Tag: Thadecdotes

Peter Moore Gives a Master Class in Bullshit Internet "Debate"

Yesterday, in a discussion about bullshit argument tactics employed by corporate mouthpieces defending bad policies, I quoted a bit of EA COO Peter Moore's asinine response to his company's commanding lead in the Consumerist's annual Worst Company in America survey.

I picked one particular bullet point, but really the entire thing is an amazing example of what I'm talking about. Logical fallacies piled on top of terrible metaphors wrapped in insults to the reader's intelligence. I think the whole piece really deserves a going-over, piecemeal.

The tallest trees catch the most wind.

That's an expression I frequently use when asked to defend EA's place in the gaming industry.

You know, I used to live in a house that had a tall tree out back.

It's true that it caught a lot of wind.

It's also true that that wind made it pretty fucking hazardous. One time during a storm, one of its branches broke off and smashed through a block in our fence.

We were lucky it just hit the fence by the alley, and not power lines or our roof or our neighbors'.

You know how it got so tall?

By digging around in shit.

Its roots grew down through our sewage pipes. The place had serious plumbing problems for years and years.

Finally, before we moved out, my roommate (the owner of the house) had the tree taken out. Then he dug a trench in the backyard, and had the pipes replaced. The long day of digging coupled with the exposure to sewage made him seriously ill.

So, you know, "The tallest trees catch the most wind" is one way of putting it.

Another way is, the tallest trees are dangerous, expensive, and may leave you covered in shit and physically ill.

And it comes to mind again this week as we get deeper into the brackets of an annual Web poll to name the "Worst Company in America."

This is the same poll that last year judged us as worse than companies responsible for the biggest oil spill in history,

I'ma stop you right there, Pete.

I mean, nice weaseling on the plural there, but you're talking about BP.

I wonder why British Petroleum didn't win the Worst Company in America poll.

the mortgage crisis, and bank bailouts that cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now, here Moore makes what may be the only reasonable point in this entire piece.

And that's, yes, it is fucking ridiculous to suggest that EA's the worst company in America.

It's not even in the running.

EA may be terrible, but anyone who tells you it's the worst company in America is stupid, lying, or both.

The complaints against us last year were our support of SOPA (not true),

Moore is technically correct here, but it's a bit misleading. According to techdirt, Sony, Nintendo, and EA never actually endorsed SOPA -- but they did sign on to a letter from the Global IP Center that suggested something a whole lot like SOPA.

and that they didn't like the ending to Mass Effect 3.

Yeah. That's why people are calling EA the worst company in America.

That and they hate gay people. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This year's contest started in March with EA outpolling a company which organizers contend is conspiring to corner the world market on mid-priced beer, and (gulp) allegedly waters down its product. That debate takes place in bars -- our audience lives on the Internet. So no surprise that we drew more votes there.

Let me cut to the chase: it appears EA is going to "win." Like the Yankees, Lakers and Manchester United, EA is one of those organizations that is defined by both a legacy of success, and a legion of critics (especially me regarding all three of those teams).

Again, Moore makes a fair point that there's an echo chamber here. The kind of person who hates EA is exactly the same kind of person who likes to game stupid online popularity contests. EA keeps getting voted the worst company in America for the same reason that Time's list of the most influential people in the world spells out "KJU GAS CHAMBERS".

But once again Moore brings up an analogy that maybe works on a level besides the one he intended.

Because hey, Pete -- when people say they don't like Kobe Bryant, maybe it's not just because he's so goddamn good at basketball.

Are we really the "Worst Company in America?" I'll be the first to admit that we've made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn't meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this.

Moore may be willing to admit EA's made mistakes, but sure doesn't seem to keen on acknowledging what those mistakes actually are. Watch him trotting out the company line that the problem with the SimCity launch was that they didn't implement its always-on requirement correctly, not that the always-on requirement was the mistake.

Some of these complaints are 100 percent legitimate -- like all large companies we are not perfect. But others just don't hold water:

  • Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It's not. People still want to argue about it. We can't be any clearer -- it's not. Period.

Oh boy, now we're getting into the real nutmeat of the bullshit here.

I covered this one yesterday, but to review:

  1. Yeah, it is a DRM scheme. It's the same kind of crap EA pulled with Spore's periodic authentication and the stories about players being denied access to legally-purchased copies of Dragon Age 2 for criticizng EA on messageboards, cranked up to 11. The always-on connection is not required to play the game, so why the fuck is it there if not as a DRM scheme? Which brings us to:
  2. Even if it weren't DRM, it would still be a terrible fucking idea that prevented people from playing a game they paid for. In fact, if it's not intended as DRM, then EA is even stupider, because they stuck an always-online requirement into a game that didn't need it for no reason instead of for a stupid reason.
  3. And finally: If you follow up the phrase "We can't be any clearer" with an argument that is literally just a slight paraphrase of "Nuh-uh!", maybe you should hire some people who can be clearer.
  • Some claim there's no room for Origin as a competitor to Steam. 45 million registered users are proving that wrong.

Okay, first of all, who is claiming that?

The problem isn't that Steam couldn't use a little competition. The problem is that Origin is a system whereby people's ability to play their legally-purchased games is contingent on whether or not a forum mod somewhere gets pissed off at something they say. Or possibly just gets pissed off when they ask Amazon for tech support.

Anyway, I'll get on the "45 million people can't be wrong!" fallacy in a minute. You had a little more mileage you wanted to wring out of it first?

  • Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming. Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games.

Well, Mr. Moore, since you're the one who brought up banks and oil companies, let's talk about that for a minute.

A shitload of people still buy gas from BP and keep their money in Chase banks. Enough to make your "45 million" brag look like loose change in the ashtray of the car they're filling up with BP gas using their Chase credit card. And hell, speaking of ashtrays? Hundreds of millions of people are smoking and loving cigarettes, too. Does that mean everyone who thinks lung cancer is bad must be wrong?

  • We've seen mailing lists that direct people to vote for EA because they disagree with the choice of the cover athlete on Madden NFL. Yes, really...

I don't doubt it. The Internet is a big place. You can find someone who will say absolutely any kind of dumbass thing.

This particular rhetorical tactic is a close cousin of the strawman, with the added benefit that it allows people to act indignant when accused of invoking a strawman. "It's not a strawman! A guy totally said it!" All you have to do is point to the craziest person you can possibly find and pretend he's a representative example of everyone who disagrees with you, and presto!, you can just ignore all the people making well-reasoned and -informed arguments!

  • In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we're seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.

That last one is particularly telling. If that's what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we're not caving on that.

I love that one.

Seriously, it is a really tough call whether my favorite part of that bulleted list is the "It's not. Period." part, or the part where Moore straight-up implies that if you don't like EA, it's because you hate gay people.

On a related note: can anyone name an EA game that allows you to play as a gay character that isn't made by a subsidiary that was letting you play as gay characters before EA bought it?

We are committed to fixing our mistakes. Over the last three weeks, 900,000 SimCity players took us up on a free game offer for their troubles. We owed them that.

Ah yes, that would be one of the small, arbitrary selection of free games you made available, of which Ars Technica said:

It's a curious mix of titles, not least because only one of the games is likely to have any particular appeal to SimCity players: SimCity 4. And even that is an odd choice. Many SimCity players already own--and love--the old game, and many regard it as the benchmark against which all city-building games (including the new one) are judged. The problem is that those comparisons aren't necessarily favorable to the new game.

Seeing Warfighter on the list, one wonders if EA wants to be hated even more than it currently is. The game is a stinker.

But back to Moore:

We're constantly listening to feedback from our players, through our Customer Experience group, Twitter, this blog, or other sites. The feedback is vital, and impacts the decisions we make.

If you were listening to feedback, you would have cut this shit out after the Spore backlash. Or the Dragon Age 2 backlash. Or the Battlefield 3 backlash. Or the every single fucking game on Origin backlash. Or the other Battlefield 3 backlash. Or or or windy trees! Windy treeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

But Mr. Moore, you've made yourself abundantly clear: EA does not give a fuck how many of its customers are dissatisfied, all it cares about is how many of its customers are still happily paying money for its games. As long as games like Spore and SimCity are bestsellers, EA has no incentive whatsoever to back off its terrible, anti-consumer policies.

...and after that there are two more paragraphs of Moore pretty much saying exactly that, another vague "we can do better" that doesn't actually acknowledge what they've done wrong, and a restatement of the thesis because Peter Moore learned in high school English that you're supposed to close an essay by restating the thesis. Fuck it, you get the idea, I don't need to go on.

Downtime

So the site didn't resolve for a good chunk of yesterday. That's down to a problem with the hosting provider; both its nameservers were down. That's a fucked-up day; I sure am glad I don't work there anymore.

I should probably back this thing up more often, just in case. I write up all my posts in a text editor anyway, and could restore them by simple copy-paste if ever needed, but it would take awhile.

Running the backend of the hosting company (which also offers rent-an-admin services, and which at the time was also a DSL and dialup ISP) is the toughest job I've ever had -- and the worst-paying, which is why I finally left; I'd have been happy to take a high-pressure job or a low-paying one, but not both at the same time. I've certainly got my share of bad memories of being called in on a Sunday due to a network meltdown -- actually, again, it was the third or fourth consecutive time that happened on a Sunday when my boss had promised to cover it and said it was okay for me to take a 25-mile trip to Tempe that I decided I couldn't keep doing it.

That boss is long gone, though, and another of my old bosses is back in charge. I'm glad he's got things in hand but I sure don't envy him -- and keep in mind, that's coming from a guy who's been unemployed for the past four months.

Loud Noises

Working on a project right now that involves some audio recording -- I'll talk more about it when I have something to show.

In the meantime, I'm going to talk about the actual logistics of recording.

I haven't rented out a studio; I'm doing this in my home office. And while I think I've got the acoustics set up nicely -- boxes of comics around the walls deadening much of the sound, blankets covering surfaces, the heat and all the fans turned off, and doing the whole thing on a very quiet 2005-vintage Mac Mini -- I'm still at the mercy of noises from the great outdoors.

Yesterday I got up, ate a breakfast bar, did 45 minutes on the elliptical machine while watching an X-Files, showered, and then sat down to start recording...and that's when a neighbor started using a weed eater. Damn it. Well, I was hungry anyway, so I went and fixed lunch (with an extra helping of Gas-X, because leaf blowers aren't the only background noises I don't want on the track) and watched Tron: Uprising.

Then I sat down and recorded for a couple of hours, mostly without incident. But as I was wrapping up the day's recording with some dead air (room tone), I heard a jet overhead. And then I had to wait for that.

And that's when my fiancée got home from work.

Clearly this is going to take some fine-tuning. I could try recording first thing in the morning and then working out -- but I don't have much of a voice when I get out of bed. I could shower and then record and then work out, but then I'd probably wind up having to shower again.

Anyway. Off to take another crack at it -- bit of a late start today but we'll see how I do.

...oh hell. Is that a fucking lawnmower?

Pants

So I bought a house.

Which you generally don't do right after being laid off, but I worked out an arrangement with my family.

Anyway. Among other things, it's an incentive to start getting rid of my crap.

I haven't unloaded any of my 1990's X-Men or Spider-Man comics yet, and I still need to mail those surplus Thundercats toys I said I'd give away a year ago. But today, it's pants.

I've mentioned before that I've lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years. I've had a 36" waist since junior high and I've recently dropped to 32. I've continued to wear comically oversized clown pants, partly out of concern that I'd gain the weight back and need them again, and partly because I hate shopping for clothes and have only gotten around to buying new pants a few at a time here and there.

Well, I've finally amassed enough pants that actually fit me to get rid of most of the 36's, so I spent this afternoon doing my best impression of Jared from the Subway commercials and determining which pants fall right off my waist and throwing them in some bags to donate.

Made plenty of space in my closet. Which is good, because my new closet is going to be much much smaller.

TestDisk

I guess I was overdue for doing something monumentally stupid and sloppy, because Friday night I went to format an external 1TB hard drive and accidentally formatted my internal one instead -- the one with Windows on it.

Now, after a moment's panic, I realized that I didn't have anything vital and irreplaceable on there -- I had backups of my resume, my password wallet, things like that. I hadn't backed up my financial spreadsheets or work search log in a couple weeks, but I could reconstruct those if I absolutely had to from my bank statements and E-Mails. And I had a Mass Effect 2 save that was maybe an hour farther along than my backup.

So, nothing life-or-death. But I'd still just as soon not have to take the time to reinstall Win7, reinstall Win8, reconstruct my spreadsheets, and replay that last hour of ME2 if I could avoid it. And I knew it was just a quick format, so my data should all still be intact on the drive -- it was just a matter of getting to it.

I was booted to OSX at the time, and the first piece of recovery software I found was EaseUS. It was a free trial for a $90 piece of software. Now, I knew going in that there was no way my lost data was worth $90 to me, but I figured I'd see how far I'd get with it.

Not fucking very.

You'd think a trial for a $90 piece of software would be designed to make you think the software was worth $90. Instead the fucker just kept hanging -- I might, might get as far as it displaying all my disks and partitions, but after that (or, just as frequently, before that) it would just lock up, static unresponsive window, Spinning Beach Ball of Death, all that shit.

So then I stumbled upon TestDisk. I missed the part where it said there was an OSX version, so I rebooted to Linux to see if I could install it.

And found that my OpenSUSE boot had somehow become hosed too. (I would later find out that this was not a coincidence and that OpenSUSE actually goes into Emergency Boot Mode if it fails to load a filesystem in its fstab. I did not consider this at the time because (1) I was very tired and (2) Linux failing to boot because it can't mount a Windows drive is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.)

But fortunately I still have my old Kubuntu drive onhand, and it was not only able to boot, but it already had TestDisk installed, with no worrying about having to fuck with repos. I think it may even be part of the basic Ubuntu installation.

Now, there's a lovely step-by-step guide at the TestDisk site called Recovery of Reformatted Partition.

The bad news: I spent yesterday trying to recover the drive and never did get it to work, and I'm finally giving up the ghost because it's just not worth fucking with it any longer. But I figured I'd put this up here just in case you have better luck with it than I did. I had a hard time, in my initial search, finding a good listing of Linux software to use to try and recover an NTFS partition that has accidentally been reformatted. Maybe somebody will stumble across this page in a similar search someday, and find TestDisk as a result.

Again, it didn't work for me -- but it looks like a solid piece of software, and it's worth a shot. (Unlike EaseUS, which is a piece of crap you should not waste your time with.) Good luck.

Tattoos of Memories and Dead Skin on Trial

Good Riddance by Green Day, as performed by Glen Campbell

You know, that was a pretty good job.

I wrote about it last year, and my final analysis remains much the same -- they treated me right. They trusted me, they didn't micromanage, they paid me fairly, and in return I kicked ass and helped them roll out Windows 7 to over a thousand users. Job well done.

And the trouble with that is that there's no need for me anymore (at least, as far as the bean counters are concerned -- as far as the guy who's got to do all the imaging and packing himself now is concerned I will be sorely missed). But so it goes -- my dad's in construction; he's spent his life doing work where he knew one day the job would be done and he'd be on to the next thing.

So I'm on to the next thing, whatever it may be -- signed up for unemployment; hope I don't have to accept it. I've got an interview tentatively lined up for next week -- a place that's closer, pays better, and is direct-hire.

And that's the good news, really -- I feel like I'm moving onward and upward. I feel like there's progress and each job's a step up from the last (with an exception or two, I suppose, but this wasn't one of them). The agency keeps submitting me for jobs, and all of them are a step up from where they've placed me in the past. I think part of that's that the economy's improving and there's more work available for a guy with my qualabilities, and part of it is that I've paid my dues and they know they can trust me wherever they put me.

I was driving home today, thinking to myself hey, that's the last time I'll have to take this 25-mile drive, and feeling pretty good about it. And on the radio? Well, not Good Riddance, but something else topical -- Hello, Goodbye.

You Can Teach 'Em to Hate the Things You Hate

My cousin just explained to me that the reason Obama wants to destroy America is because a long time ago his dad told him America was bad.

He's about six years old.

I find this sincerely disquieting.

On the other hand, I am fairly confident that my little brother's first complete sentence was "Ronald Reagan is a fucking asshole," so I imagine my aunt was just as bothered by the horrible things her brother was teaching his children in those days.

(For the record, I told him that I don't think Obama is a bad person or trying to destroy America, I simply think that he is doing what he thinks is right and making lots of mistakes. And added that I don't like Romney very much either and don't intend to vote for either one of them.)

Monument to Consumerism

Took Little Nephew to the mall this evening so he wouldn't go stir-crazy. Cliché as it is, it's true -- by the end of the evening we were tired and he wasn't.

Made for a decent enough shopping trip, too. I found a copy of Crackdown for $3. And then I decided to check an Arizona souvenir shop for hot sauce -- my cousin invited me to breakfast this coming Sunday. It's the anniversary of her father's passing, and he loved to have people over for Sunday breakfast.

I saw a wasabi and habanero sauce and thought, yeah, that says Uncle Jim to me.

I miss the old fella.

Out with my nephew, thinking of my uncle. I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands o' time until -- aww, look at me, I'm ramblin' again.

Hazards

First thing when I got onto the freeway this morning, some fucking idiot tried to lane-change directly into me and I had to lay on the horn and the gas.

A bit later I got a look at her -- surprise surprise, talking on a cell phone.

Bad enough to almost cause an accident because you're on the fucking phone, but I think it's just extra special to continue the conversation afterward instead of maybe considering the possibility that you should hang the fuck up now.

Self-driving cars can't get here soon enough. Because human drivers sure as fuck aren't getting any smarter.

The Cheap Theater

I don't go to as many movies as I used to.

Mostly it's because I used to go to a lot of movies with my dad, and he's in Maui now.

But price plays into it too. Ticket prices have fucking skyrocketed, outpaced pretty much only by comic books.

This week, I went to Tempe Cinemas a couple times. It used to be what we called the dollar theater, but now it's $3, or $2 on Tuesdays.

But on the plus side, the place has improved. They've fixed up the bathrooms, the theaters are in better shape, and they appear to have switched to digital projectors, because the picture is fucking clean. Digital projection gets rid of one of the major drawbacks to seeing a movie at the cheap theater: you no longer find yourself looking at a print that's been viewed a few hundred times and is covered in scratches.

Anyhow, I caught two very different movies this week: The Pirates: Band of Misfits and Cabin in the Woods.

Pirates is Aardman. And I love me some Aardman, and have since I first saw The Wrong Trousers close on 20 years ago.

It's got a great cast (and #2 even looks like Martin Freeman), a ton of sight gags and one-liners that fly by fast, and a swordfight with Queen Victoria. It is recommended viewing for all ages!

Cabin in the Woods is not recommended viewing for all ages, but it is recommended viewing! I went into it cold, knowing nothing about it beyond "cabin-in-the-woods horror movie co-written and produced by Joss Whedon", and I think that is the optimal way to see it, so I will say nothing about it except that I love that there is actually a plot explanation for all the clichés, all the archetypes, and why the teenagers keep doing stupid shit.

Now, there was something a little odd about it: I'm pretty confident it was another digital copy, because the print was crystal clear for the most part, but there were a couple of spots, lines, and pops over the course of the movie. I'm curious: were these artificial and intentional? Like, did anybody else see it and notice a big black spot on the print right after the girl takes off her top? Because I'm tempted to believe this was some kind of Grindhouse-style deliberate fuckery, but I can't say for sure.

(Failing that, is there any other possible explanation for a few analog artifacts on an otherwise pristine, seemingly digital print? Like, is there a digital-file-to-analog-projector thing going on and the projector occasionally hiccups, or what? Or did I just see a film print that was in really, really good shape despite being at the cheap theater?)

Now, despite my gushing about the picture quality, which is better than I've ever seen it at Tempe Cinemas previously, the projection left something to be desired. Pirates had a couple of edges cut off, and about the right 1/8 of the picture in Cabin was out of focus.

Still and all, the seats were nice, the picture and sound were great, the audiences were well-behaved -- I had a better experience at the cheap theater than I usually do at the regular theater, and I suspect I will be making this a more frequent habit. There are plenty of movies coming out that I'd like to see in the theater but not pay full price for.

And they had a promo going: a new restaurant called Pizza 'n Greens opened a few doors down from the theater, and they're offering a $1 pizza slice if you bring a ticket stub in (or 10% off your whole bill). We went in after Pirates, and each ordered a slice. Instead of a slice, they made us fresh little miniature pizzas, and the service was great. We decided to come back and spend more -- which we did, after seeing Cabin. This time I tried a calzone and my lady tried a fatoush (Mediterranean salad) -- because as it turns out the menu is a sort of interesting mix of pizza and middle-eastern food. (I was tempted to have a chicken shawerma but decided I was in the mood for a good calzone at the last minute.) Anyway, once again, good food, great service, look forward to going again, recommend them, and oh by the way they deliver until 5 AM so if you need delivery at all hours of the night they're a good option for that.

And then we went to Changing Hands and I found a used copy of The Art of Ditko for $15, so I had to pick that up. And I also found that Stross's Rule 34 is out in paperback, so I grabbed me one of those too.

All in all, good times. And man, there are a lot of links in this post! My post probably looks like I ran Intellitext over it, except the links actually useful and pertinent and (hopefully) not just fucking obnoxious.