Archive for December, 2011

12/28/2011

Gell-Mann amnesia strikes again!

by wfgodbold

In his 2002 speech* “Why Speculate?” Michael Crichton brings up an interesting effect:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

The more widespread usage of the internet becomes, the more this effect’s prevalence becomes striking; I bring it up today because of the NYT’s attempt to paint North Carolina CCW holders as criminals.

Bob Owens comes to the same conclusions as Crichton.

I can attest to the same thing (and the more I learn about varied subjects, the more obvious the lack of competence becomes). Stories about guns are rarely correct. Stories about chemical engineering are likewise badly researched (journalism majors are bad at engineering? Go figure!). Stories about Japan are sometimes correct, but more often than not have a few factual errors. Reporting on any kind of video game is laughable. And I’m sure the more I learn about the law, the more ridiculous reporting on the law will become.

If you’re not interested in something in the first place, you’re not going to bother to make sure you get everything right (especially if you’re trying to push some kind of agenda).

The more the old media continues to push this kind of easily debunked nonsense, the more they make themselves irrelevant and hasten their inevitable demise.

*The link goes to the Wayback Machine because Crichton’s website no longer makes his speeches available. If you know what you’re looking for, you can still find classics like “Aliens Cause Global Warming,” though.

12/25/2011

Merry Christmas!

by wfgodbold

Eat too much, drink too much, spend so much time with your family that you won’t want to see them until next Christmas, and have a Merry Christmas!

12/24/2011

Evil exists.

by wfgodbold

And it’s set up shop in China (Read the whole thing. I mean it.):

Thirty-six scheduled executions would translate into 72 kidneys and corneas divided among the regional hospitals. Every van contained surgeons who could work fast: 15-30 minutes to extract. Drive back to the hospital. Transplant within six hours. Nothing fancy or experimental; execution would probably ruin the heart.

With the acceleration of Chinese medical expertise over the last decade, organs once considered scraps no longer went to waste. It wasn’t public knowledge exactly, but Chinese medical schools taught that many otherwise wicked criminals volunteered their organs as a final penance.

Political prisoners, dissidents, even drug traffickers. It’s like someone high up in the party read Larry Niven’s Known Space stories 40 years ago and said, “Organlegging? Making minor crimes capital so that we can harvest fresh organs for transplant? We need to get in on the ground floor on that!”

I wonder if this is one of the “right solutions” Tom Friedman would authorize if we were China for a day

H/T: Instapundit

12/23/2011

News flash: Xbox live avatars with guns can’t actually hurt you

by wfgodbold

In his response to the thread about the news that a couple of avatar items will no longer be available for sale on Xbox Live, poster jim-jam bongs says:

Just to explain this for Americans who are so accustomed to a culture which celebrates violence and condemns sexuality that they can’t see the issue here; outside the US people in the first-world generally don’t carry weapons around with them, so we don’t really feel comfortable with things which glorify violence. When it’s in the context of a narrative (i.e. in a game) it’s justifiable, but equipping your avatar with a firearm is a tacit approval of the idea that it’s cool to bear arms (hint: it’s not really).

Look.

It’s an avatar. It’s not real. The gun your avatar is holding is no more real than the gun your character in the game uses to kill aliens/Nazis/terrorists/hookers.

Pictures/computer models/models/whatever of guns don’t glorify violence any more than knives or baseball bats or golf clubs “glorify” stabbing or beating, or baseball or golf. They just are.

Carrying firearms is normal in forty-nine states. Just because you get the vapors when you see a CG person holding a CG fake gun is no reason to assume that you are correct. Acting all high and mighty from outside the US, sneering down your nose at the people you think “glorify” violence, is just ridiculous.

I, for one, am happy to live in a society where the strong and young don’t have free reign over the weak and old.

That said, it’s apparently against Microsoft’s policy to allow avatars to have guns in the first place. That’s their prerogative, since it’s their service, and they set the rules.

12/22/2011

Sorry, Bethesda, it needed to be said…

by wfgodbold

And Paul Tassi says it pretty well:

Is Skyrim a monumental achievement in gaming? Absolutely. The world Bethesda has created is perhaps the most technically impressive in video game history. It’s teeming with life and adventure, and it’s easy to see why you can spend countless hours getting lost in it.

But from a narrative and gameplay perspective, which I would argue are the two most important facets of a game, it’s surpassed by a few titles this year, Portal 2 and Deus Ex among them. A thousand square miles of map means nothing if there’s not a compelling story to be found anywhere. A mountain of different weapons means nothing is all they do is bash heads in over and over again.

I get that some people like huge, sprawling worlds with the freedom to do whatever they want. I tried Morrowind, and didn’t care for it. Oblivion looked much the same, and Skyrim, from the reviews, is no different.

Bioware games are similarly lauded, but for plot and character depth. While they do better on plot, the gameplay is generally not good enough to make up for it. Bioware tends to have a cookie-cutter approach to game design, too; you play through a long introductory area, then you are given a few places you can go to in any order to advance the plot. Once you’ve been to those places, you go back on rails to the final one or two locations leading up to the ending. They did this in Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect (and it was even more obvious, since Mass Effect was almost KOTOR w/o lightsabers). And don’t even get me started on the load times…

You can’t just have an open world with a ton of gameplay without the plot to tie everything together; you also can’t have a bunch of plot without the gameplay to keep people from feeling like they’re watching terrible Star Trek fanfiction.

Games need both, and Portal 2 delivers (Deus Ex apparently does as well, but I haven’t played it yet).

 

12/20/2011

Ambiguous polling is the best kind of polling!

by wfgodbold

Pew Research Center just released the results of a new poll on the tax system. Politico spins the results as “57% say the rich don’t pay enough taxes.”

The only thing is, that’s not what the poll said.

What the 57% of people actually agreed with is that “wealthy people don’t pay their fair share”.

Which could be taken either way; either it’s not fair that the wealthy people aren’t paying more, or it’s unfair because they’re paying too much.

Badly phrased questions make for bad poll results.

Or at least easily spun results.

Maybe that was their goal in the first place?

12/18/2011

One semester of law school down…

by wfgodbold

Five more to go. I think we get our grades in mid-late January, so until then, I get to wonder. I’l go ahead and post my thoughts on the first semester’s worth of classes now, and we’ll see how well my expectations line up with my actual results.

In the order in which we finished the various classes:

Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy- I did ~average for the first 2/3 of the semester, but the last assignment (worth 40% of the grade) didn’t go as well. I didn’t put quite as much work into it as I should have, and I’m not happy with where it was when I turned it in. Oh well. We didn’t have a final, at least. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Torts- I was pretty confident going into the final, and think I did okay on the multiple choice and short answer bits (together worth 50%). The essay question (worth the remaining 50%) went well. At least, I thought it went well at the time. But over the rest of finals week, little things I should have included kept occurring to me while I was studying for the other exams. That’s to be expected, I guess; Torts was the first exam, and no one really knew what to expect going in. My outline was ~16 pages, and aside from a couple things that slipped my mind, I think I knew it pretty well.

Property- I’m pretty confident about the rule of perpetuities problem, and the identifying estates and future interests problem, and one of the two essays. The second essay I’m not as sure about; my exam software crashed midway through answering it, so instead of trying to restart it, I just wrote the rest of the exam in a blue book. It did throw off my concentration; hopefully my answers on the rest of the exam are good enough to make up for my inevitably poor performance on that question. My Property outline was only 12 pages, and I didn’t know them as well as I did Torts (especially the marital property section; I was sketchy on it, and then that was the question I had to answer after my computer crashed. It was a bit of a double whammy).

Contracts- This was our only open book/notes exam, and I felt better after it than I did after any of the others. I think I have a pretty good grasp on what we covered this semester, and I hope I was able to convey that in the two essay and 15 multiple choice questions we had (Side note: it has never taken my ~4 minutes per problem to answer multiple choice questions. Until now.). My Contracts outline was the longest at 26 pages (plus the various outlines and guides (for the merchant’s exception, the statute of frauds, and the like; all told, the extras brought the total length up to 80 pages or so). I’m very glad we didn’t have to memorize it. To make the ridiculously long outline easier to navigate, I made a table of contents for it. That’s right. Xzibit heard I liked outlines, so he put an outline on my outline so I could contract while I contract.

Civil Procedure- We had three exams during the semester (two multiple choice and one essay), and though we only got the multiple choice exams back, we at least had an idea of how the professor tested (as far as multiple choice questions go, he is a devious, tricky bastard). The final was a mixture of multiple choice and essay (~25 multiple choice and a two-part essay); I think I did well on the multiple choice (though I did learn my lesson from the previous tests; any time I changed answers before, I always ended up changing more from the right answer to the wrong answer than I did from wrong to right; here, I went with my first thought on most of them). The essay wasn’t that bad, either. We only covered the first 8 chapters or so in the book, and my outline was eight pages long. I don’t know how well I’ll end up doing in the class overall, though; I did average-above average on the tests we got back, but those three are only worth 30% of the total grade. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Legal Research- the last exam we had of the semester was 50 multiple choice questions. Most of them I got without difficulty, which means probably everyone got those. The others, I wasn’t as sure about, since they were basically “finish this sentence from the reading from these possible endings.” Since I didn’t have the reading memorized, and since the multiple choice answers were all “choose the best answer” (and sometimes there was more than one answer that seemed like it would work), I think how I end up doing in that class is going to be a bit of a crap shoot. At least it’s only one credit.

Anyway, regardless of what my grades show, I did learn a lot about the law in my first semester at law school, and am actually kind of looking forward to the spring semester. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy the hell out of the intervening month, though. I have several video games that I’ve been meaning to play, and they’ve been languishing alone since mid-October.

I’ll also be more likely to update PTGH regularly; maybe even multiple posts a day (ah, those were the days).

Thanks for sticking with me this semester!

12/17/2011

How is pankration like politics?

by wfgodbold

So there I was, minding my own business reading about MMA (for some reason). I saw that Frank Shamrock had practiced Pancrase, a wrestling format based on ancient Greek Pankration (which I read about in the historical novel The Ten Thousand, a fictionalized account of Xenophon‘s Anabasis).

Naturally, I read some more about pankration, when I learned of the fighter Arrhichion:

In an odd turn of events, a pankration fighter named Arrhichion (Ἀρριχίων) of Phigalia won the pankration competition at the Olympic Games despite being dead. His opponent had locked him in a chokehold and Arrhichion, desperate to loosen it, broke his opponent’s toe (some records say his ankle). The opponent nearly passed out from pain and submitted. As the referee raised Arrhichion’s hand, it was discovered that he had died from the chokehold. His body was crowned with the olive wreath and taken back to Phigaleia as a hero.

That is totally badass.

And somehow, applicable to the GOP debates and infighting about who the nominee for the 2012 election is going to be. Everyone is so focused on using the media to break their competitors’ toes, they don’t realize that the end result is that eventual winner will have been choked to death by all of the unfriendly media coverage by the time the convention finishes.

12/15/2011

Can’t Go Back

by wfgodbold

Atlus USA is teasing one of their upcoming games; from the first three clues, we know that it starts with the letter G, ends with the letter R, and is an SRPG.

The most likely candidate is Gungnir; it’s the most recent release, and is closer to a traditional SRPG than the other possibles: Growlanser (for PSP), and Growlanser IV: Over Reloaded (the PSP port of Growlanser IV: Wayfarer of the Time).*

I’m partial to Growlanser (due in no small part to playing it for hours in a Japanese hotel at the end of my study abroad year). It kicks off the series, following the adventures of Carmaine and friends as they work for the king of Rolandia, and deal with war, peace, and (of course) an ancient evil.

Can’t Go Back is my favorite of the several boss themes from Growlanser.

Update: Atlus has revealed the fourth clue: the game is the fourth release in its series. Which, of course, doesn’t narrow it down as much as you might think. Growlanser IV is the obvious choice, but Gungnir (while Episode IX of the Dept. Heaven series) is also the fourth game in its series. Well played, Atlus. Your clues are ambiguous and will only serve to stir up resentment among the fans of whichever series isn’t picked.

*The most optimistic people are pulling for multiple games; Gungnir and Growlanser, so that none of the fans are angry. I hope they’re right; if Atlus picks one franchise over the other, the fans are sure to lose their collective minds.

12/14/2011

You’d think that if you dedicated your life to banning something…

by wfgodbold

You’d at least know something about it, so that you don’t come off sounding like a complete moron.

Not if you’re the Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, or The Violence Policy Center!

From page 2 of the VPC’s screed linked above (tweeted by CSGV and retweeted by the Brady Bunch)*:

It’s a 50 caliber sniper rifle! Run for your lives!

Now, anyone who knows anything about guns (which, of course, explains the above error), knows that it’s a .50 caliber round. A 50 caliber sniper rifle would have a bore just over four feet in diameter; not the Barrett’s half-inch. Good job on being off by a factor of 100, VPC.

Then we have their claim that this rifle is sold “without meaningful regulation” in the US gun market.

If you want to buy one of Barrett’s rifles, you’ve got to live in a state that hasn’t outlawed them because they’re scary looking (California, I’m looking at you); assuming you do, you have to go to the store, fill out a Form 4473, and undergo an instant background check. The same as you do if you buy any other gun in a store.

And, most importantly, you have to pay for the gun itself. A Barret M82 (which is what the rifle in the photo looks like) will set you back $8,900 (for the cheapest model; the most expensive runs $11,700). And then once you’ve got your ~$10k rifle, you get to buy ammo for it!**

Ammunition in this caliber is a couple dollars. Per round.

Once you’ve bought your expensive new rifle, your paperwork goes into the federally licensed firearm dealer’s book, where it will stay until he goes out of business; at that point, it is turned over to the government.

In no way, shape, or form is the sale of guns “without meaningful regulation.” The VPC, CSGV, and Brady bunch are in it for donations and political power; these days, they’re short on both, and will do whatever they think they have to to keep the money rolling in.

Even if it’s manufacturing controversies like this one.***

*I would link to their tweets, but Twitter has made their interface completely incomprehensible, and I can’t figure out how to isolate single tweets from the web interface.

**Assuming, for some ridiculous reason, that you spent all your money buying the gun and didn’t save any for a press so that you could shoot less ruinously.

***I didn’t bother reading the rest of the pamphlet; I can only imagine that it gets worse. From skimming, it looks like it’s a bunch of PSH about how people want the same firearms that the military uses. Sorry, gun banners; it has ever been thus.

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