Egotistical games developers make me angry

I enjoy a good computer game. Most of the games I’ve played tend to be reasonably anti-social, either you blast the crap out of everything that moves or they are very competitive (such as sports games). The exception to this has been the collaborative, non-violent games. Yep I know how can a game be any good it it’s not competitive and there is no gore. Well it turns out that if you add Lego into the mix this can be achieved.

And the best thing about these non-aggressive, U-rated, lego collaborative games is that my wife loves to play them with me. All of a sudden the PS3 is no longer the new golf when it comes to marriages (even though my missus loves to play the ancient and honorable sticks and eggs as well).

But and there is a huge BUT here. These lego games are no longer just about running around a pseudo 3D world of bricks filled will little Lego characters, now they are filled with absolutely horrible little movie vignettes. It can now feels like fifteen minutes from turning on the console to breaking your first lego brick while you watch corny and tedious segments from a movie rendered with the worst possible levels of creative acting and script work. And the creators of these games in their annoying style don’t even give you the option to skip these scenes.

Acting is a skill best left to professionals, it’s an art, and even most of its leading practitioners are not so good at it. So when games developers try, it’s not a pleasant experience. And forcing you to watch their work before you can progress to the actual game play, is beyond frustrating.

These little movie scenes are now getting longer and worse. And in the latest cut of this genre (Lego Batman 2) the characters have progressed from making little grunts to actually talking, and this is infinitely worse. This may be the last Lego game we play unless they either; get better at movie making or just add a skip option to the video scenes.

How difficult can it be to actually think about your user when you create? I may be forced to retreat to the anti-social single play destroy everything that moves games in the future, and my wife will have to just play solitaire on the ipad. Either that or well have to forget computer games and actually do something non-digital together (gasp).

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I’m Angry about the baiting and switchery of air travel.

What was included is now an extra. They now charge you extra for checked bags, that’s been happening for a while of course, and we have sort of become used it. It’s sort of like getting used to being punched in the face, I’m sure if you knew that every time you left your house someone would lay a fist between your eyes, you would on some level get used to it, but I cannot imagine ever getting to the point where you accept it as reasonable. That’s how I feel about being charged for carrying luggage on a plane.

You’re going somewhere a significant distance from where you live, and you going there for more that a few hours. It’s reasonable to expect to carry luggage, and it is unreasonable to be charged an extra lump of readies to do this. Okay if your taking well above the normal, I can see the cost issue and a fair charge is reasonable. But there must be a reasonable expectation of some luggage, there used to be! Some airlines are still “allowing” you to carry the first bag for free, but the path has been forged and this is slowly being eroded.

It’s as unreasonable as being charged extra for your carry-on bag, or being changed extra for a seat with enough room to be able to sit for the length of the flight without losing the feeling below the knees because there isn’t now enough room for an average set of legs. Or being charged extra for using the dunnie, or for being charged extra for a crap meal. All of these are being tested by airlines today.

And it seems that the airlines have realized this, since one thing is unreasonable and people have accepted it, then why not charge for every other possible unreasonable thing. They are trying it out, and guess what the flying public (having no choice) is accepting it.

For most flights you don’t choose the airline, you choose the destination. And given that there is normally very little choice as to which airline you use to go from A to B, you just accept their crappy service.

On the few occasions where I have a choice of airline, and given that normally the prices are almost identical, I choice based on which airlines have screwed me least in the past. It seems that the best an airline of today can offer is to suck least.

And what about the fuel surcharges. The moment crude oil prices increased the airlines passed on the cost to the passengers. But as the prices came down again it seems they forgot to reduce or remove these surcharges. For many flights now the surcharges and extra costs actually are greater than the posted cost of the flight itself.

I know airlines are having a very tough time, but I suspect this is not going to be fixed by screwing the customer. Paraphrasing the words of a very astute management consultant (Peter Drucker) “The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers, only when they are doing this well should they should look at cost an efficiency”. I’d suggest the airline industry has lost sight of the customer.

There are some examples of excellence in the airline industry, and these airlines are the ones that are profitable, safe, efficient and have happy customers, but I think they are focused on keeping their customers happy and then the others accolades are a consequence of that.


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When Barnes and Noble go out of business it will be my fault

I love to read, but finding the right book or group of books is challenging. I find the New York Times bestseller list pretty useless, as it’s written for such a broad audience that 99.5% of its recommendations just don’t do it for me. I read the book section every week and normally find a couple that sound good, but when I start to read the books they were written about, I generally find that in long form the stories either suffer from annoying writers traits or just are tedious.

I’m not a fan of overly flowery descriptions of people or places, or tedious descriptions of family trees, so books about girls with dragon tattoos are totally out. Basically I like stories with guns, tech, weird worlds or things that go too fast. I think that’s a pretty standard bloke requirement for reading matter. But it can be incredibly hard to find good ones. Obviously anything by Gaiman or Pratchett works, but outside of that I find I need to evaluate books carefully.

Once I’ve found a book that sounds along the right kind of a line, I find the best method of confirming if I’ll enjoy reading it from cover to cover, is to randomly open it at a page and read a couple of paragraphs. This ensures that you avoid books that have a good start, but fail by the third chapter. And ensures that you are very unlikely to ruin the story, as randomly selected paragraphs by themselves don’t often tell you who did it or why.

To do this I visit actual bookstores. And since the only chain left seems to be Barnes and Noble, I do visit their stores and trawl their bookshelves. But I never ever purchase books from them, with the exception of the odd technical manual that I may want quickly to fix a specific issue, and am willing to waive the lower price of Amazon for immediacy.

There are several reasons why they don’t get my business. Firstly they are expensive unless you join their loyalty discount program. And since this costs a yearly fee, and I have no faith in their medium to long term viability, I have not done so.

But secondly I read most of my books now on an Amazon Kindle, and not a Barnes and Noble nook. And while travelling around the city or on planes I download audio books from audible.com. So instead of purchasing books at B&N I just photograph the desired book covers on my phone, and pick them up later online.

Every time I do this I know I am killing a little bit of the last bookstore chain in the country. And that one day when they are gone, I will regret their passing, but the simple fact is, I don’t want to carry physical books around with me, and their online services are less suitable for me that the others I do use.

I love real books, and I think I’ll always prefer reading from paper than in any of the various e-forms (my secrets out). But e just works better for portability and accessibility. It’s there when I need it and it’s cheaper to boot.

With a kindle book I can read it on the kindle, my laptop, my phone or my ipad and even move between all the devices. With audible books it’s on my phone, in my car, on my iPod and even in the bathroom when I’m having a bath.

Barnes and Noble do offer me a great service, for which I pay them absolutely nothing. They will die and I will miss them. Sad but true.

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I’m angry about the new slave trade

The average wealthy (or at least not poor) American has a wonderful cheap supply of slave labor, and the great thing is that these new slaves have even less rights than the ones of centuries ago (yes I know this is absurd, and insulting, but think about rights and social values in the context of history). You do need to pay these new slaves, but a salary, which is only a small fraction of the minimum wage.

You don’t need to offer them any job security, health benefits or holiday pay or care in any way about their welfare. Hire as many as you need for a pittance of pay, stop paying them and they are not your problem. If you’re wealthy and happy to not think about the ethics this is a great deal.

But then along comes some bleeding hearth ethical types and they want to give your slaves rights. What the hell!

Of course we all use different words to describe this situation. If you’re a bleeding heart you call these people immigrant workers, while if your making hay while the sun shines you call them illegals.

The bottom line is that the deck is stacked against these workers. The very people they come to work for are doing everything they can to keep them status-less, while the people who are trying to help them are almost powerless.

If people who come to America for economic reasons (and didn’t follow the legal process) were ever to get legal work status, that would require them to be paid at least a minimum wage, and get the same protections as any other humans in the workplace. That would be very expensive.

Eventually it has to happen, slave labor is not a socially acceptable practice, and people are just starting to be called out on it.

Obviously it’s wrong for people to come to any country without following the approved process, but I feel that the very people who are hiring these workers are in effect directly supporting this illegal practice.

A simple fix is always to punish those who are hiring illegal workers. When the cost of breaking the law outweighs the cost of following it, then people (however unethical) tend to either follow the law or go underground.

Making it easier for people who are needed to perform work, to get legal work status, along with making it harder to hire illegal workers, seems like a reasonable course of action.

Yes it will make the costs of farming, manufacturing and construction increase (as wages and benefits will increase), but it’s one part of the process of fixing the new slavery.

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The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

A London eye view of the Olympics

Imagine if you will, you’re going to have a big party.  A huge one, like your birthday, and Christmas and the queens coronation and your nans funeral all rolled together, and it’s all so exciting that you walk around in circles not knowing how to start preparing.

So you start by doing a bit of tidying, mow the grass, paint the house, buy the nibbles and a little bit of booze, change the furniture, build an extension to accommodate all the guests, decide on the music and start recording personalized cassettes… you get the idea.

Sounds great?  Sounds ambitious? Sounds like it’s going to drive the neighbors up the wall.

Well, if you take that, throw in that half the family are unemployed and can’t afford the party, and then scale it up to a whole country, you have the London Olympics.

The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

I’m sure that when the Olympics finally arrive, it’s going to be absolutely fabulous.  Shiny new stadiums, beautiful parks, improved stations, a whole legacy for our children.  A boost to our economy, and all the other bullshit that our government peddles on a daily basis.

But at the moment, we have the house being tidies, but we’re not allowed to walk on the new carpets.

Here’s an example:
As I’m a wannabe ex fatty (okay, I AM fat) I decided to dust off my super slick folding bike, and start cycling part of my way to work.  My route takes me through some of the greatest and most famous parts of the city.  As some people reading this might not be uber familiar with London, I’ll try to treat you to some descriptions of the landmarks I pass daily.

So welcome to this micro guide to London, home of the Queen, the Kebab, and the core blimee cocknee spara.

In the morning I cycle down Abbey Road, and over the crossing made famous by the Beetles on the album cover of the same name, through the middle of hyde park, which is like central park, only with more statues, history, and slightly less rules. I then take a right, past the Royal Albert Hall , Kensington Palace (home of many of the poorer royals), down Kensington High Street, and to work.

My homeward bound journey, which takes me back across London to my station of choice, takes me back down Kensington high street, through the park, to hyde park corner, which is holds a pointless huge arch, down the Mall to Buckingham palace (home of the Queen, gawd bless her governor), past the houses of parliament, Big Ben, red telephone boxes, soldiers in big fuzzy hats,  the London Eye (a big ferris wheel that can only spin at 3 revolutions per hour – hold onto your hats now), past waterloo (NOT the site of the famous battle) and to Blackfriars station.  So called because it used to be the home of Monks who burnt the chips – absolutely true!

Good route huh?  Even if you aren’t familiar with the route, it’s still a decent itinerary for your next trip to Europe.

But here’s the rub.  For a cyclist, nearly (but not quite) all the route has either had the available cycle paths closed, or in the case of the parks, swamped by pratts on hired bike – don’t get me started on Boris Bikes.

Why?  For the Olympics of course!

And for what, a games much of which is paid for by us, the public.  But with over half the tickets going to commercial sponsors, and we.. Okay, I, haven’t even been able to get tickets.

We can’t travel to work, as the public transport system is being swamped by visitors – whoopee for tourism!

We can’t cycle, as the roads will be congested and cycle lanes closed.

Many of the major roads will be allocated VIP lanes, which we can’t drive OR CYCLE down.  I will mind you (naughty me) but I mus’n’t.

And the bus drivers are threatening to strike.

The Olympics are good for the country?  Possibly.
The Olympics are good for Londoners?  Certainly not!

I’ll tell you one thing however, I do agree that they’re good for tourism.  I have friends in the States who actually managed to get tickets.  I didn’t, I only live here., I couldn’t get squat.  But our friends in Washington DC did fine!

So I’ve given up.  I’m taking my family on holiday, and my American friends can have my house for the two weeks.

The Blobster Blogster (44)

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I like kids, but I couldn’t eat a whole one…

Kids.

I like kids.  I couldn’t eat a whole one – well, not in one sitting anyway.  But on the whole they’re quite pleasant creatures.

What irks me is their owners.  Some people call them parents, and apparently some of these parents can even have names.  That’s fine, don’t expect me to remember them all, that’s simply impractical and slightly unfair. But I accept that kids have owners, and the owners feel some insane obligation to make outrageous demands.

Like play dates.

It is my firm belief that play dates were invented by the devil, just after flies, and just before bubble gum.

It goes like this.  Would your child like a play date with my child?  Yes, good, then you can pick up my child from school, take it to your house, where it can behave like a trained circus monster, then you can feed it – here’s a list of things it won’t eat – and a list of things that it WILL, which is shorter – and finally could you pop it back to me at such and such a time.

Nannys and childminders charge a fortune for that service, but child owners happily trade tit for tat trade offs like that all the time.

But that’s not the worst of it.  Play dates are a doddle compare to the identity theft which is parenthood.  Before : You’re Quentin. A 32 year old financially systems synergiser.  You have a reasonable social life.  Go to he bar, meet friends, have the occasional late night with missed last trains and shared cabs, and everyone knows your name.

Then you have kids.

Now you’re thingumy, you know, play dates dad.  You do something, can’t remember what, but finish work at five and is dropping my kid off around six, after he’s refused to eat the lobster which was the ONLY thing he ate last week.

I love my kids, but only sometimes am I sad that they’re only on loan.

 

 

 

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They must be laundering money

It seems to me that half the stores on Madison Avenue and Lexington Avenue in the Sixties and Seventies in New York City and fronts for money launderers.

Each of these stores seems to be open for about half an hour a month, stocks incredibly expensive tat made of a mix of semi-precious metals, wood, plastic and baubles that no one could honestly think are “that” valuable, and clearly has no practical purpose.

I believe there is a special price tag made for these stores that is extra long to deal with the additional digits required for the prices.

I walk past some of these stores on a regular basis, and for several years I’ve noticed exactly the same items in their darkened depths. They seem to be dust free, so I assume someone visits them regularly.

I can only assume that these are not legitimate businesses but are in actual fact fronts for some sort of nefarious money transactions. Either that of there is some incredible tax break to be had from running a business from a shop front with a lease that would take the GDP of a few small countries (I’m talking about the places that are not yet bankrupt of course).

There could be an entirely different reason for these stores existence. Maybe there is even a market for their goods! It’s possible that given that the apartments in this area range in price from the low millions to a place where the dreams of avarice seem inadequate, that maybe the dwellers at the higher end of this demographic actually buy this stuff.

It’s a mystery to me.
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What the hell is going on with healthcare?

It seems to me that there is nothing more deeply personal than your health and that of the ones you love and care about. If you get sick, you don’t just ‘want’ to get better, it will become the most important thing in your life. It’s emotional, and will take precedent over everything else, and it should.

This means that any contract that you enter into about healthcare is loaded with stress and duress, and the basics of contract law are that any contract entered into under these conditions is not fair and equitable, and as such is not a fair contract. This may seem technical but it simply means that those papers a hospital or a doctor makes you sign saying that you are personally responsible for any costs not covered by your insurance shouldn’t be allowed. But yet they are.

The insurance companies, the hospitals, the lawyers and the doctors have created a special legal framework that is entirely weighted to their benefit.

And to add insult to this situation the American system means that the costs you are charged are list price, whereas the insurance companies get a massive discount on the bits they cover.

The costs of medical care in America are incredible, and the quality of the service is directly related to the amount of money you can pay.

Every doctor swears the Hippocratic oath. I’ve read this oath and frankly I feel that most US doctors are not living up to the spirit of the thing

Here’s a couple of sentences from the oath, they I’m sure your will agree are not the normal practice here in America :

“I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”

In this country today people die because they cannot afford to get timely treatment, others go bankrupt because the costs that are not covered by insurance companies consume their entire worth and then some. Millions of people don’t have adequate or even any coverage, either because they cannot qualify due to pre-existing conditions or just cannot afford the monthly costs and still be able to eat.

Some say that for these people there is always the option of going to the emergency room. Well there are two huge issues with this. Firstly the emergency room will just treat them to the point where they are not going to die on that particular day; this is not an answer to a problem, but a stop gap. And secondly the costs that are incurred by doing this are just passed onto the ones who do have insurance, as increased premiums which have the effect of making premiums higher and so making them ever less affordable, exacerbating the situation.

The issue (as I see it) is the huge amounts of money involved. No one wants to give up his or her part of this gravy train. But it is clearly unsustainable.

The concept of reform in healthcare driven by government seems to be the only way to break this logjam.

But the size of the powerbase involved has so far warped the political process beyond anything reasonable. They are many great improvements within the healthcare changes that President Obama has lead. But it is just a small step on a very long road, and some critical elements of any good plan are missing or just wrong.

The cost of healthcare is far too high, and the quality available (on average) is far too low. We need lower drug costs, medical services driven by results and not on a per service basis. And we need to trust that doctors are doing the best they can, by us accepting that suing doctors is not the first step in fixing a mistake.

Healthcare that helps avoid medical issues by preventative support has been proven to be the most cost effective and rewarding way to maximize the quality of life.

This is a very hard problem to solve, but it must be improved. When politicians use any change or proposed change as a political weapon, rather than trying to work together to find the best solution, they are failing everyone.

We all deserve better.

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Why I’m Angry about the mad drivers out there

I think I’ve found the perfect test for low intelligence. Now you might wonder why that is a useful thing to measure, obviously there are lots of written tests you can take to measure your intelligent quotient (IQ), but here’s my cut at a really simple test.

Put the test subject in the driver’s seat of a car, and then have them drive around New York City. When they find themselves behind a car at a junction, and that car in front is stopped due to pedestrians crossing in front, then if your test subject blows their horn, they have confirmed instantly their lack of intelligence. It’s that simple.

And next time you’re driving your car in New York City, and you happen to be in that situation and you blow your horn, please recognize that everyone within the vicinity now knows you have the intelligence of a carrot!

For years I’ve been amazed that yellow NYC taxi’s blow their horns to tell the cars ahead of them that the traffic light will shortly be turning from red to green. I believe now that they do this as a public service.

Luckily all of these taxis are in constant communication via their cellphones in a special taxi language, which I believe is a mix of Hindi, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. It must be very hard to learn as they spend the whole of their shifts practicing it.

But nothing can beat the cyclists in the city. When you cross a street you have to watch all directions, as bikers don’t need to follow any kind of rules. As they ride in full body condoms I suspect they feel justified acting like dicks. Clearly road signs and traffic lights don’t apply if your mode of transport requires you to have the fashion sense of a lobotomized circus clown who performs in a wetsuit.

The exception of course is the takeout food delivery cyclist. Clearly they are on a timeline and I respect their need to deliver Chinese food piping hot. These guys actually amaze me. Last year when the hurricane hit New York City (albeit more of a tap that a hit), and the city closed down it was impossible to get a pizza or a curry, but Chinese was still being delivered as normal.

When the end of the world comes and the human race is all but wiped out, and the roaches own the world, I suspect that Chinese food delivery cyclists will still be out there delivering on time.

In fact if the conspiracy theorists out there (who are buying gold and building up their caches of food and weapons) were to stop and think about it, they just need to move within delivery distance of a good Chinese restaurant and they can be secure in the knowledge that there future is protected.

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I am the average angry American and I am tired.

I am tired of commercial media that comments on the news instead of reporting the news. And I’m tired of the people who believe that commentary as truth. AND I am tired of these lemmings having the right to vote for someone who affects ME!

If you cannot give me ONE good reason why your flipping the lever for your candidate, other then spewing some rote memorized data  that a taking head has told you, or defend ONE position your candidate stands for, or telling me exactly and TRUTHFULLY  and HONESTLY  and IN YOUR OWN WORDS how this person is going to make this country a better place….you don’t get to vote.

You can vote for your local mayor, counsel person, school board or any one who has no presence or sway on the national stage and can ultimately effect ME!

It is common knowledge that if you want to drive you need to take a test to get a license. Why? Because your driving effects me. If you don’t know how to drive you can get into an accident and kill someone. Well the same thing goes for ignorant voters….your lack of knowledge can kill someone. Voting through ignorance and because some idiot talking head has told you to has lead us to a tea party, two wars, oil spills, poison groundwater, the near end of any social safety net, in fact the near end of any social conscience at all. I’m tired.

 

I am FUCKING tired…maybe I just need a nap! (6)

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