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12 April 2015 @ 11:03 pm
When the PS2 came out, it was banned from being exported to China because it could break strong encryption or launch nukes or something like that. Over ten years and two video game generations later, I welcome the supreme power of the PS4 into my house. It is twice as powerful as my gaming laptop which is itself no slouch - it can handle Skyrim on med to high visuals plus some pretty decent mods. What is all that power going to? GTA 5 is on board but most of my gaming time goes to... the Pinball simulators.

Real pinball was always too expensive. One quarter might let me see the ball rise up into the top bumpers and then shoot down right between the flippers. In the next pull of the plunger I might actually get to use the flippers. Maybe even shoot a ramp or two. But sooner or later - usually sooner - the ball takes a path that no flipper can possibly reach. It's over in less than a minute.

And yet, I've never wholly lost interest. At the height of the video arcade, I always expected to see them there - even if it was in the back setting the stage for the arcade's real stars. But as the video arcade itself passes into memory I know there is a niche group of admirers that still it alive. Even if only barely. Their existence says that there is something overlooked about pinball. Something forgotten. Like jazz for nerds.

So I gave these pinball simulators a chance. They were only a couple of bucks and having already paid the price of admission, a ball out in thirty seconds doesn't feel so expensive.

Having spent a few hours and seen many, many shots down the middle of the flippers, here's what I think the draw is. The game never changes. It's just as difficult on the first pull as it is on the same ball 30 minutes later. There are some shots - a minority - that are safe, others that are almost guaranteed a ball out and others that are purely random. Once you figure out which is which, and once you figure out how to stay in that safe set of shots, into the zone you go and that is a great place to be.
05 January 2015 @ 10:29 am
We were able to get two of them in this weekend. Not big affairs - just drinks at the local bar - but it was two hours of not pushing a kid to finish their food or put on their shoes. Of not catching hands that are reaching out to get intimate with a hundred year old painting and a thousand year old chair. Of not going hoarse from shouting them down off a wall they shouldn't be climbing. Family time is fun and meaningful but thank God for these little pit stops.
Current Mood: gratefulgrateful
30 June 2013 @ 09:23 pm
After an entire weekend of being fully engaged with the kids, the wife has spirited them away to the grandparents house. I sit in blessed solitude, embraced by the fruits of modern technology. Outside, it's somewhere around 90. Inside, my air conditioner gives that the finger.

It's quiet, save for headphones that are playing The Smiths and Borderlands 2. I'm on my way to killing a second mojito and I'm pleasantly buzzed. My what a difference 90 proof rum makes! I've reached my limit. In about an hour, I'll be asleep.

Tomorrow, I'll get up at 4am to go a job where I can expect to do things I like to do, learn things that are endlessly fascinating and will give me the flexibility to get a 1.5 hour workout during my lunchtime.
01 April 2013 @ 09:59 am
Religious conservatives worry that if marriage is redefined, it will open the door to assaults on their religious practices. Calling homosexuality, or any kind of sexual practice outside marriage, a "sin" will be classified as "hate speech" or "discriminatory" or "bigoted" and prosecuted accordingly. The pulpit isn't the only thing affected. Churches open their doors to the public to host marriages, essentially turning themselves into a private business that has opened their doors to the public for some kind of public function. That triggers an additional set of rights and duties. What happens when they refuse homosexual partners? What about private religious schools or home schools. These are subject to education standards. Will they have to teach the morality of homosexuality?

Unwarranted fear? Hardly, given the power the Supreme Court has already appropriated in social matters. What is legal? Ultimately, it's whatever the Supremes say it is. For proof, you need not look any further than abortion. Abortion is never mentioned in the constitution. Neither, for that matter, is the Air Force. But the big difference is that in the Constitution, national defense is explicitly stated and it doesn't take alot of heavy lifting to go from that provision to Air Force. But what's the underlying provision for abortion? The Supremes say it's the right to privacy. But wait a second, there's no right to privacy mentioned in the Federal Constitution either. So where did that come from? From the "penumbra" that "emanates" from other explicitly stated rights. Which rights emanate this penumbra? How wide and deep and broad is this penumbra? Nobody knows. Not even the Supreme Court is sure.

Since abortion was created out of thin air, like air, its size and scope are just as expansive. The art of jurisprudence is about balancing rights that come into conflict with each other in a particular circumstance. What controls the court, at least in part, is the language used to define that right. But what is the scope of a right has no textual basis? It's "whatever the court feels like it" on steroids.

What happens when anti-abortionists picket an abortion clinic? The legal issue is that the made up "right" to an abortion conflicts with the explicit right to free speech. Speech is given varying degrees of protection depending on the type of speech being uttered. Political speech is supposed to have the highest degree of protection and this enables picketers and protesters to set up shop just outside a private business. Heck, some political speakers can talk their heads off or distribute literature on the premises of a private business even if it's not in the interests of the property owner. That's how important political speech is supposed to be.

And of anti-abortionist speech? They must silence themselves before an abortion clinic. Other political speakers can be as offensive as they possibly can. They can burn flags. They can submerge a crucifix in urine. They can approach anyone to distribute literature on private property against the wishes of the owner. On public property that right is unlimited. But not anti-abortionists. Because their speech is "offensive" to abortion patrons, they can't setup in front of an abortion business. They can't approach an abortion patron even though other political speakers can distribute fliers at will. All of the understanding and protection that other speakers get are ripped away for anti-abortionists.

You can talk about how the practice of religion is protected by the first amendment. But if one first amendment right can be neutered by a made up one, how much more the others?
29 March 2013 @ 03:51 pm
Some of the more thoughtful critics of marriage have said that its only purpose is to legitimize sex. I don't doubt that this is what it does - or, really, what it *did*. But that's more of a "how" than a "why." The why has always been for the sake of children. From their perspective, no other arrangement yet devised is better. There is, I think, a spiritual connection that the child shares with their birth parents. Why else would children who are adopted by the most excellent parents still need to at least find out who their birth parents are, if not connect with them.

Critics are quick to point out examples of bad parenting. But all that shows is that people aren't perfect. People are imperfect and so, too, their institutions. No program, no procedure will change that. Conservatives have known that forever. The real question is how natural parenting compares with other arrangements. Are we really to believe that foster care or the orphanage is better? Actually, that's precisely what liberals would have us believe. Parents are completely interchangeable. Dad can be swapped out for another dad, or another woman or a government program. Why, then, do we need to worry about the effect of divorce or gay "marriage"? Like religion, it's all the same to them.

From a socio-economic perspective, it relieved society of needing do deal with abandoned children. From a plain equity perspective, the parents brought the child into the world, they should be the ones to deal with him. Of course, if society had to deal with him, they could adopt a number of "solutions." Barbaric societies killed them outright (think Spartans). More civilized ones let them live only to have the street deal with them. Of course that meant that they would have to deal with the brigands and criminals downline. Even more civilized ones cared for them, but that was expensive.

Why set marriage apart? If other relationships CAN provide the same kind of child care, why not honor them too? I think the reason has to do with practicality. Most people simply work better with a clear cut, black or white example. Even if other relationships have merit, most people need a clear example of the ideal one in order to "get it." If there's a set of arrangements that command just about the same level of respect as marriage, then why bother with marriage?

This is what I think will happen when marriage is redefined to include homosexual couples. People will simply not bother to get married. Since the institution can be redefined at will, it means nothing.

Why make it lifetime? I've been puzzling over this one. A lifetime relationship doesn't benefit the child once he's grown up. I've read stories of grown children being devastated when they see their parents divorce. As painful as that is, if the children were raised correctly, having all the emotional strength of an adult, it shouldn't be crippling.

The only reason I can think of is for the protection of the wife. It certainly doesn't protect the man. Nothing about marriage works to his advantage. Child rearing takes a long time. In antiquity, when infant mortality was so high that lots of children had to be birthed, once that last child finally leaves the house (or starts bringing money into the household), the wife's put on alot of miles. If the husband leaves, she didn't have many economic options left. Not that she had many, outside of prostitution, in her younger years.

This is why I lol whenever women denigrate marriage. It is true that the modern, capitalist era provides unprecedented economic opportunities for women. But it's also true that, just like in antiquity, men prefer younger tail (and younger tail doesn't care as much for looks so long as there's money, power or fame to make up for it.) As marriage weakens, so too will the social pressure on men to refrain from giving chase. This works out pretty well for men, not so much for women. They'd better be ready to be content with their SATC and apple martinis.
27 March 2013 @ 12:01 pm
They can still enter into a lifetime, monogamous commitment with full benefits and legal rights. Heck, they can even redefine their commitment (we all know how fond they are of redefining their truth (and forcing everyone to agree with them (although they'd use the much nicer sounding term "respect")). They can drop the "lifetime" part and substitute it with "as long as the feeeeeelings remain" or "as long as the money keeps going." They can drop the "monogamous" part and can invite one, two, ..., n number of other men / women / boys (willing, of course) / girls (willing, of course) / cats, dogs, trees, rocks (gotta be open minded) for the occasional orgy or lover's holiday.

They just won't get the same social recognition. Not right away. That is earned over time and over generations.

Redefining marriage won't strengthen it. It's already undergone a more fundamental redefinition. As to why society even recognizes it and honors it above all other relationships, it's no longer because it provides the very best environment for the upbringing of children. Instead, society wants to gratify feeeeelings. You feel in love with another person - you're special! Here's the same honor we once gave to people who committed their lifetimes to each other regardless of how they felt. Oh and since we want to honor feelings, as soon as you don't feel the same way, you can terminate the relationship.

The arguments I've been hearing in favor of redefinition:

"It's just a word" No it's not. Just ask the activists fighting tooth and nail to change it. If it's just a word, they should be expected to let it go just as much as traditionalists are expected to change it.

"It can be redefined / it has been redefined." Is it might makes right now? We can enslave a group of people. It's within our technical power for as long as civilization has existed. Pesky constitution getting in the way? We can repeal those provisions. Does that mean we should?

"Married partners have a poor track record of upholding marriage." Irrelevant. This is just another way of saying "well, nobody takes it seriously so it should be subject to redefinition." Nobody? Really? Also non sequitur. Also guilt by association since it's usually used to dismiss an argument without dealing with the argument itself. Also, partners not taking things seriously have gotten particularly bad after unilateral, no-fault divorces made upholding marriage even harder. This is just what redefinitionists wanted a generation ago. Now that's being used as an argument for redefining it again?

"Nobody's going to get hurt" Totally speculative. This is a fundamental institution. How many unintended consequences flowed from something as trivial as say, Government Health Care. You don't think there will be similar consequences?
23 March 2013 @ 08:43 pm
I liked Wreck-It-Ralph. Not so much when I first saw it, but I was able to look past its flaws on the second viewing and its gotten better with the third. In fact, I liked it so much that after a very long hiatus of purchasing videos (I think the last one might have been Brave), I shelled out 20 bucks to Apple for the HD version. End even though I'm currently stymied by its DRM (can't play it on my Windows laptop without an Internet connection), I don't regret the purchase.

Being a nerd, it's easy to like the setup. Animation buffs had Roger Rabbit and anyone who's picked up a toy had Toy Story. Finally something for the gamers. And a bone fide love letter at that. Where other movies shoehorn in shallow video game references, maybe just to establish a minor character, here the references ooze authenticity. Little touches like graffiti declaring, "Aerith lives" or "All your base are belong to us" or a character from the uber-obscure Rise of the Robots show that somebody up the chain had a genuine respect for the medium. It's also refreshing to see something lighthearted. These are video games after all, and even though its consumers are hardly kids, in the end it's about having fun.

While the conceit is fun and the visuals are dazzling, it wouldn't be worth spending more than just a rental for it unless it had an interesting main character and a compelling quest. The movie wastes little time introducing us to Ralph. He's cast as a bad guy but really wants to be the hero. We suspect that he has all the virtues that a hero ought to have and all he needs is a chance to display it. He stumbles around chasing false leads until he meets Venelope. Initially, they don't like each other but they're both outsiders in their respective games and they both long for acceptance so they form a partnership of convenience. It's through their relationship that Ralph's selflessness, compassion and sacrifice, all of the virtues that attract us to old-school heroes, are drawn out.

But it takes so long to get to that relationship and then to build it up. We find out what he wants sixty seconds after the movie starts. But then he has to come up with a plan to get it. We know that this plan (get a medal) isn't going to work, but we have to watch him go through getting it, then losing it before he's paired up with Venelope and placed on the real hero's path. On top of that, we watch Felix following Ralph's trail, visiting (revisiting for the audience) all the worlds and characters that Ralph has already been through. Even more screentime is chewed up by Felix's inexplicable romance with Sargent Calhoun.

If only they introduced Venelope earlier, even if she was just a rumor. They could have still kept her formal introduction in act two and all of Ralph's stomping around would have anticipated their relationship. If they wanted to work Felix in, they could have him along as a sidekick - a twist on the original hero / villain setup. They could have even worked in Felix's romance with Calhoun, though I'd give it a much smaller role.
Current Mood: amusedamused
25 February 2013 @ 11:37 pm
What I learned from the story of David: God plays favorites. If you are one of them, live it up! You can totally get away with murder (Uriah), adultery (Bathsheba), manslaughter (Uzzah), nonfeasance (remaining at home during the season for war), malfeasance (Uriah to the front lines.) Oh, somebody will pay the price (David's first son - whose death David got over real quick) but it won't be you.
20 December 2012 @ 02:17 pm
2012 has been a great year. Professionally, I haven't had a better one. And since so much and so many depend on my career, the other parts of my life have begun to improve. Financially, I'm on track to providing more space for my family. God knows they need it. Emotionally I feel better. Physically, I'm more energetic. I've even lost a little weight.
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Current Mood: thankfulthankful
05 December 2012 @ 12:18 pm
when Maddow says "America," she means not individual Americans or society but government. And now her fallacy is clear. Frédéric Bastiat identified it in 1850. In his classic, The Law, Bastiat wrote that the "socialist" confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education... We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. Source

Liberals will probably respond that during their anti-war protests against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, they made a distinction between the Government and America. They hated one but not the other. The problem is that when you look at the sum total of their crtitism - before, during and after the wars - it was hardly limited to the government. Every aspect of American life was savaged: her history - irredeemably racist, her suburban living- wasteful and (worse) boring, her public displays of patriotism - jingoistic (if not downright offensive), her belief in American exceptionalism - jingoistic (again), her love of the free market - exploitative, her church attendance - closeminded. Obama, Himself, derided Americans for bitterly clinging to guns and religion and then, later, denying that anything was done without GovCheese.

Liberals are, if anything, masters of style and perception. To them, perception is reality so they must make something look good or sound good so that they might sleep at night in the belief that they have done good. While it might sound good for the liberal to claim that they make a distinction between the American government and her people, but the distinction just doesn't hold water.