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Those poor 55 Americans

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Today it was announed that the US Department of Justic is filling a suit to block AT&T from purchasing T-Mobile (presumably because they didn’t want the company to be renamed to AT&T&T). Ever since this buyout was annoucned I have yet to see anyone (outside of AT&T) defend the deal as a good one. So when the DoJ announcement was made today, and I saw every tech reporter talking about how it’s good that the buyout might be blocked, I wondered if I could get a different angle on the story. So I jumped over to FoxNews and found this http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2011/08/31/report-doj-opposes-atts-t-mobile-usa-buy/ . My favorite quote from the article is

 “AT&T repeated its case that the T-Mobile buy will help ease a drain on  wireless spectrum, allow AT&T to expand 4G mobile broadband to an additional  55 Americans, create tens of thousands of jobs and result in billions of dollars  of additional investment.

Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2011/08/31/report-doj-opposes-atts-t-mobile-usa-buy/#ixzz1WcoKyfNB

Thyat’s right, the deal would allow AT&T(&T) to provide wireless broadband to 55 more Americans. AT&T is willing to pay 49 billtion dollars to get 55 more wireless broadband customers. Way to fight for the average American AT&T. To recoupe that expense they’d have to charge each user around 1 billion dollars for cell phone service. On the other hand, I hope that a billion dollars can get someone decent AT&T customer service.

Personally I don’t want AT&T to purchase T-Mobile. I like having T-Mobile fighting for customers and innovating on new products. I think those 55 American customers will just have to find a different way to get mobile broadband.

Categories: News and politics

How to create a party in Age of Empires Online

August 21, 2011 2 comments

To create a party in Age of Empires Online (or AoEO) select the brown button in the top left hand corner of the screen with a yellow person character and a green plus sign. This should open up your list of friends. Then left click on the right side button of the list and one of the context menu options will be invite. Click on invite and you should see that a party has been formed.

If you do not have a premium civilization the only thing (that I’ve discovered so far) you can do with the party is have them participate in co-op quests. If you do have a premium civilization (which I currently don’t have, but kind of had during the beta) then you can host matches in an arena, where you can select which members of the party will be in teams and you and your friends can face off against each other. If you don’t have a premium account you can still do Player vs. Player (either PvP 1, or PvP 2) by going to Sparta and the servers will select a random player for you to play against. You can’t pick who to play against.

Another way to create a party is by looking at the different gamer tags in the chat window, click on their tag, and in the context menu select invite. However, inviting random strangers probably won’t result in many accepted invitations, but I could be wrong.

Movies shouldn’t pretend that the conflict was resolved

August 21, 2011 3 comments

Due to a Netflix recommendation a few weeks ago we watched Origin: Spirits of the Past, and this past week we watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Both movies are quite similar: both are anime, both are based in a post apocalyptic world, both have young adult protagonists, both have the protagonist living in a society that’s chosen to be isolated and yet is still in the middle of everything, and they have so much in common that watching one really reminds you of watching the other. To be fair Nausicaa came out in 1984 and Origin came out in 2006 so Origin should remind one of Nausicaa. One thing that strikes me about both of them, is that it seems to be really hard to find someone, online, who doesn’t like them. Nearly everyone who reviews either of these movies, really, really loves them. And yet, both are obscure, and aren’t really ever recommended in person.

I think part of the reason why people love either of the movies, do so in part because the animation was good, the stories are uniquely creative, and your imagination can be left in awe with what’s happening in either of the worlds. But there’s more to a good movie than those things. I did not love either Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind or Origin: Spirits of the Past. I kind of like them, but I kind of don’t. They are fun to watch, but they leave the viewer wondering “why did I just watch that?” and the primary reason for that is that they both end as if the conflict had been resolved even though the conflict wasn’t resolved. And quite frankly, that’s really confusing.

Nausicaa ends with Nausicaa (the protagonist) nearly killing herself to stop all of the senseless violence, and a stampeding herd of giant indestructible woodlouse’s from smashing up the valley of the wind. This is wonderful and you really love the integrity and sacrifice that she shows in accomplishing these tasks. Once it’s shown that Nausicaa is okay, everyone cheers, including the Tolmekia who have been actively trying to take over the world and kill everyone who tries to oppose them. Then the credits roll and things get more confusing: we see pictures of Tolmekians, in larger than heretofore seen numbers, happily leaving lands which they were occupying. We then see some people being peacefully exploring the beauties of the toxic jungle without their protective gear. This greatly conflicts with the rest of the movie where the audience is constantly reminded that anyone who breaths the air of the toxic jungle will die, and that giant insects are actively trying to kill every human who makes a disturbance in its growing boarders. Nothing is ever brought forth as to how the toxic jungle stopped its active slaughter of mankind. The ending just shows that it has conveniently happened.

Origin ends with the E.S.T.O.C. (a giant, man made contraption with the purpose of purging the entire planet of life) self destructing, and everyone cheering and going home. But how does this resolve the struggles which have been building up during the entire movie? The Zurids still control all of the planets water and want to kill all of the humans (they should even especially want this more, now that they know that humans are capable of building something like the E.S.T.O.C.). The Ragnan’s (pretty much all of the humans on earth) haven’t been given a reason not to defend themselves, destroy the Zurids and try to gain some water rights for themselves. Plus the protagonist, Agito, comes back from the dead and says that he has learned how to live in balance with nature. Which in principle is a good idea, but doesn’t really work when “nature” consists of genetically engineered plants whose whole aim is to wipe out humans and claim the planet for themselves.

So both movies end without having given reason to the audience as to why the conflicts of the movie came to a resolution. It’s as if the writer had come up with such an over-comeable paradox that they couldn’t resolve it themselves. So they wrote a climax and ended the story there because a climax had happened, and the movie was starting to go long anyway.

Another egregious point are the movies environmental messages. Not that there’s nothing bad, per se, in the idea that humans need to learn how to sustainably live on the earth, but neither of the environments featured in the films are anything like the environment. In Nausicaa the plot device representing nature is referred to as the toxic jungle which made the only human habitable parts of the planet (besides the valley of the wind), desert. In Origin, it’s the “Forest” with its power to creating animal like plants which are actively trying to kill off humans. Neither of these feel like the nature I want to learn how to be in balance with. The result are environmentalist messages which are strong enough to repulse those who don’t like being told those things, and un-relatable enough to anyone who really tries to think about the message that’s trying to be conveyed.

Nausicaa has an amazing protagonist. She’s daring, resourceful, kind, and brave (she also talks to herself a lot). She is the type of leader any organization would love for a leader, and her character development is a joy to follow. Also, she doesn’t have a coming of age story in the move, which would have really drug the the whole thing down. Sadly a good protagonist isn’t enough to carry a science fiction like Nausicaa from kind of okay to amazing. In Origin, Agito is a good protagonist… for the first half of the movie. In the first half the audience comes to relate to him, like him, and are impressed with his ability to handle the pressures of the world in lives in. Then half way through the movie he effortlessly becomes invincible (to everything except tranquilizer darts), and leaves the movie with no interesting characters to cheer for. It’s sad that you can’t really get behind or really relate to any of the characters for the whole second half of the movie.

Nausicaa does leave the audience wondering why any of what they say even happened at all. I love it how both movies drop the audience into the middle of the “universe” and as it’s necessary to the plot, explain what happened. But Nausicaa doesn’t fully explain what actually happened. The audience learns (when an old woman is justifiabley retelling their history) that a thousand years earlier, there were giant, fire breathing, monsters who wiped out most of mankind, and then their rotting corpses decayed into poisonous jungles full of strange new life. What the movie doesn’t explain is how giants came to be. Were the giants aliens? Did Ra’s al Ghul finally defeat Batman and unleash environmental revenge on mankind? Where did the giants come from? Why do they dislike humans so much? Origin, on the other hand, explains where the “Forest” came from. Plants, genetically engineered on the Moon became sentient and were so powerful that they split the moon apart and rode down on giant chunks of the moon, causing massive environmental damage, but were able to recover before the humans could gain an upper hand over them. So Nausicaa gets a point for having a good protagonist and Origin gets a point for at least explaining why the Apocalypse happened.

Neither of the movies are painful to watch, have interesting setups, have some great art work, but both have well-that’s-kind-of-dumb moments, and don’t really leave the audience thinking that the ending shouldn’t have happened. People may complain that The Empire Strikes Back, doesn’t have an ending, and just kind of ends, but it does have an ending. The movie starts with a battle, then there’s a chase, and when the chase is over, the movie ends. There are still unresolved issues, but the movie doesn’t pretend that there’s not. In Nausicaa and Origin, the movies do pretend that all of the conflict has ended, even though nothing happened to have ended it. While I am glad I did see both movies – they’re not a total waste of time – , I’m not going to go out of my way to watch either ever again.

Categories: Entertainment

Swamp Blackberries

August 20, 2011 Leave a comment

The North side of our condos’ property is bordered by a wetland. It’s basically an area, sanctioned off some years ago from allowing man kind to enter. It’s not that big, and currently is surrounded by suburbs. I’m sure there were times when someone wanted to develop the land, but you know what? I think it’s okay to have these “sanctuaries” found in the suburbs. One reason is that in the event of floods the wet lands will flood first, instead of some residents who didn’t know when they were buying they were buying into the “flood plain” of the surrounding area. The other reason is that wetlands/swamps help purify water as it finds its way to the ocean. Nothing wrong with that.

One of the “benefits” of living in the Pacific Northwest is that during late summer/early fall the invasive blackberry species grows wild blackberries. Since there are a lot of blackberry vines on our fence line, during this time of year there’s always a couple of ripe blackberries to pick everyday. Most of the year property owners are actively fighting off the invasive, take-over-everything-vines, but for a few weeks one can’t help but enjoy them. I was surprised today by the variety of flavors the blackberries provided. Most were sour, in a good citrusy sour way, but some were really sweet. None of the berries are duds (unlike oranges), so it’s always worthwhile to pick one.

While I’m not going to cross the fence line and go into the wetlands for harvesting blackberries I’m glad that we can at least get a little treat out of our swamp.

Categories: Nature

I actually aged more than a day in a day

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Right now I am twenty-nine years old. Throughout my life people have asked if I feel older; say for example on a birthday or a graduation. Anytime I have been asked this I respond in the negative. I never “feel” like I’m a year older on my birthday. The reason is probably due to perspective and it’s hard to quantifiabley feel a day older (because it’s only been a day since I’ve become this age). But that changed this week.

My wife is pregnant and the baby is due in a month. For the last five years I’ve been driving a 2006 Chevy Cobalt Coupe. The car salesman sold it to me because “this is a good car for a bachelor”. When someone first saw my car they would say “that’s a good car for a bachelor”. Cobalt’s aren’t high-end cars by any means, but they do have a sporty look to them. But with a baby on the way a coupe isn’t going to cut it. The family needs a sedan for the baby. While it is physically possible to get a baby car seat in and out of the two-door Cobalt, it is more difficult than what it has to be.

So this week we purchased a used 2008 sedan. On our way home from the dealership I was thinking about how driving the new car felt different from my old car… and I felt old. A mere day earlier I was driving a “good car for a bachelor” and now I wasn’t, and it aged me. I actually aged more than a day in a day.

Categories: Health and wellness

Flash has been getting quiet

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve noticed that with the current version of Flash (10.3.181.34) that videos I’m watching get quieter if I pause the video and resume it. Has anyone else noticed this?