Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wolverines Blogging: Game One Aftermath

So...yeah, this is a rebuilding year

I'm going to revise my expectations for this season. I'm now thinking if they get to 8 or 9 first downs, we can call it a success.

Even with that comeback, an awful loss that could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for Utah's penalty bug. That's what happens when you can't move the ball. At all. They had flashes here and there, the occasional big play, but nothing consistent - at least, not until far too late. They just got their asses handed to them.

And, of course, Utah's QB looked like a Heisman winner, picking apart their weak secondary with ease. With the defense tiring after being handed bad field position after bad field position, they didn't even need to run the ball.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wolverines Blogging: The Utes (Game One)

Their colors, by the way, are crimson and white (Far be it from someone who calls yellow "maize" and has actually seen the hermetically sealed swatches they use to control the accuracy of that coloration to complain about the name of some other school's colors...)

The more I learn about this team, the more worried I become about today's game.

Utah's strength is in its defense. Michigan's weakness is going to be its offense. Adapting to a new system, searching for a new quarterback, and full of untested underclassmen, I expect they're going to run today. A lot. And Utah sounds like they're good at stuffing the run. This could get ugly in a hurry, especially if the Michigan D-line can't get on track and the Utah back can go off.

The line, the pundits, the polls, they all seem to favor Michigan ever so slightly. And the Wolverines here have everything to lose and the Utes everything to gain - they've been a BCS-team killer in recent years, too. That, to me, sounds like a recipe for a huge disappointment.

Which is why I'm headed out to the bar for this one - I just might need to dull the pain with soothing alcohol today.

You Know He's Pro-Life, Right?

That's what I say whenever anyone asks me what I think about McCain.

And, lately, I've been getting asked a lot. As I have mentioned before, in my family when anyone wants to know about the pressing political issues of the day, they turn to me. And, I've gotten a similar reputation amongst co-workers and friends not because I'm particularly politically active but because I try to keep myself informed - spending a good deal of time reading blogs, newspapers, magazines, and more. Often, I think this daily ingestious of the political mainstream only leaves me more confused than I would be otherwise - usually right after I turn off the talk radio and right before I reach for the bourbon. But, this years is an election year and this fall is when my particular intests pays off.

So, being the opinion leader for a small and probably not very influential cross-section of a demographically valuable (In the right state, in the right age and income bracket, and with the right mindset to potentially be that ever-so elusive swing vote.) electorate, I've been waging a rearguard action against the appeal of the McCain campaign.

I make no bones about it. I want Obama to win, if only because I think a McCain administration would be a disaster for the country. I have my differences of opinion with Obama - I've been upset with his stance on FISA and his turn to the middle after the primaries, for starters - but those worries pale in comparison to the flop sweat nightmares I have about what fresh ruins that another four years of conservatives at the levers of power will create.

One of the quietest of those concerns, the one that lurks in the background of my thoughts and under the radar of most coverage I've taken in, is that the next president stands to nominate at least a few more Supreme Court Justices. Either because of old age or because of a mass exodus so young, fresher ideological companions can take up the fight. The makeup of the court is going to swing on which party holds office. And that means the direction of our country for the next twenty, thirty, even fifty years is on the line.

What you will never hear McCain say and what the press seems to go out of their way to avoid saying (But what his selection of the virulently pro-life Sarah Palin, a member of Feminists for Life shouts loudly and clearly), is that McCain is going to appoint judges who want to and who will overturn Roe vs Wade.

Like Senator Obama, I choose to believe that John McCain is not a dishonorable man. That his beliefs are held because of his deepfelt convictions and not for reasons of crass opportunism (Although, again, the selection of Governor Palin does throw that theory into serious doubt.). So when he has articles like this on his website, in the area where he sets out his policies and agenda for the nation, I believe him. I don't think he's been pressured into it or forced into it by the right-wing extremists of his party, I think he sincerely believes in restricting even abolishing abortion (The alternative, of course, is that he doesn't care about it at all and has simply adopted the position that best appeals to his constituents in order to get elected. And, as I said, that should be unthinkable for a man like John McCain - a former prisoner of war who suffered and fought for the right of people to hold their own opinions in a country like ours.).

But I can see why some people might be confused. That above article, after all, is buried way down at the bottom of the page (Next to "the Space Program" and the "Ethics Reform" that shows up dead last which, I don't know, strikes me as an extremely apt description of their relative priority for the Republican Party). And not under a clear title like "The Economy" or "National Security" but, instead, as the vague "Sanctity of Life" - complete with a picture of the shiny, happym and well-scrubbed nuclear family.

Because McCain really doesn't want people - especially those pro-Hillary women he's so blatantly courting - to know where he stands on the issues that are important to him. So, as I remind my relatives and co-workers, if you want someone who's going to thump the podium and deliver bellicose rhetoric in order to keep the nation safe, vote for McCain. But if you want women to continue to have the right to choose, don't.

It's the Veepstakes, Not the Match Game

Palin's a former beauty queen.


From swimwear model Carol to beer heiress Cindy to lobbyist Vicki and now....

Who thinks Johnny POW is going in for another upgrade?

Caught the Palin Speech

Just finished watching Sarah Palin deliver her first speech as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate thanks to the magic of the intertubes. A few thoughts:

First, she and her daughter looked cute together but she and McCain together looked like he was the kindly grandfather in the generational portrait. McCain might have picked Palin to inject some youth into his campaign but I think it only serves to highlight just how creepily old he really is.

Second, boy, she really hammered the point that her son is going off to serve in Iraq. Now, all well and good and, of course, more members of the families of our political elites should be serving. But contrast that speech with Beau or Joe Biden's on Wednesday night. Same situation - child of prominent politician going off to fight - and only the briefest of allusions to the fact. That, right there is the contrast between Republicans and Democrats. The Dems support our troops and honor their sacrifices. The Repubs uses them as stage dressing.

Finally, Tina Fey is going to pop up on SNL this season a lot.

What Did Digby Say?

The great Digby speaks and I find this part interesting:

"I did find one thing quite interesting, which is that Alter insists that nobody listens to the gasbags and pundits so we shouldn't worry about them. I asked him how he thought people got their information about politics and he said from their talkative coworker or politically engaged relative and things like chain emails."

If people base their opinions on those of politically active co-workers or from well-informed relatives then, well, where do those people get their opinions from?

Could it be the gasbags and pundits that no one is listening to? Could they be the ones to whom those looking to be well-informed first turn in order to crystallize their own wisdom?

Even following Alter's line of reasoning, then those pundits are still important because they're the starting point for a web of information and elucidation that flows out from the elite and to the common person (A formulation that I find as repugnant as I do misguided, by the way.). Those who move in the rarefied cricles and weigh in on the issues of the day - those matters too complex and arcane for the common person - and be completely ignored by the vast majority of the population. But that doesn't mean they escape the responsibility for where their thoughts and writings can lead. They're influence-makers not because everyone pays attention to their opinions but because their opinions are the ones that shape that web. Their formulations, their preconceptions, their schema are the ones that are propigated outwards, taken up by those few who pay attention. Then passed on to the ones who pay attention to them. And then on to the ones who pay attention to them.

That's, you know, how influence works. You don't tell people what to think but because you have that platform and because you can make those compelling arguments you can convince people to go out and make your arguments for you. That members of our influential elite either don't understand this or don't care about it is precisely why they're so dangerously negligent. In their removed circles it's all an intellectual game but in the outside world, there are real people that they're really affecting. And it's about time they recognized it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Who's Going To Read the Internet To Me Now?

Since the local cable company and the local sports oligarchy have finally come to an agreement, I'll have the Big Ten TV on my cable box this year. Not that it matters much this weekend since the Michigan game - ie the only game I really care about - is showing in the network's late, 3:30 slot. But the next time Michigan is playing some also-ran and the nets decide it's not worth the airtime, I'm covered.

Given that the two sides waged a bitter and self-immolating campaign last year, I'm not sure who's the winner here. I suppose it really depends on the contract the two sides have reached (I'm too lazy/disgusted/apathetic/pick one already to track down but if the Big Ten had to give up the farm to get a face-saving deal that pays them extremely little then it's not so good for them. On the other hand, if they're raking in the dollars from a sweetheart package then, well, the cable companies took the bath here.). But the Big Ten channel is on the basic cable package not on a premium tier. Since that was one of the big points of contention that Comcast and other providers dug in their heels about and seem to have given in on, I'm going to say it was the Big Ten that won the day.

I know who lost, though: G4TV.

Because they were the channel that Big Ten TV replaced. The former Tech TV's now shuffled off to the premium channels that I don't have and I'm...

Well, okay, I'm not really pissed. But I feel like I should get my hackles up to salvage some geek pride. I mean, sure, the nerds got kicked to the side by the jocks. Happens all the time. But I should be outraged, right?

I mean, now how am I going to watch...uh. Well, there's... Actually, you know, I can't remember the last time I watched G4. Outside of, you know, It's kind of hard to get worked up about losing it when I'm not even going to miss it. But G4 was one of those channels that I never watched - thanks to Hulu and YouTube and everything else, I hardly watch any TV these days, when you get right down to it - but whose presence always comforted me.

Kind of like the Big Ten Network now.

It's Like They're Not Even Trying Anymore

If Palin's had more relevant executive experience in two years as governor of Alaska than Obama has after four in the Senate, then what does that say about Senator McCain?

Canary On the Phoneline

For the record, my mother is a smart woman. Educated, talented, works a six-figure job, and raised - with all due humility - several fine children. And you do not ever want to go up against her in a puzzle game because she will crush you and your hopes. She's not a saint, she's just the average working mother. But when it comes to politics, she's about as low-information a voter as it gets.

So, when I called her tonight (Her birthday's coming up and - yikes - I need to figure out what to get.) and the subject turned to McCain's veep choice (I have a pathological weakness for political coverage. I devour a daily diet that's both massive and probably unhealthy for me. So, I'm her go-to when it comes to politics.) I knew the Republican message machine was in trouble when even she saw the pick as a shameless ploy to get women voters.

That wasn't quite her phrasing, of course, but her first response was to worry about whether other women were going to "fall for it", and that's not a good sign.

The plural of data and all but my mother is exactly the demographic that McCain's probably hoping to grab here. Blue-collar girl from a battleground state, Reagan Dem who loathes Bush but isn't sure about Obama (She never really said but I got the feeling that she would have like to see Clinton get the nod. Not because she agrees with her policies - we're talking someone who cares more about what Simon and Paula think than Broder and Kos, you know? - but because she'd really like to see a woman president. Just once. And she's old enough that she knows that might have been the best chance for a while.) - the woman even voted for Perot, for heaven's sake.

An independent-in-name looking for a third way, in other words. And she's looking past the choice of someone with the right set of chromosomes and into the reasoning behind that decision. If she's not alone, then McCain might have won the newscycle, but he's just lost the election.

It's John McCain's Birthday

Happy 72nd!

Some Things Will Never Change

I made a post today.

Things will never change?

That's just the way it is.

Kongai: We Are Not Amused And now, a dramatic recreation of my logging into Kongregate this morning. Okay, link clicked. Site loading. What's to

And now, a dramatic recreation of my logging into Kongregate this morning.

"Okay, link clicked...

Site loading...

What's today's challenge?

Aw crap.

It's Zina.

I've already got Zina...

Two cards this week, two dupes.


Thank you, thank you, no encores, thank you.

Zina's not a bad card, mind. She's certainly come a long way from the days when she had paper-thin defenses. Adding that energy proc to her innate goes a long way towards making her decent (Did I suggest that idea or not? I can't remember, but it was certainly in my pile of ideas for improving Zina. Her chief problem was always that her super-buff innate pressed her to attack, attack, attack but just when she was earning kills her energy was drained and she had to retreat or rest. Which meant wasting her innate's boost. At least that can't happen anymore.).

But she's not a particularly good card, either.

I'm not sure why, really, since she's packing good attacks. Tiger Pounce can be deadly - it's high speed and hits pretty hard. If it had a better proc or buffs were more important, it'd be really strong. And Misstress Command is a powerful buff with a useful effect that's almost always worth casting. I think it has to do with the sparsity of her bar, its lack of synergy - there's good stuff there but there's not a lot of there there, not many skills that combine well so all you're doing is pounding away with your favorite after buffing it up. And that's kinda boring when you get right down to it. The other factor is that Zina's an energy hog who burns through her yellow bar like it's going out of style. It's not a problem if you're earning kills but it is if you're not.

All in all, definitely a mid-tier card with a useful gimmick. I'd probably think better of her if I played 5-Card because that gimmick is deck-destruction. Zina with the right item (Hint: It's Deadly Poison. It's always Deadly Poison. If you put something else on Zina you're probably playing her wrong. Or you're some kind of freaky Kongai-god who's months ahead of everyone else when it comes to strat. Either way, shut up. I hate you.) can swiftly decimate a handful of cards. Killing you before you even know you're dead. Like any such card she gets better in a target rich environment, though.

So, not a card I'll be using much. If, you know, I ever got a chance to use my cards (Sigh...).

Not that that matters because I ALREADY HAD ZINA!

Sad but true, Zina's the first card I ever unlocked. I was wasting some time at yet another flash game site, playing one game or another and I saw there was this card to unlock. If only I was registered and signed up and logged in and all the other hassles I'd never bothered with. But that picture... That image of that striking girl and her huge tiger cat... The tantalizing promise of all those numbers and symbols and what they could possibly mean... And, well, I registered up and the rest of my sad, strange journey with the Kong is history.

So, she'll always have a soft spot in my heart. If not a place in my decks.

Fingers crossed for Anex or Ubuntu next week.

No Mo Joementum

I figured McCain was going to go with Lieberman because he was going to go for the newscycle shocker. Going with the pro-life Jew might have destroyed McCain's candidacy but, since he's losing already, going for a gamechanging roll of the dice was the only move he had left.

Instead of Holy Joe, though, we get Dan Quayle in a bra.

I didn't think it was going to be Palin because...well, until about 9 o'clock this morning I hadn't ever heard of her. Still looking into her but, so far, from the perspective of this dyed in the wool liberal who wants - who needs - Obama to win, I'm liking what I see so far.

Fuck It

I just cannot seem to find the time/energy to blog it out these days.

Screw it, we're going to go full-on Atrios style.

short, quick posts mixed with the occasional opus until I re-get the hang of this blogging thing. Anything to get the pen moving.

Wolverines Blogging: I Am Not Ready For Some Football

The college football season kicks off - for this Michigan man, at least - tomorrow when the Maize and Blue take on the....

Uh, actually, I don't know Utah's colors. I guess I'll find out tomorrow but they're pretty much a mid-conference cupcake so I'm not going to bother right now. Although, look how well the attitude of superiority worked out last year with, sigh, Appalachian State. So, far be it from me to say that the team should steamroll tomorrow.

Anyhow, I have low expectations for this year. Which is to say, I don't expect that the Wolverines will struggle to reach a winning record.

For all the problems - and there are problems - this is still Michigan. The program still draws the blue chip recruits. And they still play in the Big Ten and against a non-conference schedule loaded with tune-up games. They'll be fine. College football is a game where the talent gap is shrinking, especially when it comes to the skilled players, but not enough that a nationally known program like Michigan can't take advantage. Especially when they only have a few tough games a year and play the rest against inferior teams. This isn't the NFL. It's not any given Saturday. It's more like once every decade.

Sigh. Appalachian State flashback again.

That loss is just going to haunt the program for the next twenty years and be remembered for the next hundred...

But, no, when I say I have low expectations I mean that I think the Wolverines are going to run up an 8-4, maybe 9-3 record, losing to at least a few biter rivals along the way. For most teams that might be an accomplishment (*cough*State*cough*) but not for UofM. To have a successful season they need to be competing for the Big Ten title. To have a season to be proud of they need to be competing for the national championship.

That sounds harsh but those are the stakes they decided to play for when they hired Rich Rodriguez. No more mediocrity. No more excuses. They're playing to be among the best teams in the nation, consistently.

For all the travesty of last year's coaching search and its aftermath, they had better win. And win something that matters more than a game against Central Michigan. They might be in a rebuilding year but that just means they slip to the middle of the pack, not to the basement. Heading into this season, the offense has been gutted, the defense mostly returns although given last years underwhelming showing that's not exactly a good thing. Oh, yeah, and we still don't have a quarterback. It's looking to be a gameday decision and probably a platoon system through the year.

But, still, it's not as important as who starts the season at quarterback as who finish it. As the saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, then you don't have one. Neither Sheridan or Threet is really capable of running the RichRod spread - they don't have the speed. But one of them will step up and claim the spot over the course of the season - or they'll know they have to thump the brush for a real bluechip prospect to start grooming next year. Either way, the quarterback situation will clear up by next year. And next year is really what the Wolverines are playing for anyway.

Looking over their schedule, though, it's hard to see them winning more than 8 games. There are basically three categories of games - the ones they should win handily, the ones they might win or they might lose, and the ones they're probably not going to win.

Most of their opponents fit squarely into the first category. But there are at least five games in the later two. Those are the games to pay attention to, if you want to see how this season and, indeed, this program is going:

Not Going to Beat

OSU - November 22nd
The Buckeyes are loaded - again - this year and they're a favorite to reach the title game once again. Oh, and the game is at the Horsehoe, too. Of course, that means they're going to crash and burn, disappointing everyone as the college football hierarchy shakes itself out over the year. But Tressel puts so much emphasis on beating his northern rivals that it's hard to see his win streak coming to an end. Not this year anyway. A win here would be monumental and cement Rodriguez at Michigan for as long as he wants. But it's next year when the series shifts to the newly renovated Big House that's the real make or break game.

Wisconsin - September 27th
If there's any team that's going to challenge the Buckeyes for the Big Ten title this year, it's the Badgers. Wisconsin is a solid program that perennially flies under the radar, managing to post a solid record and get to a decent bowl - too good to be properly called a sleeper but not good enough to be really dominant. They've been doing it for a good decade now but they've never quite made the leap past the Big Two. With Michigan having a down year and Ohio State ripe for some karmic payback, this just might be their year. Michigan plays them early - they're the Big Ten opener - and the outcome of that game could really set the tone for the rest of the season. But UofW is just too stacked on offense and defense for me to believe they can pull off a win here.

Might Get Beaten

Michigan State - October 25th
The saving grace here is that this is a home game. The damning feature is that this is a (rare) year where MSU could be better than UofM. The Spartans are going for their second straight winning season under their new coach and with their stud running back, Ringer, they just might make it. I think they're mid-tier bowl bait at best but, then, I hate State with a passion that surprises even me (It harkens back to those old school days of picking out teams based on school allegiance. It wasn't UofM/MSU every year, it was every day.). There's no denying, though, that Michigan is having a down year and might just be ripe for the picking. The Spartans haven't had a win in this rivalry in a while and, worse, they know it. They'll come ready to put a hurting on the wounded Big Blue. They just might. They just might as well implode completely but, then, that's State for you.

Penn State - October 18th
Penn State is the pick du jour as the Big Ten's sleeper this year. And, indeed, they figure to have a great defense - a callback to the old Linebacker U days. And if OSU stumbles, they could very well ride that to a conference title. But they've also been hit by a string of preseason injuries and suspensions that make their fortunes a bit of a headscratcher. by the time they play Michigan they might be riding high after righting the ship early or they might have crumbled entirely after some early setbacks. It's too early to say but I have a bad feeling about this game - Michigan's owned PSU in the past few years and that's a streak that's got to snap sometime.

Notre Dame - September 13th
The Irish aren't going to be very good this year. Then again, neither are the Wolverines. And ND is coming off a humiliating defeat at the hands of Michigan last year. Playing at home, looking to salvage Charlie Weis's legacy, if not his career, and out to avenge that loss, they'll be fired up. And I'm not sure Michigan can handle that. The combination of a shaky team playing their first big rival and the Golden Dome shaking down the thunder and I think this game bounces funny. A little of that old Irish magic and I think it bounces Notre Dame's way.

They go 0 for all those games and they're 7-5 and scrambling for a bowl bid (Michigan, by the way, has the longest string of appearances in the postseason. It doesn't get talked about much because, you know, half of it are things like the Citrus or Alamo instead of the Rose but there's no way they're going to let that streak die easily.). I think they can get at least one of them. Maybe even two. It'll take a close-fought game or even an upset or two but they can get to 8 or 9 wins. That means, though, they're likely going to get 4 wins, too. And while that might feel like an accomplishment this year, it wasn't too long ago that people were calling for Coach Carr's head when he was regularly posting that kind of season. And it won't be any less disappointing this season, either.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Other Red Meat

On the biggest stage, on the biggest night, Obama just delivered the best speech.

Kongai: I Hate (Almost) Having All the Cards

Back on the two-at-a-time schedule, this week's early challenge was to play Hexiom Connect (yay!) for the Origami Crane (boo!).

Hexiom Connect is an engaging little puzzle game that I quite happen to like. But the Origami Crane is a waste of space.

Seriously, I wouldn't play it if you paid me. It's not that its effect - removing the chance to miss from your cards - is all that bad. It's not and, in fact, it's actually rather powerful. The problem is that it's an effect stuck in the long line.

The Origami Crane is a purple-bordered card and those Martial Artists generally don't care about missing. I mean, what use is the Crane to Yoshiro? He's got skills that hit for 100%, 100%, 100%, oh, and 95%. And that last is on the skill he hardly ever uses - Open Palm. There's no earthly reason to slot the Origami Crane over any of his other choices.

Yoshi is the worst-case example but the rest of the Purples tell a similar story - the Origami Crane gives them a buff to their hit rates of 5~10%, at best, and that gives them a boost of maybe 2~3 points of damage (Onimaru could mount a decent case towards playing with the paper shapes but that would mean actually playing Onimaru. He's got a lot of problems, at the moment. Probably the worst of the close-only bangers. And I'd say that he might like to pick up the Crane points out his own flaws more than dissuades those of the Crane.). It helps to shield against accuracy debuffs but those aren't really scary in the first place.

I'd almost rather have the Crane's old effect. Back in the test, it used to be a copy of CC's innate, preventing any "stat" debuff - which means any lowering of speed, damage, or resistance. That would at least turn a few problematic match-ups more favorably. But I still wouldn't use it (That's why it was changed, after all.). And that's the Crane's real problem - not that it's a bad effect but that other items have better.

The Origami Crane would have to be insanely good before I'd put it on Yoshi over the Scroll or the Insignia. It doesn't matter how good it is at doing what it does, it has to compete for space with those other cards and until it provides a viable option, it's forgettable at best.

Still, I'm not so much frustrated by getting the Crane as I am by the fact that it's been more than a week since I've gotten a card I could actually use. And even that was Amaya, who's got problems all his own these days (Mostly having to do with the lack of killing power. I can put up with a card with 55 health but not when they take so damn long to put anyone away. If anything, Amaya should be a damage dealing beast since his low health means he's not long for the field - he should hit a lot harder because he won't be hitting for long. Yet his card is all about stalling and frustrating rather than going for the throat. Just...argh.).

I'm now - having picked up the Crane since it was so easy (Love those puzzle games.) - only six cards away from the full set. My problem now is that the challenges are repeating those cards that I've already unlocked. Either because I hold the originals, like with the Tiger's Claw, or because I looted one from the card chest after a win, like Ashi. And of the cards that are left only a few are even approaching playable. Mostly the characters - Anex, Le Morte, and Ubuntu. Because the items - the Girdle, Flash Powder, and the Jade Figurine - are decidedly underwhelming.

Ah well, here's hoping that tonight's challenge will be for...oh... Anex.

With my luck, though, it's going to turn out to be the Stoneheel Totem that I just managed to win.

Fit Thrown

It never fails. The Republicans have mastered the art of throwing the press release hissy fit. Repeating the same phrase and stomping their feet to generate mock outrage and for some reason - probably the repetition - the media pays attention. It allows them to mold the message, to warp the narrative, and is part and parcel of how well they manage to turn their opponent's strengths into their weaknesses.

The Republican hissy fit this year seems to be that the stage for Obama's speech tonight features columns. It having been modeled after the Lincoln Memorial - not only is Obama from the Land of Lincoln and making a powerful statement about just how far this country's come in the span of a 150 years it's also the site of Dr. King's most famous speech and today is only its 40th anniversary. Instead of, you know, being uplifting symbolism that alludes to some of the greats of the past it shows that he's elitist. Or presumptuous. I don't get it but I do understand why half the nation tunes out politics entirely.

It's Going to be Lieberman

Pawlenty's the safe pic, but I have this sneaking suspicion that McCain's going to go with Lieberman for his VP pick. It's the one rain-making move he has left, after all, the only hope he has of really shifting the fundamentals of the election. And what does he care about what Rove "black baby" Rove thinks?

If he does, it's going to be great because it's going to kill his campaign. Lieberman is the Republican's favorite Democrat because he engages in their favorite passtime: sticking it to the Dems. But take away his support for the Iraq war and general extreme hawkishness (please) and he's a partyline liberal member of the Democratic party. And there's no way that if even that doesn't piss off the rank and file conservatives that the evangelicals go for a pro-lifer. Let alone a JEWISH pro-lifer.

Picking Lieberman would absolutely destroy the Republican coalition. It would be, I'd think, the final straw that broke the religious right's back: they're already upset that they haven't had more sway after delivering the White House. Twice. And the feeling's growing that their support has been taken for granted if not outright exploited. A big slap to the face might be all it takes for them to pull up stakes and look elsewhere.

Lieberman might just explode the right and force them to realign. Which, you know, I actually think would be a net positive for the country. But not so positive for the McCain campaign.

Oooh, unless it's Romney. That'd be even better for the country, worse for McCain.

McCain really just has no good choice when it comes to his running mate, does he? It's like the primaries all over again - a winner by default.

God's Message to the Faithful

It seems like there's going to be a huge hurricane next week during the Republican convention. That means the prospect of television showing a bunch of white male oligarchs slapping themselves on the back on one side of the screen while a national disaster plays out on the other.

My hopes and prayers go out to those in the storm's path. And I sincerely hope that the worst is avoided. It's not right to politicize such a catastrophe, it should be so far out of bounds as to be unthinkable. But the conservative spectrum of our political discourse has never shied from wrapping themselves in the flag and using it to justify their actions - an action I'd think should be just as unacceptable. So, perhaps it's time that we wrap ourselves in ruin. Clothe ourselves in threadbare sacks and with our faces coated in the ash, ask - demand - why.

So, I will note that it's also going to be just over three years since Katrina struck New Orleans. And if there's a more sublime illustration of just how much the conservatives have failed the country over the past eight years than that tear filled day, I shudder to think of it.

Crying on the Inside

Bill Kristol gets paid to write things like this. It'd be laughable if it wasn't so sad.

What I've Been Up To

In the long, dark teatime of this blog, I've been silent. But I don't want you to think that I've been, you know, laying around all day in my underwear, eating Cheetos, and masturbating. I hate Cheetos.

No, I've been productive. If, of course, you define finding other ways of wasting my time to be productive. Which I obviously do.

Over the summer, I've completed yet another version of my fantasy script Unbound. Which stinks. Again. Just not sure where I'm going wrong there except for the disheartening prospect that I might not know how to write after all.

Someone, somewhere (Although I can't find the link at the moment) made a post about coming up with your own MMOs. Already having the venerable ClotH tumbling around in my backpocket, I sat down to think about making it more than a vague parody or a story vehicle and fleshing it into a viable gameworld. As usual, though, I overshot the mark and wound up comgin up with not one but three different MMO concepts. Who knows, I might even get around to putting them down. On paper, as it were.

Then there's Kongai. I haven't been playing much - a match here or there to keep my toes in, some time beating up the AI to perform sanity checks on the numbers (I really have to get around to making some kind of bot to do that for me. Wouldn't be too hard. Just need to it to run a lot of monte carlo tests for me, and that's the sort of repetitive thing a program should be good for. Sigh, one of these days...) - but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about the plucky little game that could. I think I'll wait until I have a few games under my belt before I talk about balance. But, in the meantime, I've been thinking about balancing my own ideas. That's right, I haven't given up on tinkering with my own cards, something I've mentioned having created in passing several times in the past. We're up to two full expansions now. 8 groups, over 40 characters, and some fifty odd items in various stages of completion or at least more than a line or two jotted down on a notepad. I tend to make more characters than I need for each group and winnow the number down as I go along, merging and blending unsuccessful characters into one another to get to that final five. As for items, well, six generals plus five for each group and the numbers add up. Items are easy, anyways, it's making sure they're not imba when paired up with certain characters that's frustrating.

Also, this year's National Novel Writing Marathon is coming up and, lately, I've been trying to come up with ideas. I figure I'm going to be extremely busy this year and won't have a whole lot of time to devote to the madhouse. Not enough to be trying to crack the 200k Club, at least. So I'm looking for a smaller, simple story that I can reasonably expect to get through instead of letting my freak flag fly.

I have three ideas at the moment, as is my usual want. The first is a superhero story that I might just save for next year's Script Frenzy as it might make for a good graphic novel.

In a nutshell, it's about a hero who wakes up after years of brainwashing to find herself in a world where the villains won and the heroes have been subjected to various tortures and degradations. Together with the daughter she doesn't recognize, she's out for revenge.

The second is a bit of a sidestor set in the crazy alternative/other world of the Empire from last year's Stalking the Wolf. It deals with the story of a Princess, the reluctant next in line to the throne, and the assassin sent to kill her off. I'm not sure, really, how to classify it except that it's equal parts science fiction, thriller, and quietly character driven drama.

And, finally, there's a bit of a supernatural idea that's going to wind up drenched in smut. It's about a pack of werewolves (Giving them the "Lestat" treatment of modern, misunderstood monsters) and their youngest member, a boy drawn into a world of destruction and mayhem, of sex and violence, where every day is a life and death struggle - and that's just from the other members of his new family. Each of them is interesting in its own rights and I'm probably going to spend the next month working up their outlines and deciding which one I want to run with.

Then there's all the writing exercises that I've been doing. And the blog posts that I've written only to crumple up and throw away and the ideas for posts that I've had only to salt them away for a time when I could finish them.

So, I've been jerking around. But the results are strewn across any number of files and notepads, perhaps to one day pay dividends.

Why I Won't Be Watching the Convention

The Democratic convention kicked off tonight and I, for one, won't be paying it much attention. Oh sure, as an on again off again political junkie I'll be devouring the coverage and hunting down transcripts but what I won't be doing much of this week or the next is tuning in to the actual coverage.

For pretty much the same reason that I gave the Olympics a pass: it's staged.

I've already been convinced that Obama is my candidate. And even more convinced that there's absolutely no way I can risk a McCain presidency. I like to think I keep myself informed about the issues - I certainly read enough sites and articles to try and keep on top of what seems to matter. So, I don't need what amounts to a weeklong commercial to shape my opinions. Speeches and video presentations for broadcast consumption. And the endless chatter of the talking heads more worried about who owns how many homes than about things like the state of our republic. It's a useless event (To me, at least. I'm aware some people set great store by it but I think those are the same people who decide which president they'd like to have on the basis of which one they'd most like to have a beer with.), carefully managed and scripted and manicured. Devoid of all drama and anything that would give me a reason to turn in - the manufactured concerns over those wacky PUMAs aside (I mean, seriously. I can see preferring McCain over Obama. I think it's, well, wrong but I can see why people think that way - about half the voting public re-elected Bush after all. What I can't see is why people would turn from Clinton and vote for McCain out of what amounts to spite. There's practically no difference between Obama and Cilnton. Not when it comes to their policies and proposals. And certainly not when they're contrasted with Johnny POW. I just, argh, really hope those people are a small but vocal minority that happen to be overrepresented. And I really fear they're not.).

I know the party elders are scared, scarred even, by the chaos of the conventions of old. Shades of the streets of Chicago in the late sixties, of battles inside and out, and the resulting footage that cloud the mind. But at least they were about democracy. With people making choices and doing more than following along with the rallying cry. They had a heart and soul that's missing - precisely because they had that dangerous edge.

These conventions are anything but dangerous. They're, instead, safely boring. And, because of it, I don't think they're worth paying much attention.

Let's Try This Again

Argh. Okay, so obviously my network problems got worse, not better. My laptop also finally gave up the ghost (I've had it since college and that's an increasingly frightening long time ago.) and that was that as far as the "upload those blog post and postdate whenever I can" plan went.

First it was the router which I sent back to the manufacturer for a replacement. Then the switch I used to hop from upstairs to downstairs went bad, prompting another replacement. Then I had to track down and resplice some cords that were giving intermittent service. At this point, I'm half convinced that by this time next week I'll be crawling through the rafters trying to find the cables that some furry creatures (Having inexplicably found their way back into my attic after I spent way too much money last year having that problem fixed.) had managed to chew through and dreading the discovery of half-fried little corpses.

Fortunately, it hasn't come to that. Although I did spend the better part of the evening with some rudimentary wiring guides trying to figure out why a dimmer switch wasn't working. Short answer: it was so old that the spring inside of it, the one that holds the switch in when you click it to turn on the light, had broken. Replacing it was an adventure in and of itself. Not only because I'm deathly terrified of electrical fires ever since that one childhood incident that I like to call "The Story of the Smoking Wall" but because I was dealing with the detritus of electrical wiring from some forty years ago - maybe even longer, dating to when this house was even built. I knew I was in trouble when I opened up the wall and went "...huh, there's no ground here."

Anyhow, I have refitted my network, replaced everything except the desk on which the router sits, reformatted various computers until I was reciting IP addresses in my sleep, and made the appropriate sacrifices to the dark elder gods of technology who conspire against me. Having, I believe, successfully mollified them, my internet is back and, hopefully, so is this blog.

Just in time, too, since there's plenty to talk about. From the start of college football to the conventions and - finally - the final stretch of the campaigns. There's even that new Warhammer MMO I've been hearing so much about. Sadly, I wasn't in the beta and I'm probably not buying the game but I'm hoping to check out the open beta at the very least. There's a month left before the latest NaNo kicks off, too, so I'd better get used to pouring out the daily wordage again. That should be enough to keep me busy. For now, anyway.

Epic Fail

Okay, so that weekend I took off turned into...Christ, three weeks?

I fail at this blogging thing.

At least I'm comforted by still updating faster than pal Clamatius. He's too busy off doing less important things than blogging. Things like having a

family and raising his children. Pfft. Doesn't he know that once the passage of time has ground our modern world to dust that the only artifacts of our passing will be the scant archives of our internets that have survived? And that only those who've left behind a few tetrabytes of semi-personal ramblings will be able to be adequately simulated in the databank homes of the creatures of information and light who have come to rule our world?

Oh, wait, he has Twitter. So I guess he does.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just When We Were Getting Started

Just a reminder that I'll be off for the weekend. Excellent, one another, being. Figure it out.

Fury: Closing Thoughts

I see Fury has finished stacking up the chairs and is about to turn off the lights and call it a night.


I know a lot of people who were interested in the game, including some old pals from my Guild Wars days. Never got to give the game a trial myself, it was merely on my list of games to try one day when I had the time. But, looks like I'm never going to get that opportunity.

Goes to show, I guess, that a purely PvP game just isn't going to survive unless it's, you know, Battlefield something or comes in an orange box - after all, FPSes do the combat thing and do it, for the most part, better, what advantage does a fantasy MMOey type game have that would draw that crowd away? And how do you draw people into the PvP without a PvE side to keep them entertained when there's nothing else to do or they're unsure of their abilities? Questions, I think, that Fury was never able to answer.

Still, asking not for whom the bell tolls, it's always a shame to see a game that so many have put such hard work into and devoted so much of their time towards go under.

Guild Wars: Temptation

Update fairy is go! You can read Brinny's patch notes here.

At least, I'd like to think they were written by the old friend of the blog formerly and fondly known as Brinstar because I'm sure she catches no end of grief doing a thankless job for a spiteful community and I'd like to see that she's doing a good job in spite of it.

Anywho....looking at the notes, well, whoa.

Sweeping changes to underpowered and obsolete elites, especially the criz-zappy ones from Prophesies? A monkey wrench in the metagame that's sure to result in tons of interesting buildcrafting in the coming days and weeks? The deathknell sounded for Ursan Blessing? A reduction to the necessity of title grinding? And the utter and absolute removal of Victory or Death entirely?

It's like they want to get me interested in coming back or something...

I think I'm still going to hold out until Halloween time and the chance for more sweet, sweet Costume Brawl action. But that's the kind of update that takes guts to make and that I'd have loved to see more of.

But, as someone said, at this point, it's all alpha testing for GW2 anyways, so there's not a lot of reason to bother.

Some of those changes, though... Like Lyssa's Aura? Or Quivering Blade? And I never thought I'd see a day when Unyielding Aura even looked like playable. Of course, that's only the PvE version and we come right back to why I'm not playing again...

Speaking of Vice Presidential Candidates...

I see that there are people pushing Michigan Senator Carl Levin to become Senator Obama's running mate. Let me just say, I think that's a wonderful idea. It's one that'll probably never happen but, as the case has been made, Levin is indeed awesome.

He'd be the weighty elder statesman standing right behind Obama. His light side version of Dick Chenney. Someone who's never going to run for president and so can burn all his political capital making the kind of innocuously deadly burns that Levin so specializes in - seriously, dude looks like a kindly old grandpa that you'd nod at while searching for a table at Zingerman's but not only is he wicked smart, he's mastered the art of the stealth putdown. The kind that hammer his opponent without making him look sleazy himself. He could be an excellent attack dog in a campaign that prides itself for being above the fray. Throw in the foreign policy experience, the blue-collar and union ties in an important battleground state (Plural, if you include the possible effect he might have on the Jewish vote in Florida. Even without it, he's the sort of politician who should appeal to, well, the Hilary Democrats.), and add to the historic ticket what could be the first Jewish person only a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and it makes a certain kind of mad sense.

On the other hand, while Levin is experienced that's another word for old and he's not exactly oozing with the charisma - charm, sure, charisma, no - so the imagery is off. And being from Michigan he's heavily in bed with the auto industry and that means he's got a less than stellar record when it comes to environmental issues, for one.

Most importantly, though, it means taking Levin out of the Congress where he's an important Democratic leader. He heads several important committees, serves on several more, and he's been there and in that system for so long that I think his real strength is being one of the movers and shakers not in the Obama administration but for it. Helping them to win the legislative battles they're going to have to once the campaign is over.

He might get a cabinet seat but I doubt he'll get the Naval Observatory.

That's Two Americas, Not Two Marriages...

Wow, Edwards admits to an affair back in 2006. And it might involve a lovechild and possible hush money for the other woman involved.

You know, way back when, I leaned towards Edwards as my first choice in the presidential primary. Would have been happy with Obama, am happy with Obama. Really, I would have been happy with anyone who wasn't Clinton. But Edwards seemed much more in tune with my tone and my personal politics than any other alternative. And I've always regretted a little bit that he fell into the shadow of Obama and Clinton and couldn't figure a way out.

Now, though, maybe it's a good thing he didn't win that nomination, after all. This sort of thing coming out in October would have ruined him.

And it's probably ruined him right now. At least in the short run. Maybe for any future shots at the White House but definitely robbed him of any chance of winning this year's veepstakes. There's no way Obama picks up a running mate with a cloud like that hanging over him - because there's no way that Edwards gets the soft treatment that apologetic social conservatives who cheat and make the infamous teary eyed speech with a supportive prop spouse as prop supporting him in the background get; the media loves to tear into him.

Olympics: Opening Apathy

The opening ceremony is on tonight. Actually, it's already been on, having taken place in the morning our time because, for some odd reason, the Chinese decided to schedule it in their evening and not to suit the needs of primetime viewers. It's like they think they're an important country or something.

In any event, I won't be watching.

Not just the opening ceremony which will no doubt be the sort of spectacle that's both mindbendingly odd and mindalteringly boring at the same time - there's only so many ways you can have people running around a stadium in neon colored versions of their native garb while trying to get across the sweep of their history through interpretive dance, after all.

But, no, I mean the whole games. I won't be watching the Olympics this year, don't have the slightest interest in it (Except that it's going to be ground into my head over the next 16 days, I'm sure.).

And it's not that the games have become too corporate. Too focused on advertising and branding with the thin veneer that the games serve some higher purpose for humanity than simply moving sneakers or wheaties boxes having long since worn away. Or that they've gotten too professional. Drifted too far from the original ideals of amateurism and athleticism. They might have meant something back when it was a bunch of enthusiasts standing around in a field in the middle of nowhere out of sheer love of competition and a romantic view of history. But now? In order to even compete there's so much training and coaching and sheer capital investment necessary even if it's done completely legally (And when it's not it's less about hard work with pushing the limits of human endurance and more about getting away with pushing the boundaries of modern chemistry.) that it not just a multi-million dollar making enterprise but also an event that sucks up tons of money into staging it as well. And it has nothing to do with it being in China and how they'll be using these games to polish up their image with the world, mostly by shoving anything objectionable into a corner and shooing anyone who looks too closely away for the next few weeks.

No, it's that the Olympics are less of a sporting event than they are a pageant. A big show. One that's billions of dollars it's all put on for, essentially, bragging rights for the nations involved. One where medal counts and nationalities matter more than the individuals involved. A massive undertaking that's done to gratify the egos of those staging and hosting and paying for the whole enterprise. It's all artificial.

Because, in the end, I don't really care who wins a bunch of sports that I never hear about and don't follow and only learn about once every four years when the Olympics roll around. I'm not interested in seeing who's the fastest swimmer or the best diver or who rows best. I'm not even interested in the major sports like America's latest attempt to send a squabbling bunch of preening professional players to beat up on the rest of the world in basketball or the next best thing to the World Cup in football because I can watch those done better at other times.

Back when the world was larger and the cable channels were fewer, the Olympics were special. A glimpse at other places and events that you just couldn't see elsewhere. But, today? They've lost a lot of their luster precisely because they're no longer special. Sports happens all the time and I have the internet that lets me catch it whenever I want. Highlights, reviews, whatever I want, at my fingertips. I don't need the Olympics to catch up on fencing among so many others and the point is that I've realized I never have.

Prisoner #25330's Return Engagement

Oh man, it just keeps getting better.

In that it keeps getting worse for Kwame. And, of course, for the reputation of the city he serves.

But, today, roughly an hour after he got out of jail and shortly after he was being fitted for a tether, the state's attorney general was holding a press conference to announce he was being slammed with yet more charges.

Not for monthly overages on his text messaging or even for perjury, no, this time, Hizzoner's on the docket for felony assault.

That's what happens when you go around shoving police officers, after all. I mean, you can do a lot of things but you never, ever want to push a cop. It's like lying to judges but, then, Kwame's figuring that one out, too.

And, as an aside, once again, yes, Kwame Kilpatrick is a member of the Democratic party and, yes, the news doesn't make a habit of mentioning it. But that's because he's the black mayor of a large metropolitan area with an overwhelming black population. Of course he's a Democrat. Party affiliation really breaks down when it comes to local politics in that kind of quote unquote urban area. It'd be worth noting if he wasn't, in fact, a Democrat. But he is, so making particular note of it would be like mentioning that the head of the Ku Klux Klan s white or putting up a disclaimer about using Drain-O as a mouthwash: It's clear from the context and doesn't need spelling out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Kind of Activist Judge


So, Hizzoner broke the bond arrangement in his trial. He wasn't supposed to leave the city without checking with the court first and he stepped across the river to the Great White North some time last month (There's this whole big thing about selling off the Windsor tunnel in order to balance the city's books - Kilpatrick's been fire and brimstoning for months that not getting the deal done will force the cutting of a lot of city jobs. In case you're not a local, not up on your geography, or are not yet the age of eighteen, Windsor's that little bit of Canada that's right across the river from Detroit.). The prosecutor complained and the judge revoked his $75k bond and threw him in jail. Here's the video:


Ah, accountability.

There'll be an appeal tomorrow morning where Kilpatrick's team of lawyers will no doubt figure out some way of keeping him out of the slammer before long. But, at the very least, he's going to be spending tonight in prison. Or whatever high-security arrangement they wind up putting him in - it's not like he's going to be mixing with the general population or anything, after all.

So, it's not going to be permanent but it's a start. When asked why the mayor had left town or, in so many words, "Who was dying?" the mayor's lawyer replied "The City of Detroit was sick." Which is true, but what it's sick of is this whole stupid mess. With the scare put into his mother in the primary (And, really, if it hadn't have been a 3-way race, she'd probably be in the loser's circle right now.) and now this, maybe the message that this is actually serious has finally been driven home.

NFL Blogging: What About Brett Fav-ruh?

Now that Football Jesus has been traded to the Jets does that mean the regular updates broadcast by television, radio, and town crier can be stepped down from every five minutes to something like on the half hour? Please?

The Electric Gods Smile Upon Me This Day

Wheee! This marks 24 hours of having an active internet connection. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Vote(d)

Yesterday was primary election day here. This is actually my first year voting so it was, I think, a good opportunity for me to figure out my polling place (Which, since it was my old elementary school wasn't exactly difficult.), iron out the wrinkles, and get a feel for the actual voting experience.

I went on my lunch hour, taking a "I've really got to start exercising more" walk over to the school around noon, and was surprised to find that there was actually a pretty good crowd there - I figured it'd be dead and I could breeze right in without, you know, making a fool of myself in front of the neighbors because I had no idea what I was doing. Asking around a bit with the volunteers I learned that they did consider it pretty busy. That it wasn't just a lunch hour rush. That it had been busy throughout the day and would probably get worse once people got out of work, as is normally the case. Although there was a lineup, I got in and out pretty quickly. I checked with my mother who voted in the evening after she got off work and she said it was pretty much the same story there, too.

Personally, I take that as a positive sign. I think that there are a lot of people energized this year. A lot of first time voters, including the ones like me who've never really taken the time to bother before. And that means large turnouts which can only be a net positive for the country.

Anyhow, as for the actual voting, there wasn't too much on the primary ballot. A few single option choices for candidates running unopposed. Like Senator Levin who could probably get elected as a corpse at this point. And a bunch of contry clerks and judges that you'd have had to have the sort of obsessive mind that would do hours worth of research beforehand, in the morning, before heading over to the polling place to make an informed decision about. There was the millage increase for the Zoo which seems to have passed handily.

But the biggest single thing - on my ballot, at least - though, was the vote for the Democratic primary in the House of Representatives. Caroline Kilpatrick, mother of Detroit mayor Kwame, is the 13th District Representative (That covers, basically, eastern Detroit and some of the surrounding suburbs, including the one I hail from and the ones we call "downriver".). The fallout from her son's foibbles had put her seat in jeopardy - I for one, want to vote against her if only to register some kind of protest and I'm not alone. This being Detroit, though, it's a heavily Democratic area (Read: urban.) and it would take a miracle for her to be unseated by a Republican contender in the fall.

In the summer, though, she could be unseated by another Democrat in the primary. Basically, it's been like what happened to Lieberman and Lemont without the national media caring about it. A pretty bitter primary fight between Kilpatrick and two challengers, former state representative Mary Waters and state senator Martha Scott and a referrendum on the Mayor.

Today, though, it seems that Kilpatrick has squeezed past my choice Waters, largely on the strength of the Detroit vote. The suburbs, especially the affluent Grosse Pointes went heavily against her. Unfortunately, that means it plays right into the narrative of "us vs. them" that her son's been playing on for the longest time so it's not like anyone's actually going to be held accountable again. In fact, even though it was a close race that shows there's a lot of anger out there and a lot of dislike for Kilpatrick, it's more likely to end up shoring up Kwame's position.

Kongai: I Respond

I'm about a month late to respond to this so by way of apology, I'll spin it out into a post.

Way back when I wrote this:

"Oh, interesting update in the pipeline, too. I'm especially looking at the changes to Andromeda who I really think needs them. Or at least something to help her in the range game. Helene, meh, reality diverging from my expectations again but I don't like changes that make her more like Ashi and less like herself. She's definitely a problem, especially with Valkyrie but I'd rather hit her damage and interrupt proc instead of her speed."

To which Chad responded in the comments:

Hey, getting to this a little late, but...

"Sirlin almost did lower the proc, but I was one of the voices begging him NOT to do this and to lower the speed instead. Lowering the speed is sneaky in that it looks like a nerf but it's really not because it stops pretty much all the important stuff it used to stop. Making it proc less would basically make it worthless (way too much energy to spend on something so conditional when you have SS/Frenzied), except when you really need it, when it's worse than the slower version.

As it stands now, the attack does what it's supposed to do. It stops Pilebunker, it stops ToD, it stops most vampire drain attacks, meanwhile noobs can stop crying because they got "locked down" by an attack that really can't be spammed unless you allow it. Win all around imo."

Fairly well on point. And a pretty good articulation of the opposite tack from mine - Chad illustrates the reasons why you'd want to lower the speed instead of the proc, namely that it's a nerf that doesn't affect her core functionality while still removing some gross abuse. And that was the way the game eventually went.

And yet, in retrospect, it looks like the v1.8 changes to Helene didn't leave her "very good" but, instead, knocked her out of the running almost entirely. That's certainly the way it's looked in the past week in the few brief glimpses I've had of the game and the people talking about it; Helene is no longer a top-tier character and, in fact, is very nearly circling the drain. Especially when compared to Ashi. Part of it is simply that people have learned to play. But part of it is that Helene doesn't have a distinct enough niche anymore and what she does do that distinguishes her from the other close-range bangers she doesn't do well enough.

Which was, basically, my point although I didn't articulate it very well. Helene is a card that's always straddled that fine line between being too good and not good enough. One that easily could be an overpowered monster and one that could just as easily be a feeble mess (I obviously favor making her as good as possible since she's something of a pet character for me. The kind of interesting character who could be adding a lot of complexity to the game. More, at least, than step and swing with Ashi or Oni's resistance shuffle.).

Because, once you get people learning how to actually change ranges, Helene absolutely collapses. She's doesn't have a way to deal with it. And the way she is supposed to deal with it - Enchant Blades - doesn't work.

Shield Bash was never really a problem. It was only an issue because of the people who'd sit there and take two in the face before getting a Frenzied - and with Valk's there was nothing they could do about it. Lowering the speed or changing the proc it was all about giving Helene players a reason to worry when they got into that situation so it wasn't so abusive. But it wasn't necessary, the point was just to break people out of that bad habit. If anything, she needed more buffing.

But Helene wasn't a good card, she was just a card that people thought was good. Now that people have actually learned how to range her flaws have come into sharp relief. And her strengths have been so consistently toned down that they no longer matter.

I'll put it this way; I used to be afraid of Frenzied one-hitting. Now, I pretty much think that it has to.


You know, somehow, I don't think I'm going to make it to a thousand posts this year.

I Tremble With Rage

This is what I've been trying to post for the last few days:

Figures, soon as I resolve to spend more time blogging, my internet goes out.

At first I took it as further proof that Comcast (and other ISPs) are evil. But diligent tracking down of the problem has revealed that it's my router that's the cause.

It's pretty old in electronic equipment terms, so it's not exactly a surprise. Basically, what happens is that the network is still there, all my computers are still connected and can talk with the router as well as one another, but it's not able to receive any traffic from outside of the network - pages won't load, data won't arrive, and so on. Which means, in practice, no internet connection.

My fix - which consisted of flipping the power switch on and off while alternating praying and hitting things - seems to be holding for now but that's what I thought on Saturday night, too. And Monday.
Yeah, so spending a few sweltering hours trying to figure out the latest reason the networks gone down only to find that it's gone out again just when I want to actually use it doesn't do wonders for my desire to blog, I'll tell you.

Anyway, the problem hasn't cleared up and it's become much more frequent. It's a matter of hours now before the network conks out. Fortunately, my router's still under warranty so I'll be getting a replacement soon. Unfortunately, that involves packing up the old one and shipping it off to the manufacturer and waiting for the new one to arrive.

My workaround now is the simple expedient of jacking directly into the modem - which works fine so I can at least check my mail from time to time. But since I'm not the only one in my home who craves the internet, I'm not going to be able to hop online as often as I'd like. Writing in advance and scheduling posts, though, should mean that the blog shouldn't suffer from much more neglect. But the way things are going, who knows? I don't expect many more outages but I make no promises.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tigers Blogging: Losing the Baby Fat

Right, so Ivan Rodriguez got traded at the deadline. The Pudgy One will always have a special place in Tigers lore for being the catalyst. That one star player who ushered in the transition from a team that lost 100 games to a team that, uh, lost the World Series. So, it's a bit of a shame to see him go. For the longest time he was the heart and soul of the team not to mention its best player. Now he's gone in exchange for some much needed relief pitching.

But it's not too much of a shame for me because, let's face it, this is a Tigers team that's been stuck in neutral since that marvelous 2006 season. Not getting any worse, but not getting any better, either, and that's a problem when several other teams around the league have been steadily improving. Rodriguez was part of the whole complacient mindset that, the seductive thought that they'd gotten there once and could do so again. Plus, word was he'd been having chemistry problems either with management or in the locker room. Then there's the whole steroids cloud which for whatever reason has not hung over him like a lot of other players - but it should. So maybe it was time to make a change.

The player he got traded for, however, makes me think that it's towel pitching in time. Kyle Farnsworth? A future Hall of Famer is only worth Mr. Bench-clearer? A hothead and a mediocre reliever? Who wasn't all that good in his last go-around with the team? And, not to mention that the Tigers just traded a key player to the hated Yankees, who might as well be in their division because they're certainly going to have to fight it out for a postseason spot. Compared with the deals that landed Man-Ram and Ken Griffey Jr, it's like an unfortunate joke.

Because, well, it's not going to change anything. Sure, the Tigers needed bullpen help now that the Jones rollercoaster has had its operations suspended but the real problem is with their starting pitching. Willis hasn't worked out and even their aces have looked mortal. Also, they've been shut-out more times than any other team in the league. Oh, and they can't win close games and they can't beat the teams they need to beat. That's a problem, too. They've managed to climb out of the cellar with some great ball but they dug themselves too deep of a hole at the start of the season and unless they can start beating teams like Chicago or Boston, they don't have a hope of making the postseason let alone advancing in it.

And after the disappointment of last year and the blockbuster, farm-emptying moves heading into this season, that had to be the goal. There's no certificate of participation this time around, no hearty clap on the back for a job well done, this team needed to win. And, now, it's looking ever more apparent that they won't.

Kongai: Late to the Party

Well, looks like Kongai got released while I wasn't looking. Had an update and everything. You'd think there'd have been an announcement or an e-mail or something but, well, guess I missed it.

Hardly even stole enough up time to visit the site at all. Except for checking in every Friday or so to check out the latest challenge and spend the twenty minutes or so to get the new card. Today, though, lo and behold, but there was a challenge on the main page leading to Kongai itself (The "beat up on the AI for the Pimp Cup" one.) that made me go "Wait a minute..." and actually look at the news section for once. Go figure.

Basically, I haven't been playing for, well, about a month. Maybe longer.

There were really two reasons why I stopped - no time and not wanting to get burnt out. Like the end of all such online gaming, they're really the justifications I used and only the tip of a growing icebergs of concerns and ennui that led to dissatisfaction and then disavowal.

Busy with other things and all, not really comfortable with devoting hours of my less-than-free time to playing a video game, so I'd stopped (Along with blogging and several other treasured activities that had apparently been keeping me sane.). No Kongai for me, I had to come up with completely new ways of wasting my time and making sure I didn't get anything done. Which I'm frighteningly good at. But, really, I haven't been able to devote the time I've wanted to playing so I simply didn't bother.

Which was alright with me because I wanted to cut back on my play time anyways. See, I'm one of those weird people who both want to gobble up content as fast as it can be shoveled into my waiting, wide-open maw and, at the same time, relishes each and every experience. I'd gotten into beta, I'd seen enough of the game to realize I liked it, felt I made enough contributions here and there to justify my presence, had some fun, but I didn't want to overplay the game. Not weeks, if not months, before it actually came out. I wanted to save a bit, set aside for me to come back to and enjoy, before it was all gone. I'd been playing pretty consistently - as long as there were people to play with, of course - and if I'd kept that pace up then when the game opened up at release I'd be jaded and worn out; bereft of the joy of simply getting to play with everyone. A bit of time off to rest and recharge my interests would mean that I'd be fresh when the game arrived for real.

Because, at the time, I was getting burned out. I think it all has to do with the introduction of the random card drops not to mention the win-loss based level system and the skill rankings. Because, at that point there because *something* to play for. Beyond, you know, the value of actually playing which is pretty cliche these days (I mean, if you're not getting constantly rewarded with shinny carrots and bright flashing lights proclaiming that you are, in fact, a winner, then what's the point?). Even if they were all going to get wiped out at release, they still provided an incentive. A reason to keep playing. To dive back in for one more round, one more match, no matter how I originally planned to dip in for a few quick matches before getting on with my day. The knowing that I was only a few wins from my next level or that a brand new card could drop from the sky at any point, meant that I'd spend way longer than I wanted to, because I'm weak and prone to ++ery. There was no point and yet I was still getting too wrapped up in it all, pulling dick moves just to eke a win, getting into pissing matches to avoid a loss that, in the end, didn't matter, and, in general, becoming way too invested in a stupid flash game.

Because Kongai, especially in beta, was never a game that I wanted to play to such exhaustion. It's only ever been a minor diversion (And, I know, I know. Really, it's a nice game and I like it and write about it, write a lot about it, but I'm not so terribly enthused by it to the point of letting it consume my life, at this point or any other. I'll let you in on a little secret: I write. A lot. And what I write about is whatever's on my mind at the moment.). That elusive game I could play when I only had fifteen or thirty minutes to kill and an urge for something more complicated than Solitaire and less taxing than checking my e-mail.

So, I went away. And now I'm coming back. Hopefully, I'll stick around, not having been frustrated by the fact that dozens of people who've had weeks to play are now better than I'll ever be - I'm now outside of the community and I was never really a huge part of it, I've been here before and it's not exactly an easy thing to get back into the scene. But, honestly, I'll probably never have the time or the talent to be the best player. At this point, I'll settle just for being a decent one. Who could be better with practice.

Turns out there actually was a reason to keep playing in the beta because those random cards won have been carried over - I only ever won 2 but they're two good cards that I'm happy to have. I've lost my starters, of course, but that's not exactly a bad thing, if you ask me since I made some pretty bad choices the first time around. But my dilligent work in keeping up with the challenges means that I have 36 cards at the moment, not including duplicates. Add in those three starters and I've only got about 7 cards left before I'm UAX. Off the top of my head, I'm only missing four characters: Tafari, Ubuntu, Anex, and Le Morte. All solid enough cards especially with the latest changes but none that I'd desperately want if I was starting from scratch. So, I'll probably wind up going the items route with my starters, pick up a spare GenSig and maybe that Girdle that I'm still stubbornly missing even though it's not as important to have now that PalmSpam isn't the dominant meta anymore. If I can, I'll probably blow my Starters on gray items - General's, Girdle, and Stoneheel - because those are the ones with the most utility, no matter how many new sets get released and how old cards go by the wayside, those general use items will presumably always be available to slot in.

Really, there aren't any cards that I don't have that I'd break the bank to pick up. I'm short those four characters, a few gray items, and four out of the five purple bordered items. The one item I do have for the Martial Artists is the Scroll and, well, if you were going to pick one item to have for all the Ninjas, it'd have to be the Scroll. And I've got two. Add in double challenges and the chance to unlock through wins as I work my way to the middle of the ladder and I'm perilously close to having everything unlocked. Which is nice but I guess it means I should start thinking about deck construction now instead of hitting the random button.

Of course, I'll have to set up some smurf accounts, too, and work to stock them up as well. So I'll still have something to progress towards even if my main account gets "done".

So, anyways, expect to see some postings about the game in the future. Or not. You never know with me. I'm going to have to spend some time looking into what other people are saying and getting reacquainted with the game before I start issuing things like "Rex's Top Ten Cards You Absolutely Must Have Or You Are A Stupid Newb That No One Will Ever Love" or screaming about what's wrong with the cards.

Haven't picked up this week's cards yet, either - The Cup is easy but I remember Age of War, it's an old game and the kind that gives Flash a bad name. Slow, boring, and lacking common sense items like a mute button. Or a pause button. Getting through it takes some sitting still and I haven't had much time for that lately. And I really lack the patience not to tab out my browser about a dozen times a minute - it's the old ADHD in me but I like to multitask. Extensively. But I'll get to it soon enough.

Once I do, I'll have to decide what to do about the old Card List. It's woefully out of date now but a quick look around reveals that a few other sites have taken up the task of providing up to date information on the cards, including the wiki I never got around to setting up. I should probably just save myself the frustration, retire the card list, and pitch in there, if they'll let me. On the other hand, the layout of the wiki is an atrocious jumble, full of contradictions that I'd spend long hours ripping apart in order to get consistent and to my satisfaction. The multitude of ads are an eyesore, too. But, most importantly, it's not mine and it'd never be - a big part of the reason why I started this blog was to have more control over the content that I spew forth onto the web, in feeling if not in practice, after all. And the sad part is that I'll probably wind up going over and taking down all the information on the cards anyway, if only to double-check that they're all what they say they are. It's not much more work to input that all into the HTML it takes to build the card list, just a few boring data entry sessions ending with hammering the list smooth with the hammer known to man as Bugcrusher.

But, either way, knowing me, I'll probably have something to say about the game sooner rather than later.

Like Patton

I have returned.

It's frightening just how easy it is to go a long time without posting. Miss a day here and there and you get out of the habit and, before you know it, there goes a month or two where you haven't said anything.

Anyhow, I won't bore you with the excuses because, you know, what do you care? Short story short, really busy. Travel and classes and searing heat making it hard to sit down and blog it out.

It's not like I haven't had ideas for posts or even taken a stab at writing them out. I'm never out of ideas, it's always a matter of time. And effort. When I'm trying to jot something down and realizing it's going to take me another couple thousand words to flesh out my ideas to the point where even I know what I'm talking about, and then only having a few minutes before I have to get moving on something else, well, it leads to notes and files full of scraps and pieces and not a lot of production.

Things haven't exactly quieted down but, really, I like blogging and want to get back to it. So we enter yet another brave new era for things around here. I've said it oh so many times before but maybe this time it'll stick for more than a few days.

I'll have to get around to posting some things and going through my sadly small backlog of e-mails and comments. Sigh, one of these days people are going to realize that my frequent disappearances are nothing but a thinly veiled cry for help and react with the cries of alarm and concern that will give me the attention I so desperately crave. But the problem is that I probably won't be around to see it when it happens.

But, yes, I have neglected this place for a time and, because of it, I have some work to do to whip it back into shape. But that's for the future, I'll get around to it in the coming days. For now, I'm tired and it's hot and I'm going back to bed.