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Sep. 29th, 2014

angry, tapir, suspicious, bleah

Fuck the police, for real.

This one forum I'm on has a sixty-some-page thread on what happened in Ferguson last month. I decided to read through the whole thing.

All I can say is, I'm proud of every single man and woman who lives there and was able to face this without taking a baseball bat to the faces of any of the rat-fuck meatheads responsible. Because I sure as hell couldn't. Several times I found myself wanting to scream and hurl my computer clear across the room just reading about it; I can only imagine what I'd do if I were within spitting distance of a SLPD cop at any point when this was going down. Especially when they raided the church; that is literally Judge Frollo level evil right there.

And so this post has more substance than just me ranting, I'm going to quote a post I made on the subject way back in May, in a completely unrelated thread:

I've always felt that being a police officer should involve a self-sacrificial mentality. Like soldiers only way moreso. They should be trained that even preserving their life is no longer important as an end in itself, only protecting the civilians they are hired to serve. No more "it was him or me", only "it was him or them". Train them in martial arts rather than the use of firearms, and send them out unarmed like they do in most of Europe. It's one thing to tell recruits during training what's expected of them, but I reckon that won't count for much once you send them out into the world with the ability to decide who lives and dies hanging off their belt and the knowledge that it'll be their word against a corpse's if and when they use it. Even if they're going up against armed-and-dangerous violent criminals, if you have enough backup to ensure that losing some good men won't stop you from catching your perp before innocents are hurt, then go right ahead and treat your team like the Red Shirts they are. Not comfortable with the idea? Don't become a cop. If you're the kind of person who wouldn't sign on for such an arrangement, the force is better off without you.

I mean it more now than ever.

Jul. 23rd, 2014

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy

(no subject)

For a long time I've been toying with the idea of an alternate-history story in which the Confederacy wins the American Civil War and remains an independent slave-holding nation, but is eventually toppled by a slave uprising and becomes, basically, African America. (Truth be told, the idea was inspired by very early reports about the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog and my brain immediately coming up with the craziest possible explanation for why there would be a black princess in the Deep South. That's how long I've been toying with this idea.)

This evening I happened to end up back on the TV Tropes entry for the movie CSA, which also explores a what-if-the-Confederacy-had-won scenario (you might vaguely remember me posting about it way back when I watched it), and something I read sparked the idea that the uprising could have occurred during World War I, with the CSA having joined the Allies instead and too busy fighting to tend to things at home. It wasn't based on any factual information I was privy to; I actually don't know much about World War I because, ironically, the "War to End All Wars" is generally remembered as little more than a prequel to the war that proved it had not. So I decided to do a little light Wikipedia research. Turns out:

(A) The causus belli for the U.S. was an intercepted telegraph from Germany to Mexico offering to help reclaim Texas and the Southwest in exchange for joining their side;

(B) Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia.

I don't use the phrase "too perfect" often, but wow, talk about pieces falling into place.

Now I just have to stop sucking as a writer.

Nov. 24th, 2013

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy

Out-of-Context Theatre presents...

Actual, serious (if rhetorical) question I encountered today:

"If a [My Little Pony fan] artist was found paying for sex and cutting off bits of their body to give to a prostitute, would you want their work taken down?"

It's a strange world I live in.

Oh and also the new season has started, yay I guess. After this long of a break it's like visiting your old school after you graduated; it's a familiar setting, and you still remember things that happened there, but it feels weird that you're back in it.

Oct. 31st, 2013

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy


I realize the mass exodus from LiveJournal in the past few years has led me to forget that it exists myself, but the trip I just got back from is the most eventful thing that's happened to me in ages and is likely to stay that way for some time, and I have a lot to say about it.

First of all, Toy Story Midway Mania in Disney's Hollywood Studios is far and away the best attraction in the whole complex. It's deceptively simple: It's a light-gun game where you ride in a motorized cart, much like the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland, but instead of using a visible laser pointer to aim, the targets are on a big 3D screen and you launch virtual projectiles. The cart stops at one screen after another, and the characters warn you when your time has almost run out. Basically you're playing a series of giant-sized carnival games.

It is also far and away the most popular attraction. All of the other major-draw rides, like the Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, and Mission: Space, drew long lines during the course of the day, but gradually enough that we could get back in line and ride again without too much hassle. With Midway Mania, the line was already too long by that point on an early-opening day. In the off season. I can't imagine what it must be like during the middle of the summer. Then again, I think you'd have to be nuts to go to Florida in the middle of summer anyway.

Before we left, my cousin, who had just been there recently, told me about a thing at Disney Quest where you can design your own roller coaster and test-ride it in a crane-mounted VR chamber. Turns out there's another ride just like it in Epcot, called "Sum of All Thrills." I found it to be rather underwhelming; I built what I thought would be a pretty extreme ride, but it turned out to be quite tame. After trying it twice, I decided to stop making my family wait.

The one thing I was genuinely looking forward to the most was actually the Main Street Electrical Parade, which I only knew existed thanks to Paw Dugan's "Top 9 Underrated Disney Songs" video. It didn't disappoint, although both times we saw it we were positioned in just such a spot that there was a long wait between when the theme music (which plays on the park's hidden "atmosphere" speakers) started and when the floats (which have their own speakers that play individual sub-themes) actually got to us. The second time I was actually close enough to faintly hear the intro play again on the speakers behind us.

All in all, there was only one ride we didn't get to go on at all — Peter Pan's Flight, which is being refurbished — and one thing I missed out on because everyone else was too scared, the original "Orange" version of Mission: Space (the one that simulates realistic G-forces when the rocket takes off). We were originally going to spend eight days there, but ended up finishing with an extra half-day at the Studios (mainly to go on Midway Mania a couple more times), touring Downtown Disney that evening after going off-site for lunch, and then checking out a day early. We never expected to get through Animal Kingdom, which is very spread out and closed earlier than the other parks, in one day.

Scattered thoughts:
  • Playing "spot the out-of-state license plates" is a lot harder now that about half the cars on the road have license plate holders that cover up the state and/or county names.

  • "DeKalb" is the kind of name that looks like something spelled backwards, especially if you see it in all caps and don't know the "K" is capitalized.

  • There are a lot of rides that were designed or redesigned to funnel guests through a gift shop on their way out. Surprisingly, the newest rides, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Toy Story Midway Mania, do not; I wonder if this was a policy change John Lasseter instituted when he took over as head of Imagineering (most people have probably forgotten he has that job).

  • I had been planning on getting a used iPod Touch before the trip, to use both as a decent camera (I may have mentioned before that my current one is borderline unusable) and to keep me busy waiting in line. Because the trip was sprung on me so suddenly, I didn't have the opportunity. While I did see a lot of things I'd like to have photos of, thanks to the Internet you can always just find photos that other people have taken and look at those instead. And we only stood in a super-long line one time (again, Midway Mania, which we decided to try going on after Fantasmic ended; turns out 80 minutes worth of other people had the same idea).

  • I don't get a chance to eat adventurously much since college, so I made a point of trying new foods whenever possible, so I wound up getting Mongolian beef at The Land's food court, beef lo mein at the Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom, empanadas at La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexio pavilion, and splitting up to try the Morocco pavilion's lamb shawarma platter while the rest of my family headed to the UK pavilion for fish and chips and to wait for a live band that would be performing. The shawarma was excellent... but I could not stand the tabouleh that came with it.

  • All of the parks have attracted their fair share of local wildlife, mainly ducks and ibises. The ducks in particular hang around the outdoor dining areas looking for scraps, and will come right up to people. The signs say "Do not feed the birds", but obviously everyone ignores them. And when my family was waiting for me to get back from the Morocco pavilion, they encountered a squirrel that would go up to them one by one and beg like a dog.

  • Max, the animatronic deer head at the Country Bear Jamboree, is way cuter than he has any right to be.

May. 15th, 2013

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy

When I was your age, we did have fax machines!

Quite a while ago, I mentioned Weird Al's "It's All About the Pentiums" and how most of the lyrics can be updated to fit present day computer lingo... all except the titular line. Well, recently I noticed some dated language in the bridge of his 1992 song "When I Was Your Age", which goes thusly:

Didn't have no telephone, didn't have no fax machine
All we had were a couple cans and a lousy piece of string
Didn't have no swimming pool when I was just a lad
Our neighbor's septic tank was the closest thing we had
Didn't have no dental floss, had to use old rusty nails
Didn't have Nintendo, we just poured salt on snails
Didn't have no water bed, had to sleep on broken glass
Didn't have no lawn mower, we used our teeth to cut the grass

Not only can they be updated easily, one of the lines actually rhymes better:

Didn't have no telephone, didn't have text messaging
All we had were a couple cans and a lousy piece of string
Didn't have no swimming pool when I was just a lad
Our neighbor's septic tank was the closest thing we had
Didn't have no dental floss, had to use old rusty nails
Didn't have no Xbox, we just poured salt on snails
Didn't have no memory foam, had to sleep on broken glass
Didn't have no lawn mower, we used our teeth to cut the grass

*Yes, I know Nintendo is still around (though for how much longer remains to be seen), but nobody uses "Nintendo" as a generic term for video games anymore. Nor PlayStation, for that matter, which was a popular replacement for a while.

Mar. 31st, 2013

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy

The Call of the Blogosphere

Sometime last year, I was at the local thrift store (well, a local thrift store; there are three within reasonable driving distance around here), and came across a novelty doll, in its original packaging, that was clearly designed to be bought as a gag gift. It was called "The Perfect Wife" or something like that, and claimed to talk when you squeeze its hand. I wish I had memorized some of the phrases listed on the box, but suffice it to say it was aimed at the "henpecked husband" demographic.

Now, I've expressed my feelings on the sorts of things that wind up in thrift stores before, but this was the point where I realized just how ridiculous it can get. And as a regular reader of Cake Wrecks and ... a person who is aware of the existence of Regretsy and Passive Aggressive Notes, I couldn't help but think a blog devoted to weird and/or disturbing things found at thrift stores and rummage sales might work. "Things Unwanted", it might be called. But alas, I don't own a cell phone or other pocket-sized device with a camera in it, so I couldn't take a picture of the doll or any other strange things I might run across in the near future.

This past Friday, I was at the same thrift store, and what should be sitting on the shelf but that doll's male counterpart, clearly from the same manufacturers. Again, no camera, and this one was on a high shelf behind a counter where they keep the stuff-you-have-to-ask-the-cashier-to-get-for-you so I couldn't even make out the things he says from where I was standing. But it reminded me of the blog and how I should probably go ahead and make that thing one of these days. I wonder how blogs that rely mainly on reader contributions get enough content to get off the ground anyway. Maybe I'll email the creators of Cake Wrecks and Passive Aggressive Notes and ask.

Feb. 12th, 2013

stoopid, nerdy

Figuring out what everyone else already knew

Ever try to puzzle out a technique for something, and have a "Eureka!" moment, but then it seems so stupidly simple that you're sure someone else thought of it long ago? Because that just happened to me.

Specifically, I was trying to figure out how, given any 3D mesh, to automatically and reliably draw "outlines", for the purpose of rendering cartoon characters in a 3D game engine. I had already come up with a way to fake it (which I would later learn is already in common use; in fact, I can tell just by looking that it's what Telltale Games used in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People). But I've been musing on how it might be fully automated, and tonight I finally hit on the solution. It's so incredibly simple that I would assume everyone in the industry already knows it. And yet, I've seen plenty of games that clearly don't use it. Then again, all of those games are based on Flash cartoons, which use colored, variable-width outlines. The widths and colors would have to be hard-coded into the model. Maybe it's too hard to modify a 3D modeling program to support that? Or maybe it's easier on resources to just use the fake method than try to run the algorithm every frame on top of everything else. Ironically, I know next to nothing about video game technology or 3D modeling tools, so I couldn't say.

Dec. 21st, 2012

impressed, laughing, chipper, happy

Adventures in nerdular nerdence.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to the Steam for Linux beta. Why? Because I had decided on a whim to apply for one. I have none of the relevant experience, but I figured it worked for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Source Filmmaker. Either I am one lucky son of a gun or Valve is more generous with their betas than they let on.

Anyway, this meant a number of things had to be done first: One, get a second hard drive so I'd actually have room for it. That came in on Tuesday. Two, install some flavor of Linux on said drive. I went with Kubuntu, because I hate Unity and I'm not very familiar with the other brands out there anymore. I turned out to be just barely adept enough with the command line to figure out my way around the issues it had; in fact, this is unquestionably the most functional Linux install I've ever done.

Steam itself is ... pretty much what you'd expect from a beta client. It froze up three times while it was downloading my games and had to be forcibly restarted (but oddly enough continued to download them while it was frozen), but other than that seems to be feature-complete. World of Goo and Amnesia the Dark Descent run fine and are indistinguishable from their Windows counterparts, but Team Fortress 2 won't run at all because the driver... doesn't have enough OpenGL in it or something. It looks like something AMD is going to have to deal with, but luckily they set up a site specifically for Steam users to yell at them to fix stuff, so hopefully it'll get sorted soon.

Steam has a feature that can be used to patch video drivers in Windows; if Valve is smart, they'll try to get it up and running in Linux as fast as possible, because it's practically a necessity if you're an average non-geek trying to use Linux for gaming. Unlike Windows, Linux... does not have great support for driver patching.

Sep. 22nd, 2012

meh, blank, depressed, bored

Four Chord Songs have salted my subconscious. Nothing good can grow there ever again.

I have a thing I do, often, where I'll start humming random notes and try to work it into a hook or a melody, and then if I manage to come up with something I like, I'll either hum it into my microphone or punch it into my MIDI editor and save a copy. It's not much, and I don't expect anything to ever come of what I create, but it's a hobby of sorts, and sometimes I end up creating some pretty cool stuff that way. But recently, I think I may have ruined my ability to do that.

You might be familiar with the famous Four Chords of Pop. Basically a lot of popular songs—and it's not just in the genre commonly known as "pop"—make use of the same chord progression, as seen in this video of three Australian singer-songwriter-comedians doing a medley of some of them. Here's the thing, though. Between becoming aware of that chord progression and being exposed to a lot more modern pop music through Todd in the Shadows, I've gotten myself in a state where every time I start making mind-music, it always turns out to be a four-chord song. And once I realize it, I can't even force myself to hum anything else.

The good news is that I have a new hypothesis: The reason there are so many four-chord songs out there isn't that most modern songwriters are lazy, uncreative, or untalented; it's because the progression itself is a sort of meta-earworm, a mindvirus even, that interferes with their ability to compose original songs. When acts as diverse as Lady Gaga, the Offspring, and Adele are all doing it, it's hard to believe it's accidental or deliberate. Technically, if my hypothesis is true, it's neither.

Aug. 24th, 2012

meh, blank, depressed, bored

We bought a van.

We've been talking about it for the longest time and wringing our proverbial hands over the expense and how we don't need another car just yet, but last week our ancient Dodge Neon finally got a problem too expensive to bother fixing. Worst possible time for it, too, because we've got the big family quasi-camping trip next weekend, and we haven't used one car for that since the last time we only had one working car, and learned the hard way that the gear and food for that does not fit in one Chevy Prizm.

So my parents finally broke down and bought a used Toyota Sienna. It's more expensive than any new car we've ever bought, and it's not white like they wanted, but it's the super-fancy luxury model with leather seats and ALL THE THINGS. There's enough equipment on board that I could literally play my PlayStation 2 in it using just the stuff it came with. The phrase "too much, too late" comes to mind, to be honest; I'd love to have had a van half this nice growing up, and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of use for it now besides the occasional big family trip, which we can barely make time to ever go on.

To that end, tomorrow is clean-out-the-garage day. It's also clean-out-the-shed day and move-the-riding-mower-out-of-the-garage-and-into-the-shed day. Move-the-van-into-the-garage day is whenever the dealer finishes fixing the equipment that wasn't working and delivers it.

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