Tl;dr OMG Farmville!

Yup, I play Farmville.  My shame muscle has been atrophied so long, I can say that out loud without qualifiers.  I am also aware this makes me a huge geek, but then, tell me something else I don’t know.

Not only play it, but I’m a huge freeeeeek.  I have three gaming accounts!  I had to – you understand that there was no question of a choice in the matter – play all the crafting buildings, and you can only get one building per account on the home farm without spending real world cash (in itself funny money, but we’ll return to bitching about Bernanke at a later date).

Where this becomes amusing enough to rise to the level of blogging, is in reference to the snag bars.

When playing Farmville, there are various supplies and materials you require for sundry purposes.  Say you want to breed pigs.  Well, you will need to build the pigpen and this requires nails, wooden boards and bricks (8 apiece).  Ten of each to expand the pen the first time, twenty to expand it again, if I recall correctly.  You will also need pigs, which can be obtained with truffles.  Last, you will need love potion (the piggies need the Dutch Courage, I suppose) and bottles to feed the piglets and grow them into adult pigs.

The way to get bricks, boards, nails, truffles, potion and bottles is off your neighbors’ feeds.  While harvesting and building on your farm, little messages will pop up and allow you to share things with your neighbors.  (And it’s a right royal pain in the arse, but everyone clicks these messages because if you don’t offer stuff on the feeds people delete you as a neighbor so you can’t take the stuff they offer.  So, you could say it’s political.)

Only, you often find you spend more time watching your feed to snag the goodies you need than you do playing the actual game.  Some, including yours truly, find this to be, shall we say, tedious.

Enter the snag bar.

A snag bar is an application that watches your feeds for you.  You set the bar to look for the things you want, and it collects them.  It also accepts game requests with one click – an enormous improvement over spending two hours returning 150 requests individually.

And because the internet is serious business, you just know this caused a shitload of drama.  Cue cries of “OMG CHEATING CHEATERS!!!1!”  No, I’m not kidding.  Loads of players think this is cheating.  There are almost no gamer’s rooms that don’t have constant huge discussions about why snag bars are or are not cheating, how to figure out if your neighbors are cheating with a snag bar so you can delete them and, something I find vastly amusing, which snag bars are the best at returning requests with one click (because that’s okay).

The hysteria gives me hours of fun.  I like to go to the game rooms and poke anti-snaggers with sticks.  Quite easy to do, because having never used the snag bars, they subsequently have no idea what they really do.

Anti-snagger: I saw a video that showed you didn’t even have to be logged into your Facebook account.

Me: Not possible.  The program can’t access your feed unless you’re logged in to Facebook and your monitor is active.

Anti: They grab everything and no one gets a chance at anything good because of those cheaters!

Me: The app only runs once every sixty seconds.  (Note for non-players: Most good stuff is gone in twenty seconds or less.  Ergo, an app that runs once every sixty seconds misses a LOT.)

Anti: I’ve heard Zynga plans to delete the accounts of anyone who uses a snag bar, because you know it’s against their ToS.

Me: What I don’t get is, if Zynga considers snag bars to be a violation of the ToS, then why did Zynga make it’s own snag bar?

Of course, few people really know what the Zynga snag bar does either, but not from some sense of moral outrage.  At first it collected fuel, coins, collectibles and bonuses until too many pointed out that there’s really no difference between an app that scans the feed for fuel and an app that scans the feed for bricks, seedlings and fuel except that one is clearly more versatile.  So they changed the official bar to only accept requests and offer a crop timer.  People still wouldn’t use it, despite the offer of Farmville cash (which has to be gotten with real world money, generally), because the much-touted Toolbar-Not-Snagbar was a piece of crap that crashed Safari and wouldn’t install on everything else, didn’t really do much of anything, and most players didn’t receive the Farmville cash bribe anyhow (it was a glitch that apparently never resolved itself.  Oops).

This reminds me of, way back when eBay was relevant, the fury over snipers.  Something else I also did despite howls that it was “cheating”.

Now that I have bored everyone senseless, I’m off to go harvest my red currants and breed pigs.  Trying to level up to get a flower boar and figure out what pairs make a red piglet.  Cheers!

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Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment  

I feel so much safer now.

I’m feeling something right now.  It’s warm, gratifying and yet tinged with the slightly acidic taste of bile.  It is, by now, a familiar feeling.  I like to think of it as the I Told You So Effect.

Because I told you so.

Well.  All those people who say, “Don’t like it? Don’t fly” are going to have to come up with a new slogan.  I favor: Homeland Security – Because the Santa Fe Prom Is Terrorist Target Number One, Duh.

You know, I went to prom fifteen years ago and the chaperones biggest concern was some idiot spiking the punch.*  Now it’s terrorists.  Sad world, eh?

I’m taking no particular pleasure in this.  There’s a problem with an assessment that our government is a power-mad police state which views the citizenry as serfs to be herded.  It’s a lose-lose prediction.  Either I’m wrong, in which case I lose, or I’m right, in which case I live in a power-mad police state with the title “Expendable Serf” (and that qualifies as “lose” too).

Is anyone else just really tired of this bullshit?

* Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Everyone knew we were only hanging out long enough to get our pictures taken and dance a few numbers before heading to Jump-Off Joe and Hover, where the real parties were being held.

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 8:28 am  Comments (1)  

You Guys Are Gonna Love This

Apparently, when our Sith overlords tell us “small people” that we have to pass the bill so we can see what’s in the bill, contradict themselves (often within the same damned speech), and dismisses food inflation with “Let them eat iPads”, it isn’t because they are self-centered elitist tits.  The bastard lovechildren of Scarecrow and Tin Man, possessing neither hearts nor brains.

Nope.  It seems they really are just smarter and better than us, practically perfect in every way.  There’s been a study to prove it!

According to an academic study published Wednesday in the journal “Business and Politics,” members of the House of Representatives outperform the average stock-market investor by 55 basis points a month, or 0.55 percentage points, according to the Washington Times, which brought it to my attention. Extrapolated over a full year, that figures to an extra 6.8% per annum after compounding — better than hedge-fund superstars.

To add just 68 basis points, let alone 680 basis points, consistently makes you the equivalent of a lifetime .300 hitter in the Big Leagues.

Actually, our Congresscritters are not quite bastions of perfected humanity, because their stunning ability to play the market like a drooling savant at the piano is nevertheless topped by the performance of the Senate.

But, they add, House members’ excess equity returns trail those of Senators during the same time period, according to their previous study of investment return of the upper house — some 85 basis points a month. Annualized, that figures to 10.7% per year after compounding.

There. Our national problems are in good hands.  Don’t you feel better now?

 

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

What Emily Has Been Up To

I’m still getting emails and PMs asking, so I figured I’d fill everyone in.

No, I did not retire.  I didn’t get married, nor am I pregnant.  Yes, I am fine.

Brandy and I are running our own business – she started it up and strongarmed me into going in with her, and I have to say it’s been brilliant.  I always knew Brandy was prone to great ideas.  We figured it would be a nice sideline, and when we got slammed with appointments assumed it was just the flavor-of-the-week thing.  A week, two weeks, three at the most, and then business would go back to a slow, steady stream and I’d go back to my playmates.

That never happened.  It’s been about ten months now and we’re still going strong.  Three out of every five appointments, as a general rule, are repeat customers.  We had competition for a few weeks.  She charged 60% more and was reported to have a “shut up, let’s get this over with and then you get out” demeanor, which really is no competition at all.  The business is low maintenance, easy and fun.  Honestly, I’m having a ball.

I’ve got a new truck.  Big ol’ Expedition, which I’ve named The Beast and love with all my heart.  So awesome.

I also cut off my hair.  It’s just below my ears now.  Brandy hated it, which made me laugh.  Y’all should have heard her when she saw me, “Oh my gawd, what did you do? It looks terrible!”  It’s kind of a pain in the ass, because now I can’t just wind it into a bun to get it out of my face (and I hate it when my hair’s in my face), but I think it looks cute.

I’ve put in a garden, which is doing fabulously despite that I am STILL not used to the south Texas climate and transplanted about six weeks later than I ought to have (and still weeks and weeks before everyone back home).  Herbs, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, salad onions, cucumbers and zucchini.  Yum.

I dragged Brandy out to the bar a few weeks ago.  It was then that I discovered that Brandy, who reports herself as an instant-asshole-just-add-tequila-type, if given enough beer and Jagerbombs will sing karaoke.  We did Styx, “Renegade”, and duuuuude, she went for the high notes.  Go Brandy!  Good times, y’all.  Good times.

Currently re-reading Steven Brust’s “The Phoenix Guards”.  Good book.  Great author.

F, I still have those books by Robert Asprin you loaned me.  Did you ever want them back?

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 11:20 am  Comments (1)  

The real state of the union, pt3

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”  Attributed to Margaret Thatcher in various forms.

“A billion here, a billion there – sooner or later it adds up to real money.”  ~ Senator Everett Dirksen

“All that said, given the fundamental factors in place that should support the demand for housing, we believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system.  The vast majority of mortgages, including even subprime mortgages, continue to perform well.  Past gains in house prices have left most homeowners with significant amounts of home equity, and growth in jobs and incomes should help keep the financial obligations of most households manageable.” ~ Ben Bernanke, May 17, 2007

Stick a fork in us, we’re done.

Mathematics are fundamental.  Math cannot be talked round to your way of thinking or persuaded to join your cause.  It does not care if you have a worthy argument.  Math just is.  If you tell us that 2+2 has to equal 127 or sweet grandmas lose the family home and puppies die of cancer, the math won’t change because you think it ought to.  Math just is.

I see a lot of folks’ eyes glaze over when numbers and economic lingo get batted about, because they don’t understand deflation and price inflation and they’ve never heard of debt auctions, so I’m going to just give you a few facts.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Unassailable.  (Though this is the internet and I’m sure some will want to debate the matter.)

The federal budget is 3.7 trillion.  Federal tax receipts total 2 trillion.  So, take your tax bill and double it.  How does that work for you?  Because that’s how much money your federal government is spending.  I’m actually being quite kind, because in reality merely doubling your tax bill won’t solve the problem as it only pays this year’s expenses, not the things Congress has promised to pay but has not added to the budget yet.  And it doesn’t touch the deficit.

We’re told that cuts to spending which will bring receipts in line with output would take us back to an age of barbaric severity, with the poor rioting in the streets, children starving, the elderly eating cat food and each other, etc ad nauseam.  You know, as was so common in fiscal year 2000.  Surprise!  That’s right.  Cutting the federal budget down to about half, or what we’re actually taking in tax receipts, could be accomplished merely by taking us back to the 2000 budget.

A depression is defined as 10% or greater contraction of GDP.  We hit that mark in 2009 (and every year since, only harder).  Government spending is included when calculating GDP, so the government merely increased spending by that much.  Et voila, there is no depression!

A recent poll showed that 84% of Americans believed we can balance the budget without touching Social Security or Medicare.  Spending on Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and DoD takes every penny of current tax receipts, with nothing left afterward.  Nothing.  Let me repeat that: After collecting all tax dollars and spending them on those three things alone, there is not one thin dime left to pay for education, bailouts, TSA, transportation, IRS, farm subsidies, federal pensions…  Nothing.  The American taxpayer can only afford to fund Social Security, Medicare and the military, and only at current levels.

You could confiscate all the assets of wealthy Americans, right down to taking their shoes off their feet and selling them on eBay, and it would give us about 3% of the money we need.  (And we’d have no more rich people, so I’m not sure who we’d be shouting to tax then.)

Here’s the quick-and-dirty.  We can’t afford this budget.  It is quickly becoming mathematically impossible to ever repay the deficit.  The American consumer is broke, and since taxpayers are the income of the government then the American government is just as broke only they’ve been putting everything on credit cards ever since the taxpayers went broke.  And, exactly like taxpayers, they cannot do this forever before creditors start to suggest maybe it’s time they take back the plastic.

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

On prepping

This is certainly the logical follow-up to my State of the Union posts, but I’m usually resistant to bringing the topic up.  Most who are not thoroughly familiar with prepping associate it with extremism and mental illness and, frankly, I don’t give a damn about other people’s opinions enough to bother with educating them.

But it is the logical follow-up, and I am amused that I have found something I can teach to Maggie.

The entire point behind my SOTU posts were that hard truths are our national ‘elephant in the room’.  Someone has to be adult enough to point it out before it makes big elephant apples on the carpet.  Some of you may have known that something was wrong but couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was, and some of you will stick your fingers firmly in your ears and go, “La la la laaaaaa” because it’s easier and less scary than learning to use your gray matter for something besides stuffing.  I could help the former; the latter there is no help for, and I wish you luck and godspeed.

I’ve witnessed the progression many times from blithe unconcern to awareness.  On prepper boards, where I’ve been active since 2004, it’s called many things: waking up, sheeple-no-more, going from DGI (Doesn’t Get It) to GI (Gets It).  Either you knew what was wrong, or you knew something was wrong and found out what that was.  The next question intelligent people ask is, “So what the hairy hells do I do about it?”

Prepping is short for ‘becoming prepared’ and a prepper is no more than ‘someone who prepares’.  Prepares for what?  Self-reliance.  The rest is fine detail which people can and do fill in anyway they please.

The general “how-to” of prepping is simple.

  1. Identify your vulnerabilities.
  2. Assess prevention measures.
  3. Plan to minimize personal damage.

We’ll start with the obvious South Texas vulnerability, a hurricane.  Hurricanes can’t be prevented, but you can prevent your exposure to hurricanes by moving to, say, Kansas.  Other than those options, there’s very little in the prevention category to be done about a hurricane so we’ll step right along to the plan to minimize personal damage.  Carry proper insurance for wind and flood damage to your home and property, and it might not be a bad idea to look into how much coverage you have for looting.  Make purchases of tarps, plywood and duct tape in advance, so that when you need them to protect your home you already have them on hand.  Are you planning to evacuate or ride it out?  If you ride it out you’ll need to be prepared for loss of services and dealing with minor property damage, or in the case of major property damage to evacuate anyway after the storm passes.  Can you cook without electricity?  How will you handle sanitation?  Where will you get fresh water?  If you evacuate you’ll need a well-maintained vehicle, a planned route and destination and what’s known as a BOB, or Bug-Out Bag, i.e.; the bag of essentials you have prepared in advance in order to evacuate without needing to rummage around for family photos and clean underwear.

You also need to pay attention to the mistakes of others.  It saves a lot of grief.  After watching Rita from the relative comfort of Florida, my evacuation plans have included extra filled fuel canisters, bottled water and non-perishable snacks.  It also stressed the importance of a good BOB, because anyone who doesn’t have to pack will have a better chance of getting to the highway before traffic gets too heavy.

And that’s prepping in a nutshell.  Having the common sense to put forth a little effort now to save a lot of trouble down the road.  I’ve never understood the people who know they live in hurricane country and still get taken by surprise when this means (*gasp*) they get hurricanes. It’s a child-like mindset which is not at all endearing.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of prepping, go back to the three steps and address something else.  Job loss.  The stock market tanking.  The second coming of Jesus Christ.  Hey, I’m not one to judge.  I would encourage any proper thinking adult to address a police state, civil war and an economic collapse, but proper thinking adults are probably already doing so without any encouragement and the rest of you will just think I’m a nut.

Not saying you aren’t right about me being a nut, only that my preferred flavor of crazy does not preclude my habit of being correct on economic and political matters.

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 8:05 pm  Comments (4)