Monday, November 24, 2008

how my anger at Republicans got the better of me

Sometimes you know you should keep your mouth shut but don't. Well, I guess some of you know to keep your mouth shut and do, but I'm not one of those. It's something I'm reminded of every time this girl I know glares at me from across the room.

A bit before the election, a facebook friend posted a status report that if McCain won he would leave the country and hang out with his friends talking about how stupid Americans are. Another facebook friend replied to his comment that it was absurd to say people who voted for McCain were stupid. I knew she was voting for him, because her own facebook status had said something like, "I'm voting for McCain, and I'm not stupid or a liar." (I don't know what the liar thing is a reference to.)

Obviously there was no good reason to say anything, but between my paranoia that somehow the Republicans would manage to steal this election like they did the last two and my general fury at those who had kept Republicans in power, I added a comment of my own beneath her comment, which was something like, "Most of the people voting for McCain re-elected Bush, and if someone did that, and after what has happened in the last four years still believes the Republicans somehow deserve to continue to run this country, well, stupid isn't such a stretch." I did not add, even though I wanted to, that saying "I'm not stupid," does not mean you're not stupid. Paris Hilton says it all the time, and then manages to say something utterly moronic within the next two minutes.

She wrote me an angry note and took me off her friends list.

So why do it? Well, partly because I've always been bad at keeping my mouth shut. But mainly because of my rage at Republicans. I mentioned the re-election of Bush for a specific reason; because it is less defensible than a vote for McCain, and I wanted to offer her the opportunity to say, well, I wasn't dumb enough to vote for Bush again after the mess he made, but McCain will be different.

Her not saying that suggested the she probably did vote for Bush in 2004, and as far as I'm concerned, that is a vote for torture, preemptive war (a.k.a. invading foreign countries that have not attacked you) and redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. And I really have an issue with that.

Still, it was impolitic, and unkind, since I think she's a genuinely nice person, though misguided. Had she said after the election that she voted for McCain and the people who didn't were fools I would probably have simply ignored her.

Of course, had I been in her shoes I would simply have made my case. She could have argued that McCain would be different from Bush. Some would say the real problem with Bush was not his politics but his gross incompetence, and that McCain is smarter and more capable than G.W. Or you could simply say that the issues important to you are those McCain supports. While you can argue with their politics, you can't say people who voted for McCain because they were against gay marriage or abortion or because they desired a radical right wing court were stupid. In that case, obviously you would want McCain over Obama.

I would argue that adding a comment on facebook opened her up to replies, impolitic or not. If I added a comment to a right wing facebook status report I would not be surprised if I got some flack for it. That's the danger of chiming in.

This doesn't make me any less undiplomatic, of course, nor does it change the fact that someone who goes to almost every dance I go to hates me. Learning to let stuff sail by without comment is something I aspire to, but it's hard to change a lifetime habit.

Addendum: eventually I and the Republican had a dance class together, and since she seemed perfectly friendly there, the next time I saw her I asked her to dance and she said yes. So everything's as it was, except we're not facebook friends.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

a city explodes in joy

I have never seen anything quite like the streets of New York after Obama won. Union Square was packed full of people cheering and shouting. Lots of college students, so you had the interesting site of dozens of teenage girls screaming as though they were at a Beatles concert. More people were flooding down 14th street towards the park as I walked home, some carrying signs, some playing instruments. Someone would hold up a picture of Obama and everyone would start screaming and cars would blast their horns. People were high fiving each other as they walked past. It was awesome. It is so great to live in a city where the election of a progressive candidate causes people to run through the streets in ecstasy.

This is such an important night. It's been years since I could feel proud of America, but tonight we elected the first black president, and that says something very good about this country. It is suddenly cool again to be an American.

Of course, this joy isn't all about the historical nature of an African American president elect. It is also about an almost indescribable relief. Bush has dug this country into so deep a hole that the fear was McCain would come in and dig us in twice as far. But now after years of incompetence and ideological insanity we are getting a president who we know doesn't love war and cares more about the working class than the corporations. We have a president who is going to help us climb out of that damn hole. The adults are going to be in charge. And that is something to scream about.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Republican Motto: Never Underestimate the Stupidity of the American Voter

The Republican's recently manufactured outrage over Obama's lipstick-on-a-pig remark shows how much the Republicans rely on the support of morons to win elections.

First off, it's transparent nonsense. "Lipstick on a pig" is an old expression that's been around for years. Obama was not discussing Palin, and that is obvious to anyone with a brain. To turn the remark into a sexist slur is the height of gall.

It's also an expression John McCain used when describing Hillary Clinton's health plan.

Hillary could, at the time, have insisted McCain was being sexist, but it probably didn't occur to her. And if it did, she probably thought, "no one is dumb enough to believe that."

And that's the secret of Republican success; they believe there are plenty of people dumb enough to believe that, and that those people vote. They believe that if you say, Sarah Palin has foreign relations expertise because Russia can be seen from Alaska or Iraqis planned 9/11 (a canard Palin is still repeating or that John McCain is a political maverick who will bring change to the White House, there are lots of people who will believe you, especially since the press will accept even the most absurd lie as being worthy of debate).

The Republicans know that there are people too dumb, people too poorly informed, people who are paying no attention at all, and that these people vote. If McCain says he has a plan to win the war, they don't wonder why he didn't save the country from all this agony by helping Bush win the war years ago (the secret win-the-war claim is disturbingly similar to the one that helped Nixon win re-election in '72). If McCain doesn't know the difference between Shiites and Sunnis, people who don't know or care about the difference are easy to find in the U.S.

If Democrats decided to use the Republican's political model of lying about absolutely everything, would it work? It's hard to say. The Democrats have never been as willing to say things that no intelligent person would believe. I don't think they could do it with the same conviction; for whatever reason, Republicans are simply better at lying. I also think it's more dangerous for Democrats to say utterly moronic things, because Democrats are more likely to have a brain and to object to their party dropping about 50 I.Q. points.

How do the Democrats deal with this mountain of lies? I don't honestly know. As the Nazis proved, you can make a whole country believe the most absurd things. It's a lesson the Republicans have learned well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

nintendo.about.com, your site for ... oh, just go there already

Shortly after getting dumped by the Times I got accepted as the new "guide" for nintendo.about.com. This involved a lot of prep time during which I worked without pay, but now the site is live and I get paid per page view so go there and click on all the in-site links (i.e., don't bother with links that have a little icon of a piece of paper with a blue dot on it; they go to other sites).

It would also be nice if you'd actually read the stuff I wrote, but that's just my ego talking. The part of me that needs to make some money just wants you to click on stuff. Click click! Then go back tomorrow and click some more. And tell all your friends to go a clicking.

And wish me luck.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

anal retentive critics

Just watched the amazing movie Children of Men, and after I was curious to see what the critics had thought when it came out.

Unsurprisingly, most of them raved about it, but I was curious to see who wouldn't like it and why. And I found a truly idiotic review by someone named William Arnold.

To summarize, at the beginning of the movie there is a quick reference to a siege in Seattle. It's just there to give a sense of a world in chaos, it's never mentioned again, and I didn't even notice the line.

But the Seattle film critic did. And he spent several paragraphs explaining what a stupid line it is, because Seattle simply could not withstand a 3-year siege.

He uses this as an example of why the movie is poorly thought out, which would be fine, if he offered other examples that actually related in some real way to the movie. He does mention a major flaw of the movie, which is that the basic debate over what to do with the central woman doesn't make much sense (this could be seen as a major flaw, since the entire story hinges on it, but it's basically just the MacGuffin to set in motion an exciting tale and stick in a ton of political commentary).

The critic is a perfect example of someone who can't see the forest for the trees. He spends a third of his review on the single line about Seattle. It seems like he just couldn't get past it.

This happens. I once read a comment by someone who felt The Matrix was fatally flawed because the science of powering a city in that unusual way was scientifically impractical, but that at least is a major plot point. But one line about Seattle? If I saw a movie that began with a quick blurb about the Empire State building being in Brooklyn, I wouldn't spend a huge chunk of my review on it unless the entire movie was set in New York, in which case I would think it was a bit of an issue.

Seattle is mentioned once in all of Children of Men. I would never trust a critic who trashes a brilliant movie because of a single sentence that isn't even going to register with anyone who doesn't live in Seattle. William Arnold, you are an idiot.

(Even if I hated Children of Men, I would still think this was an incredibly lame criticism. I could trash this movie much more intelligently than this guy if so inclined.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

after the merge

Recently I heard someone was moving to another country because his "partner" got a job there. It took me a moment to realize "partner" meant boyfriend/significant other/whatever and refers to a "domestic partner" or "life partner," because it's a really lame way to describe a relationship.

A partner is the guy who co-owns your steel factory or has made it to the top of the law firm. It has to be one of the least romantic words in the human language. It should not be used to describe someone you're moving to another country with.

Yes, I know it's a popular word among gay people because it's nice and generic and won't offend the relatives. It's the equivalent of how in old movies if a girl got pregnant they would say she was "in trouble," and if you were a kid you would get really confused as to what the trouble was.

But when there's an out gay guy whose move is being discussed between two people who don't have a problem with it, "partner" seems like a horrible choice of words.

The problem of what to call people you're involved with is a strangely thorny one. I personally am happy with boyfriend/girlfriend, but my ex-girlfriend used to complain that she was no longer a girl, and my mother corrects anyone who calls her boyfriend her boyfriend, preferring "man friend" or just an ambiguous "my friend."

I am okay with being a boyfriend, but then, I gladly suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.

If you don't like the boy/girl thing, and admit that something like "manfriend" sounds pretty dumb, there are other options. "Significant other" used to be popular, but while it is slightly more specific than "partner" it is about as lame. You can get even lamer by using "lover." "Lover" most often turns up in comedies nowadays as a way to indicate a character is a pretentious ass.

POSSLQ, for Persons of the Opposite Sex Sharing Quarters, was briefly popular, but that doesn't help gay people, since I can't think of any way to pronounce PSSSLQ.

Beau isn't too bad a word, but there is no female equivalent (arguably the female equivalent is belle, but no one uses that for girlfriend).

Sweetie and sweetheart sound rather saccharin, but they are gender and age neutral. Still, they're problematic when you've just had a fight. You don't want to say, "This is my damn sweetie, who never knows when to shut the hell up."

There are also handy phrases like old man, old lady, main squeeze, ball and chain, gentleman caller and lady friend, but none seem ideal.

Personally, I think everyone who's been together longer than two years can be called a spouse. In my experience, once you've been dating a girl a couple of years everyone starts calling her your wife anyway. Gay people may not be able to get married in most states, but I don't believe you can be arrested for impersonating a married person. I'm not a doctor, but if I can convince my friends to call me Dr. Charles it's legal as long as I don't perform surgery. So I'd be all for saying the guy is moving to another country with his husband.

What is odd is that while no one seems to be able to come up with a satisfactory word or phrase for an important romantic relationship, there are two descriptions for the person you have uncommitted sex with: "fuck buddy" and, for the more gentile, "friend with benefits."

Why is that so much easier? How long did it take someone to think up "fuck buddy?" Can that person sit down and come up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover equivalent of some sort?

I don't know if anyone will ever find a solution that will satisfy everyone. Probably not. In the meantime, I just wish I could find myself a girlfriend, sweetie, main squeeze, old lady or fuck buddy of my own. Whatever she wants to be called will be fine with me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

farmer and nazi are two words that should not routinely be linked

Just watched an episode of 30 Days in which a hunter lives with PETA activists for a month. The hunter at first considers all of PETA's stories of animal abuse exaggerations, but eventually he gets to see it for himself and becomes more sympathetic to animal rights, although he doesn't give up hunting or become a vegan.

So I began wondering if there is a place in the world for omnivores who support humane farming, and I found the same answer I found the last time I wondered about that: no, there's not. I tried googling for "meat eaters for humane farming" and found nothing but a list of articles about how "humane farming" is a contradiction in terms and that there's basically no such thing as a humane carnivore.

This is unfortunate. Those who call for humane farming are organizations like PETA whose ultimate goal is to make this world vegan. They've got members, like a woman on the episode of 30 Days, who compare eating animals with the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews. And I think that's nuts.

I actually think the PETA people are similar to the anti-abortion people, in that they divide the world up into the innocent and the guilty. Animal rights people think of animals as innocent beings that should be saved, and humans as fairly evil (like a friend of mine who doesn't care if children are starving in Africa but is broken-hearted about animal deaths). Anti-abortion people think of babies as innocents that must be saved, but once you're out of the womb you're no longer innocent, which is why the anti-abortion people who are pro death penalty are not actually being inconsistent; they just want to save the "innocent."

The problem with extremists is that they don't change the world nearly as much as if they set realistic goals. The world will never be vegan. Ever. Forget about it.

But when I once joined a mailing list for humane farming, I started getting a lot of anti-meat email. And even though I was a (non-judgmental) vegetarian for many years, I considered all those vegetarian-activist emails a waste of my time and dropped off the list. Because there just wasn't much about making animal farming better, only stuff about stopping it altogether. Which as I mentioned before, ain't gonna happen.

(Once again, anti-abortion forces are in the same boat, so focused on ending abortion that they fail to sufficiently focus on stuff they they could actually change - if every person picketing an abortion clinic would volunteer with an organization devoted to giving pregnant women the help they need to bring a baby to term and care for it they could lessen the number of women getting abortions, but by choosing an all-or-nothing approach they fail to achieve much beyond the occasional murder of a doctor.)

PETA, by focusing on a narrow agenda, pushes away people who would support more humane farming. But because extremists have the most energy, they control the agenda because they're willing to do the work. I don't have the motivation to start an organization to make farming more humane, and the people with that motivation tend to be the people who are thinking of each animal as a little innocent person being murdered by Nazi-like carnivores.

It's a shame. If anyone knows of an organization working for humane farming that is not connected with PETA and is not set on vegetarianism, let me know. I may go back to vegetarianism one of these days - I probably eat 90% vegetarian anyway - but I'm never going to support an organization wasting resources on an impossible goal.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

how to be unpersuasive

I've been trying to get more reading done lately, grabbing the books I've collected off my shelves and actually looking at what's inside. The latest book I began to read was Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.

It's a famous feminist book, but what struck me about it is how little it bothers to actually try and persuade anyone at the beginning. First there's an interesting intro in which Brownmiller says she herself once didn't take rape too seriously. That's a nice, disarming way to start. Then she spends a couple of pages pointing out how thoroughly ignored rape was by people like Freud and Krafft-Ebbing, which is well worth noting. But within a couple of pages she wanders into pure conjecture, using the phrase "must have" repeatedly in sentences like "one of the earliest forms of male bonding must have been ... gang rape ...." She ends with a remarkable blanket statement, stating rape is "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women[/i] in a state of fear" (her italics).

I have two problems with this. As a reader I just don't like sweeping statements and generalities, because I feel they are almost invariably false. But I have a greater problem with the book as a writer, because for me this book represents a soft-headed preaching-to-the-choir approach that will resonate with those who already agree with Brownmiller while alienating everyone who doesn't.

Great feminist literature like The Second Sex or Backlash (two of the most elegantly reasoned, insightful and persuasive non-fiction books ever written) makes a case the way a lawyer does, introducing evidence and drawing conclusions based on that evidence. To refute a book written like that, one would have to do research, find flaws in the evidence and holes in the logical approach to analyzing that evidence. It's not that it can't be done - you can pick holes in anything - but it would be a lot of work. But it is no work at all to pick apart a book that keeps saying this "must have" happened or that is "probably" the case. If you say, "prehistoric man must have learned to flavor meat with garlic early on," I can say "prehistoric man probably believed garlic was poisonous." We would both just be talking out of our asses if we couldn't offer evidence to support our positions.

There's probably something of interest and value in Against Our Wills. It's almost 500 pages long and it's a famous book, so I will give it that much. But by tossing away all pretense at objectivity or scholarship by the end of the first chapter, Brownmiller fails to make a case for herself as the person qualified to analyze the place of rape in civilization, and thus failed to convince me that it was worth slogging through her seemingly baseless opinions to find what was of value in her book.

For the angry feminists of the 1970s, the book was probably great, because there was a lot of justifiable resentment at the way women had been (and continue to be) treated in society. But that's the problem with the book; if you're not angry already, you are going to instantly notice that Brownmiller is talking out of her ass. And that is no way to convince anyone of anything.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the fat grey lady has sung

Well, that's it, my final game review for the New York Times has run, and I'm feeling melancholy about it. I wish I could have gone out at least with a great game, instead of a couple of decent ones, but at least my final review wasn't of Wii Fit, which I only reviewed to pacify my editor not realizing I was going to get fired a week later anyway.

Now I just need to start pitching ideas to USA Weekend; they appreciate me there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

screwed by the New York Times culture department

After eight years as the New York Times' video game reviewer, I have been unceremoniously dumped as of one month from now. The reason given is that the Culture Department, a.k.a. Arts & Entertainment, convinced the powers that be that video game reviews should be in their section rather than in Circuits, which is part of the Business section.

This infuriates me, because at one point my column was in Culture and the editors treated me like shit.

I was in Circuits for years, but when it stopped being its own section and was made a part of Business I was tossed to Culture. I ran on Fridays in Arts & Entertainment. Arts & Entertainment was, and probably still is, in two sections, the top section, with movies and TV, and the other section with opera, classical music and restaurant reviews. Culture put my column on the back page of the second section, right beside the restaurant review. That pretty much guaranteed it was going to be ignored, but that's what they did.

But I kept writing, occasionally sending email questions and requests to an editor who absolutely never replied (and who, when I started, told me how he was determined to make the Times as important to video games as it was to Broadway).

Then one day I was told that I was being transferred to the Sports section where my column would be paired with one on poker.

That's right, Culture, which just took my job because they had to have video game reviews for themselves, once had video game reviews and tossed them away.

Sports hated me even more than Culture. On the website they never even bothered to tout my column. There would be a tout for the poker column describing what it was about, and then below that a link that just said "video game column." Then the poker column was canceled, because WHO THE FUCK WANTS TO READ A POKER COLUMN, and thankfully, I was transferred back to Circuits, where I had a few more good years.

I think the problem is that Culture didn't want me, they wanted Seth Schiesel, because he's their guy. Seth is a good reporter, but is he as good a columnist as I am? Circuits didn't think so; he was one of the applicants for the game review position and they hired me (and Peter Olafson, with whom I alternated the column until it was turned biweekly and Peter was let go) rather than him. I'll admit I'm biased, but compare my review of God of War II with Seth's and decide for yourself.

So what's in my future? Fuck if I know. If anyone knows of any openings for video game reviewers, or, for that matter, television or movie reviewers (which is what I wanted to be years ago before I ever played video games), let me know.

Maybe I should just finally sit down and write that book on storytelling in video games I've been talking about for the last 9 years?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

go fuck yourself up the ass, Microsoft

Excuse my language, I'm just feeling pissed. I've been meaning to write a rant about Windows Vista, which I foolishly "upgraded" to some time ago, and I never have time to get into all the things done wrong (the "security," of course, being the biggest issue, causing many problems with upgrading and removing programs and also just being annoying as hell, followed by problems with stuff not working, including myriad games from small developers), but here is something that just particularly bugged me.

I have Office 2002. It is not fully compatible with Vista. That's right, 5 years after releasing a product, Microsoft released an operating system that breaks their product, and they don't support it because their attitude is, pay us more money for a newer version. This is why I switched from Outlook to Thunderbird (which is at this point a very good program), since Outlook 2002 is no longer capable of storing my email password when running under Vista.

Anyway, when I exited Word today it crashed, and as usual after a crash Windows searched for an "online solution." These are almost never actual solutions. They either tell you there's a bug they don't have a fix for or they tell you they couldn't find anything at all, so it's just a huge waste of time.

Word has crashed before, but this time I got a "solution" for the World 2002 crash I haven't seen before, so it must have been recently added. It says:

Problem caused by Microsoft Word 2002: consider upgrading

The problem was caused by Microsoft Word 2002, which was created by Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Word 2002 is in its "Extended Support" phase. This phase of support for Microsoft Word 2002 began on July 11, 2006. Only security-related solutions are created by Microsoft for this version of Microsoft Office.


To translate:
Hi, your software doesn't work because we are incapable of designing an operating system that supports any kind of backwards compatibility, even for our own products. Of course in theory you can set programs to run with compatibility settings that are the equivalent of letting them run under one of our older OSes that actually worked halfway decently, but that's fairly broken. Please help us profit from our arrogance and incompetence by spending a shit load of money on our latest software, which is probably also riddled with bugs and which we will stop supporting in a few years.

Fuck you Microsoft. Go jump off a fucking cliff and fucking die. Just fuck off.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Now this is the Internet

Recently a blogger got access to a backup drive of a shared network from Infocom, which published most of the great text adventure games of the '80s. He decided to post correspondence about a proposed
Sequel to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that was abandoned.

For fans of Infocom it's an interesting article, but the most interesting part is an almost endless comments section populated with posts from old Infocom employees. The comments make a lively discussion. Michael Bywater, who is the subject of some negative correspondence, expresses fury that the blogger didn't bother to contact anyone involved to get a fuller story, and there's a lively discussion about the responsibility of journalists and bloggers and the legality of releasing this information. There are also a lot of nasty shots at Bywater, whose fury does not sit well with the blogger's fans (the nastiest comments were apparently removed by the blogger). This is mixed in with comments from other Infocomers discussing and clarifying the game, most notably a long, detailed post by Steve Meretzky. The best post is from Bywater, who after a couple of days of furious emails calms down and posts a wildly funny mock up of a text adventure and announces that he has agreed to write about the abandoned game for Wired. There are also a lot of people writing in just to say they loved Infocom games, which is less interesting (Bywater, by the way, apparently was the main writer on my favorite Infocom game Beauracracy).

Before the Internet, where could you read a corporation's internal memos and then have a lively discussion with the people who wrote those memos? It's so cool.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Clinton's 5 percent

Someone in the Times says Hillary's campaign is dead, that she only has a 5% chance of winning the nomination. This annoys me. First off, I would like to see some math here, not just some pundit tossing out a random figure. But more importantly, what is Obama's percent chance of winning? I can't find anyone throwing out a number for this. My understanding is that in terms of numbers, neither candidate is likely to win on a first ballot. So is Obama's chance of actually winning on the first ballot much higher than this mysterious 5 percent?

And if we're basing this percentage on the actions of the super delegates, well, they'll do what they do, and since they aren't required to vote for anyone in particular, there's no serious way to predict the odds of one candidate or another taking the super delegates.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

i predict

When my old TV died I bought a new one that supported HDTV. That was mainly for the sake of gaming, since the new systems are designed for HDTV meaning the text on screen tends to be unreadable on anything else. But I figured I might as well also get a new DVR from Time Warner that supported HDTV. And shockingly that new box, which should represent the top technology, has inferior features to the non-HDTV DVR I had before.

So I emailed a complaint to Time Warner, reproduced below, and here is my prediction, based on past experiences with Time Warner:

They won't understand what I'm talking about. They will reply in a way that ignores every single point below, and give me detailed instructions on how to search for things even though it is obvious from my email that I have already familiarized myself with all the new features of my new DVR. They will not acknowledge that there are any real differences between the two DVRs and they will most definitely not assure me that they are working to upgrade the new DVR to contain the features of the older one (because, as I mentioned before, they won't even understand what I'm saying).

I let you know when I hear back whether I am right or whether my email miraculously gets to someone who is not a complete idiot.


Since I just bought an HDTV TV, I swapped my old DVR, the Explorer 8000, for the Explorer 8300HDC, and was shocked to discover that while I gained a few HDTV channels, I lost a number of important features.

Most notably it is no longer possible to auto-search for movies and actors. With the old DVR I could do a keyword search and choose to tell my DVR to record anything with that keyword. My new DVR will not let me search by keyword at all, only by title, and there is no way to tell it to automatically record all of anything (for example, I can't say, record everything directed by Alain Resnais nor can I say record any movie with "juno" in the title." Oddly, the search can turn up shows for which there are no upcoming episodes (perhaps it contains a list of all current TV shows) but it won't give you the option to tell it to record that show whenever it comes on even though it has the name of the show in its records!

The series record options are also more anemic. There are less options: you can no longer choose specific times & channels.

The way search is implemented is also inferior. With my old DVR, if I had the guide on a particular show and switched to the search interface it would show me all upcoming instances of that particular show, which was a very quick way to find a time to record a show that wouldn't interfere with anything else I was recording. Now it just starts the list at the top, and if you want to find that particular show you just had in the guide you have to use the text input.

The last thing I've noticed in the mere HOUR I've had this is more minor, but the remote is quite inferior in design to the old one, which was the best designed remote control I have seen anywhere. So that's a shame.

So I gave up all those good features on my old DVR just so I can watch a handful of channels in HD, like ONE of my HBO channels (but not HBO on demand). I find this hugely disappointing, and hope you are planning to raise what one would have expected to be your most advanced box, since it supports HDTV, up to the level of your most basic box.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

just microsoft being microsoft

A while back I was having problems with my Xbox 360 finding all disks unreadable. The first thing the tech support person had me try was clearing the memory cache. This is a simple procedure that, as far as the tech support person knows, doesn't do any harm to the 360 or change any settings; it just clears up some problems.

So how do you clear the memory cache? Do you go to settings and memory and choose the "clear cache" option? You do not, because there is no "clear cache" option. Instead, you go to settings, memory, and then press X X left bumper right bumper X X.

Seriously, Microsoft has a hidden key combination to fix memory issues with your 360. What the fuck?

is the press giving Hillary a raw deal?

My mom has virtually stopped reading and watching the news. Why? Because she says all they do is bash Hillary Clinton. And I'm wondering if she might not have a point.

Mom is pretty hostile to Obama. She considers his talk of "change" vague and meaningless, which isn't unreasonable. I'm leaning towards Obama myself (although in the New York primary I still voted for Kucinich even though he dropped out of the race, just as a statement), but it's a slight lean. I have not liked Clinton as a senator, I feel she blows with the wind and is a political opportunist and I have found her very disappointing. On the other hand, while Obama did come out against the war, once he got into the Senate he voted for every war appropriations bill and it wouldn't surprise me if, were he in the Senate at the time he also would have voted for the war; all the serious presidential hopefuls did because they thought it was politically expedient (although none of them will admit that was the reason).

So I support Obama because I know Hillary's not great, but honestly I doubt Obama is great either.

So it's probably six of one, half a dozen of the other, but it does seem that I hear more criticism of Hillary than Barack on the one news show I watch, Countdown. And I have begun to wonder if that makes any sense. Politics is politics, and logically, both sides should do bad stuff. And while Keith Olbermann did criticize Obama for suggesting Hillary's supporters would vote for him in the general election but that things would not goo the other way but not adding that Obama would still fight for whoever won, he has spent more time criticizing Hillary for attacking Obama, and has implied that Hillary's complaints about Obama are fairly baseless.

Paul Krugman, who appears to be a solid Clinton supporter judging from recent columns, says he finds the Obama camp to be more venomous.

Is he right? I don't know. My mom says yes. Certainly someone like Chris Matthews is always talking trash about Hillary, but then, Matthews is an unmitigated moron, so his bizarre comments on Hillary may well have as much to do with the fact that he's short a few marbles than that he's out to get Clinton.

The press likes a story, and it seems the story they're going for is shrill white chick going off on the charming black guy. But that's just a particular story. When Howard Dean said "yeehaw" or whatever it killed his campaign not because it was a big deal but because the press thought it was a great story and beat it into the public consciousness. As much as I dislike Clinton, I don't like the idea that she is a victim of press storytelling.

Hillary might still get the nomination, and if so I just hope the press doesn't go for the, shrill white woman versus cool straight talker story, because then we're all screwed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

you see, there are things men care about more than sex

Ah, those passionate Englishmen. A poll indicates half of them would temporarily give up sex for a big TV. Interestingly, only a third of women said the same, although there's no way of knowing whether that means women love sex more than men or love big TVs less than men.

I'd like to see a reverse poll. Something like, would you give up your big screen TV for sex with Shakira. Or something.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"muslims," a word that makes women faint and brave men weep

Twice in the last month I've received endlessly forwarded emails warning the world of the dangers and threats of Muslims. First was an email from the boyfriend of an acquaintance of mine who decided to contact everyone in her email address book to let them know Barack Obama is a Muslim pretending to be a Christian for political purposes. Eek! Then yesterday I got an email from an acquaintance who occasionally sends me conspiracy theory crap or cute jokes. It told me that England had dropped the Jewish Holocaust from their history courses because of pressure from Muslims who deny it ever happened.

Obviously, neither of these things is true, as anyone who has the sense to check Snopes.com before sending out crazy emails would have known. Snopes, which looks into the truth or falsity of every rumor you can find on the internet, handled Barack's Muslim connections here and England's holocaust policy here.

The one of England is, I suspect, a typical example of a game I believe is called telephone where each person tells the next person what they were told, resulting in a story that completely changes by the time it gets to the last person. One school in England didn't teach at least one Holocaust class because of fears of anti-semitic comments from Muslim students, and emailers embellished the story. One interesting fact noted in Snopes is that while the email I got says "the UK" in its reference to England, there is an alternate email that says this is happening in the University of Kansas, which shows how emailers will edit and "clarify" stories before sending them on.

The Obama email looks to be more of a purposeful attempt to smear Obama, created probably by some hate group like the KKK. The email is full of bolded phrases like "parents divorced, atheist, he is a muslim, radical teachings, catholic school" (among the crazy fundamentalist right "catholic school" is almost as bad as "Muslim"). The Obama email is more disturbing because it is basically saying, be scared of Obama because he is a Muslim. That sort of direct, unabashed religious hatred is scary.

But what is scariest is that it is so easy for people to believe this. Neither of the people who sent me these things are drooling idiots. They are well-spoken, seemingly educated people. Yet they unskeptically accepted transparently nonsensical emails as a truth so important that it should be immediately emailed to all of their friends and acquaintances. And the most foolish of those acquaintances have probably all sent out the same emails to their friends and acquaintances. And all these stupid, stupid people are helping to perpetuate the concept that Muslims are essentially what Communists were though of as in the 1950s, a dangerous group of fanatics trying everything in their power to destroy our world through lies and manipulation for their own evil ends.

And all this, essentially because a small handful of Muslims belonging to an extremist organization in the Middle East killed a few hundred people by running a plane into a building, apparently thus giving permission for everyone to believe all Muslims throughout the world are dangerous, evil fanatics.

I have sometimes thought about what happens as oppressed groups get higher standing. Blacks, Hispanics, gays, while all still oppressed, have achieved greater acceptance throughout the years, and optimists would look at this and say, eventually we will end prejudice. But the hatred of Muslims proves otherwise; as some groups are accepted, new groups are nominated to take their place. Muslims, enjoy the bottom, because people are going to keep you there for quite a while.