Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I know it's weird how I'm getting back into posting a bit after a hiatus from October 2008 to June 2009, and/or weird how three of the last four posts were about purely geeky stuff. I'm no more into WoW and comic books than usual, I don't think, I just seem to have more to say about it than usual.

Other stuff that's going on: a relationship ended weekend before last. Obviously, that sucks and I'm a bit depressed about it, but I had only known her for six weeks so I just can't be all that broken up by it. It was a learning experience, it was fun while it lasted, que sera sera. This past Labor Day weekend I watched two summer blockbusters at a local second-run theater - great place - that I had missed when they were in normal theaters, and I went on a guided tour of Roosevelt Island - also a pretty cool place. A fun weekend, marred only by (a) rain, (b) bad political news and (c) the lack of anything more than just "fun."
I'm finding myself wondering whether it's ethical to raid old-world instances in World of Warcraft. Sounds dumb, but what if I go in there looking for something different from everyone else?

One stumbling block in an epic level 60 quest chain is a hard-to-get material called elementium. I've been stymied on it so far because it can only be found in one raid instance, and the one time I've been there since starting this, I wasn't the only person who needed the stuff. Well, I was reading some comments about it on Wowhead just now, and someone claimed that if you kill the early bosses and the technicians that drop the elementium but nothing after them, they will eventually respawn and you can kill them again and have another chance at elementium.

I'm not sure that's true, but even if it is, most people who want to do old raids want to clear the place. They want the Achievement from killing the last boss, or certain epic weapons or armor as status symbols, and those mostly come from the final bosses too. So when I read that suggestion, I immediately began wondering "how can I get people to quit after the third boss? Hmmm, the fourth boss is tough, maybe if I just don't chip in strategy advice and let a raid get wiped out they'd give up and I'd have the place to myself..."

Which, obviously, would be an assholish thing to do. And I'll at least try doing it the right way a few more times before trying anything weird; maybe I'll be the only person who needs elementium next time. It's just annoying. The same thing comes up in other instances, where the group is trying to clear the place but I just need reputation, which I get from any minibosses and trash mobs just as well as the Big Bad. How much aggravation like repair costs and downtime running around should I put up with if I already have what I was looking for (or part of it) but others don't?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Driving is safer than flying, they say, even though it doesn't seem that way because plane crashes resulting in dozens or hundreds of deaths are big news but everyone ignores minor car accidents. I'm not sure if this is primarily attributable to the media or human nature or what, but this tendency makes one part of my job harder and more frustrating than it should be.

In 2004 and 2005, two particular passenger boats capsized, one in Baltimore Harbor and the other in a lake in New York State. (Bizarrely enough, now that I think of it, I might have been only five miles from that body of water at the time*.) Between the two accidents, 25 people died and more were injured. In both cases, the boats were operating way outside existing safety regulations.

Among other things, the accidents called attention to the fact that the current standards for passenger weight were set back in the 1960s, and since then people have, to put it delicately, got fat. I'm on the team assigned to write the regulation that will fix this, and the weight issue - set it at the current average as a constant, or peg it to every annual CDC report, or require regular reexamination - is one big sticking point. The first proposal, (before I was assigned to it, not that I would have had much input anyway; my role isn't making policy), judging by public comments, proposed big and frequent and expensive requirements for boat owners. And while safety is a concern, of course, no one has ever died from following the existing regulations or equally strong ones in other places. So maybe the average boat passenger is somehow lighter than the nationwide average person, or maybe the 1960s standards were set very, very broadly just to be on the safe side, or maybe the country has been really lucky. But in either case, our group is working and the regulated industry is worried about what we'll do, even though existing standards have done the job when they have been adequately enforced, it's just that no one can explain why.

Meanwhile, another group member mentioned in an offhand way that five people have died in the last year and a half in parasailing accidents. In one case, the rope broke and the parasailer fell 300 feet. In another case, an employee tried to slide down the line. And there are no regulations of these things. The boats in question are regulated as passenger vessels, but no government standards exist for safe use of parasails. There is some kind of an sub-industry organization that gives out a little seal of approval and stuff, but apparently they don't actually do anything about parasail safety.

But it's just one or two people at a time, so why worry?

* Although "might have been" is referring to one weekend in that general season. And the body of water is longer than it is wide, and even that weekend I would have been five miles away from the far end of that body of water. It's more likely that I was about 90 miles away by car from the accident site, but that doesn't sound nearly so coincidental...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

So, Disney bought Marvel Comics. I might as well repost what I wrote at Matt Yglesias' blog when I first read about it: Ugh.

I was twitching when I read about it. I haven’t bought a comic in months and I don’t think of myself as a fanboy or Marvel zombie or whatever, but maybe I am after all. I enjoyed almost all the Marvel movies in the last 10 years (I never saw Electra, and Fantastic Four 2 sucked, but other than that I’d call them all watchable, including some that critics hated, and several were excellent), and I liked the X-Men: Evolution TV series, and I bought X-books and Spider-books for years, and I really, really, really don’t want to see them turned into the kind of thing you see on the Disney Channel.

If my white trash hellspawn namesake Miley ever plays Alison Blaire, I might just go postal.

More realistically, it might be no change at all. But still, I can't help worrying about that.