Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flip flopping like a fish out of water

It seems McCain and Pallin have never met an opinion they didn't like.

Having completely failed in their attempt to convince America that following in Bush's footsteps was "change."  They have changed their tune. 

Turns out change is *bad* according to the snippet of McCain speech I heard the other night.  All that change Obama wants? Its gonna hurt you. Really.  Stick to the status quo...

I have to admit there is ONE change from Bush to McCain.

Bush was a notably more convincing liar.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When not to use events

I've been doing a moderate amount of ActionScript/Flash CS3 coding lately and I've been learning a few things.

Many languages have facilities that seem on the surface to be cool ways to save time but that can hurt you badly if you don't understand where they should and shouldnt be used.  In Java, a common beginner's stumbling block of this sort is the reflecion API.  In AS3, it's event dispatchers.

Event dispatchers seem like a great general way to tie code together.  All you need do is declare an object's class as an EventDispatcher and anyone else can register with it to be notified of events.  This can be very handy HOWEVER it is key to realize that a an event dispatch is NOT the moral equivalent of a function call on the listener.  Making this mistake can cause no end of subtle errors.

What then is a difference?  Well, when an object's method makes a direct call to a method on another object, that call is synchronous.  The called method is executed immediately on the same call stack as the calling object.  As Flash CS3 is a single-threaded execution engine, this means that order of direct method calls is deterministic and predictable.

However, when  you dispatch an event, all that happens is that the event you dispatched is added to the event dispatcher's event queue.  That method invocation will not actually happen until the queue gets processed.  This will happen at some later time that is not under your control.  Event dispatches are asynchronous, which is to say their order is not entirely deterministic.

Different events dispatched to the same event queue will reliably get processed in the order they were dipatched in.  However, every instance of an event dispatching class has its own queue.  What order these queues are processed in in relation to each other is again, up to the execution engine and something you have no control over.

The upshot of all this is this, event dispatch in AS3 is fundementally asynchronous.  You should never use it for making calls to other code where there are requirements on the order in which such calls get executed.  Use a direct reference to a listening object instead.

If you follow this rule, then the single-threaded nature of AS3 will keep you from ever having to worry about race conditions leading to heisenbugs.  (A heisenbug is a bug that changes when you try to examine it and they are among the hardest to find and fix.)  Ignore this rule and I guarantee you will have exactly that.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Conan and the Rath of Empty Words


Today I quit Age of Conan.

I've been playing WAR.  Its not as pretty as AoC.  But the thing is, its a lot more fun.  I even enjoy the PvP in WAR and I'm a stolid cooperative gaming PvE type player.

Even so, i might've held out on AoC.  As I've blogged about before there was a  lot I liked about it, but in the end, its incompatent management made  my decision clear.

Godager was an ass.  He ignored his players preferring instead to produce sermons from the mountain.  He told us how wonderful his agme was while we were screaming at him about things that needed fixing.  Simple, obvious and easy fixes, like giving North America an official PvE RP server.  Over 600 users entered their names on a forum topic asking for this simple consideration.  Something that could have been done in a minute with an administrative command.  Instead, he chose to ignore those customers, refusing even to answer "no" to the request.

That was bad enough, but then he was replaced by Morrision.  Mr. Morrision has spent a huge amount of time talking to the press about the new, responsive attitude he is bringing.  The thing is, he seems to be spending so MUCH time talking to the press that, apparently, HE doesn't have the time to address the concerns of his PvE RP players either.

Being ignored by a company we were paying $15.00 a month to was bad enough, but heraring this *total* ass tell everyone how much he cares about the players' opinions and STILL being ignored is beyond insulting.

Morrison's latest proclimation that he will  win back his lost customers by word of mouth is the most laughably empty statement yet.  If you want to win back your customers, show you care enough to LISTEN to them.

When I hear you are treating PvE RP customers like real customers, I might think about coming back.  But not before.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I have this idea for a game....

So I see this question pretty often these days from people outside of the industry:

"I have a video game idea and I am wondering if anyone can provide any
insight where to begin. I know thousands of people say thay(sic) have good(sic)
game idea, but I really feel passionate that it can be successful."

Here's an answer. Its probably not the answer you want to hear, but its an answer:

Do you have money to spend on this?

As an experienced business person I hope your not surprised by this question. Ideas, are indeed, a dime a dozen and worth very little if anything at all on their own.

If you don't have your own money or don't have enough to fund the entire project you will need to get a publisher involved, A game studio with a good track record for delivering product can pitch an idea to a publisher, you will need more. You will need a demo that shows enough of the game to give the publisher confidence that you have the "chops" both technically and artistically to pull this off. You are asking them to make a pretty big money bet in your team's ability. They need confidence that its a good bet to make and they get that from either a track record or clear evidence of your team's talent.

If you really believe in this idea and have money to spend, you have two options. You can start a game company or you can hire a contract shop to do it. There are some *very* good contracting shops in this business but they don't come cheap.

If you decide to build a company the first thing you MUST hire is an experienced game producer. Think of this person like a general contractor. They know what has to happen to make this project successful-- you don't.

If you know friends with coding and art ability you could try to self-exploit and get them to help with the demo in return for a stake in the project. Most good people in this industry however have both too little time and too little money to take such fliers.

So here's your reality check. Ideas are a dime a dozen. If you have money or friends willing to donate their time you might be able to get this to demo level and then shop a publisher. But no one is going to give you money based just on your idea and personal conviction that its a "hit concept".

Thursday, October 9, 2008

While we are at it

The same two britts explain the Iraq war clearer then our government ever has....

George Parr on the Iraq War

This speaks to a truth I learned the year I lived in Italy. I had a better idea of what was really going on in the US reading european newspapers then I ever had before or since from the American media. Our entire world view from inside the US is juandiced and fed us through a tightly controlled media. And if you don't get out of the country and see it from the outside, you can easily live your whole life without realizing it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The sad fact of the sub-prime market...

... is that the British were already making fun of it back in february. THEY could see the absurdity clearly.

A sub-prime primmer.

Note that they also predicted that, when the whole thing collapsed, their pet politicians would tell the common tax-payer that the bail-out was for their own good.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate Follies

Well, I watched the vice presidential debate last night. It was the first time I had really seen Sarah Palin speak. My reaction can be best summed up by quoting Bugs Bunny:
"I like her, she's funny!"

Some classic Palin quotes from the debates that I caught follow below....

On the Fiscal Crisis:
"There is a toxic mess on main street that is poisoning wall street."

See what happens when you don't curb your dog?

On how she and John Mccain might run the country:
"There have been big blunders in the past administration, as there are in any administration."

It's nice to know where she sets the bar for their performance.

On what the common man wants from their government:
"How the average man views the inaction of government ... 'Just get out of my way.'"

all the government needs to do is "get out of the way." No action needed! (I actually, I'd agree with that except that didn't seem to be what she was *trying* to say or she never would have brought it up as something to 'change.')

On the plight of the middle class:
"Your wife was a teacher, her reward is in heaven."

I guess she and Mccain feel middle class teachers don't need earthly rewards.

On diversity:
"I have a very diverse family, people from all political persuasions."

I didn't know that "diversity" means a bunch of WASPs who don't all agree.

On the distribution of wealth in America:
"Fight for the average middle class family like mine."

Apparently she thinks that, in 2001, the average middle class American made more then $80,000 and got to live in a mansion for free. Maybe she meant she'd fight for the average, middle class governor's family. After all, she didn't get a jet like many governors do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bailout and Bullshit


I've purposefully waited a few days before blogging about the so called "fiscal crisis". One should never commit a public action in fear or haste, be that blogging or passing laws. (I'll come back to that point.)

So, what *really* happened two days ago? There is going to be a lot of debate on that point over the coming weeks, but a melt-down doesn't suddenly reverse itself the way the stock market did yesterday.

Last night I was listening to some excellent commentary from some leading economists at the Institute for Policy studies. I highly recommend their web page if this issue at all concerns you ( In particular this policy summary is well worth reading:

One note worthy comment came from Mr. Jared Bernstein who said that using the stock market as a financial indicator is just bad economics. He likened it to "patterning your life after a chronic manic depressive." The stock market by its nature over-reacts to news and does so with massive swings. We saw that in the past few days were it went down almost 700 point and then back up almost 500.

But what triggered such a big drop? The answer is painfully obvious... our president declaring a sudden financial emergency. During Greenspan's tenure as head of the federal reserve the market used to tip based on nothing more then rumors of a change in the prime of a few tenths of a percentage point. I'd ask you to imagine how huge an impact the president of the united states declaring that we are screwed would have but you don't have to-- you just saw it.

So, discounting the swing of the stock market, what are the real dangers we face? A bunch of big banks that cried for a free market handled that market so badly that they are dying. What does that really mean to the average American? The answer is probably little to nothing. The fact of the matter is that the banking system is in little danger of going anywhere. The small community banks, that these big and reckless corporate banks almost crushed through buy-outs and crazy policies that the smaller and smarter little banks couldn't compete with, are coming back big time. So we aren't in danger of losing banking in this country any time soon.

What about all of those people with accounts at these big banks? After all, isn't this the way the Great Depression started? Yes, it more or less was, but there is one big difference today-- the FDIC. The FDIC was created in order to cover just such a situation as we have now and prevent a repeat of the disaster of the 30s. Unless you have more then 100,000 sitting in a bank account, you are safe and covered. Noone at the FDIC is saying they can't handle this. In fact, they have already asked the government to extend that coverage further, to $250,000. So take a deep breath and calm down, your are insured by the one insurer that CAN'T go out of business, the Federal Government.

Well, what if the federal Government can't handle the losses, right? The answer is that this is a nonsense question. The Government can get more money any time it needs to. If it couldn't, we'd already be bankrupt thanks to Bush's personal war in Iraq. Besides borrowing and raising revenue through taxes, the government owns the presses that print the money. We left the gold standard behind a long time ago. The government can make more money more or less at will. The government doesnt do this often because adding to the money supply is inflationary... but if we're headed into a recession then a little inflation isn't the worst thing in the world.

The 'wall street to main street' argument doesn't wash for all the
reasons above. In the end its just the same "trickle down economics"
that we've been fed by these same law-makers for so long. It didn't
work in good times, the rich only got richer. It won't work in bad
times, only the rich are going to get poorer from this. And not a lot
poorer. Don't let them kid you. These "poor bankers" are still going to
be a whole lot better off then most americans have been the past decade
or so.

Are average americans who got into bad loans suffering? Yes, they
are. And that is the only true danger I see here. But bailing out the
banks who wrote the bad loans is not fixing the problem, just the
symptom thats hurting a rich few. Instead, we should be focusing on
the real problem-- how to bail out those home owners.

There is a free market argument that says we shouldn't do that,
either. We should let them fail for their bad decisions. But there are
some compelling reasons not to. The first is that this flood of homes
onto the market actually will *hurt* Americans. Many Americans have most
to all of their savings in their homes. There is no question that we
are in for a correction and rough landing. The recession has been
inevitable for some time. (And some economists argue we've actually
been in it for a few years already, its just been cosmetically
masked.) But we can and maybe should do some things to soften the
ground we're going to land on. This isn't more 'trickle down' economics (what was called 'voodoo economics when Regan championed it.) This is hitting the heart of the matter where it really lies.

There is a second argument here, though to help out the average american. The big banks created a system that rewarded brokers for selling loans they didn't have to be responsible for. The obvious and inevitable result of this system was massive, systemic abuse. Americans were talked, cajoled and even lied to to get them to sign any sort of loan the broker could get their signature on. I don't think you can blame the American consumer for this one. Pushing people into loans they can't afford is called "predatory lending" today (the old term was usary.)

When faced with an entire predatory system, I don't think the average consumer had much of a chance. A lot of consumers I'm sure assumed that their broker "knew
more about loans then they did" and wouldn't sell them a loan they couldn't handle. That would be bad for the lender right? Normally, reasonably, the answer would be yes. But in the system the big banks created for unloading themselves of the loans, this reasonable assumption was untrue.

So, why all this noise about the necessity of a bail-out? I can see a few reasons and none of them terribly pretty.

First, a bunch of the rich friends and backers of our rich law-makers are about to lose a lot of money. To their credit, the honest free-market conservatives are saying the right thing: so what? These bankers wanted the freedom to run their business however they wanted and they got it. Well freedom means the freedom to fail as well as to succeed. Noone comes along and "bails out" average americans when they make bad financial decisions. Why should we do so for the rich few?

Another potential reason for all this noise right now. Keep in mind that its 5 weeks to the national elections and only 1 week before the first debates. The republican administration has a *terrible* history going into this race. They have just about admitted at this point that they lied to the American people to get them into a war that only served the needs of the oil companies. A recession has been looming for awhile now and all their promises that making the rich richer would make everyone else richer haven't materialized. They've had ethics scandal after scandal. They can't run on the past. But a brand new "crises" to distract the american people from what they've already done by what they claim they will do in the future? That has some tiny chance of working.

In the end, as scary as it may seem to believe our law makers would do such a thing, I find a "wag the dog" scenario here very plausible. Its classic Karl Rove, the architect of all the lies that got Bush elected to start with. (I'm not being inflammatory here, this is well known fact to anyone who actually followed the events of the past 8 years.)

Michelle Obama said that she felt proud of America 'for the first time in her life' when we nominated a black man as a presidential candidate. Today I feel more proud of my fellow Americans then I have in a long time. Why? Because so many of you refused to listen to one more lie. You said "enough with government by and for the rich" when you told Washington to vote down this bank bail-out. But the fight isn't over. In a thoroughly sickening move, the senate yesterday created a new version of the bill to try to get it passed. Did they take out the subsidies for the rich? No. Did they add more for common Americans? Nominally (they gave the fed their raise to $250,000 per account.) but the BIG thing they did was throw in ANOTHER subsidy for the rich-- a tax break for the oil companies. Those same companies that have been making record profits the past few years.

Their hope was that this blatant bribe to conservative interests would swing the honest republicans who said "no" before over to their side. But as an American I'm apalled and I think you should be too. Is this what we really want? A government that runs by bribing the people who run it and their friends? We call that a corrupt government when we see it in other countries.

So, my conclusion. They sky is NOT falling. The Bush administration has used terror to control the American populace a long time with its histrionics about terrorists. This is just another form of the same kind of manipulation and Americans should say, loudly and clearly, ENOUGH! And stick to their guns.

We should demand real help for the real victims of these bankers actions and the real economy... which is on main street and NOT wall street. And we should all tighten our belts and get ready for a bumpy ride because, like it or not, were in for a deep recession and there really isnt anything to be done for it beyond learning how to ride it out.

Finally, we should demand that greedy rich people be held accountable for their actions by the very system they championed when it was in their interests to do so. The IPS has a lot of good information on how to accomplish all of this. If your concerned about our economic future, I highly recommend their reports.

In my opinion, the most interesting thing about this whole debacle is that it HAS brought people on the far right and the far left together... in opposition to what the Bush administration wants to do as its final act of corporate charity. It also seems to be proving Lincoln right about fooling all of the people all of the time.