Monthly Archives: October 2016

Emerald Specter 21: Being Lured In

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I’m still moving steadily forward with my column per week, though this one is the one closest written to when it’s supposed to be released. The others had at least a week, if not a little more, of time before being posted. Usually what happens at this point is that I’ll let the pattern lapse and there would be a period of no writing before I restart the effort again. I’m going to try writing through November and a week or two into December so I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year, because I’d really like to be writing full time and making money from it, so this is something I can’t really let go.

Enough of that, let’s get to the topic of the day.

Politics.

Yeah, I can feel the shutter already. I’m not going to talk about the right side, left side, wrong side, or the side that just plain can’t see past it’s nose. I’m going to talk about the people who follow politics casually, who try to get you involved in conversations just so they can argue.

Yes, those people do exist.

I’ve recently been involved with a Facebook post that was talking about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The conversation was smoothly talking about that, how the ones left protesting are the people who do this as a living, probably getting paid by fringe environmental groups, ruining the whole true meaning of what was being protested by doing some sort of stunt to just get publicity and be vilified as martyrs. These people are not martyrs, they’re nut jobs.

The conversation was hijacked by someone who posted that the paid protestors are probably being paid just like the Black Lives Matter group and Trump rally protestors were. I stated that I was no longer going to participate in the conversation because it had been politicized, that person replied with the statement the DAP was already political, and a clarified that while political they’d drug the heated topics of race relations and unsubstantiated protest payments into the mix.

This person was blatantly just trying to stir up an argument to support their believe that Donald Trump is the best person for the President of the United States.

I run into this type of thing a lot, actually. A conversation that has light tones of philosophical discussions and then in bursts “that guy” who just has to point fingers and stir up an argument because how could anyone see why they aren’t 100% correct. Well, let’s go to another conversation I was recently in on Facebook.

A friend of a friend of a friend apparently posted a Tea Party page image requesting we all produce IDs to vote, insinuating that voter fraud is running amuck in the USA. I pointed out that out of one billion votes cast, only 31 instances of proven voter fraud existed and that the real problem was actually voter suppression, which the ID law would be propagating. I have friends who are die hard Conservatives, die hard Republicans, and die hard believers in what they think is puritanical religious (i.e. Christian) national beliefs… and then there are the extreme versions of those people, who are members of the sub group “Tea Party.” Their arguments are normally just bullet points, pushed out to their loudest supporters, to stir up argument and hoping that people will see their “rose colored” version of the world.

Someone reading this column might be looking at everything I’ve posted and see that I may be Liberal, Democrat, or left wing in general. I’m in the center, but if you’re an invested member of either wing, I look like I’m a member of the opposite of what you believe. This is what I like to call “division in America,” where most believe you’re either with them or against them. There IS a middle ground, folks.

One of my friends professes to be a middle grounder, but often posts anti-Clinton stuff in great frequency. I’ve known this guy for some time (we’ve never physically met) and I understand that he’s really just worried that allowing a corrupt, career politician at that highest office in the land is a dangerous thing. He’s also worried about letting an unqualified, hot tempered man-child near that same office… so he’s voting Libertarian, which gives Gary Johnson one guaranteed vote. When the election is over, we’ll go back to being just friends and politics won’t be involved in our discussions until the next election ramps up.

I am trying, really trying, to give up on discussing politics and religion with people. Those topics are almost always inflammatory and almost always end up in an argument. After this election, I’m putting my foot down on myself and following through. But before that happens, let me just drop some words and let this column wrap.

Religious conversation usually ends up being a Christian trying to force feed their belief system down everyone else’s throats, regardless of the protest. I left Christianity, so why in the holy hell would I want to go back? The Bible is “truth” to its followers, yet if that is “truth” then Stephen King’s IT is also truth… because you can’t prove anything in that damn book… truth is fact, facts can be proven. Until you can prove what is in the Bible, stop trying to convert me with a work of fiction.

Politically speaking, if you are a Trump supporter and are so far into the right wing line of thinking that you can’t see your candidate is a dangerous, unhinged, and hot-headed adolescent that he’ll likely start World War III, then you need to step back and evaluate exactly what it is you believe in. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and think for a second. When have the Republicans ever made government smaller? When has the tax cuts ever lowered the national debt? When has big business getting tax breaks ever resulted in millions of jobs created? Never is the answer. I defy you to prove me wrong.

On the other side, if you’re a Clinton supporter and are so far left wing line of thinking that you can’t see your candidate is exactly the career politician who takes money from special interests, will continue the sad line of corruption that has led the country to this terrible position, and is just as likely to start some sort of horrific war then you need to step back and examine what you actually believe in? When have Democrats ever done anything but raise the national debt? When have redistributing wealth ever resulted in anything positive? When has any of the promises they make contrary to Republicans ever come true? Never is the answer and I again defy you to prove me wrong.

Pull your head out of your ass if you’re on an extreme. Is either candidate a great choice? No. Did we, as a nation, put these two options up as the best of the pack? Yes, we did. Does complaining that these options suck get anything to change? No. Suck it up and decide what you really, ACTUALLY, believe in. Are you someone who calls themselves Conservative, despite fully supporting wildly out of control spending on things the USA doesn’t really need money spent on just for the sake of spending it? (That, by the way, is the antithesis of Conservative.) Are you someone who calls themselves a Liberal, despite making sure no one is offended and miring the USA in a bureaucratic hell making sure that your overly social agenda isn’t going to make anyone mad? (That, too, is the antithesis of Liberal.)

Sermon ended. Think on it.

Emerald Specter 20: Rise of the Women

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I’m a writer. I’ve got lots of ideas and when I look at a lot of the “draft” versions of these ideas, I see something that disturbs me… it really disturbs me more because I just watched a video pointing out a terrible injustice. But back on track, what do I notice that disturbs me?

Penises. Penises disturb me.

Get your head out of the gutter. I’m saying a lot of my characters are male. Damn.

Growing up in the midwest, with the ethnic diversity of a glass of milk. Yep, white and completely lacking actual diversity. Diversity where I’m from is a handful of Native Americans. No, literally less than fifteen.

If I took a critical look at my ideas, right now, I’d say that a good chunk of my characters are white males and those white males are almost exclusively in prominent roles that aren’t the main ones. Yep, I’m writing from my experience… of growing up.

Well, this sounds like a wonderful revelation that just dawned on me but I’ve got to break character here and relay a little bit more information before I return to the fiction that is me discovering my lack of diversity.

Several weeks ago, I made a conscious decision to switch up a lot of the characters I’m claiming are still white males. I also diversified the ethnicity a while back, too. I’ve changed my science fiction starship crew lineup to many different ethnic backgrounds and I’ve changed up the genders so that men aren’t even the predominant gender. My superhero shared universe was already fairly diverse (because I believe if we are to have superheroes literally running around fighting evil that they’ll be all over the globe and very little making them similar except for super powers) and they just needed a nudge to turn a “Black Widow amongst the rest of the sausages on Avengers” to be at least equal. There are other things I’ve done that have turned things around but I wanted to tell this story in a way that made me seem to just realize things.

Back to the tale.

The video I watched on Facebook was about girls looking for superhero action figures of the on screen women. The video pointed out that there are 20 comic book movies coming out in the next decade and only two of them have a female lead… LEAD, not a sidekick or a background character or someone part of a team. Yep, Wonder Woman is the only one I can name without Googling the other one. How sad is that?

So I’m going to start changing a lot of my characters into women. I’m going to start being more thoughtful about what backgrounds my characters are coming from… because 65 white males with capes is a little obnoxious when you barely have anyone else wearing a cape that isn’t a white male.

The “don’t change the gender or the skin color” idiots are obviously stupid. Johnny Storm was great as a black man in the Fantastic Four movie… the movie wasn’t good, but that had nothing to do with an ethnicity swap. We need to see more of that type of thing in media.

This is going to be a shorter column… but at least I’m putting one out and I’m making a concerted effort to be more inclusive when I’m writing.

Think on it.

Emerald Specter 19: Us versus Them

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Funny story: the original draft of this column had a lot of political talk in it and was mainly a rant targeting people who need to pay attention to exactly what they are about to vote on in the US Presidential election. I’ve trashed that column because I made a personal decision a couple of months ago to not talk about politics with anyone because all they do is divide. Instead, I’m going to talk about other things that divide and discuss why these “conflicts” are the result of blindly following one thing over another. Let’s do this.

One of the biggest “us vs them” situations that comes to mind is Apple vs Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon. The funny part of that is Apple is all of their target, making the perception that all three of those companies are trying to change about Apple true. Apple is really a powerhouse.

Let’s start with Samsung. They have built an empire against Apple with their “phone for every need” mentality. They have a phone with a stylus, they have a phone with a ticker on the edge of the screen, they have a phone for this, and a phone for that. What’s their biggest issue? Their phones are exploding right now, and not in a positive way. “You can charge wirelessly,” except the charger still has a wire. “We have a ticker on the edge,” yet I’ve had a phone in the past with a ticker and it did absolutely nothing for me that I wanted… because I didn’t want it. Samsung needs to understand that Apple works for some folks, like me. I’m happy that Samsung seems to work for other people, great. Keep up the good work. Enjoy your Samsung phones all you want. Why is what phone I’m using causing you issues?

Just like gay marriage, why is what phone I’m using any business of yours? Why does my iPhone affect your life in any way, shape, or form? Just like gay marriage, it doesn’t. iPhone works for me and I’ll keep using iPhones until the iPhone doesn’t work for me anymore. I don’t slam on your Galaxy because it obviously works for you, so why does harping on my iPhone need to happen? Just shut up and live your own damn life.

Let’s move on to Microsoft, where their barrage of “Surface Pro is better than MacBooks” campaign is so ridiculous that I have to comment on how ridiculous it is. Comparing the Surface Pro (a tablet) to the MacBook (a laptop) is like comparing (yes, I’m going there) apples and oranges. Compare the Surface Pro to the iPad, because that is the true comparison. Of course Surface Pro looks like a gem compared to a laptop because the laptop isn’t in the same category. Why not go all out and compare the Surface Pro to something completely unrelated, like the AppleWatch?

Microsoft hasn’t been relevant in a long time. Sure, Windows still works but the transition towards a more “mobile” operating system has blown back in their faces. As a tech outsider, Microsoft to me looks like the kid who has been ruling the playground from the corner of the yard without paying attention to the swath of better alternatives that moved in years ago.

We’ve got a Microsoft that acts like Fonzie but is actually operating in the Wire. Fonzie dies in that situation, people.

Finally, I’m going to hit up Amazon. Why does Amazon want to compete with Apple? Amazon’s primary business model is shipping items and Apple is a computer hardware company. Amazon has tried a phone, and failed. They’ve got their own “FireTV stick” that is comparable to AppleTV. Awesome. Compare those two things, but why do they need to attack a computer hardware company over it’s voice activated lady box or their streaming TV service (which isn’t even near the level of awesome of Hulu or Netflix)?

That’s only one “us vs them” and I’m running out of column room to write about more!

What about Verizon vs Sprint vs AT&T vs T-Mobile? This is really a four man race that isn’t a great industry to be a part of, because as far as the claims being made against one another, there isn’t much difference between them.

Verizon touts the best coverage in the nation, but they have shit customer service. How can I make that claim? I’m a former customer of theirs, primarily because of their shit customer service. AT&T also has shit customer service, as well as having shit options. How can I make that claim? Well, you can figure that one out.

T-Mobile and Sprint are solidly in the “third place” spot, but both companies are doing exactly what they should in their situation: don’t gun for the biggest company on the block, start doing stuff that makes the policies and options of the biggest company on the block look ridiculous.

Verizon and AT&T have data limits and sharing plans? Why the fuck do I want to share a limited amount of data with others? Sprint and T-Mobile don’t have data limits.

Verizon and AT&T have outrageous plans in as far as cost goes. Why do I want to pay a lot of money for data limited networks just because the coverage is “better”? I live in a population center and I don’t really go into the boonies, so your “great coverage” means nothing to me because you have data limits. That, and the cost for my unlimited data plan is far cheaper than what those guys offer.

Let’s stop being antagonistic to each other. Your political candidate is better than mine? The basis for that judgment normally hinges on the letter next to their name rather than their actual value. You think Coke is worlds better than Pepsi? That’s your taste in colas, not mine, so don’t impose your opinion on me as fact.

Facts are truth, not opinion. Take a moment to be nicer.

Think on it.

Emerald Specter 18: Pokemon No

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As a preamble, I’m going to try (once again) to write columns more often for the site and this time, I’m going to try to talk less about what may or may not happen and just put out content. I may write an opinion piece, I may do a review, or I may rant about something… in any case, I’m going to try doing a regularly weekly bit and hopefully get enough into a pattern where I’m reviving the stagnant SpecterFit column… and possibly other stagnant columns like Chess Specter, Game Specter, and the like.

On to the topic.

I have been a long time player of Niantic’s Ingress game. By long time, I mean I’ve been playing for at least a couple of years and while I’ve taken “a healthy time off” from the game, I still have it loaded on my phone in case I get the itch to play again. Niantic is the company that brought us Pokemon Go, too, and I jumped in on that as soon as the game was released… but unlike Ingress, I don’t really care much about continuing to play Pokemon Go.

The initial game release was hampered by crashes… lots and lots of crashes. I estimate that in the first three days of playing I had to reload the game due to a crash somewhere around 400 times. That, my friends, is excessive. Niantic released an update, though, and the crashing almost completely went away. There were other little bugs, but without the crashing, I was doing okay.

Then came the other updates.

Pretty soon we were getting notified on launch to “pay attention to our surroundings.” Anyone playing this game who gets hit by a bus, falls off a cliff, or wanders into a shooting range deserves the death they get. I’m a proponent of removing warning labels from everything and letting the stupid take care of themselves. The warning wasn’t that obnoxious, so I kept playing (though less frequently).

Shortly afterwards was a warning to stop wandering onto private property. As with the above warning, if you’re breaking the law by sneaking onto military installations or climbing fences to get onto someone’s private compound to catch a Pokemon, you really are too stupid to be considered for anything important in life.

Then came the update that broke the camel’s back for me.

Niantic’s EULA states that if you drive around and the passenger in the car is playing both your game and their own, that play is illegal (breaks the EULA). This goes for Ingress and for Pokemon. People still do it, though, and I will admit to being one of those people. At least I’m not driving into things, people, or killing myself because my attention is on a phone rather than a road. Others, however, do not share my desire to stay alive or not drive into a tree.

There was someone, multiple instances of someones if you want to be truthful, of people plowing into trees, fences, people, and whatever while driving AND playing Pokemon Go. I cannot stress enough how these people shouldn’t be stopped from doing this as they will kill themselves and leave the Earth for those of us smart enough to survive something more massive than a Burger King closure (like a zombie apocalypse).

Niantic’s solution to this was to add a warning into the Pokemon Go game that pops up (rather frequently) warning you that you shouldn’t play Pokemon Go while driving. If the car is moving at a certain speed, this warning pops up about every couple of minutes, making trying to play the game (even as a passenger) nearly impossible. What did that do to Niantic’s Pokemon Go usage?

Active players dropped 15,000,000 players in a month. I am one of those players.

Now, I understand that the company wants to be responsible and make sure things aren’t being done by players that shouldn’t be done. If that is the case, then why not implement a work around that I came up with instead of barring playing while driving?

My idea was that your “circle of influence” (the ring to which things have to be inside of to catch Pokemon, hit Poke-stops, etc) is larger the slower you are moving. For example, if the current ring is 40 meters in diameter, when you’re traveling faster than 10 MPH then your ring should shrink by 2 meters for every MPH you are going over 9. If you’re driving on a city street that the speed limit is 25 MPH, then your circle of influence would be a mere 10 meters, hardly large enough to get to the sidewalk much less the range you’d normally have. Maybe implementing this gives the stationary, or slowly moving player, a larger ring (say, 50 meters) as a bonus. This REWARDS players for not moving very quickly and keeps everyone safe.

Look at that, I solved the problem and didn’t need to pop a warning up even once.

The thing that really gets my goat is that as soon as Pokemon Go dropped Ingress updates all but stopped. Ingress players don’t get the obnoxious warnings about driving and playing. Ingress players don’t have warnings about wandering into locations they shouldn’t be in while playing. Does that mean Ingress players are smarter than Pokemon Go players? Considering the mean age for each game is different, with Pokemon players skewing 20 and younger, I’d say that is true. But when you release a new game that is basically a re-skin of the game you already had why do you completely stop updating the old game?

How am I supposed to feel about that?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel but I can tell you how that makes me feel: like my playing your product doesn’t matter because you want a “newer and shinier” version to hook kids on.

Count me out on that one, Niantic. I may still play Ingress, but the level of activity will be similarly low as it currently is.

Think on it.

The Greatest Show 96: Podcast of the Living Dead

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Saurab has been eaten in the first wave of the living dead. Soft Rock Messiah made it out alive… barely… he’s living off of scraps from the local Dick’s Sporting Goods… and their vending machine is almost out. Heavy Metal Jesus hasn’t left his room and the bucket he craps in has been full for over a week. Bob was ready for the first wave… but not the second wave… he’s stuck in a tree.

DJ and Tricia? They are on a boat, and, it’s going fast, and, DJ’s wearing a nautical themed pashmina afghan… he’s the king of the world, on a boat like Leo… and those are just song lyrics.

The YouTube page. The chat.