceticism

The American Thinker was better when he was less personally invested in things but he still posts strong and interesting arguments. His post on Bidens Abortion Blarney is interesting to read but I would have actually called it Morality in Religious Asceticism.

I try to cut Biden a break with the Grain of Salt the size of a truck. He’s got mental issues. He’s clearly had a stroke or some sort of neurological problem recently. His kid had a stroke, and we know Joe Biden had an aneurysm, so we know the family isn’t running on all eight. We don’t know if he has had any subsequent health issues but judging from the uneven smile and the personality change in the middle of the debate (not the laughing, but the tone) I think it’s extremely likely. The sad part is that Obama (black, middle-aged, high stress job) is three for three for “likely to have a heart attack or stroke” so we could end up with two guys in office with brain damage.

That being said, Biden is pretty much the king of contradicting himself in the same breath, and you can hit up numerous political commentary websites for that. What particularly bothers me isn’t politicians being politicians but politicians ignoring morality. I think the American Thinkers post on Biden on Abortion sums it up nicely. Freedom is about maximizing the rights of the minority while preserving the rights of the majority. Liberty is about keeping to yourself and doing what you want so long as it doesn’t end up on the next guys lawn. Not only are these two distinct concepts, but they are inseparable in the vast majority of cases. It is freedom which would allow gays to marry, it is liberty when they get married. See what’s going on here? It doesn’t infringe on the rights of the typical Christian to allow gays to marry because the typical Christian isn’t gay. It doesn’t affect the liberty of the typical Christian when gays marry except in one very small instance – the official marrying the gays is party to the liberty of the gay marriage. See what Biden did? He’s claiming he’s a Catholic and following social doctrine but not “telling people what to do”. The problem is, if you’re gay, and you’re a Christian, the church isn’t going to marry you.

So lets apply this to a more extreme example per the American Thinker. If you’re a racist, you have the freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. You have the liberty to say it – these are synonymous, but you do not have the liberty to discriminate. There are people in a purely libertarian environment who would argue that liberty = freedom and therefor they own a private business and they can tell whoever they want to fuck off. In some cases, this is actually true. You cannot sell a car to a 10 year old.

“Sure, because it’s codified in the law!”

Well that’s sort of the point. When it comes to abortion it’s not enough to say, “blah blah Catholic Social Doctrine” while discreetly beating off to a picture of Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Ryan’s answer is The Correct Answer. “This is the law and this the application of the law”.

What happens when we have an excess of freedom or liberty is injustice. Ironically, Obama sued Citibank for this very situation – he played the race card and while Citibank wanted the liberty to give everyone a shitty loan, it did not have the freedom to hand out loans under terrible conditions. Citibank drops the idea that things would be “more fair” if it was somehow compelled to hand out more loans and make more money and suddenly it’s vogue to make sure “everyone gets a loan”. Predictably, people who shouldn’t ever have gotten a loan are now given a loan in our “more fair” society and the whole machine explodes years later. Not hard to see why Obama was quick to shovel money into the bailout machine, it looks extremely bad to sue to compel a company to do something and then have that very something explode. It’s hush money. Rewinding the topic – why then should we compel the catholic church to marry gays? Gays have a freedom to get married, they are at liberty to be married, they do not have the right to be married in a church. That being said, there’s churches that will do it and honestly I think the message in the Bible to love one another and so these churches should do it – but that’s a personal view and probably more fit for another blog. The takeaway here is that it’s entirely up to the church, but they can’t bitch about gay marriage if we entirely secularize it. And we should, if not for the tax revenue.

Liberty stems from freedom, but where does freedom come from?

Freedom comes from protecting the rights of the few in the face of the rights of the many. The collective argument for this is “your right to throw a punch ends at my face”. The problem when you stop believing in the worth of individuals is that freedom suddenly stems from the whims of the majority. It’s dead simple.

That’s really what Biden is saying – “I don’t know where freedom comes from, so it’s just whatever most people want”. It’s a terrible way to run a country.

Copy DVDs in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)

  1. Install XCode
  2. Install macports
  3. Install dvdbackup from macports
MAPPLE:Movies jknarr$ dvdbackup -M -o . -i /dev/rdisk1
libdvdread: Using libdvdcss version 1.2.11 for DVD access

libdvdread: Attempting to retrieve all CSS keys
libdvdread: This can take a _long_ time, please be patient

libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VIDEO_TS.VOB at 0x00000127
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_01_0.VOB at 0x000001a5
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_01_1.VOB at 0x00000295
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_02_0.VOB at 0x001d818d
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_02_1.VOB at 0x001d8191
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_03_0.VOB at 0x001d86fe
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Get key for /VIDEO_TS/VTS_03_1.VOB at 0x001d8703
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
libdvdread: Found 3 VTS's
libdvdread: Elapsed time 0
MAPPLE:Movies jknarr$ ls
MAX_AND_RUBY_PARTY_TIME            
MAPPLE:Movies jknarr$ hdiutil makehybrid -udf-volume-name MAX_AND_RUBY_PARTY_TIME -o ~/Desktop/MAX_AND_RUBY_PARTY_TIME ./MAX_AND_RUBY_PARTY_TIME\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ /
Creating hybrid image...
...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

MAPPLE:Movies jknarr$

Note that there is a bunch of spaces after the device name, use TAB in bash to autocomplete. This is how we keep movies from two year olds who fill our DVD players with cheese.

The View from the Top

I quit ebay (GSI) last week. It was a tough decision. The whole problem was largely due to how they handled the merger. They reset everyone’s time off and basically screwed people who had been with the company far longer than me out of quite a bit of money by doing that. When the company (GSI) started, people were given guaranteed options and vesting. Ebay reset that when they bought us. They also rolled out a new policy where you don’t get paid for time off you don’t use. Basically, it looked like they were setting us up for layoffs. From a technical perspective, it started out with “We’ll make you our east coast datacenter!” Then it became “We’ll make you a colo with a back-haul!” Finally it turned into “We’ve given you a laughably small budget to do this, so just make sure your oracle stuff makes it over here”.

The writing was on the wall. It sucked. I loved the people, I thought the acquisition was going to be my ticket into ebay, and frankly after putting in a crapton of time over and above 40 hours a week, I really felt like we were getting dumped on. More on the point I had only been there a brief amount of time. What if I was one of the guys who was there eight years?

Well, turns out they quit too. In fact, everyone who really knew anything about the system quit. Theres still good people there, but the problem is they’re a scarce commodity. The bigger problem is that the backfill sucks. People know ebay didn’t give the remaining people a very good deal, so the talent isn’t coming along. Finally the worst problem is the customers themselves are packing up for greener pastures. Customers were with GSI because they weren’t ebay/amazon. I won’t go into details but suffice the say putting GSIs review on glassdoor.com on the front page of slashdot the day we were featured was the nail in the backfill coffin. For me personally, the nail came when – after working with the teams for several weeks to upgrade a core product failed – they announced “POP THE CORK, IT WORKS!”

We know it doesn’t work. I would have been happier if they just punched me in the dick. At some point you just have to say, “Help isn’t on the way”.

Needless to say I’m much happier at Comcast. They gave me a top end macbook pro (solid state 128GB drives are fucking fast) and while the commute sucks (although part of it is my inexperience in riding the trains), the facilities are much nicer and the people seem pretty solid. Have some highrez pics of philly from the cafeteria.


Game Reviews: Gears 3, Battlefield 3

Gears 3 is really easy – buy it used for the singleplayer story. If you liked the final patch on Gears 2, you’ll be right at home in Gears 3 since the gnasher (shotgun) is even stronger if that’s at all possible. The lancer chainsaw is nerfed. They honest to god brought nothing new to the table.

Battlefield 3 – This is a must buy if you like tactical shooters. The graphics are awesome. The movement through the environment is fluid and you rarely get hung up on the levels or on dynamic debris from blown out buildings. The guns are really nice.

Lets start with what everyone likes to discuss – the guns. The guns are enough to a player flashbacks. The irons are right on, the tritium sights (little white dots) are nice and the sights move correctly. The laser pointer suffers from not being a real laser projected from the gun, but it’s not jarring if you’re not looking for it. The holo sight moves proportionally to the front sight in real life, but again, it’s “close enough” where it just wanders a bit. The guns feel real – the recoil is projected back and up instead of just blossoming the sights – and the sound is awesome. I set it to wartapes with extra stereo and it’s like a theatre. The downsides: Some guns shoot Hollywood style beach ball flames out the front. The tac light is stupidly bright and needs to be toned down, you can be standing in broad daylight and still get flared.

Graphics – Fantastic. The biggest thing which makes this game shine is the field effects. The rolling clouds on the battlefield and the dirt on the windshield makes this an awesome experience. It’s really hard to put into text, but the grit-factor makes this game awesome. What will blow my mind is a map where there’s wind which blows smoke grenade clouds across the battlefield. If I see that I’m going to call this game perfect.

The vehicles: Oh god this is where it shines. The tanks feel appropriately chunky. I don’t understand the turbo-boost on tanks and similar vehicles but whatever. Click one of the control sticks to use it. The tanks will get over any terrain – slowly. Tanks now kill people appropriately violently, no more shooting the main cannon at infantry and doing pitifully low splash damage. The tank cannon can be loaded with a variety of shells and each vehicle gets three perk slots. The gunner is now more than a “bonus ticket” for when someone kills a tank, they have their own vehicle perks, loadout, etc specific to whatever weapon system they’re using. Case in point, the pilot of the jets gets rockets or a cannon, but the backseat gets the guided JDAM bombs, countermeasures and heat seeking missiles. It’s now critically important flyers have a second seat. Moving whatever you’re riding in now also affects reticle blossom for all guns on the platform, which is awesome. Note that any open seat on any vehicle is a spawn point, so attackers aren’t just limited to spawning at the carrier, they can spawn directly in vehicles. However, where this really sucks is on a public game where people spawn in and immediately bail out. Case in point last night we had a cobra pilot using it as a spawn taxi instead of shooting people. Points are shared among the crew and I believe increase in relation to how many people are in the vehicle. Party wagons (APCs) can rack up a lot of points really quickly. Base point values are doubled from previous games, but kill points with PDWs are halved.

Destruction 2.MILLION – This is awesome. I’m still finding crap to blow up. The way the first game worked was they had a series of premade buildings and after you knew where to blow them up you could simply drop them in three C4 or so. This new engine assigns a texture and destructibility to a surface, so a wall you might have assumed is sold is not. The downside is that some walls are a LOT more solid than others and require tanks to kill them to open up new routes. Brink players will be at home with this although the walls which are destructible aren’t highlighted.

The good, the bad, and now the ugly – Hit detection is crap. You used to be able to make murder holes in things and now a wall you can see through is actually not open. Generally this happens when you see rebar, the area under the rebar still counts as the wall. It’s really annoying and I suspect this will be used by snipers or vex them terribly. People still use vehicles as personal devices. The last game I played with a carrier in it (battlefield vietnam for wake island) had jetskis just for this purpose. I don’t think jetskis were really in vietnam, but it fixed the problem. The spawn system works to fix this. People dolphin dive pretty much whenever you shoot at them (jump to prone), they need to really fix this because while they don’t appear prone in mid-air like MW2, the hit detection seems to miss more often than not when they do this. Grenades (and explosives in general) behave really oddly where a grenade you think you’re far enough from will kill you, but sometimes a grenade right next to you won’t. It largely depends on if the grenade is above or below you, small variances in terrain seem to cause big variances in damage.

Online – EA servers are down constantly. This is how every battlefield game to ever come out has been. What’s really annoying is PC servers show up in the server browser but if EA central is down, you can’t join them. It’s not clear to me if you can join PC games or not, but it’s really annoying to see them in the browser and get the error “Could not contact EA online” when trying to play multi. I’m sure this will be fixed shortly.

Impressions of Verizon’s FIOS Internet and TV

I’ve had Verizon FIOS providing me with internet and TV for about a month now. The good: The UI is great. The bad: The internet tends to feel slow. The ugly: The set top box for HD content has some weird issues.

The Good: The bundles are stronger than comcast, so you get more channels for less money. The set top box UI is great but the menus sometimes require you to hit “left” and sometimes “OK”. Hitting “options” doesn’t always bring up what you’re expecting, but hitting OK on a program lets you select options. This is all covered in the manual, and the video help, so while it can be goofy it’s at least well documented goofy. The signal quality is fantastic. Even my TV upstairs (SD set) looks good. The menus are snappy and responsive, which is more than I can say comcast ever gave me. The 802b/g/n router is OK, but more on this in a bit. The point here is that they give you a free router, which is a darn sight better than comcast which wants to lease you their router and refuses to support anything else. The widgets channel is just damned cool and you can post what you’re watching to facebook, play sodoku, get news, traffic, weather, anything really. Watching youtube videos is pretty easy. The remote control app for android expands this further and lets you share pictures and other phone media right on your TV. If I had the DVR option, I could also control it through the website or the phone. (With on-Demand, I don’t feel like I need the DVR).

The Bad: Their router has really, really high latency for a connection. I’m not sure why. I think it’s related to DNS but I’ve been wrong before. Also the bandwidth throttling is done at the router which makes for occasionally interesting problems when there’s bandwidth contention. (Tip – need more speed? Go into the ON DEMAND menu of your set top box and leave it there). Finally the router is just sinful with how bad the setup is. They want you to use their disk on each computer to set it up, but the reality is if you want more than WPA encryption over your wifi you need to set it up manually. In addition to an inconsistent UI, it displays the WPA2 password once you set that up on the options screen. This isn’t as bad as those unusable walmart cisco waste of money appliances, but it’s pretty bad.

The Ugly: Their website is just about unusable. There’s a friggin commercial video in the left hand pane when you’re trying to log in. Even when you log in, you’re just logged into the presentation side and the content doesn’t really change. Also single sign on is weirdly absent and their site requires you to log in again to see billing. Their routers implementation of WPA2 is weird, and devices which are too strict (my wifes laptop) or wonky themselves (the wii) won’t sign in the first time. The set top box (not the DVR) for HD has some weird issue where sending an HDMI reset request results in losing the audio. Physically unplugging it from the TV or cycling the power fixes it. This is a known issue with verizon and they’re “working on it”. The workaround is to use RCA cables for audio but that’s a whole separate mess because your TV doesn’t know which HDMI is supposed to get the line-in.

Now for all I’ve complained, it actually doesn’t suck. I really like the service. I like the signal quality. The internet leaves a bit to be desired with the connection latency but it’s nothing you’re going to notice for 90% of your surfing. Also once you actually make the connection it’s plenty fast. The only real pain is the HDMI audio problem and they’re fixing it, but if you’ve spent any money on speakers anyway (and you probably have given the terrible audio quality of flat screens today) you’ll have line out/in anyway. Even with these small complaints, it’s still a step up from comcast. And heck, you can even bundle DirectTV in there if you don’t want Verizon’s lineup.

Comcast Sucks, Again. HD Rant Inside!

Since I got the netflix working on the XBOX I’ve been absolutely gay for high definition content. This is also the reason why I’m dropping comcast. Comcast, for all they employ and do for Philly, has the absolute worst pricing scheme and internet service. I’m saving almost half by going to Verizon.

Before my objections to comcast were largely intellectual. If you weren’t a geek, you probably wouldn’t care. Now that I’ve got this high-def set with enough resolution I can read the time off an ant’s wristwatch, I realize just how terrible it is. Objections to comcast for the common man follow:

The signal quality sucks: It does. Period. The end. I have tried every mode on my TV and two sets of connectors. Cartoons look like hell. I realize putting content designed for SD on a 1080p TV is going to look poor but spongebob is cubic enough without exposing the MPEG signal encoding. Anime nonwithstanding, cartoons are designed for an SD display and they should upscale gracefully without having blocks in the colors. Conversely just plugging the coax into my TV (digital tuner, FTW) I lose the cable guide but the cartoons and more importantly free high def content looks great.

No free high def content: Does your TV have a digital cable tuner? Try plugging it into the coax directly, if you’re a comcast person. You will get all the free, basic cable channels and the high def signals when it’s available. Why doesn’t comcast let you get to the high def programs freely over their cable box? Am I supposed to have a switch on the circuit which cuts between the raw coax and the comcast box? What the hell? What about alternate digital channels? Comcast lets you access “local content” but my TV found 70 something cable channels and 48 of them had alternate digital channels. There’s no presentation for this layer. (Actually there is, but digging the channel map to see that channel 12-4 is channel 835 while channel 12-3 is channel 521 is a bear).

On Demand is Fucking Useless: You would think that on-demand would substitute high def programs automatically. It doesn’t. Why are there two menu trees? Just do it like netflix and if it’s high def it’s “PRESENTED IN HD”, and if it’s low def it quietly sits in the corner. The worst part is that netflix over wifi looks better than comcast with a dedicated connection.

Their box is ugly: Their box is ugly and their remotes are too. I’ve seen better designed adult toys from degenerate cultures (canada) with more buttons.

The bandwidth issue: This is the worst. Comcast clamps the bandwidth after X amount of time. (If this is legal in your area). So you get 25mbps (mibi- not mega-) and then it throttles to 10mbps. Or whatever it is. If you weren’t bittorrenting, you didn’t notice it. If you were playing videogames, you wouldn’t notice it since you’ve had an AWESOME connection until you hit the cap. If you’re youtubing, you didn’t notice it. But consider the idea of streaming video (netflix). When I was watching Restrepo last night (great documentary), if I fired up the netflix and paused it immediately, the xbox would stream enough to the drive to display 1080p for a good amount of time. If I just let it fly, it would do about 15 minutes of 1080p and then clamp. But how does this effect the everyman? Quite simply if you watch youtube HD content or hulu or any of the other streaming TV services or even the brand new google TV, you’re going to get bit by it. Suddenly it’s not a geek issue about my videogame being slow or my bittorrent doing something weird, it’s a problem where you don’t get the best service you could possibly get and they want your eyes. I understand when you’re watching hulu you’re not giving them their advertising revenue, but the bandwidth issue is a direct attack against high def content delivered over the internet. This affects you, even if you’re using your laptop. Consider then if or when you get a high def TV, and you plug your laptop into it, you’re still not getting high def hulu.

The light didn’t go on before, but it’s on now.

Battlefield Bad Company 2: VIETNAM

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this add on. For one, it’s a lot of fun. It also brings back the fast rush gameplay since C4 (TNT) now does the old level of damage. On the other hand I spent a countless amount of hours playing the original vietnam, and it is not the original game. Hastings and the remake of Wake Island (the C shaped island with the carrier deployment) in the original are the two iconic Vietnam maps which got the most rotation. Both of these are conspicuously missing, minus the fact that Hastings will come out when they have 69 million player supporting actions (revives, etc). Or basically the end of January.

The good stuff is that the maps make decent use of the battlefield engine (frostbite). There’s a metric ton of trees and grasses and the battlefield engine does that particularly well. There’s PT boats and a variety of paths for good players to use to get between objectives. The problem is that the maps tend to feel cinematic rather than strategic. The other problem is that they all blend together. I played it for about three hours last night (counting the bottlecaps) and I can’t tell you which map is which. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about them except that one has a napalm strike and one has a temple. The temple could have been a cool urban-ish combat feature, but it’s not. The napalm strike turns into sniper wars since you walk out and go oh that’s COOL right before you realize there’s only one tunnel in and out and that’s the first thing that gets filled with flamethrowers and shotguns. Basically that’s the end of that map. Maybe the other team plays it badly or maybe your snipers are good enough to keep their heads down but if you make it through the tunnels you end up at the objectives and met with more flamethrowers and shotguns. I hate to say it but the maps, while they look cool, just aren’t as well built as the other maps for this game. Even the ones which they shoehorned into the other mode and then patched to move the MCOMs (white pass) are better built than the vietnam one. And what’s conspicuously missing is Heavy Metal, which would have been an awesome vietnam map but is an utter failure in the bad company 2 vanilla format. Finally, urban combat? Completely missing.

The classes have good balance. The engineer feels grossly underpowered. I barely silver starred the engineers machine gun. The RPG just doesn’t do enough damage. The medic does well, there’s no real gripes. The sniper takes quite awhile to get used to, the bullet drop isn’t there. The mortar strike is wonky. The anti-tank mines seem to do less damage, which is also a bad thing because it makes the engineer entirely unremarkable. You absolutely must have an assaulter follow you around since you’ll be running out of mines and RPGs. Even the extra explosives perk only gives you one extra, instead of doubling it. Finally the worst of the worst is that marking bad guys, even bad guys which should be terribly obvious (helos, tanks), only sticks around for 30 seconds or so.

Vehicles – vehicles are cool. The jeep is just about uncontrollable and slow which sucks because it makes it more of a target than a tactical helper. The jeep is useless. The tank is actually decent, it takes a good beating due to the engineer being useless. Tanks really get killed by TNT, otherwise things just marginally hurt it. The mortar strike, which used to be a super mortar strike with the explosives perk, only really hurts a tank about 10% to 20% of it’s health. The helo is a death machine. It’s fast and maneuverable and the guns on the side do stupid amounts of damage. On the other hand all the weapons hurt it, so on a half competent team even the engineer can kill it with small arms. Mostly though it seems like the bullet penetration is set to max because it’s not uncommon to shoot both gunners out of the helo. The PT boat people are bitching is too strong, it’s not. The trick is to shoot the driver and gunners with precision fire. The PT boat itself offers them no cover whatsoever, so a thumper or an RPG aimed at the crew will often clear the decks in one hit. People shooting at the boat itself are the people bitching it’s too strong. In fact one of my games had two PT boats consistently wrecking us, the solution was to shoot the driver so it was still enough I could make use of cover to shoot the gunners. (The other team went entirely sniper after that).

The really bad stuff I’ve saved for last and it really comes down to the flamethrower. It’s so powerful everyone is using it but the range is so short it’s reasonably balanced. If you’re using explosives perk as an assault, you can usually grenade them out of cover. On the other hand the flamethrower itself seems glitchy. People standing in water take fire damage for as long as you’re shooting them, but they go out immediately. People in the presence of a med pack don’t seem to catch on fire (or even take damage sometimes). There’s nothing to distinguish between friendly and enemy flame streams. You don’t hurt yourself with the flamethrower even firing it at your feet. The flame spread is cool, but as an assaulter I usually just toss down ammo, hold down arm and spin wildly shooting flames to put up a wall of death around me. It doesn’t set off C4, mines or TNT. It doesn’t blow down buildings. It takes awhile to clear brush with it. It’s not obvious if it gets buffed by explosives or magnum ammo. Finally the worst part is that you have to hit “reload” to transfer “ammo” from your “pouch” to your weapon. It’s just weird. If you let the game reload for you, the flamethrower sputters. It’s just buggy. The worst is the fact that it won’t burn down a building. Toss a grenade in the huts and it’ll blow the hut down. Hit it with a flamethrower and nothing happens (but weirdly enough the people inside get hurt even though the animation doesn’t show fire inside). I have a feeling they won’t fix it though.

Is it worth it? Yes. It’s fun. It brings back quick rush mode. The maps are neat despite their flaws and the flamethrower is hilarious. It would have been nice to see better maps and the vietnam weapons available in standard battlefield 2, but there’s enough there to justify the cost. What it really needs is tighter integration where multiplayer could be “battlefield 2”, “vietnam” or “both” just like rush or conquest can be sorted, or not. But these are things which can be patched, and I think the price was fair considering the amount of other freebies we got from DICE.

Regurgitating the Apple

This is absolutely worth a read. It’s a heritage.org aritcle about how liberals think.

The only thing that rubs me wrong is the invocation of Brokeback Mountain. Really it falls prey to itself here because Brokeback isn’t something used in line with the argument. In fact, the way it’s used is counter to the argument. The argument being made here is for self-determination and discrimination (or judgement). Brokeback is a movie about two cowboys who want to be gay on their ranch. Fine, great, it’s not my thing. If they had wanted to make the correct point, they should have pointed out towns where they have pride parades, etc. There’s no pride in being “straight” and they make the point with Desperate Housewives saying the message isn’t “you’ll make a great family” but that “your life will suck if you’re a housewife”. It’s the tyranny of standards argument being put forward. That being said, towns with pride parades do represent a form of tyranny. With no pride parade celebrating wanting to be straight, or (my favorite) the white heritage day, celebrating any other holiday is flat out wrong. While this argument itself plays into the problem raised in the article that we’re treating everything as mediocre, I believe this is the point. If there’s no discernible mediocrity, if there’s nothing which is obviously evil then we can coexist. But this requires judgement and this is the crux of the article. The Brokeback reference is used wrongly.

On the other hand I am sympathetic to the idea that we have no moral compass as a society. If one group is off murdering your group, then you probably should go over there and kill them before they get you. As pointed out in the article and that godawful song Imagine (which is another pet peeve of mine I happened to lol at when I saw it come up), Hitler started in a beer hall. He didn’t have his own nation. Germany didn’t wake up one day and say “well lets give this nazi thing a go and hand out microwaves! we’ll tell those jews that they’re hats!”. There is evil in the hearts of men and we should seek to stamp it out and lament the fact that doing so requires armed conflict. Another opportunity is missed here, but brought up under the guise of Abu Graib. Treating people badly to prevent or persuade them from evil should be preferable to killing them outright. This is what separates the west from the middle east. We don’t go around bombing their civilian centers. We do give them a trial. We treat them badly, but we don’t actually hurt them. Again, the point is lost in the articles writing but the point he wants to make is restraint is a virtue. You should own a gun. You should know how to use it, be comfortable with it, and pop off rounds every weekend. This doesn’t mean when there is conflict you immediately smoke the guy, but it means that you understand the zen of gun ownership. You’re willing to treat people badly (pointing a gun at them) to prevent further evil (shooting them). Of course when their potential for evil outweighs the actual cost in terms of real evil of keeping them alive, our heros should be perfectly willing to shoot them with confidence and sleep like babies at night.

Try putting that on TV. It will be made an action movie, rather than a movie about self doubt, moral exploration and finally confidence and sorrow at conflict.

Minor quibbles about framing aside, it’s a decent read. I said to my brother the other day that we had, as a society, fallen prey to the spiritual danger of not owning a farm. The topic was the LL Bean catalog. The version they sent us, supposedly the full catalog, didn’t include any of the hunting section. Well it turns out they do have a hunting section and it seems to have some nice stuff. But the point was that a lot of these places make up crap so we can play dress up. We own boots which don’t keep our feet warm, we buy camo jackets which only serve to make our corpses harder to find when we freeze to death, etc. When we do make value judgements on things, we don’t make them because they’re rational or just, we make them because we want to play dress up and this camo is more military than that camo, etc. I realize this flies in the face of the plea above saying that barring egregious offenses to the general morality of society (murder), we simply shouldn’t care.

As above, so below, or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If we say that something is crap we should ensure that we ourselves can pass our own judgement. This is why I’m not huge on EMS or Cabelas either. There might be good stuff there, it might work as advertised, but it’s overpriced and therefor it is vanity. My favorite hunting jacket is still an M65 Field Jacket. It’s warm, it’s built correctly (who in gods name thought velcro was smart to put on tactical stuff?), it’s camo, it’s got pockets in the right places and the best part is that they’re $20 when they’re on sale. Can’t be beat. But this is a good example of the middle road. Traps are on each side of the line. It’s possible to be too permissive as it is to be too iron fisted. How do we maintain the middle ground? We examine ourselves and we judge.