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2641  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: There is no life on Mars on: March 22, 2009, 05:52:34 PM

Quote from: ibdoomed on March 22, 2009, 04:06:53 PM

Now that's very interesting. I'm not a real Bowie fan, I could take it or leave it, but my wife IS and while I would have to double check with her, I don't think she caught the reference either. But both of us being science geeks might have lost the pop culture weight on the term.

As soon as I decided that I liked this show, I dug out my Bowie CD and fired up the lava lamp, put on the blacklight, and dropped some acid, then listened to this song a few times. Why did they name the show after it? That verse is my best guess. We'll find out in less than two weeks.
2642  Gaming / Console / PC Gaming / Re: Galactic Civ 2 Fans - Convince Me on: March 22, 2009, 04:12:02 PM
I have whatever the latest and greatest version is, so I don't really remember what the basic game lacks. It's a pretty standard 4x game. I think the AI is its strongest suit.

Setup is highly configurable. On a huge map I often snag 10-15 planets during the initial colony rush, so if you're really only getting 3-4 you might need to make habitable planets more common, or change your early game strategy. For example, I use colony ships for scouting, and use my starting cash to rush a colony ship every time I find a habitable planet. The transition to profitability can be quite difficult, too. My strategy involves getting trade routes going ASAP. The humans and my custom civ (the Rastafarians) are both trade-dependent, so finding stable friendly neighbors is key.

I play 95% of the game at maximum zoom, so it's a pretty pure icon-based strategy game. I also like to randomize many of the starting conditions such as leader personalities and intelligence to enhance the exploration phase.

In short, GalCiv2 didn't break any new ground, but it does a very solid job of implementing all of the expected 4x game conventions. Put those together with good AI and interesting random events, and you've got my attention.

Plus, it runs well on my 6-year-old computer.  icon_smile
2643  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Need show, have money on: March 22, 2009, 03:55:27 PM
We are halfway through the last season of Babylon 5. The series starts very weak, builds to a crescendo in the 3rd and 4th seasons, then peters out again at the end. Very entertaining, though, with some great characters and plots.

We're going to start on BSG next.
2644  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: New Star Trek TV series? on: March 22, 2009, 03:51:49 PM

Quote from: raydude on March 22, 2009, 03:00:53 PM

Quote from: Ironrod on March 22, 2009, 04:56:14 AM

Quote from: Turtle on March 22, 2009, 12:45:41 AM


This isn't the time for dark and dreary science fiction like BSG, which just ended.

Good observation. TOS was an uplifting show in dire times.

Not just uplifting, but TOS was a vehicle that allowed Gene Rodenberry to talk about social issues in the context of a sci-fi show. Something which I think TNG and later Treks mostly ignored. Race issues (a black and an Asian in important non-throwaway roles?), fear of beings or people we don't understand (the rock monster, Kirk vs. the Gorn), etc, those were the heart and soul of Trek. That was what Gene Rodenberry wanted Star Trek to be about.

Somehow that got forgotten in the midst of technobabble, whiz-kid solutions, hologram hijinks, and the like. New Trek should try to be more of a lens on our current societal issues. Kids more vulnerable to other forms of technology (internet, social networking sites, etc), environmental issues, the low-intensity conflicts, media telling us what to be outraged about (i.e. Nadia Suleman vs. really important global events), the difficulty in disconnecting ourselves from our gadgets. That's what I'd like to see in the new Trek.

TNG started down the social-responsibility track early on, with a few episodes that were as goofy as anything from TOS. Think of the pilot, Encounter at Farside. They drifted away from that, though...maybe for the best. It was more of a nostalgia/tribute approach than something appropriate to its time. Now that we live in unstable times the original Roddenberry approach might work again. TOS was very topical. You can only do that so much, though, before you start compromising good sf storytelling for your political agenda. Remember that TOS employed scripts from some of the best sf writers of its day. Jerome Bixby, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon...real heavy hitters. Roddenberry knew better than to try to write the whole show himself.
2645  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: There is no life on Mars on: March 22, 2009, 05:06:59 AM
Not a Bowie fan, are you? The music of the day is integral to this show. It's right that it should take its name from a song title, and if you don't get the reference you probably wouldn't like the show. But I see your point -- it doesn't become obvious and appropriate until after you have been drawn in.

My theory of the Big Reveal comes from these lyrics:

Quote from: David Bowie
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man!
Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?




2646  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: New Star Trek TV series? on: March 22, 2009, 04:56:14 AM

Quote from: Turtle on March 22, 2009, 12:45:41 AM


This isn't the time for dark and dreary science fiction like BSG, which just ended.

Good observation. TOS was an uplifting show in dire times.
2647  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: What is it that bugs people about RIP threads? on: March 21, 2009, 03:55:38 PM

Quote from: Lee on March 21, 2009, 06:49:07 AM

I stopped posting in those threads as not to be an ass. But I never understood why someone was worthy of a RIP thread just because they were rich and famous before they died. It's not like you knew them or that it was more tragic than anyone else dying.

I can almost understand some artists that moved you in your life, but it seems every one even remotely famous gets a thread anymore. But I really don't care and don't read them.

I open RIP threads if I don't know who the person was, just out of curiosity. I only post if it was someone I admired.
2648  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lost returns next week! [Spoilers!] on: March 21, 2009, 03:40:27 AM

Quote from: Moliere on March 20, 2009, 11:21:39 PM

Quote from: Ironrod on March 20, 2009, 10:19:24 PM

And speaking of Locke...his absence was conspicuous last night.
Great observation!

I forgot to mention how much I loved the exchange between Sawyer and Jack at the end. First more awkwardness about Juliette being with Sawyer and then Sawyer putting Jack in his place first as a Workman  icon_twisted and then talking about the importance of thinking. You could see Jack was plain confused with the concept. As Sawyer mentioned, Jack couldn't sit still and think. He was so agitated looking for something to do.

It's a nice character transformation. Sawyer was introduced as the bad-boy action antihero, and here we glimpse the opposite. He starts out paired with Kate, the bad-girl action antihero, and now he's with Juliette, the calm organized intelligent one with the hooters. Meanwhile, Jack is...uh...Lost.

Right now I'm mostly interested in how they're going to reunite the parties that are separated in time. Why do I think young Ben will be instrumental somehow?
2649  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: House passes 90% tax on Bonuses for TARP recips. on: March 21, 2009, 01:47:51 AM

Quote from: Moliere on March 20, 2009, 10:30:25 PM

Quote from: corruptrelic on March 20, 2009, 10:07:44 PM

Still I agree with KD, this is OUR money being paid out to these people.
Do you feel this way about other government subsidies and handouts? It would be nice if people had this kind of outrage towards farm subsidies, for example.

The difference is that these are the same suits whose success caused the crash that killed our jobs. We were already struggling before that happened, while they were prospering. Right or wrong, legal or illegal, moral or immoral...I don't care. I would rather they faced a firing squad than received rewards paid for with the taxes being withheld from our unemployment checks. It pleases me to think that some fraction of this revenge tax will go into our unemployment checks and our COBRA subsidy. What goes around, comes around.
2650  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: There is no life on Mars on: March 20, 2009, 10:34:02 PM
Well this week's episode was a shocker. I wonder if that development was already in the can, or if they sped up their storyline knowing that the end is near.

Next week we get one more regular episode, and then the series finale which, the announcer promised me, will have the Big Reveal.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Nowadays two cops would never approach the driver together in a traffic stop, for exactly the reason we saw. One always remains in the car. I wonder if that was standard practice back in 1973.
2651  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lost returns next week! [Spoilers!] on: March 20, 2009, 10:19:24 PM
And speaking of Locke...his absence was conspicuous last night.
2652  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: House passes 90% tax on Bonuses for TARP recips. on: March 20, 2009, 02:21:24 AM

Quote from: VynlSol on March 19, 2009, 11:10:03 PM

isn't the government supposed to carry out the wishes of the populace?

Which people?
2653  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lying to your kids. on: March 20, 2009, 02:02:44 AM

Quote from: The Grue on March 20, 2009, 01:48:00 AM

Quote from: Blackadar on March 20, 2009, 01:09:24 AM


I agree with that, but I think you should change your mind about Santa Clause.  The whole Santa thing is fun.  It sparks kid's imaginations and anticipations.  They get a huge kick out of it.  When they finally find out the truth, you can use it to have a meaningful conversation with your kid about the spirit of the Holidays. 

As a parent, I can say that Santa isn't about lying.  It's about wonder and sheer joy. 

You're not gonna convince this guy.  He's all jaded because he never got exposed to the Santa thing. slywink

I can still remember the older kid who burst my Santa bubble. Ronnie Van Sickle he was called, and the neighborhood bully. I ran home crying, expecting comfort and reassurance. Instead I was doubly crushed when my parents admitted their betrayal. From that moment on, I stopped believing in the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, Jesus, God, and anything else that smelled like an elaborate adult inside joke.
2654  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lying to your kids. on: March 19, 2009, 10:02:21 PM

Quote from: Moliere on March 19, 2009, 09:42:08 PM

Quote from: Arkon on March 19, 2009, 08:51:38 PM

And honestly, if I have to threaten/bribe my children with toys then I have done something wrong as a parent.
You're not showing the proper Christmas spirit. Making up stories about voyeuristic mythical beings who know all your thoughts and actions so that you will be punished or rewarded appropriately is what the holidays are all about.

Kids appreciate a good honest beating so much more. It shows that you care.

The tricky thing about withholding the Santa myth is the splash damage on their little friends. I think we all remember who gave us the bad news about Santa. Do you want your kids to be the neighborhood spoilers?
2655  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: can't believe i am actually doing this on: March 18, 2009, 10:15:03 PM

Quote from: Farscry on March 18, 2009, 03:46:09 PM

The voice of dissent is valuable in America. I don't agree with Bush's policies, but I think that after Obama's administration settles in, if Bush disagrees with the administration he should voice his opinion like any other US citizen should do. Much like how Carter spoke out against the Bush administration after it had the chance to get things right and fracked us up instead.

I have serious concerns about directions the Obama administration is taking as well. I'm trying to be patient and let them have time to get settled in before I start too strongly into criticism, just like I did with the Bush administration.

I agree. In a time of crisis like this, though, I respect Bush for holding his tongue.
2656  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lying to your kids. on: March 18, 2009, 10:10:05 PM
You even have to be careful how you state the truth. Little kids are totally literal. My dad's right hand didn't work, and he'd occasionally need to remind people that "I've only got one hand." You could see my nephew's little brain trying to square that with the two hands that he could plainly see.
2657  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: What's wrong with a little animal lovin'? on: March 18, 2009, 12:12:16 AM
We all knew gay marriage would lead to animal husbandry.
2658  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: Dick Cheney Is Scaring Me on: March 17, 2009, 07:13:46 PM
The Obama comeback



Cheney said Sunday on CNN that Obama's national security decisions are threatening the nation's safety and that the president is using the economic crisis to expand government's role in healthcare, energy, education, and other areas.

"Well, I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs quipped.

"I would say that the president has made quite clear that keeping the American people safe and secure is the most serious job that he has each and every day," Gibbs said. "I think not taking economic advice from Dick Cheney would be maybe the best possible outcome of yesterday's interview."


Zing!  icon_lol
2659  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Annual spring break trip with family. Now with even MORE fabulousness. on: March 17, 2009, 12:28:20 AM
That looks like a pretty nice vacation spot. More overdeveloped/child-infested than I would choose if I were paying my own way, but you sure wouldn't hear me complaining on somebody else's dime!

We could really use a rich relative right now. Our annual week in the Berkshires is in considerable doubt this year, even though we've already paid the deposit on the cabin. An unexpected car repair is almost surely going to require us to ask for a refund...unless we're unexpectedly owed a big tax return, or my wife unexpectedly gets a job. Either one could still happen before June.
2660  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: SyFy Channel on: March 16, 2009, 11:18:55 PM
Do you suppose somebody got a fat bonus for dreaming up "SyFy"?  nod
2661  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Dick Cheney Is Scaring Me on: March 16, 2009, 09:16:58 PM
This Obama fellow is going to get us all killed!

Quote
WASHINGTON - Former vice president Dick Cheney said yesterday that Americans are less safe now that President Obama has overturned George W. Bush's terrorism-fighting policies and that nearly all the Republican administration's goals in Iraq have been achieved.

"There is no prospect" that Iraq will return to producing weapons of mass destruction or supporting terrorists, Cheney asserted, "as long as it's a democratically governed country, as long as they have got the security forces they do now and a relationship with the United States."

Wait. What?

Quote
Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if he thought Obama has made Americans less safe with those actions, Cheney replied, "I do."

"Those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," Cheney said.

Hold me.
2662  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Question about internet advertising on: March 16, 2009, 04:59:14 AM
This is a timely question.

Google's AdSense ads are placed according to website content (keywords). But starting in May they will use the browser's history instead. I know this because I got an email from Google two days ago telling me that I either have to opt out of their new model or rewrite my privacy policy to disclose what they're up to. (I only use AdSense on my blog, and since Google owns Blogger I'm going to assume that their privacy policy has me covered).

So right now the answer is that they're keyword-generated. Starting in May, browser history will be the default, although some sites might opt to stick with the old keyword model if they think that works better, or if they're concerned about their visitors' privacy.
2663  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: Someone's gotta burn on: March 16, 2009, 01:57:17 AM
We have two small Roth IRA annuities earning 3% interest from AIG, and they don't mature until January 2011. I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense about nationalization or bankruptcy. There are potentially hundreds of dollars at stake here! If it takes $150 billion of taxpayer money to make sure that we're made whole, then that's just how it has to be.
2664  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: Someone's gotta burn on: March 15, 2009, 06:58:10 PM
Yeah, they have to retain that top talent. Meaning the only people who understand precisely how the pooch was screwed in the first place.
2665  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: NBC goes Sci-Fi over the summer with Merlin, Meteor & The Storm on: March 15, 2009, 02:52:57 PM
Somebody bump this thread a few days before these shows air so that I can instruct my DVR. The first two sound craptastic, but I do like Stacy Keach and Christopher Lloyd.
2666  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Robot teacher smiles, scolds in classroom on: March 14, 2009, 02:15:55 PM

Quote from: YellowKing on March 14, 2009, 03:24:59 AM

we're a long way from anything even remotely approaching human intelligence.

There are a couple of bots in the P&R forum that produce a superficially convincing facsimile.  banned
2667  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Let's talk . . . bodywash! on: March 12, 2009, 05:59:12 PM

Quote from: cheeba on March 12, 2009, 03:55:45 AM


Quote from: Ironrod on March 12, 2009, 01:53:28 AM

What makes this stuff superior to soap?
Suds up instantly so you don't have to rub soap on a washcloth and you don't have to use much at all.

Ah. Well, thank god we've done away with that arduous process at long last.

Quote from: Freezer-TPF- on March 12, 2009, 04:06:50 PM


I can't believe you just asked that.  You might as well ask why indoor plumbing is superior to an outhouse.

Soap is for cavemen and leaves scummy stuff in the soapdish.  Bodywash is for the modern man and comes in clean, convenient plastic bottles that can be recycled into more plastic bottles for other clean and convenient products.

Soap? Pfft.  Stop using the boring soap, stop having a boring life.

Truly, civilization is marching on without me. I will meet you halfway. I will stop using soap.
2668  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: Are companies laying people off unnecessarily? on: March 12, 2009, 03:52:44 PM
The carnage is worst among older, experienced workers who earn the highest salaries. My wife's former employer was explicit about trimming their five best-paid employees. The company was still profitable, but revenues were shrinking and its investors were disappointed in their ROI. It was very definitely an opportunist or pre-emptive move.

Ordinarily in a recession the quality of products and services improves as companies shed their most marginal employees -- last hired, first fired. The opposite is happening this time.

I am also noticing a lot of opportunistic price increases. The price of a draft beer has gone up from $4.00-$4.50 to $5.25-$5.50 almost everywhere locally. Many restaurants are serving 14-ounce "pints". Restaurants are raising prices, curtailing specials, and removing menu items. This, too, is the opposite of what ordinarily happens during a recession. I haven't figured that one out yet. Maybe it's a last-ditch effort to stay afloat -- there are certainly a lot of restaurants closing.
2669  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Let's talk . . . bodywash! on: March 12, 2009, 01:53:28 AM
What makes this stuff superior to soap?
2670  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Mega Snowstorm for the Northeast - Here it comes! on: March 10, 2009, 05:53:00 PM

Quote from: CeeKay on March 10, 2009, 03:53:52 PM

mmm..... portable chinese food....

The ducks or the dog?
2671  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: A visit to London (advice appriciated) on: March 09, 2009, 10:29:55 PM
Go on a pub crawl, or at least visit a pub each evening. Pubs are central to English social life. If you want to interact with the locals at all, that's where to do it. You can also order some delightfully vile food in pubs.

We rushed through the British Museum in one day. I wish we'd had a week for that museum alone.

Oh, and learn to use the Tube. It's easy, safe, and economical. Mind the gap!
2672  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Mega Snowstorm for the Northeast - Here it comes! on: March 09, 2009, 10:25:49 PM
If the flora and fauna of New England could thrive in the climate of Arizona, I'd be a happy man. Much as I love summer and sunshine and heat, I also love woods and lakes and thunderstorms. I couldn't take living in a desert. I need trees and lush greenery. Winter is the price I pay for enjoying the other nine months of the year.

I wish I could live in the Berkshires from May through October, and the Caribbean from November through April.

2673  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: A brief history of Europe? on: March 09, 2009, 10:08:15 PM
First there were Stone Age tribes. Then the Roman Empire came along and civilized Europe, assimilating some of the barbarians and wiping out others. Then the Roman Empire fell, the barbarians launched the Dark Ages, and history mostly stopped. Then the Enlightenment got things moving again. History accelerates from there to the Age of Discovery, colonialism, and the Industrial Revolution. Much of the 19th century was spent trying to prevent Germany from coming together and dominating the continent. Much of the 20th century was spent dealing with the consequences of failing to do that. After WW2 Europe was finally eclipsed by the USA and largely ceased to matter. Since then they've been torn between union and nationalism. It looked like their socialist economies would forever doom them to second-rate status until last year's collapse in the US, whereupon history becomes current events and we enter the P&R forum.
2674  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Stupid Time Change on: March 09, 2009, 02:58:17 PM
I love DST, but don't see why we have to keep reverting to Daylight Wasting Time. They keep shortening that...let's do away with it entirely.
2675  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Mega Snowstorm for the Northeast - Here it comes! on: March 09, 2009, 02:56:11 PM
I would miss Fall. It's especially nice in New England, not as cold and rainy as where I grew up. I could support a greatly abbreviated Spring, though. As much as I enjoy seeing signs of life gradually return, I don't like the backsliding like we're seeing today. My ideal calendar would be 2 months of winter, 1 month of spring, 7 months of summer, and 2 months of fall.
2676  Non-Gaming / Political / Religious Nonsense / Re: Obama's proposed 2010 budget juices carriers for more cash on: March 08, 2009, 03:24:16 PM

Quote from: Razgon on March 08, 2009, 12:23:26 AM

how's your normal tax rates in the states?

As Brendan's post implies, it is difficult for many of us to talk about "normal" tax rates because we don't pay the nominal rate without deductions. It's especially true if you have non-wage income.

Here's a calculator that shows the brackets: http://www.moneychimp.com/features/tax_brackets.htm

Most of our income falls in the 15% bracket. We earn some non-wage income in the 25% bracket. Once you calculate self-employment taxes and take deductions, our effective income tax rate ends up being around 12-13%. It takes a ridiculous amount of paperwork, time, and accounting to get there. Payroll taxes (Medicare and Social Security) take another 8%. The state takes its 5%. Our tax burden, excluding real estate and sales taxes, is therefore somewhere around 25%.

I suppose there must be a lot of people who earn only wage income and take only standard deductions; they must be paying the effective rates returned by the calculator that I linked. 

2677  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Asparagus: It's just not worth it. on: March 07, 2009, 03:22:19 AM

Quote from: Mithridates on March 07, 2009, 01:14:11 AM

Smelling something that awful really lets you know you're alive

Embrace StinkyTinkle Salad. We do.
2678  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Lost returns next week! [Spoilers!] on: March 06, 2009, 09:22:14 PM

Quote from: Moliere on March 06, 2009, 07:56:00 PM


Is there really a choice? I would keep Juliette over dysfunctional/annoying Kate any day.

Yup. No contest.
2679  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Asparagus: It's just not worth it. on: March 06, 2009, 09:17:04 PM

Quote from: GGIronSkull on March 06, 2009, 07:16:52 PM

And I Think a posting of the StinkyTinkle Salad is a must.

OK. This is a good cold salad for summer. I serve it with burgers and grilled sweet corn.

StinkyTinkle Salad

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 t salt
3/4 t pepper
1 pound bowtie (farfalla) pasta
1 pound asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound crumbled feta (1-1/2 cups)

Combine the tomatoes, scallions, 2 T of the mint, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than package directions

Without draining the pasta, add the asparagus and continue cooking for 2 minutes or until tender, but not mushy. Drain into a colander and run under cold water long enough to stop the cooking.

Add pasta and asparagus to the bowl. Add feta. Add remaining mint. Allow flavors to blend for at least 15 minutes.
2680  Non-Gaming / Off-Topic / Re: Asparagus: It's just not worth it. on: March 06, 2009, 04:34:33 PM
I make a pasta-and-asparagus dish that we call Stinkytinkle Salad. It is worth the consequences.
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