Category Archives: I like it!

Rebirth of a Nation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXPhLXuJ90I

  • What if I told you that Donald Trump was not a Nazi?
  • What if I told you that Republicans are not Fascists?
  • What if I told you that Fascism came, not from the right, but from the left, and always has?
  • What if I told you that the Ku Klux Klan was originally the paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party?
  • What if I told you that,before they became enemies, Adolf Hitler admired President Roosevelt’s Progressive policies, and considered him to be “One of us”?
  • What if I told you that the Nazi Nuremberg laws, which turned the Jews into second-class citizens were based on the Jim Crow laws created and passed by Southern Democrats?

I’m not going to tell you any of those things. I leave that to Dinesh D’Souza, who lays out his case in this engaging film, which I watched a few days ago.

The movie starts with a depiction of Hitler’s last moments in a German Bunker, before answering the question “What is a Nazi?” (Answer: “The German National Socialist Worker’s Party“), defining Fascism (State control and regulation of the private sector), and examining the political and ideological similarities between Hitler, Mussolini and Franklin D Roosevelt.

The movie goes on to examine the life and times of a Republican President who was so controversial and so incensed Democrats that they were openly calling for his assassination and were willing to divide the nation and go to war to bring him down. Sound familiar?

It should… it was Abraham Lincoln.

D’Souza draws parallels between Presidents Lincoln and Trump that are sure to warm the hearts of liberals everywhere.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch the movie. Hear out his claims, and disprove them if you can.

Advertisements

IronThrone Rocks!

Once in a while an absolutely fantastic game comes along. A game that leaves you wondering how they managed to pack so much detail into the hardware and software at at heir disposal. Such games are known as “Megagames”.

About a month ago, I discovered IronThrone. I call it a MegaGame because it is actually severally several games cunningly lashed together so as to become greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Castle Mode: You are the Lord of a Castle. Build and upgrading it. Train troops. Recruit heroes and dress them in the most fashionable armor you can lay your hands on.
  • Town Mode: In front of your castle is a town which has some problems that you must solve. This is a simplified “Dungeon Siege” type hack-and-slash. Completing quests, which takes about fifteen minutes, gives you daily buffs that will help you elsewhere.
  • World Mode: Outside of your castle is a big bad world full of monsters, NPC Strongholds, unclaimed resources, and, of course, other Lords. Are you ready?
  • There are several other modes, such as Dimensional Combat, Team Deathmatch and Battle Royale

One personal observation: One thing that I find deeply amusing is that the female heroes are extraordinarily pretty, with supermodel figures, child-bearing hips, and world-class fighting skills.

This is not a complaint! Red-blooded men want to look at pretty girls; always have, always will. Before some of you ladies get all bent out of shape and demanding average (i.e., fat) women in videogames, remember that , and that the male fighters are all magnificent specimens of masculinity as well, and none of us guys feel inadequate, so please grow up.

While it is perfectly possible to play the game without spending a bean, this purchase is highly advisable If you are serious about this game. Besides, I like to reward good-quality programming. Purchases range from 99c mini-packs to huge $100 aliquots of golden goodness. The packs are well-price and give excellent value. So far I have spent about $20, in the form of five one-dollar packs, one five-dollar pack that gives a bonus chest every five levels up to 25, and one ten-dollar purchase that gave me a bunch of permanent buffs.

Like what you see? Head over to www.playironthrone.com and get your own castle. And yes, if you are worthy, you will get a dragon of your own.

One thing that impressed me about IronThrone (I’m still not sure if it is one word or two) is the level of attention to detail. Too many games are coded by folks for whom English is a second language, and it shows, in the form of poor spelling and grammar, but not Iron Throne. I did  find one typo though:

What can I say? It’s a gift. And a curse.

Planet Commander – Review

As anyone who has spent more than twenty seconds perusing this blog can tell, I like space combat games. I have been a fan of the genre since I discovered Elite, way back in 1981. Since then I have played literally dozens of these games, including StarLancer, Freespace I and II, The Homeworld series, Freelancer, and of course my two current faves, Vega Conflict and Dreadnought.

Planet Commander is the latest in this long line. I’ve been playing this for a couple of months now. You start with one ship, and can unlock and buy more as you progress through the game. Like Dreadnought, this is an online multiplayer game: you participate in online battles up to 4v4. You can only fly one ship at a time. If the ship is killed, you can move on to another of your ships until you win, leave the game, or all of your ships are destroyed. You then get points (which improve your ranking and level) and cash (Coins and Crystals). The ships come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from Frigates through Destroyers, Interdictors, Cruisers, Battleships, all the way up to the Dreadnoughts.

The game is a lot of fun and is well-balanced; my one most glaring criticism is the pricing structure. Things start off well enough; an introductory pack costs about $3, and a follow-up pack which unlocks a ship costs another $8 or so. They are decent enough value, and most players can have a lot of fun for $11. The following pack, which unlocks the Kingsword Cruiser (I find myself wondering whether that is pronounced “King Sword” or King’s Word“) is just under $17, which is a little expensive for me – but the ship alone costs $27 to unlock, so there you go.

Many of the ships automatically unlock when you reach a given level, but some ships – including the top ship in each tier – can only be unlocked with a liberal application of cold, hard cash.

  • Wyrm Frigate $10.49
  • Olympus Destroyer $12.49
  • Reaper Interdictor $16.99
  • Kingsword Cruiser $26.99
  • Soul Catcher Battleship $42.99
  • Nemesis Dreadnought $55.99
  • Tyrant Dreadnought $112.49

That adds up to $278.43, which is way too high for a phone/tablet game.

In my opinion, such a game should not cost a player more than $100 in total… in which case those ships are overpriced by a factor of three.

Who are you calling an “Imperial Star-Destroyer”?

Bottom line: a fun game, especially if you have a tablet (I have three!). Decent value if you buy the first two packs, and you will get months of play out of that modest outlay. But the subsequent ships are overpriced, and if you play it long enough I am pretty sure that you will come up against a pay-to-win barrier.

Dreadnought!

Anyone who has spent more than a couple of minutes reading my blog can tell, I like games.

That is not to say that I consider myself a “Gamer”, I have never owned a gaming console of any kind. However, I have been playing computer games since the early 1980s, which, I suppose, makes me something of an expert on the subject.

I recently discovered a rather nice game called Dreadnought.

In it, you get to fly and fight in multiplayer battles over land and in space. with a variety of ship types, including:

  • Corvette: Small, quick and fragile, but packs quite a wallop. A lot of fun to fly, once you have mastered the art of stealthy flying.
  • Tactical Cruiser: Provides support and healing to your team. Often the most-appreciated member of your squad.
  • Destroyer: Jack-of-all-trades. Fairly quick, Heavily-armed, but relatively fragile, and the ideal beginner ship.
  • Artillery Cruiser: Long range sniper, which rains down electric death from afar. Easy to kill, hates Corvettes.
  • Dreadnought: The big one. Heavy, slow, and bristling with offensive and defensive weaponry.

Battles take place in various space and planetary scenarios, and take place between two teams with eight players each.

There are several different types of battle, including:

  • Team Deathmatch: You get points for killing enemies. They get points for killing yours. First team to 100 points or a time limit wins.
  • Onslaught: Protect your Command ship from enemies while trying to take out theirs.
  • Proving Grounds: This is basically Team Deathmatch against AI enemies, with seven other AI NPCs backing you up.

A typical game takes 10-20 minutes. Getting killed is a minor inconvenience; you are back in the game in less than thirty seconds, and have the option of changing ships during your short hiatus.

The nice thing about this game is that is free to play, but shelling out some shekels will give you some neat stuff, but won’t make the game too easy to win, which is a problem with certain games I could mention.

Check out the video. If you like what you see, I’ll see you on the battlefield.

Bullshot?

On a more jocular note… I saw this in a local store.

I cannot help but wonder if his signature isn’t his idea of a secret joke.

Either way, it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.

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.

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…

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.

Astronest Review

While playing Vega Conflict, I saw an ad for another game – the oddly-named “Astronest: The Beginning“. That was before the brains behind Vega Conflict stopped offering coins in return for watching ads.. but that is another story.

I gave the game a whirl, and was delightfully surprised. While the initial concept looks similar to Vega Conflict, the execution is far different. For one thing, building ships and research are instantaneous, but use up a number of turns (called Access Points or AP), which accumulate over time. The player’s AP limit depends on the level of their “nation”.

Your Nation is a collection of colonized planets, Heroes (people that you recruit) and fleets. Each planet has facilities that generate Gold, Minerals, Research, Energy, Fleet Production and Cosments. Each facility can be upgraded for the requisite amounts of AP, Gold and Minerals. Upgrades are instantaneous, but AP takes time to accumulate, which amounts to the same thing. There is also one other currency – crystals – that cannot be mined, but may be received as a reward for missions or purchased.

Each planet may have a Minister – one of your heroes whose Governing skill gives the planet a bonus. Other heroes can be assigned to fleets (Destroyers, Cruisers, Battleships or Motherships). A planet can be operated without a Minister, but a fleet cannot go into battle without a commander. All heroes level up with experience.

The Good: Compliments

  • Boots fast – under twenty seconds, far quicker than Vega Conflict or Star trek timelines.
  • Runs on lower-end hardware than VC, and does not require a persistent internet connection.

The Bad: Criticisms

  • The game does a good job of explaining the basics of combat, but leaves the player floundering when it comes to Trons, training, LDs, cosments, colonizing other planets and lots of other stuff.
  • All of the female heroes (heroines?) are slim and pretty. I am not sure how I feel about this. I despise political correctness as much as anyone, but when you say “female head of a planetary government”, I think Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel or Madelaine Albright, not some gorgeous Blonde babe. Having said that, I do not want to see old, unattractive women introduced to the game for the sake of political correctness, but at the same time I don’t want to see people who don’t look the part. There are some who may consider that attitude sexist; I don’t care – and that will be reflected in my purchasing decisions.
screenshot_2016-12-29-07-34-07Hi. I’m Kayla. You can like, take me to bed, or, like, put me in charge of your planet. Like.
  • On a similar note, half of the men look effeminate or gay. These are the less experienced officers. The other half, the most experienced S-class heroes – have the mature, grizzled look that one would normally associate with experienced fleet commanders.
screenshot_2016-12-29-09-51-04My Gaydar is going off. And the guy in the middle looks like George Lucas.

The Ugly: Errors, mistakes, and Bugs

  • Poor Grammar: e.g.: when fitting out a fleet, it says “Equipping” instead of “Equipped”.
  • Spelling errors: Nuff said:

 

screenshot_2016-12-29-11-59-28This. Should. Not. Happen.
  • In the Heroes screen, a Planetary Governor is erroneously described as a Fleet Commander.

Bottom line: A highly enjoyable game that I will continue playing, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether it will supplant Vega Conflict is yet to be seen.

Brave New World

Or: You can’t keep a good man down

More than two years ago I blogged about one Brendan Eich, the short-lived CEO of Mozilla, who committed the cardinal sin of having a politically incorrect opinion.

Way back in 2008, he made a donation opposing Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriage legal in the state of California. Even though the donation was made as a private citizen and even though he never discriminated against gays in any way during his time at Mozilla, his disagreement with the love-and-tolerance mob was such heresy that a witch-hunt was in order and he was figuratively burned at the stake. Following a political firestorm, he stepped down as CEO and resigned from Mozilla, and lived out the remainder of his days in obscurity.

Or so they thought.

What he actually did, as tech entrepreneurs are wont to do, is to start something new. A new initiative. A new vision. A new browser called Brave.

Brave is more than a browser, it is a new way of looking at, experiencing, and financing the web. Instead of the horrendous ad-supported model that we all know and… er… love, it allows users to financially support websites that they frequent, while featuring state-of-the-art ad-blocking.

I’ve been using it for about a month, and while it still has a few rough edges, but it is fast, smooth and stable (hardly surprising, given that Eich invented Javascript), at a time when predecessors like Firefox and Google Chrome are becoming bloated, slow and crash-prone. This blog post was written in Evernote running in a Brave tab.

Most important of all: No gays were persecuted during the making of this browser… though a large number of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.