Tag Archive: Poetic Justice

I’ve had a Blue Nintendo DS for about as long as I’ve been in a relationship with TacoMa’am.  That is to say, about 8 years now.  It’s had a good, long run, but it’s starting to have an issue with charging the battery.  Likely the battery or the charging circuit is toast, which isn’t a huge issue except that it’s an 8 year old piece of hardward now, and the batteries are hard to find.

Well, no, batteries are easy to find, actually.  Finding a battery that will hold a charge as long as the original battery is hard.   Most of the batteries I’ve looked at thus far are sporting a play-life of about half of what the original battery was able to do.  So I have to decide whether or not I’d like to replace the battery with one of these knock-offs or just put the DS out to pasture and find myself a shiny new hand-held device.  The 3DS has some nice games, but the mixed reviews about its performance rather detracts from my enthusiasm to get one.  Similarly, the Vita looks nifty, but I don’t think I care for that weird touch panel.  I could get a snazzy phone and just play games on that, but phones of that caliber typically require an extremely expensive monthly plan, and frankly I think it would be more cost effective to buy a hand-held system and keep my current cheap phone plan.

I know, First-World problem, right?

Maybe I’ll just buy the damn battery, fix the thing, and just live with shorter play times.  This DS has been my single, solid portable gaming system for 8 years now, so maybe it’ll go another 5.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

The advertising arms race

As many of you are probably aware, the revenue provided from online advertising is on a significant downturn, one that is unlikely to see a rebound. Across the board websites are having a harder and harder time making ends meet on advertising alone. This should hardly be a surprise to anyone given the continuing arms race that exists between online advertising agencies and the consumers they try to victimize and the websites that have helped advertisers do it by accepting their money.

That may sound fairly harsh, but lets step back and take a look at the situation as it has evolved. Originally the intent of advertising was to provide information about your products to consumers in the hope that this information would promote the sale of your products. Dressing up the presentation of the product generally produced better results, but it didn’t take long for advertisers to start outright lying about their products.

This naturally made a lot of people angry, which is understandable because nobody likes to find out that the product that they’ve been sold is really snake oil. Since companies could no longer be trusted to truthfully represent their products, various consumer protection agencies were formed to lay out and enforce the rules by which advertisers needed to operate. Specifically, advertisers can’t outright lie and misrepresent products to consumers. This leads to the issue that most advertisers utilize subjective measures and slogans to promote products, but that’s still better than making blatantly false claims about what the product does.

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Much ado about… not much.

There is an American-Italian restaurant near us that has rave reviews online. They’re legendary for their lasagna and their pizza. I even have a co-worker who goes there to feast upon these dishes of Faux-Italian Ambrosia on a regular basis.

My wife and I, with high expectation, placed an order for take-out from this restaurant almost two years ago now. An order of their mythical lasagna and their best-in-show pizza. It was terrible. Their pizza was bland and greasy, had too much cheese and too little sauce, and their lasagna was watery, greasy, and tasteless. We were heartbroken. Doubly so because the best American-Italian restaurant that I’ve ever been to is also in town and we could have gone there instead had we known this other place was going to be a huge let-down.

I just don’t understand how this place gets these reviews. Now, I know that as a Midwest city, Milwaukee is predisposed to liking bland food. It’s one of those places where chili powder is considered super-spicy and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper in a gallon of chili makes it too hot to eat. But even so, I didn’t expect this super-bland American-Italian restaurant to be so popular.

Wisconsin, I am disappointed in you.

So, my 3 readers, do any of you have a similar story about a huge culinary let-down? If so, please share in the comments!

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Apparently my son’s birthday is on the 24th of October, not the 20th. I am very not good at remembering important dates.

I now get to spend the rest of the day figuring out what the significance of October 20th is because every bone in my body is now telling me today is important, only I can’t remember why.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Loving the Freaks

A few years ago I was at a gaming convention with my wife and one of our friends. While we were waiting in line for… something (badge collection maybe), we met a couple of guys who we took the opportunity to chew the fat with. They were nice enough guys and we had a nice chat in a line that was really, really long. It helped pass the time and we got to gab about gaming.

The next day we ran into them again and they invited us to lunch. So we headed out to a bar and grill, noted for embracing the geek/gaming culture during the convention (they were playing Lord of the Rings on their big-screen when we walked in and advertising their D&D hot-wing special, so we knew we had the right place). During our lunch and conversation with them one of the guys made a comment that stuck in my craw, and ultimately led to me “losing” their contact information:

“I really enjoy [convention], but I don’t know why they allow the furries in there. We don’t need those freaks running around. It’s as bad as when they started letting the Anime people use the small basement rooms to play their crap.”

This struck me as rather hypocritical to say the least. Here we were, a group of 5 twenty and thirty-somethings, going to a convention based around a style of game that is really just glorified make-believe. I didn’t break it to him at the time, but really the whole lot of us are freaks. I’m certainly a freak, my wife is a freak, my friends are all freaks, the only normal one among us is Tron… because he’s too young to really be a decent freak. It seems that if you’re a freak you might as well hang out with them, even if they’re a different brand of freak. As long as both parties are amicable, there’s no issue. There’s plenty of space at the convention to have a few devoted to playing anime, and seeing a guy walking around in bear costume doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been to Disneyland and there are tons of people running around in costumes there, and lines of people waiting to get pictures of it. Similarly, I like Anime, and cartoons in general. A lot of the geek/gaming people double dip into anime/cartoons, so it only makes sense to have it available at the convention. More revenue and more happy customers.

Let’s back up a bit though: Between the grades of 3 and 10, I was about as popular as a mouth ulcer. I played video games, D&D, and wore clothes based on comfort rather than how cool they were. Back in those days that made me unpopular kid number 2, right behind that one kid who always smelled like urine. I had few friends growing up because I bore, rather proudly, the geek label (the same label that is so popular right now… *sigh*). As such, I know very well that it’s difficult and rather lonely being the freak, and that freaks crave company of their same ilk, or at least those who can relate.

As such, the inclusion of the Furry, Anime, and Cosplay societies within the gaming convention always made sense to me. It’s a convention devoted to the freaks who loved make-believe so much that they had to create a massive collection of rule sets for it. We wear costumes, we make foam weapons, we create characters with more vibrant backgrounds than you’re like to see in even a novel, and we even have paintings made of our favored characters. We. Are. Freaks. Putting on an animal costume (for whatever reason) or loving to watch Japanese cartoons and dress up as the characters does not seem all that out of place; it never did. Some of the practices within those groups I find a little… yucky, but as long as they’re keeping that stuff private, they can do what they want. If everything is consensual and nobody is getting hurt, all the power to them; just don’t ask me to watch.

But the view has to be more than that. It’s all well and good to accept the groups that don’t really weird me out that much (and who do have redeeming crafts/interests that I like), but it’s another, harder thing to accept those groups that I find truly bizzar. Technosexuals, Smurfs, Emos, and Juggalos to name a few. If I’m really going to accept the freaks, I’ve got to go the whole way and accept those who I wouldn’t even be comfortable being seen with in public. I have to be better than that, and it’s hard.

It all comes down to understanding why these things make us so uncomfortable, and really, it’s a pretty easy thing to grasp: We are uncomfortable with that which we don’t understand. I can’t fathom why somebody would want to paint themselves blue or dress up like a crazy clown. Because I don’t understand it, and I can’t really relate to it, I naturally shy away from it. Many, like those I lunched with, instantly take the path of hateful exclusion because it’s easy and helps build a sense of worth in your own camp (whatever it may be). By excluding those who are weird, and denouncing them, you declare how normal you must be and how good you are. You get double duty by spacing yourself from that which makes you uncomfortable while at the same time feeding your own ego. It’s an, unfortunately, natural response to what is different. It is why change is so hard for humans, and why social progress takes so long. But, what if you want people to accept what you are? Can you really defend yourself from those hatefully distancing their camps from you if you’re doing the same thing to another?

No, you really can’t. And that’s where loving the freak comes into play. If I really, really want to defend my obsession with games, then I must defend the freak as well. I have to point at the Juggalo and the Emo and say “I don’t like or understand that, but there’s nothing wrong with them wanting to do it.” In the end, all the freaks are in it together; even if we don’t understand each other.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: By the same token this is why groups entirely DEVOTED to hateful separation don’t have a leg to stand on. For instance: the KKK is about the biggest group of hypocrites I can think of. They hate those who are different but they are shocked, confused, and angry when people hate them. Seems that they aren’t fond of getting dished out exactly what they are serving. Loving the freak is all well and good, but when the “freaks” in question are hate-mongering douchebags, they’re on their own.

The Retaining Wall: So Close.

Yesterday I was finishing up that retaining wall that I’ve been working on all week. I got it almost completely put together, except that I bought one fewer brick than I needed, so I have a 3″ gap on the top of one end of the wall.


Back to the hardware store to buy a single brick.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Only as good as your opponents

A comment on my blog here got me thinking back to my Counter Strike days. For those unfamiliar, Counter Strike is/was a free multiplayer mod to the video game Half Life released in late 1999. Since then Counter Strike has undergone several evolutions; most of which I’ve ignored out of disinterest. The core of the game is that there are two competing groups, Terrorists and Counter Terrorists. Each round you can buy weapons (anything from pistols up to sniper rifles and machine guns) in order to better defend yourself against the other team and complete the objectives. Generally for any given map there were two objectives. 1) Kill everyone on the other team. 2) Complete a secondary objective (such as rescuing hostages, planting a bomb, etc). Most of the time the secondary objective was ignored unless the round was drawing out.

Back in my early College days, when classes were largely core requirements taught by Masters students who graded on a curve, I had a fair amount of free time; at least far more than I do now that I’ve got a toddler, a house, and a 9-5 job. Anyway, the game du jour for all college students at that time was Counter Strike. It was fairly new, modestly violent, and could be picked up and played quickly since one round of play lasted only a few minutes. You could play anywhere from 1v1 to 16v16; so it as a great way to play with friends. On the floor of my dormitory (full of geeky engineers) we played it constantly. To the point where many of us knew each other only by our game handles (I was TacoMagic… go figure). Playing it as much as we did, we got good at the game… very good in fact.

One of the reasons we got so good was because one of the guys on the floor was nationally ranked as the number 2 player (via the tournaments he participated in). He routinely destroyed us. He could square off against the entire floor and win easily… at first. But, playing with him raised the bar for all of us. By going in against somebody so out of our league, we had to evolve quickly in order to stay in the game. Eventually a small group of us started doing something even more difficult: what is called “going pistols”. “Going Pistols” is deciding to play the game using only pistols; which is difficult because they tend to be less powerful than rifles and are less accurate at longer distance. The upside is that a character using a pistol is more maneuverable, faster, and deadly up close. It’s a trade off that takes some time getting used to, but makes the game way more fun (for us at least). After a while the small group of us became pistol specialists and were a terror on the battlefield. To a point where some of the guys on the floor requested that we stop “going pistol” on certain maps.

But the point is: we got very good by practicing with somebody who was very good. Eventually we formed a “Guild Breaker” guild that was dedicated to beating down uppity guilds who were getting a little too snooty. We did pretty well at that. One of us set up a stat tracker for all our team members, and we all sported a kill:death ratio of about 2 or 3 : 1. In the counter strike world that was pretty low, but remember we were regularly practicing with a guy who destroyed us all and we were pretty equal when playing against each other. The only thing that kept us from going below 1:1 ratios was probably playing online against the guilds.

I told you all that to tell you the following:

One day I was playing casually online by myself. I think it was a holiday weekend or something and I was pretty well alone in the dorm. I figured I’d get a little fun in by dinking around in random games. Anyway, in my online wanderings I happened upon a small guild-hosted game, a 3 vs. 3 affair on a small map. I joined and went pistols.

The first thing the guildies (there were 2 of them) asked me was, “What’s your kill ratio, Taco?” I happily informed them it was about 2.4:1. Their response was something to the effect of, “Bleh! You SUCK! You can be on the counter terrorist team and be with our training meat.” That was fine by me, the counter terrorists have better pistols and I just wanted to have some pistol fun. I was teamed up with 2 other fairly new players who’d stumbled in looking to make a name for themselves and join the guild. The next 10 rounds consisted of my team (mostly me and one of the “newbies” who I think might have been a fellow guild buster) destroying the guilded players; and the ten rounds after that were spent listening to them whining that I lied about my kill ratio and that I should switch over to the terrorist team so their kill ratios weren’t harmed by my performance. Frankly, they weren’t very good; certainly not good enough to merit their attitude toward the game. Having played many times against numerous guilds full of skilled players, I knew these guys weren’t anything to write home about.

My response to their whining was along this line: “Boys, the reason why you’re loosing so badly has nothing to do with our arbitrary kill ratios and everything to do with how you’re practicing. I play against my equals and betters while you’re playing against newbies who you refer to as “meat.” Padding your kill ratio makes you look great on paper, but when it actually comes down to performance, it means nothing. If you boys want to be good at this game, practice against people who are better than you at it. Like me.” Pretty snide, but I was tired of the whining.

The game continued to about round 25 before they kicked me out and banned me from their host. I’ve always wondered how long it took them to repair the damage I did to their precious kill ratios that day. Most likely they just reset their stats to a daily backup or something to preserve their image.

The take home message of all this is: If you want to be good at something competitive, you have to practice with people who are at least as good as, if not better than, you. Otherwise you’ll get little to no improvement in whatever it is you’re doing. When you finally get to a situation where your performance does matter, you’ll find a rude awakening waiting for you if you’ve always been more concerned about how often you win the game than with who you’ve been playing against. A Major League Baseball team can strut about all they want when preaching their 10 year perfect record against little league teams, but it’s a fairly meaningless metric when they find themselves playing against other MLB teams.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Bullshit Historical “Facts”

A few years back I was reading a little blurb somewhere that cataloged a set of historical “facts.” Among the facts was one that has always made my gorge rise:

“On July 4th, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. That day, King George III of England wrote in his personal journal ‘Noting of importance happened.'”

Something immediately struck me as not quite right about that little factoid the first time I saw it… and it took me a few minutes of considering to figure out exactly why this “fact” was utter bullshit. I’ll tackle the less obvious reason it’s crap first: It’s pretty contrived and obviously meant to appeal to one’s sense of nationalism. One is supposed to think “That ass! No wonder we won; they totally underestimated our forefathers!” Generally if something is being rather obvious about making you feel good about yourself in a nationalistic way, it’s a lie. And this is a lie, oh baby is it a lie.

Even IF the “fact” was true, it would still be bullshit. The Declaration was signed at the beginning of July in 1776. Remember, 1776. That is important right there and I’m hoping most of you have picked out the problem with the “fact” by now. In 1776 the only way that King George III could get word that the colonies had declared independence was by messenger. A messenger that would have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean by ship. A trip that would take, with prevailing winds and an immediate departure, at least 3 weeks. So even if the “fact” is true, it would be a coincidence and nothing more. There is no way that King George III would know what had happened in the American Colony that day. He couldn’t just check a text message from any of his agents to get the low down of the situation. It was likely a month or more before he was informed of this rebellion.

So yes, coincidental facts are fun… but ultimately bullshit. And after all that, it’s a pretty trivial thing that King George III never actually kept a journal. Yup, you guessed it: the “Fact” is a bald faced lie anyway. It seems that this “fact” first appeared on the show X-Files during the finale episode of the 8th season as a fictional plot device. It has since been regurgitated as fact by people without enough brains to actually do some research of their own. Fun, yes?

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Dear Spam: BRING IT!

I’ve been getting a LOT of spam over the last week, probably due to the fact that I’ve now posted two blog entries directly addressing some of my spam. I’ve been told by other bloggers that when spambots are able to find terms of their spam in search engines (Which they would find, since I posted some verbatim) they tend to swarm all over that blog.

I, for one, welcome the attention and am more than happy to weed through my spam and present the best* ones here on my blog. So far all those spambots out there, I have one thing to say to you: VIAGRA PENIS ENLARGEMENT RETAIL DEAL SAVINGS WEIGHT LOSS TRICK!

I await your response, spambots. Do not disappoint me.

*Worst translated.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

EDIT: Initially I was disappointed that the spam didn’t bring it, and then I remembered that it takes 2-3 days before my posts are updated to Uncle Google. I’ll give everyone an update next week on whether the spam has BROUGHT IT.

This week’s game is the age old Water Balloon Fight. And by “age old”, I of course mean “fairly old, at least 50 years or so”.


In recent years (the last 20 or so) have seen a lot of gimmics in the water balloon world. There’s the water grenade, a fancy water balloon that’s a little more rugged than the standard fare, but doesn’t always burst on contact. The water balloon launcher, which launches balloons long distances about as often as they burst from the forces of the launcher. And the water balloon catapult, which is basically the launcher for people who like to build overly complicated things designed to hurl a water balloon in a high arc that doesn’t have much chance of hitting anyone.

Rules similar to paintball have been introduced in some games (you get ballooned, you’re out of the round). Other things, like capture the flag, have also been folded into the game.

But at it’s core is the old rule set: Pelt each other with water balloons until you run out. That’s it. No, “hit and you’re out” or pesky objective. No gadgets. Just a bunch of people with water balloons. Sometimes you’d have a bag, bucket, basket, or wagon to hold your reserve ammo, but just as often you would find yourself with only a balloon in each hand and still itching to fling them. You had your own feet for dodging, and maybe you’d even have a team. But at the very core was one general principle: get other people wet by throwing things at them. And often enough, no matter what teams were during the game, if somebody comes out of a water balloon fight without being wet enough they’re destined to get sprayed with the hose.

Only two balloons? LETS DO THIS!

Of course, once you’re all done with the fun you look over the playing field and realize suddenly that 8 hours filling water balloons for 20 minutes of fun followed by 2 days of picking bits of colorful rubber out of your parents lawn WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!

-Confusion is a state of mine, or i- *BLASH!*