Category Archives: Stream of Consciousness

Job Spammers are the Worst

I'm looking for work right now.

So I've got a current resume posted publicly up on CareerBuilder.

And oh God, the spam that brings.

It's kind of amazing how many hiring agencies seem to have taken a look at the scammers who sell penis pills and decided, "Yeah, that looks like a pretty good business strategy."

I'm inundated, every day, with postings for jobs that aren't even in my state. I've gotten ten of them this week alone (and one phone call), and it's only Wednesday morning.

Most of them seem to be coming through one single distributor, or at least one single software kit — because they follow the same format, and if you click Unsubscribe, all the Unsubscribe pages look exactly the same except for the logo.

Needless to say, they do not actually honor the unsubscribe requests. These are spammers we're talking about.

Of course, the big problem here is that unlike the spambots selling Cialis, I can't just mark these as spam and rely on Bayesian filters to sort the wheat from the chaff — because aside from the location, these postings are indistinguishable from real job posting E-Mails, of the sort I want and need, because I am trying to find a job. Job spammers have an in that other spammers don't: they're advertising something I actually want, they're just advertising it in a place I don't want it. So I can't filter out an entire class of E-Mails, because the risk of false positives is far too high.

Which leaves me relying on filtering by domain name. Which, as anybody knows, is unreliable Stone Age Whac-a-Mole shit, because spammers use all the domain names they can get their mitts on.

Still, it's better than nothing, and I'll be putting a list of the spam domains I've filtered so far at the end of this post — maybe it'll be of some help to some other folks out there looking for work. And maybe it'll give these agencies a little bad publicity.

But first, here's a story about the absolute worst, slimiest job spam I've gotten to date.

It's from an organization called Strategic Staffing Solutions, which started out by straight-up brazenly lying to me. Here's a portion of the E-Mail I got, with the rep's last name and E-Mail redacted — I don't want to rain down Internet mob justice on anybody, even if they are engaging in sleazy tactics; I just want to name and shame the company that encourages this type of behavior.

From: Adam [redacted] <[redacted]@strategicstaff.com>
Subject: data scientist – MO
01/26/2015 02:17 PM

Hello Thad Boyd,

Please contact me as I have many job opportunities to discuss.

We have 24 locations within the USA.

I have called your phone number about your resume. The phone number has been disconnected.

Would you be interested in this job position? Please send me your resume.

Here are two job orders:

What followed were two job listings that have absolutely nothing to do with my education, training, or job experience.

So, straight into the circular file it went.

And then I thought, you know what? No. That line about trying to call me and my phone being disconnected was low. That's just a gross way to start any kind of relationship.

So I replied to the guy, and decided to press him on the "Your phone has been disconnected" lie.

From: Thad Boyd <[redacted]>
Subject: Re: data scientist – MO
01/27/2015 08:45 AM

Hi Adam,

I've had the same phone number for ten years, and haven't had any trouble receiving calls that I'm aware of. What number were you trying to call, and where did you get it?

He, of course, completely ignored my question, and responded with this boilerplate:

From: Adam [redacted] <[redacted]@strategicstaff.com>
Subject: Re: data scientist – MO
01/27/2015 09:55 AM

Hello Thad,

Please send me your resume.

Are you actively seeking work?

Please make use of Central Sourcing@STRATEGIC, as they can accelerate your recruiting.

I decided to press the issue one more time:

From: Thad Boyd <[redacted]>
Subject: Re: data scientist – MO
01/29/2015 09:52 AM

Hi Adam,

Yes, I'm actively seeking work.

Where did you say you got my contact details, and what phone number were you trying to call? I'd like to know if there's something wrong with my phone service. My grandfather is in the hospital right now and I need to know that people can reach me.

(And since he pretended not to notice my question about the phone, I pretended not to notice he'd asked for my resume.)

That last part is true, by the way — Grandpa's going to be okay but he is currently in the hospital. I brought this up to make a point: lying to somebody about his phone being disconnected has consequences. If I had been gullible enough to believe his lie, I could have wound up wasting a good chunk of my day on the phone with Sprint, trying to figure out what was wrong with my phone service, and worrying all the time that I was missing important calls about a family member's health.

Lying to somebody like that — what the hell is even the point? You think you're going to build a rapport with me by starting our relationship off by lying to me? Specifically, lying about something that could cause me a considerable amount of stress if I believed you? And how long do you think you can keep somebody believing the lie when you clearly have never even looked at his resume?

Does this actually work often enough to keep Strategic Staffing Solutions in business?

I sent that E-Mail out on the 29th. It's been four business days and I think it's a pretty safe bet that Adam's not going to be getting back to me. Not so much as a "Look, I'm sorry, they make us say that, there's no problem with your phone and I hope your grandpa gets better; is there any way I can still help you?" When faced with the potential consequences of his lie, he didn't take the thirty seconds it would have taken to come clean and apologize to me. He just chalked me up as a loss and moved on to the next sucker.

So I'm pretty comfortable in saying fuck Strategic Staffing Solutions, fuck their sleazy, dishonest recruitment tactics, and fuck the horse they rode in on. If you do business with Strategic Staffing Solutions, know that you are doing business with spammers and liars — and that if they were so cavalier about lying to me, they're probably going to be more than happy to lie to you too.

Finally, here's a list of domains that have sent me job spam, and I'll probably add to it as time goes on. Please feel free to add them to your own spam filters. And hey, if this creates some negative word association for these domains on Google, I'd be pretty okay with that.

  • strategicstaff.com
  • enterprisesolutioninc.com
  • net2source.com
  • colcon.com
  • pyramidci.com
  • ittblazers.com
  • artechinfo.com
  • usgrpinc.com
  • diverselynx.com
  • axelon.com
  • h3-technologies.com
  • mondo.com
  • simplion.com
  • genuent.net
  • abacusservice.com
  • compnova.com
  • spectraforce.com
  • syscomtechinc.com
  • iit-inc.com
  • eteaminc.com
  • project1.com
  • globalsyst.com
  • ustsmail.com
  • ustechsolutionsinc.com
  • rconnectllc.com
  • lorventech.com
  • talentburst.com
  • softpath.net
  • waddellcareers.com
  • first-tek.com
  • quantitativesystems.com
  • advantageresourcing.com
  • gtt-it.com
  • mamsys.com
  • enterprise-logic.com
  • diversant.com

A More Detailed Valiant Comics Chronology

Back in October, following my purchase of the Humble Valiant Bundle, I posted A Brief Valiant Comics Chronology making note of the order the comics were originally published in, on the assumption that that's the correct order to read them in.

As I said then:

the short answer is: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Quantum and Woody, Eternal Warrior, Unity, Rai, with Harbinger Wars concurrent with the third volumes of Harbinger and Bloodshot (as their title implies).

Now I can refine that recommendation.

The short version this time is that most of the series are standalone and you can read them in any order you want; the exceptions are Harbinger, Bloodshot, Harbinger Wars, Unity, and arguably Rai.

What follows is a bit more specificity on which books tie into which, plus why the chronology of Harbinger Wars is a bit of a clusterfuck and how the Humble Bundle left out a book that's a crucial lead-in to Unity.

Once again, this list focuses on the books that were included in the Humble Valiant Bundle, and doesn't include more recently-published Valiant comics.


Standalone Books

X-O Manowar vol 1-3

X-O Manowar is Valiant's first and flagship book, but it doesn't tie in with the others until later on down the line. It introduces the Vine, who get a few mentions in the other books, and it leads into Unity, but these first three volumes stand alone.

Harbinger vol 1-2

These first two volumes introduce the lead characters, including Toyo Harada, as well as the Harbinger Foundation and Project Rising Spirit, both of which crop up throughout other series.

Bloodshot vol 1

Bloodshot provides another view on Project Rising Spirit, but it doesn't really matter whether you read this first volume before or after the first couple of volumes of Harbinger.

Archer & Armstrong vol 1-3

The Archer & Armstrong books included in the bundle are completely self-contained and don't require any knowledge of the rest of the Valiant universe. Project Rising Spirit does make a brief appearance, but it's more of a namedrop than anything; it could be any shadowy organization, and doesn't really tie into its use in other Valiant comics.

Archer & Armstrong does introduce the Eternal Warrior, so it's best to read it before Unity. Also, Archer and Armstrong later team up with Quantum and Woody in The Delinquents, but that's not included in the bundle.

Shadowman vol 1-3

Shadowman doesn't cross over with any other Valiant books in the bundle except for a brief reference in Unity.

Vol 3 can almost be considered a standalone book in and of itself as it presents several done-in-one stories that don't really continue from vols 1 and 2, but since it includes the origin of Mister Darque, I think it still makes the most sense to read it last.

Shadowman also introduces Doctor Mirage, who gets a solo series later on; that series is not included in the bundle, but it does have a preview in Rai #3.

Quantum and Woody vol 1-3

The Q&W books in the bundle are standalone and don't cross over with anything else in the Valiant universe. Quantum and Woody later team up with Archer and Armstrong in The Delinquents, but that's not included in the bundle.

Eternal Warrior vol 1

Okay, so this book contradicts all the other appearances of the Eternal Warrior in all the other Valiant books so badly that it is the reason I tried to work out a chronology in the first place. It depicts Gilad as a reluctant warrior who turned his back on the Geomancers in the nineteenth century and has lived in seclusion since; this flatly contradicts both Archer & Armstrong, where he is tenaciously loyal to the Geomancers, and Unity, which shows him as part of a superhero team during WWII.

This is a fine book, but if you're worried about Valiant canon, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that this book isn't part of it.

Eternal Warrior vol 2

In fact, Eternal Warrior vol 1 is so separate from all the other Valiant books that you don't even need to read it before you read vol 2. Vol 2 is set 2000 years in the future and you don't need to read any other books about the Eternal Warrior first, including vol 1 of the same series.

This book occurs in the same future as Rai, but Eternal Warrior takes place on Earth and Rai takes place in an orbital space station, so there's not really any crossover to speak of. I'd recommend reading Eternal Warrior before Rai, but it's not that important.


Harbinger Wars

Bloodshot vol 2

This one almost falls under the standalone category, but its last page leads directly into Harbinger Wars. You'll want to read at least the first volume of Harbinger before you read Bloodshot vol 2; otherwise the last page isn't going to make a whole lot of sense.

The Crossover

Here's where things get dicey.

Harbinger Wars is one of those crossover events that takes place across its own self-titled miniseries, Harbinger, and Bloodshot. As in most crossovers of its type, that means a whole lot of rereading the same events from different perspectives — Harbinger Wars focuses on Project Rising Spirit and HARD Corps, Harbinger switches between Toyo Harada and the Harbinger Foundation and Peter Stanchek and the Renegades, and Bloodshot follows Bloodshot and his team.

Harbinger and Harbinger Wars manage to line up pretty well with one another, but Bloodshot is paced significantly behind the other two. In both Harbinger and Harbinger Wars, Bloodshot makes it to Vegas and meets up with the Renegades in the third issue of the arc, while in Bloodshot, the third issue is a detour and he doesn't make it to Vegas until the fourth part. If you read the individual issues in the order they were published, it's jarring; they're out of sync.

So, you can either read each trade beginning-to-end, in order:

  1. Harbinger Wars
  2. Harbinger vol 3
  3. Bloodshot vol 3

or you can read the individual issues in the order they take place:

  1. Harbinger #0
  2. Harbinger Wars #1
  3. Harbinger #11
  4. Bloodshot #10
  5. Harbinger Wars #2
  6. Bloodshot #11
  7. Harbinger #12
  8. Bloodshot #12
  9. Harbinger Wars #3
  10. Harbinger #13
  11. Harbinger Wars #4
  12. Harbinger #14
  13. Bloodshot #13

Either way, you'll want to read the first two volumes each of Harbinger and Bloodshot before you read Harbinger Wars.


Unity

Not Included

The Humble Valiant Bundle doesn't include X-O Manowar vol 4, which is something of a problem as that book leads into Unity. At least, at the beginning of Unity, Aric has set up in Romania and has already crossed paths with Gilad; this doesn't happen in any of the books in the bundle and I assume it's in X-O vol 4.

Unity vol 1-2

Before you read this, you'll want to have read the first three volumes of X-O Manowar, the first three volumes of Harbinger (including the Harbinger Wars crossover), the first two volumes of Archer & Armstrong (since vol 2 introduces the Eternal Warrior, who appears in Unity), and, if you've got it, the fourth volume of X-O Manowar (which, as noted, is not included in the Humble Valiant Bundle).


And Finally…

Rai #1-#4

I would almost call Rai standalone, but it does pick up a thread from Unity vol 2, so I'd recommend reading that first. And maybe Eternal Warrior vol 2, since it takes place in the same future as Rai; there's not much overlap between them, but I think the story of Japan-as-space-station gains something if you already know what's going on down on the surface before you start.


A Brief Valiant Comics Chronology

So I picked up the Humble Valiant Bundle a few weeks back. (The bundle is no longer being sold, but that link will show you some of what was in it.)

I'm enjoying it, and I was enjoying the shared universe, right up until I got to the part where the Eternal Warrior shows up in Archer & Armstrong and behaves completely differently from how he does in Eternal Warrior. (In A&A, he's a Terminator-like unstoppable killing machine who follows Archer to the ends of the earth to avenge the death of a Geomancer and will not listen to reason when his brother tells him Archer is innocent. Whereas in his own book, he's been in seclusion for the past 150 years after telling all the Geomancers they can go fuck themselves, and rejoins the battle only with the greatest reluctance. Both of these stories are supposed to be set in the present.) Now, maybe this gets explained later — maybe he's being mind-controlled or something — but it's pretty jarring if you read Eternal Warrior first and then switch to Archer and Armstrong.

So I got to wondering, what order are you supposed to read these books in?

It's actually surprisingly difficult to find a simple answer to this question on Valiant's site or Wikipedia. But after some research, I've found that the short answer is: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Quantum and Woody, Eternal Warrior, Unity, Rai, with Harbinger Wars concurrent with the third volumes of Harbinger and Bloodshot (as their title implies).

The long answer is this giant table I made.

(Update 2014-12-31: And the even longer answer is a newer post I wrote, titled A More Detailed Valiant Comics Chronology.)

Note that this is not exhaustive; I've only included the books that were in the Humble Valiant Bundle (and not the Valiant Masters, which are the original 1990's continuity). Also note that these dates are from solicitations I've found online; some of these might not be the actual ship dates, but most of them probably are.

Series Issue Release Trade Release
X-O Manowar #01 2012-05-02 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
X-O Manowar #02 2012-06-06 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Harbinger #01 2012-06-06 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Harbinger #02 2012-07-11 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Bloodshot #01 2012-07-11 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
X-O Manowar #03 2012-07-18 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Archer & Armstrong #01 2012-08-08 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
Bloodshot #02 2012-08-15 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Harbinger #03 2012-08-15 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
X-O Manowar #04 2012-08-29 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Bloodshot #03 2012-09-05 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Archer & Armstrong #02 2012-09-05 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #05 2012-09-12 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #04 2012-09-12 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Bloodshot #04 2012-10-10 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Archer & Armstrong #03 2012-10-10 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #06 2012-10-17 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #05 2012-10-17 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Shadowman #01 2012-11-07 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #05 2012-11-14 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #04 2012-11-14 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #07 2012-11-21 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #06 2012-11-21 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #02 2012-12-05 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #06 2012-12-12 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #05 2012-12-12 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #08 2012-12-19 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #07 2012-12-19 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #03 2013-01-09 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #07 2013-01-16 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #06 2013-01-16 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #09 2013-01-23 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #08 2013-01-23 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Harbinger #0 2013-02-06 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Shadowman #04 2013-02-06 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #08 2013-02-13 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #07 2013-02-13 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #10 2013-02-20 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #09 2013-02-20 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #05 2013-03-06 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Bloodshot #09 2013-03-13 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #08 2013-03-13 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #11 2013-03-20 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #10 2013-03-20 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #06 2013-04-03 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Harbinger Wars #01 2013-04-03 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #11 2013-04-10 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Archer & Armstrong #09 2013-04-10 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #12 2013-04-17 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Bloodshot #10 2013-04-17 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Shadowman #0 2013-05-01 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Harbinger Wars #02 2013-05-01 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #12 2013-05-08 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Archer & Armstrong #0 2013-05-08 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
X-O Manowar #13 2013-05-15 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Bloodshot #11 2013-05-15 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Archer & Armstrong #10 2013-06-05 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Shadowman #07 2013-06-05 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Harbinger Wars #03 2013-06-12 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #13 2013-06-19 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Bloodshot #12 2013-06-19 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
X-O Manowar #14 2013-06-26 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Shadowman #08 2013-07-03 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Quantum and Woody #01 2013-07-10 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #11 2013-07-17 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Harbinger Wars #04 2013-07-17 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #14 2013-07-24 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Bloodshot #13 2013-07-24 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Shadowman #09 2013-08-07 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Quantum and Woody #02 2013-08-07 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #12 2013-08-14 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Shadowman #10 2013-09-04 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #03 2013-09-04 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #13 2013-09-11 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Eternal Warrior #01 2013-09-11 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Shadowman #11 2013-10-02 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #04 2013-10-02 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Eternal Warrior #02 2013-10-09 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Shadowman #12 2013-11-06 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #05 2013-11-06 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #01 2013-11-13 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #03 2013-11-20 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Quantum and Woody #06 2013-12-04 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #02 2013-12-11 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #04 2013-12-18 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Quantum and Woody #07 2014-01-08 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #03 2014-01-15 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #05 2014-01-22 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Eternal Warrior #06 2014-02-12 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Quantum and Woody #07 2014-02-19 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #04 2014-02-19 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Quantum and Woody #0 2014-03-05 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #05 2014-03-12 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Eternal Warrior #07 2014-03-26 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Quantum and Woody #09 2014-04-02 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #06 2014-04-09 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Eternal Warrior #08 2014-04-23 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Rai #01 2014-05-07
Quantum and Woody #10 2014-05-14 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #07 2014-05-21 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Quantum and Woody #11 2014-06-04 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Rai #02 2014-06-04
Quantum and Woody #11 2014-07-02 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Rai #03 2014-07-09
Rai #04 2014-08-27

Table sorting courtesy of jQuery and tablesorter; icons courtesy of Font Awesome.


Theming

So I made a few changes to the site design.

I've still got a ways to go — so far all I've done is tweak my existing, circa-2008 codebase. I'd like to redo the backend and base it on the latest WordPress default theme (for better compatibility with widgets and things, and ideally to get responsive CSS and semantic tags working from the get-go), but that's probably going to take me a bit.

In some ways, I'm veering more retro than ever (you'll note the red links are gone and we're back not just to blue but to good old #0000FF); in others, I've made a few modest concessions to CSS3 (rounded corners and box-shadows aren't so bad — gradients and transparencies are still bullshit, though).

I thought about writing a lengthy post discussing my design sensibilities and how I've applied them in this latest update, but I think I'll hold off because I'm not actually done yet and I'm still deciding on some changes. (Links aren't currently underlined; I'd like to underline them, but post titles are also links and if they're links I want them to look like they're links, and I don't like underlines on post titles. Considering adding a colored background to post titles, but I'm still deciding. Stuff like that.)

I've learned a lot about modern Web design over the course of the past year and a half or so, since it went from being hobby/occasional freelance gig to day job. I'm still not much of a graphic designer, and my sensibilities are still very much those of a programmer rather than an artist. (I'm disappointed that XHTML was deprecated in favor of updating the HTML4 standards base, but on the other hand I dig the semantic stuff.)

And speaking of Web design as day job…well, I feel like one of these days I should continue my Tempin' Ain't Easy post and talk about the jobs I've had since. It's been interesting.


Cheap DVD's: The Real Ghostbusters, vol 1

So I happened to notice, the other day, that The Real Ghostbusters, vol 1 (affiliate link) was on sale at Amazon for $10.49.

You can also get the complete series for $123.99, which is a screamin' deal if you actually want the full run. But I remember that even at the age of 6 I wasn't too impressed by the season 3 rejiggering of the show, and there's not much sense paying extra for 43 episodes I don't want.

I've watched the first few episodes, and man, it mostly still holds up, but Slimer sure is annoying. To the point where I am beginning to understand why people actually hate this show.

I wouldn't go that far — I quite like it in fact — but I can understand it. Slimer is one of those obnoxious comic-relief mascot characters who constantly fucks everything up and yet you're supposed to like him anyway. (He makes me think of Red Foreman's line on That 70's Show: "Gilligan screwed it up. Why don't they just kill him?")

On the other hand, Frank Welker does a great voice for him (which he'd later reuse as Nibbler on Futurama).

Also: The first episode features a group of imposter Ghostbusters. Wonder if that's another deliberate knock against Filmation's Ghostbusters cartoon series, like the show's title, The Real Ghostbusters.

Some other initial thoughts:

  • Good: If you can get over the characters looking nothing like the live-action versions, the designs are pretty great; each one clearly distinct in shape and color. I noticed Dan Riba's name in the credits; he went on to be a prominent artist in DC's animated shows.
  • Good: Great cast, including Frank Welker as Slimer and Ray, Mo LaMarche doing an uncanny Harold Ramis, Arsenio Hall inexplicably getting the part of Winston despite Ernie Hudson auditioning for it, and Lorenzo Music as Garfield.
  • Good: The animation is better than the vast majority of the show's contemporaries…
  • Bad: …most of the time, but it can get pretty inconsistent.
  • Bad: Slimer. Mostly.
  • Good: But not always. Sometimes Slimer is good, and again, Welker's voice is a delight.
  • Good: The writing. I haven't liked everything J Michael Straczynski has ever written, but this show is solid. It does a good job of expanding the universe from the movie and creating a satisfying world of supernatural weirdness.
  • Good: Thirty episodes for under eleven bucks!

Kirbys and Marvel Settle

Today, Marvel and the Kirby Estate released a short joint statement:

Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.

It's finally over.

I've revised my 2010 form post, The King's Ransom, for what I hope will be the last time.

A bit of context, since I wasn't updating the blog back in June (though I did tweak the aforementioned form post): the Kirby heirs were appealing the case to the Supreme Court, and a number of amicus briefs were filed in the case by prominent groups including the Artists' Rights Society and the International Intellectual Property Institute. Among others, Bruce Lehman, former director of the USPTO, argued that the instance and expense test that the previous judgement against the Kirby heirs hinged on violated Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court was set to decide whether or not to take the case in just a few days.

Kurt Busiek says, in the comments section at The Beat:

Considering that the Kirby Estate didn’t seem to have anything to lose by going to the Supreme Court, but Marvel/Disney had a lot on the line, I’m thinking (or hoping, at least) that this was a decent settlement for the Estate. Given the timing — if the Supreme Court had chosen to hear the case, no settlement would then be possible — it virtually has to be a deal spurred on by the side that doesn’t want the case to go to the Court.

However unlikely onlookers think it might be that the Court would take up the case, and however corporate-friendly the Court may seem to be, the stakes are very high, and a settlement may have seemed a better plan than rolling the dice.

Busiek, of course, doesn't have any inside knowledge of the case, but I find he's been extremely knowledgeable about the facts and issues involved.

Mark Evanier — who does have inside knowledge of the case — started off this morning by joking that he can finally finish his Kirby biography, and then added, in a second blog post:

If you're coming to this page in search of details and commentary, you've come to the wrong place. I will be saying nothing about it other that I am real, real happy. And I'm sure Jack and his wife Roz, if they're watching this from wherever they are, are real, real, real happy.

I noted, back in a 2013 post about Archie v Penders, that the thing about settlements is that their terms are typically confidential. It's likely that we'll never know the precise details of the Kirby settlement. (If I were a betting man, I'd say Marvel probably agreed to give them the same profit-sharing deal that it gives current creators — but that's just a guess, and it's worth what you paid for it.)

One thing we will know is whether the settlement involves more prominent creator credits for Kirby. Marvel's creator credits have been inconsistent up to this point — the original 2002 Spider-Man movie has a "Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko" credit right upfront, and Agents of SHIELD credits Lee and Kirby at the top of each episode, but other movies have buried creators' names at the bottom of the end credits under a nebulous "special thanks" section. I expect from here on in we'll be seeing much more prominent "Created by Jack Kirby" credits in comics, movies, and TV shows. Guess we'll know soon enough.

And speaking for myself — I guess my boycott's finally over.

Which is good, because that Mike Allred Silver Surfer sure looks great.


Marketplace on NPR

So, since May I've been working a job that goes from 10 AM to 6 PM.

I like it. It gives me time to walk the dog in the morning, and getting off at 6 means I miss both the worst heat and the worst traffic of the day.

The biggest problem with getting off at 6 is that Marketplace is on NPR, and so that's what I end up listening to on my way home, because it's that or play Preset Lottery and try to find a song I like amid all the obnoxious pop and worse commercials on all the other stations.

I've been trying, for months, to figure out why I don't like Marketplace. Is it my innate disdain for the finance industry? The constant handholding on basic economics and technology?

No. I have come to realize that it's because the questions Kai Ryssdal asks are actually stupid.

Here's a bit from yesterday's interview with Amazon Studios' Roy Price:

Ryssdal: At this point, you might reasonably stop and ask, How did an online retailer end up making television shows, and, y'know, why? Roy Price is the guy with the answers; he runs Amazon Studios. Roy, it's good to have you on.

Price: Thank you, Kai; it's great to be here.

Ryssdal: So when you go to a dinner party, or your kid's soccer game, or you're hangin' out at the beach, and people say, "What do you do?" what do you tell them?

Price: I run Amazon Studios, and we develop TV shows for amazon.com. That's usually what I tell them, unless I'm in a kidding mood.

Emphasis added, because seriously, what the fuck is that? The dude says what Price's job is, and then asks him what he tells people his job is. This is, like, Tim Meadows as Lionel Osbourne-caliber interviewing.

And then he just keeps rambling on about how crazy it is that Amazon is making original TV shows.

This is not 1999. He is not asking why bookseller Amazon has started selling CD's, VHS tapes, and DVD's.

This is not 2003. He is not asking why media seller Amazon has started selling clothing, and advertising it with baffling recommendations beginning with "People who wear clothes also shop for:"

This is not 2007. He is not asking why physical media/clothing seller Amazon has started selling consumer electronics, household goods, and MP3's.

This is not 2011. He is not asking why physical goods/ebook/MP3 seller Amazon has started its own Android app store and video streaming service.

This is goddamn yesterday, and he is seemingly baffled that an online retailer that has been constantly branching out into new markets for the past 15 years has branched out into a new market.

Jesus Christ. I'd rather listen to Car Talk.


Cheap DVD's: Earthworm Jim

I was perusing Amazon the other day and, under my recommendations, I noticed that it listed Earthworm Jim: The Complete Series (affiliate link). As EWJ is easily one of my two favorite 1990's animated video game adaptations to feature Kath Soucie as a redheaded princess and Jim Cummings as the bad guy, I went ahead and ordered it.

Initial Impressions

The Good:

  • Good animation
  • Great cast
  • Still funny
  • All 23 episodes for only eleven bucks
  • Way better quality than that torrent you grabbed a few years ago that somebody made from old VHS tapes

The Bad:

  • Totally barebones; no special features or even scene selection.
  • If you buy this, part of that money probably goes to Doug TenNapel.

Edna

There's no new Simpsons tonight, so, in honor of the late, great Marcia Wallace, might I recommend breaking out your DVD collection and watching one of these classic Edna Krabappel episodes:

Bart the Lover, Season 3

If there's a better Mrs. K episode, I can't think of one. This shows Edna at her most complex and human — and Bart too, for that matter. Wallace won an Emmy for this one.

Bart Gets an F, Season 2

And speaking of emotions we don't often see from Bart, the climax of this one — where he breaks down in tears on finding that he failed his test despite really trying his hardest this time — shows us a seldom-seen side of both characters, without giving in too much to sentimentality. I love Mrs. K's attempt to comfort Bart — "I would have thought you'd be used to it by now!" could so easily have come across as sarcastic, but Wallace chooses to read it as a gentle, tender statement. Now that's comedy.

The PTA Disbands, Season 6

So many classic moments in this episode purple monkey dishwasher. It's Simpsons at its satirical finest, highlighting the conflict between teachers and administration, the public's simultaneous desire for better schools and lower taxes, and the terrifying reality that if you pick up some random person off the street, they'll be a worse teacher than Miss Hoover or Mrs. Krabappel. And the resolution is so ludicrous that it can only serve to hang a lampshade on how intractable these issues really are.

Grade School Confidential, Season 8

Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me.

The Ned-Liest Catch, Season 22

Say what you will about modern-era Simpsons, pairing off Ned with Edna was a rare and legitimately pleasant surprise. It's not the sort of thing I would ever have seen coming, but it makes its own unexpected kind of sense — two characters who have seemingly nothing in common but their loneliness, but who complement each other so thoroughly and who can each stand to learn so much from the other. This episode highlights how difficult those differences can be, and they almost don't make it as a couple — but, thanks to an Internet vote, they stay together.


Excellent Games with Lazy, Halfassed Interface Design

So Arkham City was on sale on Steam last weekend. Between that and the recent removal of GFWL and SecuROM, and my Xbox (and my copy of the game) being recently stolen, I went ahead and bought it.

Compared to the Xbox version of the game, well, it's got all the same benefits and drawbacks as every PC game does compared to the console version.

Including controller support.

It recognized my outdated Cordless Rumblepad 2 just fine — I'm not sure if that's internal to the game itself or due to the compatibility layer Steam's added in Big Picture — but either way, well, it recognized the controller but didn't actually work right with it.

All the button pairs were switched. A and B, X and Y, the bumpers and the triggers.

All of which I suppose I could have eventually reprogrammed my muscle memory to work around (hell, the Xbox's button layout is already backwards for a kid who grew up with a SNES). But the fact that the Y-axis was backwards on the left stick? Not so much. Try playing a game where up is literally down and see how far it gets you.

And here's my gripe:

There's no menu to reconfigure your controller in the game.

There could have been. There's a menu option to look at the controls. You just can't modify them in any way. (Well, you can invert the axes on camera and flight, I suppose. But not on regular movement, the thing where I actually needed to invert an axis. And no button remapping whatsoever.)

There's a configuration utility — outside the game — which lets you remap controls…for keyboard and mouse. If there's a way to change the button layout on a gamepad, I sure didn't see it.

Now, the good news about this being 2013 is I could type "arkham city" inverted controls into a search engine and find a trivial fix — as it turns out, there's a config file in BmGame\Config\DefaultInput.ini that has straightforward, cleartext entries with names like XboxTypeS_LeftY and XboxTypeS_A. Simply swap the names of the axes and buttons, and that's all it takes.

Which is great!

But the bad news about this being 2013 is I can't help asking why the fuck I had to look this up on the Internet and edit a fucking text file instead of just configuring my controls from a menu.

The last time I had a problem like this, with The Walking Dead, I found a forum post by a Telltale staffer who had this to say:

Unfortunately we do not have access to all the various versions of controllers that logitech and other companies make.

Which sounds perfectly sensible, and also completely misses the fucking point.

Now, in Batman's case, there are a couple simple reasons that's a bad argument: first, this issue occurs with the authentic Xbox controllers that the game is specifically designed for. Second, this is not a new bug — see the link to the fix a few paragraphs up? Take a closer look at the URL — it's for Arkham Asylum, not City. This is a bug from the original game that was not fixed in the sequel.

But even leaving aside those two points (which is only fair, of course, given that I'm quoting a guy from a different company talking about a completely different game), the central issue remains: this is the twenty-first goddamn century and people are making games — PC games! — where they don't give you the option to remap your buttons.

Yes, I know that hardware inconsistency is the single most difficult thing about PC development. No, I don't expect you to design your game to work with every single controller ever made.

But I do goddamn-well expect you to let me map my fucking buttons however I want.

Mega Man X did that shit twenty years ago. What the fuck is your excuse?