Jun 30, 2008

Game review: Transformers

We bought Transformers: The Game for 10e at Gamestop, because it was on discount.


Back when it was coming out, this was supposed to be a good game. I mean, look at this screenshot:

Sadly, I can make this a real short review: it wasn't worth the 10e. It's garbage.

Jun 29, 2008

Big ethanol

I already talked about the stupidity of biofuels earlier. In the States, the greatest stupidity of biofuels is that while the government heavily subsidises domestic biofuel production, they impose high tariffs on importing more efficient biofuels.

It gets worse: Barack Obama is in league with Big Ethanol.

Jun 28, 2008

Win the lottery!

The common Finnish propaganda line and saying is: being born in Finland is like winning the lottery. This is what you get if you win the lottery:

YLE: Suomessa EU:n viidenneksi korkein verorasitus

Finland has the fifth-highest tax burden in the EU. According to YLE, Finland taxes income on an average of 43,5%. Think about that for a moment. On average, half of what every Finnish citizen earns is confiscated by the state.

At the same time:

YLE: Halosen suosio säilynyt ennallaan

I do try to follow Finnish politics. As near as I can tell, the sum total of what Tarja Halonen has done during her two terms as president is absolutely nothing. She's done nothing to advance any issue, she's directed Finland's foreign policy on no discernable path, she's done nothing about any issue I can think of. I checked, and her Wikipedia pages in Finnish and English can't name a single political accomplishment.

The only moral positions she's ever held she backed away from during her presidency. She used to support gay rights; she's done nothing to advance them. During various election campaigns, she and co-social democrat Erkki Tuomioja have portrayed themselves as idealists who care about human rights issues. They've done nothing about any of them.

In Finland, idleness gets you consistently high approval ratings. Apparently we, as a nation, are happy when our elected officials take home their fairly large salaries and do absolutely nothing to earn them. This is the core reason Finnish politics is stagnant and nothing happens: no-one cares.


On the other side of the Atlantic, shock and horror engulfs the USA as the supreme court rules that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms actually means a right to keep and bear arms, not something totally different.

Whatever anyone may think of the second amendment, the text is quite clear.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

It says the people have a right to keep and bear arms. For crying out loud, if you want to change that, you have to amend the constitution, not try to get the Supreme Court to define black as white. Laws that are practically a total ban on handgun ownership do violate a citizen's right to keep and bear arms, and are unconstitutional. I profoundly appreciate Judge Scalia for understanding this:

Concluding his opinion, Justice Scalia wrote, “Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem.”

“That is perhaps debatable,” Justice Scalia wrote, “but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”


Europeans should note that the US actually has a Supreme Court, where one can challenge laws that seem to violate the constitution. Finland has no such thing.

Jun 27, 2008

The big thing

This is the most important thing I will ever write about.

Wired: The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

Seriously speaking, no issue is more important.

Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach -- looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology -- as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.

What's more, other researchers have also found some success pursuing similarly structured research programs. For example, late last year, the Buck Institute for Age Research received $25 million from the National Institutes of Health to establish a home for the "new scientific discipline of geroscience." The new field, and its research institute, are dedicated to proactively fighting aging with researchers from a dizzying array of fields.

We are advanced enough technologically to really start fighting aging. I have high hopes that we'll be able to combat many diseases and infirmities, and eventually combat aging itself, in our lifetimes. Consequentially, I hope that in 50 years or so, the meaning of the phrase "in our lifetimes" will become radically different.

The Methuselah Foundation can be found at http://www.methuselahfoundation.org/.

Jun 26, 2008

Falling Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are finally making some moves. TSN tells us they're buying out Darcy Tucker's contract, and placing Kyle Wellwood and Andrew Raycroft on waivers. That's all well and good, I suppose.

Earlier this week, Brian Costello wrote a column for the Hockey News with the title: Fletcher failing Maple Leafs with poor decisions. He's talking about the Leafs' draft day trade, and he's right about that. However, his overall point is very relevant:
Fletcher’s task was to see the team through to the next GM by culling the high-priced dead wood and set the early tone for the rebuilding phase. He wasn’t able to move the Muskoka Five with no-trade clauses, but he could have and should have shuffled more developing and inexperienced players in from the AHL’s Marlies and usurped coach Paul Maurice’s attempts to win games at all costs when making the playoffs was the longest of long shots.

For the record, for most teams I consider the desperate drive for eighth place in the playoffs to be a total waste of time. You've made the playoffs! Hooray! If your team isn't good enough to make it into the playoffs by a comfortable margin, chances are you're not going to get anywhere. For a young team, the playoff experience can be valuable, for instance in the case of Atlanta and Washington in the last two seasons. For a team like Toronto to sacrifice some of their future to make a desperate run for eighth place, it's madness.

When it became obvious that the Leafs were in a tailspin and were going to miss the playoffs the second time in a row, the Canadian media went into the usual frenzy of speculation around the Leafs. Everyone and their brother was going to be traded or fired. I can now do what Don Cherry does, and quote myself, from this January:

Toronto's problem is that the whole organization is basically screwed up. I predict they're not going to trade Sundin, Tucker, Kaberle or for that matter anybody, chiefly because no-one is stupid enough to take Raycroft off their hands and no-one is going to make a momentous decision like trading Sundin. The team is going to sputter on the same way and fail their way to the end of the regular season, disappointingly ending up with neither the playoffs or the chance to draft next year's Next Next Next Next One, John Tavares. For Toronto to get their act together, the organization would have to be revamped, and I don't see that happening. The owners are making a profit, so they're happy, and the management is hardly likely to fire themselves.

I meant Stamkos when I said Tavares. Oops. Other than that, I stand by what I said. They only traded Hal Gill, Wade Belak and Chad Kilger, and were unable to move any of the players with no-trade clauses. They missed the playoffs, and didn't get to draft early.

Now Wellwood and Raycroft are on waivers, and Tucker is being bought out. My only real question is: why is this happening now? Why wasn't Paul Maurice fired earlier? Why didn't they bring up players from the AHL who could've used the NHL experience, since that would have been the only positive thing that could have come out of last spring for the Leafs? A sensible manager would have moved all the assets they don't need in the future, brought up young players to gain experience and in short, done all they're doing now then. Raycroft and Wellwood should've been moved before the deadline, by way of waivers if need be. In my opinion, once Darcy Tucker invoked his no-movement clause, he should have been put on waivers before the deadline.

Cliff Fletcher has failed thoroughly as a turnaround GM for the Leafs. There was no turnaround after he was hired in January, and there's no sign of one coming in the summer. They're going to dump Wellwood, Raycroft and Tucker, and probably lose Sundin. Look for them to hire several overpaid free agents in the summer, who won't help them next year. The Toronto debacle is going to continue.


Also in hockey news, Tampa hired Barry Melrose as head coach. Ken Campbell rubbishes the decision, and he's right. The Lightning are going to continue to suck next season just like they did this season, so expect to see John Tavares in a Lightning uniform along with Steve Stamkos. If they finalize the very long deal they allegedly have in the works with Vincent Lecavalier, it means in about five years' time they'll have a big chunk of their salary tied up in three forwards, with precious little space to build a team around them. Hey, that sounds familiar!

Basically, we already know that two of the Eastern Conference's teams that sucked last season are going to suck next season, too.

Still on the topic of hockey, here's something completely different.

Jun 25, 2008

Biofuels create poverty

It's so simple, even an organization like Oxfam is starting to understand it. Oxfam, who are notoriously thick-headed enough to support the garbage that is "fair trade", released a report saying biofuel use "increases poverty".

Oxfam says so-called green policies in developed countries are contributing to the world's soaring food prices, which hit the poor hardest.

The group also says biofuels will do nothing to combat climate change.

..

The report's author, Oxfam's biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, criticised rich countries for using subsidies and tax breaks to encourage the use of food crops for alternative sources of energy like ethanol.

My greatest objection to biofuels is a technology-based one. I see this as a dead-end technology. Biofuels are mostly used for motor transport. When we could be working on alternatives like electric cars or hydrogen fuel cells, instead we devote resources to researching a technology that is already becoming obsolete.

Of course, the idea that biofuels are somehow "good" while fossil fuels are "evil" is apparently based on nothing other than the fact that one of them has "bio" in its name. It's beautiful how people are seemingly confusing renewable resources with carbon emissions, because there seems to be some kind of strange misunderstanding that biofuels are somehow connected to climate change. Amusingly, the biofuel drive has not only partly caused the world food crisis, it also means that if the EU's goal of 10% renewable energy use in transportation is met, it will probably increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The most serious objection to the current biofuel policies is obviously an economic one. The EU and USA heavily subsidize biofuel production, which distorts the global market. Producers are getting an artificially high price for biofuels as compared to food, which encourages a switch away from producing food toward production of biofuels. This artificially high price is being paid for by us, the taxpayers.

Why is our money being used to subsidize a dead-end technology that is increasing greenhouse gas emissions and worsening the food crisis? Can we stop with these ridiculous subsidy policies?

Of course, in a representative democracy, there's no way for me to make that happen. That's why it's called representative.

Jun 24, 2008

In case you missed it: the FRA law

In acse you missed it, Sweden passed the highly controversial "FRA law" last week. The FRA is the Swedish military signals intelligence agency; the new law gives the FRA the right to eavesdrop on any Internet communications crossing Swedish borders.

The Swedish military now has the right to, among other things, read every Swedish person's e-mail if they use gmail, Hotmail or some similar service. Anyone accessing a Swedish website from outside Sweden will have their activities logged.

The worst part is that a lot of Finnish internet traffic passes through Sweden. For instance, all TeliaSonera e-mails used to be based on Swedish servers, but they had to be moved because the Swedish law violates Finnish privacy laws.

I'm really at a loss for words. Sweden has passed the most invasive Internet legistlation in Europe; their parliament has authorized their military to completely ignore their citizens' privacy and human rights on the Internet in order to fight terrorism.

And this is scary for Finnish people as well as for Swedes. Like I said, a lot of Finnish internet traffic is routed through Sweden, including Finland's biggest ISP's e-mail servers. How do you suppose the Finnish government reacted to the news that the Swedish military is going to start reading Finland's e-mails?

Anyone from Finland has to be able to guess the answer: absolutely nothing happened. Similarly, although many people in Sweden opposed the law, knowing something about the Nordic countries, I confidently expect absolutely nothing will happen there, either. I was summing up developments in the freedom of the Internet earlier, and one of the things I have to draw attention to again is the manifest failure of the Finnish political system, and us as Finns, to defend our rights on the Internet. I have no doubt that Sweden and Swedes will similarly fail. And the Swedish military will read our e-mail.

I try to keep paying attention to this stuff just to stay updated, but personally the FRA law is another step down the slope. I'm gradually losing faith in our democratic process completely. Our human rights in Europe aren't worth the paper they're printed on.


On a footnote related to the Finnish "child porn" legistlation, a person called Sami Kuusela wrote an idiotic column in Metro on the topic that defended censoring the Internet and singled out anti-censorship activist Matti Nikki for personal insults. Everyone make a mental note that "media entrepreneur and journalist" Sami Kuusela is a fucking idiot, just in case he rears his ugly head in public again.

Jun 23, 2008

Lewis Hamilton is a fucking idiot

Lewis Hamilton screwed up his French GP entirely on his own. F1.com put it concisely: It all goes wrong for Hamilton in Magny-Cours.

After the Grand Prix, F1's official golden boy Lewis Hamilton showed us what he's made of. He complained about his penalty, and his mentor Ron Dennis implied the FIA is treating McLaren unfairly, i.e. whined.

This is the same guy who couldn't find it in himself to actually, properly apologize for crashing into Räikkönen in Canada. All he could muster up was:
I apologise to Kimi if I cost him the race, but these sort of things happen. (autosport.com)




In a bizarre press conference after the GP, Hamilton blamed the FIA and the media for his problems.

BBC Sport: Hamilton is battling the wrong demons

Blaming the media for problems that have nothing to do with them is a tactic often employed by sportsmen when they come under pressure of their own making.

Perhaps it helps them deal with difficult situations by giving them a focus for their discontent. Certainly, it is sometimes easier to direct accusations at others than it is to accept that it just might be yourself who is at fault.

Whatever, it is difficult to escape the thought that Hamilton's season is in danger of unravelling if he cannot find a more effective way of dealing with the pressure under which he currently finds himself.


I'd have been more rude about it, but I agree. As soon as everything isn't going the Golden Boy's way, he throws a tantrum. He's a fucking idiot.

Jun 19, 2008

Wired onion

From Wired magazine:

Inside the Scandal That Rocked the Formula One Racing World

An article on last season's espionage scandal in F1. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, or wants a recap, that's a fairly good, if ever so slightly biased, recap of events.

Also from Wired: Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green. Inconvenient indeed; the article tells us that if we really want to preserve the environment, we should, among other things, embrace nuclear power and live in cities. Heresy!



Speaking of heresy, I've learned that not everyone is aware of Internet funny site The Onion.

Why should you be? Here's an old classic:

Christian Right Lobbies To Overturn Second Law Of Thermodynamics

And a more recent one:

Obama, Clinton, McCain Join Forces To Form Nightmare Ticket

Good stuff. Enjoy!

Jun 18, 2008

Happy birthday Antero Niittymäki!

Meet the most underrated goaltender in the National Hockey League: Antero Niittymäki.



One of my favorite hockey players, Niittymäki is currently playing with the Philadelphia Flyers. He's a product of the TPS system, and won Rookie of the Year in Finland's SM-liiga in 2000. The Flyers drafter Antero in 1998, and he was signed to their minor league team in 2002.

One of the first things he acquired in North America was a nickname; in this case, Frank. He's called Frank because his last name reminded someone of American gangster Frank Nitti, and Niittymäki's goalie mask is modeleld after his nickname:


Frank went on to put his name down in hockey history in 2004 by becoming the first goaltender in pro hockey in North America to ever be credited with an overtime goal. The Philadelphia Phantoms were playing the Hershey Bears, who had pulled their goaltender in overtime because they needed to win the game in OT. Niittymäki stopped a shot that bounced off his pads, down the ice, and all the way into the opposing goal. Technically that counted as his goal, and as far as I know, he's still the only goaltender to ever score an overtime goal.

In the 2004-05 lockout season, Niittymäki led the Phantoms to the AHL championship (the Calder Cup), and won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.

He spent last season as Philadelphia's backup goaltender. He got more playing time the previous season, but the Flyers' defense in front of him was simply horrible. A lot of his stats that season have more to do with Joni Pitkänen, Derian Hatcher and several others having a terrible season on the ice than with his ability as a goalie. No goaltender can rescue a team playing as badly as the Flyers were that season.


When Frank gets to play with a decent team, he's simply phenomenal; most memorably so at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Niittymäki played a fantastic tournament, recording three shutouts in six games, and was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He was simply brilliant; I don't remember a goaltending performance like that in the Finnish net for a long time.



Being MVP of the Olympics hasn't helped Niittymäki's career along. Ken Hitchcock stubbornly refused to play him in Philadelphia, even when Robert Esche was playing subpar. Right now, he's stuck behind Marty Biron in Philadelphia. I don't think he's ever gotten a proper chance to show what he can do behind even a semi-competent NHL team.



I'm a big fan of Frank, and I hope he gets his shot at the big time. Happy birthday!

Jun 17, 2008

Don't vote

Feminist Wendy McElroy tells you why you shouldn't vote.

Why? For a few reasons. First of all, when you vote, you are propping up the status quo by sanctioning it with your participation. Second, social change cannot occur by passing a law or electing a candidate. At the point when there is enough support to pass that law or elect that candidate, the change has already occurred in the hearts and minds of the people demanding change…usually through grassroots and educational efforts. In short, government usually lags behind true social change; indeed, government is often the biggest barrier against social change. Why? Because those in power fear change and those whose salaries are government checks have a natural resistance to the changes in funding that accompany fundamental reform.

I would further maintain that in representative democracy, we have a system that is actively hostile to us, as individual citizens, having any say in its operation. Voting legitimizes that system. Another thing to think about, that I may or may not be bothered to write on at more length at some point.

Maybe we should start a Finnish political party whose goal is ending the Finnish state. I should look into that.

Jun 16, 2008

Polygamy

A blog post on Paper Cuts and Plastic got me thinking on the subject of monogamy versus polygamy.

For starters, here's an interview with Tristan Taormino, who's also written a book on the topic.

Happily, the US Libertarian party supports ending marriage legistlation, which in Western countries currently criminalizes polygamy as bigamy. From the National Platform of the Libertarian Party:
1.3 Personal Relationships

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the rights of individuals by government, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships.

That precisely sums up my view on the politics of the matter. The other sides are a little more complicated, but a quote from Ms. Taormino will work here:

The assumption underlying this myth is that true intimacy can only be achieved between two people in a monogamous relationship. In other words, if you are emotionally and physically intimate with more than one person, it somehow dilutes the intimacy of each relationship. This is based on the notion that love is a quantifiable thing, like, if you have 100 pounds of love, you can give 100 pounds to your partner. But if you have multiple partners, you have to split the 100 pounds between them. Intimacy is about being willing to be open, honest and vulnerable with your partner and bonding on a deep level. Monogamy does not automatically equal intimacy and non-monogamy does not automatically equal lack of intimacy. Plus, non-monogamous relationships often involve the same level of commitment as monogamous ones. People in non-monogamous relationships are not avoiding intimacy or commitment, they are cultivating a relationship style that meets their needs and works for them.

That's worth thinking about. Our views on marriage are based on millenia of religious propaganda, and we would do well to question them. I'll probably return to the topic later, but this is just a brief note on what I'm thinking about these days.

Jun 15, 2008

While it's still legal

The title is in reference to my previous post on the freedom of the Internet. While we still have it, here's some pro-porn feminism.

Carmella Bing:


Also, some news tidbits. Pluto, formerly a planet, then a dwarf planet, is now a plutoid. Spherical objects that do not "gravitationally dominate" their neighbors and are beyond the orbit of Neptune are now known as plutoids, according to the IAU.

I hope everyone realizes they inserted the qualifier "beyond Neptune" to avoid the Earth changing from a planet to a plutoid...

Gianna Michaels:


In Finland, a Helsinki police officer was fined for attempting to pressure a Finnish magazine into not publishing an article. The apellate court found the police officer guilty of misusing his position, and noted that under Finnish law, pre-emptive censorship is illegal, even if the item to be published is itself illegal.

Isn't that funny? In Finland, censorship is illegal, except when it isn't.

Justine Joli:


Also in the news this week, professor Richard Lynn, Tatu Vanhanen's notorious co-author, has pissed off people in Britain by saying that intelligent people are less likely to believe in God. Says he:

He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

His views have been criticized as simplistic, which they are, but I can't help but think that he's right on this one. I've never in my life been able to understand how an intelligent person can possibly be a Christian, without being grossly dishonest to themselves.

Tera Patrick:


I wrote in justification of pornography earlier. I'd be prepared to define porn as a human right, if pressed. In my opinion it falls under our right to freedom of expression to produce and consume pornography, and we need to defend that right. Occasionally we also need to say "screw it, today I'm just posting some porn".

Jenna Jameson:

Jun 14, 2008

Freedom of the Internet?

This week, France joins the proud ranks of nations censoring the Internet. Not content with just censoring child pornography, the French are also going to block access to websites with "racist or terrorist content". The government is going to set up a "black list" of forbidden websites, and ISPs will block access to them.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, maybe that's because this blog is written in a country whose police force has apparently unlimited power to block a website by saying it's child porn. As of this writing, Matti Nikki's http://lapsiporno.info website is still blocked by the Finnish police. The website contains no child porn; several complaints have been made to the Parliament's Ombudsman, who is supposed to look into this kind of thing, and nothing has happened.

The Americans are also jumping on the bandwagon; a New York prosecutor cut a deal with Verizon, Sprint and Time Warner Cable to implement child pornography censorship. An article in the New York Times describes how the ISPs got on board:
The agreements resulted from an eight-month investigation and sting operation in which undercover agents from Mr. Cuomo’s office, posing as subscribers, complained to Internet providers that they were allowing child pornography to proliferate online, despite customer service agreements that discouraged such activity. Verizon, for example, warns its users that they risk losing their service if they transmit or disseminate sexually exploitative images of children.

After the companies ignored the investigators’ complaints, the attorney general’s office surfaced, threatening charges of fraud and deceptive business practices. The companies agreed to cooperate and began weeks of negotiations.

What a lovely way to conduct business, Mr. Cuomo. I was going to mention how this isn't going to work, but the attorney did it for me:

“It’s going to make a significant difference,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It’s like the issue of drugs. You can attack the users or the suppliers. This is turning off the faucet. Does it solve the problem? No. But is it a major step forward? Yes. And it’s ongoing.”

He's right. This is precisely like the issue of drugs.

Now, unlike drugs, I'm not advocating legalizing child pornography. It's just that this globalizing War on Child Pornography on the Internet is going to be precisely as effective as the War on Drugs. Has attacking the suppliers, as Mr. Cuomo puts it, worked to tackle America's drug problem? Last I checked, no. This won't work either.

Closer to home, back in 2007 Norway was looking into censoring the Internet of basically everything, from online gambling onward. For the moment, they have a child pronography censorship scheme like Finland's.

Do you think I'm overreacting when I say all this is a very real threat to our freedom to use the Internet? Last year, European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini proposed outlawing searching the Net for certain words. Frattini suggested searching for words like bomb, kill, terrorist and genocide be outlawed.

Asked whether a plan to block searches for bomb instructions or for the word 'terrorism' on Web search engines could infringe on the rights to expression and information, Frattini said in the phone interview:

"Frankly speaking, instructing people to make a bomb has nothing to do with the freedom of expression, or the freedom of informing people.

"The right balance, in my view, is to give priority to the protection of absolute rights and, first of all, right to life."

Ah, yes. The wrong kind of free expression isn't expression at all, and there are more important rights than the right to free expression.

He also wants to ban violent video games. Under what law or directive, I don't know.

Meanwhile in the UK, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 will, among many other things, "introduce a new offence of possession of extreme pornographic images". The BBC ran an article with the title When does kinky porn become illegal? The question mark is there because as per the current legistlation, it's a gray area. Here's a couple of quotes from the article:

Five years ago Jane Longhurst, a teacher from Brighton, was murdered. It later emerged her killer had been compulsively accessing websites such as Club Dead and Rape Action, which contained images of women being abused and violated.

When Graham Coutts was jailed for life Jane Longhurst's mother, Liz, began a campaign to ban the possession of such images.

...

Speaking from her home in Berkshire, Mrs Longhurst acknowledges that libertarians see her as "a horrible killjoy".

"I'm not. I do not approve of this stuff but there is room for all sorts of different people. But anything which is going to cause damage to other people needs to be stopped."

To those who fear the legislation might criminalise people who use violent pornography as a harmless sex aid, she responds with a blunt "hard luck".

"There is no reason for this stuff. I can't see why people need to see it. People say what about our human rights but where are Jane's human rights?"

There isn't any reason for any kind of other porn, either. Come to think of it, I'm not sure there's "a reason" for most entertainment or art, either.

This is nothing less than pure discrimination against a sexual minority. It's outrageous that a certain kind of pornography is going to be outlawed simply because the majority of legistlators aren't interested in defending it. One of the big arguments in the UK in favor of outlawing violent pornography is the idea of "pornography addiction", as championed by this odious Longhurst woman. She claims her daughter was killed because a man watched violent pornography. Her daughter's boyfriend said, per the BBC: "Ms Longhurst's former partner Malcolm Sentance said at the time: "Jane would still be here if it wasn't for the internet.""

For crying out loud. She was killed by a mentally disturbed man, not by the Internet. From the same article:

Mr Salter, MP for Reading West, said: "These snuff movies and other stuff are seriously disturbing. Many police officers who have to view it as part of their job have to undergo psychological counselling."


I'm not sure how exactly to put this, but I'll try:

SNUFF MOVIES DO NOT EXIST.

Snuff movies are a myth. Says the Wikipedia article:

Given these criteria, the existence of snuff films is highly questionable, and commercial snuff films have long been relegated by skeptics to the realm of urban legend and moral panic. To date, no film generally accepted as fitting this definition has been found.

Funny they should mention moral panics... Another crucial quote from the article:

Jane Longhurst's killer Graham Coutts admitted he was addicted to violent pornography websites.

This idea of "porn addiction" is doing the rounds in the Anglo-American world as both a defense for psychopathic criminals and a rallying cry for people who want to censor pornography. Again, I find it's best to keep things simple:

PORN ADDICTION DOES NOT EXIST.

There is no scientific proof for pornography addiction; no psychiatric or psychological authority of any note accepts it as an actual psychological condition. This is basically a reimagining of the old canard that pornography is harmful, which I wrote about earlier. The proof does not exist.

Another link on the topic.


The kind of child pornography censorship that's being practiced now in Europe is impractical, inefficient and most glaringly in Finland, violates our most fundamental human rights. In Finland, the goverment is already using the anti-child porn law to block access to a website that criticizes it. Given the way the law is being implemented, nothing can stop them from doing more of this in the future. Also in Finland, writing in a blog is now a crime, if your writing is considered defamatory against a person, religion or ethnic group.

In the UK, a certain kind of sexual orientation is about to become illegal. In France, websites that contain "racist" material are now being blocked. As we know, in France it's a crime to "belittle the Holocaust". Would a website that referred to the Holocaust as "a detail in the history of the Second World War" (an offence for which Jean-Marie Le Pen was found guilty and condemned in a court of law) be racist material? It might be.


To conclude, let's look at this for a moment.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

That's never been true so far, but I consider it a noble goal. What's going on with legistlation and Internet censorship today is moving us further away from it. We are in the middle of a very scary moral panic about racism and child pornography, and that moral panic is being exploited to implement censorship of the internet.

One of out most fundamental human rights is on the line. What can we do to stop all this? As we saw with the Finnish child pornography legistlation, nothing.

Welcome to Western democracy. Shut up and do what you're told.

Jun 13, 2008

Ships and traffic lights

Since I now have a proper digital camera, I thought I might take some photos with it. Every now and then, I thought I'd share, and here's my first batch. All photos taken by me with a Canon EOS 400D.

Roman Abramovich's yacht Pelorus is docked in Helsinki, so we went to have a look. In addition to owning Chelsea, Abramovich is the governor of Chukotka, and I went to some really good lectures on the Russian Far East last year, so I'm interested. Interestingly, Helsingin Sanomat claims the boat actually belongs to ex-Mrs. Abramovich after their divorce, but I don't know if that's true.



The world's eleventh-largest private yacht. According to Finnish MTV3, she has a missile defense system installed. I wonder about that. The most effective defense system against an anti-ship missile is probably still a Gatling gun, but I think he'd have some trouble with Customs... And that thing was docked at Helsinki's Katajannokka harbor.

I imagine if the device exists at all it's some kind of chaff launcher. I don't imagine that's going to be very effective, though, unless someone fires an absolutely ancient radar-guided ASM at it. Why you would need an anti-missile system for your private yacht I don't know.

The Swedish replica East Indiaman Götheborg was also there:

No offense to our dear neighbors, but that is one ugly ship. That blue and yellow thing never worked for me. Rigging is always nice, though:

On to more fun things: traffic lights. Below, an ordinary Finnish traffic light, as found in Helsinki.

Helsinki is experimenting with a new kind of traffic light for zebra crossings over tramlines. The new light has only two lamps, both red. The idea is that the light will only be on when a tram is actually crossing or about to cross; at all other times it will be permitted to walk across the crossing. The new system is being tested on Helsinki's Mannerheimintie, in front of Lasipalatsi.

Here's the light in action:


This is how the light is mounted. The main traffic light in the picture is the Helsinki tram light, with three modes: S, - and an arrow, with the same functions as a normal traffic light.

I suppose that at this point I have to confess that I really like traffic lights. The only thing cooler than traffic lights are maritime traffic lights. I don't know what they're really called, but we have them in this country. Now that we also have access to a boat, I might be able to get some pictures of those... Sweeeet.

Jun 12, 2008

Achievements hustling

The title is a clever way for me to get to talk about hot chicks in the last issue of Finnish Hustler, and Mass Effect achievements. I promise no major spoilers about the game. Prominently featured: Aria Giovanni.



Hot. Like I said when I reviewed Mass Effect, I really like the Achievements system on the XBox 360. On my first playthrough of Mass Effect, I netted quite a few achievements. There's an entire website dedicated to XBox 360 achievements, xbox360achievements.org, but the site's Mass Effect achievements guide seems to have been written by a 10-year old. Therefore, I'll say a little something about a couple of the achievements.

Here's an example, on the Sniper Rifle Expert achievement:

This is the most annoying weapon in the game. If you're not leveled up, it will be hard to get kills with this. Make sure this is your first or second weapon you use, since it's hard.

Annoying? Like hell it is. Mass Effect actually boasts a semi-sensible sniper rifle, in the sense that using it is totally impractical except in situations where sniping would be practical. I played my first game with a soldier, and after getting the Assault Rifle Expert achievement, I went for the sniper rifle one. Don't try to get clever and use it in close quarters combat, and you'll rack up the required 150 kills for the achievement.

Sniper rifles are meant to be used at long range, and for power gamers, they have an important application. Killing enemies with the Mako's weapons gets you much less experience than killing them on foot; for example, killing a Husk with the Mako's main gun gets you 25 XP, while killing it on foot nets 63 XP. The sniper rifle is especially handy for killing enemies outdoors.

The assault rifle is by far the best all-around weapon in the game, which is as it should be. The cool thing is, once you achieve a weapon achievement (other than pistol), you can get that skill as a bonus skill for later characters you play. My second character is a Sentinel, and because I unlocked the Assault Rifle Expert achievement, I got to pick the Assault Rifle skill as a bonus skill. Very handy!



The weapon achievements, like the biotic and tech power achievements, are fairly self-explanatory; you'll get them by playing the game. The biotic power achievements, at least, get you the same bonus as the weapon ones; when I got Throw Mastery Throw became selectable as a bonus skill too. Very sweet.

One achievement I missed on my first playthrough was Scholar, which you get for unlocking Codex entries. It should be fairly simple; just talk to everyone about all the alien races. As near as I can tell, there are two failure points. One is not asking Captain Anderson about Spectres at the conclusion of the first episode on the Citadel; the other relates to something I discovered on my second playthrough.

At a couple of points in the game, there are two different solutions you can take to a problem, and one of them nets you more experience than the other. I know this for a specific reason; I completed every main and side quest in the game, but failed to get the Power Gamer achievement.


The first one is right at the beginning, on Citadel. You're given the option of finding one of two people who have the same goal as you: Garrus, the turian, or Wrex, the krogan. If you meet Wrex first, you will receive significantly less experience. Therefore, Pro tip: Meet with Garrus first. According to xbox360achievements.com, one of the pieces of information you need for the Scholar achievement is unlocked by talking to Garrus at this point, it's possible I missed it the first time around by finding Wrex first.

There's a similar situation on Noveria later in the game; suffice to say that your first proper objective on Noveria can be achieved in two ways, and the one involving the hanar gets you less experience.



Given that I did every side quest in the game, and don't recall missing out on anything significant anywhere else, I think those two must be what kept me inches away from Power Gamer.

Another achievement I was surprised to miss was the Turian Ally one. It turns out when they say you get the achievement for having a certain squad member with you for the majority of the game, they mean the entire game. I don't even remember when I didn't have Garrus with me, but no achievement for me.


I have a theory that the achievement is linked to the amount of experience you gather while having that character in the party. Again, sub-optimal experience gathering might explain why I didn't get the Garrus achievement. I only got the Completionist achievement for finishing most of the game fairly late, too, which I think supports my theory.

This time, I'm shooting for both the Krogan and Turian ally achievements; I've had these two with me all the way:


I'll see if it's enough. To summarize, in order to get these achievements you really have to have the ally with you all the damn time.

Another achievement that needs a note is Rich. On your first playthrough, try to hit the one million credit mark as soon as you can. This is fairly easy; most of the quests will net you a significant amount of equipment, and like I said in my review, inventory clutter becomes a problem, so make it a habit to sell off surplus weapons and armor to the requisitions officer on the Normandy or any convenient vendor. On your first playthroughs, don't use the money to buy better stuff but instead stockpile it until you hit a million. That will unlock special Spectre-only weapons you can buy from the requisitions officer on the Normandy or at C-Sec. That gear's the best in the game, and it's well worth it.

Last on my Girls of Hustler Finland feature: Bambi.


I like. A lot. There aren't enough women with short hair in porn.

My next stop on the Mass Effect achievements odyssey is the Long Service Medal for the second playthrough; after that I'll be trying the Hardcore difficulty. The combat on Veteran already feels challenging enough, so I'm actually slightly intimidated by the prospect of Hardcore. There's a third achievement for combat difficulty level Insane, but we'll have to see...


Maybe I should go see Bambi at Hot Girls. I've never been to a peep show in my life; I know my girlfriend has, so I'll have to ask her about it. I'd go to our local strip club, Alcatraz, except the age limit is 27. I'm not old enough...

Jun 11, 2008

Corruption!

The Finnish government and all sorts of official bodies in Finland always like to talk about Finland's visibility in the world; all the way from Paavo Nurmi "running Finland onto the world map" and so forth. Just yesterday, Finland got plenty of visibility in the Financial Times, which ran an article called Funding scandal taints Finland’s reputation. For anyone not familiar with the Finnish campaign funding scandal, it's a concise read on what's going on.

My only comment on the story itself is simple. As Finnish readers probably know by now, the uproar started when a Finnish politician, the Center party's current chairman Timo Kalli, refused to disclose his campaign donors because although he's required to do so by law, there are no sanctions for breaking the law. Kalli really epitomizes the idea that a politician will break every law and regulation he can. The FT article asks:
But the questions remain of why such shadowy legislation was drawn up in the first place by a country so committed to transparency and why it was not reformed sooner.

I have to say I find the answer is very simple. This country is not in any way committed to transparency or fighting corruption. We just say we are.

The scandal is getting nicer and nicer all the time. In recent news, we learn that Center party honcho Lasse Kontiola, who received funding from Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi, was recently involved in a zoning decision in favor of Nova Group, one of KMS's main backers.

Basically it's very simple: a company pays candidates money, and the candidates then make decisions in favor of the company. It's also turned out that long-time Center politician Mauri Pekkarinen sold paintings to Suomi Soffa SSF Oy, to the tune of 5,000 euros to cover campaign costs, having just previously awarded the same company one million euros of subsidies.

There's a fairly good column by Unto Hämäläinen on the hs.fi site, on how Finland's biggest trade union launched a truly disgusting anti-business campaign just ahead of the elections, a move that backfired because it made entrepreneurs desert the Social Democrat party in droves and got the Center and Coalition parties a whole heap of new funding.

Why that happened, I don't know. The relationship between the big Finnish labor unions and the Social Democrat party is essentially the same as that between Sinn Féin and the IRA; the SDP is the party-political wing of the labor union. The Finnish labor unions are struggling to attract new members and have been waging a long campaign to get Finnish blue-collar workers to hate everyone who makes more money than them like in the old days, and the ads must have made perfect sense to SAK.

To return to the topic, it's obviously a part of the democratic process than entrepreneurs and even (gasp!) corporations can give candidates money. It should also be a part of the democratic process that these kinds of donations are public, and that politicians refrain from making decisions connected to companies that have funded them. Both of these ideas are far too monstrous for Finnish politicians to contemplate. Frankly, they'd be the death of the Center Party.

Finland manages to rank highly in surveys as a country without corruption because those surveys are only measuring third-world corruption, like whether you can get away with a traffic violation by giving a police officer a cash bribe. Of course you can't do that stuff here. What you can do, for example, is be a Finnish politician who owns shares in a construction company and sits on the zoning board that decides on the future of that company's projects. That isn't corruption, because we don't call it that. We're a nation dedicated to transparency, because we call ourselves that.

Basically the entire democratic process in Finland is totally rotten. Our representative democracy only represents the interests of the people drawing their paychecks from Parliament, and the interests of those wealthy enough to buy them off. What are we doing about it? Nothing. Our generation's idea of getting involved in politics is going to a classroom to listen to fairy tales. Over some 90 years of Finnish independence, we've managed to totally eliminate any kind of meaningful adversarial politics that might make politicians have to answer for what they're doing in office. Instead we have a system whose only function is to let our politicians live off other people's taxes.

This scandal goes much deeper than a couple of corporate subsidies to Finnish politicians. Will it resolve anything? No. The ultimate authority in Finland in charge of monitoring the honesty of our parlamentarians is our parlamentarians. What a nice system they've set up.

Jun 10, 2008

Star Trek and naval tactics

I've recently been reading about, playing a game partially concerned with (Mass Effect) and thinking about space combat, in sci-fi terms. I plan to have something to say about it later, but I thought I'd kick off with something I meant to write ages ago.

I earlier commented on an article by Michael Wong, on communism in Star Trek. That pretty much sucked. He's also written about naval tactics in Star Trek and Star Wars, and to kick off talking about space combat, here's some notes on what he had to say.

**

Naval tactics in Star Trek

There's an article on Mr. Wong's site called Starship Combat Tactics, in which he outlines naval tactics on Earth and compares them to naval tactics in Star Trek and Star Wars. Clearly I had to read it, and I was somewhat dismayed by what I found. The following selections are from his summary of Federation naval tactics.

Roman-style boarding tactics are still used. Tractor beams and transporters are clearly analogous to Roman grappling hooks and boarding planks, and it isn't uncommon to use boarders in an attempt to overwhelm a target in the heat of combat.

That seems fair enough, although proper boarding actions in Star Trek are fairly rare, at least as I remember it. However, what I have a problem with is his evaluation of how "realistic" this is:

Contrast this with the era of Horatio Nelson and subsequent periods, in which the range and lethality of weaponry became such that it was virtually impossible to approach and board a ship without having to completely disable it beforehand.

I'm sorry, is he saying that in Nelson's time, boarding actions weren't fought? At this point I more or less lost faith in the article. I suppose Thomas Cochrane didn't board the Gamo? I presume Nelson didn't board several ships at the Battle of St. Vincent? This is just nonsense, and anyone with even a cursory knowledge of naval history should know that boarding as a battle tactic only became infeasible with the advent of ironclad warships, and even then certainly not because of the weapons involved, but rather the sheer difficulty of boarding an ironclad.

The Battle of Cape St. Vincent

Further:

Ramming is still the most powerful weapon available, albeit a weapon of last resort. In "Tears of the Prophets" (described on the Battles page as the Battle of Chin'toka), hopelessly outmatched Jem'Hadar attack ships (ships roughly 70-80% larger than the Falcon) eschewed energy weapons and torpedoes in favour of ramming attacks, which proved to be devastatingly effective against Martok's ships. Contrast this with the era of Horatio Nelson and subsequent periods, in which the range, accuracy and lethality of weaponry became such that the approach necessary for a ramming attack would be suicidal.


Again, I have no idea where he's getting this stuff from. During World War II, it was pretty much a standard tactic for Royal Navy destroyers to ram surfaced submarines. Several destroyers also rammed far larger ships, most famously in the case of HMS Glowworm (H92). HMS Glowworm was engaged by the far larger German cruiser Admiral Hipper, and when she ran out of options, her captain rammed the Admiral Hipper, damaging the German ship seriously before sinking herself.

HMS Glowworm

Warships are simply very difficult to sink, especially by gunfire. For example, when the Bismarck was pursued into the Atlantic by the Royal Navy and caught, British ships were unable to sink her, even after massive gunfire and several torpedo hits. The Bismarck was eventually scuttled by her own crew. I believe the author has a vastly exaggerated notion of the vulnerability of warships to weapons fire. A Second World War destroyer, making full steam for an enemy battleship, could not be easily sunk by the guns of the battleship. Also, ramming is, by necessity, a suicidal tactic. It can still be succesful, and World War II weaponry certainly was not lethal enough to prevent it, to say nothing of Nelson's cannon.

Missiles have not dominated the tactical landscape, in spite of their theoretically extreme range. Although they seem to be capable of accurately hitting targets from many thousands or even tens of thousands of kilometres away, fleets do not engage one another with long-range missile exchanges. Instead, they generally approach to gunnery range and then open fire with both energy weapons and missiles at the same time.


We don't really know enough about how missiles and missile-defense systems in Star Trek work to comment on this too extensively. I imagine phasers would be quite well suited to destroying incoming missiles; if this is so, what would be the point of long-range missile attacks?

Battle lines are still in use, albeit modified for a 3-dimensional battlefield. In the fleet engagements of "Sacrifice of Angels" and "What You Leave Behind" (described on the Battles page as the Third Battle of Bajor and the Battle of Cardassia Prime, respectively), fleets formed up into a "wall o' ships" and faced off against one another at close visual range. Land engagement terminology such as "flank", "line", and "breakthrough" could be heard repeatedly from the command staff. The disruption of the enemy formation is a tactical imperative, as described by Captain Sisko in "Sacrifice of Angels". Contrast this with the battleship and aircraft carrier eras, in which the range, accuracy and lethality of weaponry became such that fleet formations lost their importance.


These are Deep Space 9 examples, and clearly all this talk of flanks and lines and breakthroughs simply reflects a lack of understanding of naval combat by the scriptwriters. Again, though, what I take issue with is the claim that fleet formations lost their importance. This is a monstrous untruth. Naval tactics of the Second World War were still very much dominated by formations, and with the advent of air power, defensive fleet formations are of the first importance to allow ships to mount an effective air defence.

A modern fleet in parade formation.

Later, he lists some of the technological ramifications of this:

Hulls, shields and structural forcefields are insufficient to nullify the effectiveness of ramming, because ramming attacks were so effective against undamaged, fully shielded Klingon warships in "Tears of the Prophets" (even when undertaken by miniscule 70m long ships). This suggests large disparities between Star Trek ships' ability to handle kinetic energy and electromagnetic energy.


I'm hardly surprised at the dispartity. One of the more famous ramming actions in the Star Trek universe has to be the one in Star Trek: Nemesis, where the Enterprise-E rams the Reman ship Scimitar. How much kinetic energy do you imagine the bow of the Enteprise imparts to the Scimitar's shields? Also, the idea that a 70m Jem'hadar ship is "minuscule" demands at least some attention; the ships they were ramming were apparently Klingon Vor'cha class battlecruisers, which are 481 meters long according to Memory Alpha. That's not such a massive size disparity.



The basic issue at hand is that we don't know how shields work in the first place. They're basically magic technology. We don't know if starship shields are any good against physical objects in the first place. According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, 1997 edition, Federation starships use force beams from the navigational deflector to push aside objects in the starship's path. If the shields were good at deflecting things, wouldn't it be easier to just use the shields rather than install a separate system?

Once in the Next Generation, in the episode "Hunted", a shuttlecraft actually bounces off the Enterprise's shields. This maneuver was intentionally performed by a highly skilled pilot in a very small spacecraft, however, so it's quite different from a deliberate ram by a large vessel. Put simply, we don't really know how shields and ramming ships interact with each other in the first place, so it isn't really surprising to find that ramming tactics can be effective.

Overall, though, this was a disappointing article to read because the author's ideas of naval combat are thoroughly confused. I wouldn't try writing an article about engineering; he shouldn't have written one about naval warfare. I mean, the guy consistently misspells dreadnought in Star Trek: Space Combat Maneuvering. =)


HMS Dreadnaught. Or not.

**

Read more about space combat and similar things at Atomic Rockets. I will, too, and I'll have more to say on the topic later.

Jun 9, 2008

The French Open and the mystery of traffic lights

Why can't F1 drivers figure out traffic lights? You'd think they understand about cars and so on, but so far, they've had huge problems understanding what this means:



Lewis, it means stop. And unlike most F1 regulations these days, it also applies to you.



The end result:


Thanks a million, Lewis Hamilton! Unbelievably, he's going to be penalized for rear-ending Räikkönen. Hamilton and Rosberg will both get a ten-place penalty at the French GP. I'll believe it when I actually see Hamilton's car demoted ten places on the grid, though. After last season, I find it hard to believe they're actually giving him a penalty. The last time Hamilton caused a crash that ruined another driver's race was last year in Japan, and he got nothing for that.

After Hamilton got rid of himself and Kimi, the race did get really interesting. I thought TSN put it nicely:

It took several laps for Kubica to regain the lead and, in the meantime, F1 went retro as old hands Rubens Barrichello, Coulthard and Jarno Trulli took turns with the lead just as they may have done 10 years ago.


Some idiots on discussion boards, chats and horrible Web 2.0 "comments" apps (comments on a blog are a great idea, since presumably they're addressed to the blogger; comments on a news story on a website are stupid) are comparing Hamilton rear-ending Räikkönen with Kimi's crash into Sutil in Monaco. I'll leave it to Kimi to explain it:

"I might not be the best person to say you shouldn't hit anybody because in the last race I made a mistake," Raikkonen said. "But they are two completely different stories when you go 300 (km/h) on the circuit, lose control and hit somebody or if you're going on the pit lane with a speed limit and don't look in front of you."

Precisely. Also from TSN, a Kimi Räikkönen quote:

"(Kubica) is up four points on Lewis and Massa and seven points on me, so he has quite a nice gap. But I'd rather let him win than somebody else."

He's right on the money there. Personally, I'm thrilled Kubica won, and was rooting for him over Nick Heidfeld all the way. Kubica's having a great season, and he deserved the win. Although I've turned into pretty much a diehard Ferrari fan, I still want Kubica to win the title way more than certain other, unnamed drivers.

In other news from East Europe, Ana Ivanović won the French Open. Well done Ana! I prefer the hotter of the two Serbs, Jelena Janković:

But despite this, I'm happy Ana won, and congratulations to her! Of course, Ana's not exactly ugly either:

Therefore, to move onto nicer things than Lewis Hamilton screwing up Kimi's race, here's some pictures of Ana:


In my opinion, there are few things as hot as female athletes. Especially tennis players. I used to play tennis myself as a kid, so I appreciate what they're doing, and overall I enjoy the play on the WTA Tour far more than the more brutal tennis of the ATP tour. Ana, Jelena and Maria Sharapova are just downright beautiful, and seeing them play is a pure delight.





I try to maintain a level of privacy even though I write a blog, but I guess it says something about me that my favorite women to look at are tennis players and porn stars...

People who buy magazines, look out: she'll be appearing in FHM this August. It'll look something like this:

Jun 8, 2008

Game review: Mass Effect



I've recently finished my first playthrough of Mass Effect, so I think it's high time I tried reviewing it properly. I already had something to say about Dead or Alive 4 earlier, and I played a little more yesterday and stand by my conclusions then. It's easily the worst and most frustrating game of the Dead or Alive series.

Mass Effect, luckily, is something completely different. To shove it in one sentence, it's a third-person sci-fi computer role-playing game. You play a human military officer who is sent on a mission to save the galaxy. Hardly novel stuff, but it's a hell of a good game.

There are a variety of game modes. Most of the game takes place in the third-person adventure mode, which is the same mode you fight in. You also get to drive around planets in a wheeled combat vehicle called the Mako (more or less a BTR-60PB with monster truck wheels). The steering of the Mako is one of the only problems in the game, as it's at best slightly annoying and at worst just bad.

You travel around the galaxy in your starship, navigating around on a 3D starmap that looks kinda neat:



There's a lot of systems and planets, and plenty to do in this galaxy. There's a lot of quests to do and experience to get, and nothing stops you from doing all the quests in the game, because although you're on a very important mission, there's no race against the clock. In a game like this, I'd have expected time to be a factor, but then again, computer RPGs have always been made like this.



Dialogue is conducted through Mass Effect's "conversation wheel", and once you get the hang of it it works. On an important note, your player character doesn't have to look like the guy in the above picture. There's a fairly good character customization system, and you get to fiddle around with how the face looks. I liked it.

Wired's Mass Effect review had this to say about the written content of the game:

The upshot here is that I spend most of the game having conversations with a wide variety of neat characters about their lives, and that unlocks new chapters in the Codex, a galactic encyclopedia. And then once in a while it makes me fight some guys in order to get to more conversations. It's a testament to the game that this is incredibly fun.


I agree 100%. The plot and content is interesting, fun and compelling.

Strangely, although they really liked the game, the reviewer complained about the combat system. He claims that it's based on the Knights of the Old Republic system; since there are no similarities between the two, I'm just going to ignore him on that one.


I thoroughly enjoyed the combat once I got the hang of it. Fighting smart, instead of running around and shooting blindly, is far superior, and on the higher difficulty levels you actually have to know what you're doing.

The one annoying feature of games of this era is also here: a rational close combat strategy is to strafe around your target while shooting at it. What's even worse, some of the AI opponents will do this to you. This is a minor gripe, but it just annoys me.

Combat is challenging, and because it's also fun it adds to the game's replayability. Your enemies are varied, and their tactics and armament are different. As a proper XBox 360 game, it comes with its own set of achievements, and those are also geared toward encouraging replayability. As a really cool feature, when you get an achievement it gives you a bonus option or small bonus on the next times you play the game.

One Bioware speciality seems to be overloading your inventory with a ridiculous amount of stuff. Basically every colony, science station or cargo ship you visit will net you a haul of around a dozen weapons; you get heaps and heaps of ammo upgrades off dead enemies. When stuff starts piling up, it makes trawling through the inventory a truly miserable experience, and to make things worse there's an upper limit of 150 items in your inventory at any time. This isn't anything to really worry about, but you do have to be aware of it and practice inventory management. Also, similarly to the KotOR series, there's a lot of weapon and armor upgrades, but few of them are really useful.

Overall the game is a great experience, and I loved playing it. As for replayability in general, suffice to say that I started my second character the next day.

Mass Effect isn't a phenomenal game; it sort of lacks that final oomph that would make it a legendary, unmissable milestone in computer/console gaming. It's just a great game that I recommend to anyone, no reservations. Unlike quite a few other XBox 360 games, it's also fully playable on a normal-sized TV.


As an endnote, I ran into some stuff while searching for images for this post. Apparently the guy who makes the Penny Arcade webcomic doesn't know how to play it. I can't believe how much that web comic sucks. Tim Buckley's godawful Ctrl+Alt+Del had a whole series of strips where one of his characters tries to steal Mass Effect, or something. They were so horrible I stopped reading.

Why do webcomics suck so much? They're another example of how the Internet is ruining humor.

Jun 7, 2008

Screw you, Canada!

Whew. Detroit won, and I'm happy! Apart from being something of a Detroit fan, and most definitely a Valtteri Filppula fan, there are a couple of specific reasons why I'm happy. One of them is that the Penguins lost, and I'll have more to say about that later. Another reason is that this hockey season concludes with a total defeat for Canada, and that makes me incredibly happy.

A disclaimer: when I say screw you, Canada, I really have nothing against Canada or most Canadian people. All the Canadians I ever remember meeting have been very nice people. I do have a lot against a certain aspect of Canada, however, and that's what I'm talking about here.

When it comes to hockey, Canada becomes a nation of bigots. The Internet and Canadian media is full of Canadian bigots who claim that ice hockey "belongs" to Canadians, and that only Canadians are somehow suited to play hockey the way it's meant to be played. They despise all other hockey nationalities in a way that approaches and occasionally is full-blown racism.

The grand poo-bah of Canadian hockey racism is Don Cherry, pictured below (left) in a surprisingly restrained suit.

Cherry has a weekly segment on Hockey Night in Canada called Coach's Corner. Again, I need a disclaimer. I respect Cherry's knowledge of hockey; he's a former NHL coach who won the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach back in the day. I also respect his (selective) commitment to improving safety in hockey.

What I don't respect one bit is the bigoted, thoroughly racist attitude he brings to his commentary on hockey. Cherry makes it clear that non-Canadians are second-class citizens in the nation of hockey. For instance, back when Alpo Suhonen was made head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, Cherry was furious that a European was hired to coach an NHL team, and made fun of Suhonen's name.

I've talked about some of his stunts earlier, including the way he has totally different standards for judging Canadian and non-Canadian players. He's moaned and complained about how horrible it is that Detroit fields so many European players. At certain selected points in the season, he reads out the NHL's leading scorers, goal scorers, assist leaders and goaltenders, and screams about how they're all CANADIAN! When Anaheim won the Cup, he shouted about how everyone has to DRAFT CANADIANS to succeed, because Anaheim won because they had so many CANADIANS!

When Anaheim stumbled their way out of the playoffs this year with barely a gasp, where were all the Canadians? Still there. Of course, he hasn't had much to shout about this year, when the top scorers and goal scorers in the NHL are Russian, and the Art Ross trophy for best scorer and "Rocket" Richard trophy for best goalscorer both went to this guy:

And no, that isn't a Team Canada jersey he's wearing. As for goaltenders, two of the three Vezina trophy nominees for best goaltender are European.

This is why it was so sweet when Detroit won the Cup, beating Pittsburgh, who are captained by Canada's infallible golden boy of hockey, Cindy Crosby. Detroit's top six forwards were all European; three of their top four defensemen were European. The Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player in the playoffs went to an European, Henrik Zetterberg.


They also finally put to rest one of the most idiotic credos in Canadian hockey bigotry.

It used to be a fact that no European captain had led their team to the Stanley Cup. Given that Europeans have only been playing in the league for a few decades in a major way, and the amount of racism and prejudice they've faced in the league, this isn't really that surprising. However, Canada's hockey bigots maintain that this is because Europeans don't care about the Cup, can't play hockey, and are only playing for money. Of course, this is all complete bullshit, and now, thanks to Nicklas Lidström, we don't have to listen to this crap any more.

Yep, that's a European, with the captain's C and the Cup. Screw you, Canada.

Of course, this wasn't the season's first victory over Canada.

The World Championships, held in Canada, ended with Russia beating Canada for the gold medal. They simply outplayed Canada in the final, humiliating the hosts by climbing back into the game and winning in overtime.

I won't lie; seeing the national team of the only country in the world that thinks hockey is its exclusive property lose made me feel really good.



Detroit, who Adam Proteau called "a great team full of better people", deserved their win, and so did Team Russia. What makes it all the more sweet for me is that Canada's hockey bigots lose.

I've never seen a country take such a dickheaded attitude to a sport as Canadians and ice hockey. Are Brazilians like this about football? Do they maintain that no other nationality in the world should even be allowed to play football? I've never heard of it. I have heard, so many times that it makes me sick, that only Canadians are privy to the secrets of hockey, and that only a Canadian can play hockey the way it's meant to be played.

Somehow, the racial superiority of Canadians at hockey that Don Cherry rams down his faithful viewers' throats was nowhere to be seen this season. I wonder why that is?

So, with the help of the girls from t.A.T.u., I'd like to repeat one thing.

Screw you, Canada!