17 December 2014 @ 09:25 pm
Elite: Dangerous is finally out officially. I've been playing the gamma version for a while and loving every minute of it. Well, except for those minutes where my ship got blown up. If you like space simulation, flight simulation, combat, trading etc., this is the game for you. Be warned, though, it's not easy. Expect to spend a while just learning how to fly your ship, take off, and dock without crashing into things. Then people will start shooting at you ;-) I've been playing for a couple of weeks and I'm still getting the hang of it, doing short cargo hauls and simple missions (usually botched), and running away from fights. (Tip: when "interdicted" - i.e., yanked out of hyperdrive - head for the blue circle labelled "Exit vector"). I did get my first kill a couple of days ago, though, which made me inordinately proud. I reckon it was a real player, as any AI would have iced me.

If anyone wants to meet up in-game, drop me a message.
14 December 2014 @ 11:39 am
I'm sceptical of "students these days can't do X" comments because it usually turns out that either we couldn't do X that well either, or that X is a skill that died out because it really isn't that useful these days, like card indexing or using a microfiche reader. On the other hand, I just caught myself wondering if students' observational skills had atrophied. After writing "The citation needs to come after the quotation marks and before the full stop" it occurred to me that really I shouldn't have to write that because the students in question must have seen hundreds of parenthetical citations. Why on earth did he decide that the citation should come inside the quotation? Then there are the times that I have to painstakingly explain blockquotes or hanging indents, things which should need no explanation because almost every text they read has them. It's like there's a disjunct between reading and writing.
13 December 2014 @ 02:14 pm
Happy birthday bram!
09 December 2014 @ 09:07 am
BBC: "the officer whose chokehold contributed to a man's death." Contributed? Like he had a terminal disease and being choked just made it a bit worse.
07 December 2014 @ 09:17 am

  1. It's as addictive as the original.

  2. There isn't so much a learning curve as a learning cliff. You'll need to keep trawling the forums and wikis just to work out how to get through the tutorials.

  3. Docking is much easier than the original game. Those who played the original will probably be able to dock successfully the first time; others may have to crash a few times first.

  4. Nothing else is easy.

  5. The police shoot first and ask questions ... well no, it doesn't get to the asking questions stage. Think American cops in a world where everyone is a black teenager. I've been shot at for loitering. Tip: pay your fines before they turn into bounties.

  6. So far, I have not found a way to start with a clean slate. Even if the cops blow you out of the sky, your fines will be reborn with you.

  7. The good side of everything being difficult is that you feel an amazing sense of satisfaction whenever you achieve even the smallest thing.

  8. The game has a wicked sense of humour. I took on a humanitarian mission to provide food for the starving people of Aiabike only to find what I was required to find, buy and donate was tea - one of the pricier luxury goods in that part of the galaxy.

  9. Apparently there are 4.5 billion stars systems in the game. So far I've managed to visit five of them.

  10. I haven't tried group play yet. If anyone wants to join me, I'm Commander Bold Sir Robin.

02 December 2014 @ 08:50 pm
Police hug"Liking this picture as a definitive image of America’s race crisis is the equivalent of locking yourself in and turning up the volume to weep at Frozen while the streets are burning outside. Which is exactly what white Americans apparently want to do. Truth is a flimsy thing. It can be destroyed by a hug." So writes Jonathan Jones in The Guardian.

Well, yeah, except if the streets were burning, I might think locking the doors and watching Frozen would be a pretty good choice too. And yeah, I'd rather see a photograph of a white policeman hugging a black teenager than one of him smashing someone's skull with a baton, not because I somehow think this is typical but because it's so refreshingly atypical. Hell, these days we should be giving cops promotions simply for not shooting people. "Officer Barbrady, did you shoot any black kids this week?" "Uuuh, I don't think so." "Congratulations, you'll make detective before the year's out."

And now the other side will rush in saying that actually very few police officers shoot anyone, let alone unarmed kids. Indeed, police shootings are not typical, yet they are news. And police hugs are not typical, yet they are still news. So probably you are not lying if you share this photo.
28 November 2014 @ 05:03 pm
(Originally posted as a response to a post in RmspacedashRfspaceslash)

Something I find interesting is what Marx got wrong ... more-or-less. Marx's theory of the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism rests on two concepts: surplus value and immiseration. Surplus value is the difference between the value of work and what the worker actually gets paid. You can argue with the details of the labour theory of value, but it's a no-brainer that you don't want pay workers the full value of their labour because if you did, there'd be no profit. As technology improves, the value goes up, but, Marx claimed, capitalists would do everything they could to keep wages at subsistence level, so surplus value increases. This process is immiseration. Marx argued that immiseration increases to the point where (a) workers get sufficiently pissed off to revolt and (b) even if they weren't, capitalism would still go into crisis because there aren't enough people with enough spending power to buy the goods that are produced.

This didn't happen for a number of reasons, three of which are:
  1. Basic goods became absurdly cheap compared with the past, so workers enjoyed better life conditions even without a rise in wages.
  2. Governments intervened with things like progressive taxation and minimum wages.
  3. Trade unions forced companies to increase wages.
(I'm ignoring the international dimension here just to keep things simple.)
These came together in the twentieth century to create a large, prosperous and politically powerful middle class, and a working class that could at least get by. Capitalism survived by inoculating itself with a little socialism. It didn't just work, it worked better than anyone could have imagined. In 1850, a typical British industrial worker made enough money to keep himself in bread and gin. In 1910, he could take his family to the seaside for a weekend. In 1970 he could take them to Spain for a week. Marx was proved conclusively wrong, the end of history happened, and in the 21st century we have achieved the dreamed-of workers' paradise ... not.

What now seems to be happening in America (and other post-industrial countries to a lesser degree) is that government intervention is regarded with horror, and the unions are toothless, so the only thing that is keeping capitalism from collapse is factor #1: technological change happening quickly enough to soften immiseration. This is a dangerous strategy, because even if electronic toys continue to get cheaper, the price of food rarely falls much. All the circuses in the world aren't enough if you can't provide the bread.
28 November 2014 @ 10:54 am
The main reason given by Christians for dumping on the Jews is that the Jews rejected Christ. Didn't it occur to anyone that these people had a long history of God doing nasty things to them whenever they followed false prophets, worshipped false gods, or just were a bit lax in their religious observations? Someone coming along and saying "I'm the son of God, and I bring you a new covenant" is bound to ring alarm bells.
25 November 2014 @ 02:59 pm
In the war between diet and chocolate, a giant box of chocolates brought by some your favourite students is a killer move. I've nearly finished the top layer already.
16 November 2014 @ 06:14 pm
Somewhere, I hope, there is a middle ground between #shirtstorm and #gamergate.