Monday, October 26, 2009

Arguing with a Hardcore PC gamer about Piracy

It is not a mischaracterization to say that conversations with the hardcore PC community about software theft follow these tenets:

- There is no piracy.
- To the extent that piracy exists, which it doesn't, it's your fault.
- If you try to protect your game, we'll steal it as a matter of principle.

-- Tycho, from Penny Arcade.

I wholeheartedly agree with Tycho on this one... I've been there myself :-P

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rheumatology consult... Imuran might not be working

Had my latest Rheumatologist visit last week. In general, mostly bad news. The inflammation markers on my blood are very high, having increased a lot from my previous blood test. In fact, I haven't been feeling well the last few weeks, feeling worse as every week passes. I've been feeling weaker, and what worries me the most, the cough is back, and I don't know what that means for my pulmonary fibrosis. Talking to the doctor, it seems the Imuran is just not working, and he's thinking of other treatments.

However, seeing that Imuran is probably the safest choice in terms of side effects (both the annoying kind and the harmful kind), he wants to give Imuran another chance. He gave me a jolt with high dose IV steroids, hoping that would help Imuran kick in. But I don't think it is working. Since then, I've started coughing a lot more, and I'm just worried. His next options (in order of preference) are:
  1. Mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept).
  2. Rituximab.
  3. IViG.
So, hopefully, one of those will help me. In the meantime, I continue on high dose steroids, which is another problem. And I'm really worried about my lungs. I've already lost about half of my lung functions, so I don't want it to get any worse.

Really looking forward to that next visit, hoping that things will improve.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sometimes when you try to pretend everything's normal... your disease smacks you back into reality

I am trying to learn how to live with this disease, I really am... but some days I just hate my life a little bit. So, I ran out of Imuran. I messaged my doctor last week asking him to place a prescription for me, but he wouldn't reply. I was getting close to the end of the bottle... then I messaged my rheumatologist. He helped, but due to some miscommunication, I thought he hadn't placed the prescription yet, so I tried to use my old prescription (which has 7 refills left).

I've done this before: they just call the other pharmacy and transfer the prescription, and you're good to go. And the great thing is that there's a pharmacy across the street. Man, life is sweet! So I tell my wife to take the car and don't worry about it 'cause I can easily walk across the street. Well then... this morning I take my empty bottle and go across the street. The nice lady at the pharmacy informs me that it'll just take a moment, but I need to fill a form because it's the first time I use the pharmacy. OK, so I go through the form... and after going through that, the pharmacist tells me that I will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon because they don't have the medicine and have to order it. The point of doing this was not skipping a dose, so I think "well, I can walk to the other pharmacy down the street and get it today". So I tell them that I will just get it somewhere else.

Here's where hell started for me. When you have a disease that affects your muscles the problem is that you don't know at what point they will start breaking down. I learned that during the moving a few weeks ago. I really thought I could make this walk. But at some point the pain started to show. My lower legs were getting sore and swollen... I knew this wasn't good as I was starting having difficulty walking. But I was closer to the pharmacy than I was from home, so I thought I might as well make it worth it and get the medicine. Well the next pharmacy didn't have the medicine either... neither did the next :-( And at this point the pain is getting intense...

As I am starting my way back home, I see a sign for a CVS pharmacy on the other side of the street. It was tough as I couldn't cross there, but had to go around to get through the crosswalk, but I got there. Well they did have it... but they couldn't sell it to me. See, the prescription is from my previous doctor in Kansas, and although they could contact the pharmacy, they couldn't get his DEA number which by California's Law they need to sell me the medicine. So all this was for nothing... I think the lady saw the pain in my face, because she gave a daily dose in my old bottle...

And now... I had to get back home. It was very, very painful. The walk back home, of course, seemed twice as long. But I got home. Right now my legs are very sore, I'm limping... barely walking. In the end I walked 8-12 blocks. Now I know I can't do this anymore...

The only good news is that I figured the misunderstanding with my doctor and he placed the prescription at the pharmacy close to home. So I should be fine tomorrow, without a long walk... the problem is I don't know if I can even walk across the street now :-(

Oh well, hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fun with Scribblenauts: Bioterrorist Savior :-P

I got Scribblenauts yesterday, and I'm having a blast with it. It is everything it was hyped to be, and then some. I wanted to post about a particular level I just solved and the interesting outcome.

So, in Scribblnauts there are two types of levels: puzzle levels and action levels. The level in question was a puzzle level. Basically, a scenarion is given to you, with a hint that tells you what you need to do in order to make the 'starite' appear (which is just a star you need to collect to complete the level). In this case, there was a soccer goal, a goalie, and a referee. The hint given was "Score!". Now, the guy protecting the goal was like the best of all time... no matter how you shoot the soccer ball (which you need to summon), he always blocks the shot. It's obvious at this point I have to get rid of this guy. I could summon a gun and shoot him... but you get merit badges for solving puzzles in certain ways, in particular, without killing... so I don't want to kill him.

After some though I decide to summon "Chloroform". As expected, when I use it on the goalie he passes out. But when I shoot he wakes up and blocks the shot! (I think this was probably a glitch in the game, where they forgot to code in that being asleep overrides the behavior of blocking the shot). But I just use the chloroform on him again, and he passes out inside the goal, with ball in his hands... solved!

The funny thing happened in the next screen where you get the summary of how you did, and your merit badges. As I expected, I got the "savior" badge for not killing the goalie... but I also got the "Bioterrorist" badge for using chloroform! :-P It was just really funny how the game tagged me a "Bioterrorist Savior" :-)

These are just the kind of experiences that make this game special. If you own a DS, this is a must have title! :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

All settled in California

Well, after a week or so I can say I am completely settled in California, with loving wife and two beautiful daughters. Last week was all about doctor's visits and lab tests. I had to find a new primary care physician and a new specialist to follow up on my disease. Everything went well and I am very happy with the doctors that will be helping me from now on :-) One interesting thing: the main specialist that followed my case in Kansas was a Neurologist, but now I will be seen by a Rheumatologist :-)

One important thing was getting my monthly lab tests done. My PCP ordered them and, as I feared from the way I have been feeling, the CK levels went significantly up to almost 900... not good at all. My rheumatologist agreed and suggested to increase the dose of Prednisone. So now I am on 20mg of Prednisone daily (instead of every other day). I'll be seeing him again in two weeks, when we'll keep discussing future alternatives...

So, all in all, I'm pretty much settled now. Very happy to be finally reunited with my family. They've been a little put off with my general mood (caused by the medicine), but nothing bad :-) It's funny... the prednisone, among all the side effects, causes an increase in irritability. Which basically means that most of the time, even though I'm not necessarily mad, I might act as if I was, responding aggressively to stimuli. Or, sometimes I just feel like I don't want to talk to anyone, just want to be left alone. When I lived alone, I didn't notice this much (although my closest friends would mention to me all the time that I was all around more aggressive). But now, when I have my family around all the time, I have noticed it myself. So, when I'm conscious that I'm just in a bad mood, I try walk away a little, maybe go for a nap or something, so as not to upset anyone :-)

It's all a process, but I'm just learning to live with this...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Internet Emergency Powers Bill

Why does the president need power to control the Internet in case of emergency?:
Should US unemployment levels continue to rise, the President needs the ability to order the shut down of World of Warcraft, forcing millions of Americans to go out and get fucking jobs.
-- Paul Carr on TechCrunch

Brilliant column from Paul Carr :-)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Shadow Complex

The last few days saw the release of the game Shadow Complex, by developer Chair Entertainment and Epic, and published by Microsoft. I played the demo, and it seemed great to me. In fact, I thought it was awesome. But it is close to Batman Arkham Asylum, which is a game I am getting, so I decided against purchasing Shadow Complex for now (even though it is a considerably cheaper game, costing $15). However, the release of Shadow Complex also saw the spark of a controversy regarding the involvement of writer Orson Scott Card in the development of the game.

The thing is that Orson Card is an activist against gay marriage and gay civil rights. So, a lot of people with a strong view on the subject, obviously opposed to Card's, started calling for a boycott of the game. This of course sparked a reaction for those who like the game. And so you have one side arguing that they don't want to give money to Card, and the other saying that Card's political views have nothing to do with the game, and the developers should not be punished.

I am going to be honest here: I don't have a strong stance in this subject (gay marriage). To put it blunt, I don't really care much. I do think gay civil rights should be respected, just as I think anyone else's civil rights should, but beyond that, I don't have a strong position in the subject. I do, however, have a strong position on the subject of free speech. Which is why I don't think a boycott is a good idea here. See, if you say it is not about punishing the developers, but to make a point agains Orson Card, then you are being a little naïve. I respect your right to do whatever you want, but... you have to accept the full responsibilities for your actions too. Because the truth is, you ARE punishing the developers. The developers here are a casualty of your decision, and this is something you have to consider. In fact, they are probably the only casualty, because say, in a scenario where this boycott actually worked and stifled the game's sales, it would probably affect Orson Card only marginally.... the one taking the hit would be the development house.

The scenario depicted above is what makes me hope that boycott doesn't work, because no matter how I think about it, the world I wake up in the day after this happens is not a pretty one. See, maybe you don't see it, but this is the type of actions people like Orson Card would usually call for. A book comes out that was written by a person who is gay, and the immediate call is 'BOYCOTT!!!'... now imagine if they succeeded... that would be a world in which writers would probably hide their sexual preference from the public just to survive...

The world in which this boycott works is one in which, now, development companies take the hint, and they start screening the people they hire for their political views. But not just Orson Card's views necessarily, but any that would be a 'problem'. This is a discriminating world, where censorship goes rampant. Where maybe you couldn't get a job with a developer because you're gay, or because you were pro-life, or because you were a libertarian... a world where free speech was in danger. Because, see, free speech goes both ways.

I was not going to purchase this game. I think it is a great game, but there are other full retail games coming out that I was going to use the money for. But I am going to buy it now, because I feel I must act on my convictions. Because that world scares the hell out of me, and I don't want to wake up on it. So I am buying this game not because I condone Orson Card's views... I am defending his right, and my right,,, and yours, to say and expose your ideas. To be able to say whatever the hell you want to say.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Creatine Kinase up... moving

So, at this point I'm close to the moving day. Come the 31st I'll be leaving Kansas, and moving to California... boy am I going to miss Kansas! I can't believe it's been 8 years since I got here... but what's more difficult to accept is that I'm leaving.

I am used to moving a lot. I was commenting to a friend that I have never lived in the same place for more than 8 years. And so the cycle starts again. Something tells me that my stay in California will be even shorter, but who knows? maybe this will be it :-) Anyways, as much as I am used to the moving, it is always hard leaving a place. And I really love this town (Manhattan, the Little Apple). I will miss everything. I will miss what is now, and won't be afterwards. I will miss the people. I will miss the weather. I will miss my friends...

All that said... I am also extremely happy! See, about a year from now, my wife and kids moved to California, and I stayed behind. It's been a tough year... being away from my kids is about one of the toughest things I've had to endure. Also, this was the year my health deteriorated. So, I am really happy to re-join my family! :-) Ten more days, and we will all be together, like should have always been...

Aside from all this, today I'm a little bummed. One of the things I had to do for the moving was getting my medical records, for when I get a new doctor over there. These included my latest lab results, which have the latest Creatine Kinase numbers. Well... it was up. Up as in right on the range where it starts being an issue. If you have been following this blog, you may recall that the doctors had me on a tapering down regime for the Prednisone. Well, at this point I'm on 20mg every other day. These results may mean the current low dose is allowing the disease to reappear... but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Right now, I feel OK, so I'll just go from there...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pulmonary Consult

A week ago, before leaving for California, I had my latest pulmonary function consult. I have to go in for a special test where they get me inside this chamber and I have to perform several exercises by blowing into this machine that measures my pulmonary functions, then I get to talk with the doctor about it.

Overall it was good. The test basically gives three sets of numbers that measure three distinct properties of the lungs: volume (the amount of air I can get in my lungs), lung elasticity, and diffusion (the ration of oxygen that passes into the blood stream). The first two improved compared to my last visit, and the doctor said that I am already in the range of what could be considered normal (in the low end of course). The last number, that is, the amount of oxygen that gets in the blood stream, didn't improve much, and is very far from normal. The doctor mentioned that a normal person absorbs 70% of the oxygen in the air taken in one inspiration. I take in only about 40%. He also mentioned I shouldn't expect this to get much better...

Well, at least there were some good things in there :-) That was the last doctor's visit before I move to California. Then I'll have to find new specialist to follow up on everything, but I'll get to be with my family :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Amazon Police

So everybody has heard of the recent recent actions with respect of those allegedly 'pirated' copies of a couple of George Orwell's books on the Kindle. Well, they deleted them remotely. It must be noted that customers actually bought these books through the Amazon store, but apparently there had been a confusion regarding the copyright status of those copies, so Amazon decided to silently delete remotely those books from their customers' Kindle devices and refund them.

There are many things that I see that are wrong with this, and it turns out, Amazon itself agrees with me. What I can't believe is how a few bloggers and news sites I guess, went on to post pieces on how this was all OK, Amazon was in its right to do it, and everybody should shut up about it. In fact, they went as far as suggesting that it was actually commendable, and Amazon had to do it. My favorite argument was that of comparing Amazon with the police... yeah, that's right. The Amazon goes something like if you had something that was stolen, then the natural expected action from the police was to come into your house and snatch it from you. I don't think that, for the intelligent reader, I don't have to go on and explain all the different levels where this argument is horribly wrong, but I'd just like to point out a few things:
  • First off, Amazon is not the police!!! I am sure it is perfectly within Kindle's TOS to do what they did, but to suggest this was some sort of policing action is preposterous! I mean, is that what we want? Private companies policing private citizens?
  • Even in light of the argument above, Police itself doesn't have the right (yet) to come into your house, unannounced, without any court order, just to check whether you have anything stolen... which is pretty much what Amazon is doing.
I don't know about Kindle owners, but if I had one of those things, I'd be pretty uncomfortable knowing that Amazon can come anytime into my device and do whatever they want with the files currently stored there. No, it was not right for Amazon to do that! And they have recognized the bad image all this incident gave them, which is why they apologized and vowed to do it no more. I was very worried that this would set a trend for other companies to think this was OK, with the way technology is advancing, and everything moving to 'the cloud'. As it is, it seems to have set a precedent that this is unacceptable (for now), which makes me feel better.

No, it was not OK for Amazon to delete those files! And NO! Amazon is not the police!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sony... WTF?!

OK, so the Dualshock 3 (Playstation 3's controller) has no need for batteries... it has an internal battery that re-charges when the controller is attached to the PS3 with an USB cable. That is all great... except that the PS3 must be ON in order to charge the controller! Yeah, that's right, I want to know who was the genius at Sony who came up with that. The best part is that the freaking cable is like 2ft long... which makes it really hard to use it while it is recharging... IT'S LIKE THEY DID ON PURPOSE! I keep imagining there's someone at Sony laughing about this!

Why would I want to recharge my controller when the PS3 is on? Really, Sony... come on! Sometimes you guys really make me wonder about how smart you guys really are... because this controller thing is just about the stupidest thing I've seen in a while.

Playstation 3

Last week I got a PS3 as an early Father's Day present. It's a sweet machine. Yet, for all its marvels, I have to say my Xbox 360 is still a better platform. I know now that most multi-platform games that I'd want to play, coming out in the future, I'll get them for the Xbox 360.

Don't get me wrong, I love the thing. I love, of course, the Bluray player. And the built-in Wi-Fi. And the bigger hard drive. One thing I really like is the seeming openness of the system. For example, you can upgrade the hard drive, if you want, with any other hard drive, not necessarily an expensive first-party HDD (as is the case with the Xbox). You can install Linux on it (although this is not something I am planning on doing). You can run Folding@Home from it, which is a good use of all that raw power, when you're not using it. It has many things going for it...

However, as a gamer, one of the biggest thing it is really behind on is the networking aspects. I mean PSN. PSN is nothing compared to Xbox Live. Nothing! All this time before having a PS3, I heard the PS3 fanboys talking about how they got the same things the Xbox users were paying for, for free... well, let me tell you: no, you're not. PSN is years behind Xbox Live. And I think it's going to stay that way for a long time, because Sony has no incentive for improving something that they're giving for free.

One example where PSN can't touch Xbox Live: trophies support. And by the way, trophies are a relatively new thing for the PS3 (and I must say I love the way trophies are done). But the way they are supported on PSN is horrible. Same as friend lists. You can see your trophies online on PSN... but nobody else can. You can't even compare your trophies with your friends'. In fact, you can't do anything with your friends list online. It's kind of dissapointing when you're used to all the benefits of Xbox Live.

Another thing that was annoying was the set-up process. For some reason, for the set-up, the system used a cell-phone-like keyboard, which was a pain to use. Also, menus seemed very counter-intuitive... a lot of times I had a hard time finding things. Now, I am more used to it, and it's better... but it was annoying for a while. Oh, and Playstation Home? Useless. Nothing interesting going on there, except for a few games in the Arcade section. Well, it seems there is some sort of event going on tonight, so I'll check it out...

The Dualshock 3 is an interesting controller. I like the fact that it requires no external batteries, and so it is very light... but I hope that battery isn't dead in a year from now. I have to say that, at least for shooters, the layout on the Xbox 360 controller is much better, but that would be it... for all other games the Dualshock plays just nice, and is a very nice controller indeed.

Something I loved: The Playstation Store! In this case, the Xbox Live Marketplace has much to learn!!! For starters, it is fast! You click on the icon, and in less than a second it loads, and you have all the options displaying quickly. The XBLM on the other hand can be really slow loading lists, or even retrieving information about a particular item. I must say using the Playstation Store was a very refreshing experience. I wish Sony would put the same effort on improving the rest of PSN, which by the way, kept giving me connection errors for a couple of days at the beginning of this week (I haven't had this problem with PSN since then, I should add).

As a gamer, though, aside from all I've said above, in the end, it all comes down to games. As of now, the Xbox has the edge. Right now I'm playing inFAMOUS (great game by the way). This is a PS3 exclusive, which makes me happy to have a PS3. But there aren't many of these, in fact, the Xbox has better exclusives... however, it seems very soon there are going to be a lot more, so I'm looking forward to that (God of War III, Heavy Rain, Agent). Let us hope the games for the PS3 keep flowing, so that my PS3 doesn't end up like my Wii, just sitting there without much use, waiting for some excuse to be released to get some play time.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Bye Email... the Wave is coming

It had been while since I had been blown away by a new technology, and that's just what happened when I saw Google's Wave demo presentation. They've done it again, and that just makes me wonder when is someone going to step up to Google... but that's not the point of this post. The potential for Wave is just enormous. This is a technology that I truly believe can revolutionize the internet as we see it today. When I read comments from Wave developers saying "Wave is email if it was invented today", I smirked thinking "sure, whatever", basically disregarding it as just corporate propaganda. But after I saw the presentation... well, it is, in fact, email if it was invented today, and more.

The reason I think it has the potential to change the internet landscape is not just because it's awesome (and it is awesome!), but because Google has gone on and made the Wave technology an open standard. The way I see it, in a few years time, we won't be using the cumbersome email anymore, but rather something like Wave, which finally makes electronic correspondence the way it should be. But that's not all... the technology has the potential to improve so many aspects of internet social networking, and many other things. For example, blogs. Blogs have become one of the central media for news broadcasting on the internet. If you're like me, you read many blogs, and leave comments every now and then, when there's an item you're interested in. Sometimes the discussion of that items becomes involved so you keep coming back to that thread... maybe you have it set so that you get messages on your email when someone replies to your comments, or you just check the thread every now and then. But this is not the only item you're following, or the only blog you're reading. You know where I'm going with this... very soon, it becomes tedious to follow up with all the items in all the blogs you follow. Technologies like Google Reader help a little (for example, I 'star' items I want to keep an eye on), but only so much. But with something like Wave, now it is much easier to do all this. Imagine you visit a blog (which supports Wave technology) and after reading an item, you leave a comment. Now this could be automatically added as wave in your wave client... automatically! Then later on you can just use your Wave client to take a look at the items you're following, in all the different blogs, and check whether there has been an update to any... anyways the possibilities seem endless.

What can I say? I'm impressed. I can't wait for this technology to come out. Job well done for the folks at Google that came up with this. It's just freaking awesome! :-)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Far Cry 2

I just finished playing Far Cry 2, a First Person Shooter from Ubisoft (one of my favorite game publishers), and I have to say I loved this game. It received decent reviews (a Metacritic score of 85), and yet I have to confess I nearly passed on this one. At first glance, it looked to me as no more than just yet another FPS. Also, user reviews weren't that great either. For example, Gamefly members rating for this game is a mere 6.4.

However, I just kept reading good things about this game here and there on the web. In particular, Mitch Krpata from Insult Swordfighting has had a lot of great things to say about this game, and so I had to see what it was all about. And boy, am I happy that I did. As it turned out, this game has joined my all time favorites list. And yet, if you asked me, it'd be really hard for me to put the finger on what's so great about this game, or why I enjoyed it so much. See, this is an extremely simple game. Very simple premise. Very plain, unsophisticated story. Standard FPS mechanics. Yet, there is some magic about this game that is very hard to describe.

The first thing that I would say is that it is a very liberating game. This is an open world game. You are thrown in an unnamed African country that is in the middle of a civil war, and are tasked to kill the guy (The Jackal) that is fueling the war by supplying weapons to both sides. Very quickly things go bad and you're left on your own, in the middle of these two factions, with only one thought in your mind: to kill The Jackal. And that's it. From there on you're free to play the game at your own pace, taking missions as a mercenary for-hire to get money for weapons and medicine - ah yes, you get sick with malaria. The environment is vast and you can traverse however you prefer: walking, swimming, by car, or by bus (which is the only form of fast-travel in the game). You can complete the missions however you want and, eventually, there is huge collection of equipment and weapons at your disposal. It just feels very empowering to play this game, and for some reason it just doesn't get old.

Another interesting thing for me is that, even though this game's strongest point is not supposed to be it's story, I felt more engaged by the story of this game than I have with many other "story-driven" games in a long time. The reason, I think, is that somehow, what happens in Far Cry 2 feels authentic. I don't know how to explain it, but I think one of the reasons for this is that it never tries to idealize the player character. You're no hero in this game. And no, you're no anti-hero either. You're a double-crossing mercenary who's only looking out for himself and with one thing in mind: to kill the bastard (The Jackal) that got you in this situation.That feels real, and it feels as an authentic story of survival.

I'm not sure I'm still making justice to this game, but like I said before, it's really hard to explain why Far Cry 2 is so good, and a lot of people might not even get it. In any case, I enjoyed this game a lot, and am really happy I gave it a chance.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Can anybody speak English anymore, or have proper grasp of semantics? I was reading an interesting article titled is social media making you anti-social?, and couldn't help but wonder: does the author of this article know the actual meaning of the word antisocial? Because if he does, he surely knows that he's suggesting that social media could turn you into a criminal... or someone avert to society, you know, as in "I wish society disappeared tomorrow". But of course, that is not what he meant. He meant to use the word asocial, but he probably has never heard this word in his life.

It shouldn't take too much effort for a writer to figure this out, knowing the meaning and effect of the prefixes anti- and a-. But that's too much to ask right? He needs proper English anyways. And don't give me the crap about evolution of languages... this is not language evolution, this is plain idiocy. There are two words in the language, for two different purposes. Use them! Don't fuse their meaning into one, just because you're an idiot who doesn't know the existence of the other one. There's a thing called the dictionary, you know?

OK, enough with the rant... now comes the sad part. I have to take back what I said against this writer because apparently, since there are enough morons who use antisocial in this way, the dictionary now has adopted this meaning, and lists it as a synonym to asocial. Great... So, he wasn't wrong (technically) in using the word. Sorry, my bad... I still thing it's wrong though :-P

Even more sad is that he's probably done better using the word he used, because that's what most readers would expect and understand... *sigh*... Any day now definately will be added to the dictionary. As an interesting note, definately gets over 14 million hits on Google, over 10% the hits of the properly spelled word... Yes! that's the wrong version of the word! :-P

The reason this angers me is very simple: it feels as though we succumb to stupidity. Yes, there is a proper way to spell this... or this is the proper word to use in this case... but most people are too stupid to figure that out, and since languages are spoken by people, and morons are a majority... well...

This strengthens my theory that average humanity's I.Q. must be on decline (sharp decline!). It seems to me that humanity is moving towards an Idiocracy :-)


The Terminator cannot be reasoned with, can't be bargained with, and cannot be stopped. Unless of course he hits a chair, and since he can't path around it, we have him just start shooting.
-- Todd Howard, Executive Producer for Bethesda Softworks.

Nice quote :-)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Least Privilege

So, apparently the Conficker worm has been found infecting medical devices on hospitals. It has been found on imaging devices, like MRIs, that were connected to the internet. The funny thing is that, upon inquiring the operators of these machines, they conceded that these machines had no need to be connected to the internet. The my question is... why the fuck were they connected then?! Whatever happened to the principle of least privilege?

The world's network infrastructure and computer systems are not vulnerable just because of software flaws. In fact, software flaws are the easy part to deal with, because they can be fixed. But how do you fix people's stupidity? We could certainly try putting a sign on people identifying their stupidity, but with risk of some moron screwing up the labeling, who knows what the consequences would be :-)

It seems that common sense is not so common after all, and these criminals know really well how to exploit that fact. God forbid what would happen if these guys get control of an X-ray machine, and decides to start playing with it...

Maybe this will be a wake up call, but I doubt it.

Hey, I have an even better idea! Why don't we connect the world's nuclear arsenal to the internet? Wouldn't that be awesome?

The Value of Holistic Thinking

According to an article to appear in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, producing cleaner fuels has turned into a "drink or drive issue". The main problem seems to be the great water footprint that ethanol production has: irrigation of corn/sorghum crops, and also pollution from pesticides used to protect these crops. So, we are trying to reduce the impact of burning fuels upon the air, but we are screwing with our water resources in the process... what can I say? Awesome!

It seems to me this is a consequence of a lack of holistic thinking on our part when it comes to technology in general. Sure, let us have these ethanol-based fuels, that have shown to be cleaner, but... where are we getting the ethanol from? We tend to adopt a very myopic perspective, without looking at global consequences. In the case at hand, all the process involved should be considered as part of the system, especially when you are trying to fix the environment! Then, you can take a global look at what the real impact is, and really determine what the benefits, in terms of reduction of contamination, are. If we are trying to clean the air, but in the process pollute the water... then it seems to me we are being pretty idiotic.

Of course, this is just one study, and the real impact and consequences are yet to be determined, but I just wanted to comment on the technological issue in general :-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Endocrinology Consult

Today was the last of a series of follow-ups with specialist, this time with the Endocrinologist to check on my bones. Everything went fine, nothing much to say though since any change in bone density doesn't become apparent in months, but rather in years. So it'd be in about a year when they would make another bone density scan to check how things are doing.

They said they're going to have a more secondary role, and apparently things were not as horrible as they would have me believe before. So, they decreased my calcium intake (from 3,600 mg/day to 1,200 mg/day, that's two pills instead of six), and also my vitamin D intake from 50,000 units a week, to 1,000 units a day. I'm also to start taking Fosamax.

So that was it for the Endocrinology consult. Pretty uneventful otherwise.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Creatine Kinase

I got a letter from KU Med with the results of some blood tests from my visit last week to the Neurologist. It's just a list of numbers for a bunch of markers, each classified as either In Range or Our of Range. My glucose is a bit high, which worries me (the Prednisone causes this, and may make it bas enough to require Insulin shots). The interesting ones are of course the levels of Creatine Kinase and Aldolase. See, these are enzymes that are released into the bloodstream following the breakdown of skeletal muscle. Put in other words, these are part of the guts of muscle cells, and high levels of them in the blood means these cells are being destroyed by some process. In my case that process is the Dermatomyositis.

Both the levels of CK and Aldolase are high. The CK levels were 512 U/L. A normal person, at rest, has levels below 100 U/L. A sprinter after running the 100 m has levels around 200 U/L. So, this means the inflammation process is still there, but it's under control. CK levels in myositis go into the thousands (which is what they were for me when I was hospitalized). So, even though this was high, it's actually low for me, or let's say a bit more under control. The Aldolase level was 12.6 U/L (should be below 8.1 U/L), again high, but not so bad given my condition (myositis gets this number over 20 U/L).

Of course, the fact that these numbers are high indicates that the inflammatory process is there, in-check, but present. I'll take these numbers as good news that the treatment is having effect though :-) I just really hope that I can get to a point where I can be under these conditions, without the Prednisone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Quote

Whining is the recourse of the mediocre - Apolo Imagod

You can quote me on that one :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pulmonary Consult

Yesterday I had my 3rd follow-up consult, this time with the pulmonary people. They took a chest X-ray and I had the pulmonary function test performed. A couple of hours later, I met with the doctor. All in all, it was good news. My pulmonary function has improved significantly compared to how it was when I was in the hospital. My lung capacity is up, lung elasticity has improved, and oxygen diffusion levels are higher too. That means the treatment is working and lungs could finally take a break from all the damage caused by the inflammation and get better.

I was very happy to see this because, to be honest, I've been very worried about my respiratory functions... I get short of breath just by taking a few steps. When I asked about this the Dr. said: well, they're better, but they're still bad. The problem is that the damage that they took was so severe that the improvement might seem mild to me, in comparison. The good thing is that there is some gradual improvement, and we hope it keeps going that way.

The lung function improvement was the green light needed for the Prednisone reduction plan. So, hopefully, in 6 weeks I'll be down to an average of 30 mg/day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

GTA Flop

So the sales numbers for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars are out, and as I suspected, they are disappointing. For some reason, everybody was expecting this game to sell great, there were analysts calling figures in the hundreds of thousand, yet I had commented here and there that I didn't think this was going to be the case. And I was right.

The thing is, in my opinion, this is just not the kind of game that DS owners buy. This is a different kind of consumer base. The same thing happened to Mad World on the Wii. Nintendo platforms just don't have any space for M-rated titles. And you can bet all your money that the same thing is going to happen to The Conduit, although I really hope I'm wrong on this one.

Nintendo has built such a psychological profile around their consoles such these M-rated titles seem to be in almost perfect dissonance with the feeling that the consoles are supposed to project. And so, this is what happens. Maybe if developers keep trying and releasing mature titles, eventually this attitude will change, but I don't think they will be willing to keep losing money on this. Too bad for mature gamers though... we will have to keep making do with Zelda, Mario, and the ocasional RPG title :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I had my first follow-up with the Infectious Disease and Neuro-muscular specialists. The Infectious Disease specialist said everything looked fine, so there was no need to follow-up from here on. I have to watch out for any bad signs on my lungs. The Neuro-muscular specialist was a more interesting visit. First off, my diagnosis has been officially set to Dermatomyositis. There was some improvement in muscle strength, although I'm still very weak by all standards. Lung function hasn't improved though, but it hasn't worsened.

Because of the mild improvement in muscle strength, and the fact that lung function hasn't become worse, they decided to try reducing my dose of Prednisone. So, they have lowered my Prednisone from 80 mg/day to 60 mg/day, and I am to follow a plan that will eventually get it down to an average of 30 mg/day, as long as the Pulmonary specialist says everything is fine with my lungs after my visit with him next Monday. The dose of Imuran was increased to 200 mg/day. I am to have another follow-up in 2 months.

So, those are the current plans. Let us hope everything improves and goes for the best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Gooey Situation

So I finally bought into the hype and got World of Goo from WiiWare. This game won the Game Developers Choice Award for Best Downloadable Game of the Year. And I have to say I am enjoying the game. It's a very interesting concept, the puzzles are challenging, and have a different twist introduced by the physics interactions of the goo...

I haven't finished the game, so I don't have a full picture of the game yet. But, from what I've seen so far, I still can't see how this game could possibly beat Braid as best downloadable game of the year. Can someone explain that to me? I mean, don't get me wrong. I think World of Goo is a great game. I love the concept art, the music, the gameplay... but I think Braid is just much better. I don't know, maybe it's just me... after all this award is given by the developers themselves, and I know the guys at 2D Boy are more popular among developers than the rogue Jonathan Blow, so my only explanation for Braid not winning the award is mere politics...

As far as I'm concerned, there is no doubt: The best downloadable game last year was Braid.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Free Will... Is it really Free?

I've always been a big follower of AI, and in fact as a computer scientist I did some small work in this area. What really catches my attention are the philosophical aspects related to the nature of cognitive processes and consciousness. In this regard I love John McCarthy's seminal papers on this area. I also agree with Marvin Minsky when he says that this aspect of AI has slowly been neglected, and instead modern AI has broken into a series of subfields, each one working on improving what are basically specialized optimization algorithms, losing the focus on what really started the whole thing: creating an intelligent machine. Maybe this is the way to go, and eventually we will be able to put everything back together... but somehow I don't think so.

Anyways, I recently ran into a thesis from a PhD student in Spain, that attempts to model self-awareness using neural networks. The work is very interesting, although not groundbreaking, but at the very least gives a very good survey into current ideas for modeling consciousness. All of this got me thinking back into a bunch of ideas I was having a while back regarding all this, and I've had conversations and discussions with several people about whether or not consciousness can really be replicated (to the point of self-awareness observed in humans), but then I got thinking into free will.

The thing is, if you start pondering about the idea of whether consciousness can be replicated by a machine, or whether strong AI is possible, you really have to get philosophical and start with a simple question: Regarding the philosophy of mind, do you stand on the side of materialism or dualism? If you adhere to the idea that the mind is a result of the physical processes occurring in the brain, then certainly the idea that these physical processes may be replicated by some sort of machinery is a plausible one. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that this is the case, and let us abide by the idea of a materialistic conception of the mind.

So, we have decided that the mind is the product of a machine (the brain), and therefore not separate from it. In this scenario, every cognitive process is the product of a computation, every thought, every decision, every idea. We could certainly view the brain as a machine exposed to a series of stimuli (the inputs), and based on those, producing a series of cognitive effects (the outputs: decisions, thoughts, ideas). If that is the case then... how do we interpret the concept of free will? First of all, let us try and be more specific about what kind of machine the brain would be: is it a deterministic machine or is it a non-deterministic machine?

Let us assume, again for the sake of argument, that the brain is a deterministic machine. This means that, given some pre-determined circumstances, the brain will always react the same. That is, on a given situation, if a person makes a particular decision, given the chance to do it again, if the circumstances are the same, he/she would make the same decision. If this is the case then... do we really have a free will? Under these circumstances, it would seem that free will would be nothing more than an illusion, a subjective perception or rather interpretation of our own congnitivity. Given a particular situation, we would be pre-determined to act in a certain way, no matter what, even if we thought that was not the case, that we somehow had the illusion that we had a choice.

All these ideas have already been tackled in areas like philosophical determinism, but it's interesting to see how they emerge by delving into the intricacies of another field, namely, Artificial Intelligence. Personally, I find this idea of mental determinism (to call it one way) very interesting, maybe a little scary, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

In the end, we would probably not be able to get away with a fully deterministic model for the brain, for we would have to account for the instances in which we just decide to flip a coin (both literally and metaphorically), so we would have to model some non-determinism into it, probably by adding some source of randomness, but the point would be that in that instance, we would always decide to flip that coin.

Hmmmm... I need to think more about this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Methods and Procedures

Recently I have started to notice more and more people in my field (Computer Science) confusing the terms method and procedure, using them as if they were interchangeable. I just want to set the record straight: they are not interchangeable, they are different things. This confusion, I've noticed, is present mostly in people accustomed to program in Object Oriented Languages, as the closest thing to a sub-routine or procedure in these languages is precisely a method.

A method is not the same as a procedure. OK? A procedure, in a programming language, is a sequence of instructions that perform a certain task. As simple as that. A method, on the other hand, is a concept that only makes sense in OO languages. A method is associated with an object (or a class) and it is the object's way of doing things. I feel like going into a more philosophical discussion about this... but I won't. Suffice it to say, they are not the same, so if you're a computer scientist, and you're reading this, please stop doing this. Use the word procedure where it belongs, and the word method where it belongs... and let us all make a more rigorous science :-)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Solution to Math Puzzle

A few days a go I posted a math termination puzzle. There was one reply with the draft of a solution, so now I am posting the solution from Communications of the ACM here. It is a little involved, so beware. Here it is:
Let x0, x1, x2, x3, x4 be the five numbers. summing to s > 0, with indices taken modulo 5. Define a doubly infinite sequence z by z0 = 0 and zi = zi-1 + xi. The sequence z is not periodic, but it is periodically ascending; z5 = zi + s. In the example, the x values are 2, 4, -3, 1, -3; s = 1; and the z sequence is:

... -2 0 4 1 2 -1 1 5 2 3 0 2 6 3 4 1 3 7 4 5 2 4 8 5 6 ...

where the leftmost 0 represents z0.

If xi is negative, zi < zi - 1 and flipping xi has the effect of switching zi with zi - 1, they are now in ascending order. Simultaneously, it does the same for all paris zj, zj - 1 whose indices are shifted from them by multiples of 5. Thus, flippling labels amounts to sorting z by adjacent transpositions.

Tracking the progress of the sorting process needs a potential function Phi to measure the degree to which z is out of order. Let i+ be the number of indices j > i for which zj < zi; note i+ is finite and depends only on i modulo 5. We let Phi be the sum 0+ + 1+ + 2+ + 3+ + 4+.

When xi+1 is flipped, i+ decreases by 1, and every other j+ is unchanged, so Phi decreases by 1. When Phi hits 0 the sequence is fully sorted so all labels are non-negative and the process must terminate.

We conclude that the process terminated in exactly the same number (the initial value of Phi) of steps regardless of choices, and the final configuration is independent of choices. The reason is there is only one sorted version of z. Moreover, the proof works with 5 replaces by any integer greater than 2.
So, there you have it. A very interesting solution, the key here is the function Phi, which decreases by 1 after every flipping, because of the way the sequence was constructed :-) Very nice. I must confess that I wasn't going this way about it. My Phi function was turning more complicated, but the real trick here is the sequence, which transform the problem into a sorting problem, simplifying the Phi function quite a bit.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Piece of Art

I finally got around to playing Prince of Persia, which was actually released last December. All I can say is, wow, what a game. I loved it. The controls are tight, gameplay is fun and fluid, graphics are top, great art design... what more can you ask for in a game?

There has been a lot of discussion on the internet, especially from the so-called (and self-proclaimed) hardcore gamers, about how easy this game is, and how Ubisoft dumbed it down compared to previous entries in the series just to appeal to a casual audience. Well, I am what you could call hardcore gamer, but I prefer Krpata's taxonomy, under which I am a Skill Player (rather than a Tourist Player), with more Completist than Perfectionist tendencies, but fall into the Premium Player category when it comes to the time I can spend on video games, due to my lifestyle (you know, I have this thing called a job, and a family). With this I am trying to say, I play video games, and I play them a lot, to the extent I can. I know about video games. And in the case of Prince of Persia, I think all those gamers out there, complaining about the game, don't have a strong case.

If you ask me, the issue with Prince of Persia is more psychological than it is factual. The whole thing comes from, I think, the idea that you don't die in this game. Like somehow there's no consequence to playing, and that makes the whole experience worthless. Most gamers were flaming the game on these grounds even before it was out. Well, after playing and finishing the game, in my opinion, this game is as easy or as tough as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. And to even make my point, I played both, side by side, and I can tell you, at points, the new PoP felt more challenging. The only thing that could be said against the new PoP is that it is way shorter than PoP:TSoT, which might give the illusion that the old game is tougher because you spent more time on it.

Somehow, if you're not faced with a Continue or a Load Last Save screen, then there's no consequence to failure. In PoP, instead of this annoyance you're just returned to the last checkpoint, which is the last platform you were standing on. Between this, and having to look at a screen, select Yes and have to wait for the game to load the same area I was in just 30 seconds ago, I'd rather have what they implemented in PoP, and I applaud Ubisfot for that, and I hope this becomes a trend in the video game industry. If when I'm fighting an enemy, failure means I have to reload the last checkpoint, and wait for the area to load, which places in the same spot I was at the beginning of the fight, with the enemie's health replenished... or just have me stand up and continue, but simply replenish the enemie's health... I choose the latter. Does that make it easier? I don't think so.

The psychological bias and predisposition goes so far, that I even read comments from people saying how easy the platforming was now, that you just had to "sit back and press buttons... no skill required". Comments like these is what made me play the two games side by side. I had play PoP:TSoT before, but it had been a while, and I wanted to make a fresh comparison. And my discovery was that the platforming gameplay is the same. Yeah, when a stunt sequence starts, it usually becomes a task of timing button presses, pretty much not using the directional stick, on both games. The skill set required to play PoP is the same one required to play PoP:TSoT.

In my book, Prince of Persia is a 9/10. A jewel of gaming. And I hope Ubisoft keeps it up with games like this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Termination Puzzle

Here is an interesting puzzle I saw in the print version Communications of the ACM. See if you can solve it and let me know of your solution in the comments:
Five integers with positive sum are assigned to the vertices of a pentagon. At any point you may select a negative entry (say, -x) and flip it to make it positive, or x, but then you must subtract x from each of the two neighboring values; thus, the sum of the five integers remains the same. For example, if the numbers are 2, 4, -3, 1, -3 [in that order on the pentagon's vertices], you can either flip the first -3 to get 2, 1, 3, -2, -3 or the second to get -1, 4, -3, -2, 3. Now prove that no matter what numbers you start with and strategy you follow, all the numbers will eventually become non-negative, and thus the procedure terminates after finitely many steps.
Now, be honest and don't go all over the internet looking for the solution. I have the solution in the magazine, but I haven't looked at it, and will be trying to solve it myself :-) But it's good to know that I have the solution somewhere and have a standard to compare against. Now show your mathematical might! :-)

The Elusive Particle

Looks like the Higgs particle becomes more and more elusive. Results from experiments at Fermilab have ruled out a mass between 160 and 170 GeV. This of course narrows the search for the upcoming experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, but as they keep finding these no-go windows, the idea of succeding in finding this particle seems more uncertain. Also, a consequence of all these is that the remaining ranges seem to be harder to search, because the implication is that the Higgs particle would not be as massive as expected (below 160 GeV), which makes it harder to spot.

I have a pop drink riding on this, so they better find it! :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to me

My birthday is not today, it was actually two days ago, on March 14th. I didn't do anything special, some friends came to my place and we hung out all day, playing video games, eating pizza, and just having a good time. But I just found out the US congress gave me a great birthday present, as March 14th has been recognized as Pi day :-) (3.14, get it?). I guess I had never myself realized the relationship of my birthday to this irrational number, but it's very cool nonetheless :-)

I hope you had a great Pi day. I know I did :-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Obstinate Obsession to do Things the Wrong Way

In a previous post I talked about voting machines and how I think the government has made a big mess about the whole thing. I mentioned that academia has already set forward useful guidelines, and resourceful information about this subject, but no one seems to listen. Then I ran into this article. The article basically explains how computer scientist from that Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Université Catholique de Louvain, deployed a Web-based voting system, which was tested for the presidential elections at UCL. The system is mathematically verifiable. It is open source. It is also free, as is free beer. When I say mathematically verifiable, I mean the system produces a mathematical proof, which cannot be spoofed, that the tallying was done correctly.

Furthermore, the tallying process is completely open, that is, any person from outside can come in and verify that there are no irregularities. This is possible because of the encryption scheme used that ensures that no sensitive information is released. All of this sounds wonderful, yet somehow I know it would never be picked up... why not? Because it doesn't cost money.

I think this society, in its capitalistic frenzy of spending like the world is going to end, has evolved into a mindset that associates anything worthwhile with money. If it doesn't cost, it must not be good. Why else, having some of the best academic institutes on earth, hasn't the government turned to the people who actually know, instead deciding to pay all this money to companies that are basically producing a bunch crap? I guess if you pay for it, it's good crap. Yet, it is crap nonetheless!

The only thing I don't like about the system above is the absence of a paper trail, and yet, in this particular system, because of the openness of the process, I thikn it would work without a paper trail... but in these things I always say better safe than sorry.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Turing Award - Barbara Liskov

The ACM announced the winner of the Turing Award, and it went to Barbara Liskov. Now, for those of you who don't know, the Turing Award is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Computer Science. Because of my work, I happen to be very familiar with Liskov's work, specially her work on Behavioral Sub-typing. Her book Abstraction and Specification in Program Development is a seminal work in the area of specification of object oriented programs, and specification refinement.

Congratulations to Dr. Barbara Liskiv for her well deserved recognition.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


If you haven't watched this movie, I really recommend it. I never read the graphic novel and I've heard the movie is very loyal to the source, so I guess the credit goes to the comic - so I guess the movie made me want to read the comic :-) The movie touches some interesting aspects relating to the human nature, just as The Dark Knight did, and well, I just love any piece of art that makes me think.

If you haven't seen the movie, and you're planning to see it, stop here because there are some MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

The most interesting plot piece the movie has to offer, in my opinion, is the state of affairs of the movie's universe at the end of the film. Without going into much detail, one of the heroes, who is known as "the smartest man in the world" (rightfully so) is the one responsible for the planning of armageddon, sending the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. When the other heroes find out, they try to stop him... but it's too late, he's always one step ahead of everyone. I like the line where he says "Do you think I'm so comic book supervillain? Do you think I would tell you my plans if you had the slightest chance of stopping me? I triggered everything 20 minutes ago... it already happened". He destroys several major cities in the world, not with bombs, but something more devastating that basically vaporizes everything. It all looks like the work of one of the good heroes, as this is the kind of power he wields.

And here's where the moral conundrum comes. The world thinks the other hero did it (a hero called Dr. Manhattan). And so the world, that was about to go into nuclear war, after this event, goes in peace to unite against this new enemy, and they vow to fight Dr. Manhattan. This was the plotter's plan all along... he knew this would happen, and this is how he saw he could achieve real lasting world peace. He now suggests to everyone that they should now support him and condone the lie, that Dr. Manhattan has to take the blame and go into exile for the good of humanity, that his plan, despite the deaths of millions of people, worked, and was the right thing to do. Dr. Manhattan agrees... but another hero, called Rorschach says people have to know the truth, that this is no way to achieve world peace... this was a massacre. The remaining heroes are on the line... Rorschach tries to leave, but Dr. Manhattan cuts him.

Now, Dr. Manhattan is this all powerful being that can do pretty much everything. Rorschach says "Never compromise... not even in the face of armageddon". He basically tells Dr. Manhattan that people need to know, and he's going to have to kill him, because otherwise he's going to tell everyone what happened, and Dr. Manhattan says he can't let him do that, as he thinks this will put the world back where it was, eventually ending in total destruction. So Rorschach tells him "So this is it?... one more body to lay on the foundations where you'll build your world peace?... Do it!", and... Dr. Manhattan vaporizes him... The movie ends with Dr. Manhattan going into exile to another galaxy, the other heroes keeping silent, and a journalist finding the Rorschach's journal.

So, as I did before in the post about Fable 2, I ask you now... what would you do? What do you think is the right choice here? I mean, after everything has been done, would you keep quiet for the benefit of this peace? Or do you think it is important to tell the truth about what happened, whatever consequences that may carry? Are you a Dr. Manhattan or a Rorschach? Please comment and elaborate on your reasons :-)

I will say where stand in a later comment and why.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Seriously? A DELETE button?

Recently I ran into this article concerning the findings of a three months investigation regarding problems with voting machines in California. Now, I've had discussions with some of my friends, in particular with Scott Harmon, about all the problems with voting machines, and why it's just something very hard to get right, but the people involved in the design of the machines discussed in this article seemed to be working very hard to get it wrong. According to the findings of the investigation, they put a button, which by the way was next to the one used to request a print, that basically deletes logs. That's right, it deletes the log from the memory, even if it hasn't been printed and there's no paper trail. What's better is that it doesn't even prompt you with a message asking you whether this is something you really want to do... nothing! It just deletes the log as if nothing happened.

Now, what were they thinking? Hasn't all the debate and discussions about the problems with voting machines reached the people that are actually making them? And why, oh why, didn't anyone notice this until now? Now, after it was used in an election and there was a loss of about 200 ballots (according to the article). I mean, really? So, you're meaning to tell me nobody thought this was not a good idea!

There has to be a problem of miscommunication here. The academia has put out many articles in the past couple of years, where experiments and extensive studies have been done, and things like this have been pointed out as big problems. Yet, you still have to see this in the news, as if the work of those people never happened. It looks as if the only people looking at that work (which is payed for with taxpayers money by the way) are us, the geeks, and the rest of the world seems to be oblivious to all this information... until something bad happens.

*sigh* Seriously, my hopes for humanity decrease by the day... Hopefully, now they will start listening to the computer scientists and designing these machines with all these problems in mind, from the get go... yeah right, what am I even saying? Sometimes I think they put that delete button on purpose. What's even hilarious is that it took a three months investigation to notice a delete button in the machine :-).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fable 2 Ending - Moral Choice

In a previous post I made a list of games that I owned, but had not finished. One of those games was Fable 2. This is a game I was playing before I went to the hospital. Last night I was up late again, and decided to play some of it. It turns out I wasn't so far from the end. It took me about an hour to actually finish the game (so one less in the list of unfinished games). The reason for this post is something that happens in the ending of this game, an interesting moral choice.

Upon finishing the game, after the hero defeats the villain and all that, the hero is granted a wish. But it's not just any wish, he must choose from three possibilities:

  • The Sacrifice - "The Needs of the Many": if the hero chooses this, all the people that have been killed by the evil during this adventure will be resurrected, brought back to life, except for those close to the hero, that is, his loved ones will not be resurrected. These include his dog (a loyal canine companion that fights along the hero throughout the whole adventure, and sacrifices himself at the end to save his master), his sister, and depending on whether you decided to marry during the game, his family (wife and children). So, he must sacrifice his loved ones for the many lives of members of other families, hundreds or thousands of people.
  • Love - The Needs of the Few: the hero chooses to save his loved ones, at the expense of all the people that were killed by the evil during the adventure (hundreds or thousands of people).
  • Wealth - The Needs of the One: the hero chooses to receive huge riches and gold, at the expense of all the people sacrificed during the adventure... no one is saved, and the hero receives big wealth.
Now, when I finished the game and got to this point, I had a hard time deciding what to do. I should point out that I usually play RPGs with a "good" or "noble" alignment, yet this decision was very tough to make. I didn't know what to do. If it had been a binary decision between money and the lives of people, that would have been easy. But here I am... How do I choose between my loved ones, and the many, many, loved ones of other people? Sticking to the good alignment precludes the money, of course.

I didn't know what to do. I went through several changes of mind... and I considered all three options seriously. I mean, how can I choose between these two groups of people, perhaps I should just take the money!

So if you happen to be reading this, I would like you to comment and tell me what your choice would be, and why. I am not going to expose here what my choice was now... I will do so later in a comment to this post. But before I would like to know what other people would have chosen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Unfinished Games

So, last night I couldn't sleep (the Prednisone is starting to work its magic) and I was just wandering around the house, looking for something to do. I started moving stuff around, played some DS, watched some TV... and then, oddly enough, I decided to make a list of all the games I own, but haven't finished. Here the criteria is not completionism, that is, it's not about whether I've done everything there is to do in the game, but rather whether I've finished the game, in conventional terms. This means, if it's a story-based game, I've finished the story. Of course, in the case of Viva Piñata, which is a game about collecting piñatas, then it's about collecting all the piñatas (which I haven't done, and so it is listed as unfinished).

I was surprised by the amount of games in the list. There's just quite a few a games I haven't come back to, and didn't realize there were so many until last night. The list totals 22 games! Here's the list:
  1. Fable 2
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  3. Chrono Trigger
  4. Street Fighter IV
  5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: The Shivering Isles
  6. Psychonauts
  7. Ninja Gaiden
  8. Blynx
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Catwoman
  11. Lego Starwars
  12. Sonic Heroes
  13. Viva Piñata
  14. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood
  15. Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance
  16. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  17. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  18. Grand Theft Auto III
  19. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  20. Half Life 2
  21. Half Life 2: Episode 1
  22. Half Life 2: Episode 2
So there you have it. There are a few games that I got recently, basically the first four games in the list, but I thought I'd add them to the list since I haven't finished them, and remove them when I'm done with them.

It bothers me a little that I keep moving on to other games, when I have stuff on the shelf that I can work on, and so the list keeps growing. So I've decided to commit myself to work on this list and get it down. I don't know where to start though... there's so many games on that list. I guess I'll start with the fresh ones (the ones at the top) and then move on to the rest

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Auto-Immune Myositis

So, I have been diagnosed with Auto-Immune Myositis, most likely to be Polymyositis. I am back after at home after 3 weeks in the hospital, where I underwent a bunch of tests to find out what was going on.

I guess from this point on starts my fight with this disease, which I've learned can be very unforgiving. In my case it has presented with involvement of the lungs and bones, to make things a bit more interesting. In the case of the lungs, I was found to have Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis. In the case of the bones, well, I was found to have Osteoporosis. All this at the age of 31...

I don't know exactly how I feel about all this. I don't know if I'm scared, or angry... I don't know if I feel optimistic or pessimistic... one thing is for sure: there's a lot of uncertainty in my head. I wonder about the path that lies ahead of me, how's it going to be? What's going to happen? How will I be one year from now? Two years from now? How is this going to change my life?...

I don't think I'm angry or scared. I've never been one to sulk into things I can't change or control. I'm under treatment and well... I'll just try to keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward...