February 2008 Archives


Oh man, watch this video for the upcoming game Fez:

It's a 2-D platformer in a 3-D world. It's pretty astounding.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

The Administrative Procedures Act provides for both formal and informal rulemaking. Agencies, however, tend to prefer informal rulemaking because of the excesses of procedure provided for and hearing rights granted by the formal rulemaking process. My Administrative Law casebook provides an example:

[A]n FDA formal rulemaking to determine the percentage of peanuts a substance must contain in order to be labeled 'peanut butter' took nine years and twenty weeks of hearings producing 8,000 pages of hearing record, to produce a six-page opinion to justify a decision to require at least 90% peanuts.

Needless to say, the prospect of spending nine-and-a-half years on the Peanut Butter Standards Subcommittee has led FDA officials to prefer somewhat less formal rulemaking processes.

Means and Ends

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Harding College made a number of propaganda films designed to extol the virtues of capitalism vis-a-vis the Red Menace of communism. A number of those videos are available on YouTube.

The most amusing is Make Mine Freedom:

The message: Believing in things will only lead to trouble. Also: our divisions and problems can be solved by uniting together for an anti-communist lynch mob.

We also have Meet King Joe:

Message: Stop complaining, workers! You've got it better than anyone else in the world, and the reason is because of all the capital that American businessmen have lavished on you!

Why Play Leap Frog?:

Message: Your high wages are why everything costs so much, but if you go beyond your regular duties to improve plant efficiency, there might be a small bonus in it for you. Maybe. Unintentional Message: Creativity and productivity-enhancing innovations on the part of workers will result in small wage gains, which will be shared by all the workers, while the owners will reap the lion's share of the benefits. And the workers better be grateful for it!

But this is my favorite of them, Going Places: Fun and Facts About Business:

There's an idea, which I first saw expressed by Immanuel Kant, but could have come from elsewhere, that the height of irrationality is to confuse means with ends. That is, we come up with things that we want, and we derive ways of getting those things. We behave irrationally when we lose sight of the ultimate goals and being pursuing the means for their own sake, possibly to the detriment of our initial goals.

Example: You want to be healthier. You're overweight and decide that the best way to get healthier is to lose some weight. You do so, and eventually you reach a healthy weight. But you become obsessed with weight loss, and the idea that weighing less is always better. Weight loss becomes the goal in and of itself. You lose more weight, become underweight, and it has a negative impact on your health. You've confused ends and means, and have pursued your means to the detriment of the ultimate end.

This cartoon provides an excellent illustration of the principle. Freddie wants to go fishing, but can't because his family is poor and he has to stay home and make soap. He hates making soap and decides that, if he can find a better, faster way of doing it, he'll have more time for fishing. He spends years at this before he comes up with something. The soap sells quickly and he needs to make more. Soon he expands his operation and builds a factory. He begins selling his soap on national markets. He becomes a billionaire industrialist. He gets indicted for price-fixing.

And in the end he never gets to go fishing! In fact, the cartoon makes a point about this! "You can go fishing any time, Freddie!" But he doesn't. Freddie is consumed by greed, by the all-encompasing desire to make more, to improve his status, to keep up with the Sudsos. And for what cause? So he can make even more money. He never gets to go fishing. He loses sight of his dreams. He is the ultimate tragic figure of capitalism.

(Significantly More Than) One Week

I finally got things together to do the One Week photo thingee that Dianna did a couple of months ago. It didn't quite turn out as well as I'd hoped, but this is what I've got:


Alright, first: I had a problem with the whole one-week time frame. I just had groceries delivered yesterday and I tend to buy all my food for 2-3 weeks at once. At the same time, I didn't want to leave out any of the delicious fruits and vegetables and leafy greens I'd gotten. So I threw everything in there.

Even more pronounced is the grain/legume issue. I resupplied myself with bulk grains and legumes at a health food store a couple of weeks ago. Those will last me multiple months, but I couldn't very well scatter handfulls of chickpeas and bulgur and millet around, so I put the full cannisters/sacks in there. In addition to each individual item being overrepresented, the variety is also overrepresented. I eat all of the grains and beans pictured, but it's unlikely that, in any given week, I'll eat millet and quinoa and rice and bulgur and couscous and barley and chickpeas and lentils and adzuki beans and turtle beans and so on. So, yeah. Grains and beans are grossly overrepresented, moreso than produce.

Packaged goods, on the other hand, I did a more reasonable assessment of. I mean, peanut butter's great, but it's hard to get excited about showing off all of my jars of peanut butter. One serves the purpose just fine.

So with that caveat, I set about arranging the food for the photo. At first I relocated all the food from my kitchen to my living room, to show it off on the coffee table. But there was too much, so I cleaned off the kitchen counter and arranged things there. I carefully took all of the produce out of the plastic bags I store them in and artfully arranged it on the counter. It took about an hour, but by the time I was done everything was perfectly arrayed; it all fit on the counter, you could see everything, and the colors were carefully ballanced. I also arranged the food thematicaly, so pakaged goods were in one area, grains and beans in another. I had areas designated for fruit, root vegetables, cruciferous sprouts, and members of the nightshade family, with leafy greens placed near the front.

Then I got out my camera and it exploded. Not literally, but at this point I'm resigned that it will never work again. It turns on fine, you can review photos taken, but if you try to take a photo it instantly turns off. Changing the batteries didn't help, turning it on and off a bunch didn't help. Apparently something in the photo-taking mechanism has shorted out.

Thus: I had to take this picture with my flash-less, low-resolution cell phone camera. It's washed out and blurry and almost impossible to tell what anything is. And it doesn't have a timer, so I couldn't take a picture with myself in it. Blah.

So, this is (significantly more than) one week of food for me. Using receipts as a baseline and estimating the amount of depreciation, I'd guess that a one-week portion of that food cost me about $50.

On the plus side, the poor quality of the image makes it possible to play a diverting game of "what exactly is in that photo?" in the comments section.

I've just made some delicious, saccharine-sweet chocolate-oatmeal macaroons. Or at least, I think I did. But clearly I can't have; I'm vegan, and therefore am anorexic. And no anorexic would eat a recipe that begins by calling on the cook to melt 1/2 cup of margarine and 1/2 cup soy milk with 2 cups of sugar. Obviously calorie deprivation has gotten to me; what's sitting in my fridge right now must clearly be some sort of zero-calorie rice cake snack. The brown color must come from carob, chocolate's evil twin brother.

In any case, here's the non-recipe for the high(low)-calorie desert I didn't just make:

Chocolate-Oatmeal Macaroons (Zero-Calorie Carob-flavored Rice Cake Snacks)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine (non-dairy)
1/2 cup soy milk
2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried coconut
8 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Start by mixing 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of margarine and 1/2 cup of soy milk in a saucepan.

(a brief aside: I submit that it is impossible for a recipe that begins "Start by mixing 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of margarine and 1/2 cup of soy milk," to turn out badly. Seriously, go to your kitchen and do it now. Then taste the sweet nectar that results. This is a solid foundation on which to build an empire!)

Heat the mixture to boiling, then remove from heat.

Meanwhilst, mix the oatmeal, the coconut, and the cocoa.

When the liquid mixture's off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stir, and let cool.

Assuming the mixture has cooled before you have eaten it all (not a particularly safe assumption to make), portion it off and put it in the refrigerator. You could put it on a pan like a cookie, I guess, but I found it easier and less messy to spoon it into a muffin pan in 12 roughly-equal portions. Cover it in plastic wrap or something similar to keep it from drying out in the fridge.

Voila! Delicious, high-fat, high-sugar vegan macaroons. Sadly, my calorie deprived mind is only capable of recalling the (clearly imaginary) delicious macaroon recipe, and I can't think of the actual recipe I must have used to make the rice cakes I no doubt made. You'll have to look elsewhere for a recipe for Zero-Calorie Carob-flavored Rice Cake Snacks.

Dos Vedanya

In less crappy news, Game|Life reports that Red Alert 3 will be coming in the near future. Red Alert is Command & Conquer's campier, zanier offshoot, fueled by Cold War paranoia and featuring Soviet Lazer Squids and American Attack Dolphins. No details on Red Alert 3 yet beyond its existence.

Also still no announcement of a Red Alert-style communist spin-off for the Mario games, though clearly the masses are clamoring for one:

If Anyone Needs Me, I'll Be in the Angry Dome

The internet has decided to conspire to make my angry the last few days. I suspect an actual, coordinated conspiracy because everyone is trying to make my angry in roughly the same way.

Quite a bit of background is necessary. So: In the beginning, there was this article by Kate Hymowitz in the Dallas Morning News. She argues that men today remain immature and irresponsible far later into life than they did in previous generations. They marry later, become financially independent later, etc. They also play more video games. The article is interesting for painting a picture of the average young man in the world in 1965 and comparing him to the average young man today. Today's man has fewer commitments, less responsibility, more money, and has the opportunity to enjoy this state of being far longer than the average man forty years ago. Most sensible readers would probably think this is a good thing; men aren't taking on responsibility until they feel they can handle it, and they get more years to enjoy themselves more fully. This thought doesn't even enter into the Hymowitz piece. Men becoming responsible later is aweful. First, it's a harbinger of the doom of civilization; after all, things used to be another way, yet now things are this way! Clearly a sign the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Moving beyond question-begging arguments (Why is it bad that they're less mature? Because they are less mature, and being less mature is bad!), Hymowitz comes to the problem of gender relations. Women (apparently) are just as mature as ever at young ages (an assumption that Hymowitz never confirms). Thus: Women's demand for mature men in their 20s-30s is at 1960s levels, yet the supply of mature men in their 20s-30s is too low! Men need to mature so that women can marry them, thereby achieving the first, last, and only goal of a woman's life.

This, needless to say, is nonsense. It was roundly critiqued in the feminist blogosphere, and rightly so.

A lot of non-feminist gamers were also compelled to critique the article. The trouble is that many of them operated under the mistaken belief that Hymowitz was attacking men from a feminist perspective. You can see some of that in the comments at Kotaku, and in this comment on 1up.com's boards by Catherine G., highlighted in a news article on 1up's front page:

Is it just me, or does all the feminist crap being spouted in both of these feel completely trite? These two are basically sitting here blaming men for the fact that millions of 30-something women are sitting alone, waiting for the fun-having non-committers to call and, eventually, knock them up. Is it just me? Or does that put feminism back a good 40 years or so?

Clearly, it's not just Catherine G.; the article does set the place of women back 40 years. But then, it isn't a feminist article. This is endlessly annoying. It's hard enough to be a feminist without having the opinions of anti-feminists ascribed to you because they happen to involve a critique of some men. So now feminist gamers are fighting back against the anti-feminist backlash caused by the negative reaction to an anti-feminist article. For more of that, see Mighty Ponygirl.

This has all gotten me very upset. But it was cooling down. And then today I went to Pandagon and found this. An attack on the book Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is a book that uses guilt and shame to try and force the readers (presumably women) to lose weight. Now, ordinarily I wouldn't mind attacking such a book. I have no love for fat-shaming. And the thrust of the Pandagon post is spot-on; this is the kind of thing that exacerbates eating disorders to no positive ends and perpetuates the oppressive beauty culture.

The problem is that Skinny Bitch's schtick is that it commands the reader to adopt a vegan diet and mixes all the moral philosophy surrounding veganism with its fat-shaming. And, rather than taking the opportunity to disentangle the veganism from the fat-shaming, Amanda runs with it and takes the opportunity to get in a few whacks at vegans. There are a variety of clasic anti-vegan tropes on display here, let's see... "Vegans think they're better than you!", "Vegans are just like evangelical Christians!", "Veganism is a cover for eating disorders!", "Veganism is a cult!" and, of course, "I may be a (pesco)(ovo)(lacto)(whatever)vegitarian/flexitarian/whatever, but I'm not like one of them weird vegan extremists!" I can't even bring myself to read the inevitable anti-vegan pile-on that happens in every Pandagon thread that addresses food issues, though someone who has assures me it is, indeed, a mighty pile.

We find the same thing going on in the Pandagon post that's happening in the non-feminist blogosphere. "Look, somebody expressing an idiotic, repugnant idea, who's also a (feminist/vegan)! That means all (feminists/vegans) are morally repugnant!" In the case of the vegan pile-on it happens that the author actually is vegan, which makes it ever so slightly less frustrating. But that's more than overbalanced by the fact that you would think a feminist would freaking know better and would think harder before she decided to attack a whole group on the basis of the opinions of one member of that group. I'm glad to see that the asshole techniques used to attack feminists are now being used (by one person) in support of feminism.


Nothing much new to report, except that,

1. I still hate Weezer, and
2. After a visit to a friend's house in which Weezer was playing, I now have the bridge from Buddy Holly stuck in my head.

I'm not sure what I can do to dislodge it. Maybe listen to Funky Town or Total Eclipse of the Heart.

UPDATE: Also of note: Scientific experiments have determined that beginning a recipe by roasting a dozen white peppercorns, then adding in four diced jalapeno peppers, then adding hefty amounts of ground black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne, then serving it over rice that has been prepared with curry powder and more cayenne, is highly correlated with spiciness in the end dish.

Get the Heck Out of Here, You Nerd!

I should have posted this weeks ago, when it was actually relevant, but:

Capcom's releasing a remake of Bionic Commando on XBox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, called Bionic Commando Rearmed, to build excitement for the release of the new 3D Bionic Commando game for next-gen systems.

I'm highly excited. Bionic Commando, as the quotations at the start of the trailer make clear, is one of the great video games. I think what really makes Bionic Commando is its well-implemented physics. The game has a somewhat unique play mechanic: It's a platforming game where you can't jump. Instead, you have a bionic arm which you can extend to grab onto things. Once you've grabbed something, you can retract the arm to pull yourself up to it or you can use the arm to swing back and forth and propel yourself through the air. The controls are perfectly smooth and the physics are such that everything you do feels natural and intuitive.

More on this later. Bionic Commando was to be the next game in my long-abandoned Year of NES series, but I've been reluctant to write about it because it's territory that's been so heavily mined that I as worried that I'd have nothing interesting to say about it. But I've got a few ideas and should have something shortly.

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