Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breaking down Sen. Evan Bayh's farewell email

So a brief return to the blog to do a quick FJM treatment on Senator Evan Bayh's farewell and fuck thank you email I received today. He continues to find new ways to piss me off.
A Privilege To Serve

For almost all of my adult life, I have had the honor of representing Hoosiers in elected office.

I also would have accepted "representing Wellpoint" and "representing Washington columnists who easily get the vapors."

Next month, my time as a United States Senator will draw to a close. I am proud of what we accomplished together over the past 12 years.

This ought to be good. I hope the list includes a rundown of the number of times he served as the Democrat in "even some Democrats support [insert policy that the Heritage Foundation likes here]."

With your help, I’ve worked to preserve and create jobs in the automobile, RV and medical device industries – cut property taxes, make college more affordable for middle-class families and crack down on abusive credit card practices.

Cut property taxes? Just how does a sitting senator do anything to cut state property taxes? Also note the lack of:
  • Big bills with his name attached to it as a primary author that made any sort of meaningful impact on the lives of lower and middle class Americans.
  • Mention of his support for the change to bankruptcy laws that were a giveaway to the credit card companies on which he likes to say he helped crack down.

In the Senate, I’ve fought to keep our country safe with a national security strategy that is tough and smart, and to ensure our soldiers have the equipment they need in battle and the health care they deserve when they return home.

What part of his national security strategy that he's proud of includes "bombing the fuck out of brown people that had nothing to do with 9/11" and "keeping our soldiers entrenched in an endless war that only empowers the terrorist minority of Muslims in the middle east"? IMO, the best health care for soldiers would probably be not sending them into ill advised wars on trumped up "evidence" and Washington post columns full pant-wetting fear mongering.

Finally, I’ve tried to be a voice of reason for balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, voting against excessive spending by both parties because it is immoral to saddle our children and grandchildren with unsustainable debt.

Evan Bayh. The voice of reason. Look how reasonable he is. Even his hair is parted reasonably! And speaking of unsustainable debt, how'd that Bush Tax Cut vote work for that?

Last week, I delivered my final speech as a United States Senator. As I said on the floor of the Senate, Hoosiers are hardworking, patriotic, devout and full of common sense. We are Middle America and embrace middle-class values. The more of Indiana we can have here in Washington, the better Washington will be.

This paragraph is one "real Americans" away from a BINGO. Sadly, he won't get to go home with the Hickory Farms Sausage Platter and a gift certificate for a free appetizer at Applebees. Better luck next time, Evan!

To my fellow Hoosiers let me say that while my time in the Senate is drawing to a close, my devotion to our state will remain everlasting.

Indeed it will be everlasting in the name 'Senator Dan Coats', 'Representative Larry Bucshon' and potentially [Zeus help us all] 'Governor Mike Pence'.

Thank you for the privilege to serve. May God bless you.

Good riddance.

Evan Bayh

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Overly-Optimistic Election Day Predctions

What the hell....

  • US Senate - The Dems win everywhere they are leading and pick up two seats they are down in, probably Bennett in CO and Giannoulias in IL. This holds the GOP to +6 for a Senate margin of 53-47 D. Thus in theory things can pass without the Wanker Caucus of Joe Lieberman (I-His Giant Ego), Ben Nelson (D-Ethanol), and probably soon to be new member Joe Manchin (D-Coal).
  • US House - GOP gains held to +50 for a new House margin of 228-207 R. Hopefully there are at least 11 non-crazy Republicans who can help the Dems increase the debt ceiling and save the country from bankruptcy. Otherwise... Well, let's just say you might want to move your assets in Euros.
  • IN House Districts - What the hell, both Donnelly and Hill hang on due to better-than-expected turnout in South Bend and Bloomington. All other district go as polled.
  • IN Senate - Nothing is saving Ellsworth, congratulations Senator Coats (R-VA). (I'm still astonished over this one. How the hell did the Dems fail to make his carpetbagging an issue? Whatever...)
  • IN General Assembly - Nothing's saving this, GOP retakes the house. The Gay-Bashing Amendment will probably return next session, zombie-like.
  • IN Secretary of State - Charlie White.
  • Marion County Prosecutor - Terry Curry.
  • Marion County Sheriff - John Layton.
This is what passes for optimism this year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My State Senate District - S31

Feast your eyes on my horrifyingly gerrymandered Indiana State Senate District. Yes, that district represents such places as Geist resevoir mansions, a large state park, an army base, the far east of the county north of Cumberland, and the near east side of the old city limits of Indianapolis.

Can someone explain to me ONE thing that the Little Flower neighborhood has in common with Geist, and how State Senator Jim Merrit can even come close to adequately representing the interests of his constituents in my neighborhood? Do you think he's even campaigned in my neighborhood?

Update: Because someone couldn't quite believe how bad it is, I added a closeup of the southwestern most part of the district. Remember, this district stretches from GEIST RESERVOIR in the NE corner of the county, where the richest of the rich live.

Yes, that's Raymond street to the south and Willard Park/State Ave to the west

Monday, May 3, 2010

How to make Google Chrome spoof as the Android Browser

Did you know you can make Google Chrome lie to websites that it is a completely different browser? You can even make the websites think it is the Android browser?

Most people may never want to do this, but my mom just bought herself a new laptop. Since she lives out in the sticks where broadband is only available at 5GB per month from Verizon over the cellular network, I needed to come up with a way to stretch her browsing a little further.

Many websites support mobile versions that will display their content in a more bandwidth friendly way if they detect you are on a mobile browser. This is great, but doesn't help my mom who is using a regular browser on a regular laptop, just a mobile network.

Thankfully, Google Chrome is awesome. You can use a command line switch to have Chrome report any user-agent string you like.

C:\[Google Chrome Install Path]\chrome.exe --user-agent="[your user agent string of choice]"

To spoof the Android browser, I just used:

>chrome.exe --user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 0.5; en-us) AppleWebKit/522+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/419.3"

Browse to to confirm... and I get the mobile version of the website. This won't help everything, but in many popular websites this should help with the bandwidth at least a bit. Just create a shortcut where the call to chrome includes your mobile user agent string and you've now essentially got Chrome and ChromeMobile.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Open Letter To Central Indiana Flogging Molly Fans

Went to the Flogging Molly show at the Murat on Monday night. They put on a great show, as always. But I need to have a talk with the younger Flogging Molly fans here in Central Indiana.
  1. The band is not from Boston. I know! They are sorta Irish and all. But they are from Los Angeles. Your Boston Red Sox gear and your Cheers t-shirt don't really make sense.

  2. Also, you don't get bonus points for wearing green.

  3. A Boondock Saints tshirt? Kiss Me I'm Irish? Fight Me I'm Irish? Some shirt proclaiming that because you are Irish you are an alcoholic? This isn't a contest to see who can wear the most vaguely Irish references. I'm guessing most of you aren't even Irish at all.

  4. I can't say this enough: Don't Be That Guy. Don't wear the shirt of the band you are going to see. Best distilled and taught to my generation in a scene from the movie PCU , just don't do it. This is very important. Don't Be That Guy. [I really tried to find a video clip of these scene from PCU but to no avail]

Does this all mean I'm reaching the point where I am too old to go to concerts? It was scary enough that there were kids there that were probably 2 or 3 when I when to my first Flogging Molly concert.


Kids these days need to get off my damn lawn.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finally received my NO GODS license plate

As promised, posting a picture or two of my new license plate. Thanks again to everyone who was so supportive during the brief but interesting fight to get this plate.

I look forward to the dirty looks and comments I am sure to receive. Just hopefully no vandalism.

Update: Thanks to Hemant Mehta for posting the update on this as well. I really think that this story reaching both Reddit and The Friendly Atheist helped push my situation to a successful resolution faster than it would have been without the power of The Internets.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chili Recipe

I posted this recipe on Facebook right after New Year's Eve, but want to put it here as well so it's not just behind the wall I've erected around my FB profile.

Here's the recipe for the chili I made on New Year's Eve.

it's mostly based on this recipe:
I doubled the recipe on that link, so everything here will be for a *double* batch. it makes ALOT of chili, so you might want to halve it to be reasonable. I basically reworded the recipe at that link to fit with what I did.

- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground chuck
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 Large white onion
- 1 Large red onion
- 2 Large red bell peppers
- 2 Jalapenos
- 2 Cherry peppers
- 6 Cloves of garlic
- 3 Cans Tomato Sauce
- 1 Can diced tomatoes (with the liquid)
- 2/3 Cup Flour
- 8 TBSP Chili Powder
- 1 Tsp. Ground cayenne pepper
- 4 Tsp. ground Cumin
- 1 Tsp. ground chili tepin (optional, very hot dried chili)
- 6 TBSP Vegetable Oil
- Salt, Pepper
- Water

Prep: Mince the garlic. Finely chop the onions, bell peppers, jalapenos and cherry peppers. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, chili powder, cumin, 2 tsp of salt, and 2 tsp of pepper.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion, garlic, and peppers. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the ground beef/lamb and brown. While the beef is browning add a few pinches of salt and cumin. Drain any excess fat.

Still cooking, add the flour mixture to the pot and stir to coat. Add the tomato sauce/diced tomatoes and about 7 cups of water. You can vary the amount of water to affect the consistency and thickness of the chili.

Add the cayenne pepper and chili tepin (be careful with the tepin, it's SPICY) and a few dashes of cumin. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour or more. I simmered it in a large stock pot for close to 3 hours.

It's also great re-heated over baked potato with cheese and sour cream.

*A note on the chili tepin: I can't seem to find it in stores around here anymore, but Julie was able to order some online. It's totally optional, but a good smoky, VERY hot chili. If you don't have it or don't want to bother finding it, a little more cayenne or other dried chili would be fine. Be VERY careful handling this stuff though. The ground dried tepin sticks around for a long time and burns like hell if you get it in your eyes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The IZOD IndyCar Series finds their man.

Looks like the IndyCar series found themselves a new leader - Andy Bernard!

Andy Bernard, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO

Mr. Bernard shockingly comes from a completely different industry, formerly in sales for the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company's office in Scranton, PA. It is believed his many connections via his years at Cornell University will help get the series more attention in the lucrative east coast market. Mr. Bernard, who insisted reporters refer to him as "The Nard Dog", has said he is eager to learn about the sport he now heads although admits to never having watched a race as his favorite sports are competitive a capella singing, frisbee golf and Cornell football games

At press time, there has been no confirmation that fellow salesman Dwight Schrute has been named the head of the series' Rules Committee.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A 6 Hours Into It Review of Mass Effect 2 [Video Games]

Going to let me nerd out even more than I did on the OMG The Walking Dead on TV?! post.

I've had an XBox 360 for a bit over 3 years now, and one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) games I've played on it was Mass Effect by Bioware. An incredibly rich story, it expertly blended RPG and action elements with a fantastic story and branching structure. Of course there were issues. Some side missions got pretty repetitive, what with the whole "Land on planet, drive around, kill a few things, take off again" structure. The inventory management system was one of the worst I've seen in a game. But those weren't problems that kept it from being one of my favorite games of all time.

Now the second chapter of the planned trilogy is out, and wow... Bioware has some stones. Apparently you can finish the second game in a trilogy with your main character DEAD. You'd have to play ME3 with a newly created character.

But the big things that stick out as ballsy changes are some of the changes that Bioware made to the gameplay mechanics. Risky, for a game that did so well in its first iteration. I'm going to use Paul Lukas of UniWatch's system for sports uniform change criticism of "Is it good, bad or stupid?"

Caveat: I'm only about 6 or 7 hours into the game, which will probably stretch 50, 60 or more hours. These are all first impressions.

Gone is the terrible inventory system. In fact, gone is the inventory at all. It's a good thing and a bad thing. No more giant inventory, juggling weapons, endless time figuring out what to sell and what to keep. Now, you just have the weapons you are equipped with. You can choose your weapon loadout at the beginning of a mission and you go. But gone with the inventory are the items you can add to a weapon, swap to different weapons, etc to enhance them.

Verdict: Good. That inventory system was terrible. But it allowed me to make ALOT of money for my character*. This is simpler and better.

*I'm lucky I imported a character from ME1 that was deemed 'rich', as it gave me a $100,000 start on cash.

The upgrade system. This is interesting. You have a scientist on your ship that can research upgrades, or you can purchase upgrades. These get applied to most of your weapons and armor (I think, I'm still pretty early in the game) of a given class. I have seen at least one upgrade that just effects Shepherd's [your character] health. So there's probably other upgrades that are more specific. But they're very general and not swappable among weapons and armor.

Unfortunately, you need resources to research and build your upgrades. And resources are a pain in the ass to find [more on that later]. The upgrades look great, and could have some neat effects but it looks like you're going to have to be much more careful and think about what you want and the team members you use most before you research/buy an upgrade.

Upgrade system verdict: Good, so far but the potential to become bad because of resources.

More on resources. Getting resources happens in one of two ways. You can find them while going through your missions [easy] and you can scan unexplored planets to get them [tedious, lame]. Scanning a system basically entails going into orbit around a planet marked 'Unexplored' and running a circular cursor over the planet while pressing your RT trigger and watching for signs of a resource you want. This is a slow and tedious process. Then, once you find it you have to launch a probe to mine the resource.

Problem is, probes cost money. And flying to planets within a system costs fuel (which costs money).

Verdict: Upgrades are going to be very important in this game to make your characters more effective against escalating difficulties of enemies. Forcing the player to go through the tedious process of scanning planets for resources that is just plain boring. But at leas you don't have to drive around annoying landscapes in that stupid truck from ME1 anymore? Stupid.

I'm lucky my imported character from ME1 was a top level guy that gave me a decent amount of resources to start with* (10k each), although I'm already finding upgrades I can't even begin to afford yet.

*See a pattern here? I sorta feel sorry for ME2 players that don't have a strong and complete ME1 player to import.

Fuel and probes are both essential to exploring uncharted planets and finding your resources. They cost money. Fuel is also needed to fly between planets within a system and fly between systems within an area. There goes being able to freely explore the rich universe ME1 and ME 2 have built. I'm playing this game to have fun, not to replicate stopping at the gas station before my commute to work.

Verdict: Bad. Also stupid.

Travelling between planets and systems has also obviously changed a bit, given the addition of fuel. No longer do you go to your map and say "I want to go here now." Now you have to 'fly' there, using fuel. If you want to move out of an area containing multiple systems to another, you have to fly (using fuel) to the local system that has the Mass Effect Relay, then fly to it, then use it to travel between systems. Why? What does this add to the game? Nothing. What does it take away? The freedom to travel easily and explore without worrying about your gas tank.

Verdict: Bad. Also stupid.

Weapon 'powers' are a pretty neat feature. At least for my character class, you can specialize in powers for your weapons themselves, so you can make your bullets cryo or fire bullets on the fly (and I'm sure others as I go one). I love this. Ont he fly you can hit enemies with different sorts of attacks from one gun. The only problem with this is for bigger enemies you have to switch multiple times in one fight to get through their layers of defenses. It gets a bit annoying since it takes time to switch powers. But overall, I like it.

Verdict: Good.

Terminal hacking and overrides have also changed. Gone are the button mashing 'minigame' that also depending on the skills of someone in your party. Enter are two different minigames for hacking and overriding that aren't dependent on any skills. The hacking minigame basically makes you match little colored bits that look like text to other ones that look the same in a scrolling interface with a timer. Hard to describe. It's pretty easy, but a little tedious. Overrides are done by matching 'circuits' on a circuit board, again timed. They are both relatively easy, but not any less tedious than the simple button mashing minigame.

Verdict: Stupid, but no harm done.

Your actions in the game also act more like streamlined missions than freeform exploration. Maybe BioWare doesn't WANT players to just explore and take it easy. Maybe they are trying to force players into a feeling that they need to get moving. That shit is going down and there's no time to waste. When you complete a mission, you get a mission report and then you are back on your ship. I kind of like it. One problem though - when you have multiple missions on a plaet/station, and you finish one it's stupid to have to re-dock/land just to do another mission. It should be smarter and just leave you there if you have more to do.

Verdict: Good. But if they really wanted to get the player to feel the urgency of the story, you shouldn't have to slowly scan planets for resources.

Of course, what made the original Mass Effect so good was the story. So far, it's amazingly good. The import of your ME1 character is seamless [although one friend of mien did have some trouble with it, not sure what] and you are instantly dumped into the action. I cant' say much more about the story because I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the part where you meet[character from ME1 name redacted] is really cool and for people who used [him/her] alot in ME1 it feels like you've met up with an old friend right when you need [him/her] the most. I look forward to more moments like that.

Reading the above, it sounds like I've got lots of bad things to say about it. Mostly, I think it's just nitpicking a game that I love. ME1 blew my mind. I hold any sequel to a high standard. There are some elements that seem pointless or against the feel of the game they tried to make. But it's still Mass Effect, with great voice acting, plot, character development and everything.

And I know it's a good game when I sorta wish I could just go home early from work and play more.

For a MUCH better review than this schmuck can do, see Ars Technica's Opposable Thumbs review.

Update after playing for another 4 hours
  • Resources: If you play ME2, safe up all the iridium you can for the ship upgrade to your scanner. It makes scanning go a little quicker. Also, focus just on planets that are deemed 'Rich'. It's still stupid that I have to spend so much time just manually scanning an entire planet's surface, but those two things have really increased the amount of resources I was able to get. My verdict is still Stupid though, because it really slows down a game that I think they tried to make more tense and fast paced.

  • Upgrades: By increasing the the speed (even if just by a bit) resources I took in, I was able to afford alot more upgrades. Still Good. I think. For now.

  • A specific mission complaint: there's a mission I got pretty early to recover some supplies form a planet. I land, and apparently have to fight off three heavy mechs before they destroy 20 crates. I can't remember the name of the mission but it's a side 'N7' mission. Don't even try it until you've leveled up your squad quite a bit and can take out all their shields quickly. It's a BEAST. No way should a mission that difficult come so early.

  • Needing to gas up your ship for traveling between systems is still monumentally Stupid.

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Open Letter To Andre Carson

After thinking about it for a few days, I recently sent this to Indiana's 7th District House Representative, Andre Carson:

I'm writing to you regarding recent news reports that progressive legislators in the House are considering not supporting the Senate Health Care Reform Bill (HCR). As a constituent who voted for you in 2008, I would urge you not to make this mistake.

Yes, the Senate HCR bill is greatly flawed. Yes, it doesn't go nearly far enough in fixing the disaster that is the US health care system. Yes, the reason why we are faced with the current dilemma is the fault of the Senate, not the House. But it is only the House that can save us. It is only the House that can see to it that the last several months were not wasted. It is only the House that can pass a bill, that while flawed, will still materially improve the lives of millions of Americans.

I find myself thinking of another flawed bill, a bill that at the time was rightly criticized for not going far enough. I'm thinking of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. And I'm thinking of how Lyndon Johnson argued that passing the 1957 CRA would break down the wall that had held civil rights legislation back for decades. Johnson said that passing the 1957 CRA would open the door for better legislation later. Johnson was of course proven right.

I urge you and your fellow House progressives to follow Johnson's example and not turn away from this chance to make history.