Stupid Sayings

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

This one’s annoyed me for a long time. It’s demonstrably untrue at every level.

Physically? If I cut off your arms and legs, by what measure are you stronger physically?

Mentally? Victims of mental torture techniques are not known for their stability.

Spiritually? Even here, if you take as the measure of spiritual strength as an ability to maintain an honest, forthright position, spirtiual “damage” in the form of (say) corruption only makes further corruption easier.

Now, what various forms of abuse can reveal–reveal not create–is an awareness of exactly what one can endure. In these comfortable times, we’re not often pushed to anything close to our limits.

But the actual ability was always there. (We could argue the extent to which awareness equals ability but that’s for another time.)

Treadmill Reboot

Well, the Sole S77 arrived on Tuesday.

After the initial vicissitudes from the previous delivery, the parts in this shipment came in a Food Lion bag, sans a few crucial pieces.

WTF?

I got all the screws, though the manual suggests there should be more of one type there’s no place to put the extra ones it suggests are needed. So I think that’s a typo.

However, no Allen wrenches. No lube. And as Orlando Jones would helpfully remind us: “There’s always time for lubricant.” I thought there was supposed to be a heart monitor but I’m not sure that that’s the case. One of the arm fittings (they cover the wires from the console to the arm) was a real challenge to put on, and the other seems just grossly mismatched.

The Flower and I put it together, though, which was fun.

I called the Sole and the woman was genuinely horrified at the situation, though she wasn’t able to send out a new kit. I’m supposed to be contacted by tech support before the end of the week.

This seems less than optimal. But I’m hanging tight–and I’m using the machine as it is, because I’m not going very fast.

I thought initially it was mashed up at LAX–the box was fairly trashed (again!)–and I thought maybe they had inspected at the airport (I guess it wouldn’t have to be LAX) and not bothered to put it back right.

Now I’m thinking this was a return product and it got returned and then shipped out to me without being inspected.

That aside, the machine itself is quite impressive, compared to the one I’ve been using. (Similar model here.) Granted, that one was half the cost of mine new, and I bought mine off Craig’s List for $50. So, no complaints against the old ProForm, and I understand the new ones are better.

However! The Sole S77 is a good example of getting what you pay for (relative to the cheaper Proform).

  • It’s really quiet. You can’t hear the motor at all. Just the sound of the belt as it moves around, and sometimes not even that. (I haven’t figured out what the magic is that makes it quiet.)
  • It’s smooth. You set the speed and it transitions smoothly from whereever you are to where you want to be.
  • It’s safe. The Proform had some plastic pieces at the end that I could get my feet under if I pulled a George Jetson. This may have been a factor of it being a fold-up (the S77 isn’t) or of sloppy construction or just of being used, though.

Although it’s not a big issue for me, the S77 is defnitely fancier. The console has a music widget that I’ll never use, and some built-in fans that are somewhat useful. Even though I have no heart monitor, you can grap these little motorcycle-like handles on the console to take your pulse, which is kind of cool.

Sort of amusingly, the Proform had a speed problem: It was highly uneven at low speeds. (Maybe at high speeds, too, but I didn’t use it at high speeds.) I adjusted to this unconsciously; it never bothered me. The new one is so much smoother I can use it at higher speeds easily. But–this is the sort of funny part–I may develop a program to alter the speeds randomly. My theory is that the speed change is probably good for the brain, though I’m extrapolating from this and other experiments.

The only thing I overlooked–a hazard of exclusively shopping online–is that there are buttons on the arms (for speed and elevation). The desk would smoosh those buttons, though they’re well protected and it might not matter. Rather than risk it, I took some styrofoam and carved it to fit over the arm, without touching the buttons.

I was thinking about doing something more elaborate but so far I’m happy with what I have.

Apart from tht, it still remains to be seen about how Sole responds to the issues, but this is a really fine machine for the purpose, at least on the surface.

Anyway, tomorrow I should be able to do a full day of walking and working. I’m thinking of resetting my counter to Day 1, since it’s the first day I’ll be able to do the full monty.

Olympic Fevah

It’s pretty bad around here. Staying up all hours and getting emotionally invested in the games.

Yeah, they’re rigged. They always are, one way or another, and the competitors know it. That makes it all the more intense. You have to be that much better than the judge’s bias.

I’m less sanguine about the tendency to whitewash the totalitarian horror that is Communist China, but really, I’m don’t see how harping on it would’ve been better. China shouldn’t have gotten the Olympics in the first place, if that was going to be an issue.

And it’s hard for me to have any antipathy for the Chinese people, just as I can’t help but find Russians lovable whatever crappy thing their government does.

I do know that I could look at this smile all day:

Gaming: Computer vs. Pen and Paper

This was a response to a guy (named “ghy”) over at Ace who said he didn’t get the whole pen-and-paper gaming concept; that computers could handle the rules more fairly and competently, so why aren’t all the P&P types giving up their buggy whips for the wonders of the modern age?

I’ve played both from about the inception (of both). Not only that, I’ve written more than a few CRPGs. And even though I don’t do much of either these days, and it’s a way bigger deal to get a group together for a real game of D&D, and there’s a huge social aspect to MMOs, there’s really no comparing the two experiences.

That’s not to say that there couldn’t be a remote form of D&D, like Neverwinter Nights tries, and the new 4E D&D’s helper program could facilitate. They’re both sort of approaching the same idea in different directions. Still, CRPGs are just shallow distillations of mechanics (and I say that as one who has played and loved both “Nethack” and “Planescape: Torment”).

As a guy who was a DM (almost exclusively, in fact), I can say that when I write a scenario, I might think of several different ways for the players to handle it, and only hit about 50% of the time the way they do handle it.

I sort of hate the new rules (4ed) precisely because they seek to reduce everything to a computer game.

CRPGs are generally combat-oriented. Go someplace and kill something. Even the most number crunching combat-oriented D&D games are more than that, with a good DM.

A good DM doesn’t do “level grind”. Good CRPGs–actually, many computer games–live off the level grind. That’s their feedback mechanism. RPGs can provide for feedback that’s far less mechanical. When I was introducing The Boy to D&D, he and his pals came across a city of ratmen, where he became a heroic figure. (Later, the party ended up undoing the magic that allowed the city to exist, and he was devestated.)

DMing is part performance art, as well: I once had a game where the characters started in the typical tavern, and never left. It wasn’t part of my plan. I had planned for them to sally forth and, you know, do stuff but they were completely convinced that there was intrigue going on between them.

I wasn’t completely innocent here. The rules said that there was a 5% chance of a particular action causing a demon to be summoned, and as they were teen boys, there was always some smartass who thought it would be funny to tempt fate. I rolled, hit the 15%, and so sent a demon to torment them.

But unlike some hacks who would have it appear and attack–something I knew would just result in its death, and I always liked to play monsters with the idea that they wanted to survive, too!–I had it arrive invisibly. And then throw a gem on to the table where they were all sitting.

The resultant paranoia was consuming. But entertaining for all

So, I rolled with it, and re-used the scenario the next time we got together.

Good DMs don’t let the game get boring any more than a musician lets his set get boring.

Although I don’t play much any more, I wouldn’t trade the past experience for the world. Being a DM helped me think about how the world works. Playing CRPGs, on the other hand, makes me think about how the game works. That’s fun, but it’s not at all the same.

Weekend Update

I did treadmill over the weekend, but I’m hampered by the stopping of the treadmill.

The new one comes tomorrow, allegedly.

Meanwhile, it’s pretty much all Olympics all the time. Everyone’s staying up late and looks like they’ve been beaten with a stick all day, but there are only a few more days to go.

Kelly@LoadedQuestions and I once postulated forming a luge team. (Lying down: how hard can it be?) She likes to point out that there’s no luging at the summer Olympics, but I say that’s the best way to medal.

I’ll post a review of Mirrors later (The Boy sez “it’s great!”) and try to finish my combat system post, too.

My Stance On Reckless Driving

Speaking of bad advertising, I passed a billboard by the perennial Ad Council, with a sort of ‘50s-by-way-of-the-’80s man grinning at you saying

I WANT YOU TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST RECKLESS DRIVING!

I’m boggled by the sequence of events that had to occur in order for this billboard to come into being.

  • First, reckless driving had to become en vogue enough to attract someone’s attention. This is possibly the most phenomenal part in the series of events. Seriously, given the dangers of reckless driving, one has to wonder how it could ever get to be very popular.
  • Second, someone had to say, “I must do something about this!” That’s not so hard to find, especially among branches of the government that constantly cast about for things to do something about.
  • Third, someone had to decide that the problem was, the driver of reckless driving, as it were, was popular acceptance. That is, the reason people drive like maniacs and risk their lives is because of peer pressure. That’s kind of an astounding conclusion to come to, when you think of it.
  • Fourth, someone then had to decide this could be handled by putting up a billboard.

Anyway, I guess I should do as the sign says. So, let me say that I think, with some caveats, that reckless driving is bad. You really shouldn’t do it. Being all nuance-minded, I have to say that if you’re a NASCAR driver or in a monster truck rally, you probably need to drive recklessly.

And, frankly, if you want to drive recklessly somewhere away from public roads, I think that’s pretty much your right.

I hope this doesn’t reduce the power of my denunciation.

So, yeah, I expect those reckless driving rates to start dropping shortly.

Bad Commercial Alert

Let California Ring has a stupid, stupid commercial on. You can see it at their website.

If you don’t know what it’s about, you wouldn’t know what it’s about, which I think is probably the hallmark of bad advertising.

Basically, it’s a bride trying to get to the altar, and things are in her way. Mostly, it’s the sort of coincidental vicissitudes that happen to us all–stuff in the road, clingy children, etc.–although at the end, some old lady swings her cane out and trips the poor dear. The groom rushes to help her up but his groosmen hold him back. The bride sits there in the aisle, looking forlorn.

Figured out what it’s for? How about if I tell you the stinger?

What if you couldn’t marry the person you loved?

Got it now?

Personally, I married for tax reasons. I didn’t really think much of it at the time. And despite many warnings to contrary, it changed nothing on a personal level. (I think because most couples who are living together are hedging, whereas we were just too busy to do the paperwork until it became a serious tax liability. The previous year it had been a huge tax benefit not to be married!)

Of course, at this point, I’m pretty much barred from marrying the person I love, what with the bigamy laws. So I guess I should relate?

But back to the commercial. LCR proclaims that it puts the viewer in the shoes of gays and lesbians who want to marry.

I was more sympathetic before I saw the commercial. No, not really, it’s just a poor analogy. It trivializes the issue. My mom faced far worse when she remarried and catered her own reception.

I’ve detailed my position here, and maybe this commercial will work in their favor. I found it off-putting.

How Do You Feel About Woody Allen?

Quoting myself from Althouse, where she lauds the new Allen movie Kathy Alameda Catalonia or whatever it’s called.

Allen movies are disturbing.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re the early comedies or the Manhattan-based dramas or this latest more generic seeming stuff. They all disturb.

They disturb in the way Glen and Glenda disturbs, though obviously with a lot more technical skill.

We’re living in a man’s neuroses for two hours. He’s proficient enough to costume them, somewhat, but they get under your skin.

I’ve been told people are more likely to have nightmares after seeing one of his movies than they are after seeing a horror movie. I don’t know if that’s true but it wouldn’t surprise me.

But, hey, that’s just my opinion (and it well predates the whole Soon Yi thing). You go ahead and enjoy the guy.

I’m not actually sold on the creepiness of the Soon Yi thing. I mean, it sure seems creepy. But it’s probably a good word of warning to women not to bring men into their lives if they have daughters who might be competition.

Is that horrible to say? Probably. I think it’s also probably true.

The other message, though, is probably about not marrying narcissists.

(This is the kind of thing that gets me into trouble over there.)