Corporate Chutes and Ladders

Found on Andrew Sullivan’s Blog over on the Atlantic:

It starts with this Lovely Misogynistic Rant from Jack Welch about how there is no such thing as a “work-life balance” and mostly full of how women are stupid. (Hidden under a paywall for the most part but Andrew Sullivan quotes the good parts.)

Sullivan posts a big rebuttal to this nonsense at: Corporate Chutes and Ladders.

Basically what it comes down to is: if you are female, and you step off the corporate ladder for one second for any reason you will never in your lifetime have any capacity to lead big organizations. Because obviously you are weak. It’s up to the Big Strong MEN! Of course, if a man steps off the corporate ladder for any moment then it’s all good…

Gah.

Video Game Frenzy Weekend!

I indulged in my favorite time-wasting habit in a big way this weekend and previewed four (!!) games. This included my first major foray into the XBox360 Marketplace which turned out, much to my surprise, to be a positive experience.

Marketplace Games:

1. The Secret of Monkey Island SE

LucasArts upgraded the graphics, the interface, and added new voice acting to the original Secret of Monkey Island for the Xbox360. It’s Monkey Island! It’s a download from the Xbox Marketplace! It’s $4! How can you not download Monkey Island for $4? It’s MONKEY ISLAND! I am waving my hands around and doing the “go play it” dance.

It has an integrated hint system for the truly lazy who needs to get prodded in the right direction once a while. I thought the interface with using a controller rather than a mouse was a little strange to get used to at first but I did get the hang of it. I was totally consumed by this for an hour and change before Katie started getting real wiggly with me and we needed to get out the door. I cannot imagine anything that is a better buy at $4.

2. Castle Crashers

This totally adorable side-scrolling beat things up game is totally adorable. You can look at it here. You grab swords, you beat things up, you occasionally kill a boss, and the graphics are super amazingly cute. It also has 2-4 player cooperative and 2-4 player online multiplayer. It’s $6. We played through the demo level last night but haven’t bought the full game yet, though.

Real Games:

1. Street Fighter IV

I may or may not have ruined my left hand playing Street Fighter II many years ago… *shifty eyes*. I have played a huge number of fighters including variations on Street Fighter on consoles for years and the only game that has ever really pleased me is Soul Caliber II. (THE SOUL STILL BURNS.) This game comes very close: the game is stripped down to essential Street Fighter II-ness without all the silly crap accompanying fighters recently. The control scheme is very responsive and it is possible to play with a standard controller. Move list has been returned to the essential moves. Arcade play, two-player play, online competitive play, downloadable content, leaderboards, etc. It is an excellent fighter. The issue, of course, is that after playing for 2 hours on Saturday my hand still throbs, so I don’t know if I /can/ play it any more. The Dhalsim animations are awesome.

2. Star Ocean IV: The Last Hope

Star Ocean is a funny franchise from Square Enix because, unlike FF, all the games are set in a coherent and contiguous universe. However, I almost threw Star Ocean III across the room at the 70 hour mark. I go into IV with that in mind.

So far, the game has a compelling enough story to keep me playing for a little while. It’s a “prequel” which starts with Mankind’s first forays into the stars to find planets to colonize and inhabit. The combat is a real-time Tales of Symphonia-style action system that is RPG-like but allows you to mash some buttons to some effect which keeps the combat from seems too automated. However, I am only 4 hours in and these games usually fall over at the 10 hour mark so it needs another night of play. I don’t see any major glitches in the code or anything too stupid… yet.

Funny, I had a more positive overall experience with the Marketplace games than the very expensive DVD games. I suspect the future of video gaming is in the smaller, cheaper downloadables. Sure, they are not as whizz-bang full featured as the DVD games, but I am wondering if SFIV is worth $60 for the DVD. Best game of the weekend? Monkey Island, hand’s down.

Also, I’ve started a Fallout – 3 game, which I hope to get back to.

Added bonus — the web comics I currently read:

Dinosaur Comics, Diesel Sweeties, FreakAngels, Order of the Stick, Overcompensating, PartiallyClips, Penny Arcade, PHD Comics, Questionable Content, Sinfest, and XKCD. Cat and Girl and Wondermark both were added over the weekend. I’m still previewing the other comics people sent in that require me to read 2-3 years of backlog (*cough girl genius cough*). Winner of the most compelling comic is Digger, which is on the top of my review list.

Thanks to all who contributed to my addiction!

Friday Question!

I need a Friday Question category. But! The Friday Question is:

I finally have gotten into reading web comics after many years of resisting. I read several but I’m always looking for more. What are your favorite webcomics? Give me your recommendations!

One requirement, though: the webcomic must have an RSS feed.

FIC: A Fairy Battle

I have had an extremely bad case of total creative block for several months now. I can’t write stories, I can’t write music, I can’t do anything. It’s pretty much blown. I can’t seem to shake it, either. I know the root cause but there’s not much I can do other than become a total hermit.

I am trying to bring down my horizons a little to get back in the swing of things. I’m focusing on 500-750 word bits, just a few paragraphs, to get me from being totally blocked to being mostly blocked. If you’re interested, here’s the first little bit. I’ll post them but I’ll keep them under cuts (LJ-only) so they can be easily skipped.

A Fairy Battle

I walked along the ancient wall built by forgotten hands. The wall was grey and stone and obscured by carnivorous vines that digested the wall bit by bit. It sagged as much as a grey stone wall can sag against the grass and trees. Wooden props helped it stand with slightly more dignity and grace as befitting the aged who had done their duties against wind and weather well.

The wall bends where the old cobblestone road turns away from the town and toward the farms. A hole opens where stones, not meant to turn but to stack upright, have fallen in a heap. Flowers grow in wild profusion in protected boxes made by the fallen stones and weather and happenstance. Beyond the hole in the wall lays a field where more flowers grow: golden yarrow and tall stalks of sage, aster and larkspur.

I heard a noise and set down my basket. Through the hole was a sight: feet of hooves and boots mashed the flowers flat into the grass and clover and dirt.

Two great armies stood on that field of wildflowers. One was in red with cloaks fluttering and swords shining. The troops stood side by side in proper regiments with perfect clean red uniforms and shining silver buckles and red hats. They held red muskets with bayonets like rows of toothpicks. The other army wore bedraggled green, a dirty rag-tag assortment of wild creatures of differing sizes and heights and builds. Their eyes held madness and their weapons more: serrated swords and broken knives, guns and crossbows and teeth and claws and horns.

A horn blew. On a grand stallion among the red army sat the Queen. Her shining blond hair blew back from her shoulders in the soft gusts of evening wind. Her uniform shone with shiny spangles and glittering buttons. Wind rippled the cockade of her great plumed hat. She drew her sword and paused. Then she ordered her men to charge.

With rank upon rank they did, the first ranks bending on knee to fire as the second rank loaded and the third waited their turn.

The early ranks of the mad and the green were felled by the Queen’s bullets. The insane green horde pushed forward over the fallen bodies of comrades and foes. War was met and the sounds of horrible battle echoed over the field. Those perfect ranks were nothing more than fodder for the chaotic and maddening ranks of the green fairies who hopped and played and danced among bullets. The front ranks of the red army fell to be replaced by more ranks and more; perfect harmony in combat with horrible chaos. Clubs swung and teeth gnashed. Bones shattered with balls of bullets and crossbow bolts sung in the air. The fairies fought, the red and the green, until blood soaked the wildflowers and the sounds of screams filled the air.

I staggered forward through the hole between the stones. My basket lay forgotten on the cobblestones. At my feet was a man dressed in red, lovelier than any man can be, dying, his lifeblood pouring out on to the grass. I put my fingers to his wound as blood poured over my hands. He died and I cried: “STOP!”

The Queen of the Faeries gazed at me with her purple shining eyes. For a moment, silence. No sounds of combat, no attacks, no muskets fired at close range with ear-splitting cracks in the air. I knew only the Faerie Queen and her terrible wrath.

Then they were gone, every one of them. The fairy battle disappeared. They left only crumpled flowers and the occasional strange discoloration in the grass. The sounds of battle hung in the air for only a moment and then they, too, where whisked off to the land of Faerie.

There was nothing, then. Nothing but my basket and a hole in a wall. And the knowledge of faerie, warring, somewhere beyond a veil.

Less a Movement and More an Industry

“This helps explain the broader problem with American conservatism right now. It is less a movement than an industry. From Fox News to talk radio to conservative publishing houses, it has created an alternate and lucrative media reality that is worth a fortune to those able to exploit it.”

I totally and completely agree with Andrew Sullivan:

I’m a celebrity – get me out of here..

Friday Question!

Maybe someone on my friend’s list can answer this:

I have a four year old with a super active imagination, lots of dolls and stuffies. She is starting to get the hang of consistent rules and rulesets. What games — board games and rpg games — do you recommend for a little poo?

GoogleOS Will Save the World!

I heard on the Interwebs through a series of tubes that GoogleOS based on Google Chrome is coming out in 2010! It will not only cause the collapse of Microsoft, but it will solve world hunger, put a man on Mars, get everyone to dress well, fix the economy, give us all universal health care AND look good! Also, it will be awesome.

I am a happy consumer of many a Google service, especially the fine search engine. I’ve been using it since it had a Stanford URL and remember, distinctly, evangelizing it when people went “Google what?” while heading off to Altavista. I have Gmail! I use Google Reader! I sometimes use Google Docs.

But the world is littered with Microsoft Killers. Linux has been THE Microsoft Killer any day now since 1994. I am still waiting. MacOS, which I love unto death, has a tiny market share compare to Windows. Solaris is not a desktop consumer OS despite several incarnations of Solaris on the Desktop.

And lo, yesterday, the Interwebs was rife with the coming of the great Google Messiah. A little digging turns up that it’s not a new operating system at all, it’s just yet another Linux variant that uses Chrome as a window manager designed to run on netbooks because we don’t have enough Linux variants with different window managers yet. Theoretically it will have better security (it will) and privacy (yes) but this is from riding on top of Linux which is naturally more secure and private than Windows. I am positive it will be great for netbooks. (Full disclosure: I have an HP Mini that runs Ubuntu.) It will be a pretty well-designed window manager. Lots of people will love it. It may even push Windows XP out of the default install netbook space, or lower its market share. But this is not going to get “Google to beat Microsoft” and I am not convinced Microsoft even cares about the netbook space.

Reality is a harsh mistress. Android isn’t beating the iPhone or Blackberry, and GoogleOS won’t destroy Microsoft in some David vs. Goliath — or, to the point, Goliath vs. Goliath — technical showdown.

So huzzah for another Linux distro! May it be like all the rest.

There was a nice rant at Naked Capitalism that is very much worth a read.

Last Remnant

I rented Square Enix’s Last Remnant from Gamefly, a service I very highly recommend, to try it out because I currently am not playing some long JRPG at the moment on the Xbox360. I feel a little dirty because of all the systems I own, I love the Xbox360 the most, but there it is and I rented Last Remnant for it.

I don’t know what Square Enix is thinking any more. This is not the first game I sent back in disgust after 10 hours in. It’s worse than a bad game — it is a wasted game. The game starts great: interesting characters, an actual interesting plot (!!!), half decent voice acting, helpful subtitles, an interesting squad-based combat system, the potential for an interesting component system for upgrading weapons. When dealing with one squad with four guys, the game plays great. No real issues. I got up to 3 squads with 9 guys total and the game manifested draw-in problems, slow downs, stutters, long load times and an annoying camera that doesn’t allow you to see the field very well. And the component system turned out to be both confusing and just a reason to make the game longer by forcing grinding. Worse, there are boring sideplots that you have to play otherwise your guys are just too weak to continue with the main plot, and you must do these side quests constantly.

It went in my book from a 9/10 to about a 4/10, and I sent it back.

This is just fingernails on a chalkboard. Square’s game quality lately has really been slipping and now they are shipping stuff that isn’t even finished. There’s no reason that combat 10 hours in the game should manifest stutters and load-time issues. That’s trivially easy to catch during play testing. This is why we rent — if I would have bought the game I would have taken it back to the store.

Anyway, I started a Fallout 3 game instead. And got wasted by Raiders last night. Sigh.

A Complaint about the American Revolution!

I have a complaint about the American Revolution!  Which is a strange sort of complaint, so perhaps it is not a complaint about the Revolution itself, which sort of happened a while ago, but about the history books that have sprung from it and which I consume in overly large doses like Fritos.

My complaint today has to do with the treatment of supporting cast, or more to the point, lack thereof!  Most of the book on the actual war itself are very focused on His Excellency, George Washington, and how awesome he is.  He’s always played by some very important leading man, like Brad Pitt or Christian Bale or Johnny Depp.  Tall and good looking, an imposing red-haired figure at 45 in his blue coat with excellent buckles, how can you miss him?

But I contend his supporting cast is more awesome and my specific complaint is the total lack of coverage of Henry Knox who, when he does get to appear on screen, is played by a comedian or some second-string sidekick who can pull off a nebbishy bookseller from Boston who whips out the super-secret winning plan at the last moment.

Like most of the supporting cast of the American Revolution, he was awesome. Hauled cannons in sleds from Upstate New York to Boston in the middle of winter! Orchestrated the Crossing of the Delaware! (Someone had to come up with that plan.) A founder of the Society of the Cinnicinati, a bona-fide somewhat Secret Society! First Secretary of War and founded the US Navy! And he was such a horrible insane tyrant in his old age up in Maine he was the model for Col. Pynchon in Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables.

Yet he is relegated to being played by a Topher Grace in the history of the Revolution when the movie is made and the book adaptation released. Compared to Washington, who has all the best lines, who cares about a crazy Bostonian with a flair for coming up with completely implausible plans that somehow work?

My problem with the American Revolution in general and the history books in particular is the same problem I have with True Blood: I get tired of the Mary Sue main characters (although in history there are rarely Vampire boyfriends) and find the secondary cast so much more interesting. The secondary cast has all the color and flair! These main guys? Sure they can stop bullets and fly, but where’s the fun in that?  The secondary cast is so cool it’s difficult to believe they weren’t just made up.  By me.

I shake my fist in muted history-nerd rage.

(Yes, I’ve read Angel in the Whirlwind, and it has awesome parts about the secondary cast.  McCullough’s 1776 has some nice in-depth on secondary characters on both sides of the conflict.)