Driving Dumb

I was once a state trooper. I used to issue citations every day. The vast majority were for speeding, but on occasion I would catch someone doing something truly idiotic and/or dangerous. Going the wrong way on a one-way street, changing lanes in an intersection, passing on the right on a one-lane road, and the like. Since those days, I have always wished that there was some way to identify these idiots on the roadway. Something like an automotive scarlet letter, that might shame these drivers into obedience. In those days, however, I was not the rebellious scofflaw that I have become, and thus the brilliant solution that I came up with this morning would not have occurred to me...

I suggest that we select a readily available color of paintball - let's say turquoise, for the sake of discussion - and keep pistols (Like the one below) loaded with said balls on the seat besides us. In this fashion, we can "tag" the idiots for later identification and avoidance. If you see a car with a splatter on it, steer clear - clearly they are an idiot. In fact, the number of tags could be used like a rap sheet. Two splatters; repeat idiot. Three or more splatters; habitual idiot.

Go! Arm yourselves, and mete out the Black Pope's justice!*

*Despite the fact that we think it's a damn funny idea, neither the author of the preceding post, his henchmen, lackeys, or hirelings, nor the International Offices of The Ministry of Linus, Inc., its subsidiaries, holdings, or other pending entities, in this or other countries, planets, or planes of existence, are responsible for any paintball related vigilantism. It's humor, folks - try to keep reality and your entertainment separate, 'kay?

Job Hazards

It's morning. I know this because my eyes are burning from not wanting to be open and my face is stinging from razor burn. I'm sitting in a computer lab, where I get paid to watch my fellow students. I am supposed to be here to offer assistance with software and hardware issues, but primarily I am here to make sure no one steals anything, and that those who're sleeping don't drool into the keyboards and get shocked (the smell of scorched undergrad is not conducive to learning).

Usually I enjoy - well, I don't mind - working in the labs. I basically get paid to do my homework, and if it's a high-traffic shift, I get to see all the pretty coeds coming and going; not a bad deal. Sometimes I even get to chat with these young ladies when they need help, and their adorable but futile attempts to be cogent are usually a healing salve to my tired heart, withered and blackened thing that it is.

Today however, I find them all simply too stupid to be charming.

My desk bears a large sign which reads, "Lab Assistant." My chest bears a badge which reads, "Lab Assistant." No amount of carefully styled hair and artfully applied makeup packed in whaletail-baring jeans could overcome my disgust when one girl walked up, leaned on the printer and asked, "Are you the lab assistant?"

I knew I should just nod and say, "Yes - can I help you?" - but at that moment, pure evil filled my heart.

"No. I'm just filling in for him."
"Oh - when will he be back?"
"Not sure. He was hurt pretty badly."
At this, she batted her well-tinted lashes and said, "Hurt?"
"Yeah. Sometimes toner cartridges are just volatile like that. He managed to duck most of the shrapnel, but he'll be out for a few days. I think the laptop he had in his backpack went up too."
She stared blankly, then said, "But..."
I waited as long as I possibly could without being rude, but when she failed to finish her sentence, I filled the silence in a consoling tone with, "I know - it's so sudden. But that's the chance we take to be IT rockstars. He knew the risks."

I almost held it together and kept a straight face as she stepped carefully away from the printer.

There is an optional training session for lab assistants today - the subject is, "Customer Service."

I should probably go to that...


I promised to bring you up to speed on things around here... this is the short version.

Black Vatican, the webcomic - We had an influx of new members on the forum, but I ended up deleting all of them and their posts because they were obscene, insulting, stupid, off-topic trolls. Although Flynn is the cyberthug around here, I am not afraid to swing the mod hammer in a vicious manner.

The Pope's New Bed - is lovely. Kingsize, very papal, sleeps perfectly. It ought to - it was over 4 digits in price before I started buying sheets and duvets!

Spring Break - very relaxing. Didn't accomplish much besides spring cleaning. Went to Boulder one day, and that was nice and mellow as well. I just wish the break was longer.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - is a lot of fun. It was my birthday gift from Flynn, and I have invested about 21 hours into it so far, and the menu says I've completed 45% of the storyline. I heart Samus.

Army of Two - is fun too, but there are serious targeting problems. It is, however, an excellent concept; a game that is best with a buddy. I know that my abysmal FPS skills are holding Flynn back, but shooters always seem more fun in split screen.

Badminton - I played 4 times during spring break and it was awesome. I just ordered a new racquet (because I'm a gear-whore) and I'm getting psyched for the intramural tournaments coming up. On Friday, March 28, Flynn and I will be playing in the men's doubles intramural, and G-Fresh will be my partner in the mixed doubles tournament. I fully expect to get smoked, but I think we will do better than the last time...

Squash - I just bought myself a racquet, and I love it. Much lighter than the racquets they rent at the gym. Flynn and I played with the "doubles" ball and it seems to be the right amount of bounce for playing squash on a racquetball court. A racquetball court is 8 feet longer and a foot wider than a regulation squash court, so the very low bounce squash balls used for competiton are pretty hard to play with. The doubles ball has significantly more bounce and covers the court better. It's not "real" squash, but it's still better than racquetball...

Handball - We placed an order for new gear - most of us have sweated enough on our gloves to make them rot. We've got some interest from female players, so we got some of the softer white label balls (the official ball used for Ladies competition). I'm excited about my new handball t-shirts (more gear-whoring)!

Racquetball - My old racquet was no longer symetrical due to repeated impacts with the walls, so I bought a new one (see "gear-whore" above). It was cheap, but I do feel the need to play a bit more to justify the purchase. Maybe I'll go back to the racquetball RSO to get a few games in - eh. I mostly bought it because the girls want to play racquetball...

Imelda and Ajax - are both horribly spoiled. They got to spend a lot of time out of ther cages during spring break and they are now not very pleased by my return to classes. There was a battle of wills on Monday morning when I went to put them back in after their showers. Brats. Where did I go wrong as a parent?

School - is taxing. Rarely have I despised a professor as much as one that I have a class with this year. His grading is so arbitrary, his lecture style so disconnected, his powerpoints so irrelevant, his handouts so hastily constructed and poorly edited, that I want to choke him. Alas, the class is required, and no one else teaches it. I pray for a B...

Weight loss - is progressing slowly. I lost a few more pounds over the break, and I am committed to adding some cardio to my daily routine, in addition to playing my games. I am currently reading a book called Chi Running that promises to make me not hate running. We'll see... I've always hated running. I used to always say, "I didn't train for years with guns, stick, swords, knives, and empty hands to run from shit."

We'll return to our usual erratic posting schedule tomorrow. Which is not a promise of any kind.

It should be called "Paulianity"

I have taken a long time off from this blog. As soon as I finish my stats homework today, I'll be back with a post to catch you all up on what's new in Black Vatican City.

In the meantime, read this interesting tidbit from theStar.com:
New scholarship suggests Jesus might never have intended to found a new religion.

Basically, the idea is that Christianity as we know it has little to do with Jesus, and everything to do with Paul. This is not really an earth-shaking realization - Fleur and I have discussed the oddities of Pauline doctrine numerous times - but the book looks interesting. Might be time for a trip to Amazon...

The Dharma of the Game, continued

The beginning of this can be found here.

Since posting the first section of this, there have been several conversations at Flock Hall about it that have made it clear to me that some clarification is needed. Because competition is such an intensely emotional topic for some people, the conversations mostly concerned sportsmanship - which is only tangentially related to the subject at hand in that first post. The meat of that section speaks to making the game a proper (i.e. valid) test. It addresses adherence to the rules and putting forth your very best effort in order to get as close as possible to a result that is not skewed.

Sportsmanship, as we usually use the term, is more about behavior that is not regulated by the rules of the game (although lately, there has been an increasing need to address behavior that takes place in and around the game but is not actually part of the game proper, as well as during training - I'll address that in a future post). It mostly involves controlling one's emotions, be they positive or negative - no undue celebrating when you score, no tantrums when you fail, no "talking smack," etc. It is the behavior that makes you a pleasant opponent, win or lose, but it is not, strictly speaking, part of the game. It is culturally dictated, and thus varies from group to group.

An excellent example can be found in Kendo and Iiado. In both of these Japanese sword arts, you are supposed to treat your sword (boken, shinai, iiato, etc.) as though it were a person. While there are no formal rules about this and you will not be penalized in a tournament setting for violating these dictates, you are not to drop it on the floor, or step over it, or toss it in your trunk. Contrast this with the way Western fencers treat their equipment. It is fine to step over a sword that's been dropped or left on the ground, and they are afforded no special care when loading the car, except that which will keep them relatively straight and unbroken.

An example from our own not-so-wide world of sports is the treatment of badminton shuttles. None of the Asian players in our club have ever said anything about it, but I have discovered by reading on the 'net that kicking a shuttle - for example, kicking it under the net to your opponent so they can serve - is considered quite rude in many badminton communitites, but I see American players do it all the time. My point here is that what is anathema to one player is fine for others, and sportsmanship is like that across the board. During most games here in America we expect politeness, a handshake after the game, appropriate congratulations and encouragement, but that is certainly not the case in all settings. There seems to be no constant of behavior.

Having said that, I will put forth what I think is the constant in attitude about sportsmanship - treating each opponent as a full and worthy adversary. By this, I mean taking their chances of winning seriously, and doing your best to prevent that. You can be polite, cogratulatory, and even encouraging to your opponents, and still play your absolute hardest. In fact, you must play your very best at all times if you are to afford them the respect they deserve... which brings us to the original topic of today's post - different levels of competitors.

Despite the need to play your very best at all times, there are ways that elite players and those who are less skilled can still play a game that is rewarding for both. One way to make that possible is to handicap the more advanced player. In chess, this is called "knight's odds" - the more powerful player gives up one or sometimes even both knights at the beginning of the game. It's common in drag racing, too. A top fuel dragster might race against a modified stock car, with the modder getting the green light a second or two earlier than the dragster.

This kind of adjustment is possible in our games as well. For example, in the SCA we used to even things up a bit by fighting newcomers with a smaller shield, or putting the weapon in the offhand. In Taekwondo we would limit the more advanced fighter to a single technique - for example, the only way for the blackbelt to score is with a side kick, while the less experienced fighter can throw any technique they wish. In handball, I will sometimes serve with my offhand, or only allow myself to hit offhand kill shots.

This type of handicapping serves both competitors. The less skilled competitor learns more by playing against a better opponent, while the more experienced player enjoys a greater degree of difficulty than he would experience if he faced the less skilled player normally. He is also forced to use specific skills that he might need to work on. In badminton, for example, I try to work on control when playing a less experienced opponent. I try to win points on drop shots (as opposed to my more common kill shot, the smash). I know that the more advanced players try to work on certain types of shots when they play me - one guy likes to work on his edge game against me, so all of his kill shots are aimed at the back and side lines.

The point of this sort of self-limiting is to give the less experienced player a chance of winning, but also to help keep the game a valid test for both players. The more experienced player still has to play to the best of his ability - he is simply playing within a more strict set of rules than his opponent. In most games, it can be done without much fanfare, which protects the feelings of the less experienced player. It allows players of varied levels to play together, and it does so without belittling either.

Next installment: personal betterment.

Spring. Sort of.

Apparently, the weather gods were deeply offended by my comments here. Yesterday we got snow, high winds, and high humidity - which makes outdoors a crappy place. The temps weren't that bad (in the 20s to low 30s) but the wind and damp made it quite awful outside.

Despite this, spring is just about here. I know it - I can feel it! The urge to open all the windows and doors and clean and plant is just about overwhelming. I have already started rearranging and deep cleaning my room - soon it'll be time to start the tomatoes and peas and other yummies in their little cups of soil!

Don't remind me that winter often goes on until late May here. Don't bother telling me that the worst snowstorm we've had in the almost 6 years I've lived here was over spring break. Don't remind me about the 6 inches of wet heavy snow that hit in the first week of June a few years back. No, for now, I am convinced that warmer weather is just around the corner. My mind's made up - don't confuse me with the facts!

Natal Incept Date

Today is my birthday. I'm having dinner with some friends, but otherwise, it's just another day. I hope someday to be able to afford to have hobbit birthday parties...

I decided to do a bit of figuring. As of right now, I've been alive 15,706 days (including the 11 February 29ths I've seen). Without getting too crazy with the exact hour of my birth, that means that I've been alive roughly 376,944 hours, or 22,616,640 minutes. If I have a normal lifespan for a male, I have just over 11,000 days left in this incarnation. That's roughly 1571 weeks, or as Flynn would put it, it's about 3142 plot comics and 4710 Trinities.

That's right - I've got to go; I have 7852 scripts to write.