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.