MMMMM, Cellos

Between stuff like this and pretty much anything from Apocolyptica, the cello’s quickly becoming my favorite instrument.


Gamer Hardware – Razer Mamba

I am a wireless mouse fan.  I know, that is sacrilege for a gamer.  But the lower latency of the wired mouse was always trumped by the resistance of the cable whenever I pushed the mouse up.  So ever since I bought my first wireless Logitech mouse I’ve been hooked on them.  My past three mice have been the MX610, the MX1000 and the MX Revolution.  With the poor design decisions of the MX Revolution (Revo) my Logitech fanboyism was broken and I started to look at other hardware manufacturers.

Enter Razer.  I had heard good things about Razer products but dismissed their mice because they were all corded.  Well, until the Mamba.  I waited 2 years for my Revo to show signs of wear.  This past fall the right mouse button started stuttering.  Hey, I didn’t like the design decisions Logitech had made, their quality still rocks!

Christmas brought a Mamba to my door.  So far this mouse has been a dream.  It took a good two days of play for my hand to get adjusted to the button positions and overall grip.  The Mamba is heavier than my Revo but it’s a good, solid weight.  The left and right mouse buttons have good tactile response and are quite responsive.  Buttons 4 and 5 were a tad out of the way but now I hit them without thinking of it.

The main benefit is the increase in DPI.  The Revo is set to 2000 DPI while the Mamba has 5 steps between 800 DPI and 5600 DPI.  For desktop use and most non-FPS games where DPI doesn’t much matter I leave it in the 2000 DPI range.  This lets me leave all my settings alone.

However for FPS games I decided to bump the DPI to 5600.  This has helped immensely!  Since I’ve been using laser mice for FPS since pretty much their beginning I have had to set my sensitivity sky high to remain comfortable.  15 in the original Half-Life, slowly scaling back as DPI improved.  Recently in Team Fortress 2 my sensitivity was set to 9.  With the jump in DPI from the Revo to the Mamba I finally got my sensitivity down under 6.  I think I’m hovering right around 4.

What this means is much better aiming.  It shows, especially in TF2.  I’ve seen an almost across the board improvement in all classes.  This is born out in the stats on the TF2 servers I regularly visit.  I’ve seen a 20-30% increase in K:D in the month since I’ve started using the Mamba.  I love it.  I don’t see anything but Razer mice in my future.

With the Mamba my loyalty to Logitech is shattered.  I had already purchased a Charcharias headset when I thought my older headset was on the fritz.  Now I am waiting for the Anansi to be released so I can replace my Logitech Elite.  I’m not going to wait for it to die.  Logitech keyboards never give up the ghost.  With that keyboard my conversion from Logitech fan boy to Razer fan boy will be complete.

Really, Cryptic… Really!?

Today Cryptic announced a killer deal.  Lifetime subs to Champions online for 20% off. Why?  Because it’s going free to play!  Oh boy, $300 for a game that is about to go free!  I’ve waited all my life for a deal like that!

No words can adequately describe the only way this could be taken so so here’s a relevant link.

I know, I know, CO is probably going to be closer to the DDO/LotRO Freemium model where the game is technically F2P but you’ll need to purchase higher level content or some such.  But this can only be seen as a money grab on Cryptic’s part for two main reasons.

1: CO’s subscription numbers have been falling off harshly.  Not nearly as harsh as LotROs before it went F2P.

2: Cryptic’s lifetime subscription fee is $100 higher than Turbine’s (when offered).

I think this pretty much confirms what we knew when Cryptic dumped City of Heroes just to make another Superhero game, using the same engine, making the same mistakes they made in CoH.  They just don’t get it.

How My Atheism Has Affected My Work

Often theists will try to get atheists to admit that their atheism affect the sorts of decisions that they make, drive certain actions and what not.  It is an extension of the “where do you get your morality from if not God” argument.  Atheists counter that non-belief in something generally does not compel people to decide one way or another on completely unrelated topics.  For those who don’t get this concept tell me how your non-belief of Apsu affects your daily decision making.

Anyway, I recently noticed that my atheism has changed how I chose my words at work.  It’s a subtle change but one worth noting.  See, I work in a technical field and am actively engaged in problem solving.  I often have to journal my thought processes so others who also touch the same problem later on will know what ground has been covered and why.  Recently I have taken to replacing the word theory to mean hunch or educated guess with hypothesis, which is the accurate term.  Why?  Atheism.

Specifically the dozens of times a month I, or other atheists, have to reiterate to the disingenuous theists who like to point out that “Evolution is just a theory”, conflating the layman’s vernacular of theory (a guess) with the scientific definition of theory.  Because of this I am well aware of the differences between the two and simply can no longer use theory as a layman would when hypothesis is correct.  Especially in a technical field where accuracy in our terminology and reporting is paramount.

So, there, one example where my unbelief has impacted a conscious decision on my part.  Well, not directly but I’m sure it will count to some theist, somewhere.

Countdown to Tyranny/Revolt

This is going to be a touchy topic.  It was sparked because of the events of in Arizona but doesn’t have anything directly to do with it.  All I ask is that, from the start, keep an open mind and read through to the end before judging the content.

As news filtered out of what happened in Az accusations began flying from all corners about the  motives of the shooter.  Most, well, almost all, were railing against Sarah Palin’s map specifically and the rhetoric of the right in particular.  Now, as I write this 2 days after the shooting in Tucson, the actual motives of the shooter are not known.  I am saying right now, I do not know the motives.  I am not defending his motives if and when they become known.  I am not defending his actions.

But the lashing out of individuals against the right for their rhetoric is reaching a fevered pitch.  Much of it is centered upon the Four Boxes meme, “There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury and ammo. Please use in that order”.  It is the idea that armed revolt is an option of last resort.  It has crept into the rhetoric of the right as of late because they feel that the first two boxes aren’t working any more.  The people on the left whom I have either read or interacted with are attacking this notion that it is a viable option at all.

In one of those discussions I asked the following question.  At what point would you advocate a justified revolt? Work backwards through the amendments and tell me upon which one would you say “no more”?  Let’s just keep it confined to the original 10 so as not to be overly long.

I think this is an important thought exercise for people, on both sides of the political spectrum, to think about when discussing the validity of that final box in defense of liberty.  Most people are at least nominally aware of the Bill of Rights.  They should grasp, at some level, that it is important to us as Americans in defining the foundations upon which our liberty rests even though many think the freedoms are granted, not enumerated, by those 10 Amendments.  So it is my hope that at some level this provides a common measure upon which to gauge how threatened people feel about their liberty at these times so as to understand why that meme is resonating with many people.

But why a countdown?  Because when it comes to the Bill of Rights they do tend to decrease in importance.  Not that they aren’t all important and aren’t all intertwined but, let’s be honest, I think we can all agree that without the freedom of speech enumerated in the First Amendment it is hard to defend the other nine.

So, with the above in mind here are the Bill of Rights (presented in their summary).  However I am not going to just present them as a dry list.  After each I will explained why some feel some of the Amendments have been violated and no longer apply.  Note, I am not presenting these as my view but rather a view that is held by a good deal of people.  Views which are not hard to dig into in depth with judicious use of Google.  A practice I encourage anyone who reads this to engage, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they are.

This is an important step for understanding.  As you go through each of the Amendments, mentally ticking off that you can do without one or the other until the burden is too great and you feel at that time you would consider an armed revolt appropriate, keep a tally of how many some people feel have already been lost and see how you would fair.  Ok?  Here goes.

10. Limits the powers of the federal government to those delegated to it by the Constitution. With the expanding scope of the commerce clause there are people who feel that this Amendment no longer applies to the federal government since any and all activities an individual may chose to engage or not engage in can have an effect on interstate commerce.  In fact the individual mandate of the PPACA which requires individuals to purchase health insurance is argued on the basis that people who don’t purchase health insurance are causing a burden to interstate commerce.

9. Asserts the existence of unenumerated rights retained by the people. This one is dicey as it is the only Amendment which isn’t too specific.  So a violation of it to one person is not a violation of it to another.  So it is hard to pin down specific examples to cite.

8. Prohibits excessive fines and excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment. Again, another dicey one as the definitions of excessive, cruel and unusual differ from person to person.  Again, hard to find specific examples.

7. Provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.  While we still have trial by jury the process by which juries are selected and instructed to perform their duties calls into question if this Amendment really applies.  Simply follow any discussion over the concept of Jury Nullification to see this view in action.  The short form is that the jury can judge not only the defendant but the law and choose to not convict someone on the basis of a bad law.  It is a practice some judges have explicitly states as not allowed to prospective jurors.  Note that this is one of the four boxes in the meme above so if you are someone who feels this no longer applies then the use of the jury box in defense of liberty is already lost.

6. Protects the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury, including the rights to be notified of the accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel. This one is probably one of the easiest for those on the left to see as lost.  Fair and speedy public trial is often cited as a reason to close Guantanamo.  To be notified of accusations is seen as violated by no-knock and sneak & peek warrants.  Confront accusers has been stymied in the past two administrations by claims of national security concerns.

5. Sets out rules for indictment by grand jury and eminent domain, protects the right to due process, and prohibits self-incrimination and double jeopardy. Questions of due process come up all the time.  Kelo vs. New London is viewed as a clear overreach of eminent domain.

4. Prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause. The recent TSA policies of invasive pat-downs or a near-nude body scanner is often cited as an example of unreasonable searches.  Unreasonable seizures have a much longer history under the name of Asset Forfeiture.  A concept which also could have been listed under the 6th and 5th Amendments because the notion is that a person isn’t on trial, their property is!

3. Prohibits the forced quartering of soldiers. I am not aware of any clear cites of controversy, let alone violations, to this Amendment.

2. Protects the right to keep and bear arms. I don’t think I need to explain this to anyone who has any passing interest in politics.  The only thing to add is that here rests another one of the boxes to protect liberty, the one of last resort.

1. Protects the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government. Again, another one that is pretty much in the lime light all the time.  I don’t think I need to go into detail on how some might feel this one has been violated time and again as well from limits to speech, the press, the right to assemble and to petition the government.  I separate freedom of religion because this one, while seemingly violated all the time as told by the religious, really isn’t.  They just tend to forget that the Amendment starts off with “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion” and skip right to “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  On the other hand the 1950s were not kind to the leading clause of this Amendment.  This is where the third box of the meme rests.

So, here we are at the end of the countdown.  To some degree or another I hope I have presented examples on how some people can feel that 9 of the 10 Amendments which comprise the Bill of Rights are no longer applicable to the government as it currently stands.  So at which point (if at all) did you say “no more, this is too much” and felt that if that were to come to pass that armed revolt would be an appropriate response?  Keeping that point in mind can you understand that if someone feels the right enumerated here have been violated as described that they might feel they are already at that point?  You don’t need to agree, just understand.

Finally, to those who made it to the end of the list I have one final question.  If living in a state where you are not free to practice your religion, speak your mind, assemble with your peers, to keep arms, where authorities can take your property at a whim, without a trial, where your property and person are subject to searches at any time, for any reason, where you can be locked up without being told why nor to be presented with an opportunity to defend yourself and the national government can do anything and everything it wants isn’t enough for you to consider armed revolt, what would it take?  Because those conditions were more than sufficient justification for many a populace to take arms against their government in the past.

And They Say PC Gaming is Dead.

At the beginning of Valve’s Holiday sales I figured I easily had broken the 100 game mark in my Steam list.  Little did I know that I had broken that amount a tad before the holiday sales.  As of right now (12/31) I have 156 games in my Steam list.  I started the Christmas sale with under 116.  So 50 games added in the past two or so weeks.

My XBox360 library pales in comparison.  GTAIV, 3 Tomb Raider games, Rock Band 1 & 2 (soon to have 3), Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bayonetta, Mirror’s Edge, The Force Unleased (bleck), DMC4 (ungh), DAO (ungh), Mass Effect (ew), and a couple of games I borrowed from a friend.  About 15 games total with a good 4-5 of them games that I wish I had never wasted my time playing.  Another 4-5 games I could just as easily purchased on the PC.

There’s a lot of newer games in there.  Games I would not otherwise have purchased.  Fallout 3 + New Vegas or Just Cause 2.

Obviously there’s a lot of older games in there, too.  Most of them were purchased in a bundle.  For example the X-Com series was bundled up.  Not a bad deal for a gamer like me nor the company.  I get a fresh copy of a beloved game (I cut my PC Gaming teeth on Railroad Tycoon and X-Com) and the companies that put these older games up for sale get additional revenue from them.

It is these older games where the PC market shines.  It is a common argument against PC gamers by console gamers that we stick with the older games.  But look at it from the developer and publisher’s perspective.  In console gaming Game Stop has a lock on the used console gaming market.  Consoles games make their money solely on initial sales.  After that used sales take over.  No so on the PC.  I just purchased, or was gifted, 50+ games and XPacks in the past few weeks.  Games from 10 years old to released just last month.  Every game purchase is money that goes to the publisher and developer. Sure, we PC gamers might hold tight to our older games but they sure love us for it.  😉