Mysteries

Books 2 Comments

As alluded to by the previous entry, I’ve recently (in the past 3-4 years) realized that I have a growing interest in gritty crime drama. Initially this was largely a tv-related phenomenon, with me suddenly (and avidly) watching not one or two, but six TV series (L&O, L&O:SVU, L&O:CI, CSI, CSI:Miami, and CSI:NY).

The character Robert Goren (the big guy played by Vincent d’Onofrio in L&O:CI) is ostensibly fashioned after none other than the infamous Sherlock Holmes. This has lead me to start re-reading the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, having found the complete, un-annotated, un-edited series in two somewhat fat paperbacks. I’m up to The Blue Carbuncle, if you were wondering.

So…anyhow, I’m rather enjoying this foray into a previously un-charted genre, and it turns out, by happy coincidence, that I happen to live right around the corner (literally) from an apparently excellent niche bookshop called Prime Crime Books. Their website makes it sound idyllic — big fat chairs, enthusiastic experts, and a sizeable selection of used books.

It probably goes without saying, but I’m heading there tomorrow. Hoorah for vacations, even in the middle of winter.

The Map Thief

Art, Books, News No Comments

I’m probably a bad person for this, but I have a certain amount of respect for thieves who are very good at what they do, and who do no physical violence to people in the process. This is very likely the result of my youthful Remington Steele fixation, but that’s somewhat beside the point. The criminal mind interests me, but only a certain type of criminal is clever enough to really garner my admiration.

The Map Thief is one of those few. I know nothing about the man beyond what’s in this article and a few others I’ve read about him in the past, but he managed to steal a lot of valuable items over years without getting caught and without hurting anyone. He became an expert in a very niche area of theft and executed his art in a very peculiar and efficient manner simply by taking advantage of extreme security weaknesses in libraries that should have been dealt with years ago.

Of course, all things must come to an end, and he did get caught, but he managed to embarrass the hell out of a lot of people (who probably deserved to be embarrassed) in the process.

World Politics as an Experimental Lab for the Mathematics of Game Theory”

News No Comments

Ok, that’s not actually what the article’s about, but here’s a new interview with John Nash:

New Scientist Interview: Return of a “beautiful mind” – Interview

Sweet & Sour Pork

Food 2 Comments

This is mostly for me so I don’t lose the recipe. I’m having the leftovers for lunch in a minute, and, really, it’s possibly the yummiest S&S pork I’ve ever had. Used pork tenderloin, and will probably add some grated ginger next time.

Yum.

Some stuff just makes me happy

News No Comments

FireFoxy

“The free Web browser from the Mozilla Foundation surpassed 10 million downloads on Saturday as Web surfers continue to move away from Microsoft’s market-dominating IE. The milestone highlights growing frustration with the security vulnerabilities that have dogged IE during the past few months.”

On this occassion I would like to send my crazy friends a hearty “Woot!”

Share the love.

Orthodox Clergy Seek Virtual Saint!

News No Comments

Check out the hat.

“[T]he Orthodox clergy says, with the increasing use of computers in daily life, the time has come to designate an Orthodox Church saint to serve as spiritual guide to internet users.

A few years ago, the Roman Catholic Church nominated a patron saint for the internet – St Isidore, the Bishop of Seville.

However, the Vatican’s decisions hold no sway for Russian Orthodox believers, and the choice for them has been narrowed down to two contenders: Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Feofan the Hermit.”

I think the “Hermit” thing might be a dig.

Another reason to like Apple

Games, Mac Stuff, News No Comments

M IS FOR MATURE

So, ok, maybe I’m a prude, but I don’t like games such as Grand Theft Auto. Not only do I not like them, I find them offensive, plausibly damaging, and utterly unnecessary. It’s a very particular sort of game that I don’t like at this level — games that work to provide a reasonable emulation of real-life crime, violence, drug-culture, and that encourage you, as a player, to become part of that world, rather than setting you up to fight against it. In other words, I’m not a big fan of games where the whole point is to have the player role-play a real-life bad guy.

Give me aliens. Give me Sith. Let me run around being a dagger-wielding zombie chick with a bad attitude and a distaste for Night Elves. Set me up with a BFG and some nail guns running around being a Space Marine on Mars. Better yet, give me a hunk of desert and a bit of fertile land along a river and I will build a civilisation. Let me build. Let me create. Let me fight the bad guys. Let me solve crimes. Let me make-believe in a fantasy world. Don’t…don’t have me commit serious (epic, even) analogs of real-world crimes and reward me based on how many people I kill, prostitutes I control, or drug money I bring in. Well, you can offer me the chance to do that if you like, but don’t sell it to the ten-to-fifteen year old set, m’kay?

Now, of course, there’s the ESRB and their video games rating guide, but it’s not exactly all that useful. First off, “the ESRB does not have the authority to enforce the ratings at the retail level, [but] we do work closely with retailers and game centers to encourage them to display ratings information and not sell or rent certain product to minors”. Secondly, most parents don’t have the time or wherewithal to a) know about the rating system, b) actually use the rating system to select games for their children, or c) really have the first clue wtf the kids are doing downstairs on the X-Box in the first place.

I guess that’s actually secondly, thirdly, and fourthly.

Anyhow, I think the actual creation of these games is ethically questionable at the best of times, but I understand the most fundamental reasons for doing so: they make millions and millions of dollars. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, for example, “could be looking at 3 million copies sold in the opening weekend”. At around $50 US per copy, that’s, oh, $150,000,000. In the first weekend. Not an insignificant motivation.

I suppose I just wish that ESRB ratings were (far) more rigorous and better enforced. People are going to continue making these games, for obvious bottom-line-feeding reasons. Parents, however, aren’t going to suddenly wake up tomorrow and be more actively involved and responsible with regards to their childrens’ lives. Which is sad, but true. This being the case, I’d just like to see the video games treated more like…well, more like something that’s rigorously rated that has those ratings enforced at the point of sale. Movies, I suppose. Or…porn mags. Or something.

That’s enough of that, however. I started this post talking about Apple for a reason, and that’s because the Postal people have just released their sequel, Postal2: Running With Scissors for the Mac, and Apple is refusing to carry the title. “The controversial game has been given a M-rating (Mature audiences) along with a first-ever ‘Intense Violence’ sublabel from the ESRB.” Really, if you go look at their website (WARNING: FRONT PAGE IS NOT WORK FRIENDLY) you’ll see that the “M” rating really doesn’t cut it. “AO” (Adult Only, 18+) is what it should have, and that should be enforced at the point of sale by retail drones checking valid photo ID. But I digress…

The Postal site describes their latest product as follows:

Forget what you know about first person shooters. Walk a week in the Postal Dude’s shoes.

Freely explore full 3-D open-ended environments. Interact with over 100 unique NPC’s including Gary Coleman, marching bands, dogs, cats and elephants, protesters, policemen and civilians, with or without weapons.

POSTAL 2 is all about choice; experiment with everyone and everything.

And remember… it’s only as violent as you are!

Which really begs the question: if you’re not running around exploring this open-ended environment with a shotgun and a lust to kill anything that moves, what, exactly, are your interaction options? For all I know there’s a learn-to-be-a-chef-while-playing-mahjongg mini-game, but I’m doubting it.

Wrapping up: I think the Postal people are basically dumbasses for saying things like “The company that brought us the famous ’1984′ Superbowl commercial has obviously become Big Brother” and believing it.

You buy the ticket, you take the ride. That’s all there is to it.

Dear DeBeers, please buy a copy writer, stat.

General 2 Comments

die die die

That ad just offends me. Also, the “Right Hand Ring” campaign. Now just one diamond ring isn’t enough. Look, if you have to buy a diamond, buy Canadian.

De Beers has used its monopoly to create an artificial scarcity of diamonds, thus keeping prices high. The modern tradition of diamonds as a part of engagement in many cultures has been largely created by De Beers through an amazingly effective advertising campaign started in 1939. The ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ campaign not only convinced the public that the only suitable gift for engagement is a diamond, but also served to limit the market in used diamonds.

Don’t buy into the hype.

China Bans Video Game for Breach of Sovereignty

Games, News No Comments

China, sensitive about issues of national sovereignty, has banned a computer sports game that classifies Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Tibet as countries and has threatened to fine Web sites that supply the game and net cafes that let patrons download it.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

I like games about Egypt, see…

Games No Comments

For all my Egypt lovin' buddies.

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