ash nazg

Kick it, Chuck: a Public Enemy review

I’ve been playing Watch Dogs.

But I’m not here to talk about that game very much, although I had fun and am still having fun.

No, I’m here to talk about I Shall Not Be Moved, by Public Enemy. As you’re driving around in-game, it’s a track that might come on your radio. And it got me thinking and I thought I would write about it.

In fact, I’m writing this review of I Shall Not Be Moved because Chuck D knew someone would write it. Go listen to it now - I’ll wait. If you need lyrics help, like I did, it’s here.

Tough, isn’t it? Dope. Old school. Chuck D is angry, I thought, when I heard it. Didn’t you think so?

And then I remembered; that’s Chuck D’s thing. He’s angry. He does angry the way Earl Scheib paints your car. It’s an everyday thing for him and it’s not at a premium. Chuck D’s angry, but it’s quality anger, and while it comes at a cost it’s not particularly expensive; it’s anger for the common man. Head noddin’. Posing. Fronting like a motherfucker.

Then I watched the video. Go ahead and re-watch it if you want - oh, no time? OK. That's how it is, these days, isn't it.

I rewatched it, gentle reader. I watched it several times because it is really an odd little construction.

That’s D, all right. Head noddin’. Posing. Fronting like a motherfucker. Public Enemy Number One. He’s older. He really is on the senior circuit. He’s old school - motel, hotel, he’s going in - but he’s not particularly proud of being old school. Look at the expression on his face. He’s seen it all, took two home and hung them on the wall, waited by the phone but everything never called. He could give a fuck - but not the way Snoop doesn’t give a fuck. Chuck doesn’t give a fuck the way a retired guy sitting on his lawn doesn’t give a fuck, he’s going to do his own thing and he really doesn’t give a damn who knows it or what you think about it. He actually seems not to care.


Flava Flav is on this track, did I mention? It’s a very different Flav. He’s old too. The years have been even less kind to him than they have to D. He was the hype man to end all hype men - he did for hype what Axl Rose did for heavy metal, killed it in the act of perfecting it - and he’s limited on this track to an almost-tentative “Kick it, Chuck.” Mr William Drayton has been in jail for crack possession, took Brigitte Nielsen on in her own turf - the place where crazy, not-too-bright white people go to have a last little dwindle of a third career - and fought her to a standstill, if not bested her outright. He had a career in reality, and reality gave him a few lumps back for his trouble.

People fucking love Flava Flav. Did you know that? I was rooting for him all along.

But on this track he is tentative. He’s back to doing the one thing, I think, that he ever really believed in - hyping the mic for his master of ceremonies, the man he believes is qualified to hold the mic: Chuck D.

And, unlike Flav, D is keeping it real. He’s holding this track down like a mad man. I don’t know if he knew this track was going to make it onto the Watch Dogs soundtrack when he laid it down. The look on his face in the video, I think he probably thought no one was ever going to hear it or see it. He even says so: what good is learning from some record / when y’all only listen to 15 seconds?

Chuck breaks composure after the first verse. He says something controversial: “the new curse word is black” - and then exhorts his DJ, “Still keep me on this track. Still keep me on this track. Don’t take me off it.” He mumbles this last. He sounds worried. As he says it, someone says, “I got you, Chuck.” It’s not Flav. Is it what’s left of the Security of the First World? Maybe. Maybe it’s Terminator X. Whoever it is, he sounds confident. He sounds pretty damn sure that Chuck D is, in fact, going to be kept on this track, and not be taken off it.

He sounds like Curtis singing “Beautiful Brother of Mine,” in fact. He sounds like Marvin singing “Talk to me.. so you can see.. What’s going on.” He sounds like brotherhood and solidarity. And suddenly you realize that Chuck has done it again. He’s pretended not to give a damn about anything just so he can put this little play on for you. So he can show you what counts. What counts is that Chuck D has a brother, this brother has Chuck D’s back, and with the power of that brotherhood and that solidarity Chuck is going to be kept on this track and he is going to continue to rhyme on this track. And that’s important.

If you’ve been listening to Chuck D for 30 years like I have - Jesus - you understand in this moment that Chuck D has not changed. Chuck D is going to teach you something and he is going to do it Chuck D’s way and you are going to understand it because of the way he teaches it to you.

Suddenly, over the entire globe, in fact: imagine kids playing Watch Dogs, hacking into Chicago’s computer systems and jacking cars in the Loop; kids who have never heard of Public Enemy because they were conceived decades after P.E. fell from the crosshairs; these kids are captivated by the incredibly odd, incredibly old school beat and by Chuck’s dominating voice and furious technique and they pull their virtual car over to the side of the virtual road and put their playlist on repeat and think to themselves “Who the hell is this guy, and what’s he spitting?”

And they turn their headphones up and prepare for a lesson.

And Chuck D. serves one up.

You know, I’ve been thinking about rappers a lot. Dr. Dre has been on my mind a lot. In 1985 he was a kid, a dope dealing small time hustler from Compton; in 1992, he wanted nothing better than a track “that you can kick back.. and smoke a fat-ass joint to. This is definitely one of those tracks.”

Dre sold Beats to Apple and pocketed $750 million on the day. He’s not quite the first rapper to make a billion, most sources estimate - but he will be in a few months.

Dre doesn’t talk much any more. He sure doesn’t spit any flows. He’s not a businessman - he’s a business, man. He’s hustlin’ for dough. He’s out of the rap game. He’s in the stocks and bonds and securities game, the mergers and acquisitions game.

What’s Chuck up to? Chuck's aim is to forget his name, he ain't famous to be famous. “All I got is my word.”

This is what he says with it:

Swarming to your art form
Because there’s a party going on
Hotel motel I’m going in (now that shit is old school, kick it, Chuck)
Don’t care what they spent
Can’t prevent the event

Some run to it
Shunned from it
Been through it
Still rock to it

And you begin to understand that Chuck - even if the only folks who show up are Black Thought’s coffee house chicks and white dudes - Chuck is still faithful to rap and he still has something to say.

What the fuck are you saying, Chuck?

After his fit of pique, he takes his own fifteen second challenge. The beat changes up - to something really weird, really marked, it gets your attention. And then Chuck states:

“On Wi-fi got you gaggin’ on Gaga, ‘pac made women cry from the very first rhyme.”

Chuck says this about ten times, as the beat builds to a really unusual crescendo. It doesn’t sound like a hip-hop beat. It sounds like a bad trip in the chillout room of an old time rave.

I understood what he said but not why he said it. Gaga - that part I got. Tupac? Chuck, the last time I really listened to what you had to say, Tupac not only wasn’t dead, he wasn’t famous yet. No one had ever heard of him. What the fuck, Chuck? Are you really getting into that West Coast dick licking thing - 18 years later? And why are you telling me that Tupac made women cry? Do you hate women now? I always wondered whether you hate white people, Chuck - whether you would even say it, if you did; do you hate women, too?

I had to look it up on the Internet. Here is what Rap Genius had to say about it:

But before I tell you what Rap Genius had to say about it - do you see? Do you see what Chuck D did to me, there? I was playing a computer game, middle-aged, white, a little overweight; tired and lonely and alone in my house after a long day of work, meaningful or meaningless work depending on how you look at it.

And suddenly I was wondering about racism and misogyny; not parroting; really thinking about it, getting on the Internet to run a search about it. Chuck D reached out over the years and the barriers and the boundaries and he kicked my brain in the ass the same way he used to do when I was 14 and every bass kick was blowing my skull in like an incendiary bomb.

It’s *hard* to do that to my brain these days. It’s old and tired and sluggish and it thinks it figured all this stuff out a long time ago. But Chuck D., apparently, still has the firepower to make it happen.

Here’s what Rap Genius said:

“Referring to modern day ‘worship’ of pop stars in comparison to the late rapper Tupac Shakur, whose music usually carried meaning and purpose e.g. womens' rights.”

Well, that’s what Chuck heard in Tupac, then. Why he wanted to bring him up. Socially conscious. A righteous prophet, agitating for change, dying too young. The Tupac who put in a star turn - quite credible one, too - in John Singleton’s “Poetic Justice.” The one who should have had limitless potential. I watched that film not knowing what it was, missed the opening credits, didn’t even realize it was ‘pac and Janet - I was riveted. Women crying, then, not from sorrow but from a different emotion - solidarity? There’s not a right answer to this one. But Chuck wants his listeners to think about it.

Rap Genius also pointed out that Lady Ga Ga’s father made his fortune selling hotel Wi-Fi and used a lot of that money to promote his daughter’s way to the vapid stardom she now enjoys.


I wonder if Chuck hoped someone would unpack this little jewel of a track. It doesn’t sound like it. Public Enemy always sounded like a bomb that was midway through going off, never a calculated, premixed product for consumption.

But I think he knew some dude was going to sit down and write this review, somewhere. He must have known.

Kick it, Chuck.
ash nazg

Making my new DirecTV RC71 remote work with my Samsung TV and Onkyo Receiver

My regular readers will understand that this is really not aimed at them; it's reference for me when my devices get wiped by an EM pulse and I need to reconfigure them; and it may be helpful for some random schmo wandering around the web.

So recently I upgraded to the HR 44 Genie receiver. I had complained several times to DirecTV that the interface lag on my nearly 10 year old box was prohibitive, but they wanted me to buy one of these receivers for $300 in order to upgrade. Finally I told them to go fish and they "transferred me to their disconnect department."

I was chatting with the disconnect guy and asked him if his department was really "Customer retention" and he said it was, so I told him, "What really cheeses me off is I've been a great DirecTV customer for years and y'all want to reward me for that by making me use this really old box." Presto, we decided not to disconnect me, he shipped me out this new one and the interface lag is gone. Gave me a pretty solid discount, too. So maybe I can watch TV again!

Anyway, the device came with this new DIRECTV RC71 Remote Control and so I thought, maybe it will be an improvement over what I'm running.

I have an older Samsung TV - along the lines of this 8000-series model, which by the way I recommend as it is awesome - try the 3D remaster of Shadow of the Colossus on it if you don't believe me - and it's running via HDMI through an Onkyo receiver similar to this one, mine's a little older but same series.

I was a little surprised at how confusing and nonintuitive the process was to figure out - something that works this well and is so easy should be better publicized. Here's how it goes:

  1. Get everything wired up and installed.
  2. The door on the right of the receiver opens downward and to the front. Slide the card in.
  3. Don't throw away the sticker rattling around in the box; it has a bunch of serial numbers on it that you need to activate the receiver.
  4. Use the phone menus at 1-800-DIRECTV to activate your receiver. It's all automated. At one point you'll have to stop saying 'yes' and 'no'; she'll make you press '1' or '2' instead.
  5. Ignore the annoying prompts to configure your remote from the receiver menus; you'll never get it configured for RF. When it asks you to configure it for RF by pushing mute+SELECT and then entering 961/ChUp, ignore it as this does not work.
  6. Instead, while the receiver is on, hold MUTE and ENTER. After a few seconds your RC71 will pair with your HR44 and enter hybrid RF/IR mode.
  7. Enter the Samsung Menu. Go to System. Turn on Anynet (HDMI-CEC) control.
  8. Enter the Onkyo Setup menu. Go to Hardware Setup -> HDMI. Turn on RIHD which allows other devices to control your receiver.
  9. Only now, after that pairing is done, do you go to the DirecTV HR44 receiver's SETTINGS and HELP -> Settings -> Program Remote -> Program TV.
  10. This is the confusing part. I wanted to program my Onkyo first. But you can't. Don't bother. Program the Samsung first; it will be relaying commands to the Onkyo. Enter your TV's model number. Mine is a UN46D6000. It found it, but there's a serious delay before it recognizes that - like two minutes, during which time the receiver thinks it has failed. Keep trying. Eventually it'll prompt you to try the Volume +/- button; when it works, you can tell the receiver it works.
  11. OK. Now, go to the DirecTV HR44 receiver's SETTINGS and HELP -> Settings -> Program Remote again. This time, you'll see "Program Audio Device" as an option. Tell it about your receiver. Omit the dashes from the model name. It didn't have my TXNR1008, but it did have the TXNR1009, almost the identical device, so I told it so. Again, it initially thought it had failed, but eventually caught on. This time it prompted me to turn the device off to see if it worked.
  12. Yes, it turns off. Now what? Now turn it back on. Your receiver didn't turn itself off - it wasn't fooled! It's still waiting for you to confirm.
  13. Confirm and you're done! You are pretty much universal on the RC71 now, although I am not sure how clever the thing is about multi-zone - I have one TV, two audio zones, and I didn't try to configure the remote to deal with my second zone as I don't see what button would be doing that.

    If you give up, this Harmony universal remote can also solve all your problems, but I don't think it's much easier than the above - in fact I think it can be a little tricky to set up too. But it will control every device known to Logitech, which is most of them.
ash nazg

recipe: fried chicken

The New York Times recently did a thing about fried chicken and it got me thinking that I would like to try it. I have now tried making it twice and thought I might share the recipe with you; it is surprisingly easy and surprisingly good. I do not feel like I have worked all the bugs out; I am journaling these recipes - particularly the dredge and the oil method - in order to keep track of what worked. The NYT are idiots so I more or less advise ignoring them, although if you wish to see what they said, the Google is your friend.

Herewith, then:Collapse )
ash nazg

DSM-V's a-comin' out, doo dah, doo dah

The anti-psychiatry movement is out in full force lately, due to the imminent release of DSM-V. Here's a Slate article reviewing a book that hops on this trend; I have read 5 or so similar articles on the topic in the past week.

A lot of folks are hopping on this bandwagon: the idea that psychiatry diagnoses are subjective. One contrast that is frequently made is to an infectious disease diagnosis. For example, this author points out "With scarlet fever, you can trace the symptoms to the presence of strepococcus bacteria in the body."

True, as far as it goes. (No one mentions the Koch postulates, which are of course the strong form of the ability to assert causation in infectious disease.) But here is something not addressed by the author or the Koch postulates: Many people have streptococcus bacteria in the body. Not all of them will develop clinical infections; not all of those who do will develop scarlet fever. Even those affected with a Group A strep infection sometimes don't develop scarlet fever. Is this of any interest to those making this analogy? It should be, because it demonstrates the limits of knowledge about illness and in particular the definitions of illness that we use. (Antibiotics are often given to asymptomatic Group A strep carriers, particularly mothers and those who have frequent contacts with the infirm; and such people, who would otherwise meet the definition of robust good health, have died of anaphylactic reactions to those antibiotics. Now are you interested in the definition of disease that we use? You should be.)

Criticizing working docs on the grounds of science is a dicey affair and every article I have read thus far is doing it wrong. Why do docs do anything? Because a patient shows up somewhere - the hospital, the clinic - a marked place where a patient-doctor encounter can occur. Most of these patients are in need of help; the vast majority are seeking help, a few have been brought for help without consent or against their will by paramedics, police, or the court system.

A patient seeking help, I find, is usually not interested in science; and when he or she is, the interest is almost always misplaced and governed by anxiety. A patient in need of help is in need of help. Help is what doctors give and diagnosis is part of the process that is used to determine what help is appropriate.

Trouble is, as we have expanded to the information society people have opened the doctor's toolkit, peeked in, and begun complaining about how it is used. No one complains about which snake a plumber uses to clear out your stopped up toilet; if the toilet flows, the plumber's methods are best left to his own sewage-reeking management, and we hope he drives away pretty soon. The doctor's process used to be similarly obscure, cloaked in medical Latin, and no one gave a damn. Nowadays everyone gives a damn; HIPPA, the supposed privacy act, in fact ensures that government and insurance have access to all rendered diagnoses, and CMS, the US de facto regulator of healthcare, won't even permit a doc to receive pay for work where the diagnosis isn't encoded by picking it from a list. Patients are encouraged to know their diagnosis and Google it, and anyone who has ever attended a cocktail party where people 40+ are present understand that the right to medical privacy is routinely waived - people prefer that EVERYONE know the sordid details of their diagnoses and treatments.

Nowhere is this more apparent than behavioral medicine, which is also called psychiatry. And we see that there is a lot of public discourse lately, about psychiatric diagnoses and how they are constructed.

For instance, much is made of the fact that in 1977 (The web seems to have gotten the idea that it was 1973) the APA repudiated their prior diagnosis of homosexuality as a behavioral disease.

You know what's been nearly eradicated since the 1970s? The parade of men through docs' clinics, saying "Doc, I can't stop having sexual thoughts about sex with other men. What's wrong with me?" Nowadays, most of those men know what the issue is, and most of them come to understand there's nothing wrong with them. Boy howdy, was that ever not the case in, say, 1972. You think those men didn't have a problem? You think it was OK, back then, for a guy to be gay and not know it and think it was an illness to be cured? Did that guy really truly not have any problem at all?

In fact, those men, men who think about sex with other men and hate themselves for it, they are still around, though there may be fewer of them. Nowadays they are looked at, not as medically ill, but, at least on the Web in articles written by wise pundits, as objects of popular pity and scorn. That's good, presumably - an improvement based on the fruits of our newly gained wisdom - because it is much better to be pitied and scorned than to try to get help from a doctor. Those guys commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate - but who cares? They were pitiful creatures to begin with. And, they've been spared the indignity of diagnosis, and that is a much higher good! We know that now!

Quibbling about disease definitions is all very high and learned, and the brilliant, masterful pundits who analyze these details for Web publication are no doubt the world's most erudite and incisive minds. I for one am grateful to receive the benefits of their staggeringly vast wisdom.

Yet, when I am confronted with the reality of a patient, complaining of symptoms, in my examination room, I am sorry to report - I weep to report - that that wisdom is not available to me, at least not in a form that I can use. Practical, specific courses of action in such a case - patients complaining of crippling anxiety preventing them from doing activities of daily life - or so depressed that they lose the ability to read and write - those practical, specific, courses of action are surprisingly absent from the clever critiques I have been reading - articles that, from their breezy tone, seem to have been dashed off in an afternoon (but which of course doubtless were inspired by decades of daily reflection upon, and study of, the topics under discussion.)

More fool I, the hapless physcian, then, when confronted with a patient who has these problems. I must endure the foul reek of their odor, because their mental health problem has interfered with their ability to clean their body. I must endure physical assault, because their mental health problem has interfered with their ability to make good decisions. I must endure the critique of their loved ones because those have read articles on the Internet pointing out that the process I am trying to go through - the healing process - is less than perfectly scientifically rigorous.

In fact, what a schmuck I am! How much better to be a Web pundit - someone who KNOWS what is right and wrong in all of these situations, and who can essay their insight briefly and then never actually worry about what to do in the situations I find myself in daily as a working physician! That guy is smart! I must, by contrast, be an idiot.

Here is something, however, that I can do that a web pundit cannot: as a working physician with the modern practical tools of psychiatry at my disposal: I can help those people who come to me for help.
ash nazg

Simcity (5): First Impressions

I have a little more free time than I used to - I've been making it for myself - and one of the things I have really been looking forward to is Simcity, the 5th iteration of the franchise that I've been playing since 1990. I bought the SimCity - Standard Edition physical copy from Amazon because there was a pre-release rebate; the digital download (same link) is what I'd buy if if I were buying it today. In any event, the ArsTechnica game guys wrote a quick set of first impressions and I am inspired by them to do likewise. I still haven't managed to play multiplayer so this is first impressions, not really fair as a review.

The server issues deserve mention; they made the front page of Google News. This is 2013. Amazon Web Services exists. Steam exists. They had a beta (although it was too limited and didn't stress the servers enough, obviously.) There is no reason that the service should have been as broken as it is, and it is badly broken and just makes for a terrible game experience here on launch week. The Origin online service is essentially a clone of Steam and EA is very well aware that Simcity is going to be a flagship game that is going to make millions of people try Origin, people who would never otherwise have touched it. I certainly will never try another Origin game; I am pretty sure that result was the exact opposite of intended.

So that has been a mitigated disaster. The servers have been down for 48 hours. But have they been totally down? No. They have been swamped enough so that you can start games, but can't play. See, the new SC is DRM'd to hell and back; you cannot do anything with it, not anything at all, without connecting to the Origin servers. There were other questionable server-based decisions: for instance, you cannot save or load a game; progress is autosaved on the servers (if they're up.) This means if you experiment with your city and fuck it up, you experience what the Ars guys call 'permadeath'. You can't revert changes to a prior version. This sucks even more than it would seem to, for reasons I'll explain in a bit. Another server problem was rolled out on day 2: 'Cheetah' speed, the highest simulation speed, was disabled. I just bought a very expensive computer with a top of the line CPU and EA nerfed my game because their servers couldn't take it? Thanks, EA.

Last word on DRM: the first paragraph of the EULA points out that I have leased the software until either I get tired of having it on my machine or until EA terminates the lease, at an unspecified time. I still play old games that I have kicking around from the 80s and 90s; this game will not be that way. It will be a piece of ephemera*. Software should be freer than this, kiddies, and I mean as in speech. 'Nuff said.

SC5 is not like other SCs. Cities are tiny; the Ars guys called them 'towns' and that's right. They are in regions; the idea is that your buddies and you all play online in a region (haven't been able to get this working, because of, you guessed it, server problems), and you can specialize your cities to complement each other. I think the idea is that if you want to turn a particular city into a health care city, or a coal mining town, or a gambling mecca, you can do that, and then offer those services to Sims in your buddies' cities. But it's hard to do that because building anything good is expensive and in order to get money you have to grow your city the way other SCs work: build I, build R to serve worker demand, build I and C for jobs, etc.

It's hard to do that in these tiny spaces! Never mind planning out a Vegas strip gambling mecca; even in the flattest city areas I feel constrained for space from the very start. I think you are supposed to bulldoze your industry once you decide where your Vegas Strip is going to be; but I have tried that and it pretty much broke my city. OK, fine, revert to the last save - Oh. I can't? Right. See above. Curved roads are extremely neat but they are so wasteful of space that if you are using them you will never build your city to where you are trying to go. Ars talks about minmaxing; I am not a minmaxer but I do like to run an efficient, pretty city with a personality and some uniqueness; those are 3 criteria and I can't figure out how to get all of them in one of these tiny city spaces. And God forbid you pick a city area that has anything but flat terrain; there is no terraforming at all and the road and zone tools are a lot less useful than they appeared to be in the trailer video directed to this topic, if there are even modest slopes. So all that space gets wasted.

The big deal is that the game is simulated down to the level of the individual Sim. I really share the Ars guys complaints about this. I click on Sims - iirc you could do this in SC4 too - and I can follow them around and read a line about their meaningless little lives. I gather that the difference is that this is persistent and real, whereas in SC4 it was a fiction made up on the fly when you clicked.

Problem is, this is implemented poorly. It is of no interest. Sims and their vehicles path almost randomly and I watched a garbage truck circle around on one road, doing nothing, for nearly 15 minutes (real time, that was a whole garbage shift in game time, and there was garbage to pick up elsewhere in the city, too.) This is a game and it's supposed to be fun; if they really spent all this effort on Sim-level simulation, they wasted their time because it adds nothing to the game mechanics.

In fact, whole swaths of the game mechanics feel bugged to hell and get out. One of my cities was located downwind from its connector highway (which is positioned outside of city limits so you can't modify anything about it.) Sims in my city complained about "germs," which live in air pollution (?); the air pollution, as far as I could tell, was floating over my city from the highway as traffic picked up. Sims rioted angrily in front of City Hall for the entire duration of my game play, about 4 hours last night. I was not able to figure out anything to do about this problem, which kept worsening as the city grew. Is this fun? In general, it was no fun to me to have one highway and one train track; why can't I build these things? A lot of the intricate parts of the simulation feel rushed and unbalanced like this; I always used to marvel at the depth of the various simulations in the old Simcity games - I think SC2000 was the best of them at this - and at how sensitive they were to all kinds of player interventions. I don't feel that way about this game.

Power and water hookups have been simplified and sewage has been added; these parts of the game mechanics are dull now, no longer fun, although the water system in SC4 I recall as being extremely frustrating. I get why this was done but I am no longer sure why water and sewage are part of the game at all. Roads are much easier to lay and can be prettier but in general the functionality is less and there is barely even a dedicated traffic display; mass transit has been nerfed and is simplified and, again, boring (adding a streetcar or subway system to a cramped, growing city in SC4 was a challenge and one of my favorite parts of the game.)

The idea of a regional, specialized city was a good and interesting one but I feel like little time was spent on actual regional integration; many services have a screen where you can sell services to other cities in your region, but those cities do not actually lose money when they pay you, and it's not even clear that when you play as those cities that you experience the benefit of the transaction. There is nowhere that I have found that you can look at transacted agreements. (In fact, city planners give 'missions' for money but I have yet to actually collect any of this money, which I assume is another bug.)

I do like that the 'ploppable' buildings can be expanded to meet growing demand; that's fun. If I did not hate the word 'ploppable' so much I would be more excited about it; it is used throughout the tutorial and ingame text, so you cannot escape it. It recalls to my mind a cow pat, or worse. On that topic, the detailed sewage map, showing squishy nuggets of brown stool pulsing and peristalsing through your city's sewage pipes, also disturbs me; I feel like this is just the kind of display that would be made by an obstipated, overweight, balding coder obsessed with his ploppables. The sewage display and sewage disposal pipe make clear that the poo is not only squishy and brown, but also aromatic; was this really necessary, Maxis?

Finally, the game is beautiful. I love the camera - its interface is a bit retarded, but I am catching onto it after 6 or so hours of gameplay - and I love the way the cities look at night and daytime. I love some of the 'filters' you can apply to change your city's appearance. (I wish the game took better advantage of my fancy graphics card, although I understand why they aimed lower.) I am surprised and disappointed at the supergeneric quality of the buildings and their signage: buildings visually mostly have names like "Mid-cost business," "Low Cost Apartments" and such, and it makes the city seem super generic. I assume this was because the whole deal was rushed out - the game definitely feels like it was rushed out the door - and I assume it can and will be upgraded as time goes on.

tl;dr: I like the shiny new game and am looking forward to playing it multiplayer as was intended, but I feel like the game is buggy, shallower in simulation than I expected from the advertising, and not ready for release in a lot of ways; and I hate every cloud-based feature with passion. It makes me want to download SC4 and play it, and since that can be done on Steam for $20 (PC only), I will probably be doing that instead in a few weeks.

* And by ephemera, I mean shit.
ash nazg

Some Arduino links

Arduino software

Arduino Uno R3: This is the right arduino, a nifty little Italian-made board powered by USB with useful lights on the board.
An assortment of LEDs. These are nice because you get resistors with them and it is easy to figure out the voltage drop depending on the LED colors.
BB400 Solderless Plug-in Breadboard: This breadboard accepts 21-28 ga solid copper wire ends and has a power strip for workbenching your ideas.

I am having fun with these things. Another thing that is good to get are small servos, but I haven't done that yet. If you browse around Amazon you can find kits like this one from SparkFun - I bought that one for Sarah as a Christmas present. That kit was for exploration; there are other kits that are basically 'build this'. They are marked up cost-wise so if you have some idea what you want to do, piecemeal is better.
ash nazg

fiber optic scrap

Anyone have some short fiber optic scrap around? Thicker the better, up to about 3/8"; less than a foot long. If so and you'd be willing to mail it, drop a comment and I'll hit you with an address. I'd owe you one.
ash nazg

Lumosity - We Steal Your IQ Score and Sell It

Say! Want your IQ measured, and associated with your name, address, credit card number, income, health insurance, and buying habits?

Then head on over to Lumosity. Oh, of course, they don't tell you that's what they're doing. They have 'brain exercises' for you. Those 50 years of research that prove that "brain exercises" don't ward off Alzheimer disease, nor in fact do they have any other measurable benefit? You won't be hearing about that either.

Lumosity's partners? How about all those insurance companies, which partner to feed Ingenix, the world's largest health information database? Ever thought about applying for health insurance, or long-term care insurance? Well, you're *dumb*, so it's gonna cost you more. Or, you're doing something on IQ testing that shows you're going to develop Alzheimer disease, or Parkinson disease; so it's going to cost you more - a lot more - if you can get insurance at all.

IQ scores are the some of the most sensitive information about a person that can be compiled. They predict health, lifespan, income, educational status, crime risk (victim or conviction), and nearly anything else you care to name. I think it's very evil to steal and sell this information under the guise of providing brain exercises.
ash nazg

Pearls from day 2 of Objective-C study

In no particular order:

  • They didn't have books like Aaron Hillegass' magnificent Objective-C Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Big Nerd Ranch Guides) the last time I tried to learn something about coding. What an improvement.
  • C syntax and data structures are similar to Pascal, which I learned once.
  • Obj-C objects are fairly similar to Java objects, which I learned about once.
  • In fact, I kind of feel like Obj C == (Pascal + Java) / memory-management.
  • There are three distinct things a dude needs to learn about:
    • Objective-C
    • Xcode
    • Cocoa/iOS

  • I have books for all of them this time.
  • I wish I'd known that back in 2003.
  • Because I was ready to write a Java program and I totally got stuck on Interface Builder.
  • I wish I'd kept fighting with it. I was so close.
  • Xcode 2012 (4.5, I think?) is really, really slick. It is teaching me as much as anything else.
  • Programming is fun again.