Thursday, January 29, 2009

Want to Poke a Dead Hornet's Nest?

Remember that MrFreeThinker troll who did a hit and run? He's apparently signed up for a poorly done blog for fake atheists. Want to poke at some of their stuff to show how skepticism is really done? I haven't gotten any replies to the comments I've left.

Seems one of my pokes got some minor bit of attention. It was just one question three minutes later, so I doubt he read my long comment. MWChase and I are working him, now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


PZ brings this story to my attention. Absolutely disgusting and, unfortunately, not surprising.

And throw this on the fire from GIFS. Much the same reaction.

Doggerel #31.1: "Looks Like I've Touched a Nerve!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

A lot of woos like to make a big deal about how irritated we skeptics can get in a discussion. The more trollish types seem to engage in their behavior specifically to irritate us, especially the drive-by sorts.

Other woos seem to think that we're supposed to be, or seek to be emotionless robots. They take our passion as signs that we're breaking down from contradictions. It's not. We're emotional, passionate beings. We just take steps to make sure that our passion doesn't contradict reason.

There are times when it's perfectly logical to get angry with someone. That's a big part of how I became a skeptic: By demonstrating their rage against apathetic woos while continuing to make reasoned arguments, many skeptics convinced me to pay close attention to them. At the time, I didn't have any reason to get annoyed at woos. When the skeptics applied pressure on both fronts, however, I saw them employ this bit of doggerel. Instead of their intended goal of making it look like the skeptics fell into robotic logic bombs, I ended up reading it as the woos picking up the Villain Ball, smugly commenting, "Your emotions make you weak."

Of course, they always neglect to think of reasons for our ire other than having our worldviews allegedly challenged. We could be annoyed by their mannerisms. We could be annoyed by the fact that they're defending known charlatans. We could be annoyed by the fact that they don't understand, or even don't read our arguments. We could be annoyed by having words put into our mouths. There is no shortage of alternate reasons for anger.

It doesn't matter how passionate someone is when they argue, how angry they get, or if they end up throwing a temper tantrum: If they present sound arguments, those arguments remain sound. No amount of psychobabble about an arguer will change the evidence or the soundness of his position.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

D&Dify Some Stuff

Way, way, way back, I got an issue of InQuest magazine that included a bit where they converted Magic cards into D&D spells, monsters, and such... For 2nd edition. Wow, that really was way, way, way back. Anyway, the concept stuck in my head for a bit, and made a few brief returns when I'd get an urge to be creative with Craft Construct. Anyway, I'm going to list some stuff, and see what some of you can come up with for Magic-to-D&D translations.

Baku Altar: Think I could use something like this for a way villains could make minions.
Basalt Monolith: It's a crappy card, but I like monoliths.
Glasses of Urza: Peek!
Teferi's Puzzle Box: Card store I used to go to had gimmick $2 tournaments, often where an artifact or enchantment was treated as always in play. This was one of the fun ones.
Thran Forge: Roboticize!
Thran Turbine: Arcane engine of some sort?

Artifact Critters:
The Arcbound Critters. I like the idea behind the Modular power.
Assembly Worker: Critters that support one another.
Chronatog Totem: My sand wizard is thinking of expanding some stuff into time magic. Like sands through an hourglass.
Darksteel Brute: You know, I kind of like stuff in Magic that's not a creature, but becomes one on demand.
Jhoira's Toolbox: A cute robotic bug that carries tools in it. Hmm...
Loadstone Myr: Hmm... Maybe a character can use one of their daily item powers to give it a boost?
Mobile Fort: Hmm... Mobile base of operations.
Onulet: Another gimick tournament critter that showed up: Gimmick was that players would start with random artifact creatures on their side. I got this one.
Serrated Biskelion.
Triskelavus: Flying machine with detatchable fighters?
Wall of Junk: Might work as a defensive spell.
Workhorse: Equine golem trading its strength for magic. Hmm...
Yotian Soldier: No idea why, but I like this critter. Think I've only played it once, when I was learning.

Anyway, that's the Magic stuff. While you're here, like some thoughts on some magic items and possible artifacts.

3 big honking pearls: Sacred treasures for three isolated tropical islands. No idea what sort of powers they should have. Tied in with some bloodsports they played centuries ago in competition with each other for glory.

Efreet Ring: Bit more detail on this one in my mind. It's one of a group of rings made by master goldsmiths, topped with rubies shaped into flames. Each holds the spirit of a manipulative efreet who gives advice to the wearer that usually leads to backstabbing if followed. Those who ignore this advice sometimes end up as piles of ash. These rings are more or less minor artifacts.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Honest, if Rhetorical, Question

Many IDiots like to claim that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a theist, often following up with all sorts of straw men about evolution and physics. Let's compare:

Creationists say the universe came from a magic man that randomly popped into existence from nothing with infinite power, infinite intelligence, and presumably infinite complexity to accommodate the other features. Oh, and that he randomly decided to make the universe look exactly like what scientists say it really is, and all to dick around with us.

Scientists have detailed, testable theories that obey consistent laws, detailing many of the steps, all the way back to the Big Bang. Before that, we don't know.

Which takes more faith?: That an infinitely complex, omniscient, omnipotent stone idol just popped in from nowhere, or "we don't know, yet."

Recommendation Request

I'm thinking of doing a post on "Lessons we've learned from Jack Chick" and covering a slew of his severely broken aesops. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back to an Old Friend

Stopped by a local comic and game shop and decided to build a new Magic deck. Went through their commons and just grabbed every green, blue, or artifact card that caught my attention. I should probably unpack my old collection, just in case it hasn't melted over the summers.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Doggerel #175: "But Woos and Wooism Have Contributed to Science!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One popular rhetorical question many of my fellow skeptics are fond of is "How has Creationism contributed to our knowledge of the universe?" Invariably, someone comes along, utterly misses the point, and rattles off a list of scientists who happen to be Creationists.

Imagine this: An computer scientist/engineer designs a revolutionary new type of computer circuit. Within a few decades, the technology grows to the point that it allows the creation of truly intelligent androids, blindingly fast computers, etcetera. Somewhere, a skeptic rhetorically asks, "How has Holocaust denial contributed to our understanding of the world?" and someone pipes up by saying it contributed to great technological advances because that inventor just happened to be a Holocaust denier.

That sounds absurd on its face, doesn't it?

To go back to the Creationism example: Just because some Creationists have contributed to science doesn't mean that Creationism has had any contribution. Scientific theories contribute because they explain how the world works, and allow us to make accurate predictions we can use. Creationism hasn't done that. "It's that way because a random deity felt like making it that way" doesn't help us understand the world. It doesn't make predictions. It doesn't explain why things are this way, but not another.

Let's use an example of a Creationist scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. He also dabbled in alchemy. How has alchemy contributed to our understanding of the world? Now imagine someone who believes everything is made of four elements comes along and says Newton was a scientist. That doesn't make turning lead into gold by chemical reaction any more plausible. The four elements theory doesn't contribute to our understanding of the world. The argument's crap.

When Newton worked out the math for gravitation, studied optics, and contributed to mathematics, he was doing science. He didn't arrive at those things by cloistering himself in a monastery and extract them from the first chunk of a bronze age book. He did it by gathering data and applying math and logic to it.

Yes, We Can!

Yeah, it's a little over the top, but I still love it.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Faith is many things.

Faith is the hubris that allows a fool to say, "I am a god, and I can have absolute certainty in what I believe."

Faith is the obedience that allows a monster to justify his crimes by saying, "I was only following divine orders."

Faith is the gibberish that allows the useless to claim, "I and my ancient book are the true source of morality, not the compassion in a good person's heart."

Faith is the opiate that allows the oppressed to say, "I don't need to fight this injustice, everything will work out."

Faith is the double standard that allows the hypocrite to say, "I can tolerate evils among my own that I would never accept in anyone else."

Faith is the roulette wheel that allows the occultist to say, "These particular technologies are inherently immoral, regardless of the help they can provide."

Faith is the pair of dice that allow the obsessive to say, "These arbitrarily chosen things are wrong just because."

Faith is the worldview that allows the postmodernist to say, "Reality changes for me when the truth is inconvenient."

Faith is the blindfold that allows the mystic to say, "My beliefs have no evidence, my beliefs have no logic, and this is both right and good."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Foundation of Woo: The Perfect Conspiracy

I haven't done anything for that wiki Akusai put together, so I thought I'd lay out a thought here for critique and approval: One of the foundational assumptions I find in a lot of woo is the idea that a giant, "Perfect Conspiracy" is possible.

A Perfect Conspiracy is the idea that a staggeringly large organization can carry out complex operations without leaving any evidence of their activities. This clearly violates Occam's razor by positing two new, unnecessary entities: The activity and its coverup. These entities are typically unnecessary because the conspiracy theory usually exists to explain why everything looks like there was no conspiracy: If the conspiracy theory is true, the predicted evidence is the same as the predicted evidence if the conspiracy theory is false.

Additionally, there are many costs that make such a conspiracy implausible:
Money for materials, tools, etcetera, to perform the operation.
Money for false evidence to cover up the operation.
Money to collect and conceal or destroy evidence of the real activity.
Money for silencing potential whistleblowers through bribes, assassinations, and threats.
Money for paying willing members or people willing to work without being paid.
Time and planning to ensure the activity and the cover up don't leave evidence behind.
Time for logistical planning.
Time and money to quickly conceal or discredit leaks that do occur in the information age.
Time and money to silence experts who find inconsistencies in the cover story.

In order for the conspiracy to remain hidden, the masterminds must know almost absolutely how every potential leak will react: They must know for certain that they assassinate those who cannot be bought or threatened. They must know for certain that those they pay off will not later confess anyway. They must know those who they threaten will not grow courageous enough to speak out.

It's Almost Over!

Divine Command Theory is Crap

I'm sure you all know the standard complaints about Divine Command Theory. I'm going to be a-rambling in some of those directions and a few others.

In the real world, people can reason what the most moral action is. We can talk about who it helps, who it hurts, why some costs or sacrifices are acceptable, why some aren't, the dangers of some precedents and so on. We can ask all those questions and make our decisions based on the answers. With DCT, however, there is no reasoning. Morality is arbitrary. You look at the stone idol's dice roll and look at the charts. If the charts don't cover a scenario, you have to do crazy jury-rigging to make 'em fit. No Rule Zero to let you figure out what makes things the most fun for all of the players. Just follow the charts, no matter how crazy or impractical the result is.

When a stone idol that (allegedly) randomly popped into the universe, was randomly given powers from nowhere, including randomly having a rule saying that it can make up new rules (the laws of physics, magic), I don't see any reason it'd need a "transcendent mind" (whatever that means) in order to make up morality. The arbitrary standards it makes up don't have any reason to add up to anything, except maybe this random being's amusement.

Take a look at some of the "transcendent" morality this stone idol is often associated with: If a rapist's victim is unengaged, he gets to marry her. Stone your kids if they're disobedient. No multi-species plowing. No fabric blends. No church if you have a certain bit of flesh injured. Certain (nonexistent) abilities randomly labeled "supernatural" by postmodernist hippies are wrong.

...Random ass shit, isn't it?

This thread is hereby WILD!

A Bug Question

My house is apparently infested with moths. No matter how many we get rid of, I keep seeing a new one show up in my room within an hour or two. My parents make similar complaints. Where could they be coming from?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Need Some Sega Tapes

Last week, I visited the local Game Xchange while waiting for my brother's pizza to finish cooking for pickup. I spotted a little thing made by these guys: An NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis crammed into one system. Cleaned out some space from my TV stand, and don't have to worry about bad picture from an old, old RF switch.

Back in the day, I was very heavily on the Nintendo side of the console wars and never got a Genesis. So, now that I've essentially got one, any recommended games?

Also saw that they had Atari 2600 cartridges there. Anyone ever made a compact version of the 2600?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jesus Versus Roswell

Poked that troll's blog again for the lulz, and ended up thinking of a comparison not long after. What's the difference between Jesus's resurrection and the Roswell alien incident? Not a whole lot where I stand.

1) Believers cite "eyewitness testimony." Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. That's why science relies on forensic evidence whenever it's available. Eyewitnesses can lie. Eyewitnesses can misremember. Eyewitnesses can misinterpret what they see and adjust their memories to line up with what they thought happened. Of course, if some woo shows up, they're going to misrepresent that as me saying those eyewitnesses were crazy. Not necessarily. Those are perfectly normal mortal failings. Our brains evolved to survive, not to arrive at scientific fact or to objectively record what we see like a celluloid camera is. They've been (a little more than) good enough to ensure we've got food in our bellies and safety from predators. That's why we rely on objective, verifiable scientific evidence and not subjective memory.

2) Believers cite "eyewitness testimony" recorded long after the event. Do I really have to go into this? I remember one show that was about debunking Roswell. They had a group of people escorted by a faux group of military people while wearing helmet cameras. One month later, they were talking about being lead past unknown equipment, and one said a guard raised his rifle at him. The cameras, meanwhile, played back showing only trees and calm guys in uniform. Now imagine someone making claims decades later. Now imagine someone writing down about what someone else said centuries earlier, and can't even get straight who was there. Now imagine the possibility that those people doing the writing want you to buy their book or go to their church.

3) Believers typically already buy into unfalsifiable magic. Jesus, like all magic men, has a Green Lantern Ring. Aliens have Do Anything Robots and equally flexible spaceships. There's no limits to the powers people will invoke to explain anything, while failing to explain why it didn't happen another way. The eyewitnesses to these things typically don't understand anything about how the universe works, but they believe in magical things that can be invoked to explain anything, be it super-aliens, omnipotent men in black, angels, or spirits. So, if these people see something they can't explain, instead of seeking out known explanations for the phenomena, they'll just immediately jump to "magic." It doesn't help that there's no shortage of fantasy-prone people, especially if you live in a culture that values "visions" or "repressed memories."

4) Believers expect us to make special exceptions to logic for their case. Conspiracy nuts often ask me to just throw away Occam's razor and not talk about evidence for aliens because the MIB covered up all the evidence to make it look exactly the same as if it never happened. And that this new entity leaves no evidence of its own. For Jesus, they expect people like me to believe that the religious people who allegedly saw the resurrected Jesus were somehow more special and more objective than all the "witnesses" to non-biblical miracles and magic throughout the centuries, and thus we should throw out all the questions we'd ask about the incident we would ask for any flying saucer cult's claims.

There's probably a lot more. I might expand this post, depending on comments. Scientology tag included just because there's not too much difference between them and the standard alien nuts. That and it might provoke some painful thoughts in the Christian fundies who don't want to be associated as equals with them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just What the Hell Does "Transcendent" Mean?

Well, had a guy show up by the name of "MrFreeThinker," though he certainly doesn't seem to fit with what most people would think of from that title. Normally, I'd just talk about this within the comment thread, but lately, I've felt the need to make main posts about a lot of pet peeves about religion, fundies, and so forth. So, here I go.

What the hell does "transcendent" mean? What is it about a "transcendent mind" that gives it authority on matters of morality? I don't see it. It's probably for the same reason I don't see why priests and the crop of people who call themselves theologists would be experts on gods that might exist. I see no rhyme or reason to all of that.

Near as I can tell, "transcendent" is used something like this: The deity isn't bound by any rules, so he can randomly make up morality that we can't understand. From there, it's not a far leap for any fundie to randomly claim that his deity told him to perform an atrocity, and no amount of "mere mortal" logic can convince him what he's doing is wrong. The arbitrary whims of a shadow of a vapor become more important than questions like "who will this help?" and "who will this hurt?"

103rd Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Bug Girl's place.

Open thread as usual, but captioning that moth flying about my room is FORBIDDEN!

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Weekend Temptation

Got Kafka settled into my brother's new apartment. Had some decent chats, finished God Delusion and FINALLY beat that one level in Patapon, moving to finish the game and see IT. Of course, IT wasn't anything compared to what I saw at Wimberly Glassworks:

They had leftovers from their annual "slightly irregular" sale. I got the big cylinder and the little horn as a bonus. Parents then got a (regular) $200 bowl and some earrings, so the lady at the checkout was authorized to give us a bonus irregular, and I picked out the smaller cylinder we all liked. Those stripes in the middle turn a dark blood red when you shine a light through them. We're going to fight over it.

The task I give you, dear readers, is to come up with some ideas for what I can do with the big cylinder. I'm thinking of making it a hanging ceiling light, or seeing if I can find a floor lamp that will curve around so it'll hang. The other end (not shown) is wide open. The big concern I have is that the thing's heavy: 6.4 pounds (~2.9 kg).

Height: 14 1/4 inches
Diameter: 6 inches.
Top hole diameter: 1 3/4 inches.
Interior diameter: 5 3/4 inches

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Relativism of Faith

Workin' through The God Delusion while I'm up in Austin, helping my brother's cat settle in. Seems he also picked up that Facebook virus. Anyway, in chapter 10, Dawkins makes a good point about the cultural relativism many want us to take about faith. One of the examples given was a student who had been in school longer than his Amish upbringing allowed. His parents argued that he should be taken out of school. Even got a court ruling 7-1 in their favor. One of the positive opinions in the case said it maintained the religious diversity of our nation. Uh, what about the student's choice?

When cultural relativism covers topics like which fork you use at the dinner table, that's fine. Using slightly longer or shorter tines usually doesn't hurt anyone. When faith "diversity" is used as an excuse to hurt people or deprive them of freedoms, that's wrong. Many people don't seem to understand that.

Religion shouldn't give exemptions you couldn't obtain other ways. Believing with all your heart that your stone idol wants you to sacrifice babies on spikes shouldn't let you get away with murder. Ask anyone today, and I think they'll agree with that extreme case. But all of a sudden, many will change that when it comes to things like vaccinations, educational standards, and so forth. People have a habit of giving special privileges based on faith.

Sorry, I prefer living in a place where there is rule of law: Everyone is treated equally, unless there's a good, solid reason to do otherwise. Wishy-washy faith relativism doesn't qualify.

The Magic Middle Man

Deities really don't solve much, do they?

What's the basis of morality?

Moral philosopher: Well, that's a complicated question. Arguably, it stems from an agreement between the members of society... [writes a detailed book]

IDiot: Some magic man in the sky randomly made it up!

Where did the universe come from?

Cosmologist: We aren't sure, yet. We've been working on the math with M-theory, and think our universe might have come from some strange events in a bigger universe that's hard to understand in our concept of time. This is, of course, just a hypothesis at this point, and we'll have a better idea when we slam some particles together harder than we've ever slammed particles together before.

IDiot: A magic man randomly popped in from nothing and did it all!

How did the complexity of life arise?

Molecular biologist: Here's a lot of complicated chemical interactions that obey the laws of thermodynamics.

IDiot: A magic man of infinite complexity just happened to fall together in a human-like manner and create a less complex universe!

See what I mean?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Yay! Recent Comments are Working!

Figures they'd fix it right after I did a search to find out it's their fault and making a post on it.

Those Stupid Stickers

PZ posted about another school trying to slap disclaimers on science textbooks. This is insane. You might as well say it about all of science, history, and heck, knowledge. You've probably heard rants similar to the one I'm about to go on, but I'll keep typing below the fold.

Seriously, fundies, why single out evolution? There are lots of things we know contradict what your religion says. Germ theory of disease, for example, contradicts the evil spirit "theory" of disease. Thermodynamics also contradicts Creationism: You can't create something from nothing, which is exactly what Creationism posits.

By the way, any of your redneck sector finish building a perpetual motion machine in their back yard? Any of your priests get your stone idol to create complex life by chanting an invocation and waving goat testicles over your head?

Seriously, that's the sort of thing evolution is up against. A complex theory with many successful predictions, zero contradicting evidence, and amazing explanatory power is up against people who believe and attempt to practice what is essentially witchcraft. Really. It's just that crazy when I try to wrap my head around it. We've sent people to the moon, stopped many diseases dead in their tracks, slam particles together at near light speed to figure out what everything's made of, and send encoded messages around the world with little plastic fold-up boxes like the one in front of me...

...And yet, we still have people in funny hats and robes speaking in dead languages to perform alleged metaphysical transmutations of bread products where they forgot the yeast to turn it into little pieces of a magic man who allegedly participated in a blood sacrifice to another thunderbolt wielding magic man in the sky. There's something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

That Frikkin Recent Comments Thing

I've slogged through some help forums, and it seems there are a LOT of people who are having this problem. The Blogger crew have apparently been working on it since December 18th.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Digging Up Something D&D

A while back, I asked for some tips on making a D&D campaign, mostly with worldbuilding, and I got some helpful responses with good resources. Now, I'm trying to think of a way to expand it. Originally, I was thinking of the players deposing the local Big Bad around level of 7 or 8, and they'd be at the island setting because of shipwreck. Now I'm thinking of changing things up a little to give players some choices in the matter, since some players/characters resist Closed Circle scenarios (and I don't blame them). I'm trying to think of a way to get some level 1 characters steadily built up until plot hooks lead 'em to the island. Also got some miscellaneous stuff I could use some help in brainstorming.

The lay of the world: There are two major continents involved. The eastern one's essentially Europe, and the western one is Africa-like. They're technologically on par with each other, mostly. The islands in the original scope are in the middle between them, slightly north of the equator. They used to be used as a stopping point for inter-continental travel, but unusual incidents have gotten them a reputation for being cursed. Sailing technology developed enough that they could be safely passed by.

The islands themselves: Concept is a vague mix of Japan and Hawaii. They're very backwater, and still working on a way to produce reliable steel. When they did have contact, they tended to gather steel by gift exchanges with sailors. Magically, they're distinct from the rest of the world. Instead of arcane magic (genetic mental block), divine magic (no deities they worship), or psionics (means of developing it tightly controlled), they have magic with the elemental "power source" from animistic elemental spirits. When I was working in 3.5, I was using the Shugenja class. I'm retooling other classes appropriately.

Hook concept 1: One of the islanders barely manages to make it to the eastern continent and tries to find some adventurers to help him out. He ends up having to perform in a circus for the sake of room and board, showing off his brand of magic and performing some fake fortunetelling. The ringleader doesn't want to let him go.

Post-adventure: The islanders will be pretty much willing to let the PCs take over ruling the islands, expecting them to do a kinder job than the tyrant. I suppose his underlings could potentially survive to cause problems. There's economic opportunity as a tourist location as well as the pearls the islanders have gotten good at farming for magic and currency purposes (they sometimes use 'tile' seeded pearls as currency). Of course, if the PCs aren't the type to take over, they'll settle for showering them with gifts, which will include three giant sacred pearls I haven't settled on properties for, yet.

Suggestions for handling aquatic combat: The islanders have a natural swim speed, so some of the evil ones will try to claim that as a terrain advantage.

General suggestions for the build up will be appreciated. I have limited DM experience, and level 1 would probably be simpler to start from.

Just kind of throwing this out, so any random ideas would be appreciated.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Doggerel #174: "Not Everything is as It Seems!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Woos like to speak this line without thinking about its implications. This skeptic's response to the assertion: Well, duh!

Right now, we are in a torrential rain of tiny, invisible particles called neutrinos. Right now, we are in a sea of light we can't see: Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, and even some x-rays and gamma rays (hopefully at low, safe levels where you are). There's all sorts of such invisible things going on right now. We know our senses are limited.

But even with all our detection equipment designed to help us sense those otherwise invisible forces, skeptics know that our perceptions are flawed. Our minds naturally try to find order, patterns, and explanations. The trouble is, we're often too good at it for our own good. Some patterns we perceive don't exist. Some relationships are forced when we unknowningly bias towards confirming data points and ignore those that don't fit with perceptions.

That's why we push for scientific rigor. All the methods we push exist to minimize or eliminate biases we have as mortals. We don't just blindly trust that the world is as it seems to our initial impressions. If anyone does, it's typically the woos who spout this doggerel.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I Need Bluetooth

I'm in the market for a bluetooth headset, but I'm not sure what I need to look for. I heard a fair number of staticky ones during my brief, boring foray into Playstation@Home, though some Shadow guy apparently had one that worked well. Came with a game, I presume Warhawk.

I suppose one thing I should ask about is numbers to look for to assure good reception. I won't be taking it far from my PS3, of course. As for price, I'm hoping to find something cheap enough but still of decent quality. I'm not going to be singing operas into it, but if I'm going to be playing with people online, I'd like very clear communications.

Oh, and if you've got a PS3, go ahead and friend me or something. My PSN ID is BronzeDog.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Co-op Request & General Game Ramble

I know a lot of you aren't PS3 fans, and probably not Armored Core fans, but I thought I'd see who among my readers have a PS3 and Armored Core: For Answer. (Why didn't the localization team make it 'For an Answer' or something to de-Engrish it?)

For Answer has, according the the back of the case, more than 30 co-op missions, which seems to indicate that From Software is finally putting some effort into multiplayer enjoyment. And I'd like to try going through all of them with someone here.

My PSN ID is, appropriately, BronzeDog. My favorite AC right now is one I made named Aria, a light-midweight with emphasis on long and mid range combat. I'm going to be making a lot more designs, now that I've unlocked almost everything. So far:

Aria (Orange): Light-mid weight sniper.
Waltz (White): Light dual laser blader. (I still need blade practice)
Duet (Green): Generalized, mission oriented midweight. Might use this instead of Aria.
Overture (Red): Missile boat on a light tank frame.
Static (Gray): Heavy tank with dual chain guns.

Still in conception:

Dirge (Black): Kojima weapon emphasis. (Environmentally unfriendly)
Rondo (Brown): Bazooka/Grenade-wielding heavy.
Jitterbug (Cyan): Ultralight with shotguns or machine guns.
Nocturne (Purple): Test model for ECM and other supposedly sneaky stuff.

More suggestions will be appreciated, especially if you can tie it to a song type to name it after.

Now, you've heard me ramble about what I'd like to do with the game, I guess I should put in a quick review of Armored Core: For Answer (PS3 version). I don't know if the Lexapro might be doing some of the talking, but I've been loving this game with a passion I haven't had for Armored Core for a while. The game starts out a bit frustrating because you spend the beginning of the game without anything in the shop. You have to complete a fair number of missions before the store variety builds up enough. I had to cheese my way out of some missions, but things were going quite well in variety by the time I beat the game with the Collared ending. When I started over (with parts and such intact) and started on the ORCA path, it just got better.

Aside from the early frustration of being stuck on my choice of starter AC, my only other notable complaints at this point are:

1) The stupidity of the AI. A few too many opponents are willing to waste their ammo (especially missiles) at long range. But since online play is available, you can probably find some smart humans. Which, in AC's way, is pretty much what the game is about. Usually, missions and AIs amount to training for the bigger game.

2) The lock on can be annoying on missions. It's tighter than usual, and if you're a long range person like me, sometimes you can get occasionally get stuck on something off in the distance.

On less notable complaints, I feel like complaining about reverse joint legs getting shafted, possibly by 1.20 regulations. They've got low turning speed in general, and in AC tradition, RJs are supposed to have high turning speeds. Oh well. Fiona Jarnefeldt has a sexy pair of legs... Er, on her partner's AC. So I'm using them myself.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Real Horror

Watching the Twilight Zone New Year's Marathon. One of my favorite episodes is on right now: Nick of Time. I think it's an excellent story about the fear woo can bring into a person's life. William Shatner plays a business man named Don Carter, traveling with his wife, Pat. Their car broke down in a small town and they have lunch at a diner with novelty penny fortunetelling machines.

Don asks a few questions in jest, asking if he got his promotion, which it answers in the affirmative "It has already been decided in your favor." After a bit of celebration after getting confirmation over the phone, he asks a few questions that lead him to think it'll be dangerous to leave the diner. After nearly getting run over at 3 o'clock, when the machine 'warned' him to stay in the diner.

He grows obsessed with the machine after a couple more strange coincidences, asking it where they'll live. His wife, however manages to break him out of it by telling him that he's letting the machine run his life. They leave as another couple arrive to ask the machine questions, if they can leave the town today. Rod Serling closes.

I like this episode because you don't know if the supernatural is really involved. The responses were vague enough that you could expect to receive similar, vaguely threatening suggestions out of such a machine. And I can truly imagine someone getting roped in by it. The "villain" isn't the machine, it's fear and uncertainty, and our cognitive biases grasping for answers and explanations, no matter the source. Our minds can betray us in so many ways, and that, I find, is one of the truest sources of horror.

Frikkin' Annoyances

Well, I spent my moment of New Year's playing Armored Core, and I'm finding my groove again. Unlocked some Bernard Felix Foundation parts, and they're a corporation that does my absolute favorite thing in giant robots: Sniping. New Fire Control System with longer sighting, new arms with higher precision, new sniper rifle with faster ballistic velocity, and a new head with better lock-on cameras. So, I'm feeling quite happy.

And then I run into a walking spasm named Cube.

For those not familiar with the series, you've got missions (and now, apparently, online multiplayer co-op missions, which I'm looking forward to when I find a partner) and the arena, where you face off against an AI piloted robot built under the same rules as yours (almost). My opponent of the post was some guy named "Cube" whose backstory says it's a cyborg, and has taken down many Lynxes with his inhuman piloting abilities. Well, they're certainly inhuman.

Now, this guy wasn't really hard. His AC (er, NEXT, to use the unnecessarily updated terminology) was apparently spec'd to be an ultralight. I hate ultralights. What came in handy was his poor choice of weapon use: He used some shotgun or machine gun... to tickle me at long range. Those weapons can be very nasty at close range, but over long range, the projectiles spread out and don't do much. That's why he wasn't really hard.

But what made him frikkin' annoying was that he wouldn't stay still for an instant! The generally best evasive maneuver in the game is the quick boost. Burst of speed that costs a fair bit of energy. Apparently, Cube had energy to spare, since he'd QB side to side like crazy, zipping across my screen at close and mid range, and enough to throw off my sniper rifle's lock at long range. I was so glad I equipped a standard rifle in my other arm with a deep magazine. Without it, I would have gotten to see what happens when both players run out of ammo. (Probably settled by who has the most AP -armor points- left.) The match lasted twenty minutes and thirty-one seconds. I am so glad his armor was paper thin, too.

So, anyway, now that you've read my rant about a frikkin' annoying scene in a videogame, here's your chance: Leave your stories in the comments.