Kill Zombies With The Power of Metal

I don’t like the Guitar Hero/Rock Band genre of games.  Don’t consider this an insult if you do.  Different people like different types of games.  To me, all these rock games look and play like Milton Bradley’s Simon.

Simon Hero

Click to play.

Pushing colored buttons in an ever increasingly complex pattern just doesn’t appeal to me – gameplay wise.  I hated the dancing mission in GTA: San Andreas for the same reason.  I got through it, but it was a hassle.  Not fun.

But every so often a game comes out that does something different with the same gameplay elements, improving the gaming experience.  Brutal Legend, for instance, used short guitar riffs as magic spells.  Repeat the pattern and Drop a Deuce.

Rapala Pro Bass Fishing 2010 plays a different tune for each lure reeling style – like Fast Cranking or Slide and Glide.  Keep the rod moving smooth and steady and the music continues – letting you know that the lure action is attracting the fish.  Make a mistake and the music stops.

Both of those games added a little bit of Guitar Hero into a different genre and both succeeded in transforming the Simon-esque gameplay into something I found enjoyable.

So – today,  I got the GameStop weekly ad email and they’re advertising a game called Rock of the Dead.  I watched the video (below) and am tempted to buy it.  Conspiracy games has mashed up a shooting gallery game with Guitar Hero gameplay.  The way it works is: you play a guitar riff and zombies explode from the sheer Awesomeness of your Metal!  Each individual enemy gets its own riff bar and explodes separately.  It’s backed up with a Rob Zombie heavy soundtrack and dialogue by Neil “Doogie” Patrick Harris.

I think it’s an innovation in the right direction, but ultimately it’ll still feel like Simon.  So- even at the sale price of 30 bucks, I don’t think Rock of the Dead would be a wise purchase for me.  (Maybe I’ll pick it up once it hits the bargain bin.)   But if you already like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, it might be worth it to you.  Take a look at this gameplay video to see what you think:

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Filed under Video Games, Zombies

Strange Paths Part Deux

In my last entry,  I discussed my observational hypothesis about how the human mind can reject objective reality in favor of a false view of the universe when the truth threatens the investment an individual has placed in an incorrect worldview.  And how the rejection of each new objective fact actually reinforces the false worldview because the investment becomes greater.   I didn’t realize that researchers at the University of Michigan had been working on the exact same hypothesis.  They just released a report with their findings.  Take a look at this quote from a Boston Globe article:

The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information.

Here’s a link to the full report from Brenden Nyhan and his research team.  It may load slowly, because it’s a PDF.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Fun Stuff, Idiocracy, Science

The Strange Paths We Travel

I am fascinated by the human mind.  It seems to me that every individual person lives in a unique universe of their own creation – formed around their experiences and their interpretation of those experiences – that is self-reinforcing.  The further an individual’s universe diverges from “objective reality,”  the harder it is to reconcile their expectations with experienced events.  And that’s where the self-reinforcement begins.

M.C. Escher's "Relativity"

M.C. Escher's "Relativity"

You see, the individual makes an investment with every interpretation of an event.  After a while the investment becomes so great that the individual becomes defined by it.  It becomes terrifying to even consider an alternate explanation for some events, no matter how minor, when that explanation would threaten the investment. This is especially true when the alternate explanation is simple and obvious.

What is so fascinating is how this can lead people to accept the most ridiculous ideas and reject rational ones without hesitation.  And that every single one of us does it to one extent or another.  It’s an unavoidable part of the human experience, because we learn to think by experiencing and interpreting events and no one ever interprets an event in exactly the same way as someone else.  And every interpretation is built upon by every previous interpretation, all unique to an individual mind, and all slightly (occasionally greatly) divergent from “objective reality.”

Sometimes, I wonder how we communicate with each other at all, or even if we really do….

Here’s a link to an article that deals with the same subject… or maybe it doesn’t, but I just think it does… It’s hard to say with any certainty.

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Filed under Philosophy

Clash of the Motion Controllers

The Xbox 360 and the PS3 are due to release new motion controllers later this year.  They both use a video camera to track motion, but work differently.  Microsoft’s Project Natal tracks full-body movements and has no hand held component.  It looks very similar to the computer interface seen in the movie Minority Report.  Sony’s Move system uses the Playstation Eye in combination with motion sensitive Wands.   Both companies have release teaser trailers that show off how their new controllers will work.

Let’s take a look at the incredibly ambitious Project Natal.  If it works as well as advertised, it really could revolutionize video gaming and beyond.

Move is Sony’s attempt to perfect the technology that Nintendo introduced with the Wii.  The Playstation Move uses visual instead of infrared tracking, like Natal, and uses Bluetooth for communication between the controllers and the wands.  As you’ll see in the video, Sony’s Move promises the rock solid and precise control that many Wii players owners dream of.

The trend in this generation’s consoles continues with both the Xbox 360 and the PS3′s offerings being fantastic for gamers, but with somewhat different visions behind them.  Both controllers are rumored to cost less than $100 and be bundled with a game.   It looks like it’s going to be an exciting fall for us gamers.

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Filed under Fun Stuff, Video Games

2010 Census Guide

Today I received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau reminding me that the 2010 Census would be mailed to me next week and requesting that I return it as soon as possible.  The Census is a civic duty and is required by our Constitution.  Every American citizen should willingly fill out and return the form.  The letter stresses that “Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share” of government funds.

Accuracy is very important, but is often quite difficult.  Knowing this, I humbly offer this guide on the tricky questions #8 and #9 on the form.  The other questions on this short 10 question form are very straight-forward and should not cause any confusion.

Let’s examine question #8 :

Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?

The confusion about question #8 stems from the perception that the Census is concerned about your ancestry.  This is not the case.  The Census wants to know if you are unable to speak English.

As the description suggests, this question applies to first generation immigrants.  If you were born in a foreign country that’s primary language is Spanish (or another Hispanic language), you answer should be “Yes” and the name of the country.  If you were born in the United States, then your answer should be “No.

On to question #9:

What is Person 1′s race?

Question #9 is a mess.  The Census offers a mishmash of colors, nationalities, and even a U.S. State as possible answers.  Choosing an accurate answer is problematic to say the least.  Given the suggestions, it seems obvious that the Census Bureau doesn’t have a clear definition of “Race.”  Luckily, I remember my biology classes, so I can assist.  A race is a species that is potentially capable of interbreeding.  For example, a Poodle and a St. Bernard are capable of interbreeding and producing offspring.  Even though both animals look very different physically, they both belong to the race of “Dog.”

Now that we’ve established that, the most accurate answer becomes clear.  Choose the option “Other” and write in “Human.”

I hope my guide proves useful to you.  Thank you for reading it.

If you have any questions, please add a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answer.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Individual Liberty, Politics, Science

Why is Sen. Jim Bunning such a big meanie?

Lone Senator Bunning is standing up to both Republicans and Democrats and blocking several pieces of legislation, including an extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks. Why? Does he hate the unemployed? Nope. The legislation doesn’t include a way to pay for the benefits. And just 2 weeks ago, President Obama signed Pay-Go into law. Pay-Go requires that all new legislation be written to show where the money will come from. If you want to give $10 Billion to the unemployed, you have to cut $10 Billion from somewhere else. The bills he is blocking don’t meet that requirement. The sad thing is that he’s the only Senator that is even attempting to follow the law they just passed. He’s the only one trying to be fiscally responsible. Watch the pundits rip him apart tonight on the news channel of your choice.

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Filed under Politics

SwagBucks Report #1

It’s been about one month since I’ve been using SwagBucks.  Here’s the story so far…

I’ve earned 75 Swag Bucks. To give an idea of what that is worth.  45 SBs can be traded for a $5 Amazon Gift card or 70 SBs can be traded for $5 cash through PayPal.

My unique and secret email address has received 28 spam emails. As I explained at the start of this, I created a new Gmail address with an unusual name that I’ve revealed to no one but SwagBucks.  It occurs to me that I probably should also have made a control Gmail address that I don’t use at all, in order to verify that the spam is SwagBucks and not Gmail related.  I’ll do that now.  For my methodology I’ll use essentially the same address as before, with two of the letters at the end reversed to test the possibility the spammers are using a spider program or something.

Next update in one month.  I’ll include the experience of my first purchase at the SwagBucks Store.

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Filed under Fun Stuff, Oddvertising, SwagBucks