Separating the right from the wrong

by Roland Lindsey
"Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

Fateful words from the Dixie Chicks in 2003.  Some criticized them for insulting the President of the United States while in a foreign country, and their core audience punished them with boycotts and criticism.  Some believed they were unpatriotic, and Natalie Maines doubled down in a Daily Telegraph interview by questioning the value of patriotism at all.  This did not help record sales, and led to further criticism by the conservative press.

Much has been made of President Obama's speeches around the world, with many conservatives claiming that President Obama is apologizing for America, and as a result, weakening our position in the world.  I am chiefly concerned with National Review.

Victor Hansen wrote:
By separating himself from the past, Obama sends the implicit message to allies (like Israel, India, Columbia, the Maliki government, eastern Europe, Sarkozy, Merkel, etc) that there must have been something wrong with them to have allied themselves with the U.S. during the Bush years — and to enemies and belligerents that their anti-Americanism is perhaps understandable given a shared antipathy for the Bush regime;

The Editors wrote a piece entitled "Obama's Confession", where they criticize President Obama for criticizing the actions of previous administrations:
Uncle Sam arrived at the U.N. in penitential mode. He promised to mend his ways, to treat the other governments with proper deference, and to continue to pay everyone’s bills. He can get ovations every time with similar speeches. But he will also continue another trend that began yesterday: losing their respect.

And yet, when Sarah Palin gives a speech in Hong Kong to a group of investors, the conservative press is strangely uncritical of Governor Palin's criticism of the President and the government of the United States.  It is not too far a stretch to say that Governor Palin was critical of America, given that both the government and the President of the United States were both elected by a majority of the electorate in this country.  I suppose it would at least be helpful if she was factual in her criticisms, but her some of her statements and prescriptions regarding the economy are the stuff of fantasy.

Do the editors of National Review believe that Sarah Palin's remarks are intended to increase the respect for America?  Do they truly believe that Governor Palin's words strengthen our country?  Apparently, Rich Lowry believes the speech is a "step in the right direction."  Perhaps for Governor Palin, but is it really the right direction for politicians to travel the world and criticize the President and the government?  Is it good for America?

And finally, is it good for Conservatives to promote the criticism of our government and elected officials by conservatives while overseas?  Were Sarah Palin to deliver such a speech in Florida, it would hardly be news.  But to travel to a territory of the People's Republic of China in order to deliver a speech excoriating the present administration and congress is not patriotic.  It is self-aggrandizement, which is another criticism National Review hands out liberally, so long as the subject is a Democrat.

If conservatives believe that attracting independents to the Republican Party is good for all of us, they will simply ignore those who prefer to put themselves over duty to country.  When we elevate these people, we just appear foolish.

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Luna Flesher

A significant percentage of conservatives seem ready for a revolution. They are mad as hell, and aren't going to take it anymore. They carry guns to town hall meetings. They wave Gadsden flags.  They wistfully evoke memories of historical 1776. They quote Jefferson about the evils of tyranny and the need for blood.

I listened to a man named Dominick call into Michael Medved this week.  Medved had on polling expert Frank Luntz, who found 76% of Americans describe themselves as "mad as hell".  Though most of those are not necessarily conservatives or the Tea Party set, 3% of Americans are like Dominick -- outraged enough to revolt.

The recent 9-12 Tea Party march on DC had a disproportionate number of those people.  This enlightening video interview gives us some idea of what they're so angry about:

Certain members of the media seem perfectly willing to stoke the fire. Yes, I'll name names. Fox News. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Michael Savage. They not only perpetuate the myths that make people feel their liberty and lives are in serious danger, but often come just short of actual calls to violence. They do so in a way that gives them plausible deniablity, so that they can feign innocence. But should disaster strike (as it already has to a limited extent), they are in every way as responsible as someone who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

I used to be one of that 3%, long before it was popular with anyone to be so.

I felt oppressed. I own such books as, "101 Things To Do 'til the Revolution".  Though I never got around to reading them, I planned all sorts of activist activities to spread the word. I thought of provocative slogans, like "Dan Rather is a Commie", and "You Are A Welfare Slave".  I plotted methods for organizing fellow revolters into anonymous cells similar in organization to ELF, but with additional rules against harming property or people.

And should it have come to firing actual weapons at the Government, I was ready to do that, too.

So I understand the anger, but at the same time feel ashamed to admit I was once one of them. Because now, I realize what a terrible, horrible thing a violent revolution would be.

Like Dominick, I had not fully thought through my vision. I assumed we would dodge some bullets, raise up the fallen as martyrs, defeat the military, and then simply kick the bastards out.  Everyone would see the error of their ways, and the country would return to the Constitutional libertarian liassez faire utopia the Founding Fathers intended.

But that isn't what the Founders intended.  Yes, Jefferson may have written about the benefits of periodic revolution. But he also co-wrote a much more important document: The Constitution.

Conservatives: Take the science and run with it

by Roland Lindsey

The science on medical marijuana use is in:

The results?  A few quotes from the article:
In its 4,000+ years of documented use, there is no report of death from overdose with cannabis. In contrast, as little as 2 grams of dried opium poppy sap can be a lethal dose in humans as a result of severe respiratory depression. This fact about opium is borne out today in the unintentional deaths from prescribed opioids that continue to escalate.

It is clear that, as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity. Unlike opioids, cannabinoid medicines do not promote appetite loss, wasting, and constipation, but instead can be used therapeutically to treat these symptoms.

Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is not to discuss the pros and cons of medicinal versus recreational marijuana use. That is a totally separate and altogether different issue. Yet, at the very least, it should be noted that there is no evidence that recreational cannabis use is any higher in states that allow for its medicinal use.

The article drew data from over 33 controlled clinical trials taken over 38 years.  It is irrefutable and makes plain that Marijuana has no business being a Schedule I drug.

Republicans should take the point on this from a policy perspective.  Become known as the party who fought to end an illogical and harmful policy and as the party that aligns itself with the truth.  Speak on it every chance you get.  Arm yourselves with the information and decry those who argue from any basis of fear, rhetoric, or anecdotes.  If you find yourself running low on material, review "The War on Drugs is Lost" at National Review.

Take this issue and make hay with the people you represent, and the ones you hope to represent.  Or simply let the Democrats have it by default.  Drug policy reform is inevitable; for now, your legacy is yours to define.

Why Conservatives should support Government Healthcare

by Roland Lindsey

David Frum posted an excellent post on the Bush Economic Legacy over at  I hope that the Republican leadership reads it.

When you look at the traditional levers of tax policy, interest and inflation rates, there is just not much room to make things any easier on business to create jobs and raise income levels, let alone pay for health care. There are many things we can do to encourage business and wage growth, however. Like fix this odious, job-killing system we have in America called Health Care.

Reforming health insurance alone will not solve the problem of cost. Even if all insurers became non-profits but otherwise performed at the same rate, it would only reduce the cost of health care by 1% of the $2.4 trillion it costs us now.  Want to see the data?  Check an NPR analysis of the data here.  From the article:
To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care.

That may be the case, says Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt, but "whether it's fair or not depends on what it is you want to describe," he says.

"All that statement says is, if you eliminated all our [insurance company] profits, national health spending in America would be 1 percent lower. It has meaning only in that context," Reinhardt says.

Tort reform is not going to bring our costs significantly down. How do I know this? Look at the size of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Not only is the medical malpractice insurance industry doing very well from a profitability point of view, the cost of medical malpractice is at a 30 year low. In fact, in 2008, the total cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums was $10.7 billion. That is less than one half of one percent of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care. Total payouts from malpractice insurance in 2008? $4.7 billion.  There is a study here on tort reform by the CBO from 2004.  They did not believe then that it would affect the economics of health care.  There is another study undertaken by Americans for Insurance Reform.  Same deal, it's just not a significant factor, and honestly should just be taken off of Republican talking points.

Come on, Republicans. We can do much better than this. And the independents, those people who really decide elections… They know whether or not they did better in the last decade or if they did worse. They don’t care what Glenn Beck says, and they don’t care what Keith Olbermann says. They care about their own situation and their own prosperity. And while Republicans do not solve problems for them, they will vote Democrat. It’s the simple truth.

We hear the comparisons to Canada and the UK and Switzerland, and we laugh it off because we say, “Well sure, they may control costs better than we do, but I’d hate to get sick over there!” And then we lay out a lot of reasons why our system is better.

Except the costs of our system are crushing individuals, business, and our economy. And we Republicans are blind to the reality that our “solutions” to the problem are tiny drops in an enormous bucket. Would you prefer the economic growth of the ’80s or the '90s to the economic growth of the '00s? We all would agree that would be preferable. Would you be willing to go back to an '80s standard of Health Care to achieve that?

If the only substantive choice to contain health care costs is to move over to a Single Payer system like Canada (costs 10.6% of GDP), or a Nationalized system like the UK (costs 7.5% of GDP), then we must support the substantive choice. We can cry about losing our liberty and freedom all we want, but do not forget that economic freedom equals real freedom. That personal liberty is not possible without economic liberty. And the trajectory we are on is one that leads to economic slavery.

If I have to choose between continuing economic disaster in this country while the Republicans remain in permanent minority status and waiting 3 months for a doctor visit, I'll take the waiting list.

Mind Control 101: The Basics

Remember this? Youre still doing it wrong.
Remember this guy? He's still doing it wrong.

by Luna Flesher

We have explored what thought reform is not in Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing.  But what is it? What force can shut down people's minds and get them to do things they otherwise would never consent to?

Cult Conversion Walkthrough (Storytime!)

No one is immune from mind control.  And contrariwise, mind control doesn't always work. It takes the right combination of factors; specifically trust, common ideals, and receptivity.

Cults are a good place to study mind control because the changes they effect on people's lives are extremely obvious.

Pretend for a moment you are having a difficult time in your life: a recent tragedy or major transition.  Maybe you've just gone through divorce, lost a loved one, you've moved to a new town, or have recently been fired.  You're feeling alone, scared, depressed, ashamed, or desperate.

One day you encounter someone who is nice to you.  Either it's a friend or associate, or even a complete stranger.  Maybe it is someone handing out pamphlets, or speaking to a crowd.  Who ever it is, he has kind eyes, and you feel a little better when you're around him.  He also seems to share your values.  Maybe he wants to help the poor, or he talks about the power of love, or God, or protecting animals.  Imagine your greatest value, and he also shares that value with a level of passion you admire.

He invites you to a meeting or a party.  Once there, you find a room full of people who say nice things to you, lifting your spirits.  They are involved in a cause you wholeheartedly endorse.  They take care of the sick or collect food for the poor, or educate kids about capitalism, or share the message of God to the world.

Being around these people makes you feel good.  You feel as if you belong.  You quickly forget your personal problems and begin spending more time with this group, working towards making the world a better place.

They have won your trust.

Now you are fairly receptive to what the leader may tell you.  He will use this time to win more of your trust and make you more receptive.  If you've had niggling doubts about your new friends or their beliefs, they are easily explained away.

Slowly, you are introduced to new ideas you may not have accepted at first.  Over time, more is required of you.  More money, more time, more sacrifices.  Your behavior is slowly restricted.  Maybe you are required to dress a special way, eat or not eat certain foods, show up at a certain number of meetings, be so busy you don't get proper sleep or nutrition.

Now the grip tightens.  The leader teaches you doctrines to instill phobias about the outside world.  You learn that your group has many enemies to fear.  Those enemies are not to be listened to because you will be unable to resist when they try to lead you away from the love of the group.  You are given thought-terminating cliche's, phrases or words that help you easily dismiss criticism.  You are elite, one of the chosen to help save the world from political error, or one of the blessed of God.  Your very language is altered, as your words become "loaded". This prevents you from properly thinking about certain concepts, and from properly communicating with people outside the group.  You have become dependent upon the group for your emotional well-being, and you are possibly even physically or financially dependent.  You are isolated, if not physically, then mentally, because there are many sources of information you are taught to distrust.

When you think about the group and its teachings, you are filled with a sense of euphoria.  Thinking about outsiders or criticisms makes you feel anger or confusion.  The thought of leaving the group or "switching sides" makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or afraid.  If something is not going as promised, you blame yourself, not the group.  There are no gray areas left in your world view -- things are either good or evil, left or right, pure or tainted, full of life or death.

You now automatically reject any criticism, no matter how valid it is.  You reject any fact that goes contrary to your beliefs, because your beliefs have become more important than reality.  Certain words are now triggers that cause you to reject specific ideas before you even have a chance to hear them out.

You feel yourself to be perfectly rational, far more enlightened or intelligent than those with opposing views.  Yet instead, your brain has been crippled from the mind viruses you voluntarily made part of you.

What Just Happened?

Here is the process:

GOP: How to win our hearts and minds

by Roland Lindsey

I read The Death of Conservatism a few days ago, right after reading through "Right Reason" by William F. Buckley, Jr. for the first time.  Something occurred to me that I initially observed as a teenager growing up in George H.W. Bush's America.

Conservatives, it seemed to me, had an optimistic view of individual behavior.  Liberals on the other hand seemed to have a distressingly pessimistic opinion of human behavior.  I saw Conservatives desirous of creating an environment where people would choose to do the right thing, while Liberals had given up on the idea long ago and would nullify such behavior with the actions of a state.  Now I know that Conservative essayists go on and on about how much they believe in the fallibility of man, but it didn't seem that way to me.  On issue after issue, my observation seemed to hold true.

An example of this dichotomy is present when we consider the welfare state.  Conservatives argue that the government safety net discourages the church and communities from taking care of their own needy members, and that if government were out of the way, individuals and citizen organizations would take care of the needy on a local level.  Liberals seem to be unwilling to trust in the good nature of individuals and citizen organizations, and engage the state in an act of faceless paternalism in order to avoid the unpleasantness of the starving and destitute.  It's not exactly a Hallmark moment, but at least people are being fed.

A more recent example is that the Liberal establishment believes that corporations and individuals will not do the right thing in regards to health care, and therefore have to create another faceless parent to take care of us all.  Conservatives argue instead for more market deregulation, less government involvement, more capitalism and competition, holding the belief that the individuals and the corporations will do the right thing.

When Conservatives seek to prevent a personal behavior, it is argued that behavior is immoral.  Immorality (as defined largely by Judeo-Christian values) is anathema to policy that depends on each person doing the right thing.  If Conservative policy, by and large, expects individuals to act virtuously, than a virtuous people is required for said policy to be successful.  Enter the Culture War.

You can hardly listen to a Republican elected official without hearing about "the erosion of values" or "the moral decay" of our country.  They wring their hands about the immorality of abortion while simultaneously doing nothing to stop it.  They complained about Marilyn Manson, and "Gansta Rap" and Murphy Brown.  To what end?  They gnashed their teeth when Janet Jackson pulled a stunt at the Superbowl that really didn't matter to most Americans.

It has become clear to me that Republicans believe "traditional family values" and proper tax legislation are inextricably linked.  If the moral decay is not staunched, then perhaps these individuals who we believe should be virtuous will cheat on their taxes.  Or perhaps instead of investing their tax rebate into the stock market, they will instead blow it on the Sex and the City Boxed set, cocaine, and hookers.  It sounds far-fetched, but I believe it is consistent with the ideology.

Conservatives have been woefully unsuccessful in engaging individuals on their ideas for health care reform, but they can certainly get a lot of press once they cry loudly about 16 year-olds being educated on safe sex.  And since in their view, governance depends on the virtue of the governed, it is rational to go for the morality play.  In order for their policy to work properly, people must behave "morally".  What they haven't realized yet is what is killing them:  Most college-educated people do not share their philosophy.

I'm 37 and work in the software industry.  The typical profile of my peers is "Social Liberal, Fiscal Conservative."  You all know them, and you know what they mean by that.  They believe that sometimes people are virtuous, and sometimes people are not.  They believe that sometimes you must bring equality through government mandate, yet there is a price to be paid.  We hear from Republicans about how immoral we all are, and we turn them off.  Who wants to hear about what a cesspool it is that we all live in?  We hear from Democrats about injustice, and we at least give them a listen.  Above all, we believe in reality, not whether or not a spiritual leader would agree with how we are spending our Saturday evenings.

For Republicans to make headway with our demographic, they must table the desire to manage our virtue, and move forward with the desire to govern the country.  When we hear a Republican, we shouldn't be hearing about how traditional marriage is under assault, rather we should be hearing about how school vouchers give us a better education for our children.  When we listen to a Republican, we shouldn't be hearing about how Marijuana is a terrible vice, rather how a strong defense will ensure peace.

I'm not asking Republicans to forsake their values; I'm asking Republicans to push for ideas and reforms that make sense to us divorced from a moral framework.  Whether or not we will ever have, or indeed ever had the virtue to live according to perfect Conservative principles, I don't know.  What I do know is that morality is a lot less important to us today than it seems to be to the Republican party.  And while this disconnect exists, the Republicans will stay out in the wilderness.

Health Care: Democratic Assault on Originality, Republican Assault on Reality

by Roland Lindsey

Despite much media adulation over the President's speech on Health Care, we didn't hear anything last night we haven't heard before.  There are all the same reforms we have heard over and over again, with a token nod toward tort reform, much like a cherry on top.  He still stands by a public option, a position I find weakened by his own admission that only 5% of Americans would sign up for such an option.  If so few will use it, why is it so critical?

He gave an impassioned defense of liberalism, while first acknowledging the base conservative leanings of Americans.  Pledging allegiance to neither side, he struck a centrist tone while asking Americans to consider proper government involvement in their lives.  This is a reasonable question, and anyone who would argue that Utopia can be found in either extreme needs to study history.

But in the end, we are left where we were in the last days of July.  More of the same.

The Republican response was a caricature of what we have come to expect of the Republicans throughout this entire debate.  First up was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting "You lie!" to the President during his speech.  This was a shameful display of bad manners regardless of whether or not he is correct.  In this case, he is indisputably wrong.  Illegal immigrants are specifically barred from receiving any federal health care in the legislation.  But being correct is not high on the Republican agenda these days, much to our nation's injury.

Throughout this process, both sides have come down on the wrong side of reality more than a few times, but Republicans have become notable for complete fabrications.  From "Death Panels" to calling the public option a "government takeover of the health care industry", the Republicans have played fast and loose with the truth time and again.

Despite the fact that Conservatives concern themselves with reality, the Republicans preferred the fiction once again.  Representative Charles Boustany (R-FL) let loose with many of the memes that have marginalized Conservatives throughout this debate.  And this is a shame, because we need a strong Conservative presence in this country.  Appeals to unreality is not an attractive trait to intelligent voters.

Rep Boustany began by saying that most Americans wanted the President to tell Congress he wanted them to start over.  A CNN poll taken at the beginning of the month indicated that 25% wanted them to start over, with 53% wanting the legislation to be passed with minor or major changes.  25% is not most Americans.  An AP poll taken this week claimed 4 out of 10 Americans wanted Congress to start over, and the same percentage wanted them to pass the legislation.

REALITY: Most Americans did not want the President to tell Congress to start over.

Rep. Boustany claimed that "Replacing your family's health care with government-run health care is not the answer."  He may be right about that.  But there two components of this statement fly in the face of reality.

The President quoted the CBO in saying that only 5% of Americans would use the public option, and that it would only go to those who currently do not have health care.  The President wasn't just making that up; the CBO analyzed the legislation and determined that only 10-11 million Americans would use the option.

REALITY: You cannot replace something you don't already have.  No one is replacing anything with the public option.

And labeling the public option "Government-run health care" is even more ridiculous.  It simply isn't government-run health care.  It is a government-run insurance company.  It isn't even taking over the insurance industry, rather entering it as a severely restricted competitor.  And even then, it's only competing for individuals that don't even buy insurance anyway.

REALITY: Nothing in the President's plan amounts to government-run health care, unless you count modifications to Medicare.  And according to what I've seen these last few months, there is no support among Republicans for ending Medicare.

Next, Rep. Boustany's assault on reality exploded full force, leaving no truth standing.

"I read the bill Democrats passed through committee in July. It creates 53 new government bureaucracies, adds hundreds of billions to our national debt, and raises taxes on job-creators by $600 billion. And, it cuts Medicare by $500 billion, while doing virtually nothing to make the program better for our seniors."

Well, perhaps one truth is left standing, I don't deny that he read HR 3200.  I do deny his comprehension of aforementioned legislation.

REALITY: HR 3200 does not create 53 new government bureaucracies.  Go read the bill yourself.  It simply doesn't.

REALITY: The President has called for a budget-neutral bill, enforced by mandatory budget cuts if it does add to the deficit.  It doesn't add hundreds of billions to our national debt.  And if it does, cuts would be required by law.

REALITY: It doesn't raise taxes on "job-creators" by $600 billion, unless you consider everyone who makes over $350,000 a year a "job-creator".

REALITY: $500 billion in projected increases are cut, meaning that nothing is really being cut, it's just not being increased. What is being increased is an additional $240 billion in payments to doctors.  The CBO says that net savings will be around $241 billion.

After listing the precious few bona fide ideas the Republicans have for Health Care Reform, he ends on this note, saying, "These are common-sense reforms we can achieve right away – without destroying jobs, exploding the deficit, rationing care, or taking away the freedom American families cherish."  Doomsday, full steam ahead!

REALITY: This legislation may destroy a job or two, or create a job or two, but it won't explode the deficit, ration care, or take away the freedom American families cherish.  It just won't.

Are Conservatives concerned with reality?  Are Republicans conservative?  If Conservatives are, then Republicans aren't.

PAX 2009 Live Blog

Penny Arcade eXpo is an annual gaming convention in Seattle, WA. It hosts approximately 30,000 people. Any type of game is covered here, video games, tabletop, pen and paper RPGs, board, card, hand held, console, and PC games.

Our PAX Posse includes Luna, Roland, Joci, John, Danielle, and teens Betsy, Tori, Stephan, Meadow, and Judah. Whew!

Roland and I will be liveblogging the event in this post, meaning, check back periodically, as this post will be updated every few hours.

(For anyone waiting for the next Mind Control 101 entry, I'll write it soon. PAX comes first! XD)


10:11am Luna: At PAX. Glad we pre-reged early. All badges are of course sold out. I wonder where they will have PAX next year, since the Washington State Convention Center is the largest venue in Seattle (to my knowledge).

Now standing in line for swag bag and lanyard. This line is far, far the longest line I've seen at a con. Guessing twice as long as the Adam Savage line at Defcon.

[caption id="attachment_380" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="See how this line wraps over and under itself"]See how this line wraps over and under itself[/caption]

10:27am Roland: This line is more awesomely long than any con line I've ever been in, and everyone is already registered!

11:02am Luna: OMG the exhibit hall has spilled out into what last year was the LAN room. Swag bag came with full copy of LOTR: Mines of Moria. We were all playing LOTR plain last year. We could start again, and rope the kids into it. Make them our own personal gold farming slaves.

Bag also holds a mouse pad, t-shirt, buttons, stickers. Program guide looks like a retro NES game manual. Awesome job, PAX swag committee!

11:40 Luna: spotted a Reverse-Scalper at the entrance. The poor guy is offering $100 for a three day pass. Planning to sew the kids' badges to their clothing so they don't lose and/or get pwned out of them.

1:46pm Luna: Sitting at the AION panel. I hadn't really heard of this MMORPG until now. Looks maybe cool. Most of the audience is in closed beta and they apparently love it.

1:54pm Luna: iPhone users, be sure to check out the PAX iPhone app to check schedules, events, and other information. (Assuming AT&T lets us have any bandwidth.)

Do not Access this from the Apple Store. It awesomely installs from the web. So browse to this link in Safari:

Oh, and Gmail is down again. Weird.

5:37pm Luna: John says he's disappointed with the racial ratios in the Pax crowds. Mostly white and Asian.

I was greatly disappointed with the booth babe at Atari's booth. Nothing against her, just against Atari for putting a paid model who seems to have zero interest in games, standing scantily clad with the sole purpose of attracting male gamers. Just like EA at Comicon, you guys have no understanding of the changing gamer demographic - not only are there more women gamers, bur more if the guys want smart gamer girlfriends, not just pretty naked bodies.

Speaking of girls, there seemed to be fewer women this year. That could have something to do with the time of day. My jury is still out till tomorrow.

I didn't have time to finish the walk of the expo hall. But here are the games I'm excited about:

Lego Rock Band
Beetles Rick Band
Elemental: War of Magic
Tales of Monkey Island

I had a great time at the Stardock / Impulse booth. We are constant fans of that company. Their Gamer's Bill of Rights was a long time coming. I love a company who believes at it's roots their customers should be treated with respect, not suspected as thieves.

Stardock staff recommended a game I plan to check out: Kitten Sanctuary

6:28pm Luna: Watching in fascination as the nVidia numbers game unfolds. Saw this happen two years ago. The game works this way: nvidia booth hands you a button. Your button has a number and presumably, someone else has another button with the same number. Find your match. Then you can spin a wheel or something, and the grand prize everyday is some snazzy top of the line expensive graphics gear.

At this stage, we're watching the beginnings if self-organization. Some people are content to labor away, walking around and manually looking at buttons. But already, people have scrawled their numbers in 5" on lined paper and ink pen. Hashtag #nvidia and your number on Twitter so others can search you.

It should be interesting to see if the final stages of this look anything like two years ago.

7:52pm Luna: Watched the Bioshock 2 preview.  Wow.  Leave it to Bioshock to force me into upgrading my video card again.  Now I'm more motivated to win one. ;)

It doesn't just look like another version of Bioshock with new graphic overlays over the same old gameplay.  For one thing, it seems a little more like a zombie game.  Since you're playing a Big Daddy, not much can hurt you, so you generally get ganged up upon.  You're trying to protect a Little Sister, so I sincerely hope the game doesn't end up being the world's longest escort quest (I hate escort quests!)

Storyline is still immersive.  Big Sisters are fucking scary.  Graphics?  Well, let's say it's impressive when the ocean floods into the room, water beads up on camera, and then you're walking around with floating chairs and murky ocean goo floating around you.

Yeah, I see a new GPU in my future.

[caption id="attachment_383" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Gameboy Music"]Gameboy Music[/caption]

Earlier, we walked past the Gameboy Music people outside.  They are much, much better this year.  Not only is the novelty of the instrument cool, they're actually starting to sound good.  I stayed to listen just because I actually liked the sound.

In the Console Freeplay room on floor 5, you can play with a Microsoft Surface. I'm always excited about these paradigm-blowing new technologies.

Surface of course is a table a few feet across.  4-6 people can sit comfortably around it.  It has a touch-sensitive screen.  Actually, I learned it's technically a camera, and touch sensitivity is approximated. You drag elements around on the screen.  So if there are dots or icons flying around, you can touch to add new dots, drag them places, etc.

There is also a chip system, where coded chips can be placed on the screen.  They have various functions -- like gravity, springs, solid objects, and so on.  So if you have dots flowing across the screen, and place down a gravity chip, it can attract or repulse the dots.  My intuitive impulse was to twist the chip, and I quickly learned twisting one way created a stronger and stronger repulse reaction.  Counterclockwise twists created stronger and stronger incoming gravity.

Another application showed you a little better how the camera was working.  I could lay my arm across it, and it "saw" my arm down to the last eyelet on my fancy sleeves, in a sort of black-and-white "negative".

There is also an identity card.  You lay it on the surface, and it recognizes you.  This can be used in a variety of applications.  For instance, in gaming, it tracks your score, movements, etc. When you leave for a break, you take your ID with you, so no one can cheat. :)

Another app uses your ID to show Twitter and Facebook details of the people sitting at the table.  Twitter messages can be moved around, sorted, etc.

Surface seems to bring social back to computing.  This should be a strange interface when used with Natal. That will bring not only facial recognition for the purpose of identification of multiple users of the same surface at the same time, but also emotion and body movement recognition.

This plus some of the augmented reality apps, like are being developed for iPhones now, make me very excited to see what the near-future holds in terms of computer interfaces and how they will change the way we think.

Surfaces are currently being marketed for commercial use only, as each one costs about $12,500.  However, the Microsoft rep said Windows 7 was build with touch interfaces in mind, so we'll soon start seeing these types of interfaces in the form of laptops, tablets, and monitors.

9:00pm Luna: Merchants of Deva are doing an alcohol-infused fund raiser for Child's Play, tomorrow evening 5pm-9pm at The Baltic Room on 1207 Pine. for more info.