22 February 2016

Logo unification

New Logo(s) for Jetbrains

How can you take a good logo (if you had one) and make it boring? Create a dozen different logos that look nearly the same.

Having a common theme among product logos isn’t a bad idea, but making them this similar is a bad idea. It was a bad idea when Adobe did it. It was a bad idea when Microsoft did it.

Software companies should stop doing that.

21 February 2016

What’s the more important message?

I find it academically interesting to read things like “Mark and Divine Christology?

But the question of whether Jesus was wholly God or wholly man or wholly both or wholly neither... That’s all academic to me. I can’t understand why it is anything more than that to anyone.

My own personal credo says nothing about the divinity of the Jesus.

If you honestly study the scriptures, you will find that they do not necessarily agree on this matter. (Perhaps they don’t necessarily disagree either, but...again: Academic.)

What is the more important message? The one that is more mixed or the one that is more consistent?

What is the more important message? That Jesus was divine or that we should love our enemies?

What is the more important message? That we should stone certain offenders or that we should not judge others lest we be judged ourselves?

What would Jesus say?

20 February 2016

On movie audio commentary

Movie audio commentary tracks have so much promise, but I don’t think any of the ones I’ve listened to have delivered. Sure, we get some interesting anecdotes and behind-the-scenes discussion, but nothing that wouldn’t have been better and more effectively delivered in a simple interview or other format.

19 February 2016

Thoughts upon watching Star Wars: Episode I

After seeing Episode VII, we rewatched the previous films. Some thoughts...

There may be spoilers for Episodes I through VI below! ...but none for Episode VII.

Episode I: Arguably, Episode I should either never have been made or should have been a very different movie from the others. Contrary to the movie serial conceit, the backstory for an action-adventure may not, itself, be an action-adventure. And this isn’t just an action-adventure but a mythic action-adventure. But here it is anyway...

(If it were a movie serial, Episodes I to III would be about the same characters as Episodes IV to VI. Was there ever a generational movie serial? Flash Gordon certainly wasn’t. You could imagine prior adventures for Leia and Han. Maybe Biggs too. Even Luke could have some minor “Young Indy” adventures on Tatooine. But a serial that followed the adventures of several separate heroes who meet up in Episode IV would be just as unusual.)

We now have Tatooine garb unequivocally becoming the Jedi uniform. This is emblematic. The first film was intended to be “Flash Gordon done right”. With a believable “used future” aesthetic. Here, this film completely contradicts that aesthetic.

Including C-3P0 and R2-D2 is, likewise, is trying to please the audience in the laziest of ways.

This film has been defended as being intended for kids. Which is pointless. A good kids movie has to be a good movie. Being for kids is defense for nothing.

Watching it again, this film does feels strongly like it was made for kids, and that is always a bad thing. Good kids movies don’t feel like they’ve been made for kids.

Furthermore, reflecting on seeing Episode IV when I was eight, it seems completely pointless to make a movie in the same series for kids.

I think a lot of criticism of this film unfairly expects it to be more like Episodes IV, V, and VI. It is a different time with different characters and different events. We already had Episodes IV, V, and VI; no need to repeat them.

The problem is that so little of what is new here is compelling. And the stuff that isn’t new isn’t used in the way that made it work the first time.

The first time I saw this movie, it was my job to make sure that the web site my company was building had no single point of failure. The idea that a droid army should have a single point of failure was—and still is—completely unbelievable. No amount of willingness will suspend it. Not to mention that a kid—no matter how strongly the Force may be with him—would stumble upon that single point of failure that professional fighter pilots wouldn’t find.

And I haven’t even mentioned the J-word.

At the moment I have nothing good to say about this movie.

We later checked out the “no cheese” edit on YouTube. It is amazing how much better it is. Still not good, but so much better.

18 February 2016

Sword drills

I’d been doing a good job of exercising on the stationary bike every morning. 15 minutes per day for the first week; 20 for the second. While away from home over the holidays, I thought I’d take along a Hollowearth Sword, and do some drills out of Christian Tobler’s Fighting with the German Longsword.

Things I learned:

  • Sword drills are a lot more work than an exercise bike but don’t earn as much Apple watch green ring credit.
  • My body really doesn’t like the left vom tag guard. It will do almost anything to do something else when I try to assume it.
  • Wear gloves for drills.

17 February 2016


From “Skepticism and Consensus”, which is quoting “On the value of scepticism”:

Nevertheless the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion.

But the non-expert needs a way of finding the experts. And a way of distinguishing experts from other non-experts.

16 February 2016

Movie adaptions

When people talk about things they like to see made into movies, I always ask: Why? How many good movie adaptions have there been?

Now I do not think that a bad movie adaption somehow ruins the original work. That has nothing to do with it.

Also, it isn’t that I think an adaption has to be exactly like the original. The needs of cinema are different from the needs of other media. I think the first Harry Potter movie is a good example of how staying too close to the text of the original can create a bland movie.

I does bother me when an adaption strays so far that it is no longer the same story. What’s the point in that? Take credit for your story and claim it as your own! Don’t be dishonest.

(The point is that it is easier to sell an adaption to the greenlighters than an original idea, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.)

It bothers me when an adaption fails to keep the spirit of the original. So many seem to even reverse the spirit of the original.

But, that those things bother me is not why I don’t get too excited about adaptions.

I don’t get excited about adaptions because they are so seldomly good movies. The best movies are the stories that—whatever their influences—are created for cinema rather than those that are adapted to it. Which ought to be unsurprising.

15 February 2016

New locking strap review

I don’t care for strap locks that require replacing the strap pins on a guitar. And I’ve never actually seen any Grolsch bottle washers. What I have been happy with are the Planet Waves Planet Lock straps.

I recently got an Ernie Ball Polylock strap. Unlike the Planet Lock, it has no moving parts. But it does feel very secure. And it doesn’t feel quite as clunky as the Planet Locks.

Most importantly, though, I have one instrument—an Ibanez Mikro bass—that the Planet Locks won’t fit on. The Polylock does!

14 February 2016

The Bible is...

From “Making the world a better place”:

Readers of the Bible need to be able to recognize when God is depicted in a manner that is a projection of humanity at its worst.

To me the Bible is not a message from God to humans. It is a story of humans trying to understand God (i.e. truth). And themselves.

And it isn’t a story that is finished. Faith isn’t about dogma. It is about starting with the wisdom of our predecessors and then trying to go beyond that.

13 February 2016

Classic D&D ability checks

When playing classic D&D, I like having some mechanics that don’t reduce the 3–18 range for ability scores to ±3. I’ve been using “roll score or less on nd6” for ability checks. (The n depends upon the difficulty of the check.) It’s unfortunate that this doesn’t take the character’s level into account.

So, here’s what I’m considering:

Roll a d20 for each character level. Pass if any are less than or equal to the ability score.

Although, unlike nd6, this has no provision to factor in a difficulty.

One possibility is to use different dice. For an easier task, roll d12s instead of d20s. For a harder task, roll d30s instead of d20s.

Another possibility is to have the difficulty modify the character’s level. But what do we do when modified level is less than one?

Maybe require rolling score or less on multiple d20s. e.g. If the effective character level were zero, success requires rolling the ability score or less on two d20s.

Here is an Anydice program showing the odds.

12 February 2016

Realistic sword fighting in films

A good point is made that on film or video, a realistic sword fight would be too short and too hard for the audience to follow. The sword fight in these media has many other purposes to fulfill other than being an actual sword fight.

I think, however, that film (or video) might be the best medium for depicting realistic sword fights.

On stage, the action would indeed be to quick and subtle to be understood by the audience. Film, however, can slow things down. Camera angles and distance can be chosen to clearly depict what is happening and focus on nuances.

Literature and audio drama aren’t good at depicting the details of motion for three dimensional combatants and their weapons. Film has a huge advantage there.

One place film is at a disadvantage—at least compared to literature—is in depicting the subtle feeling (fühlen among students of Liechtenauer) that allows a fencer to sense their opponent through the pressure of two blades in the midst of a bind.

11 February 2016

Thoughts upon rewatching Star Wars: Episode VI

After seeing Episode VII, we rewatched the previous films. Some thoughts...

There may be spoilers for Episodes I through VI below! ...but none for Episode VII.

Episode VI: I’ve always had an issue with the fact that Luke—now calling himself a Jedi—acts in bad-faith right-off-the-bat at the top of the movie.

If Dagobah in Episode V was a muppet movie, Jabba’s palace is doubly so. Again, for both good and ill.

Then we learn that Luke has not been back to Dagobah since the end of Episode V. Yoda says he already knows what he needs to know. He just needs to confront Vader. (Wait...isn’t that exactly what he already did?) Just so we’re clear on this: The message of episodes V and VI are that spending a lot of time training isn’t really a key to being a Jedi. For good or ill.

As strong as Leia is depicted, she’s still not allowed to be quite as heroic as the guys.

Does what happens between Luke, the Emperor, and Vader matter to the outcome of the story? Perhaps...if the Emperor was powerful enough to prevent or survive the destruction of the second Death Star.

But, watching it this time, I don’t think it matters. It is OK if Vader’s redemption doesn’t matter to the universe at large. It’s enough for it to stand on its own.

It does seem a bit too easy, though. Presumably it wasn’t, as Vader is dying afterwards. But the film doesn’t really communicate the effort required or the injury...

10 February 2016


From “A Tribute to VMware Workstation, Fusion, and Hosted UI”...

Yesterday morning, the Hosted UI team, responsible for VMware’s Workstation and Fusion products, woke up to find themselves out of a job.

It has been reported that the team has been replaced by outsourcing. Back to the article quoted above...

VMware claims they’ll continue to exist, and I really hope that’s the case. I like to think what we built will continue to live on, and I hope VMware does it justice.

The problem isn’t whether these products go into maintenance mode or not. The outsourced team might be every bit as good as the original team.

The problem is that this isn’t something that a company with smart leadership does. It’s hard to find good people. That may be the hardest part of the technology business. This is the epitome of penny wise and pound foolish.

09 February 2016

Does it affect tone?

Stop me if I’ve said this already...

If you find yourself asking whether something affects the tone of an electric guitar...

(...which means we aren’t talking about something that obviously affects tone...)

...the answer is: Yes, but not a lot.

You may or may not be able to hear it. It’s likely that listeners (especially once you consider any media between you and your listeners) won’t.

08 February 2016

Classic D&D ability score shifting thought

I have written about how I dropped intelligence from my Skylands classic D&D campaign. And about how I might like to replace it with quickness. And how the scores might be grouped into three related pairs.

One reason for pairing them is that at least one of my players thought that dexterity and quickness should be related. That it should be unusual for them to be very different. (While I argue that I myself am a example of them being fairly different. While I—at least in my youth—had decent dexterity, I have never been quick.) Anywho...what I want to talk about today is this idea:

All six scores are rolled separately. In each of the pairs (strength and constitution, dexterity and quickness, charisma and wisdom), the higher score my be lowered and the same number of points added to the lower score. But the lower score cannot be raised past the higher score.

e.g. I roll 10 for dexterity and 14 for quickness. I could raise dexterity to 11 by lowering quickness to 13. I could raise dexterity to 12 by lowering quickness to 12. But I couldn’t raise dexterity past 12.

Since I use the B/X modifiers, a smart player will consider the break points. e.g. If 17 was rolled for strength and 12 for constitution, it makes sense to lower the 17 to 16 because both have a +2 modifier while bumping the 12 to 13 goes from a +0 to a +1. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

On the other hand, I’m known to call for ability checks against the actual score, so—when that happens—the difference between a 17 and an 18 can be significant.

07 February 2016

Thoughts upon rewatching Star Wars: Episode V

After seeing Episode VII, we rewatched the previous films. Some thoughts...

There may be spoilers for Episodes I through VI below! ...but none for Episode VII.

Episode V: I would say that the conventional wisdom about this movie is this: Lucas’ weaknesses are writing and directing. Being able to afford to hire better writers and a better director makes Empire a better movie.

In the past I have cited this as the best of the series or vacillated between it and Episode IV. This time around, though—as I said before—I think IV is better than V.

The timeline seems off. Either the Falcon spends way too much time running from the empire, or Luke spends much too little time on Dagobah.

If you’re going to have hyperdrive to deal with the problem of interstellar travel, then you can’t have slower-than-light interstellar travel. If the first movie had glossed over interstellar travel, that would’ve been fine, but it didn’t. This movie not only embraces hyperdrive by making it a plot point, it also misses the implication. It would’ve been plausibility-stretching enough for Bespin to be close enough to Hoth (perhaps in the same system), but throwing the Anoat system in there as well... sigh

This viewing, Han came off as creepy to me rather than whatever the intention was.

I’m not sure if this was true before, but this time, I was constantly seeing that Yoda is a muppet. The scenes on Dagobah felt like a muppet movie. For good or ill. Probably both.

The first time I saw this movie, I assumed Vader lied. This time around, it feels like the entire movie is aimed towards that reveal. Like there’s no way it could be a lie.

When Yoda gives the reasons for why he won’t train Luke, he reminded me of a rabbi who turns a convert away three times. This scene isn’t really about whether he will train Luke. How could he not? Rather, this is a lesson for Luke.

If you take the things Yoda and Obiwan tell Luke at face value, they end up being very wrong. But they’re not stating facts. They’re expressing their fears. Yoda himself tells us in another movie that, “Fear is the path to the dark side.” Interesting that, in this scene, Yoda and Obiwan are afraid, and Luke isn’t.

06 February 2016

Content blocker is not a euphemism

We’re told that “content blocker” is just a euphemism for “ad blocker”, but it is not.

Consider Board Game Geek. I visited that site today with my content blocker active. I saw ads. I clicked on two of them, and there’s a chance I end up spending money on what one or both of them led me to.

The ads that my content blocker blocks? Ads I would have ignored. Ads that are so annoying they may have keep me from even bothering to read the content of the site they are supposedly supporting.

And, my content blocker blocks annoying content that isn’t ads.

05 February 2016

Winter NAMM 2016

The only thing that really stood out to me this year was the Digitech Trio+, which looks awesome.

I was happy to see the Roland Blues Cube Hot, and that it had a black option. But it seems to be lacking the “dual tone” mode of the Stage and Artist models.

At first I was interested in the new Vox Starstream, until I learned that its synth sounds were only monophonic. There was a time when that was acceptable; that time is past.

I don’t know if this one was at NAMM, but I’m happy to see the Positive Grid Bias Head. I’ve really wanted to see one of the highly-tweakable computer amp simulations available in an actual amp. Instead of taking a laptop (or even an iPad) on stage, why not have an amp with the same software in appliance form?

(Granted, we’ve had software amp simulations in amps and pedals for a long time. But having the same sims on your computer and an amp/pedal is what seemed to missing to me.)

I’m not sure if its right for me, but it is a good direction.