Wednesday, September 30, 2009

“We went to war for that?”

At the end of HALO 3: ODST a throw away character named Romeo delivers that line in an attempt to be clever. Instead the result was irony and back when said line was written it was unknowingly prophetic.

Let’s talk about the war first. The war part of ODST is almost as good as video game type war gets. Solid Halo 3 game play with an almost messianic return of the Mag-pistol, complete with scope, and the added layer of scrambling in the dark or fighting through a pack of Brutes for a life sustaining med kit. Quickly swinging the game experience pendulum from ‘head shot god’ to ‘frail human on the run’ adds a missing layer of tension, which is also fun, to the third installment of the series.

Bungie has been, not so transparently, telling anyone that will listen that Firefight is a survival game type and that survival modes have been around since the beginning of the video game era. Everyone knows Firefight is their answer to Gear’s Horde mode but having said that Firefight is the strongest part of the package and is the reason for the product’s being. Let me put it this way. Firefight is good enough the get four grown men, who set up their own little worlds in such a way that they wouldn't have to deal with anything they don’t want to, to set their interests aside and work together so they can survive longer the next time around.

It is a good thing that the mechanics of the game are so compelling because there isn’t any story to drive it along. Everything about the single player campaign is terribly shallow. You play as a speechless rookie and your name is … Rookie. There is a love story in there somewhere but why should I care if Bungie didn’t? Dear Bungie, repeatedly alluding to one shallow evening long past and not taking it anywhere or developing it doesn’t qualify as a story. Cliché is too kind a word.

At certain times the wandering of the deserted city of New Mombasa by your silent avatar is interrupted by well presented cut scenes. Well presented yes but still empty. During these attempts at story telling the rookie looks around or shakes his head and wonders, much like you do, “Why am I here?” “Do I really care how this got here?” At one point Rookie picks up a piece of scrap metal and shakes it vigorously literally begging for some sort of reason to fall from it. Nothing does.

Monday, September 28, 2009

sonuva ...

Looks like Gus was right.

From GRRM.

"I decided to take a break from tearing and fumbling at the Meereenese knot, and completed a chapter about another character today. A character who is very far from Meereen.

Finishing the chapter felt good. Especially since it also completed that character's arc for the book. Admittedly, she has only two chapters in DANCE, so I am not sending up any flares. But hey, I'm done with one of them for the present, that's something.

Only thirty-eight more POVs to wrap up... "


"A DANCE WITH DRAGONS: I took a good hard swack at the Meereenese knot. The sword bounced off and cut my nose off. Bugger."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Worlds Greatest Human dies at age 95

for another video see:

Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other Has Died

Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died at age 95. Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. One of the great privileges of my life was meeting and talking with Borlaug many times over the past few years. In remembrance, I cite the introduction to Reason's 2000 interview with Borlaug below:

Borlaug grew up on a small farm in Iowa and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he studied forestry and plant pathology, in the 1930s. In 1944, the Rockefeller Foundation invited him to work on a project to boost wheat production in Mexico. At the time Mexico was importing a good share of its grain. Borlaug and his staff in Mexico spent nearly 20 years breeding the high-yield dwarf wheat that sparked the Green Revolution, the transformation that forestalled the mass starvation predicted by neo-Malthusians.

In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He insisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."

But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn't work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug's achievement as a "Green Revolution."

In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich's dire predictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Contrary to Ehrlich's bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn't die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a "progress explosion" that has handily outmatched any "population explosion."

Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doom-sayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger. Despite occasional local famines caused by armed conflicts or political mischief, food is more abundant and cheaper today than ever before in history, due in large part to the work of Borlaug and his colleagues.

More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy." As REASON's interview with him shows, he still believes that environmental activists and their allies in international agencies are a threat to progress on global food security. Barring such interference, he is confident that agricultural research, including biotechnology, will be able to boost crop production to meet the demand for food in a world of 8 billion or so, the projected population in 2025.

Meanwhile, media darlings like Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown keep up their drumbeat of doom. In 1981 Brown declared, "The period of global food security is over." In 1994, he wrote, "The world's farmers can no longer be counted on to feed the projected additions to our numbers." And as recently as 1997 he warned, "Food scarcity will be the defining issue of the new era now unfolding, much as ideological conflict was the defining issue of the historical era that recently ended."

Borlaug, by contrast, does not just wring his hands. He still works to get modern agricultural technology into the hands of hungry farmers in the developing world. Today, he is a consultant to the International Maize and Wheat Center in Mexico and president of the Sasakawa Africa Association, a private Japanese foundation working to spread the Green Revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.

Borlaug's achievements were not confined to the laboratory and fields:

He insisted that governments pay poor farmers world prices for their grain. At the time, many developing nations--eager to supply cheap food to their urban citizens, who might otherwise rebel--required their farmers to sell into a government concession that paid them less than half of the world market price for their agricultural products. The result, predictably, was hoarding and underproduction. Using his hard-won prestige as a kind of platform, Mr. Borlaug persuaded the governments of Pakistan and India to drop such self-defeating policies.
Fair prices and high doses of fertilizer, combined with new grains, changed everything. By 1968 Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat, and by 1974 India was self-sufficient in all cereals. And the revolution didn't stop there. Researchers at a research institute in the Philippines used Mr. Borlaug's insights to develop high-yield rice and spread the Green Revolution to most of Asia. As with wheat, so with rice: Short-stalked varieties proved more productive. They devoted relatively more energy to making grain and less to making leaves and stalks. And they were sturdier, remaining harvestable when traditional varieties--with heavy grain heads and long, slender stalks--had collapsed to the ground and begun to rot.
Let us mourn the death of this truly great man.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Scot After My Own Heart

Warning: Two F-bombs and several "dick"s.
Qualification: The accent is thick enough that you and your boss might miss the f-bombs
Clarification: There's no way anyone is going to miss the dicks.

DowntimeTown Episode 7: Space Hulk from Robert Florence on Vimeo.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Great Tits Eat Bats"

That's the title of the video which, unfortunately, wasn't about what I expected it to be about at all. Peruse the article for more. My favorite quote: "Péter Estók ... first saw a bat being captured by a tit in a Hungarian cave in 1996." When I get a spare minute, I'm going to write up a business plan for a club called "The Hungarian Cave."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Still Not A Movie

Embedding jacked up for now - go here.

Extended version.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When the Going Gets Nerdy, the Nerds Drink Soda

You know you want to try it.

My question is, why not a 10- or 15- pack? Last time I checked 5 didn't go into 12 evenly. Also, I'd be disappointed if the "necromancer's tonic" wasn't unpalatably bitter.

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