Monthly Archives: January 2015

Not Effing Funny

I love comedy. The gift of laughter is a powerful thing.

Growing up in England in the seventies and eighties, I was subjected to a steady diet of The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Ken Dodd, Kenny Everett, Fry and Lawrie, Lenny Henry and (Heaven help us) Benny Hill, to name but a few.

Decades later, I still love comedy, though the American sense of humor means that most comedians over here don’t really tickle my funny-bone. However, when someone recommended Bill Burr, I looked him up on Netflix, and settled down to watch “I’m sorry you feel that way”.

Before long, I wished that I hadn’t.

It started out well enough, but before long, he started swearing. And did not stop.

I grew up in the East End of London, and am no stranger to foul language, so I am not a pearl-clutching shrinking violet, by any stretch of the imagination. There are times when a little profanity can be funny, but it is highly situational. But I will not suffer someone to swear at me on a continual basis — and I sure as Hell (see what I did there?) won’t pay someone to do it.

During the time that Burr was speaking I counted:

  • Eight uses of “Jesus Christ”.
  • Six utterances of “God Damn”.
  • One shining example of a four-letter word beginning with the latter “C”.
  • And no less than ninety-two F-bombs.

All in less than eighty minutes.

I didn’t count the number of instances of “s**t”; although it is profanity, I consider it mild — though maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe that is a sign of how far we have fallen.

The sad thing is that his material was well-written and genuinely funny. But the sheer amount of swearing — more than one per minute — left me feeling… dirty. And it’s not just him; gratuitous profanity seems to be a staple of American stand-up comedy. I left a one-star rating only because it was not possible to give zero stars.

Am I the only person who feels this way?

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How Radical Are you?

It is said that the majority of Muslims are a peace-loving folk.

I believe that to be essentially true.

It is loudly trumpeted that radicals are a tiny minority of the 1.6 Billion people on the planet.

I’m not so sure about that one.

Even if only one percent of Muslims are radical, that means that there are 16 million radicals running around Planet Earth causing mayhem: Sixteen Million. And even if it is only one-tenth of one percent that is more than One and a half Million. That is greater than the population of Philadelphia. But so far, the “tiny minority” theory is still only a theory. So let’s put that to the test, shall we?

If you are a Muslim, you are cordially invited to take this quiz:

  • Do you believe that Cartoonists who depict Mohammed should be prosecuted?
  • Do you view Al Qaeda with any degree of admiration?
  • Do you support the prosecution of those who disagree with your beliefs?
  • Do you believe that Honor killings of women can sometimes be justified?
  • Do you support the execution of those who disagree with your beliefs?
  • Do you support Shari law in Islamic countries?
  • Do you have positive or mixed feelings about Osama Bin Laden?
  • Do you think that America “had it coming” on 9/11?
  • Do you believe that suicide bombings targeting civilians can sometimes be justified?

If you answered ANY of these questions in the affirmative, then yes, you are a radical.

It’s not a matter of whether one is “radical” or not; it a matter of degree. You may not have perpetrated evil, and I do not hold you responsible for it, but you are, at the very least, in agreement with those who are. A sympathizer.

And that makes you part of the problem.

Stand Aside!

I just got back from a local eatery, where I went to get some breakfast. In the line there were two women in front of me. They kept me waiting while they jabbered incessantly on their phones. By the time I got to the front, breakfast was no longer available.

What is it about smartphones that robs women of all courtesy, consideration and manners? Ladies, life is not a movie with you as the star. The world does not revolve around you. If you are holding up the line, please stand aside and let others be served.

Thank you.

Vega Conflict Rocks

I have long been a fan of Space Strategy games: Over the years I have played Homeworld (I, II, and Cataclysm), Conquest: Frontier Wars, Starcraft (I and II) and Star Trek: Armada (I and II) — and have completed most of them. For me, the challenge of building a base, creating an economy and an infrastructure, and then turning out a large fleet of battlewagons with which to annihilate the enemy’s base is immensely satisfying.

It would be fair to say that Space Strategy is my of my two favorite Genres. It comes a close second to Flight Simulation, but since the latter requires specialized hardware to enjoy, it is the space sims that get the bulk of my screen time.

Surprisingly, I did not embrace any of the plethora of online Space Strategy Games that have come out in the past few years, such as Earth and Beyond, Project Entropia or EVE Online, This is partly because of the real-time nature of these games required a time commitment that I was not willing to give, but mostly because of the cost — most of these offerings require a regular subscription of some serious coin. Unsurprisingly, I do not own a Game console, and never have; partly because neither Flight Simulations nor Space Strategy games are popular on those platforms.

I had tried a couple of space strategy games for Android Phone and tablet, but found them wanting… until I discovered Vega Conflict last night.

This Android game, created by Kixeye, runs on most modern phones and tablets: if your hardware is less than two years old it should run well, though it does look better on a larger screen like my Second-Generation Nexus 7. It also runs nicely on my two-and-a-half year old Galaxy S3, though the small screen makes the fonts almost impossible for my wizardly eyes to discern.

Having said all that, I am seriously enamored with this game. One thing that should be noted is that it requires an Internet connection in order to play.

If you try to start the game without one, it gives you an error message and will go no further. If you lose your connection while playing the game, it will drop you. Also, a Social Media connection like FakesBook or Google+ is highly recommended. More on that later.

Please Check your Internet Connection

Is it me, or is she wearing a negligee?

You start the game with a base installation called “The Bridge”. This is your command center, and the nexus of your operations. This unit can create mining units, tech, ship and arms research labs, ship factories, Fleet Bays and other other support and defence units, which are laid out on the predictable isometric grid that we all know and love. Units can be upgraded at various costs in both materials (which must be harvested) and time (which may be avoided by spending the gold coins). Units can also be moved at will, but unless they are placed close to other units they will not get any power and will cease to function.

The tutorials are fairly straightforward, and walk you through the process of getting a base up and running and leaning the basics of combat. However, I found the tutorial on “strafing” to be frustrating in the extreme, and it took at least a dozen attempts before I finally got it right and was able to move onwards. This game is so good that it kept me up until 3am this morning something that hasn’t happened in many a year.

That’s all for now. I’ll post more on this most excellent game… later. Until then, you can find me on Planet 5101. See you there.

Overstimulated

It seems that one can hardly go out in public these days without seeing families with children. And it seems that every kid comes with some kind of electronic device as standard equipment.

Now anyone to takes more than a cursory look through the hundreds of posts on this blog cannot fail to notice that I am no techno-Luddite; I have been programming computers since the early 1980s, and have carried a PDA of one sort or another since the early 1990s. I am certainly not about to rail against technology, electronics or innovation. But these kids are not using the technology to learn or explore, they are using it to play games… thought that may not be what many of these “little angels” are telling their parent…

This is nothing new; back in 1989, I remember a co-worker trying to justify an expensive personal computer purchase as so that the kids can learn “about computers and stuff”; when I expressed my disbelief as to the real motives of the children, he got upset . So I proposed a test; I told him to tell his children that no games would be purchase for the new computer (the World Wide Web was still half a decade away), and he agreed to go along with it.

The following day, he told me that when he broke the news, his daughter lapsed into sullen silence, while his son rolled around on the floor wailing, with pounding fists, kicking feet and tears rolling down his face in what we would now refer to as a fully-fledged hissy-fit. Even back then, kids preferred shiny, expensive toys to learning tools.

Not long ago, I saw a mother handing over her iPhone to her infant child in a stroller. A few minutes later, the child threw the phone against a pillar, cracking the screen. “And that’s why we don’t give six-hundred-dollar smartphones to small children“, I said aloud, mostly to myself. I don’t know whether she heard me; part of me hopes so, another part doesn’t really care.

So why do parents do this? Why do they allow children to play games everywhere they go?

The main excuse that I have heard is “To keep them out of my hair“. Turns out that children have a lot of questions, and they ask them incessantly. And parents are generally too harried, to busy, too exhausted to deal with this.

What went wrong? When did we become too busy to spend time with the children that we claim to love more than life itself?

Here is my two cents: No gadgets in the restaurant. No gagdets in the dining table., No gadgets in the car. No gadgets when you are walking around. And parents, let’s set the example here; children have an annoying habit of ignoring what we say and doing what we do – ladies, I am looking at you.

Let’s concentrate on teaching children to read, write and speak well enough to make their way in the world, and more importantly, to think, to imagine, and to create.

After all, that’s what parenting is really about.