January 2012


Well, the good news is that the new domain works and phpBB has been installed.

The bad news is that the database update failed.  I started from phpBB’s backup feature, which produces a database dump of an impressive 42M.  phpBB itself barfs on the file.  And so does phpMyAdmin, which says it’s too big.  And BigDump doesn’t run.

If anyone knows how to do this, I’d appreciate some advice.  (I mean, someone who’s actually done this; I know how to Google too.)  This is on Dreamhost by the way.

(The backup plan is to start with an empty board, but it’d be nice to do better than that.)

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Update: setting up a new domain now.  Haven’t installed board software yet nor looked at the morass of database wrangling.
Update update: in case anyone relies on old postings for new news, the ZBB is back up and lives at www.incatena.org
Back in September, spinnwebe got hacked. Another attack came up in November, though apparently limited to the ZBB, and this was repeated this month.
(Edit: it just occurred to me that people may not know that this is why people are getting big “malware” alerts when using some browsers.  The hackers added code to redirect search engine visitors to a spam site.  Google detected this and classified the site as infected.)

spinn addressed the first two problems, and I removed the immediate source of the latest attack (in .htaccess). However, the infection must go deeper– the .htacess file isn’t going to hack itself. I’m no security expert and have no experience in fixing such things, nor am I the webmaster of the board.  I can’t force spinn to deal with something that is, after all, an annoying interruption to him.

This situation, as well as the problems at Almeopedia (also due to hacking), lead me to think that the board can only be satisfactorily run from a website under my own control. Then at least I can start from a hack-free state and have the tools to deal with problems as they come up.

It will take some time to set things up. When there’s news, I’ll post it.

The site seems to work on some browsers, but again this is not a sign that the site is OK; something keeps infecting it.  It’s probably not going to actually harm anyone, but I can’t say for sure since I don’t know what the real problem is.  Given that, it seems better to keep the board closed.

(It doesn’t help that some people chose to whine about things not being done fast enough for them.  Sometimes I don’t know why I bother to have a board.  But then I remember– it’s to keep my e-mail down.)
(Edit edit: didn’t realize that the board wasn’t visible at all to non-mods, so I put up a pointer back here.)

I’ve been catching up on the blogs lately, and I noticed you listed his opposition to the Osama raid as one of Paul’s “crank” positions. Really? I’m not denying bin Laden was a bad guy who had it in for the U.S., but I’m not sure that opposing extrajudicial killing of someone who was never convincted of a crime in US courts is necessarily a “crank” position.

Much as I have liked some elements of Obama’s presidency, he’s been distressingly willing to continue Bush’s policy of ignoring the rule of law when it suits his administration’s military objectives, and has shown no initiative in transforming the neocon’s endless, overhyped, and badly-defined war on terror into a sane antiterror foreign policy strategy, much less a realistic domestic security strategy. Besides Osama, there’s the matter of being willing to use drones to kill U.S. civilians (again, neither convicted of nor sentenced for capital crimes by an American court)–al-Awlaqi may have held reprehensible political views, but that hardly obviates the necessity of adhering to the rule of law. Paul is a crank, and an often inconsistent one, but I can’t help but have sympathy for his views on this one. Maybe I am more of a leftist outlier than I thought I was.

—James

The Osama bit doesn’t seem difficult to me.  He was directly responsible for killing 3000 Americans and he had declared himself to be at war with the US.  We are not under any obligation to try rather than kill enemy warriors.  Ideally he’d be arrested anyway— but Obama and his advisors obviously believed that Pakistan was incapable of apprehending him.  Indeed, it seems likely that he was being shielded, perhaps not by the top officials of the state, but all it takes is a bunch of sympathetic insiders.   Also, the US team was under orders to accept a clear surrender, and none was given. (Understandable given a violent raid in the middle of the night, but important morally as well as operationally.  Soldiers have to neutralize armed opponents immediately.)

As for the rest, I’m not happy about it either— if you’ll notice, I included opposition to foreign interventions and the national security state as the refreshing bits of Paul’s positions.  But, two things.  One, candidates are packages.  It’s not an election on whether to use drone attacks in Pakistan.  You don’t get Paul without the rest of Paul’s positions, including leaving the UN,  going back to the gold standard, making abortion and “sodomy” illegal, giving away more money to the rich, and dismantling the New Deal.

Ah, but some of his personal positions probably wouldn’t get past Congress.  That brings us to the second point: presidents come attached to a party, and Paul is running as a Republican.  That means Republican allies, Republican values, Republican judges.  It also almost surely means that he won’t be the nominee.  But if he was, and won, he’d be relying on the support of a party that wants torture, wants more war, wants no-strings-attached support of Israel.  I just don’t see a path where this combination actually leads to an actual non-interventionist policy.

 

 

I’ve been looking forward to Deus Ex: Human Revolution for months, and so far it’s provided about the most frustrating first two hours of any game I’ve played for two hours.

(Actually, Terraria fits that description too, but I didn’t expect as much from it.)

In 2027 a popular augment will be super-pointy chins
So, apparently I’m head of security for Sarif Industries, and I’m incompetent.  Because about the first thing that happens is a huge attack on the corporate offices, which is the sort of thing a head of security should probably have prevented.  Also because I couldn’t shoot anyone, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
 
First, the damn cutscenes!  Didn’t anyone at Square Enix ever play Half-Life 2?  You have to follow some chick and by that I mean, you have to follow her.  You can’t walk away, you can’t stop to look at something, you can’t even look behind you.  There’s a point where you get control of your character for about five seconds, then lose it again.  It seems to take forever before the game trusts you to walk around.
 
Then you get that attack, and find that a) shooting enemies head on is a very fast way to die, and b) shooting enemies from cover is a slower way to die.  You can supposedly pop your head up with the space key, but even if you’ve changed positions the enemies immediately know where you are and shoot you.  You can kind of lean to the side past your cover, only your bullets don’t work.  There was one sequence I replayed about five times; there’d be a dude approaching me, in the open, and I couldn’t do any damage.
 
A friend (thanks Kim!) finally told me: you have to hit the WASD keys while aiming.  That is, you can’t fire a gun using, say, the mouse button like any other goddamn game.  You hit RMB to aim, a movement key to peek out, and now you can hit LMB to fire the damn gun.  Try not to accidentally hit a movment key without aiming, because then you’ll move, out of cover and probably into enemy fire.
 
So, I finally survived that, got cut up by another cutscene, and got all sorts of augments which, um, probably do something.  Another attack on our labs, of all things.  Naturally, as head of security, I bypass the SWAT team and head in alone, with my minimal augments.  Fortunately I have one augmented ability– Batman’s silent takedown from behind.  And I can do it twice before I somehow run out of augment juice.
 
And then there’s a room with a half dozen perps, and I have tranq darts for approximately one of them.  I’ve gathered that the game would prefer me to sneak around, but there are no gargoyles, and the one vent I found, I couldn’t get into.  Jump, crouch, jump-crouch, use, jump really high, nothing worked.
 
Sigh.  A lot of my friends love the game, and I’d love to get to the point where I have an inkling why.  So far it’s got cutscenitis, a shitty tutorial, a baffling combat mechanic, and a stealth system that’s just one step above Skyrim’s ctrl key.  Oh, and a hacking minigame based on random dice rolls– hey, just like D&D!  Oh, and a map that doesn’t indicate your objective, though I’m guessing like most objectives it’s at the far end of the mostly linear level.
 
On the plus side– well, I can’t really think of one, but I expect I’ll try it again just to see if crossing that room is worth it.
 

How Romney made his quarter of a billion dollars:

* Bain in 1988 put $5 million down to buy Stage Stores, and in the mid-’90s took it public, collecting $100 million from stock offerings. Stage filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

* Bain in 1992 bought American Pad & Paper (AMPAD), investing $5 million, and collected $100 million from dividends. The business filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

* Bain in 1993 invested $60 million when buying GS Industries, and received $65 million from dividends. GS filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

* Bain in 1997 invested $46 million when buying Details, and made $93 million from stock offerings. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

Romney’s Bain invested 22 percent of the money it raised from 1987-95 in these five businesses, making a $578 million profit.

Capitalism isn’t always pretty; sometimes a firm has to lay people off to survive.  But in these cases Romney’s firm bought these companies, looted them of hundreds of millions, and left them to die.  What’s the social benefit?  What’s he doing that’s worth the money he was paid? 

This is the business experience he’s running on.  This is relevant to running a country how?

We saw a new movie the other day!  We went to see The Adventures of Tintin.  We both liked it.

Reviews have been mixed, but in general it seems people who are familiar with the comics like it a lot more.  It’s true that the movie is pretty much uninterrupted action… but, well, that’s what Hergé does too.  With the exception of the Tchang stories, it’s just not a reflective, cerebral series.  If anything, the film does a better job actually explaining what Tintin does (i.e. being a reporter).

(Not that either comics or movie treat this realistically.  Who does Tintin work for, where does he get his money, why are they hiring a teenager?  But his situation is just a magical device to enable Hergé’s storytelling.  Indiana Jones doesn’t act like a real archeologist either.)

The film is mostly based on Le secret de la Licorne, though it’s taken many liberties, including entirely replacing the main villains. 

The CGI has gotten a lot of bad press, but I can see one major advantage: it adds spectacle.  Drawn animation is just not at its best in presenting straight adventure– it looks cheesy.  With near-realistic environments, as in the rollicking climax, the effect is impressive instead.  And of course near-realistic environments require near-realistic characters.  Sometimes the big heads look a little odd, but I think it works OK.

Thomson and Thompson were a little off.  They’re supposed to be utter imbeciles, and the film missed an opportunity to show off one of Hergé’s favorite running gags– their invariably awful idea of local costumes.

I’m glad they kept the film within period (La Licorne was published in 1946).  Tintin doesn’t belong to the hypercivilized modern era; he belongs to a wilder era when non-Western nations were invitingly strange and airplanes were easy to fly.

 

 

 

Finally got here in Arkham City:

I get to see all the concept art, baybee

Yes, I’m a big dork.  That’s every goddamn Riddler trophy, riddle, broken balloon, and general hellraising.  Though many are easy, overall they’re harder than in Arkham Asylum; I guess they got feedback that Riddler should challenge Batman more.  I’m certainly glad I won’t have to do them again. 

Edit: So how is it?  Well, there’s many in plain sight, many that are easy to get but require a bit of exploration (including exploration with exploding gel), and then a whole bunch that require somewhat clever use of your gadgetry:

  • ones where you have to touch the green pressure plates without touching anything else, requiring careful gliding or occasionally the line tool
  • ones where you have to break a wall you can’t reach, and for some reason the batclaw no longer works for this; you glide into them
  • question marks you have to activate all at once with a combination of gel and bataranges; or where you have to hit them in a particular sequence
  • a couple of really annoying ones that require a certain amount of pressure, and thus a very high dive + detonation (which you can also use as an attack though frankly not often)
  • some in low positions that require making frozen rafts to get to
  • there are also a bunch that are rewarded for particular combat moves
  • Catwoman trophies that require walking on the ceiling; also note that a few of these require preparatory work by Batman, like blowing up walls

Plus, the more trophies you get, you get more challenge maps, access to the Riddle hostage side mission, as well as tapes, models, and art. 

Is it all worth it?  Well, if you love the game and want a chance to use all those skills in fiddly ways, sure. 

(The conceit that it’s Riddler who placed all these items, rather than the map designers, is kind of odd.  Granted that we now know he has his own thugs… how does he pay them?  And if he can hack Tyger terminals, why doesn’t he escape?)

Edit edit: if you are a map designer, I can see wanting a game mode that forces people to look thoroughly over your work.  There are many beautiful rooms that you just blow through while playing the game; the Riddler challenges require a slower stroll through them.

The endgame is better than AA, in that you can beat up all the thugs you want (as opposed to a few stray looneys in AA), and some of the side missions aren’t bad.  My favorite bit: punching Riddler in his ugly self-satisfied mug:

Look at that slappable smile

So all the side missions are done (except the damn advanced AR training), and the game still tells me I’m only 79% done.  I’m guessing the rest is either the remaining challenge maps, or the rest of New Game Plus.

Edit: Yes, New Game Plus is included in the percentage.

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