Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Olbermann vs. Stewart

I watch The Daily Show on my laptop over breakfast each day, and then I listen to Countdown on my drive to work. So I followed both sides of this exchange in near real time after a short lag.

Jon Stewart was absolutely right to call out Keith Olbermann as crossing a line. As someone who has tried to cultivate his "Edward R. Murrow" persona of serious commentary mixed with a little rabble rousing, Olbermann should have known better. When you are reduced to complaining about swearing in front of kids, or not taking the time to disavow every crazy thing an audience member shouts, you're not pursuing truth, you're just grasping at something to justify your position.

It's Keith's response in the last 30 seconds of the clip, though, that makes him still a class act in my book. When Jon Stewart went after Jim Cramer, Cramer got involved in an embarrassing week long pissing match before ultimately coming on the Daily Show and admitting that he was, in fact, full of it. Olbermann actually listened to the criticism, thought about it, and backed off rather than escalating.

Extra kudos to Stewart for calling out a guy who would ordinarily be an ally, and for being right.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whites-only basketball. You have GOT to be kidding.

Via Think Progress:

“There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.” [...]

He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas’ indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans’ dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

“Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he said. “That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.”

This isn't from the Onion, but I'm still suspicious that it's a joke. A joke that took in the Augusta Chronicle, sure, but as I survey the stories around the web they all seem to use that one article as a source. The guy who proposed this, Don "Moose" Lewis, appears to be a real person, a pro wrestler. Either he's really that stupid, or he's staging an event to deliberately foster an "evil" persona, for the ongoing soap-opera-for-men that is wrestling.

Breaking news: Democrats suck at politics

Stuff like this makes me repeatedly bonk my head in annoyance.

Under Massachusetts law, it'll probably take 10 days for the election of Scott Brown to be certified and for Brown to be sworn in as a Senator. Nothing nefarious -- that's just how orderly transfers of power work in a democratic system. Consequently, Paul Kirk will continue to serve as Senator up until the point that Brown is properly sworn in.

Barney Frank, God love him, doesn't think Kirk counts:

"I know some of my Democratic colleagues had been thinking about ways to, in effect, get around the results by working in various parliamentary ways, looking at the rules, trying to get a health care bill passed that would have been the same bill that would have passed if [MA AG] Martha Coakley [D] had won, and I think that's a mistake," Frank said. "I will not support an effort to push through a House-Senate compromise bill despite an election. I'm disappointed in how it came out, but I think electoral results have to be respected."

Jim Webb agrees, except ever so more so:

"In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process," Mr. Webb said. “It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated."

I watched a Daily Show episode this week in which Jon Stewart said something along these lines: "Oh. So apparently what is going to kill Obama's agenda is having only 59 allies in the Senate, which is more than the number that George Bush ever had, back when he did pretty much whatever the [bleeped] he wanted."

But as dumb as the new normal is, where Senate Republicans filibuster every bill every time regardless of content, what is even more stupid is that even leading Senators find it so easy to cut and run.

If Tom Delay had ever commanded a filibuster-proof Republican majority, which was about to end in two weeks, would he have said, "Aw shucks fellas, I guess we'd better put all legislation on hold in order to be fair to the Democrats"? Fuck, NO. What Tom Delay would have done was rush to cram as much legislation as possible into the next two weeks, in order to take maximum advantage of the existing time window.

Look, Democrats. Do I like it that the Senate is now this cutthroat, where both parties need to use every possible political trick in order to gain the upper hand? No. But it is what it is -- if you don't use every opportunity to get what you want, then you get steamrolled by Republicans, who have no such scruples.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why so many Warcraft pickup group players are bad

I hate to indulge in another World of Warcraft post, but I don't have a separate gaming blog. Maybe I should start one, but I'm already stretched thin across three blogs, so it's going here. For you non-gamers, feel free to skip this post, unless it captures your interest. It's got some philosophical bits about teamwork and interpersonal relationships, so there's that.

I like patch 3.3, which introduced the ability to join random groups across multiple servers. Running instances is a lot quicker in general, and especially quick if you happen to be a tank, which I am. (Here's Vinpricent, level 80 protection paladin.) Lining up for a PUG (pickup group) takes about 20 minutes or so if you're a damage dealer, five minutes or less if you're a healer, and two seconds if you're a tank. I have at least one of each at various levels, so I've seen this difference frequently. It's because tanking is a more demanding and stressful role that most players do not like, but it's a ton of fun when done competently.

At least half of the PUGs I join have competent and friendly players, run smoothly, and are a pleasure to play. But I encounter bad PUGgers pretty regularly, and I think I've identified a common theme.

Many of these people are highly skilled as individual players, but they have a play style which does not tolerate any less than perfection from anyone else in the group. Everyone is assumed to be a flawless player, and if they fall short of this ideal, it is always the team's fault and not theirs.

Anecdote 1: The super damage dealer

I am training up a friend who is new to the game. He started a paladin of his own, so I encouraged him to try tanking. I was playing a low level mage with him.

We grouped with a low level hunter who was loaded to the hilt with heirlooms. I'm a pretty capable DPS ordinarily, but this guy is outpacing me by about 3-1 according to Recount. This is a big problem for an inexperienced tank, who cannot hope to keep with that much threat. Monsters are attacking him constantly. To add to the annoyance, this is another one of those guys who will race ahead and attack more groups first, if the tank is not moving fast enough for his needs.

I say "Look, dude, you have great DPS, but our tank is inexperienced and you need to let him establish threat a little more." He responds by saying that he ALWAYS beats everyone in DPS, and it's never a problem. He also does not want to turn off Growl on his pet, since he knows his pet will need to keep monsters off of HIM.

This is actually the most frequent kind of bad player I see. Some DPS players believe that maximizing damage is their only job, and they don't notice or don't care when their personal style is hurting the team.

Anecdote 2: The bully healer

Mistakes happen. People die. Sometimes it's easy to identify who's at fault. Sometimes it's not.

I'm tanking Prince Keleseth, a boss who freezes random players in ice tombs, making them take damage and preventing actions. Ordinarily the DPS should attack the tomb and break it. Unfortunately, the healer gets entombed, and nobody helps him. We have solid DPS and I can survive well, so we survive, but the healer dies moments before the encounter ends. There is no wipe.

He starts cursing and yelling that it's MY fault (bear in mind that he was nowhere near me when he got entombed). He demands the shard I won as "payment" for letting him die. I give it to him, not wanting to jeopardize the run over his tantrum. As the encounter goes on, he starts barking instructions and acting frustrated when they are not followed, even though we move through at a fairly rapid clip with no other deaths.

Finally, another player and I shut him up. I say "Listen, chill out or quit the group. I'm a tank, I can have another group in 3 seconds. You died once, it is not worth the emotional response you're giving." He says that when he's done he'll go back and play with his top tier guild, whose members are much better than me. Finally I say "Yeah, but you'll still be a big whiner." As we approach the final boss I tell our shadow priest out loud: "Please be ready to off-heal in case he rage-quits in the middle." He doesn't quit.

Anecdote 3: The lunatic

Another healer here, the instant the instance is entered he starts saying "Start chain pulling, this is too easy for me." Gamely I start establishing aggro on a group at a time, moving ahead before a group is fully beaten. He keeps saying "Full mana! I'm bored! PULL FASTER!"

So I pull faster. When there are too many mobs on us already, the group gets feared, pulling even more. I can't get enough aggro, the healer is too far away to be useful. Wipe. I feel stupid for listening to him.

The thing is, even if you have skills which work effectively with perfect groups -- high DPS, big mana pool for healing, the ability to chain-pull as a tank without regard for how well your healer is keeping up -- stuff happens. Patrols hit you, healers go OOM, the tank can't pull the mobs back from your overpowered leather-armor-wearing jerk butt. And when unexpected things happen, if you were playing to the point where you were just barely not dying, that will quickly change from "only mostly dead" to "all dead" pretty quick.

That's why I'm a conservative player no matter what role I'm in. I don't pull more than we can handle; I let my healer mana stay near the full end and don't complain; I watch Omen and switch targets or STOP dealing damage if we have a weak tank.

I just can't believe that so many players have a hard time comprehending the fact that if you have a play style which increases the likelihood of a wipe, you will progress MORE slowly than a group that is cautious and survives.

Festina Lente -- the more haste, the less speed.