November 2007 Archives

So those of you who know me (which is everyone, because I'm pretty sure no one who doesn't know me personally reads this) know that one of the things I look forward to every year is NSDM at GenCon, and that I am fairly involved with the people who run the games, more than most other players anyway.  To that end, I'm on the NSDM listserv, which is usually just people passing along various articles on national security topics.  Every once in a while though, there's an article that strays a bit more into politics (which is a focus of the game too) and it will spark a (usually) fairly interesting and generally well-informed debate.

As you might imagine from a group of people who are, for the most part, ex-military or current military, the political slant of most people on that list is fairly conservative; there might be a few people more towards the center, but there's no one really on the far left, for the most part (and neither am I, really).  However, that puts me in a bit of an odd place; I'm by no means the most "liberal" (in the current sense of the word) person ever, but I generally tend to be very socially liberal and I've not really been a fan of the Iraq War, as previous blog entries will show.  That's not generally the prevailing opinion on the NSDM list (there are folks there that can find some virtue in Fox News, at the very least, which I would be hard pressed to do).

In contrast, in my daily life, most of the people I deal with on a regular basis are completely the opposite -- generally very center-of-the-aisle or left-leaning, though I'd hesitate to call any of them "liberal" in the Nancy Pelosi sense.  Most of them have similar political views to myself, so it's a very different environment from an NSDM event or the mailing list there.  Today brought up an interesting example of this, when someone sent a story to the list about John Murtha saying that Bush's "surge" was working, and indicated that it could end up being bad news for the Democrats, opening up a chink in their armor; the same person sent along the story about the Democrat-aligned questioners at the CNN/YouTube Republican debate.

Now, on the topic of the CNN debate thing, I suspect that's a lot more CNN being irresponsible and/or incompetent, not malicious.  I'm less inclined to believe that about Fox News with their mysterious "mislabeling" of disgraced Republicans as Democrats and other journalistic problems, but I admit that's at least partly because I think most of the talking heads on Fox News are idiots; perhaps that's a bit contradictory.  I certainly don't think it was anything on the scale of Karl Rove blaming the Iraq War on the Democrats.  That said, I think CNN should have at least spent a little effort to make sure they weren't letting the Democrats stick their people in the Republican debate like that.  On the other hand, I would much rather have candidates answer questions they aren't prepared for or that make them uncomfortable -- whether they are Republican, Democrat, or any other party -- than hearing them answer rehearsed pablum that tells you nothing other than that they love babies and hate criminals.  It's a lot harder to say you think atheists cannot be patriots or citizens or that gays will ruin the military when someone who fits the exact description is sitting there asking you about it.  I do think that CNN should have at least told these questioners to disclose their ties with Democratic campaigns, even if they let them ask the questions (which frankly is not really a problem, I think -- it would have been interesting to see it in reverse that the Democratic debate).

As far as the Iraq war, my feeling is that right now, we have two options being presented, and both are idiotic.  The first, from the Republicans, is that we need to stay in Iraq, no matter the cost, until the job is finished -- but don't worry, it's not a big deal and we can totally keep this up for decades without impacting the American way of life whatsoever (to say nothing for our image around the world).  On the Democratic side, the option presented is that we must withdraw from the country immediately because the situation is completely untenable and it will never be won no matter what, and it's only getting worse and worse, and our leaving isn't going to do anything to make it worse than it is already.

Now, while my opinion is closer to that of the Democrats than the Republicans, both are gross simplifications of the issue -- the truth of the matter is that it is probably possible to stabilize Iraq eventually, if we're willing to put the effort in to do it. The problem is, it isn't going to happen with things as they are now.  It's not going to happen with 150,000 troops, and it's not going to be over in a few years.  Chances are it will take a draft to get the number of people we need to put in the country, as well as a substantial shift in military funding from gee-whiz tech gadgets that get manufactured in Congressional districts to equipping, training, and paying soldiers much better than they are now.  It won't be cheap and there will probably be a lot more body bags landing in Dover before it's over.

If the Democrats (or the Republicans) came out and laid out the facts, said it was possible but it was going to cost us dearly, and that stabilizing Iraq was going to require the same kind of commitment that the United States had to endure in order to win World War 2, that pulling out now would have long-term and possibly rather bad consequences for the Middle East as a whole, and that Americans needed to decide which of the two crappy possibilities they wanted to accept, they would have a nearly unassailable position.  The problem is that half-assing it like we are now isn't going to accomplish anything but waste a ton of money and piss off the Iraqis, while not actually contributing the stability of the country or the region.  The problem is that that isn't a position that can be articulated in a 15 second sound bite and it requires the voting public to make a difficult decision with no easy, good answers.

Sadly, that doesn't appear to be what anyone wants to hear.
My brother bought Call of Duty 4 when it come out at the beginning of the month and promptly beat it (the single-player campaign is pretty short), so when I was over at my folks' place for Thanksgiving Thursday I borrowed the game from him to play through it after watching him for a bit.  While my taste in first-person shooters usually tends to fall in either the very gritty, realistic shooters like the Red Storm games or very well written story-heavy games like Half-Life, the thing that struck me about watching my brother play Call of Duty was that it was very, very cinematic, and seemed to do a good job of treading the ground between the two.  I was intrigued, so I took it home and I've played through the single player campaign in the last couple days.  I've put my spoilerific review, as always, behind the cut.


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Last night was the premiere of Battlestar Galactica's Razor TV movie, which shed more light on the plight of the Pegasus and Admiral Cain before they meet up with Galactica as well as shedding some light on the history of the Cylons, the first Cylon War, and giving a bit of a teaser for the upcoming season as well (which is now scheduled for frigging March).  I'll be posting my spoiler-rific review and other thoughts behind the cut, so as not to inadvertently blow it for anyone that hasn't seen it yet.

Note: I accidentally forgot to post this, so it's a bit later than I expected. Oops!

Lysenkoism in America

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I watched the Nova documentary "Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" over at CK and Mel's house last night (on their brand new HDTV, which was very impressive) and it was both one of the most frightening and also most reassuring things I've seen on television in a long time.  Considering the sort of people in my peer group, I admit I don't run into many people that think intelligent design is anything more than repackaged "creation science" hokum and that tends to bias me even more than I would be already against the kind of people who buy this.  The fact that the federal judge in the case, a Republican appointed by Bush, so clearly saw through this mess was the reassuring part.

The thing I couldn't stop thinking about was how this idiocy seemed to be so much like Lysenkoism it was scary.  For those of you who don't know what that was, it was basically bad science perpetrated for a political agenda in the Soviet Union under Stalin -- a "scientist" that came up with solutions to the country's agricultural problems with "practical" solutions that jived with the Communist Party's dogma exhorting the common peasant, solutions which didn't work at all, nearly starving the country to death and destroying Soviet progress in genetics for most of the first half of the century.  It wasn't until the 1960s that it was finally thrown out by the Communists, by which time the West had left it far behind in the biological sciences.

The most frightening thing about this fraudulent movement is that if they succeed, they want to roll back 150 years of scientific progress in medicine, biology, and chemistry.  150 years that have seen the average American lifespan increase by 30 years, thousands upon thousands of new cures and treatments for disease, a dramatic new understanding of how the human body works and develops, and dozens of other invaluable scientific advances.  This isn't hyperbole; this is what they set out to do in the infamous Wedge document.  As the judge said in this documentary, with as important as science is in the modern world, especially genetics and biotechnology, this sort of thing seems completely irresponsible.  These people would have the United States descend into a dark age while the rest of the world passes us by as it did the Soviets.

Because biotechnology has such a huge business potential, I am actually somewhat hopeful that this movement will eventually cause so much concern to the giant companies that depend on strong science education that they will spend their lobbying dollars to simply make lawmakers that support this nonsense politically irrelevant.   The fact that the two groups generally share the same party's favor at the moment is an irony which isn't lost on me.  As much as I'm wary of big business, I would much rather the Republicans favor a group which is at least capable of acting on a rational argument in their own self-interest than one which sticks its fingers in its ears and tries to ignore anything said to the contrary.

It's sad really; I consider myself atheist or at the very least agnostic, and honestly the question of whether a God or gods exist is an irrelevant one to me.  Whether there is some sort of supreme being makes no difference to how I live my life; if there's a God there, he seems to have given up the practice of dramatic miracles.  However, I cannot deny that when I see things like 4000-year-old Egyptian artifacts up close and personal, or when I would hear the priest at my parents' church talk about how he felt visiting holy sites in Israel that are thousands of years old, or when I walk on a Civil War battlefield where thousands of men died, you can feel the weight of history.  There is something emotional, unquantifiable about places and things like that.  To think that embracing modern science destroys any sense of wonder or awe at our insignificance in the universe, and that because a supernatural force is unnecessary means that life is meaningless -- that must be a frightening way to live.

I hope that people are really smarter than these creationists give them credit for; there is no reason that science and religion cannot coexist, indeed many of the greatest scholars of the last millennium have been profoundly religious men and women who saw their pursuit of science as a way to look upon the face of God.  However, we cannot remain willfully ignorant of the universe in order to save the egos and small minds of people who think things were better back in the 15th century.
I know I'm a little behind the curve, but I got my copy of Guitar Hero 3 from Amazon on Wednesday and I have to say, even though it isn't from Harmonix, the game is still a ball to play.  I beat it on medium (yeah, yeah, I know, no big deal) just a few minutes ago and finished playing through Dragonforce's Through the Fire and Flames, which was probably the most eagerly anticipated track for a lot of the people on RPGnet prior to release.  It is a long ass-song, but I have to say I actually really like it, especially the "So Far Away" part, despite the fact that, as CK says "it's just like Return of the King -- it has 17 different endings."

Other definite highlights from the soundtrack?  Well, we have "Barracuda", for my sweet 80s awesomeness (yes, I know it came out in 1977, but so did I), The Stones' Paint It Black, which was a master track and has the lovely 60s tinniness you probably didn't expect, a rerecorded master track by the remaining Sex Pistols of Anarchy in the UK, Pearl Jam's Evenflow (high school memories and a fun song to play), Holiday in CambodiaBlack Magic Woman (beautiful to play, really), Cult of Personality rerecorded by Living Colour, and, my personal favorite, the song with the best video ever made, Muse's Knights of Cydonia.  That last one as the only song I actually failed on my first try though, and that's okay, because it is freakin' awesome to play (even if it is not quite as awesome as the video -- seriously, check it out).

Low points?  Well, I'll definitely say I'm disappointed there's no co-op "quick play" mode like in the last ones; the co-op career mode is pretty neat, but it would be nice to be able to play all the songs in co-op, instead of just most of them.  The addition of songs you can only unlock in co-op is kind of neat for me, since I definitely think playing Guitar Hero as a social game is quite possibly my favorite way to play it, but for someone who likes to play on their own, I can definitely see that being an issue.  Far and away the biggest annoyance though are the three "battles" you need to fight in the game.  When I read about this before it came out, it sounded okay, as long as I didn't have to do them -- I like just "playing," which is often hard enough for me as it is, without the additional pain in the butt of the battle stuff.  Unfortunately, you have to play three different battles during the course of the game, and the last one is a true pain in the ass, especially because the final song is hard enough as it is.  CK, who can play most of the tracks on Expert without too much trouble, still hasn't beaten the game on Hard because of this.  I really wish this was an optional feature, and not a requirement.

On another note, today was the last day of the Eve Fanfest, being carried live from Reykjavik by Eve TV.  The broadcast is over now (even if, I suspect, the festivities are not), but I tried to catch as much of it during the day as I could; Oveur and Hellmar's presentations, the panel discussion, and the various interviews were all really neat to see, especially since those of us who can't hop across the pond on a whim miss out on this stuff.  The new pictures from the Trinity graphics update, beta footage of the "ambulation" stuff going in next year, and the plans for Eve to use MPI and other supercomputing technologies in the cluster was definitely interesting to see and hear about.

I am disappointed that they didn't have footage from the corporation and alliance discussions that went on earlier in the week, with various alliance representatives giving Q&As on their alliances, but I'm hoping that will be provided in the wrap up Spiraljunkie says is coming in a week or two.  One of these days, I'd love to make it out there -- I hear Iceland is gorgeous, and meeting other Eve players and especially the devs would be great; I got a very tiny taste of that at GenCon this year, but CCP didn't have much of a presence there (and I'm still bitter I missed the CCP/White Wolf party).  We'll see, I guess.  Judging from the player response, Fanfest isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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