Author Archives: Wizard Prang

Geek. Maven. Teacher.

Missing the point

I just stumbled across this story.



They are no longer accepting comments, so I thought that I would add one here.

“Working class men are becoming poorer because they have lost the habit of living with a partner, economists said yesterday”

Nowhere in the article does it address one simple and obvious fact: Women don’t want poor men. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature; nothing wrong with that at all; when a woman bets her future on a man, she wants one who can provide for her and the children that they will make together.

Stop blaming men for women’s rational choices

Christmas in… August?

Just got this in my email:

 

My coverage does not run out until the end of the year, but they are trying to get me to pay up now; more than four months before the bill is due.

*SIGH*… They do this every year.

Vega Conflict – Afore Ye Go

Ten things that Kixeye should do before Tier 7

  1. Coin spend confirmation. Yes, I know that you’ve already decided that this is somehow “good for the players” (i.e., good for Kixeye), but I respectfully disagree. To put this into perspective, I haven’t purchased any coins in nearly a year. This is the reason why.
  2. Rebalance I: Reduce the “price” of Tier 4 items. Particularly VSec, which is currently more expensive than Xeno. Wassup wid dat?
  3. Rebalance II: Reduce refit times or implement a refit bay. Three days to install a single I-wave (Infernal Wave Driver) III which is hopelessly outclassed by Xeno everything? Ten days to install a top-end drive to a Javelin Jumpship? Are you joking me? Five days to build a naked Xeno ship is not bad, but up to two weeks to put weapons on it is a little bit much, don’t you think?
  4. Rebalance III: The pattern drop rate of Xeno Crafting is a joke. When you have more than a hundred cores and no patterns, something is obviously rotten in the state of Vega.
  5. Bug-fix I: Fix the “to-the-bottom” bug. Start the game. Remove a ship and put it back in, then try to add a ship to any other fleet. Once the “Recent Hulls” list is empty, you end up at the bottom of the “all hulls” list. This is a major pain on mobile, since we don’t have a scroll bar and have to manually scroll all the way back to the top.
  6. Bug-fix II: Fix the “No-avatar-on-Mobile” bug. Every time I play on mobile, my avatar gets reset to generic. It can only be reset on Steam…
  7. Bug-fix III: Fix the sort-order-faction bug. Sometimes the sort order of the hull selector gets changed to “Factions”. This was introduced when “sort-by-Faction” became an option.
  8. Fix the Black Market: The BM was once the most exciting part of the game; proceed to a planet, often running a blockade, to dock with a station, where you could trade your hard-earned Blood Amber for some excellent deals, including instant Mk II upgrade tokens. While you’re at it, make all resistors reusable. We paid dearly in Blood (Amber) for them, we shouldn’t lose them when we refit because Kixeye changed the Meta of the game (as they have already done, at least twice). These days, it is more of the “Coin Market” and the content hasn’t changed much in the past year; Dread/Komodo/Venom again? Give me a break…
  9. Make Blood Amber Great Again: Over the past year, the value of Blood Amber has been reduced. There is nothing that Blood Amber can buy that Coins can’t buy more cheaply. Kixeye values your Daily Missions at about ten cents.That’s how much Kixeye values the players; think about that.
  10. New daily missions: Same old, same old. Nuff said.

No Moore

Roger Moore died today.

When I was growing up, he was James Bond. Sean Connery may have been “Bond as I envisaged him“, according to Ian Fleming, but Roger Moore’s portrayal was… well, fun. His laconic demeanor and deadpan delivery informed my own sense of humour.

You know that you are getting old when the icons of your youth are dropping like flies. Freddie, Michael, Whitney, Madonna*, Prince, George… and now Roger.

 

 

 

*She’s still around? Guess there is no justice in the Universe.

Six of the best

Six Quick and Easy Reforms to Lower the Cost of Healthcare

  1. Make all medically-necessary health expenses fully tax-deductible: Abolish the 10% AGI requirement. Do away with Health Tax Shelters such as FSAs and HSAs. Who loses: the Government and the banks. Who wins: Everybody else.
  2. Get rid of “sweetheart deals” that benefit only Insurance companies: All this “in-network” and “out of network” rubbish need to stop. Once upon a time, insured people paid full price so that the uninsured could get healthcare at zero or low cost. Then the Insurance Companies made a grab for the money that was left on the table. Providers were offered lower, fixed rates with insurance companies. Insurance companies need to pay the same as everybody else. Who loses: Insurance companies. Who wins: Everybody else.
  3. Allow providers to negotiate discounts: Under current Medicare Law, it is illegal for a Provider to offer you a discount. Who loses: The Government and Insurance companies. Who wins: Everybody else.
  4. Require Insurance companies to settle bills immediately: Medical care is the only area where you have no idea what it will cost you until you get a bill, weeks, often months, later. When you go to the pharmacy, you know how much your drugs will cost before you leave. A similar system needs to be implemented for medical care. Who loses: Insurance companies Who wins: Everybody else.
  5. Menu Pricing: Customers have a right to know the cost wherever possible, and shop around if necessary. Who loses: Doctors. Who wins: Everybody else.
  6. Discourage frivolous malpractice lawsuits. The way things stand, Doctors have to pay thousands of dollars a month. That pushes up the cost for everyone. Who loses: Lawyers and folks who want to sue for malpractice. Who wins: Everybody else.

Google Goes Googly

I’ve been a “fan” of Google for more than ten years. However, they just did something that made me feel very uncomfortable.

They recently updated their YouTube App, but when I went to The Android Market Google Play store I was confronted with the following horror-show:

That’s a bloody awful lot of permissions!

Why all the new permissions? Why does YouTube need access to my contents (which they already own) device info (which they already know) and Contacts (which they already store)?

But wait! There’s more! A few days later they replaced the “Not Now” link (why not a button?) on the nag screen nag screen with a thirty-second countdown timer:

Update Or else

This screen comes up every time the app is started, which is extremely annoying, Google are playing hardball in their attempt to get you to get you to upgrade… and sign away a load of your personal information for which they have no clearly explained need.

Unlike most users, I do not use my main account to watch YouTube, so it doesn’t affect me. Instead, I use a secondary account with no Contacts for them to scarf, so updating is no big deal for me. I advise other users to do the same. But it is enough to make one wonder…

Google, what on Earth are you playing at?

Interstellar Pilot: Getting Started

Before starting a game proper, it is highly recommended that you do the tutorials. While woefully inadequate, they are a good starting point to learn the basics.

The next port of call is to do some combat missions. Even if you are conflict-averse, it is inevitable that you will encounter unfriendlies from time to time, so it is good to know how to handle your ship and weapons. These can be found in “Instant Action”, but a better choice is “New Game/Battles”, which will give you a progression of battles against increasingly stronger opponents, with better ships and weapons.

Once you has mastered the basics, It is finally time to enter the game proper.

Selecting “Universe”, then selecting one of the two options, gives you a bunch of options:

If you want to make some money,”Merchant” is the best start, as it gives you a Hauler-A with a 65-ton Cargo Hold and the largest possible amount of money – 10,000 credits. But to get you started, it is a good idea to raise as much extra cash as you can by selling the extras on your ship that you can do without:

  • You begin outside of Gatopea Station. Dock there, select “Equipment”, and sell your Countermeasures, Mines, and all your weapons.
  • Select “Trade” and sell any mines and ECM that you may have in the hold (this is a peaceful sector, and you’ll be upgrading soon enough).
  • Select “Sector Intel, on the right hand menu. This will give you information on every station in the sector, including those all-important commodity prices.

Trading is not difficult to do manually, but It is easiest if you do it on autopilot.

  • Select Orders/Special/Trade and allow your ship to trade on autopilot until your fortune rises to about 20,000 at it’s lowest (when your hold is full). This should take about fifteen minutes.
  • Dock at a nearby Military Outpost, and install the best engine you can afford (Frigate Engine 16.0). This will raise your max speed from 24 to 31, speeding up your trading operations markedly.  The engine upgrade does not cost all that much, but you will need money in the bank to finance your trading operations.
  • Set your ship to trading again. Once you have enough money, dock at a military outpost and buy a Cloaking Device – the Mk I will do; the only real difference between the cloaking devices is the amount of time they take to cloak and decloak.
  • Select Orders/Fleet Settings/prefer to cloak. This will cause your ship to cloak while in flight between stations. Then select Stance, and uncheck both checkboxes and set the slider to zero. Now your ship will avoid engaging enemy ships.
  • Select “Orders/Special/Trade” to send it on its way.

Let it trade for a while, and watch your fortune grow…

In. Equality

Hot on the heels of April Fools’ Day, apparently today is “Equal Pay Day”. It is not to be confused with “Equality Day”, which is in August. How many more of these feel-good political-BS Hallmark™-Holidays do we need? But I digress…

According to USA today, “Women make up roughly half the workforce. But in 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20%… Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day for advocates in the U.S. to show support for women in the workforce and draw attention to the gender pay gap.”

Close but no cigar

It is my contention that we don’t have a gender pay gap, we have a gender work gap. While it is true that the *average* man earns more than the *average* woman, this is a misleading fact: Think about it: the average schoolteacher/nurse/clerical government worker (mostly women) earns less than the average roofer/plumber/truck driver/oil rig worker (mostly men)… which is why the pay gap is bogus. Women choose jobs and careers that are less stressful, more convenient and provide better benefits. Men do most of the dirty/difficult/dangerous jobs, which, naturally pay more. And what thanks do they get? “Waaaah!

Even within the same professions, men and women make different choices, in the medical profession, most dermatologists (9-5, low risk, predictable workload, no emergencies) are female, while most ER Trauma surgeons (blood, guts, bullets and screams at 3AM) are male. Women tend to gravitate toward comfortable, air-conditioned, predictable office jobs. They do not generally want to work in hazardous environments, out in the elements or at night. Men to be drawn to high-paying jobs, often in unsanitary or triple-D (Dirty/Difficult/Dangerous).

Do not misunderstand me here: If a man and a woman do the same job with equal effort and competence, they should receive the same rewards. But there is a saying in the financial markets: “It’s all in the price“. What this means is that the price of a stock reflects all that is know about the performance of the underlying company, its values and its reputation.

Let’s take a look at the sporting world: Among professional tennis players, the men move faster, hit harder and have more stamina than the women. A men’s match is best of five sets, a women’s match is best of three. Men attract bigger crowds and bigger sponsorship deals. And yet there are some who think that women tennis players should be paid the same as men. But competitive sports are a meritocracy – the fact that the women players may “work harder” than men is irrelevant; it’s all in the price. It’s not all one-sided though; as an extreme example females in the porn industry get paid five times more than their male counterparts.

Once you control for the same job, the “pay gap” drops to less than 5%, and in some cities (Atlanta and Chicago, among others) women actually out-earn their male counterparts. Is there a pay gap? Perhaps, but it is not as bad as people like to think that it is, and government intervention won’t fix it, in the same way that they couldn’t fix poverty or drugs. But even when two people do the same job, there are differences: For one thing, women are less likely to ask for a raise; sorry girls, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

For another thing, men tend to work longer hours than women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014

“…even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women—8.4 hours compared with 7.8 hours.”.

That’s three hours a week, or 7.5% more hours. So if the men are working 7.5% more hours and getting paid 5% more, who is really getting the sharp end of the stick here? This can be seen in most office buildings: take a walk around the floor at 6PM. How many men are working late? How many women?

Even Forbes magazine admits what most of us already know: Men work longer hours than women. Of course, those who insist that women do the same work as men for 20% less forget about one crucial point: If profit-driven, greedy corporations know that women are cheaper and just as good, why don’t they replace their men with cheaper women? That’s a question that the pay-gap-advocates cannot answer and continually avoid. Indeed, one female CEO has gone on record to say that she will not hire women. Why? Short answer: Men get things done, women create drama. If a man had the temerity to say such a thing in public, he would be ostracized, disgraced and probably jailed. Equality. Yeah, right.

It seems that women have plenty of advantages as it is; there are almost twice as many female students in the US as male (great for guys who like chasing girls, lousy for girls looking for a M.R.S. to go with her B.A.). Women get more grants, loans and government help than men, who are beginning to look more and more disadvantaged. But the majority of less-useful degrees are pursued my women.

Why are so many women taking Psychology  and Sociology, and so few are studying Philosophy and Physics? This is reason why there is a dearth of women taking STEM subjects; for precisely the same reason that only 2% of Chess Grand Masters are female; not because of some vast conspiracy to keep them out of the winner’s circle, but simply because they don’t want to.

And let us not forget that married men make more money than single men – for precisely the same reason; they will work longer, less convenient hours, and put in extra time and effort. Yet you never hear single men complain that they are “victims” need government-level “help” and “encouragement” in order to achieve “equality”; they’re probably too busy drinking beer, watching games, chasing girls and enjoying life – and good luck to them.

Bottom line: Life isn’t fair. But it is not as systematically unfair as you would like to wish it were. So make your choices, and live with them. It’s all in the price.

Interstellar Pilot

Those of me who have been following my blog for any length of time will know that I am a big fan of Space games. Two of my All-time-favorite games were Elite and Freelancer. Elite was billed (rightly) as the first MegaGame, featured wire frame graphics, and ran on the BBC Model B in only 32k of memory. The second was a Windows PC game. Both of those games allow the player to interact with the universe in various ways instead of just fighting and shooting. You could be a trader, a miner, a bounty hunter, a mercenary.

I recently discovered a new game that is a magnificent addition to this genre. And unlike the previous two, it is available for the Android platform (but not IOS – ha-ha!). A game so surprising and delightful, that I have all but ceased playing two other games (Star Trek: Timelines and Astronest: The Beginning), and, following one bone-headed decision after another, Vega Conflict ison life-support.

The game is called “Interstellar Pilot“. It takes place in a “Universe” that consists of eight “Sectors” linked by wormholes.Each sector has stations (trading stations, shipyards, outposts, factories etc), asteroids (of several different types that can be mined for free resources), and lots of ships zipping about. All ships and stations belong to one of a number of factions; some are friendly, others, not so much.

There are only two in-game purchases currently available: $2.49 to unlock the Capital ships (Destroyers, Cruisers and Battleships) and $1.49 to unlock the Thunder Frigate. This means that you can unlock ever ship in the game for four bucks! I would advise that you purchase at least the first one as soon as possible, as I suspect that the price will go up once word gets out and the game becomes more popular.

This is a beautiful, beautiful game. I will write more on it later.

Vega Conflict: Rebalance this!

I’ve been playing VC for more than two years. I have been a lone wolf, an alliance leader, officer and soldier. To some, that makes me one of the ancients, to others, a rank Newbie. But it is long enough to say that I know my way around the game. So here are a few suggestions for improvements.
  • Ship construction times are unbalanced: A Tier-4 Corinthian Cruiser hull takes longer to build than a Tier-6 Punisher Cruiser, for Heaven’s sake!
  • Give us a damn refit bay! It is bad enough having to wait a week or more for a ship, but having to wait another week or more to put special weapons on it is a joke. A refit bay would solve this problem – or giving a big (50%) discount on all stuff built with the ship.
  • Revise crafting times. One ridiculous side-effect of the recent introduction of Tier-5 and -6 ships is that crafting a mark-upgrade for a lower-level ship may actually take longer than the same mark-upgrade for a higher-level ship. For instance, a Valkyrie Carrier takes 39 hours per mark upgrade, compared to 13 for Freyja and 26 for a Dominion. Similarly, the Zeal Battleship is 33 hours, Vigilante 32, Hellfire 25. Hellfire is the cheapest, Zeal is the most expensive.
  • Gold Spend confirmation – “Are you sure?” when spending more than 100 credits. This one has been done to death on the forums, and Kix have made it clear that they absolutely refuse to do it. But this is the reason why I generally buy $5 tranches at a time instead of $50. It is also the reason that I haven’t spent serious money on this game — about $37 in total over two years, though I would be happy to throw $20/month into the pot if it wasn’t too easy to accidentally spend it all. I know you want us to coin, but this is costing you money, at least in my case. And no, a “one-off courtesy” and an admonition to “be careful out there” does not cut it. Put in a confirmation screen and give your Customer Service peeps a rest.
  • Meaningful notice – from time to time there are discounted refits, builds and repairs. Most of us are sick and tired of seeing a six-hour warning for “20% discount for refit/rebuild” when they are in the middle of a fourteen-day build. This is the only online game I have ever played where the players have no in-game advance notice of when important stuff is happening. Give us a week’s notice. It’s. Not. That. Hard.
  • Earn or Wait – pick one. A credit that was earned in an event should be immediately usable without having to wait hours or days. Adding 7x Infernal Wave Driver III to a Hellfire battleship should not take three weeks! Having farmed for parts to buy a\n improved Javelin Jump Drive, you should not have to wait for two weeks to have it fitted. The principle is this: if you bought or unlocked the blueprint, it is reasonable that you should have to wait for it to be fitted; if you bought, won or earned the item it is not.
  • Resistors should be reusable. The new ones introduced for Xeno Division are re-usable. Make the older ones re-usable as well.
  • Omni. Bus. Your Javelin should be able to carry all of your fleets, not just those within five levels of theirs.
  • Design a Black Market that doesn’t suck: I would like to congratulate Kixeye for reducing the Black Market from “the coolest part of the game” to “almost useless”, in a matter of months. Replacing quick-and-easy Mk II Black Market Credits with the endless and tedious Crafting system was not a smart move. Make the BM cool again. You know you want to…