Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TotD: When it Comes to Brothels...

... Politicians won't legalize someplace they'd have to risk being seen walking in and out of; it might cut into they and their friends ability to order out.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rant: An Actual 5 ways to "Fix" the CBC.

First, tell Jeffrey Dvorkin and all his acolytes to go fuck themselves. The CBC is not a god damned private art house network and becoming one isn't going to make you "relevant" with the kids. If you want to know why you've been dying for the last 30 years, it's the fucks like him who find their way into the leadership seat and seem to think there's no necessity to air anything anyone actually gives a damn about on it that are problem one. It's time people remember that the purpose of media is to Entertain AND Inform. If you don't do enough of the former, your ability to do the later becomes limited as your customer base dwindles.

Second, establish and maintain shows that people want to watch. You don't fucking cancel Hockey Night in Canada or Dragon's Den: you use them to drive eyeballs to your other shows. Fundamental Law of Business: people can't purchase what they can't find. In this sense, throwing away flagship programs people actually watch just makes you more irrelevant, not less.

Third, and extending on the second: stop this "We can't air US TV Shows" BS. The CBC needs to remember that the primary purpose of TV is entertainment. So, buy entertainment that people want to watch and use it to drive them to your other shows so people will give them a chance. Follow that up by making your shows the best shows they can be and you might find that they actually stick around instead of die on a cross labeled "No one cares about your backwoods network anymore".

Fourth, while News is important the list of people who want to watch people sit around and talk about it all day is not long and not young either. Seeing to it that your news is quality and relevant is good: depending on it for your entire business model nationally is folly.

Finally, adopt the policy that anyone who complains about you kicking a "private" networks ass on their own turf can go die in a fire. You may be a public entity, but a public entity that makes money for the public is better positioned than one that draws money from the public. Start doing that, and you'll quickly find yourself with a blank check to do what you want with less political interference.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TyL: Sometimes Free is all you Need.

Soooo, when I wiped my computer and installed OS X 10.7 earlier this year I threw away my VMware Fusion 2.0 install... just in time for tax season.

For some reason no one makes tax software for Macs that I can find (at least, north of the border), so I used to just load the software up in a Windows XP VM, plunk in my numbers, and get on with it. As such, I grabbed the install DVD for VMF2.0, slapped it in, and was greeted with a: "Sorry, we'll only install on Intel Macs!" error...

A short Google later I find out 2.0 won't run on 10.7 unless you boot into 32 bit mode. Yeah... no. Not wasting my time rebooting again and again for that. Some more Googling ensues and I find VirtualBox, a VM from Oracle ( and Sun before the purchase), that's conveniently free. WTF, give it a shot before dropping stupid money on a "commercial" VM.

30 Minutes later I'm up and running with no issues. Zippy, more responsive than VMF2.0 at least ever was, and entirely serviceable for the things I'm going to be doing with it.

Don't know if it games - don't care - but if all you need is something to boot Windows Apps from time to time you should be playing around with this before paying for something else.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

LS: Should've Been Better At Math.

If you understand statistical analysis, you can likely identify winning scratch tickets just by looking at them and paying attention to the patterns.

Monday, March 19, 2012

TotD: On Real Money Auctions and Diablo 3

People sitting around complaining about service fees to auction virtual goods for real money in Diablo III need to wake up to the following reality about how this system works:

You get to play a game where, on occasion, something may drop during gameplay that someone else is likely to be willing to pay real cash for.

At this point, you can place it in a store operated and maintained by Blizzard, to be presented to willing customers for sale that Blizzard's been kind enough to bring to the store , and then Blizzard is going to do the really messy part of actually getting the money and putting it in your account.

In other words, all the actual work of selling your item is being done in the background while you're more than likely kicking around a dungeon still having fun. No one's going to do that for free and it's really no different a situation than you showing up at a consignment store and being told "This is going to be our cut of the final sale for doing all the hard stuff, take it or leave it". You always have the option to walk at that point but if you want to play you're going to have to play by the shop owners rules. Otherwise, you'd best be prepared to do all the actual work yourself.

Given the reputation of most third parties that have been doing "the actual work" in the past, good luck with that once there's a "legitimate" channel...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TyL: When $1 Billion isn't $1 Billion.

Rob Ford likes to say: "We've got $1 Billion, lets build the Sheppard Subway out to Victoria Park".

Small problem: he doesn't have $1 Billion. In anything other than monopoly money that is.

What Ford had was an agreement that would've done the following two things: see $333M from the Federal government previously pledged to the Sheppard LRT under Transit City and up to $650M from the Provincial government if there was money left over from tunnelling all of Eglinton; a conditional which, given the history of these kinds of projects, is a pretty big given to accept at face value. Now, City Council tossed that agreement to the curve when they began overruling the Mayor on this file and established their own agenda so, at this point, one has to question where that money really lands. I suspect you could make a fairly safe argument that City Council is now positioned to decide where that money goes and that the Federal and Provincial money will flow back to a Sheppard LRT they were originally intended to fund and no longer be available for anything else.

If that's the case at the end of the day, then there's no money for subway stops at all and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

TotD: Kickstarter Fever

We've had two successful Kickstarter projects now and much fanfare about potentially being able to revive classic PC gaming genres, or even titles, through crowd source financing. The first is Double Fine Adventure; a project that sees to reunite Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert to make a classic old school adventure game and saw the public donate just under $3.34 Million to get it off the ground. Meanwhile, immediately on the coattails of this Brian Fargo has successfully raised the minimum required to see to it his project will be funded to create Wasteland 2: a sequel to a classic apocalyptic RPG from the late 80's.

So, a few thoughts today:

a) Kickstarter makes financing these things possible, but it's digital distribution avenues like Steam that makes them practical. Without this advent, these companies would run into the simple reality of finding themselves with a product but hindered by a distribution model that requires them to get buyers to be willing to purchase it. Steam eliminates corporate buyers and lets you go straight to the consumer; a good thing when you consider that Kickstarter just ate Gamestop's Pre-Order money to finance making the game. We'll get back to that later reality in a minute.

b) While these projects have been successful, they're both backing either noted creators and/or existing IP fan bases. While smaller projects have been financed through the method, we're still waiting on the new IP/unknown creator lining up $1M+ to make something that "can't be done under the studio system".

c) I'm hoping the DFA Pitch Video doesn't become the template by which all others are created because the Wasteland one shows you where copying it can go wrong when Comedy isn't your strength. Also, one suspects you're only going to be able to go "Big Gaming Hates You!!!!" so many times before the audience is going to tune you out. I'd like to see some different videos that play to the strengths of their creators and focus more on selling their game than bitching about market realities.

d) The truly interesting question here is this: are we simply letting Pre-Order money flow to the creators instead of Gametop, and putting it way up front instead of after the game is in the home stretch (Duke Nukem Forever notwithstanding), or will there be substantial purchasing power that remains on the backend. I'd say the answer will likely turn out to be 50/50 and likely comes down to how well the games are received when they are released. Which makes for an appendix question: if the end product turns out to be "crap", what effect does this have on people's willingness to continue participating in this "front end finance a game" model in the future?

Those are questions we really want to be able to answer to determine the long term feasibility of this business model but really can't until products start to ship.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

TyL: We Couldn't Predict This...

... is a commonly presented viewpoint by businesses when "bad things" happen.

Lets consider a rather large "bad thing": The Fukushima Disaster last year. Supporters of nuclear power and TEPCO themselves like to fall back on the "unpredictability" of the event as their primary defence.

Sadly, the record proves them wrong.

An AP report from March 27 2011 gets to the crux of the issue1. In summary, in 2001 papers were first published detailing the geological information that was building up about the Jogan/Sanriku earthquake and tsunami of 869 indicating that it was both more dangerous than previously thought and that there appeared to be evidence of an 800 to 1100 year cycle period for it. This made the possibility of a similar earthquake happening soon increasingly likely as we moved into the 21st century. TEPCO's response was to ignore the evidence, going as far as to try and argue it was "unreliable":
In a 2007 paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Pure and Applied Geophysics, two Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees and three outside researchers explained their approach to assessing the tsunami threat to Japan’s nuclear reactors, all 54 of which sit near the sea or ocean.

To ensure the safety of Japan’s coastal power plants, they recommended that facilities be designed to withstand the highest tsunami “at the site among all historical and possible future tsunamis that can be estimated,” based on local seismic characteristics.

But the authors went on to write that tsunami records before 1896 could be less reliable because of “misreading, misrecording and the low technology available for the measurement itself.” The Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees and their colleagues concluded, “Records that appear unreliable should be excluded.”
In other words, when the facts don't fit our version of reality, discard.

This would almost be excusable in a: "Well, that's big business for you", sense of apathy if not for further reporting by the New York Times last week2. In this article, the Times spells out how the regulatory agencies were executing similar dances with presentations of data related to the Jogan earthquake as well:
One of those whose warnings were ignored was Kunihiko Shimazaki, a retired professor of seismology at the University of Tokyo. Eight years ago, as a member of an influential cabinet office committee on offshore earthquakes in northeastern Japan, Mr. Shimazaki warned that Fukushima’s coast was vulnerable to tsunamis more than twice as tall as the forecasts of up to 17 feet put forth by regulators and Tepco.

Minutes of the meeting on Feb. 19, 2004, show that the government bureaucrats running the committee moved quickly to exclude his views from debate as too speculative and “pending further research.” None of the other 13 academics on the committee objected. Mr. Shimazaki’s warnings were not even mentioned in the committee’s final report two years later.
Ahh, government happily falling back on: Hear No Evil, See no Evil.

At this point, we could stop and go: "Well, no one wanted to hear it. What do you expect?", but... at the tail end of the article we find out that TEPCO finally ran the numbers in house in 2008... promptly shat themselves, and then sat on the stinking pile for a year... releasing some of the revised numbers to the regulators in 2009... threw a tarp over the rest and fled the room for another two years before finally releasing what would happen if a 50' wave of the kind that eventually crippled the plant to regulators on March 7th 2011: 4 days before the fatal blow, and 3 years after they knew they were going to need to do something to address this.

Here's where we hit the "stop" button on the "unpredictable" argument folks: people knew this was coming but they also knew what this was going to cost to fix. However, instead of paying that bill, they rolled the dice that it wouldn't happen "soon" and now we've got a 30 Km exclusion zone in north-east Japan to show for it. When it comes to failing at craps, I wouldn't let these guys within a 1000 KM of Vegas in order to ensure Japan stays a sovereign nation and not a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Inc.

Compare and contrast with this3 LA Times story from village of Murohama in the affected area: when the Jogan tsunami ravaged the area 1000 years ago many residents in the town went to the lower of two hills and were swept away by the waves. The survivors built a shrine on that hill and the story was passed down through generations of what happened that day. When the earthquake hit on March 11th 2011, the populace instead moved en mass to the taller hill this time and watched the other be inundated by the waves.

Imagine that: learning from and responding to history. Perhaps TEPCO should've done the same and then they wouldn't be in a position where they have to try and hand wave it.

1."Japan utility used bad assumptions to conclude nuclear plant was safe from tsunami": March 27, 2011, AP.
2. "Nuclear Disaster in Japan Was Avoidable, Critics Contend": March 9th, 2012, NYT.
3. "Japan's 1,000-year-old warning": March 11, 2012, LA Times.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TotD: TIFF Bell Lightbox...

... is doing a Ghibli Festival in which they note Grave of the Fireflies is a masterpiece of the house, but won't be showing it.

Guess suicide insurance was too expensive.

Monday, March 5, 2012

FiM: How to Annoy a Community in 3 Easy Steps

1) Hire/Assign a representative to act as liaison to the Community and announce to great fanfare.

2) Let them begin working with the community on getting answers to their questions.

3) Release them from Employment with you 6 days after they get the questions and 23 days after you've sent them in during a round of layoffs.

<insert facepalm here>

Seriously guys, did no one stop and question just how big of a tease and/or douche this was going to make you look? Worse, it seems no one had any answers prepared for when the natives have found out and want to know where all the projects this guy was running are going to land.

It's one thing to miss the former, it's a complete other to miss the latter because you had to have known the question would be coming.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

TotD: On Iran and Nukes.

If Israel bombs Iran to "stop them from getting nukes", it will likely start a significant period of unrest if not outright war in the Middle East with a high risk of uniting the region against them.

If Iran gets Nukes and uses one against Israel, turning several important Muslim holy sites into dead zones for the next decade or two, does anyone actually think the outcome is going to be celebration in the region?

Your answer to this likely depends on whether or not you're in the school that Muslims are what I'd all "classical" anti-semites (i.e.: they hate Jews for nailing Christ to a cross), or have their own current reasons (i.e.: they kicked cousin Paly off his land), that are just reinforced and referenced by dogma as is wont to happen when people get angry and political/religious leaders look to assign blame.

My answer is this: if Iran, or any of their proxies, turns those religious sites "into glass" they have more to fear from their own populace and the rest of the Muslim nations than they do from Israel and they damned well know it. This is why, while the idea of a nuclear Iran doesn't remotely thrill me at all from a "world needs less capacity to destroy itself, not more" perspective, it doesn't particularly scare me either.

At the end of the day, self preservation has always been a startlingly effective deterrent when it comes to these things.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rant: Subways in Toronto. This Bullshit has to Stop.

Toll roads are an option, he said, but rather than put tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway, Councillor Ford proposed new purpose-built freeways through the city.

“On a nickel a kilometre — it’ll bring in $200 million a year,” he said, noting it would cost “a good chunk” to build new highways, but then all revenues could flow to subway construction. He said he would happily pay $3 to whiz downtown from Etobicoke rather than be stuck in Gardiner gridlock.
Excuse me. I need to go scream at the heavens for a bit...


No, still need to find my happy place... BRB...


Ok... heres the problem folks. The Fords want to build subways but no one wants to pay taxes or development fees to finance them, they also don't have the cajones to admit they screwed up when they canceled a revenue stream that could have paid for Subways when they bought votes with tax cuts, and so now we find then unable to bankroll their big platform idea.

Remember this key detail, because it's important: there's no money for their little project. Zero, zilch, nada. Not only that, but even the Chong plan has now been debunked by City Hall staff outside the "disloyal" TTC who found the revenue projections overly optimistic and the case still ~$1 Billion short at the end of the day before said projections crashed into the wall that was reality.

So, again, there is no money.

Having realized this Doug, who's supposedly the "smarter" brother, now suggests the solution is to build new freeways (because, again folks, no cajones to place tolls on existing freeways to be found here), and toll those because it seems that while there is no money for subways there is money in some dark recess of City Hall for that.

Sorry, but I call bullshit.

Here is what's going to be needed to get "new" freeways built in Toronto:

1) Environmental Assessment of Routes which means millions of dollars and years spent chasing our tails just to plot the trail.

2) Mass expropriation of land. Unless you want to tunnel the whole thing (hey, that's only a few hundred million a kilometre, if you're lucky. Just ask Boston), you're going to have to buy people out of the way because there is very little open space left within the city. With ramshackle huts in this town going for $500K a pop, this will amount to hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. Oh, and court cases to tie the process up for a few more years.

3) OMB Reviews. Yes, even those folks who don't get their land expropriated are going to be pissy when you announce there's now going to be a freeway through their neighbourhood. Have fun sitting around the court table for another few years.

4) Yay! Maybe we can get to construction now! That'll just cost a few billion and, take 5 to 10 years as they split out the payouts to construction over multiple years, and play havoc on city traffic flow as we tear up existing streets, build overpasses, and off/on ramps. No problems there at all....

So, I'd say a safe, conservative estimate, is that about 15 to 25 years from now and Billions later you'll get freeways to pay for subways. Good thing Mr Mammoliti and "Finch Area Residents" are willing to wait 50 years to get them 'cause that would the the optimistic timeframe as I'm willing to bet cold hard cash that Tolls will have to pay all this back before they can be directed to feed subways.

One small little problem: if there's no fucking money to pay to build subways where's the money going to come for this???

The private sector? Well, lets stop, look, and listen for a second. Doug suggests a Toll of 5 cents a kilometre. The 407 ETR charges 19-25 cents/km depending on the time of day. Thus, if you're looking to the private sector I suggest you try again off your meds 'cause they're affecting your perception of reality: they're going to want far more than 5 cents.

Sooooo, without a much higher fare we're likely back to the public sector spending billions in the hope that someday they might be able to make money to build something else.

Suggestion: if we have the billions to build new freeways we damned well have the billions to build the subways that make them irrelevant. Or we don't; remember point one folks. In the later case, council really needs to put an end to the Rob and Doug show so we can get back to legitimate discussion of how to get this done because the current spittle coming from their foaming little mouths is inarguably full of it and amounts to little but a continuation of pander beyond measure.