[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Wednesday, 2015-11-18

Disappointed

Filed under: Society — bblackmoor @ 21:28

I find it disappointing to learn how many otherwise reasonable people are willing to say unkind things about people they do not know: i.e., southerners, gun owners, Muslims…

Prejudice and irrational fear make a poor basis for public policy.

Saturday, 2015-11-14

Empty gestures

Filed under: Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 10:41

I am puzzled by people who think an appropriate response to tragedy and senseless bloodshed is to take photos of themselves holding rifles. Are they saying, “If only I had been there, I could have helped”?

Maybe they could have. Or maybe the terrorists would simply have moved to an easier target. Or maybe it’s fatuous self-aggrandizement from someone who is in no danger whatsoever.

dipshit in living room with firearms
dipshit in living room with firearms

Make no mistake: I think having the right to arm oneself and defend one’s life is a basic human right. I think it is the basic human right. But it’s easy to be bold and brave when the threat is on the other side of the world, just as it’s easy to shout your grievances in the safety of a university courtyard.

I am no more impressed by impotent bluster than I am by impotent prayers. Less so, actually: at least the prayers indicate compassion, and some basic human decency at work. Infantile tantrums and smug declarations from the safety of one’s couch… I can think of no emptier gesture.

But I prefer empty gestures to the inevitable alternative.

What is our solution? Do we decide that maybe religions are just too dangerous for protection under our First Amendment? Is the mere fact that someone self-identifies as Muslim tantamount to shouting “fire” in a movie theatre? Will the same people who spread absurd stories of FEMA prison camps urge us to deport or inter Muslims? Would putting a soldier in riot gear on every streetcorner and demanding papers at random police stops make us all feel safer?

To paraphrase John Lennon, I see no solutions: only problems.

P.S. 92 people died on America’s freeways yesterday (and will again tomorrow). The day before that, at least 41 innocent people were killed by suicide bombers in a suburb in Lebanon. Not all tragedies make headlines.

P.P.S. People who have no compunction about about blaming everyone with a rebel flag for the actions of a single psychopath are much more reasonable when it comes to blaming all members of a religion for the actions of a few. People who complain the most about unconstitutional expansions of government power seem to really like the idea of rounding up and deporting people based on their religion. I find this hypocrisy interesting.

Sunday, 2015-11-08

On the era of the eternally aggrieved

Filed under: Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 00:41

offended

From time to time, my more conservative friends (who tend to be my older friends) express disappointment at the era of perpetual outrage that we appear to be living in. And, nearly as often, my more liberal friends (who also tend to be my younger friends) express the opinion that this era of “political correctness” is nothing of the sort: it is merely an indication that the offhand sexism, racism, and general obnoxiousness that used to be taken as simply the way things are is no longer tolerated, and that people are offended because they should be offended.

For myself, I think both of these groups are right.

It is obvious to anyone who has been an adult since the 1980s that what was once acceptable (but never should have been) has become less so, and that we should all be glad of that. Most of the attention in this area is directed at ethnic minorities, but personally I think the shameful treatment of women is the most significant barometer here, partly because woman are more or less half of the human race, and also because women are still subjected to ridiculous insults and misogynistic bile to this day. We have a way to go before this issue is behind us.

On the other hand, it should also be clear to anyone paying attention that we are in an era where “being offended” seems to trump actual fact to many people (particularly young, spoiled people). When a university as prestigious as Yale has nearly a thousand students calling for the resignation of an administrator because his wife had the temerity to suggest that free speech might actually be more important than obeying a dictate from the school’s administration regarding acceptable Halloween costumes, something has gone terribly wrong. How did these young people survive into their late teens with such a sense of unjustified entitlement? And why is it tolerated at Yale? I have no response to that, but it makes me sad.

So… yes, to some extent, the era of the eternally aggrieved has some basis in actual grievances. But not every complaint is valid.

Friday, 2015-10-30

Does the USPS “lose billions”?

Filed under: History,Politics — bblackmoor @ 09:52

super mailman

Fun fact! The US Post Office is one of the very, very few parts of our federal government that is authorized by our Constitution:

“The Congress shall have Power […] To establish Post Offices and post Roads;”
— US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 7

(That same clause authorizes what we today call the US Interstate Highway System.)

As for the USPS losing money, it does and it doesn’t. It routinely makes more than it spends on actual operating costs. The “losing billions” that people sometimes refer to pertains to payments made into a fund for employees’ future retirement for the next 75 years. These payments are the result of a 2006 law passed by Congress, and it’s a requirement that is imposed on no other public or private institution.

But when you see people talk about the Post Office “losing billions”, that’s what they are talking about: failure to pay into a fund for the future health and retirement benefits for people who are not yet born.

If I were conspiratorially minded, I would think that this unique requirement was imposed on the USPS specifically to drive it out of business, by the same people who today call for its privatization because it “loses billions”. But that’s just crazy, right?

Wednesday, 2015-10-07

Misfits, Gotham, Agents Of Shield, Heroes Reborn, Powers

Filed under: Television — bblackmoor @ 17:53
Misfits Season 1 Blu-ray

I’ve reached the end of Misfits (eight seasons on Netflix, but there’s only eight episodes per season). While it’s a bit uneven, and sometimes it takes some effort to care about the characters, I like it so much more than the current seasons of Gotham, Agents of Shield, and Heroes Reborn.

The thing that irks me most about Heroes Reborn, and why I won’t be watching it anymore, is the tiresome “there’s no time!”/”it’s too dangerous!” enforced secrecy, without which the whole plot would collapse like a punctured bouncy house. If the main characters just had a five minute conversation, they could save us all the trouble of sitting through a dozen episodes of nothing. But no: there’s no time/it’s too dangerous! “No time” is right: life is too short to watch an exercise in padding.

Agents of Shield is just boring. I don’t care about the characters, don’t care about their mission, the plots are dull, the villains are dull, the outfits are dull, yawn, goodbye.

And Gotham… I liked the first season of Gotham, but FFS, I get it: the red-headed kid is the Joker. Except he’s not, because the Joker won’t show up for another 10-15 years (after Batman does), and when he does, whoever he used to be is a huge mystery, so he can’t be some famous over-the-top psycho from when Bruce Wayne was a kid. Seriously, he’s way over-the-top. Jim Carrey in The Mask is looking at this guy and going, “Whoa, dude: dial it back a notch.”

I hope Powers comes back for another season. The first season was slow, the production values are… frugal, and Eddie Izzard’s character will probably not return (he was the shining beacon of the first season), but I would still like to see where it goes from where the first season left off.

The noise and haste

Filed under: Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 11:35

There should be a name for the phenomenon of, “I’m right to believe this even if the reasons I state for believing it are false”. I see it all the time. Guns. GMOs. Black pets around Halloween. Being offended at someone’s costume. No matter how portentous or trivial the topic, facts just don’t seem relevant. It’s not a “liberal” vs “conservative” thing, either: it’s universal.

But it’s easier to block people who spew nonsense than argue with them. It’s not like an argument on the Internet ever changed anyone’s mind, anyway.

Friday, 2015-09-25

Manos Rising

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 21:11

Me: You know, I watched “Manos: The Hands Of Fate” the other night, and I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone says.

Susan: … Really.

Me: Yeah, really! I mean, yeah, the pacing is pretty bad —

Susan: And the acting, and the sound, and the cinematography…

Me: And the directing, yes. But other than that —

Susan: The writing?

Me: Okay, not the writing itself, no, that’s terrible. But the basic premise

Susan: The plot?

Me: Yes, the plot. The essential concept of the film. That’s actually pretty cool. This family goes on vacation, takes a wrong turn in the desert, and they wind up somewhere that normally isn’t there. It’s off sideways, and most people can’t find even if they are looking for it.

Susan: I don’t remember that.

Me: Yes! Everyone says that road doesn’t go anywhere. So where did this family end up? It’s like some otherwhere. And there’s a creepy caretaker, and a Master who’s always with us but “not dead as you know it”, and then the Master returns, and the family runs away into the desert but they come back… it’s actually a pretty cool idea.

Susan: Huh. So maybe they should remake that.

Me: Yes, they should! Only bad movies should have remakes, and only until a good movie is the result. They should never remake a good movie, because there is no need to — there is already a good movie with that concept. That’s how we got “The Maltese Falcon”.

Susan: So what do you think about the new Ghostbusters?

Me: sigh

Monday, 2015-08-24

Why Dracula has such incompetent henchmen

Filed under: Civil Rights,Movies,Society — bblackmoor @ 09:12

Years ago, while watching The Wraith, I wondered out loud why “cool” villains like Dracula (or Nick Cassavetes in The Wraith) were always surrounded by incompetent creeps and toadies like Renfield (or “Skank” in The Wraith) — people I wouldn’t trust to guard an egg salad sandwich. Her reply was, in essence, because those are the kinds of followers they deserve — that they are not, in fact, “cool” at all.

I am reminded of that conversation whenever I read comments by Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen where they make weak attempts to distance themselves from Theodore Beale without distancing themselves from what Beale says or does. When you find yourself on the same side as the Theodore Beales of the world, it’s time to reevaluate your position.

Friday, 2015-07-31

Windows 10 tips

Filed under: Windows — bblackmoor @ 15:56

These are notes for my own purposes, but they might be useful to others, as well. Note that it might be helpful for you to download the Windows 10 installation media yourself, rather than waiting for Microsoft to send it to you

  1. Re-install video drivers and mouse drivers
    I had weird problems until I did this. Make sure you get the newest drivers.
  2. Enable Privacy
  3. Turn on System Protection
    1. Open a File Explorer window
    2. Right-click This PC and choose Properties
    3. Select System Protection in the left pane
    4. Select C: drive in the dialog box that opens
    5. Click the Configure button
    6. Select “Turn on system protection” option
    7. Set disk space usage to around 1.5 GB.
  4. Move the Taskbar
    Move the Taskbar to the left side of the screen. With a widescreen monitor (which any new computer will have), it makes much more sense to waste a small strip on the left than a strip that runs all the way across the bottom of the screen, making a narrow display area even narrower.
  5. Modify Start Menu
    1. Open the Start Menu, right click each pane, and select “Unpin from Start” (optionally, keep the Weather pane, but open it up and set the correct location)
    2. Unpin the Edge and Store icons from the taskbar
    3. Right-click the taskbar and hide the Search and Task View icons from the taskbar
  6. Clean Up Programs
    1. Open the Start Menu, click Settings >> System >> Apps & Features
    2. Sort by name
    3. Uninstall…
      • Get Office
      • Get Skype
      • Microsoft Solitaire Collection
  7. Install KeyTweak and remap the Caps Lock key to Left Shift
  8. Install Ditto clipboard manager
  9. Install Search Everything
  10. Customize Windows Explorer
    1. Customize Quick Access Toolbar
      This is a small drop-down arrow at the top of Windows Explorer.
      Select “Show below the Ribbon”
    2. Customize Options
      Click “View” button on the Ribbon, click the “Options” button, and select “Change folder and search options”. I am only noting changes from the default settings.

      1. General
        • Open File Explorer to: This PC
        • Show recently used files in Quick Access: unchecked
        • Show recently used folders in Quick Access: unchecked
      2. View
        • Always show menus: checked
        • Display the full path in the title bar: checked
        • Hidden files and folders: Show hidden files, folders, and drives
        • Hide empty drives: not checked
        • Hide extensions for known file types: not checked (this is the most idiotic option ever)
        • Hide folder merge conflicts: not checked
        • Hide protected operating system files: not checked
        • Restore previous folder windows at logon: checked
        • Expand to open folder: checked
        • Show libraries: checked
        • Click the “Apply To Folders” button, and click OK
    3. Show Libraries in Navigation Pane
    4. Add a Take Ownership context menu
    5. Remove Homegroup link from the Explorer navigation pane (may cause a hard-to-fix file/folder rename bug)
    6. Remove the user folder from the Explorer navigation pane. (may cause a hard-to-fix file/folder rename bug)
  11. Install AquaSnap
  12. Install Winaero Tweaker
    The settings below are only the changes from the default.

    1. Behavior
      • Disable AeroShake: Checked
      • Disable AeroSnap: Checked
      • Disable App Lookup In Store: Checked
    2. File Explorer
      • Customize This PC Folders: remove all
      • Disable “- Shortcut” Text: checked
      • Drive Letters: Drive Letters Before Labels
  13. Install Bins
    It lets you group pinned icons on the Windows 10 taskbar.
  14. If you use Photoshop, install SageThumbs
    It’s an open source Windows shell extension allowing you to see thumbnails of Photoshop files.
  15. Disable and remove OneDrive
  16. If you use DropBox, remove DropBox link from the Explorer navigation pane
  17. If you use DropBox, pin the DropBox folder to Quick Access
  18. Install Q-Dir
    Despite the changes I made above, I still found the default Windows File Explorer frustrating. I tried a number of alternate file managers, including Explorer++, FreeCommander, and XYplorer. Q-Dir met my needs better than anything else I tried.

Now that you have done all of that, there are a few essential applications you should consider installing:

  1. 7-Zip
  2. Bins (it costs $5.00, but I think it’s worth it
  3. Bulk Rename Utility
  4. Firefox You might also consider these addons:
  5. FontExpert (It costs money, but if you work with fonts a great deal, it is worth it.) When you put fonts into groups, make sure you create shortcuts, rather than copying the font files. (Note: FontExpert 2016 has removed a crucial font group feature. Stay with FontExpert 2015 until that feature is restored.)
  6. Irfanview and the Irfanview plugins (see the note below about file associations)
  7. Ninite Updater
  8. Notepad++
  9. SmartDefrag
  10. Start10 (it costs $5.00, but I think it’s worth it
  11. VLC media player (see the note below about file associations)

So about those file associations…

As of January 2018, Microsoft has made changing file associations in Windows 10 ridiculously difficult — Apple levels of difficult (“Apple: we make simple things complicated, and complicated things impossible”). This article at Tech For Luddites goes into more detail, but the short version is that you need to run a command prompt window as “administrator”, then run this command:

control /name Microsoft.DefaultPrograms /page pageFileAssoc

Then go down the list and laboriously change each individual extension one by one.

Yes, it’s fucking ridiculous.

Tuesday, 2015-07-28

Musings on cinematic duels in roleplaying games

Filed under: Gaming — bblackmoor @ 09:31

Ran across this (“Cinematic Lightsaber Dueling“) today, which reminded me of an ongoing game-design problem that I have never solved to my own satisfaction. In the source media from which I draw inspiration for my own games, it is often the case that a combat ends when one opponent successfully hits the other: a single hit ends the fight. This isn’t the case for every fight, even within a single genre — fistfights, in particular, tend to lend themselves more to the traditional “whittling down the hit points” game mechanic. But in duels with lethal weapons — whether using lightsabers, phasers, or rapiers — a single successful hit tends to end the combat.

The biggest problem is not in coming up with a game mechanic to replicate this. The “Extended Tasks” rules in Bulletproof Blues, for example, could easily be used to model this sort of combat. The hurdle for me is combining this type of conflict with the more traditional “whittling down the hit points” combat in the same fight. They don’t really work together.

At the moment, I am thinking that a possible solution might be to use the same “Extended Tasks” style of resolution for conflicts that seem, on the surface, to be more traditional fights, and treating the “whittling down the hitpoints” as a “special effect” rather than a fixed number representing a concrete (rather than abstract) effect.

It occurs to me that way back in the day (the early to mid 1980s), this is how some people interpreted combat in AD&D (first edition, although of course we did not call it that back then). It was not a widely held interpretation, and was observed more in theory than in practice even among its proponents.

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