I understood from a young age that growing old wouldn’t be a picnic and I’ve met the various aches and pains I’ve developed over the years with, what I would like to believe, is a certain amount of grace and acceptance. What I’m not happy about, and what no one who ever bitched about getting old had ever mentioned to me, is how some of us (me) would develop weird little disfigurements as we age.
Specifically, little bitty bumps. I noticed a few years back that I had a couple of little bumps on my forehead near my hairline. They didn’t hurt like a pimple and they weren’t hard like a wart. Just a couple of little bumps like tiny lunar landers had set down on my face. Well, you can’t be young and beautiful forever I suppose so I accepted the bumps as a the price of wisdom and moved on. It was only a couple so no big deal. Then today I just happened to notice that the number had grown. I now have a string of the damned things across my forehead down into my left eyebrow. What the fuck?
I didn’t sign up for this shit and I want to know who to write to in order to make a proper complaint. There’s eight of those little fuckers on my face now and I suspect they’re conspiring to increase their numbers as I sleep. I tried checking on WebMD to see if they had a name for them and now I think I might have forehead cancer. Don’t ever try to look up anything on WebMD, they always say it’s cancer.
So I’m trying to spin this into a positive by telling myself it makes my forehead look all rugged and shit, but it doesn’t. It just looks like I’ve been practicing writing in braille on my face. Also, that little outcropping of hair at my widow’s peak is slowly losing the battle of existence and now you know why I shave my head regularly.
Oh well. I suppose I’ll just have to live with it, but it would’ve been nice to get a warning that this was going to happen.
Every year the national coffee chain Starbucks puts out a holiday themed cup and every year, for the pastseveralyears at least, it ends up pissing Conservatives off for either being too inclusive or not “Christmasy” enough or some other stupid reason. Now that it’s November they have unveiled this year’s design which will be available in stores starting today and it’s clear they’ve gone the extra mile to keep their new cups as inoffensive as they possibly can. I present to you, this year’s Starbucks Holiday cups:
So, yeah, those are about as pseudo-Christmassy as you can get. Got a couple Christmas sweater looking ones, some holly and berries, and… gift wrap? I guess? Not sure about what the red stripy one is supposed to be. No reindeer, no Santas, nothing to definitively tie it down as Christmas, but also no doodles that might suggest a SECRET GAY AGENDA!
That should be pretty inoffensive, yeah? Well, there is the fact that Starbucks made the mistake of calling them “holiday” cups and not “Jesus’ birthday cups” like any decent patriotic American company would. I kid, but I bet that the word “holiday” will be the thing Conservatives latch onto this year because 1) they’ve done it in the past and B) there’s little else here to complain about.
That said, the Conservatives are a little late getting started on their annual WAR ON CHRISTMAS bitch-fest this year. Perhaps they’re too busy adoring Trump and got distracted, but I’m sure they’ll get to it sooner or later. It is, after all, a true Christmas tradition for them.
From all of us here at SEB, here’s hoping you have a spooky and safe Halloween.
We’ve got our candy cauldron filled with a couple of bags, down a bit from last year, because now that we have a house we actually get some kids that drop by. I don’t have a proper pumpkin this year, but I do have a fog machine to put behind the bushes. We’ve added a little to our Halloween decorations this year too. It was raining this morning, but it looks like it’ll just be overcast this evening so I expect we should see at least a few kids before the evening is done.
This is an exciting day for me because, as far as I’m concerned, this is the official kick off of the holiday season. I am already thinking about possibly getting some outdoor lighting up for Christmas this coming weekend. The weather has been colder than usual as of late so I’d like to get some done before the snow starts flying.
But for now I’ll be looking for little monsters to come knocking this evening demanding treats.
It’s almost Halloween which means there’s a lot of parties taking place both at home and at work. It also means there’s a lot of poor decisions on what would make for a good costume being made. For some folks the old standbys of vampires and werewolves and Freddy Krueger are just too passé these days. So they try to come up with something really unique.
Take this dad for example. He and his young son are history buffs and so they teamed up for a historical costume, but he might have wanted to spend a little more time thinking things through before deciding to dress himself as a Nazi officer and his son as mini-Hitler:
According to reports, the dad from Kentucky tried to justify his decision to dress his child up as the Nazi leader, and criticised those who ‘threatened’ him and his son at a local trick or treat event on Thursday.
He wrote: “Tonight grown adults threatened a child over his costume. Threatened his mom and dad as well. Threatened to rip his outfit off of him screaming obscenities, scareing (sic) a small child.
“Anyone who knows us knows that we love history, and often dress the part of historical figures,’ he wrote in a post that has since been deleted.
It would be easy to jump to conclusions about the motivation Nazi dad had in deciding this was an appropriate father/son Halloween costume, but I’m the sort that’s willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the two of them really are history buffs and were just trying to express that love with a really bad choice. He goes on to say:
“Tonight as we walked we saw people dressed as murderers, devils, serial killers, blood and gore of all sorts. Nobody batted an eye. But my little (son) and I, dress as historical figures, and it merits people not only making snide remarks, but approaching us and threatening my little 5-year-old boy,’ he wrote in the tone deaf posting.
“First off, its none of your business. Second, how dare you! I mean How dare you threaten a child. Me, its one thing, but my child? You are messing with fire.”
I also agree that if anyone did threaten his kid that that would be way out of line… but, dude! Seriously? You didn’t for a single moment stop and think that maaaaaybe this might be a bad idea? Here’s the thing you may not be getting here: There are still people alive who somehow managed to survive the Holocaust and, even though we’re talking about something that ended 73 years ago, it’s probably still a little soon to be an appropriate Halloween costume. You want to dress up as a historical figure responsible for untold slaughter? Try Genghis Khan.
On second thought, that’s probably a bad idea too.
Anyway, Nazi dad has since taken down his FB rant and apologized saying: “I think it was in bad taste for me to let my child to wear that, probably for me to wear that. It didn’t occur to me. I thought it was a bad decision on my part.” I could probably accept this as just some clueless dude who didn’t think his costume idea all the way through. That was until I saw the full content of his rant on Facebook which concluded with: ‘Yes, liberalism is alive and well. And we had the dis-pleasure of dealing with the fruits of the so called “Tolerant Left”‘. Now I’m not so sure it was as much cluelessness as it was someone upset they got called out for letting their Nazi freak flag fly.
Then we have this woman in Iowa who maybe might want to be a little more skeptical of Halloween costume ideas from Megyn Kelly:
Linda Hayes, vice president of the district’s school board, told the Quad-City Times that the decision to do blackface — and then have the photos shared online — is harmful for minority students.
“I cannot clearly articulate how offensive and appalling it is to people of color,” she said, according to the newspaper. “In light of our recent developments within the district, this was in very poor taste, not to mention totally out of line with regard to professionalism.”
Ms. Luloff didn’t not respond to a request for comment on her costume choice so, again, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she just really loved the character of Lafawnduh. I’ve never seen Napoleon Dynamite so I have no idea what the character was like. It’s also possible she’s ignorant of the racist history of blackface.
That doesn’t excuse her thoughtlessness, but it’s sounding like she may end up paying a high price for her ignorance so I’m not going to heap too much criticism on her:
“The district strives to provide a quality education enriched by our diverse community, in a fair and supportive environment for all,” the statement read. “The images run counter to the respect, values, and beliefs the district promotes and should not be a reflection on the District as a whole.
“This situation is not taken lightly by any member of the board,” it continued. “The district will determine how to best address the matter after further investigation.”
I admire your bravery, Ms Luloff, if not your reasoning ability. The last person to pull off blackface in recent history was Robert Downey Jr. in the movie Tropic Thunder and it was a risky move that only worked because the film actually satirizes it.
I get that everyone wants a unique and clever costume for Halloween, but you could save yourself a lot of trouble if you just stuck with the classics. At the very least, you should stop to ponder if there’s any chance your choice might offend a significant portion of your fellow humans either because it perpetuates racist caricatures or draws inspiration from one of the worst genocides in human history before committing to it.
I’ve always enjoyed the holidays and while Christmas is the one I focus the most attention on, I’ve been very excited to have a house to decorate for Halloween too. Our collection of Halloween decor is still small compared to Christmas, but we’re slowly adding to it. I have a white jack o’ lantern I picked up at a Cracker Barrel years ago that has an orange light bulb that flickers on and off. A couple of different door/wall hanging items, a lantern with a haunted house motif that I swap out for the usual solar lantern on the shepherd’s hook next to the front porch, and a fake tombstone with skull and skeleton arms that’s new this year. You get the idea.
The one decoration I’m most excited about, however, is one I’ve owned the longest. It’s only a couple of years younger than I am and it fits in nicely with my retro house. An original Pumpkin Scarecrow blow mold from the Empire Plastics Company circa 1969. Check it:
How friggin cool is that? Still glows like he’s powered by a nuclear reactor. This will be his first Halloween in a couple of decades because he was packed away in boxes that were, until last summer, last stored in my Mother-in-Law’s basement. This will be his year to shine anew. In part because he has a brand new light fixture inside him as the original was lost ages ago.
He’s not particularly collectable — the company made tons of them and you can find him on eBay for $15 or less depending on the condition he’s in — but he’s definitely nostalgic for me. The fact that I’ve had him for almost my entire life adds to that. OK, I’m not sure he was “mine” back when I was a kid, but he’s been with me for a long time and I’m putting him back into service.
I hope to pick up a fog machine before the big day arrives as well. I used to have one, but forgot to empty it out one year after the evening was over and the fluid gummed it up. I’ve not gotten into the Halloween colored string lights yet as that’s too weirdly close to Christmas decor for me, but I’m softening on it. As I get more stuff put up I’ll probably do another entry with a few more pics.
Help me out here, the year is still 2018, right? I only ask because apparently the folks at FOX & Friends First are very alarmed by the fact that smartphones have cameras on them. Cameras that can record video clips. Cameras that can record video clips of police officers. Almost like, *GASP!*, BODY CAMERAS!
To be fair, they’re freaking out over a shortcut some dude came up with for the iPhone that makes recording an encounter with the police very easy by simply saying “Hey Siri, I’m being pulled over.”
Here’s why this is stupid: First, cell phones have had cameras capable of recording video since at least 2005, though video recording capabilities wouldn’t become commonplace until a few years later. The original iPhone, for example, had a 2MP camera and couldn’t record video. Still, it’s easily been doable for over a decade now.
Second, being able to start recording a video with a voice command has been a thing since at least 2014. With my Pixel 2 in my shirt pocket all I need to say is “OK Google, record a video,” and it will launch the camera app in video mode and start recording immediately. In most of my shirt pockets the phone is just tall enough to peak over the top of the pocket. This makes it trivally easy to start a recording without making it obvious that I’m doing so. At least so long as the target is out of earshot as I have to issue the command and the phone acknowledges that it’s launching the app. Once I stop recording my phone is set to immediately back it up to my Google Photos account. The one drawback to this is that if it’s been awhile since you unlocked the phone then you may need to unlock it before it’ll start the app, but with the fingerprint reader that’s pretty easy to do.
Third, this isn’t something that can only be done on the newest iPhones as the report above suggests. It’ll work on any iPhone running iOS 12 and the Shortcuts app. It’s not even the only shortcut that’ll do this. The I Got Pulled Over shortcut is also available.
The big innovation here is that the Police shortcut pauses music you may be playing, turns down the brightness on the iPhone, turns on “do not disturb” mode, starts recording with the front facing camera and sends out a text message to a friend letting them know where you are and that you’re recording a police encounter. Guess what? There have been apps that will do similar things for quite some time now.
On Android there’s Legal Equalizer which will text a contact of your choice, record the encounter and upload it to cloud storage, advise you of your rights and what to say, and even help find a lawyer.
Also, there is the Mobile Justice app developed in association with the ACLU which has been around since 2012. There are multiple versions of this app as each is specific to a state (here is the link for Mobile Justice: Michigan on Android and here’s the iPhone version). This app is more for activists as in addition to recording video and uploading straight to the local chapter of the ACLU, it has the ability to let you know when someone else is involved in a police encounter nearby so you can act as a witness.
That’s just two examples of dozens of apps. The point being that this isn’t anything new. So why is FOX acting like this is some shocking new affront to the police? Well, it turns out that lots of news organizations are reporting on it because the shortcut has shot up to become the third most popular one available at the moment. Business Insider did an article on it where they even show you how to make the shortcut yourself, USA Today wrote about it, Car and Driver got in on it, etc. and so on. The difference here is that FOX & Friends First decided to play it off as something bad because it’s FOX News: Propaganda Arm of the GOP since 1996.
As many of you know, I cut my video gaming teeth on the original Atari 2600 — or at least the Sears branded version of it — so I remember the good old days (ha!) of 8 bit gaming. Had you shown 10 year old me what current generation video games would be like, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
These days, video games have advanced to the point where highly detailed 3D worlds full of NPCs and tons of interactive objects are the norm. Naturally, our expectations of what a game should look and play like have risen accordingly, but there are times when I think we’ve gotten a little spoiled by the riches of modern gaming.
Take, for example, Marvel’s Spider-Man. Which has a brand new game launching on the PS4 today. I’ve been licking my chops waiting for this title to drop as the E3 demo from last year looked fantastic and it’s going to be a bit before I can get my hands on it. Probably not until Christmas as we’re at that point in the year that I tend to stop buying games for myself lest I screw up someone’s Christmas gift for me. It’s gonna be difficult to be patient because the demos I’ve seen are amazing. Which is why I’m surprised to find out some gamers are complaining that the game has been downgraded.
Apparently, it all started with a post on Reddit that was just the screenshot I’ve included below. As you can clearly see, Spider-Man’s suit isn’t as shiny in the shot from the release version of the game as it was in the E3 demo. Also, where’d all that water go?
Thus started the conversation about how the release version of the game had been “downgraded” graphically. Presumably for performance reasons. I say “conversation”, but that’s probably being way too generous. Basically, some fans went apeshit and proclaimed loudly that they were going to cancel their preorder and so on and so forth.
Eventually someone took to Twitter to send the screenshot to the developer, Insomniac Games (who are responsible for some of the best Playstation games ever including the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series) and asked why they downgraded the graphics to which Insomniac replied that they didn’t downgrade anything. Which didn’t really help and the “debate” raged on.
To be fair to the folks crying foul, there is a rich history in the video game industry of final releases that didn’t live up to the demos that developers had used to build up hype for the game. Probably one of the best known examples, that also helped sell a lot of PS4s in anticipation of its release, was Watch Dogs which allowed players to live out their super-hacker dreams in a GTA-style open world. When it was unveiled in 2012 the graphics in the demo were amazing, but the final release looked more like a port from the PS3 than the next gen title it was supposed to be.
Another example is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The initial footage wowed gamers in 2014 so gamers were surprised when the 2015 release had graphics that had been pared back. It was still an incredible looking game and it went on to great success, but there was no denying it didn’t live up to the initial footage even after developers released a patch that improved things.
Maybe it’s because I’m old and I come from a time when ads for games often didn’t use actual screenshots or had simulated representations on TV, but even with the examples above I think folks are being nitpicky and this is especially true with the just released Marvel’s Spider-Man. Sure, I was underwhelmed by Watch Dogs once I got my hands on it, but that was due more to the fact that the gameplay wasn’t quite as varied as they had suggested. As for The Witcher 3, I had no problems with the release version’s graphic fidelity, but that hasn’t stopped me from only playing it for a few hours. For fuck’s sake, I played Spider-Man on the Atari 2600 and it looked like this:
Granted, that’s an 8 bit game written in just 4K memory circa 1982, but it wasn’t half-bad for what it was. It played a bit like the arcade game Crazy Climber in that it had bad guys showing up in windows who would cut your web lines and bombs from the Green Goblin you had to defuse while scaling the building. By comparison, the amount of detail and just sheer things you can do in Marvel’s Spider-Man is insane. Who the fuck cares if it isn’t quite as detailed as the E3 demo from last year? You get to swing from spider webs around a detailed 3D recreation of New York City beating the shit out of bad guys, finding collectables, and enjoying a narrative story that is more than a blurb on the back of the box the game came in. OH NOES! THE PUDDLES AREN’T AS DETAILED AS THE DEMO! I’M NOT PLAYING THIS CRAP!
There’s a group out there called Digital Foundry that came together in 2004 specifically to analyze video games and settle arguments such as the one about downgraded graphics in the final release of a title. A couple of days ago they released their video on Marvel’s Spider-Man and they argue that not only is the final release not downgraded, but it’s an improvement over the E3 demo in a lot of areas.
I don’t watch a lot of their videos, but I thought I’d check this one out given all the noise that’s been made about it. It was during that viewing that it occurred to me that video gamers have gotten spoiled. The DF folks do an amazing job of pointing out all the details that are in this game and the methods used to achieve those effects. You don’t have to fully understand what a Cube Map is to appreciate what it adds to the visuals when it’s pointed out to you. For a game that expects you to spend a lot of time swinging between buildings high in the air, there’s an amazing amount of detail at street level when you opt to just walk around a bit. From the number of unique and varied NPCs to the amount of traffic to the various storefronts, this looks and feels like a living world.
The DF folks show where you can see how the underlying game engine works to compromise between realism and playability in areas such as the reflections of other buildings in the windows of the one you’re climbing up and it’s the sort of thing you’re only likely to notice if you were looking for it. In the heat of gameplay it’ll probably never catch your attention and it shouldn’t matter that much if it does if the gameplay is fun. That stupid Atari 2600 game was as basic as you can get, but it was Spidey’s first video game and it kept us entertained for awhile and it’s nothing compared to this. Here, check out Digital Foundry’s video for yourself:
Isn’t that amazing? The detail on his costume alone is something that would’ve been impossible 10 years ago. It’s also a detail you’ll probably notice once before your eye is overwhelmed by all the visual candy on display. Now we’re on the verge of having real-time ray tracing in video games that only looks to make for another big leap in visual quality as it’ll help to eliminate some of the limitations current games have to work around.
All of the reviews I’ve read for Marvel’s Spider-Man have it pegged as arguably the best Spider-Man game ever made. So quit yer bitchin’ and appreciate what you’ve been offered here. While you’re at it, get the hell off of my lawn!
I’ve not posted anything in awhile so when I came across this YouTube video by Aaron Alon I thought it would make a good SEB post.
In it he demonstrates just how weird English would sound if it were phonetically consistent the way that languages like Japanese are. He gives examples of how each vowel can have multiple sounds then picks one and proceeds to use that single vowel sound for all instances of that vowel in the words that follow. Things get increasingly weird as the video progresses.
Man, time sure does fly when every day is a new waking nightmare, eh? Once again I’ve allowed myself to get sidetracked and not blog at all for a whole month. Part of it is there’s so many terrible things happening with our government right now that I don’t have time enough to finish one entry about the latest outrage before two more have occurred. So I end up trashing what I was working on to try and write something that covers the latest shitstorm and nothing ever gets finished.
So too have my attempts at vlogging and streaming fallen by the wayside. I’ve got no excuse not to be doing those things as I have a pretty good setup for it these days. I just haven’t been doing it. Sadly, I’ve fallen off the bike riding bandwagon as well. It’s been over a month since I last got on that and peddled around. I step outside and it’s like walking into an oven and I turn around and go right back inside.
This week I’m on vacation and the only really notable thing I’ve done was had my first, small LAN party yesterday. Friends Bob, Greg, and Andy came over and we were all really bad at surviving in Left4Dead 2 and then, after Bob had to leave, we played a little bit of Diablo 3 as I helped Andy get back into playing it.
Other than that it’s been eat, work, play video games, sleep, repeat for the past few weeks. Anne has been unemployed so we’ve not been going out and doing things because the budget is tight. All in all, other than keeping up with politics, my life has been relatively quiet. I will try not to let it go a month without posting something again.