Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wanted

One outfielder
A couple of pitchers
soulmate

Outfielder should possess an above average glove and a good bat. Not "Albert Belle, the year he had 100 extra base hits" good. More Luis Gonzales esque - we're reasonable. Outfilder should not be a highmaintence guy in the club house. Outfielder should possess some competitive fire and think that October Baseball is "really important". Cool nickname an added bonus.

Releivers are required to submit to strenuous psycological testing before any contract is finalized. Posteason experience, and preferrably success, a major bonus. Spot starters are also welcome to apply, and long term work may be available pending further tests on John Thompson. Relievers should under no circumstances endorse walks, especially leadoff walks. Long "lettuce" is a downer, but organization willing to compromise. Any outspoken commentary that is remotely political is forwned on by the organization.

Soulmate need not meet any specs save being female. 5'9", somewhat slender but definately curvey with at least C cups, good sense of humor, and empathy for things considered "geeky" is a major bonus. Outgoing and "adventurous" personality is ideal. Jello allergy is a deal breaker.

Baseball players should contact John Scheurholtz. Ladies should email me ASAP, with pictures and proof of identity.

Unfortunately, injuries are not something we can withstand well right now. Whether or not Kyle Davies can pitch well up here remains to be seen. He's clearly part of the club's future, but how much so? Schuerholtz and company have always shown a willingness to part with prospects, and it often seems to indicate in highsight that the club had doubts about a player. Needing 3 players is a problem, and that doesn't speak to possilby needing a new starter.

Sadly, the Braves prospects right now are far superior to my own.

Addendum: oy vey. Two to three months for John Thompson? This is not good. If Davies can't perform well in his first few starts, the club may be forced to seek a starter. That will complicate other deals considerably. I really hope we don't panic and give away guys like Chuck James.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pre-pre-pre season polls

Various publications have been releasing pre-season, or preliminary pre-season, or post-post season, or post-season preliminary pre-season rankings for some time now. College football fan - the type that is likely to be on the internet often in any case - is probably either howling with delight or gnashing is teeth because of where his team was. Once again, there's a model here:

1. Legal corporate entity is a rational acting, utility maximizing entity.
2. Legal corporate entity publishes something for a living.
3. Legal corporate entity decides to act on #1. Or, decides to follow along after someone who already did that.
4. Wait for it. . . legal corporate entity publishes rankings to generate buzz.

Why do college football fans fixate on this stuff? Take your typical pre-season rankings. They'll start appearing from the smaller publications as soon as they rush those football previews out the door. Bigger publications like SI, and actual polls like the USA today Coaches Assistant Votes poll, wait until right before the season.

Maybe you were unaware, but there isn't some set guideline for how to do preseason rankings. Everyone doing them is not following some form, e.g. "I'm going to rank the teams on how good I think they are. . .right now". Sometimes people are projecting the order of finish (and that's ultimately what the polls become as the season goes on). Isn't it a bit silly to care about these things? Pre-season polls from the most knowledgeable sources are at best educated guesses, with heavy emphasis on the latter. Does Georgia's ranking (#14 in a recent poll) amount to squat? Not really.

It's true that in the polls factoring into the BCS, preseason ranking can matter. However, there are a number of recent examples of teams finishing in the top 5 that didn't start in the top 10, and a couple of teens winning national titles. The rest are just there to draw attention to the publication in question. They are often written by people who are passionate about college football, yes. And sometimes written by people who have interesting things to say about college football. They amount to squat, in the grand scheme of things. Getting upset about your team's ranking is absurd.

Unfortunately, people just talking about them is what continues to get them published. Or to get those even more absurd polls like "post-string practice rankings" published (find me one team in the United States that didn't have solid if not glowing spring practice press. Just one - I'll qualify it by saying it has to be a D1 team). I like college football discussion as much as the next guy, but there are limits. Unfortunately, I do not appear to be in the majority here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

OMFG! teh physics!

I hate where the electronic gaming industry is going. Game costs are skyrocketing and in particular PC games are having a harder time getting shelf space, as sales are dropping. There's plenty of people who write eloquently on what is wrong with the industry (see: Greg Costikyan; Where have you gone Joel Mathis?), and they do it much better than I ever could. I feel compelled to comment on this one, though.

Yes, coming soon to your computers is a chip dedicated to doing math calculations for 3d engines. Specifically, it will handle all calculations related to objects bumping into each other. And moving around (or flying around, for those objects that we blow up with rocket launchers).

Here is a choice quote from the article:

According to Ageia, a physics chip can take the predictability out of video games and provide life-like interactions of even small particles. For example, if players of a first-person-shooter fire against a wall, there is little happening today. The PhysX chip however can simulate thousands of interacting fragments, which could create the illusion of disintegrating walls, such as a blown-up wall. Other examples include fluid dynamics with up 40,000 to 50,000 simulated particles per screen, gelatinous characters, windswept hair, loose flowing clothing, finite element analysis (that for example allows realistic display of damage in car racing games).

Gee, someone shove me into a pool because I am getting hot. For all .5 of my readers who don't know me well enough, that previous post was bought to you with Sarcasm(tm). What the hell good is realism anyway?

Well, sometimes it's really important. Ask any flight sim veteran. Or someone playing Madden 2005 looking for a "realistic football experience". However, even in cases such as madden there are a *number* of sacrifices made when going from concept to the playable game. Perhaps you haven't tried madden lately, but it really isn't terribly realistic. It's pretty fun though - and it does a decent job of capturing many of the nuances of the sport. Really, realism is often the enemy of a game. When I play a CRPG, I don't want to have to feed my party all the time. Or make sure they stay regular. Or make sure they stay clean. Best to just assume they're responsible adults who can do all of those things without any hitches. I'd prefer to focus on the hero-ly things they do. Like killing orcs and liberating treasure.

Realism can enhnace a game, but that's all graphics & physics can ever do. Unfortunately, the industry is driven more by the skin deep components of games, like the graphics. Thanks in no small part to the massess who want these products (may you all suffer the pox of 1000 goats). Occasionally the physics component can take on added importance (see those afformentioned flight sims), and that's fine. Sometimes we wind up with a nifty little product that takes something like physics and makes it a core element of gameplay (google Bridge builder if you don't beleive me).

But 30,000 miniscule shards flying off of a concreit wall I just filled full of lead is the type of thing that really doesn't matter. Destructable terrain can be a big deal (see X-com: UFO Defense; one of the best games ever made and done without a physics chip or 3d graphics), and lots of fun. However, it seems to me that if this physics chip catches on it may well have developers spending more time on having their engines do wild and wackhy things, and less time on actually making fun games. That doesn't help anyone.

I think the chip has a good chance to land on the trasheap of "I've got a fantastic idea for a peripheral!" throwaways (which actually exists right next to a landfill containing nothing but Atari 2600 ET cartridges. . .). The article gives you some commentary from the graphics card makers. You have to take everything in an article like this with a grain of salt, but they're right. Graphics cards can do all kinds of stuff and they continue to get more powerful. And you can get a super powerful graphics card for the price of the physics chip (and said chip cannot push polygons or render objects at all). Also, the processing world may be in for some change. Some people thing dual processing systems are the future (you can more cheaply build a dual processor system with 2 2GHz p4s than one uber 3.whatever P4, and you'll need far less power/produce far less heat running it). Processors with multiple "cores" might become common place as well.

Despite the fact that the developer of an AAA title (Big Huge Games, and the solid Rise of Nations) promises to support the chip with it's next release (Rise of Legends - a sequel of sorts to RoN), I think the odds are against this chip catching on.

We're going to town today. . .

Message boards - the 21st century's bazaars (to paraphrase from another message board denizen). They're often not for the faint of heart. And unfortunately, they're all to often populated by bozos. Like the ugasports.com board, for example. Nothing personal to anyone there (not that they'll ever read this. . .), but who cares if Matthew Stafford is just a top 10 quaterback?

Yes, the latest controversy threatening to tear the board's social fabric asunder is because Stafford, mentioned by many services as a top 3 or better guy, was called a top 10 guy by the rivals main site after he signed with Georgia. SO FREAKING WHAT? Does the Rivals raiting somehow diminish his skillset? Is his talent ceiling lowered because some fat guy who never played sports and does nothing but watch highschool game film, someone who I should point out is hardly an expert, decided to use an inexact ranking system to put 6 other guys ahead of Stafford? Or was the statement just made somewhat generally - as in "he's definately one of the top 10 QBs in the nation; we're not ready to finalize the top few".

That's the thing, most of the people on the board didn't appear to bother to research the context of the quote. This is just a reflection of human nature - too often we get caught up in the sensationalistic. And guess what? Any declaration about Staffard is going to be sensational. Rivals makes money by getting people to pay for their services - information & articles about top prospects. I'm not saying Rivals will just rearrange rankins based on sales projections. What I am saying is that generally speaking, they're going to make every article sensational where possible.

I like the people who wortk for UGA sports.com; they remind me of the Braves announcers (though I think poor Skip is really losing it). The Braves announcers usually have nothing but glowing praise for the other team and other managers. It's annoying at times - they sometimes overlook obvious faults, but you're going to get a somewhat balanced game presentation for them - and they're hometown announcers. I've had minor experience with other team's rivals sites, but what little I had I didn't care for. Warchant made every player seem like they had shrines to FSU set up in their back yards. The UGAsports articles are rarely like that. I'm sure they aren't the only "local" guys doiung a good job, but they're the only ones I see in action often.

The board residents? They fret about the things that all college football fans fret about. And it gets distorted somewhat in this medium. I love reading posts during game weeks. Someone invariably posts the "I'm worried, we're overlooking team X!" thread that gets 70zillion replies. Hey, maybe that person is on to something. Maybe the fans, who have absolutely no control over the game whatsoever, taking the other team lightly is going to cause the hometown boys to lose. And maybe I'm Mary queen of Scotts.

So really, guys, stop worrying about what Matthew Stafford's ranking is. By all accounts, Georgia just signed a helluva prospect, one that is sure to garner some national attention for the school.

The internet is the end all be all of civilization

I say it because it is true. Unfortunately, the internet is used by the human race, which is %98 comprised of people who shouldn't be allowed to breed. Ever.

The net really is the bee's knees, though. You have more information at your finger tips than every scientist who ever lived up until DARPAnet sprang into being. Even better, it isn't all just the written word. There are other people out there, people like me, representing a "living knowledge base". You simply can't beat it. Unfortunately, the internet is bound by the same laws of the universe that we all are. It cannot spontaneously generate matter (sorry Star Trek fans, it ain't happening. Ever), for example. And it's bound by the single most important law in the history of laws - the Pareto rule. Or the 80/20 rule, as it's frequently known.

To put it in a context I care about: 80% of my effort on a project is spent on 20% of the code I write. Another way to say it would be: 80% of everything is crap. The internet too is bound by this rule, and 80 percent of the internet is crap. Message boards filled with people who forget how to reason, idiots with no social skills pretending to be something they aren't, and sites dedicated to hentai (do not google this if you are squeamish).

The other 20% though. . .glorious. More Porn than you can shake a prosthetic wang at. More facts about your favorite subject that you can shake a stick at (like baseball? Check out the baseball prospectus. Need help with a video game? Try gamefaqs. Curious about evolution - talkorigins.org). For me, though, you really can't beat that living knowledge base.

The problem is getting to it. It's an awful lot you have to wade through, sometimes, to get to that heavenly 20% slice. There's something else about the internet - it tends to warp space time. People's perceptions sometimes go awry, in this place.