Sunday, November 14, 2010

I haven't updated in a month?

Well, in lieu of an interesting topic for discussion, have this video that actually will serve as a scathing commentary on the alt-med movement.One of these days I'll type another post. One of these days.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let's Move the Overton Window Way to the Left -- Part 1

I thought I'd have some fun seeing what the "radical left" are portrayed as doing. Since, as far I'm concerned, this means a groups of (American) liberals who are so far into their own idealistic view that they've lost touch with reality, the sort of legislation and worldview they champion should be comical and obviously nonsensical.

So, what I'm going to do here is compare what political action groups and the like have to say about them, and then refute with a true comical exaggeration of what would more accurately describe the sort of group they think they'd be referring to in a way of re-shaping our current cultural norms. Obviously I can't do this on my own and would LOVE to get support from other blogs in order to shape the way the issues are portrayed.

I got this from the Concerned Women for America website, discussing the matter of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

Serving in the military is a privilege and an honor, not a right. If someone has poor eyesight or cannot pass a physical fitness exam, they are not allowed to serve in the armed forces, no matter how badly that individual might want to be in the military. Strict standards and, quite necessarily, the discrimination against/rejection of those who cannot meet those standards, keep the military strong and ready to protect the country from both domestic and foreign threats.

The battle over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military was also fought back in 1993. The law does not allow service members to serve openly, and activists challenged this during the Clinton years in the same way they are challenging the law now. The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” compromise policy was put into place after numerous congressional hearings were held and it was determined that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would negatively affect military readiness. The law itself never changed. The radical left now wish to repeal the law. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a way to ensure the military never finds out if a service member or potential service member has chosen to practice homosexuality and thus can avoid having to enforce the law.
Moderate liberals want to repeal the law because they see no reason why gay soldiers need to hide who they are and don't see how being interested in people of the same sex has any relation to competency as a soldier. Repealing DADT and allowing gays to openly serve removes stress for these soldiers serving, especially considering "don't ask" isn't always respected. Rather than worry about others in the organization looking through their personal belongings or correspondence in order to find evidence sufficient for rejection, they actually want military service to be based around merit.

The radical left wants to repeal the law so that they can make an army consisting solely of gay men and women whose first target will be the homophobes interested in treating them as second-class citizens or even advocating violence (such as corrective rape) against them.

The radical left takes the stance that, hell, we don't need a military at all! Everyone can live in peace and we can all share precious resources like oil together, which we all drink out of from a single communal cup. Yeah, since nobody drives around any more there's no need for oil except as a source of calories, and it turns out it apparently tastes pretty good -- at least some of the byproducts; one of the original developers of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) had a spoonful of it every day in order to stay healthy!

The radical left takes the stance that, hell, we should let other countries invade us to level the playing field! Why should get about 5 times the share of the worlds nonrenewable fuel supply as it relates to our population (5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's nonrenewable resources)? Let's give it to the rest of the world so that they can share in our economic benefits, thereby improving the worlds' economies and raising the standard of living across the board.

The radical left takes the position that while they're at it they may as well take our population! Why not start with our most productive workers? That way there won't be as large an amount of per-capita unemployment and we won't have to worry about immigrant workers being out-competed for low-wage jobs because there won't be anyone to compete with! Besides, that way the population of the world could spread out a little bit better and New York traffic won't continue to be bumper-to-bumper!

Do these positions sound crazy to you? Good! They ought to! Now, don't the claims of what the left wants to do that groups like CWA are making sound sane and worth supporting? I think they do!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Division by Zero (OR: Why don't I install a LaTeX plugin already)

Ever wonder why division by zero causes your computers and calculators to vomit up all sorts of ridiculous error messages? Curious about why this "undefined" result was never defined?

Know the answer and are only reading this out of some sort of strange social obligation like what surely at least 85% of my audience probably is?

Well, then, read on, because I'm going to discuss the operation right now!

To understand why division by zero really screws things up, we're going to have to take a quick review of some of the lessons you might have gone over in some of your algebra classes.

First of all, what's division? Division is a basic mathematical operation. Its primary purpose to find a number that represents the number of items that are put into each of a certain number of groups out of a larger "pool". For example, if we have 8 bags of candy and four people to give them out to, we end up with 2 bags of candy per person; 8 divided by 4 is 2. (Sometimes we like to shorten this, and just write it as "8/4=2" for simplicity.) Because of the way division families work, we can also figure out how many people we can give out 2 bags of candy to if we have 8 bags -- this is 8 divided by 2, or 4.

This is due to the commutative property of multiplication, actually. It turns out that the process of division is the inverse operation of multiplication -- which we use to find, given a certain number of groups of something, how much of that thing we have. For example, if I have 3 goldfish each in 5 different fish tanks, I have 15 goldfish because 3 times 5 is 15 (3*5=15). When we say that multiplication is "commutative" (or that the operation "commutes") it means that the two numbers on the left hand side of our mathematical statement can be interchanged to give us the same result -- 3*5=15 and 5*3=15.

You might note that commutativity applies not only to multiplication but also to addition. This might not surprise you if you've realized that multiplication itself is really just adding in groups. So we can represent 3*5 as 3+3+3+3+3. Heck, we could also represent it as 5+5+5. This is a very useful matter to keep in mind, as it makes it easy to clean up messy algebra that we might end up working with in a more complicated setting. The realization of the commutativity is pretty clear when switching, say, the first and second 5s in that last expression gives you the same result that you started with.

Thus, if division tells us the total number of y objects in z groups is x, then multiplication tells us that having x objects each in groups of y gives us z objects. In a symbolic representation, we'll describe this as such: x*y=z can be reversed as z/y=x. Note that since we can switch x and y, then the other two symbolic statements in this "factor family" are y*x=z and z/x=y.

So, what does this have to do with why division by 0 causes errors?

Well, let's have n represent this otherwise undefined result from a division by zero operation. Just to make it easier to follow we'll choose a specific number to divide by zero -- I like 7. Thus we're assuming that 7/0=n.

If we go back to our knowledge that division and multiplication are inverses, we find that the above statement implies that n*0=7. That means that we're adding a number no times (i.e, we're not adding anything at all!) and somehow ending up with 7. Or that I've added nothing n times and ended up with 7. Going back to our conceptual representations, that's like me going with my 1 gallon bucket to the well, coming back with it empty, and somehow having brought 7 gallons of water to my village.

That's why we won't try to shoehorn a definition for division by zero! It doesn't make physical sense! If we allow for it in our modeling of physics we can allow for division by zero, then we're allowing for things like the spontaneous creation of matter and instantaneous teleportation! Considering we don't really see this happening (definitely not on a macroscopic scale, anyway), it seems that treating the result of division by zero as "any old number" is conceptually worthless to us.

If we try to do algebra with it, our equations will also, in a manner of speaking, blow up in our faces -- more precisely we'll lose some information in possible values that our expressions can take. If we divide by x in solving an algebraic statement, we're implicitly assuming that x can't be zero. If x can be zero, doing this is going to cause us to end up missing that solution and possibly others. Consider (x-5)*x = 0. If we divide by x then x has to equal 5. But x could be zero, so we miss out on that solution.

But I know what someone out there is saying -- what if instead of 7, we use zero? Well, that's a good point -- and it IS a distinct concept. Then we have 0/0=n. If we go and rewrite this, then we have n*0=0. This is valid -- in fact, you'll note that n can be anything, and this will still be valid.

That's actually the problem. We can plug in anything for n and it'll work. Thus 0/0 doesn't give us a single number; it effectively gives us every number. This is bad for algebra. We don't call this "undefined"; since we can define 0/0 to be anything we call it an indeterminate form. (Basically, so-called because we can't determine a single number that 0/0 represents.)

What this means is that from 0/0 you can pretty much get anything. If you're doing some mathematical test and you find a 0/0 as a result, that means that you can't conclude anything about the expression which you're testing, and will need to use another test.

So don't treat x/0 as a normal number!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Generating perfect squares without memorization

Hey, ever had to memorize the perfect squares for a school assignment, to be able to list them all, say, up to like 20 or so, such that you can give them without using a calculator?
I did once, in 8th grade algebra!

Well, I was at least expected to memorize them. But I didn't. Because I didn't need to! I had a generating function for the perfect squares, and for relatively small numbers I could list them without a calculator!

Since the assignment -- a pop quiz -- was just to list the squares of the first 20 counting numbers (so 1^2, 2^2, 3^2, etc.), basically in order, all I needed to do was find some sort of relationship between one square and the next. It's pretty clear that, y'know, the difference between the first two squares (1 and 4) is 3, then the second (4 and 9) is 5, etc. In fact, the difference between any two consecutive perfect squares is consecutive odd numbers!

Now, I bet one or two of you seriously don't believe me on that one. But I'll show you it's for real. Of course, you could just look up a multiplication table, but it'll be a bit more enlightening to do something more like induction to demonstrate.

For a given counting number n, the formula for that value's square is, of course, just n^2.
For the consecutive perfect square, (n+1)^2, that's just (n+1)(n+1).
If we expand that out we have n^2+2n+1, which you might remember as a formula from your high school algebra courses.

Although I don't think memorization is the path to mathematic success, the formula (x+y)^2=x^2+2xy+y^2 comes up often enough that's it's worth recalling. Still, it's not something too hard to figure out either way, if you know what you're doing.

Thus we actually can express the next perfect square in terms of the previous square; note the "n^2" term in it. So we're taking the previous square and adding other terms to it.

What are those other terms? 2n+1, in fact. 2n is an even number, fairly clearly, due to that factor of two you see right there. Adding 1 to it makes it an odd number. Increasing n by one causes 2n+1 to increase by two. Hence, you'll add a consecutively higher odd number to the previous perfect square in order to get the next one; if you list them all starting at 1^2=1, you can get pretty far.

In fact, 0^2=0 and then 1^2=0+2(0)+1=1, so we've demonstrated the initial case. We've also shown it holds for (n+1) too, so let's just try this for (n) then, just to demonstrate that what he have here holds true for all the natural numbers!

n^2=(n-1)^2+2(n-1)+1=2n^2-2n+1+2n-2+1=2n^2 -- hey, we get the initial expression back! It definitely works -- not that this is surprising, since we did in some sense derive it back in high school.

That's basically mathematical induction in a nutshell. Take an expression for (n), demonstrate it works for the initial case (which is generally 1 or 0), and then demonstrate it for (n+1) -- which means it holds for every natural number after the initial case! We've done a few other steps along the way to try to make it a little clearer that the formula works like that, but that's the basic setup.

Lest you stand in awe at undeserved mathematical prowess, at the time I found the pattern, I wasn't interested in formalizing my formula. I just understood that it worked, at least for the numbers I was working with. So don't feel too bad if this is a little bit confusing, especially since I don't have the luxury of LaTeX.

But yeah, you start with 1, add 3 and get 4, add 5 and get 9, add 7 and get 16, add 9 and get 25, add 11 and get 36, add 13 and 49, add 15 and get 64, add 17 and get 81, add 19 and get 100, add 21 and get 121, etc. etc.

This was going to be a blog post on the alcohols I've had recently, but I've still got a few different beer bottles hanging out in the minifridge (and indeed, a couple of them are pretty good), but I didn't want to post it until I'd had all of them, and I didn't want to drink them all at once.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

And another thing!

I was going to maybe blog about the couple of episodes of Project Runway that I've watched, and what I think about the show from what I've gleaned from watching that much of it, but I think the last entry I made says just about all I need to say on the nature of the show.

Well, that and they seem to tend to pick the right 2-3 worst designers, but they always send the wrong one home.

A Rant About Visual Design

Between the two of us, my girlfriend is the one who does the visual design. I'm not much of a visual artist (as one can tell from the couple of times I've posted my own images), which may be the reason that I prefer my visual information to be generally simple and clear.

While browsing through the archives of The Daily WTF, I found a link to a gallery that's clearly tailored for StumbleUpon. It shows a series of "creative resumes" for people in the graphic design field. It's a rather old link -- from 2009 -- but it's new to me, so I figured I'd comment on it

I was surprised that as many people had been defending the designs in the comments as I found. Although they capture visual interest quickly, they almost all feel completely over-designed. The information in them is nearly impossible to glean, and most aren't particularly friendly to black-and-white laserjet printers.

The effect is similar to a person standing on the street with a bullhorn yelling to try to get people to pay attention. Sure, it's loud enough to get attention, but hell if I can ever tell what people using them are saying. It always sounds like a garbled mess.

I would actively reject any such resume if it was put in front of me, if I were in charge of hiring at a decently-sized graphic design firm. That is, I would be turned off by these designs more than a completely plain resume made in 30 minutes in Word. There are a few reasons for this!

  1. It demonstrates that the person making it doesn't understand what the purpose of the resume is for -- to convey specific (written) information about the individual's education and experience. Design that actually obscures the text is counter-productive to that end.
  2. It suggests that the designer's ego cannot be kept in check. "Pffft, I'm not going to tone down my work for the plebes in suits who will be looking over it. If they can't appreciate my genius then maybe they don't deserve it!" Then again, maybe everyone wins if the applicant holds that attitude. Unless, you know, he or she is in need of a job.
  3. The designer probably has a portfolio that can be used to demonstrate situations where more intricate visual designs were appropriately used. The resume does not need to need to speak for itself.
  4. Similar to the first point, what if the applicant, once hired, comes across a design job that requires a relatively minimalistic approach? Can he or she be trusted to do that if the resume implies a lack of restraint?
To put it more succinctly, it's the equivalent of going to a job interview wearing a shirt like this. (I took the courtesy of not embedding it because some people might be concerned about the foul language displayed prominently on it, even if I have no fucking clue how the people who'd give a shit could have found this damn blog.)

Okay, I admit, that was a bit forced and cliche.

In any case, if I had to go through a couple hundred resumes, I would most certainly not try to spend more than a few minutes going through each one. If I had to, in order to get any information out of it, it would go in the pile.

I would not hire most of these applicants to design a website for me, since these resumes suggest that usability principles would go out the window FAST; the site would be cluttered and probably inefficient. ("What do you mean people still use dial-up?")

I might accept this sort of work for a print ad for a growing organization, though, where the main goals are to get visual interest and some level of name recognition. But that's far out of my realm of expertise anyway so I don't feel comfortable making a sweeping statement regarding that.

One comment on that page linked to another one with more modest resume ideas. These are all excellent! They are visually interesting, accessible, and printer-friendly, while also being uncluttered. The focus of the design goes more in choosing the typography and developing a focused layout. I would sooner go with a resume that looked like one of these but only had "lorem ipsum" text over it than the first set of resumes I saw.

I suppose ultimately it's a question of sizzle over steak. Or spending an extra 10 seconds looking at something that takes a full minute more to comprehend.

If there's any good news, it's that most of the entries in the first link seem to be done as non-serious assignments for classes rather than used to seek out actual work. *Phew*

Friday, August 13, 2010

Comments on my recent 8BitCollective uploads

This might be interesting to people who have been working in TFM or are curious about how the heck I make my music. Here's a relatively detailed explanation of the songs that I uploaded, with a bit more emphasis on how they were done in TFM.

Aqueuct of Dragons (from Harmony of Dissonance)

When I first heard the song, I was almost immediately reminded of the boss music from Shadow Dancer for the Genesis. Thus my angle for the song would be to arrange it pretty tightly to the original, but use (steal) the voices from that song. Of course, the main problem in doing so is that Shadow Dancer had sampled drums while TFM does not. I worked with a couple premade drum samples and tried to make them a bit deeper and louder to compensate; both Shadow Dancer and Harmony of Dissonance have rather low-rate sampled drums and as a result sound a bit muffled. Though the low-pass filter on the Genny does a lot to make FM drums less tinny, the drums still have much more treble than Shadow Dancer's rums. It's surprising how much using drums like that and livening up the tempo slightly improve on each song.

It's also slightly inspired by the Bravoo Man boss music from Gunstar Heroes, near the end there. I tried to add echo; doubling up the arpeggios with a delay helps that a lot, while having a second bass voice come in that has slower release and sustain rates helps too.

Iron Blue Intention (from CV: Bloodlines)

Although I did once do a fuller TFM remake of The Sinking Old Sanctuary for this game, the other songs from the game I've remade have all been done using PSGmod2 (which is an emulated tracker for the SN76489 chip that the Genny and Master System, among others, used). I went back to this after a couple experiments with Famitracker, partly as a comparison base. I'm always disappointed that the SN chip doesn't have configurable duty cycles or any sort of PCM playback channel, though, since the bass on the chip is always disappointing; in the bits where it feels like the bass suddenly "cuts out" it's because the chip can't play notes lower than a certain value.

Another thing that always bothers me about the tracker is that it doesn't seem to have a real "release" command; the command that's equivalent always leaves a little bit of noise. For once, though, I was going to try to cut that down by making that command completely silent. It's still a bit frustrating to change the volume for each note release, but can be done.

The tracker (and, of course, the chip itself) have a configurable frequency divider (basically tunes the entire song down an octave) which can be useful for getting those bass notes, but I don't know any easy-to-use replayers for the Genesis that support it! I dunno if that's simply because they got rid of that feature when they cloned the chip for their consoles (doubtful?) or if it's because nobody ever used it so they didn't think to support it. Would love to know if someone knows of a replayer that does support it; it would make my life a lot easier.

You Goddamned Bathead (from Castlevania Chronicles / CV X68000)

An interesting exercise. This is one of those sorts of songs I do that can't easily be converted from TFM into another tracker due to the use of some of the features involved in getting the sound right.

In making this song I decided I wanted to get it to sound at least a little like the version from Chronicles (though I feel that the music from that game tends to sound a bit over-produced at times). Like a lot of -- actually pretty much every -- electronic song out there, the song adjusts the main line's timbre to be higher as the song increases. With a little poking around I found I could get the same effect modifying the frequency multiple and total volume level of the first operator of one of the voices. Since TFM supports changing this every single line, what I ended up doing was modifying the total level every time the note hit and changing frequency basically every measure.

Unfortunately, the tracker doesn't support automatic incrementing and decrementing of these values! I had to input them all by hand (and convert between hexadecimal and decimal numbers). It's not hard so much as a bit laborious, which is why I don't use it much. Incidentally, the maximum volume level is 0 but the maximum frequency is at 15 (starting at 0 for the lowest). This makes it a bit more confusing.

Incidentally the only thing that I did to get a transcription of this one was watch the player output from Hoot in order to get most of the melody lines and then built the song from there. However, what I guess would be considered the "verse" of the song was sped up significantly and added in a reference to Psycho Warrior from one of the GB Castlevanias.

It's not an incredibly complex song. :P

Successor of Fate (Harmony of Dissonance)

I love the volume changes in the original that make the chorus stand out so much. I tried to capture the same feeling of the original in that regard (and the bassy sound that the game had -- hard to do when the percussion's not sampled, as it tends to be more treble than GBA or Genny sampled drums, as I suggeste above!). The main inspiration for the direction of this piece was the overworld music from Shining Force II as it had similar aspects of the original, such as being a bit booming (like in the intro) and having a feeling of more reverb than a lot of Genny songs. It had the advantage of some deep drum samples to getting that sound (which, again also had a lot to do with the GBA game's bassy tone as well). Once again the lack of sample playback in TFM would come to haunt me.

Thus this song actually took a while to get "right" because I kept having to worry about keeping the percussion in balance (I didn't want it to get drowned out, since it needs to be forceful) and to try to get the sort of resonating tone (hey, the Castle is gigantic and the entryway in particular is open; why not have the music for that section be so echoey). Thus I kept a lot of the voices really quiet -- as much as I could, while leaving the percussion super loud.

Some might notice that a lot of the voices sound like they came from Shining Force II. Though I took some stylistic cues from there, I did not actually rip instruments from the game. All were pre-made for TFM and had small modifications done (mainly to increase attack rate and eliminate sharp decays so they don't seem to either "fade in" or "click").

What exactly was taken from that game, then? Most importantly, when notes were released in the song I linked from it above, they didn't use a clean release. Instead the volume was cut significantly (so the note played, though quietly) behind everything else --except the main melody line, which was doubled (much like in Aqueduct above). For the most part the effect is subtle here, but would probably be more noticeable if I'd created a version that didn't have it in it. Separating the individual lines also makes the effect more obvious -- just as it does in the song I patterned it on.

One thing you'll notice is that on the repeat of the chorus the melody comes in a little later; on the transcription I used I'd pushed everything off by a quarter note on one of the lines. I liked the effect here as it was haunting to hear the strings playing on their own with the slightly dissonant note from the melody still resonating; the rhythm of line that then comes in still fits with everything else (it's not like everything's been shifted from downbeats to upbeats or anything), so I think it works.

Incidentally, the slightly distorted "static" tone the organ has at the start of the song comes from the fact that the console produces noise, which is more noticeable when the music playing is quieter. Most of the songs I make are loud enough that this noise isn't really audible, but you can hear it a few places where I cut the volume down on a few other hardware recordings.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hey have a link to another blog

One of my friends from an old network has her own blog now, and you can catch it at the following address:

You all should read it because she was kind enough to read all of my blog, and as a result I think she deserves something nice for her punishment. From the looks of it I'd expect a lot of the post to be about women's issues and sexuality in particular, with sporadic internet cultural commentary to mix it up a bit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Aitch too oh what the hell did I just read

I'm not sure if the people who read this blog are aware of Dr. Rolando Arafiles. The short story is that this guy promoted a bunch of nonsensical and ineffective treatments for serious medical conditions and was selling expensive therapies of his own from the hospital, basically all of which were of highly dubious efficacy.

When a pair of nurses brought him up on this matter, they had charges brought against themselves as a matter of intimidation. Dr. Arafiles had connections in the legal system that let him do that, specifically the Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, Jr. This is also part of the current investigation against him.

Another thing, just to mention, that has been brought against him was the claim that he "performed and billed for unnecessary genitourinary exams" which sounds similar to claims brought against other quack physicians. Of course, in those links you've got actual OB/GYN doctors, for whom such acts could more easily be hired -- what the hell was Arafiles doing? Checking the urine (or "urinary tract" *wink-wink*) for toxic heavy metals as quacks are so wont to do?

Now, as noted above, Arafiles was in some sense advertising his secondary source of income from the hospital. Specifically that meant doing some things such as selling a water alkalinizer for $1,475 or so. Now, just so we're on the same page, the name suggests that the device is meant to reduce the acidity of drinking of water, because apparently drinking water shouldn't be too acidic. On his web site selling these things, he claims it can reduce hypertension, diabetes, morning sickness, hangovers, kidney stones, obesity; that it can heal wounds faster, reduce acne, and mosturize skin; and that it has a smooth taste and can dissolve matter. Actually, I've got a big issue with that last point -- and that's that if it can do that, doesn't that mean it ends up absorbing some of the omnipresent environmental toxins that the sorts of doctors warning about the dangers of acidic water always are talking about?

Even then, there are some obvious issues to take with the claim that slightly acidic water is as bad for you, or at least not as good as the alkaline water. First of all, it's all going to go right into the stomach, which is basically a small tub of acid. Secondly, plenty of foods we eat are high in acid content. Although it would be disingenuous (i.e., the sort of strawman question such a doctor would make) to ask "Where are the lemons with severe acne and morning sickness then?" certainly nobody seems to have an issue with them, and I've heard plenty of claims that the only thing that will cure a cold is large amounts of Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid).

I have to say I love it when quacks can't agree on what's good for a person.

Anyway, on Arafiles's site selling the alkalinizer, there's a really funny picture. Click on it to get a bigger picture.





...




Yeah, folks. That's right. Water is a mysterious liquid. HOW DOES IT WORK?
Someone get ICP on the phone, we're probably about to have a breakthrough.

If you'd like to read more, see here:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You know what? I've been reading a lot of Square Root of Minus Garfield lately, which is like Garfield Minus Garfield with even more inside-jokes and a fair amount of specific nerd humor.

I was inspired to create my own variant. It's based on a classic Garfield Minus Garfield, but with an extra panel to make it even more dumb. Honestly very little time was spent thinking it up (as if it weren't completely obvious). Most of the effort was in trying to get the third panel to be mostly consistent with the other two in terms of coloring, as well as editing out Garfield and Odie.

Here's the result:
Considering that no other characters have shown up, the implications are staggering.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

blah blah POKEMON blah blah: Gen V predictions

Here are some predictions I have for the new generation of Pokemon (Black and White):

- The games will have backward-compatibility with the current generation games (HeartGold/SoulSilver/Diamond/Pearl/Platinum); I imagine this to be in much the same way that G/S/C did with the very first games -- you won't be able to take any new pokemon with you when you do, but you'll be able to trade between the games, and this will be necessary in order to get certain pokemon; some pokemon from Generation IV (and I and II as found in HG/SS) will *NOT* be in this game. Wi-fi plaza compatibility will probably be the same; there will probably be two Wi-fi clubs; one that works with Gen IV and one that is Gen V exclusive (again, like the G/S/C Time Capsule); you won't be able to take Gen V pokemon into the older one.

- I don't know what sort of GTS compatibility will be found, but there will still be some. It'll probably be easy enough to work around the fact that people can put up Gen IV or older pokemon and request Gen V ones (which would possibly glitch the older games if they saw those requests, not that they could fulfill them) with a GTS server-side check to prevent a Gen IV game from accessing Gen V requests; keeping in mind the GTS only displays a few results in-game out of the many offerings they have at any time (only 3-7 out of 20+), this seems fairly easy to take into account. Incidentally, given that you can't request pokemon you haven't seen, you won't be able to import Gen V pokemon into the older games, since there will be no way to see them. I think I better understand the reasoning behind this decision now.

- Naturally, the games will have some sort of DSi enhancement. A few articles have noted that the games' ID numbers imply DSi special compatibility. Exactly what this is isn't clear. It would be interesting to see SD card compatibility for saves and pokemon storage, similar to what a number of the "Pokemon Box" console titles do, and could allow for transfer of items/pokemon like in the Stadium titles. There might be additional downloadable content for the system only availiable for DSi. Graphics or framerate might improve (the generation IV titles hold a constant 30 fps due to the 3D engine, while the older games managed 60), but I'm not sure how the two systems vary graphically. I could imagine small DLC games and such for fiddling around with individual Pokemon much like how the Pokewalker works or the Sonic Advance Tiny Chao Gardens were done. Probably nothing earth-shattering (shoot, G&S were playable on the original Game Boy too). Pokemon Sunday apparently recently showed some slightly visually enhanced battle segements. Also looks like it's taking place from less of a top-down perspective, which is interesting; the 3D space wasn't really taken advantage of the way it could have been in the Gen IV titles, I'd say. Will this be the special feature for the DSi? I'm doubtful, since Super Mario 64 DS can do that sort of thing pretty well too, and that's a normal DS title.

Note the confirmation in that link on the ability to trade between the generations. Much like Arceus and Rotom can unlock areas in HG/SS, apparently some of the legendaries in the Gen IV titles will cause things to happen in these games as well.

- We'll see a Generation III remake. Almost an inevitability, really, given that DSi users have no GBA slot to use when playing the Gen. IV titles; the dual slot mode used in, say, Pal Park, is completely worthless. Besides, we've seen remakes of Gen I and II (which have been pretty successful) already, so why not? A number of people have traded in the DS for the DSi and so don't have any way to get the Gen III pokemon on their console, and besides, Pal Park is a bit rough since it deletes the pokemon off the old games in the process. This will probably put a LOT more Generation III Pokemon into play and on the GTS. I imagine the titles will be called "Radiant Ruby" and "Shimmering Sapphire" but I'm crazy so meh.

- What will we see instead of contests/Pokeathlon? This I'm less certain about, but I'm sure there's going to be something similar. If I had to venture a guess I'd think they'll probably just add more Pokeathlon events, much like how contests returned in D/P/Pt. Most of the people who have an opinion on the minigames seem to enjoy them, so it's quite believable they'd keep using them.

One thing I did hear was confirmed was additional ability to have random battles via wi-fi. Though the Battle Frontier does have a similar feature, it's crippled down to more like the gameplay in the Stadium titles since it's only 3-on-3. I'd love to be able to battle random trainers all the time and not just a few really good ones. I'm hoping they'll keep the restrictions on legendaries, too, since seriously competing with legendaries is dumb.

IGN has two other things I completely agree with. First, quit giving us all these damn TMs and instead make them dependent on items; I hate having to have a couple HM slaves for that purpose, especially given the fact that 3 of the 8 are water moves. Surf and fly, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe cut, but shoot, why not a machete or pruning shear items? Secondly, I would love to see the early common wild pokemon not be geodude and caterpie and the bird-pokemon-of-the-day. I'd like all of them to be a bit more unique, especially if it won't be until halfway through the game that we get the Time Capsule (which, honestly, who knows, at this point :P). The game, after all, is going to be set a fair ways away from the mainland, apparently!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Actually, it's NOT just Masuda...

If you really just want to hear what I'd come up with -- and keep in mind this is like 3-4 years old at this point, scroll down to the bold text, but you'll miss what I think is a fairly interesting story.

Hahaha, this is probably the most insane music coincidence possible ever really -- I was, about 3-4 years ago working on a MIDI remix project of a bunch of tunes from Sonic 3 -- largely for the sake of making them sound better than the music in Sonic and Knuckles Collection for PC. You can probably find some of the songs on youtube if you look.

Although my first couple songs were songs from Sonic 3 that got replaced by slightly-less-awesome tunage in the game (the Sonic 3 credits and Ice Cap Zone are a couple notable examples), it quickly ballooned into a general let's-remix-everything-in-the-game project. But it didn't ever get completed because I am lazy, easily distracted, and moved on to other things.

Anyway, one of the songs was Mushroom Hill Zone -- original song can be found here (act 1) and here (act 2) but if you'd like to hear the versions from the PC collection, you can go here and here but I should warn you these are recorded off the default roland sound canvas most PCs use. If you've got a better player you might want to trawl around for the actual MIDIs from the game, which have been ripped and can be found around the internet somewhere, I'm sure...

There was also a remix version of the song on an album, found here. The album's actually pretty crappy but amusing because of it -- good for one or two listens. It also only has S&K music, but there are little bits added on here and there in a couple places. My goal was, in some of the transitions, to add in a couple references to this album inasmuch as it was apparently official/licensed. Also if I could make references to other songs in Sonic or even other Sega games, I'd do it.

Now, my rendition of the song sounded a bit different from all of these, naturally. I added a lot of dischord because I felt that the zone was meant to be a bit hyperactive, fast, and somewhat of a bad trip (I mean, giant mushrooms? Sounds like a particularly strong surreal fever dream to me!). Now, the song's still at more-or-less the same tempo as the original, but it's got a lot of odd things going on in the background an dissonances here and there.

If you'd like to listen to my version, it's right here: http://www.box.net/shared/8a9sbpvelo (please share if you like it)

Now, the funny thing is that *after* making this, I realized that I had forgotten one potential source for material -- there was another instance of Mushroom Hill Zone, in the lesser-known video game Sonic the Fighters. Now I've still never played the game and hadn't heard any of the music at the time, so I was a little upset I'd looked over potential source material. So I took a listen to it.

Uncanny, yet again. Similar instrumentation, lots of bends upward like in my version of the song, some chromaticism in the background like my song. Holy crap, I apparently referenced it without ever hearing the damn song in the first place. I am entirely amazed that this happened and was laughing for a good long time (in fact I am right now giggling to myself a little at it, having gone back and listened to it again).

I'm not really sure how to explain the similarity. I can't recall ever hearing the song before that point. It's not something that was necessarily a consistent style choice throughout the rest of the project. I'm actually not sure how I feel about the rendition itself at this point -- like the album of S&K remix tunes it seems mainly something to listen to, chuckle if you've heard the Fighters soundtrack, and then file away in the recycle bin.

Anyway, if you'd like to hear the other 6-or-so songs that I made before basically putting the project on an indefinite hiatus, feel free to comment or something. I can link to them fairly easily, and will put in a little description or something even maybe.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Let me just put it this way:

Chlor-Trimeton, I cannot remember the your name for more than 5 minutes. You should make a joke about this.

"Chlor-Trimeton. It may not run off the tip of your tongue, but it won't run off the tip of your nose either."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Speaking of Pokemon...

The new starters for the upcoming games have been announced.

Naturally as I am very interested in the sort of punny naming that they come up with I have decided to put a couple ideas in the ring.


This dude's the grass starter, at least if he follows the same rules as every other starter until now. I think he looks vaguely like the geico gecko dude and has a smug expression in this image. I think then, that I will dub him "Gexter". Yes, he is rather snakelike (the Japanese name is something like "ivy snake" from what I can tell, probably a portmanteau, oh how they love their portmanteaus in pokemon -- perhaps will call them "poke-portmanteaus" from now on or something) but I can't get the image of this-is-as-much-gecko-as-snake out of my head.

An alternate possibility: "Ivyleague"


"Pokabu" is his Japanese name, which almost surely incorporates a pun around "pork", given that this is a pig. I think we should go with that. Given that he's a fire starter, I am tending toward "Porkroast" but at the same time this makes him seem just a little weak, as though he were getting roasted rather than doing the roasting. Perhaps "Porkroaster" would work, but that's 1 character above the normal limit for the games until now (10 characters, this is 11).


Okay, this guy is more of a challenge. He appears to be an otter, and he appears to have a slightly mournful disposition in this image. Perhaps we could make a pun on how he looks blue. Perhaps we could work the word "glum" in there somewhere -- "glum" has the sort of punch for a synonym for sad that a lot of pokemon names have. "Lachrymotter" would be one of my preferred suggestion if I had the space -- but if we go for 10 characters we can't do that, and it is a bit tough off the tongue, not like squirtle or mudkip. Still, I happen to like it because that way all three starters end with an "-er" suffix of some sort. Of course if we can only go with "Porkroast" then this guy will become something like, say "Blubglub" because he's a water pokemon and is inspired by marine mammals most of which are known for their subcutaneous layers of blubber.


Oh also listening to the music from HG/SS is uncanny because of how a number of the samples are the same ones I've used in a bunch of songs. Also, Masuda's love of leading tones/chromaticism, pentatonic scales, and syncopation are very similar to my own tastes in composition. Seriously, too many of my songs sound like rejected pokemon tunes now. :P

I wonder if something that sounds uncannily like this will be used in some sort of factory or power plant dungeon (like the one off Rt.9 in Kanto). Or you could speed it up a little bit and maybe make it some sort of battle music.

WE SHALL SEE, GAME FREAK AND NINTENDO. WE SHALL SEE.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So There's Pretty Little To Catch In HeartGold Remaining

...To complete the Johto 'Dex (excepting a Mew and a Celebi which are basically event pokemon that I'll hopefully be able to get through Mystery Gift), the following pokemon are what still need to be acquired by catching/trade (I have several I need to fully evolve, but that's a different matter, really):

Update: names in green have been caught already. I was on planes and in airports all day Friday but forgot about the lapras. Perhaps at the end of this week I'll remember it.
  • Pinsir (which I am trying to get for a Scyther on the GTS...no idea if it'll work or not)
  • Heracross (sadly, headbutting is a lot more effort than it's worth sometimes since an encounter isn't guaranteed -- nor is it particularly likely to encounter one, and that's the only way to get a heracross)
  • Aipom (yeah, another headbutting pokemon -- seems more effort than it's worth at times)
  • Tyrogue (sadly the game seems to lock up in the cave where the dude who gives him out is)
  • Lapras (can't get one until Friday, sadly, since it only shows up in Union Cave on that day -- thankfully it's not like the legendaries and just shows up every week)
Yeah, that's a grand total of 5 pokemon. I've beaten all the gym leaders, Red, the Elite Four (TWICE!) and gotten all the legendaries I can get without the aid of a trade for SoulSilver groudon (which would give me the ability to catch rayquaza...but I could always import both from a copy of, say, Emerald).

Anyway, my team of pokemon was a bit typical, and they were vastly underleveled compared to Red. Because of how I played the game (rarely saving after losing a battle, in fact) I was able to acquire lots of money and thus faced up against him with something like 47 hyper potions and like 20 revives (and a couple very handy max revives I'd found in caves and had been saving for this occasion). The list of my pokemon is as follows -- keeping in mind that most of Red's pokemon are in the 82-88 level range.

  • Ampharos -- Level 70, "BaaHumbug" (female) Actually the name got more appropriate as it learned more moves from level-up. It's strong, moderately fast, and has a pretty high defense. But it's notably really really strong. I've been battling pokemon in the Battle Frontier and, since everyone's levels are scaled, I notice that I can one-hit-kill everyone except those who are completely invulnerable to the types of attacks he has -- which is pretty much none since each attack is of a different type (though only the electric attack gets a same-type bonus). Those of you who've used an ampharos know that as they're a 2nd-stage evolution, they're fucking broken. Mine also tends to paralyze on physical contact and has attacks that cause confusion or paralysis, which made her hard to capture but awesome to use.
  • Quagsire -- Level 66, "Sir Axalot" (female) Yes, as this is female I know "Dame Axalot" or "Lady Axalot" would be more correct, but she's so fucking built unless you squinted really hard you wouldn't be able to tell. Fucking tank for its level, and completely immune to electric (crucial for a water-type), as well as actually gaining health from water-attacks. Sure, she's double-weak to grass, but that's not a big deal. Got good defense and a ground attack that can, again, one-shot a level 88 pikachu like Red's. Also is a bit of an HM tool, as my default surfer. Might consider removing one of the HMs to teach another type of attack.
  • Charizard -- Level 57, "Kaminatma" (male) Actually named for the lady who gifted me this pokemon in exchange for something like a mankey (I think), bred and raised right from level 1 (through a ditto breed). The 1.5x bonus on experience gotten from fights made him really easy to level up. Sure, he's a starter but he's also a 2nd-stage evolution on the fire type which is exceedingly rare. His flying-type helps to take out the fighting pokemon, destroys most grass-types, and his notable weaknesses to water and electric are completely covered by Sir Axalot. Sure, there's a double-weakness to rock, but they're weak to both of Sir Axalot's types, as well as steel and grass. Also insanely fast, though Red's venusaur's sludge bomb puts it in for a world of hurt, at least at this level -- it's 27 levels underneath it, so it only takes out half its health in one hit.
  • Sneasel -- Level 60, "Wildweasel" (female) Actually named for a dude who was in the channel when I needed a name for this one. I have him on my party because he is damn fast with good defense, and is part ice-type making him crucial for taking out dragon types (actually wasn't as huge a player with Lance at the time due to being underleveled when I fought him, but I'm saving him for battles with friends who use pseudo-legendary dragons at their top evolutions which are doubly ice-weak). His special attack is crap, sure, but who cares when he has physical attacks of multiple types? Also he was indispensable as a meat shield against mewtwo, since his dark-type meant he was immune to his attack.
  • Gengar -- level 59, "Deadweight" (male) Along with Sir Axalot and BaaHumbug, one of my first catches. I love ghost-types for some reason. Is it the immunity to ground, fighting, and normal attacks? Is it their use of the ability curse, which cuts off half their HP to cause the opponent to have an uncurable poisoning effect, which combined with an attack like mean look, prevents the opponent from escaping and with hypnosis prevents them from even attacking, while they get worn away to death? Is it because they're completely fucking broken in the card game, able to do 50-damage attacks for two energy cards or 10-damage with guaranteed sleep? (Seriously, the duo is nearly unstoppable unless your deck is filled with colorless pokemon -- but a little base-set machop fixes that easily.) Anyway the correct answer is, as is almost cliche for questions like all of these, all of the above. Holy crap do I love Deadweight, especially for helping me capture rarer pokemon. I am actually his original trainer but traded him away for a couple minutes solely to evolve him to get better stat bonuses. He is hells of speedy, and makes for a damn good sacrifice play. Sadly, he's psychic weak due to the poison subtype which is bullshit in my opinion, but that makes him a good pair with Sneasel.
  • VENUSAUR -- Level 57 (male) You know what? He's got a couple status moves too but he's so low-level and kinda slow and ice-weak so Red's Blastoise can still make easy work of him. He's also slow. I seriously only send him in for helping capture wild pokemon that are relatively common, and for trying to inflict additional chronic damage effects (leech seed). I also got him from a trade with someone who didn't want to give him an interesting nickname (actually the dude who picked up poor ol' Marty Grass YEAH SERVES YOU RIGHT FOR NOT NAMING THE GUY), and since he's from a trade I can't rename him. I'm thinking of replacing him with something like a Skarmory, which due to being part-steel has defense against practically everything. Sure, he's fire and electric weak, but that's good for Sir Axalot, who's strong against the one type and immune to the other. Also the steel type has resistance to nearly everything, so at high levels that dude will be hard to dent. The only reason I haven't added one already is that I only got one recently, since I have HeartGold and they're native to SoulSilver only.
I think I'm addicted to the damn game. Further, I've bought it for my plane trip on Friday but all I have left to do is catch those pokemon I mentioned, the roaming Latias, and special pokemon and items from Mystery Gift and I'll have every pokemon available in the game.

Also I am *considering* loaning out my Kyogre for a Groudon at a later date to someone interested in catching a Rayquaza in HG/SS, which requires both of the two in order to get it. Of course, I'm also considering getting either Ruby or Emerald and taking care of most of the pokemon unique to those games via Pal Park to add them to my collection in this game (I WILL COMPLETE THE DAMN NATIONAL 'DEX, DAMMIT) and trade away the extras for, say, some of the Diamon/Pearl/Platinum legendaries. (Anyone have an extra fateful event (gift) Arceus they can spare to unlock the extra legendaries hidden in the Ruins of Alph?) This will also take care of the issue of the starter pokemon from Hoenn, which I only get one of.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Where have you been, dude?

Well, I've been spending way too much time lately playing Pokemon. I've sunk in over 100 hours into the game and I only got it Apr. 28.

I love the game, especially because I can trade Pokemon over wi-fi, which has been absolutely essential in order to complete my Pokedex. I have, in addition to my starter chikorita, a cyndaquil, a charizard, and a venusaur, the last two of which are still in my party, though I'm thinking of switching venusaur with a metagross or similar.

Anyway one of the things I love about the game is collecting all the pokemon and giving them silly and ludicrous nicknames. In fact, someone out there in the internet world has a chikorita out there that I bred named Marty Grass. I'm at the time of writing this actually raising a diglett into a dugtrio with the name of "Molenester". I'm almost tempted to put it on the internet for trade just so that I can ruin pokemon for some poor unsuspecting 8-year-old but I figure it'll get the FBI on my case. Still, it'd be funny to see what his (or her -- because a lot of girls play pokemon too) parent thought of it.

Incidentally if you have a fourth-generation pokemon game (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum/HeartGold/SoulSilver) and are interested in trading, I am totally up for it. If you'd like one of the original starters (bulbasaur, charmander, and squirtle) I can probably provide, and am working on the same for each of the second-generation ones (chikorita, totodile, and cyndaquil), and am willing to catch/breed any of the HeartGold exclusives. My only exception is legendaries, unless you're willing to trade back -- for the sake of pokedex completion. I want one of every evolutionary line for the Johto 'dex, which HG can provide in terms of legendaries minus maybe Mew and Jirachi or whatever.

I have a number of 'mon in a box for trade right now, including a number of baby pokemon (pichu, smoochum, happiny, elekid, magby) and a few extra exclusives to HG. I'm looking for a Skarmory at the moment, but I haven't seen a trainer with one so I can't trade for it over GTS.

Anyway long story short I am a pokeholic and probably need professional help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Snappy Response Song to ICP's Miracles

For those of you who may not know, Insane Clown Posse has a new song out called "Miracles" which is funny because despite listing lots of things about the world we live in that could be considered quite cool, there's this sort of lack of interest in really understanding any of it, and some downright mistrust of science itself for whatever reasons. It's quite amusing on its own but I thought I'd lay out in detail a lot of the issues that I take with the song. So here you have the product of my evening, which I *should* have spent making a write-up for an actual lab report on optical pumping.


Oh hey dudes...now you're on my turf. Time for me to take you two to school...

I appreciate your wanting to inspire a sense of wonder
But that's a little different from asking, "What the hell is thunder?"
I an led to suspect you didn't get through high school
So when you talk about it all you sound like complete fools
Life, sure, is precious and something pretty damn sweet
And our whole damn existence is one hell of a feat
When you think about everything just on earth you can see
Like natural wonders and animals roaming free
And I'd love to find an animal by tracking their turds
There's a thing about lava, that it cools into rocks
And that turns into sand after it takes a few knocks
And when you put everything together it's a really big thrill
I mean, the concept of life is something that feels unique
The processes that regulate it are all pretty freak
The smallest and largest things in life appear almost like dots
But the stuff in the middle -- and there sure is lots
It looks nothing like that and it is pretty crazy
But I won't stop there and wave my hands and be lazy
There are still lots of rules that guide how it did all form
And my purpose of rapping now is to try to inform

[spoken]
It's actually all pretty crazy! There's a lot to keep in mind in the development on how life formed on the planet that we can't just treat biology as a small offshoot of cosmology the way that we look at astronomy as a branch of physics or how a lot of chemisty relies on the studies of scientists like Bohr whose studies were more than just chemistry. Biochemistry is a study of why a lot of larger organisms have a lot of the same parts -- in order to take energy and use it to do things --the way all cars have an engine and some wheels, but even past that there are a lot of open possibilities for species development, with limitations coming from being able to provide the energy for all the parts of the animal or plant to work and the ability to outperform the other things that might be living near it that it has to compete with.

When we look at how humans developed their language and speech
You should think for a moment that monkeys have it just out of reach
Though their cries carry emotions and their faces can too
Koko's the only one that I know ever signed "I love you"
And before humanoids talked they would cry and we'd sing
They had primitive music and, well, that is the thing
Since they're social creatures they'd hang out in packs
And their songs could alert to either move out or stay back
Like if a predator came or if there was food near to eat
And it did help with bonding, maybe add with it a beat
So this rapping I'm doing goes as far back as that
And another thing to think about that we should look at
When you're there with a crowd all taking MDMA
'Cause after all of their work they all need some time to play
There's some natural dopamine that runs through your head
It can make you feel good and certainly glad you're not dead
And you can get some in your brain if you're tripping on X
Or doing pleasureable things -- hey, there's a rush after sex!
And it's part of why juggalos whos reputation is trash
Can all meet together and party and have a fun bash
With no violence or hatred or our guns all firing
And there's a part of me that actually finds that kinda inspiring
But that's why music's like love and why music's like feeling
Because early humans needed it and it was appealing
And that's not to hate on music or say it's dull, dumb, or crappy
Well, unless it's maybe the stuff that's recorded by ICP! (buuuuuuurn)

[also spoken]
Just because we have a pretty good idea of why something is what it is or how it came to be doesn't have to take away from a sense of wonder. When Carl Sagan said "To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe," he was commenting on how a lot of things all came together to actually form things the way they are now, and it's pretty impressive. Even if we know why music sounds pretty to us, that doesn't mean that we're not supposed to think it is or feel like music is trying to mislead us. Well, okay, sometimes it does, which is the whole reason that this song exists, but we can still celebrate music! And if all your crazy violent fans can get together and celebrate and unite under some common bond, even if I question your organization, I think that is a pretty clear example of how music has power and that it can be a very strong force of good. You know, a lot of the music I really enjoy listening to, like spirituals or sea chanties, were done for the sake of communication outside of just creating a nice song to listen to; no, they had a distinct purpose, to guide work and to lift up one's spirits.

Now, sure you may not want to trust any of the the Ph.D.'s
But if you think they're trying to scam you out well then, brothers, please
Remember now that science is more than what an expert claims
They aren't in this for the sake of tricking you or playing mind games
If they seem condescending then it just might be
That they know more than you 'bout something and you're too dumb to see
I won't always fault the ignorant for not knowing what they don't
But it's a pretty big problem if it's more that they just won't
Try to educate themselves on how things might just work
And instead say those who disagree are just a ton of jerks
And there are hints within that song that you're the second group
I suspect that it is time for me to give you the scoop:
When it comes to doing science it's not what the lab coats say
But that their findings match others' done on other days
They have to be sure that their testing finds just what they claim
And that their explanations fit with the data just the same
And lots of scientists will test that older knowledge really might be wrong
But that doesn't justify distrusting them like in your song

There's a system of peer review where scientists review the findings of others by doing the research themselves. Multiple people, with no obvious conflicts of interest. Now, sometimes scientific results are submitted for publishing by people who want the data to go one way or the other -- which, admittedly, can affect the way they interpret the data -- but if the peer review finds that their data and methods are good, then it's still good science either way. It's actually a pretty egalitarian system overall. If you rise to prominence in your field it's because you've done good research. And sure, sometimes scientific inquiry reveals things that might contradict what used to be the orthodoxy, but that doesn't mean that science is wrong or that the previous explanation didn't allow for good predictions of the nature of the world at large.

Now I've droned on for forever and it's taken quite some time
To try to get those who might read this to understand my rhyme
And what is with your kids I just don't quite get what I'm seeing
They're dressed up with your face paint which sure ain't done by their genes
But they have half of what makes you "you" and half that's from their mom
Meiosis splits alleles in half -- now ain't that just the bomb?
Then they combine in pairs, ensures diversity
And that's the reason why it is that, say, you won't look like me
But that's the sort of thing that makes so many different creatures
And although we all should take the time to enjoy every feature
I live in this and love it. I think it would be a sin
To be a complete stranger in the universe we're in.
Now that I've finished with my crazy song of defiance
I think I'll turn off "Miracles" and put on Symphony of Science

Monday, April 26, 2010

I made a Touhou comic

I made this Touhou comic on walfas.org via create.swf. It is the most awesome thing ever!

It is inspired by characters that I encounter in chat on a regular basis. I only make fun of them because I love them immensely.

Those of you not part of this small group may not get it. I can't make it only accessible to them so be prepared to not understand this or find it very funny.







Saturday, April 24, 2010

Shaving

I shaved a little while ago. Well, something like that anyway, more like a drastic trimming than actually shaving since I'm just stubbly now. I usually go long, long periods of time without shaving -- something to the tune of a month or two in most cases. If I had to travel more frequently I probably would shave more often, at least usually the night before, before packing. That way I can avoid getting groped awkwardly by unattractive (and typically male) security officers due to the fact that the beard makes me look more than moderately Arabic. It also comes with the added bonus that the loose hairs that get stuck on the trimmers collect all over the bag and can, say, get caught in my toothbrush bristles, which then get into my mouth and get stuck on my tongue and make me gag! It's good news all-around!

That thing about the looking Arabic appears to be quite true, from what I can tell. Normally they are pretty thorough and suspicious -- sure, they're not people you'd invite to take with you over to the bar on concourse B but at least they're actually doing a decent job, especially since it's tax money paying them -- but they seem to always triple- or quadruple-check my details every time I have a beard. It was made even worse since for a while I kept carrying around a temporary ID with my real ID, even though it was expired and thus not valid -- when they asked to see it and noted the eye color didn't *quite* match up between the two (who knows, maybe the dude at the DMV the day I filled one of these forms out was color-blind), I kept worrying they wouldn't let me on the plane. Thank heavens I managed to get on in the end. I can only imagine things would be even worse if I decided to bring my "DIY Home Explosives Kit" on the plane with me.

Since I normally don't have to deal with security officers thinking I'm going to blow up a plane with old game cartridges and my cell phone (hey, I like old games a lot and am entirely unashamed to admit it), I tend not to shave. It's just something that doesn't have a lot of rewards for the sort of effort that is often involved in the process. Admittedly it's not a Herculean task, but it does feel a bit like I'm channeling Sisyphus given how quickly it grows back. Besides, I look better with a little hair on my chin and my girlfriend seems to agree so I'm not going to argue with it.

It also doesn't help that the preliminary procedure for doing this is under most occasions to just run a pair of trimmers all over my face because of how long the hair is. Seriously, it's the length of most of the rest of my hair on my head whenever I go over to trim it off. It's certainly more scruffy, but it's not something that one can just take a razor or electric shaver to and trim it off. Sure, they'll result in a closer shave but that is amazingly painful and usually involves a nick or two on my skin.

Here's a way you can see for yourself how bad it is: try to pinch like two or three hairs on your lower arm and rip them out as quickly as you possibly can. That's what it feels like, only it goes on for about half an hour as I try to cut every single damn hair off my face. You can see why I end up using trimmers.

Now, the problem with using trimmers compared to an electric shaver is that there is no way to actually collect all the hairs that it cuts off. They'll end up going all over the sink if I use the trimmers right over it (which I need to do basically in order to see what the hell I'm trimming off and that I haven't missed anywhere), and they'll all be really tiny hairs that are almost impossible to clean up. The only way to get around this really is to hold a waste can (a small one suitable for the bathroom, of course) underneath me right at my chest a few feet from the sink in order to collect all the hairs because it's a wide area and all of them collect pretty well.

One thing to note is that this works significantly better the longer my beard is, since the hairs all collect near the blade and can be sloughed off easily. Since that way I can just brush them all into the can without worrying about tiny stray hairs going everywhere or getting stuck in the drain, I tend to wait until it's reached a minimum length before starting; there's thus a sort of no-go period for shaving between being short enough to be shaved with the electric razor painlessly and being long enough to be easily taken off with the trimmers.

I also tend to do it with my shirt off. That way it doesn't get stuck to my shirt and make me itch all day while I wear it, since they can't be removed at all without running the shirt through the wash or something similarly drastic. If I do it with my shirt off I can either shower afterward or just rub myself down with a towel, which is far more forgiving about these stray hairs than my shirts are.

Of course even then it's still not a perfect scenario and I have to clean off a lot of stray hairs even then. It's a lot of effort and is a major reason why I never even bother going for a complete shave; I've been burnt out enough already, especially since the electric razor (which is actually able to collect hairs inside itself to make cleaning less effort-intense) doesn't work its magic as quickly as the trimmers and, again, has the tendency to be painful and unpleasant. Sure, if I used them more often I'd never grow out the beard to the point of painfulness and wouldn't have the damn hairs everywhere but I don't want to do it now, and I never change my mind on this. I haven't used it in years, I'm pretty sure.

Besides, that shaver irritates my skin a lot, and I look better with some stubble on (in fact studies have shown that women find it more attractive or something I think).

So yeah, I look like a hobo half of the year and that is why. At least, that's my explanation. I'm still trying to come up with a plausible explanation for why (since I rarely shower either) I always smell like one too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The 32X 15th Anniversary Collection Album

The 32X. The power glove of consoles. Certainly not as big a failure as the contemporary consoles it was trying to compete with, like the Jaguar and 3DO, especially for a console add-on but due to poor communication between hardware development teams in Sega ended up being hard to program for (thanks to having 2 32-bit Hitachi SH2 processors but no dedicated graphics chip, very limited memory, and a fairly tenuous connection between it and the main Genesis processors), redundant (thanks to the Saturn having similar hardware which was easy to use -- not that that's saying much given that it, too, was hastily developed at times), and maybe just a little ugly.

I love the damn thing so much. Got one for $24 with the express purpose of using it for testing out independently coded projects for it (think like the Amiga or Commodore demoscenes) but did end up greatly enjoying the ports of games like Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Racing, and NBA Jam (T.E.), as well as taking an interest in the games made specifically for it like Knuckles Chaotix (pretty good), Shadow Squadron (actually quite nice indeed), Kolibri (it's all right but not amazing), Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 (a nicer idea on paper than in execution but it's not without merit) and Tempo (probably not going to pick this one up).

The system ultimately has a high ratio of at least pretty-good games to bad ones, which is admittedly not surprising because it's a programming behemoth, and thus not friendly to shovelware. It also helps that the port of Virtua Fighter is damn good and there are only like 35 games on the system total.

The music, on a 3-disc set, comes from -- in this order -- Space Harrier, Stellar Assault [Shadow Squadron here in the US], Virtua Racing Deluxe, Parasquad (not "Pallas Code" as a number of sites foolishly trusting Google Translate) [Zaxxon's Motherbase elsewhere], Metal Head, and Virtua Fighter.

Now, most of the music here has been released in other remix or gotten superior cover versions; a number of these games got Saturn ports that were able to take advantage of a more powerful sound chip (able to take advantage of several-channel sample playback, for example) or used actual CD-audio. Further, the games in question -- except for Shadow Squadron, which got a superior Saturn port/follow-up of sorts instead -- originated on the arcade anyway, making tying them so closely with the 32X almost silly.

Again, soundtracks for games like After Burner and Space Harrier exist in other forms, probably superior, elsewhere. Do check out the S.S.T. Band recordings if this album interests you, before you bother with this. Furthermore, WHERE IS THE CHAOTIX SOUNDTRACK? That one was excellent, 32x-exclusive, and probably the best of all Sonic soundtracks even to this day (Sonic Rush is pretty close in awesomeness though).

As a result the collection seems not entirely without merit but ill thought-out and largely redundant.

A FITTING TRIBUTE!

(Oh, by the way, if you'd like to see what the album looks like and view the tracklist so you can make your own off your own 32X hardware recordings like I *might*, you can find them over at http://game.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/news/20100319_355799.html.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Am a Horrible Person

Yes, a truly despicable person.

How do I know?

Easy.

I unleashed the following image upon the world.


Yep.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Games I Would Buy Already If I Wasn't Near Broke

So, this list is as much for my benefit as for yours, largely about games that I want to get but can't because I don't have adequate funds at the current moment for them.

Pokemon Heart Gold (NDS)
I had missed out on the pokemon craze back in the days. I'm not interested in starting from square one, but I'm putting a little time into Pokemon Yellow. Even though I still see the game as only having 150 of the little buggers, I still have a bit of OCD nagging at me about getting EVERY LAST ONE. To that end, I would need to trade with other people, so being able to do so over the internet is a godsend. I have a couple people who would be available regularly for trading, too, so that would be cool. Besides, Gold and Silver are supposed to be the peak of Pokemon, so I ought to at least try it once, and go with a souped-up remake of them.

It's been discounted on Amazon recently, but not as greatly as it was a few weeks ago. I guess I missed the boat -- if only I had a little more cash at that time, I'd have gotten it. I'd have probably been OK doing so, and it'd be a good game to keep me busy during flights and such.

Madworld (Wii)

After Bayonetta, I'm at least temporarily obsessed with Platinum Games. Seriously, it rocked me so hard and I'm jonesing for a new fix. Madworld may not be a long game, from what I've heard, but it's stylish, ultraviolent to the point of comical, and has Greg Proops in it.

It's also around $8 on Amazon. Another damn good buy.

Ōkami (PS2 or Wii)

Before they were Platinum, they were Clover, under Capcom. This is one of the games from those days, something of a brawler where you play as the Shinto sun god Amaterasu and get to be a wolf. It apparently suffers from the opposite issue of Madworld -- it is very, very long for an action game. I still want it though, if for no other reason than it's one of the few more modern games that has a particularly appealing visual style. Of course, the game seems at least decently fun and would probably be a good start on the Clover back catalog.

Also fairly cheap on Amazon, somewhere around $10 for the Wii version. Though it doesn't look as nice, I can't really see myself being able to stand drawing things with the PS2 joysticks. Might get it for PS2 anyway, though, since it's not a huge difference otherwise, and might end up cheaper. I'll have to see.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love (Wii, PS2)

Also another one I want. It's only just come out so unlikely to be particularly cheap. However, I am madly in love with Valkyria Chronicles -- it has fun gameplay, a pretty cool story, and a lovely visual style (vaguely reminiscent of Okami). This here is the game that the team behind VC made before they did that one. It's a strategy RPG with dating sim conversation trees in it. That second part isn't really essential to the larger gameplay and can't lead to a game over, but the ability to develop personal relationships with some of the girls in the game is no doubt a significant reason the series has been huge in Japan.

I actually have copies of the first two Sakura Taisen titles for Saturn, gotten cheap from eBay. I've never played them for more than 2 minutes because I don't speak Japanese and there's a lot of dialogue before the first battle, but I needed them after VC because I could find them cheap and SSF is a great Saturn emulator.

I probably won't be getting this one for a while since it just came out and likely won't drop too heavily in price for a while. Still, at least it's something other than FF13.

Resonance of Fate (360, PS3)

This strikes me as what VC would probably have been if it was outsourced by Square. It's by tri-Ace (the Valkyrie Profile people) but actually published by Sega -- just like VC. I will probably play the demo before I do anything else, and likely get the 360 since I have so little confidence in most PS3 ports.
I think I will refer to it as Valkyria Profile in the future.

These are just some of the more notable new releases I'm looking into. I still have a number of GB and SNES games I need to get caught up on. Pity Hagane is such a hard game to find because that looks exactly like the sort of thing I want.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The PS3 Slim Ad Campaign

It only does everything.

...except play PS2 games like the early versions of the console.

...or run Linux like those same early versions.

...or process most graphics with the same level of efficiency as the Xbox 360 due to the cell processor being basically a poorly conceived integrated graphics chip (though admittedly the PS3's processor is like a mini-supercomputer).

...or play PAL-region DVDs (yes, I have some -- bootleg concert DVDs from Europe), if you're not in a PAL region to begin with.

...or play in 4-player mode without an additional USB multitap due to the fact that there are only 2 USB ports.

...or connect to a high-speed network for the purpose of online gaming or software downloads, because, though the PSN is free, it's pretty slow.

...or come with high-quality and well-regarded customer service -- allegedly; to be fair my experience with Sony's support in general has been very good but I've heard one too many horror stories, and my own experiences were more with a repair technician coming in to service one of my roommate's Vaio laptops, and not had much experience with any PS3 service issues personally.


I suppose we could even get into more pedantic arguments about "everything" such as fellating the user or cooking breakfast being part of the services it performs, as well, but that would honestly be silly and not to the point of the article anyway.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Do One Thing

Recently the college campus announced an initiative/green campaign they're calling "Do One Thing" (DOT). The idea is to think of one thing that you can do that will have a positive impact on resource consumption and/or the environment in general.

I am happy to say that I am in keeping with policy during my stay on campus. In fact, I've recently come to realize that I enjoy taking long, hot showers and have been doing that for the past couple weeks and will probably do similarly for the rest of my time on campus.

Now, I know what you're thinking, or at least something close to that. "But isn't that something that goes against the policy? It's an activity that's wasteful of our limited reserves of usable fresh water!" you're probably thinking to yourself -- or, if you're particularly livid about this concept, shouting at your computer. This is why I'm happy to announce that my DOT is recycling cans and bottles of soda, which I've been doing since before this campaign began; since it was initiated I've been looking for extraneous conservation efforts that I can phase out.

My next task will be to wash all my laundry twice consecutively, which, in addition to using more water and heat, also keeps some of the few washers and dryers for this housing complex occupied for longer, so other people may have to wait about 80 minutes extra to do their own laundry. We'll also start phasing out keeping leftovers and instead start getting rid of them the same day.

Now, you may think this entirely against the spirit of the policy. To this, I say that one of my roommates went to high school at Philips-Exeter, where they had a recycling competition for things like soda cans. He and his floormates would buy and consume extra soda in order to make sure that they took the top of the list for the recycling, thereby subverting the entire purpose of the recycling competition in the first place.

My point is that we take our can recycling VERY seriously. It's not about iPods or pizza parties any more. No, now it's about personal pride.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Article Writeup: Waitress serving coke

Back in the days I used to write witty summaries of news articles and posted them on forums. Granted, many of them were taken from Fark's database of news articles thus saving me time on searches, but the writeups themselves were mine.

In other news there was a time when I was actually witty.

I decided I'd try to do that again, and see what the results would be. This is what you get.

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Usually when I have to decide between butt and shoulder I'm thinking about cuts of meat to barbecue, and when I get coke from a waitress it's very reluctantly due to a lack of ginger ale or root beer syrups. However, this sexual harrassment suit is about both.

Nicole Slama was working as a waitress at an Applebee's in Manhattan on tips. As you'd expect, given Applebee's clientelle -- you know, the poor undereducated people making up "real America" that classy individuals with college educations don't fit in the salad bars alongside -- she was practically losing money on that endeavor. Looking to pay the bills she decided to take a friend's advice and work as a stripper cocktail waitress.

I don't mean to imply that she intended to work as a stripper or anything, but we all know that the back room is the sex and drug room. Or at least we do after reading the article if we're anything like me, staying home on weekend nights and blogging.

But as noted there was a distinct role-reversal and the co-owner of the bar, Gary Malhotra, was offering this waitress coke. And taking it off her butt. Naturally Slama was not interested in this. Not surprisingly she nixed doing it off her breasts as well.

Could you imagine? "Oh, no, I won't let you sniff coke off my ass! Oh yeah, go ahead, just go right off my breasts. I mean, it's not like it's illegal or inappropriately sexual if you do it off my breasts!"

In fact the only reason she had coke taken off her shoulder was that Malhotra was actually able to slide off her tank top strap. If the strap was thin enough, I probably wouldn't have bothered though as there's plenty of uncovered shoulder real-estate to play with. Then again I probably wouldn't have bothered with this in the first place because I wouldn't be reducing my waitstaff to a series of secondary sexual characteristics that serve as a conveyance for addictive substances. I'd at least find out their names, get some idea of their likes and dislikes, you know, stuff like that.

So she was on the verge of crying and he's there doing coke off his shoulder. The only reason she didn't is because she was afraid she'd anger him. I don't at all intend to imply that what she's doing is wrong, but a part of me can't help but feel the dude probably found the fact that he's being served with a sexual harassment suit far, far more infuriating. Of course, she also wasn't being forced into a closet when she did that.


===

As you can see, I'm rather rusty at this. I promise I'm much nicer in real life than I sound here