Category Archives: I like it!

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.

My previous former life

eap_foto-bae

My first job out of college was working for a UK-based Defence Contractor, where I was involved in a very small way in the development of Avionics for the Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP), a technology demonstrator for the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Here is a video of the beautiful beast in flightHere is a more detailed description of the plane and its systems. Here is a rather nice write-up on the plane. Here is another.

“We worked all hours, we could be in until midnight and then back in at 6.30am, it was hard work but it was satisfying. You knew you were at the start of something really special, what we created was the forefather of the next generation of flight

I’m Sick of Being Right

Some weeks ago, I posted on why the SSA’s multi-factor Authentication scheme was a bad idea.

This morning I got another message from them:

SSA SOL2TL;DR:

  1. It is no longer mandatory, but it is recommended.
  2. We are working on alternatives.

I’m glad that they see things my way, but I am a little disappointed that an organization this big can make such a huge blunder.

The Price of Freedom

or: The Politics of Fear

Last week I wrote about Brexit, that I opined that Britain should leave the EU, and that they probably wouldn’t.

I have never been so delighted to be so wrong. Britain delivered a shocker verdict, and the vote says LEAVE.

Waah!

The initial fallout can be summoned up in one word: Waah! Calls for a recount abound, including petitions and protests. It appears that some people were so convinced of the rectitude of their cause and the moral superiority of the “Remain” vote that they didn’t bother to vote at all, and now they want a do-over.

Too late.

The votes have been cast and counted, and the johnny-come-latelies do not deserve a do-over. Democracy does not work that way. If you can’t be bothered to vote, you don’t get to bleat about the results when they don’t go your way.

This battle has been fought between Globalists and. Nationalists.

Globalists believe in all that “one world” stuff, and think that everyone should look after everyone else. They want to see a European Superstate without borders; one people, one nation, one language, one currency. They believe in the rights of the collective, that we are all one big happy family, and that we are all our brother’s — or sister’s, let’s not be sexist here — keeper. They usually collectivists, are often Trade Unionists, socialists, and in extreme cases, communists. In generally, they believe that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong, and must be silenced, censored, isolated or removed.

On the other side are the nationalists; they believe in competition, in the rights of the individual. They believe that good fences make good neighbors — that people can agree to disagree — and that while it is good to help others, one’s first duty is to tend to one’s own. They tend to believe in the rights of the individual over the rights of the state.

The most extreme case of this is the United States of America, which, coincidentally, has the distinction of being the most spectacularly successful nation in the history of the world.

The reason that I thought that the vote would go “remain” was that I believed that Britain had gone globalist. I was wrong. Older and wiser heads have prevailed, and there were enough of them to make a difference.

One thing that I have noticed is that people have voted along generational lines. The vast majority of younger folks are “Remain” voters. This is hardy surprising; Britain has been in the EU since 1973, so anyone under 40 years old has no memory of an independent Britain. In other words, they don’t know any better. And yet they are the ones who assume that those same elders who voted to remain must be mentally or morally deficient. I call this…

The “you must be stupid” defense: I have noticed that some people — mostly of the leftist persuasion — tend to assume that anyone who disagrees with them are stupid. This is particularly true when it comes to gun control; people who want weapons to protect themselves against bad guys are often portrayed as retarded rednecks. Some of the most sane and well-balanced people I know carry concealed weapons and have done so for many years. So it is with Brexit; those in the “Remain” camp — including, unfortunately, most of the media — seem to assume that those who voted to leave are mentally incompetent. This is particularly egregious in the case of the media, who really should know better, but then I suppose Freedom of the Press really is confined to those who own one; we have always been at war with Oceania.

We disagree, so you must be wrong

This attitude has permeated all the way up to the highest level; in the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker turned to Nigel Farage and asked “Why are you here?“. That is cheap rhetoric which only goes to prove that Democrats don’t really like Democracy, particularly when it disagrees with their own entrenched values.  But as the old saying goes, it is impossible to make someone believe in something if their paycheck depends upon them not believing it.

The Problem with Scotland

Scotland is in a particularly precarious position. A couple of years ago they narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. But they also voted in favor of remaining in Europe. From what I have seen in the news, Scotland is something of an Economic basket case, as not only do they want to remain in Europe, but they also want Britain to pay the bill — a clear case of wanting to have their cake and eat somebody else’s.

So where does this leave Britain?

The results of the referendum do not actually change anything. All they do is give the Government a clear idea of what the voters want. Nothing changes until Article 50 has been invoked, at which point Britain has two years to negotiate terms with the nations that form the European Union before they leave. At the end of those two years, they are out of the EU, ready or not.

In the meantime, the Swiss (who seem to be experts in getting the benefits of Europe without actually being part of it), have gotten it all beautifully in perspectiveSwitzerland gets itMeanwhile in the Fatherland, Germany seems hell-bent on making an example of Britain. This has, of course, happened before, and which just goes to show who is really in charge of Europe.

Will Britain be better off? I am not sure, and I don’t think it is relevant. What matters to me is the difference between dying on your feet and living on your knees.

I close with a quote from one Briton (Winston Churchill) to a German (Adolf Hitler)

You do your worst, and we will do our best

Vega Conflict Game Guide Updated!

The Long-awaited new version for Feb 2016 is done!

New sections include:

  • How Shields Work
  • Blueprint Weapons and Event Weapons
  • Tag and Find
  • Carrier Command
  • To Coin or Not to Coin?
  • Crafting Fleets and Supply Run Fleets
  • Resistance Tech.

New Ships Added:

  • Zeal Battleship
  • Lance Destroyer
  • Komodo Cutter
  • Hurricane Frigate
  • Taipan Cutter
  • Condor Frigate

Now 137 pages! Click  here to purchase it for $2.99.

Of Locomotive and Tenders

Mallard-model-engine

Only a century ago, steam engines criss-crossed nations, making travel easy and shrinking the globe.

Behind every coal-fired locomotive was a tender, a wheeled box that held all of the fuel that the locomotive would need to reach its destination. The tender was not particularly glamorous, nor did it get the attention and the admiration that the Locomotive did, but it was just as necessary.

The same is true in life: Too many western women seem to desire the power and prestige that comes with being the locomotive. They crave the power, the freedom, the independence that comes with being self-powered. And if that is truly what they are looking for, good luck to them. But too many women find out, too late, that after successfully transforming themselves into locomotives, that what they really wanted all along was to be a tender. And having done so, they now require an exceptionally powerful locomotive; an ordinary one is no longer enough, and they never find what they are looking for. And it is always men’s fault; never the media, the culture or third-wave feminism that persuaded her that she could “have it all”.

As I mature and acquire confidence, competence, and charisma, I find myself the subject of much unwarranted admiration from such women; women who have wasted their best years chasing what they thought they wanted, only to find out that what they really wanted all along is something that they cannot get anymore. But I am not interested in them; their best and sweetest gifts have been wasted on the undeserving, and no good man wants leftovers.

My lady and I have been “hitched” for nearly three decades; she is the tender to my locomotive, and she is bloody good at it. Our connection is strong. She provides me with that which I need to excel in life. And she never puts herself first. And for that she has my everlasting gratitude.

Thank you My Dear.

And here’s to the tenders of the world. You know who you are.