Finally, definitive proof of ghosts.

Normally I’m fairly skeptical of paranormal phenomena, but this is so convincing that I must admit that ghosts are real. How anyone can watch this and not be convinced is beyond my understanding.

I mean, just look at it:


U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz reveals a lot of folks are idiots about religion.

There’s a meme about debating atheists that suggests they know the Bible better than Christians do that makes the rounds every so often on the Internet. There’s a little bit of truth in that meme. Ask any atheist and chances are they’ve had more than one discussion where it was clear the person they were talking to didn’t know much about their own religion or its history or, for that matter, other religions. It’s a never-ending source of amusement for many of us atheists.

Every now and then the folks at the Pew Research Center will conduct a poll on religious knowledge and the results always back up the idea that most American’s religious knowledge is pretty piss-poor. They just did another one consisting of 32 questions to 3,412 adults across the nation. The results of the poll do not paint Christians is a great light:

U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.

It turns out that on questions specifically about the Bible and Christianity, White Evangelicals and Mormons do slightly better than atheists/agnostics (7.3 and 7.9 versus 6.7 correct answers out of 12, respectively), but once you start asking about history or other religions you find the atheists/agnostics second only to the Jews (7.5 to 7.9 out of 11). When you ask questions on religion in public life us non-believers come out on top (2.8 out of 4 with Jews second at 2.7).

If you’re curious, you can take a mini-quiz with 15 of the questions that the subjects were asked by clicking here.


As you can see above, I took the quiz and I managed to answer 14 of the 15 questions correctly for a score of 93%. That’s better than 97% of the public. I messed up on a question about the Jewish Sabbath that I probably should have gotten right had a taken a moment longer to think about it. If you want to take the quiz you should probably do so before reading any further because this next bit will spoil some of the questions.

What’s really amazing about this survey is how many believers are ignorant about major aspects of their own religion. For example:

More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity. Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish.

How can you claim to be Catholic and not know about transubstantiation? They fucking drill that into you in most Catholic churches like it was the secret to the universe. I’m not as surprised about most protestants not knowing who the fuck Martin Luther is because that’s church history and most Christians don’t bother learning the history of their religion. I am surprised that so many Jews don’t know that Maimonides was Jewish.

When you start asking Americans about religions other than Christianity and Judaism, it gets much, much worse:

In addition, fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly associate Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism. And only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) correctly answer that most people in Indonesia – the country with the world’s largest Muslim population – are Muslims.

Then there’s the issue of religion in public schools were most folks (89%) managed to answer correctly that a teacher cannot lead a class in prayer, but…

…among the questions most often answered incorrectly is whether public school teachers are permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature. Fully two-thirds of people surveyed (67%) also say “no” to this question, even though the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Bible may be taught for its “literary and historic” qualities, as long as it is part of a secular curriculum.2 On a third question along these lines, just 36% of the public knows that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools. Together, this block of questions suggests that many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are.

There’s a lot of folks who seem to think kids aren’t allowed to pray in school (that wasn’t a survey question). For the record, your kids can pray in school all they want so long as it’s something they decide to do themselves and they’re not disrupting class to do it.

Anyway, the whole report is worth a read and you should check it out. It should be somewhat embarrassing for believers that atheists/agnostics know as much — if not more — about not only the Christian religion, but other religions and their histories. It displays a profound lack of interest in one of the things many profess is the most important thing in their lives. It also leads to awkward conversations when you try to convert one of us to your particular belief system.

A lesson in avoiding the question by

Twitter can be a great method for contacting a company for help with a problem. Often when I have a problem with some business that has a presence on Twitter I’ll take the time to compose a small rant in 140 characters or less and send it off into the Interwebs where I know someone associated with said company will see it. There’s a good chance I’ll get the help I’m looking for pretty quickly.

Twitter is also great for tweaking companies doing stupid things even when you don’t expect them to actually do anything to fix the problem. I did this recently with I bought something from them way back when they were still and I’ve been getting daily emails about stuff they have on sale ever since. That purchase was easily 5 years or more ago and I’ve not been compelled to purchase anything from them in that time so I figured I may as well unsubscribe from the emails.

When I did I was notified that it would take 5 to 7 business days before the change would take effect. I blinked at the note and tried to figure out why the fuck it should take that long to unsubscribe me when signing me up was near instantaneous. Almost all the other online stores whose email ads I’ve unsubscribed from managed to do it within moments with maybe a couple saying a day or so. What the fuck was Rakuten doing that it takes 5 to 7 business days? This prompted me to send out this tweet:

It took them a couple of hours to notice the tweet at which point they replied with this:

I was amused by the fact that rather than answer the question they simply assumed I was an idiot who didn’t know how to unsubscribe from their email advertisements. So I sent the next two tweets in reply:

It took them a few hours, but they came back with this reply:

Well that’s reassuring I suppose, but it still doesn’t answer the question so I tried again:

I figured at this point they’d give up and it looked like they had, until about 26 minutes ago:

I’ve not bothered to reply again as it’s clear that they’re not going to answer the question. Probably because the person running their Twitter account doesn’t know what the answer is. I thought that maybe I could prompt them into saying that they were working to improve their system for a speedier result in the future, but no such luck.

Like I said, I didn’t really expect them to do much about the situation, but I thought they’d at least offer some sort of explanation for the lengthy delay. Maybe some poor sap has to look at each request and approve it? Maybe they have so many people trying to opt out of their emails and they have a shitty server that’s overwhelmed by the load? Maybe they’re hoping I’ll change my mind before it actually stops sending me emails?

Nope. It’s going to take 5 to 7 business days and fuck you for asking why.

The remains of Olympics past.

I’m not a sports fan and as such I don’t tend to watch the Olympics, but I think the oft-promoted “spirit” of the Olympics isn’t a bad idea even if it’s not really why anyone participates anymore. That said, you’d think there’d be a way to host said events in a way that doesn’t involve the building of massive sports infrastructure most of which will be abandoned after the event is complete.

This was brought to mind by an article over at Wired: See What Happened to the Venues of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Russian photographer Anastasia Tsayder offers an illuminating case study in Summer Olympics, a series that revisits some of the venues the Soviet Union built for the ill-fated 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. “[I wanted] to tell a story about the hopes for a utopian future encapsulated in this architecture,” the photographer says, “and about how far from reality these expectations turned out to be in the end.”

[…] Hosting the Games is not cheap, and many cities spend lavishly on infrastructure that is underutilized, if not abandoned, afterward. Greece, which hosted the 2004 Summer Games, spent billions building stadiums, arenas, and tracks that are now abandoned. Four years later, Beijing hosted what was at the time the most expensive Olympics ever; today, many of the venues stand empty.

Interior of Dynamo Stadium in Russia. Photo by ANASTASIA TSAYDER

Interior of Dynamo Stadium in Russia. Photo by ANASTASIA TSAYDER

Click through to the article to see all the pictures. As it turns out Russia has done a better job of using their left-over facilities than some other countries. The links in the second paragraph above have photos of other host cities that are left with massive complexes that are little utilized, if at all.

Detroit has bid to host the Olympics seven times — more than any other city — and has never won. The best it ever did was second place for the 1968 games which went to Mexico City. Detroit was invited to bid on the 2024 Olympics and they turned it down due financial uncertainty at the time and the fact that it costs $10 million just to make a bid. Detroit declared bankruptcy shortly after that so it was probably a smart move.

That said, with more and more places opting not to bid because of the expense of hosting only to have so much of what is built sit idle after the event is done, there’s been talk that the IOC is starting to get a little panicky and may be trying to figure out how to do an Olympics on the cheap. That led to at least one article in the Detroit Free Press on the idea of a joint Detroit-Windsor hosted Olympics that would require very little new construction:

“For the most part, the infrastructure is already here,” said Greg McDuffee, chairman of Urban Land Institute Michigan. “If we’re serious about re-establishing our city as a preeminent global city — what is the acid test for that? It’s being awarded an Olympic games.”

Under one possible Detroit-Windsor scenario, the only major event venues needed to be built from scratch would be a canoe slalom course on Belle Isle, a cycling velodrome perhaps on the Windsor waterfront and an Olympic Stadium at the old state fairgrounds that could later become home for a professional soccer team.

There would be no need to dig an Olympics-ready swimming pool in Detroit, thanks to the new Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. Indeed, the biggest likely hurdles to a joint Detroit-Windsor Olympics would be marshaling the money and political will.

“From a technical perspective, there is no reason why Detroit couldn’t host a games. It actually has some natural advantages,” said Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports management and economics at the University of Michigan who has researched the possibilities for a 21st-Century Detroit Olympics bid.

Even in the scenario described above there would still be the expense of three new venues to consider. Soccer has never been huge in Detroit so the idea that a new stadium on the old State Fair grounds being used for a professional soccer team after the Olympics is optimistic at best. I’m not even sure Detroit has a professional soccer team. (I just Googled it. No professional soccer teams, but a few minors. They are trying to bring pro soccer to Detroit along with a new stadium. Good luck with that.) I could see the possibility of opening up the canoe slalom course on Belle Isle to the general public after the games and having that get some use. Not as sure about the cycling velodrome. Though if the latter were built on the Windsor side then I suppose that’d be their problem to figure out what to do with it.

All of that assumes that the IOC would be happy using already existing venues that aren’t as extravagant as something built from scratch specifically for the Olympics. Given the number of articles over the years about the arrogance of the committee, I doubt they’d be willing to settle for that:

Oslo 2022 bid hurt by IOC demands, arrogance – USA Today

Conservative lawmaker Geir Inge Sivertsen publicly came out against the Oslo bid days before the vote, but said there was no doubt that the latest “very strange demands from the IOC” swayed the party, which he thinks had been narrowly in favor of underwriting the bid.

“Norway is a rich country, but we don’t want to spend money on wrong things, like satisfying the crazy demands from IOC apparatchiks,” said Frithjof Jacobsen, VG’s chief political commentator. “These insane demands that they should be treated like the king of Saudi Arabia just won’t fly with the Norwegian public.”

[…] “There were two arguments against the bid. One was the financial part — most Olympic budgets end up being much more expensive. But the IOC’s arrogance was an argument held high by a lot of people in our party,” said Ole Berget, a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry. “Norwegian culture is really down to earth. When you get these IOC demands that are quite snobby, Norwegian people cannot be satisfied.”

Personally, I’d be happy if Michigan never hosts an Olympics if it’s going to continue being a lot of expense for little gain. I can remember when we hosted Super Bowl XVI in Pontiac 33 years ago and all the claims of long-term economic benefit it would bring with it. It did pump a couple hundred million into the local economy and transformed downtown Pontiac into a popular area during the event, but it didn’t last all that long. On the plus side we didn’t have to build a new stadium for it and it was relatively cheap compared to hosting an Olympics. These days, however, hosting the Super Bowl is getting to be a lot like hosting the Olympics so you can keep that too.

If we’re going to host big events then I say we should shoot to get a few big e-Sports into Detroit. It’s gaining in popularity and would be a lot less expensive because we wouldn’t need to build a damned thing. Between the number of stadiums and convention centers we have you could whip up a set inside and have plenty of seating for a fraction of the cost of a big sporting event. Yeah, yeah, I hear you laughing, but hear me out. Watching e-Sports events has been huge in Korea for over a decade and with the arrival of MOBAs it’s been gaining in popularity here in the States as well. Here’s a short YouTube video on what e-Sports is:

Those playoffs are no small affair and neither are the crowds watching them. Would it generate as much revenue for Detroit as a Super Bowl or the Olympics? Hard to say, but it’d be a damned bit cheaper to host than either of those things.


More people are using ad-blockers. Here’s one reason why.

An article over on Mashable talks about the increasing number of people using ad-blocking apps in their web browsers and how various sites are fighting back against the trend:

Websites know you’re using ad-blockers, and they’re coming for you.

Thanks to software that can detect whether a site visitor is using a blocker, websites can now direct messages at these readers, jam ads through to them anyway or even withhold stories. Uneasy publishers are increasingly turning to startups that give them the ability to detect and pierce through ad blockers, such as Sourcepoint and Pagefair.

Now, as a general rule, I don’t run an ad-blocker because I understand that it costs money to run a website in part because I maintain several myself; not the least of which is this blog. In fact the account I maintain to host blogs for my mother, sister, and a couple of friends costs me about $120 a year and its annual renewal is due this week and that’s not counting the monthly cost for the virtual server for SEB. You may also note that I have a couple of ads on SEB including a promo for Amazon on the sidebar and some Google Adsense ads at the bottom of each page. I also make use of Amazon affiliate links when talking about a product. None of that generates enough revenue to pay for the sites (I’m lucky if I get any money from them in a given year), but it makes for a couple bucks here and there.

So I can understand and I’m fine with a page having ads on it, but I’d be lying if I said that I never run an ad-blocker. I keep one installed because advertisers aren’t satisfied with having a rectangular banner at the top of the page or a square ad in the sidebar. Increasingly there’s been this trend of slapping a huge, full-screen ad right in the middle of whatever the fuck I’m trying to read 5 to 10 seconds after I started reading. I’m talking bullshit like this:



I don’t drink tea. You could come up with a tea that causes multiple orgasms and piles of gold to spontaneously appear at my feet and I still wouldn’t drink it because tea is disgusting, but you’re going to insist I watch your fucking tea ad.



I’ve never understood why Boeing feels the need to advertise to the general public. Do they sell anything to the vast majority of people? They seem to have a rather niche market. What the fuck happened to the idea of targeted ads?



I like KFC. I shouldn’t because I’m fat and it’s not healthy, but I like it just the same. You don’t need to hard-sell me, or probably very many other fat people, on KFC. All this does is make me not like KFC as much because they’re getting in the fucking way of the article I’m trying to read.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn't give less of a shit about some billionaire's girlfriend.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn’t give less of a shit about some billionaire’s girlfriend, but this is still better than a full screen ad.

It’s bad enough that a lot of the small, square ads these days feature auto-playing videos with the sound at full volume. That’s annoying enough without it taking up the ENTIRE FUCKING SCREEN. When I come across these ads the first thing I look for is the close button and I hit it before it has a chance to get more than 5 seconds into its spiel. I don’t care what you’re advertising. Even if it’s something that I might be interested in, the surest way to make certain I don’t hear about it is with a giant popup ad in the middle of a webpage. No close button? Then it’s the reload page button. Ad comes up again? Out comes the ad-blocker and now you’re not getting any revenue from my page visit because fuck you and your giant fucking ads in the middle of the content.

This is coming from a guy who will put up with multiple ads along the top, bottom, and sides of a webpage. Hell, I’ll put up with them being wedged awkwardly between every two or three paragraphs of the content itself — like some sites I visit currently do — so long as I can still read the content I went there for in the first place. I’ll even put up with the obvious bullshit click-bait ads being repeated over and over and over again on so many sites like the one here to the right despite the fact that I will never, in a million years, ever click on that ad.

According to one estimate sites are losing out on some big cash thanks to the increase in ad-blocker usage:

A widely cited report from Adobe and anti-ad blocker startup Pagefair estimates that ad blockers could cost the industry $21.8 billion in lost revenue this year — though the figure may have been overinflated by faulty economic reasoning — and that usage grew 41% in the last year.

So it’s no wonder they’re trying to fight back, but surely there’s a compromise that can be found between no advertising at all and loud and obnoxious full screen unstoppable auto-playing video ads. There are a handful of sites I’ve stopped going to altogether because it’s such a pain in the ass wading through all the popup advertisements to get to the content I went there for in the first place. I don’t want to turn my ad-blocker on, but some of these websites are making it harder and harder not to do so. And that’s not even getting into the topic of how many ad services these days are doing a piss-poor job of keeping malicious malware spreading ads out of their systems.

Scale it back a bit and I think you’ll find more people will shut off their ad-blockers. Keep going the way you’re going and it’ll just be an arms race to see who can out program the other.

I’ve never been fond of exercise. Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to force it.

I’m fat. The last time I stepped on my fancy WiFi enabled scale on September 1st I topped off at 291.7 pounds. That’s down from my high of 301, but it’s up from the 287 I managed to get to in July. My ideal body weight for someone my height should be between 132 to 167 pounds. My BMI is 42 and it should be between 20 and 25. I am what is considered morbidly obese. I am not what a lot of people think of when they think of morbidly obese people. Most folks don’t even realize I qualify for that designation.

This pic is 5 years old, but other than being a little grayer in the beard I still look more or less the same.

This pic is 5 years old, but other than being a little grayer in the beard I still look more or less the same. Click to embiggen.

That’s because I somehow manage to make it look damned good.

I’ve been this way for most of my adult life starting sometime in my late 20’s. I know it’s not healthy and I’ve been feeling the effects of carrying around all this extra weight for awhile now. Whether it’s my aching back or my feet that can’t seem to stay warm even in the heat of summer (not to mention a growing numbness in one of my big toes), I’m aware that I’m doing long term damage. I’m diabetic, but not to the point of needing insulin shots yet and I’m on medication to control my sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. In short, I have every reason in the world to be motivated to engage in regular exercise. Yet I don’t. Why? Because I really, really fucking hate it and I find it very hard to do things I hate as much as I hate exercising.

Taken on my wedding day, this was 14 years ago and I was at my heaviest weight.

Taken on my wedding day, this was 14 years ago and I was at my heaviest weight. Click to embiggen.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t tried. If you’ve been reading SEB for awhile then you may recall I bought an elliptical machine a few years back on the mistaken assumption that Anne and I would fall into a routine of using it regularly and having the pounds melt away. The reality was that it made a wonderful coat rack for the vast majority of the time it occupied a corner of our living room up until I sold it prior to moving to Canton because we wouldn’t have any spare space for it. Yes, there was a period of several months multiple times over the years were I made valiant attempts to put it to good use, but none of them lasted longer than a month and I never did manage to make it a habit. In the end it was depressing to even consider hauling my fat ass onto it. Then last year, after we gave up trying to buy a house, Anne and I tried getting into the simplest form of exercise you can do: walking. My company tried to help by offering up a Fitbit for free if I managed to walk 8,000 steps a day for 20 days during last October. I took up the challenge in the hopes that a whole month of walking regularly would make it a habit. While I did hit the goal, it didn’t become a habit and when winter set in my walking routine went the way of the dodo and hasn’t really recovered since.

So you can imagine my incredulity when I came across an article that basically said I probably shouldn’t be trying to exercise at all:

That hell I described is what the majority of the population thinks about regular exercise. They hate it, and they don’t want to do it. I am an internationally syndicated fitness columnist with columns read by a whole lot of people, and make my living writing about diet, exercise and weight loss. For years I’ve extolled the virtues of exercise as a way to control your eating behaviors and sculpt your physique into something that looks great and performs amazing feats.

And I have been wrong.

Wait, what? Yeah, that’s fitness journalist Jim Fell in an article titled The Exercise Myth he wrote this past February that I just stumbled across on Facebook. He continues:

It is not a personal failing in any person to fail to see the light with exercise, because that kind of light just isn’t visible for some. Actually, it doesn’t work for most. If you don’t want to exercise, then you qualify as “most.” You’re in the vast majority, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, because exercise isn’t exactly natural. It’s asking you to do something very unusual. It’s asking you to be someone you’re not. It’s asking you to expend energy and to embrace discomfort for a nebulous long-term goal that doesn’t actually accomplish anything in the near term other than shortness of breath and smelly laundry. Also, it costs money.

I’m not turning my back on exercise. I personally love it and will continue to do so (and I’ll keep writing about it too), but in learning to love it I realized how hard it was – how unnatural it was – to dedicate so many hours a week to running and cycling and the lifting of heavy things for no reason other than to put them back down and then lift them up again.

It’s like the man has known me my entire life. Jim goes on to talk about how the folks who really get into exercise to the point that it’s an effective weight loss are a minority making up maybe 5% of the population and only 25% get enough exercise to have any health benefits at all. He says we’re not lazy, just normal. That plays right into my cognitive biases so of course it appeals to me.

The myth about exercise is that it is a viable solution for the population at large to achieve lasting weight loss. Whether the reasons are physiological, psychological, practical or financial, most people are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Nike’s tagline. They Just can’t do it. They WON’T do it.

For some, exercise works as an important part of a weight loss program, but for most, they will never be able to make themselves exercise hard enough, long enough, and frequently enough to get a considerable caloric burn and therefore affect weight loss. THIS is the myth that has been perpetuated about exercise.

Jim goes on to explain all the problems inherent in regular exercise that keeps most folks from doing it and how much effort is involved to really get any benefit from it. He spends a lot of time on the traps and pitfalls a lot of folks who try to make a go at it end up falling into. All in all it would be a pretty depressing article if it weren’t for the end where he has suggestions for those of us who just can’t seem to get into exercise:

There is another option to assist weight loss for the non-exerciser, and it’s pretty neat.

Actually, make that NEAT. It’s Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, which is burning calories via methods other than traditional sport or exercise. It’s movement with a purpose, like walking instead of driving, using your bike as a mode of transportation, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting up and walking to a co-worker’s office to chat instead of picking up the phone, pacing while on the phone instead of sitting, doing housework, shoveling snow, yard work, carpentry, playing with your kids, walking the dog, doing laundry, moving furniture … All those things people stopped doing because of technology.

When you adopt a mindset of looking for every possible excuse to add in extra movement, traditional exercise be damned, you can burn more calories each day without the pain and hassle, and without nearly the risk of developing a reward mentality in regards to “earning” a tasty treat. What’s more, movement begets more movement. Starting slowly, you’ll find over time that you transform from a sitter to a mover, and you’ll rack up some caloric burns while achieving greater fitness.

And in terms of weight loss, if you sit less, spend less times in front of screens, and keep those hands busy you’ll be less inclined to engage in mindless snacking, and more likely to establish a regular meal pattern.

In other words, the NEAT approach to fitness can help you on the food intake side, which is where lasting weight loss really happens.

This makes a lot of sense to me and not just because it excuses my inability to develop an exercise habit.

Even as a skinny-ass kid I hated exercise. When it came time in gym class to do exercises such as push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or running laps I always hated every second of it and did them in as half-assed a manner as I could and still claim I had done what I was asked. However, when it came time for dodge ball or basketball or volleyball or any of a number of other similar games I’d put my all into it and loved it. I also tended to enjoy swimming and riding my bike, two things I haven’t done in years. Anne and I keep talking about buying a couple of bikes, but living in an apartment makes figuring out where to keep them difficult. If I have to carry them up and down from the basement then I know they’re not going to get used, but I don’t have anyplace safe to store them outside where they won’t be stolen or damaged by the weather.

It’s clear that I’m never going to be an avid exerciser so perhaps it’s time I stop trying to become one. Perhaps the solution I should be trying is to just get up from my computer screens more often and seeing if I can’t find something I love to do that involves more movement. Playing is what kept me skinny as a kid, maybe it can help me as an adult.

An ode to homophobic Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis.

Sandy and Richard Riccardi were so inspired by the plight of recently incarcerated for her religious beliefs contempt of court county clerk Kim Davis that they just had to sit down and write a song in her honor:

*sniff!* That brought a tear to my eye.

Jimmy Kimmel pokes fun at YouTube Gaming. Gamers freak the fuck out.

Last Friday comedian Jimmy Kimmel — host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! — did a bit on his late night talk show about YouTube’s recent unveiling of YouTube Gaming. For those of you who are not aging gamers like myself, YouTube Gaming is Google’s attempt to take on Twitch, a site that allows gamers to live stream themselves playing video games. YouTube already has a pretty big video gaming community of players who post videos of them playing/critiquing/trolling and/or otherwise spending way too much time playing video games with PewDiePie being not only the most popular gamer making videos, but the most popular person on YouTube as a whole. YouTube Gaming allows you to organize all of those offerings in one spot as well as provides a streaming platform for games to compete with Twitch.

Anyway, Kimmel’s bit was about how he just doesn’t understand why anyone would sit and watch videos of other people playing video games. He compared it to being like going to a restaurant and watching someone eat his food for him. Here’s the bit:

Now I’m not unsympathetic to Jimmy’s argument. I wrote about the trend back when it was first getting started and I was amazed there were that many people out there content to watch someone else play a video game.

However, that was years ago and the folks making videos have evolved over that time such that it’s not just about watching someone else play video games. PewDiePie is probably the best example of this as his videos tend to be entertaining not because he’s so good at the games he plays, but because he’s goofy as fuck while playing them. There’s also been the rise of MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 that involve quite a bit of strategy as well as skill and can draw crowds that rival any major sporting event. It’s no longer just watching some other random dude play a game, though there’s plenty of that out there for those who are into that.

Personally, I don’t watch much of that sort of thing though I’ll indulge in the occasional video put out by Tony “Tobuscus” Turner on his gaming channel because, frankly, he’s an amusing idiot. I also watch videos by Drift0r and TmarTn for tips on Call of Duty class builds and strategies. So I can relate to both sides of the argument.

What I can’t relate to is the ridiculously vitriolic reaction from some parts of the gaming community to the light-ribbing Jimmy Kimmel gave YouTube Gaming. It’s been so bad that Kimmel has covered it on two different nights on his show. Check it:

Holy shit, what the fuck is wrong with you people?

While I’m sure most of that is hot air, there’s still no excuse for wishing fatal diseases on the man just because you didn’t like his comments about watching other people play video games. And there’s certainly no reason to imply you’re going to put a fucking bomb in his car and that you’re going to do terrible things to his wife and daughter.

And it’s not just Kimmel. Video game developers regularly get death threats when they make changes to their games to try and balance things out. It’s doubly bad if you’re a woman in the video game industry and don’t even think of being a Feminist trying to critique video games.

It’s tempting to suggest that this is just the perils of having a hobby that also includes way too many 12-year-old kids who shouldn’t be on the Internet unsupervised, but then you look at the profiles for a lot of these assholes and you realize this isn’t just a bunch of kids trying to look mature by being dickheads. It’s a bunch of adult assholes who really should know better by now. You want to know why people still look down on you when you say you’re a gamer? This is why.

I’ve been playing video games since the days of the original Atari 2600 and I love this hobby. Some of my best friends are people I’ve only known over the Internet, chatting through a headset while shooting up zombies or blasting away at Nazis or working together to take down a dragon. As an older gamer* I feel a bit of responsibility to tell you fucks to stop being so fucking butthurt over someone else not understanding your hobby and poking fun at it.

Your enjoyment is not dependent on Jimmy Kimmel understanding why you like to watch others play video games. You certainly shouldn’t be making death threats just because you’re not happy with something he (or anyone else) said about it.

(*As a side note, it’s really kind of weird to learn that I’m a couple months older than Jimmy Kimmel. He’ll turn 48 in November. I’m not used to being older than the hosts of popular late-night talk shows.)

First impressions on the Black Ops III Beta.

Explosions! Big vehicles! Ridiculous outfits! Must be Call of Duty time!

Explosions! Big vehicles! Ridiculous outfits! Must be Call of Duty time!

It’s almost time for the next iteration in the Call of Duty franchise and this year Treyarch is up to bat. I wasn’t sure I’d get into the beta because on the consoles you had to preorder the game to get in so I assumed the same would be true for the PC and I don’t preorder because I’ve been getting review copies for the past several years. As it turns out, Treyarch decided to open the PS4 beta up to everyone before it came to an end and on the PC if you had bought any of the last three CoD titles then you qualified for the beta on that platform. In short, getting into the beta for Black Ops III was way easier than anyone expected. The beta was released on Tuesday evening (I considered it a birthday present) so I downloaded it and got a couple of games in before bed. Then I spent a good chunk of last night playing it and now I think I have a pretty good feeling of what it’ll be like even though it’s currently a beta.

At first the game was surprisingly ugly until I figured out that it had set all of the graphics options to their lowest levels by default. I don’t know if it does this for everyone or it was just that unimpressed with my gaming rig, but a few adjustments here and there and I got it looking halfway decent while still maintaining a 50 – 75 frames per second performance. The default keybindings move some of the more important ones (such as weapon switching) to new spots leading to some confusion when you try to bring up your secondary by pressing the 1 key and nothing happens because it’s now the X key. So I had to spend some time remapping some of the keys. Once you get things a little closer to what you’re used to you’ll find that, yep, it feels like another Call of Duty game. That is to say, despite some new trappings and some new abilities, the basic gameplay feels about the same as what you’re used to if you’re a fan of the series.

Which isn’t to say that nothing’s changed. Like Sledgehammer Games’ Advanced Warfare, BO3 has revamped the movement system in the game bringing unlimited sprint, boost assisted jumps, swimming, and wall-running ala Titanfall. It’s also now possible to fire your gun at all times whether you’re in the water, mantling a wall, or wall-running. I won’t get into my opinions on this just yet — that’ll come later when I review the release version — but it definitely makes the game more run and gun than it used to be.

The one opinion I will share right now is that the thing I was most worried about, the addition of “specialists” with a bonus ability/weapon they can activate every so often, doesn’t seem to be as disruptive as I thought it was going to be. Yes, the abilities/weapons are very powerful, but so far they seem to only be available two to four times in any given match. Here’s some gameplay footage I captured of one my my better rounds to give you an idea of what it’s like:

At the moment I’m definitely intrigued. It helps that the folks at Treyarch are much more responsive to fans who play on the PC than Sledgehammer Games was. Not only are they doing a beta on the PC, but the lead developer is on Twitter soliciting feedback and answering questions. I couldn’t get anyone from SG to answer any questions before or after AW was released. The PC version of AW was plagued with problems and SG did little to address them and as a result the player count dropped dramatically within the first two weeks of the game’s release. I still play it occasionally, but it’s one of the few CoD titles that hasn’t held my interest. I’m actually playing more Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops 1 than I am Advanced Warfare these days. I don’t know yet that BO3 will be my new favorite, but it’s already doing better than AW.


Happy 48th birthday to me.

Today I have somehow managed to reach my 48th year and, despite all my bad lifestyle choices, I’m still relatively healthy. I’m getting to the age where birthdays start to become days of reflection which is something I’ve never been all that good at, but there are certain truths about my life that are starting to become apparent.


For example, I realize that I will probably never be a published author. At least, not of a book of any kind. Part of the reason I started my blog 14 years ago was to practice writing and, while I’ve definitely improved over the years, I’ll never be able to come up with an idea for more than a short story or two. I used to write short stories often when I was younger, but these days the inspiration comes very infrequently. I know a couple of people who are pretty big writers who seem to be able to pump out volumes of prose with little effort and who have a large fanbase, but I will never be one of those people. They are all remarkably well-read and are familiar with large numbers of other authors. I’m very picky about my fiction reading and as a result I’m not as familiar with the tropes and traditions of my favorite genre — science fiction — to really contribute anything to it. When I first had this realization it bothered me a little because it was something I long thought I would do, but these days I’ve come to accept it.

I also realize that I’ve already hit the peak of my career and will never hit that high again. In part because I will always be a break-fix IT guy. Moving up to just about anything else would require a college degree and I’m not going to get one of those anytime soon. Or it would require I go into management and I’ve never wanted that either. Despite working in a position that is perpetually considered entry-level, I’m good at it and I enjoy it. I get paid alright for what I do — just a little under the industry mean which means there’s room for raises — but it’s never going to reach a six figure level. It took 20+ years as a contractor before a company hired me directly and it’ll probably be the last one to ever do so. I wouldn’t recommend my method of career decision making to anyone and, honestly, I’ve been damned lucky in spite of myself. At this point I probably won’t be retiring unless I manage to hit a lotto jackpot.

Lastly, I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never own my own home. We came closest to realizing that goal last year and it didn’t happen and I don’t suspect I’ll be in a position financially to try again for quite some time. This is one of the few things that make me feel like a bit of a failure because so many of my friends and family have somehow managed to accomplish this, but I can’t seem to figure it out. I ended up deciding not to worry about it anymore. I have a roof over my head, there’s food on the table, and a wonderful woman that I spend each day with. Not to mention two of the best cats this world has ever seen. We seem to be able to make wherever we end up into a happy home and that’s all I really need.

My apologies if this seems like a bit of a downer, but I’m up very early today because of nightmares I had last night and I probably should’ve waited until the coffee kicks in a bit more before trying to write about my latest birthday. All of that said, I’m still breathing and there are a lot of people who seem to appreciate having me around and, in my own small way, I’m contributing something to the world. I’m fortunate to know a lot of people who have had stunning success in their career and lives and I’m often amazed at the people who stop to see what I have to say. I’ll never be a big fish in this pond we call life, but at least I’m still swimming.

Who knows? Maybe that sudden flash of inspiration will finally happen and I’ll become a huge success. Until then I’ll keep plugging along pretending I know what I’m doing.