Mixed Bag Watch: I Saw Three Movies This Weekend @65movie @cocainebear @creedmovie #GoodWatch

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I had a goal to see three movies this past weekend. This isn’t something I’ve ever done, but I wanted a lazy weekend where I didn’t have to do anything. No fixing up the home. No significant work on my 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons database. Hell, I didn’t even go to the gym, and my martial arts class was cancelled, so no work out. Just pure laziness. I needed the break anyway. Now I’m going to ruin it by, instead of just posting a stupid meme, writing this post. This is far more thinking than I wanted to do this weekend. Yeah, it’s a low bar.

65 Million Years Ago

First up Friday night was 65 Million Years Ago. This movie will not win any Oscars, not even for special effects, cinematography, or costume design, but it’s only about 90 minutes long, which is about how much you can take before wanting to tap out. The story was as original as a movie can be nowadays, and the fact that this ship crashed within a day of the dinosaur-killing meteor hitting the Earth is reasonably explained. It’s still a crazy coincidence, but there’s some sense to it. The movie is, as you probably know, about a spaceship that crashes to the Earth, and so a guy with some sort of hand-held rail gun(?) and hi-tech grenades takes on a bunch of dinosaurs. So, it is what it is, and you all know what it is going into it, so if that interests you, I think you’ll be (just) okay with it. I was.

These were the scariest dinosaurs. Think really energetic Komodo dragons.

There were no scenes during or after the credits, but there are some visuals during the first part of the credits that you may want to watch.

Cocaine Bear

Because 65 took only 93 minutes, and Cocaine Bear — only 95 minutes — was about to start, I bought a ticket will sitting in my seat (while the credits were rolling; shut up). Future students in film school will be shown this movie to show them how not to make a movie. The pacing was off. There was a part of the movie that dragged. It was terribly unrealistic, and not at all faithful to the story on which it’s based. None of the characters were sympathetic (maybe one exception). Several bad guys got away, and we were expected to sympathize them. Despite all of that, it was an incredibly fun watch. I don’t regret a single minute of the 95 I spent watching it.

I even rooted for the paramedics to die. I hate exceptionally stupid characters.

There are two mid-credit scenes.

Creed III

Knowing that I was going to see this movie, if for no other reason, because Hollywood’s next big thing, Jonathan Majors, is in it, I decided to watch Creed and Creed II this week, and I loved them both. They represented the perfect start to a sequel trilogy. They used Sylvester Stallone, and they followed the basic formula of the good Rocky movies while still carving out their own path, both structurally and artistically. Great idea, and great execution. I was looking forward to Creed III. Unfortunately, this movie was a huge disappointment, which is weird. Besides Jonathan Majors, the backstory is strong as hell. This won’t be a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailers: Majors plays Damian Anderson, a childhood friend of Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed. He took care of Creed, and was the #1 rated amateur boxer ever. (Seriously, he said that in the movie.) Adonis lost his temper and created a bad situation, and when Damian bailed him out, he was the one that got in trouble. He spent 18 years in jail watching Adonis climb to the top, and now he wants revenge. All of this is interesting, and the cast is pretty good, but there’s no Sylvester Stallone, and the execution on the main story is piss poor. It was rushed and unrealistic. Don’t misunderstand me. I can go into a movie like Blade and say, “I’m going to suspend my disbelief and accept vampires exist.” Not everything has to be realistic in that sense, but once you commit to your premise, you have to follow through. You can’t just blow up shit, especially in ways that defy logic, and expect me to roll with it. It was just stupid at times, and I’m too smart for that. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone even if you like this kind of movie.

It could’ve been much better.

There are no mid- or post-credit scenes.

Rounding out the month for me are three movies I want to see: Shazam! Fury of the Gods (opens Friday), John Wick 4: Chapter 4 (opens the following Friday), and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (opens the Friday after that one). April will be a slow month with only one movie, Renfield, worth seeing in the theater, but then May brings what should be my favorite movie of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3. June has only two movies of interest: The Flash (June 16) and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30), so things will definitely be normal after this month.

That, the Washington Capitals, the Winnipeg Jets, and the XFL were the basis of my lazy weekend.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Bathroom Stall Graffiti #WisdomWednesday @VelocityWings

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Is Wisdom Wednesday a thing? If not, it is now, at least in my small corner of the universe.

If you’re currently eating, I guess you should finish before you read this.

I was at the urinal Velocity Wings in Chantilly, Virginia and noticed this writing on the wall of a stall. I found it funny enough to take a picture of it.

I don’t know if it’s still there. I haven’t been to Velocity Wings in a few weeks. But considering whose birthday it is today, talk of “shit” seems appropriate to me.

Wise words indeed.

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Dwindling Watch: Scorpion @paramountplus #ParamountPlus #GoodWatch #television #science #math #computer #scorpion

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Welcome to post #1,001!

I have a really annoying habit. Actually, I have several, but this one annoys me. I have to finish what I start. In the context of this post, it means that, once I’ve set my mind to binging the entire run of a television show, I can’t stop until I’m finished no matter how bad the show is. That’s what happened with Scorpion.

Scorpion aired on CBS from 2014-2017, and now you can watch it on demand on Paramount Plus. It centered on a team of underachieving, supra-geniuses who finally get their big break when the Department of Homeland Security designates them a contractor. It started off well enough, and the ratings were some of the best CBS enjoyed during its run. One executive referred to it as “our Big Bang Theory, but as a drama.” However, by season four, the ratings were terrible, and despite a cult following and a tense cliffhanger to end season four, the show was cancelled.

Good riddance.

The show was wildly unrealistic. As anyone with a physics degree, a first career in software engineering, and a current career as an attorney can tell you, most shows are. I have no problem with that. You have to enter into any television show or movie with a certain suspension of disbelief, and I’m happy to do so for the sake of drama. After all, despite not being a comics reader, I’m a huge fan of the MCU and DCEU. What could be less realistic?

I called a fair game today.

But this show dives into many different branches of science, and it gets them all terribly wrong. Moreover, while each episode presents a preexisting peril to be solved, while addressing the peril, the Scorpion team members always make things worse, and usually in the most ridiculous or unrealistic of ways. It’s terrible writing that eventually grates on the viewer. Sharks don’t act that way. Computers don’t act that way. Gravity doesn’t act that way. How is it that you’re always getting your jacket caught right before you have to make a getaway? You’ve been on a deserted island for three weeks; how are you all so clean, and why is Cabe still wearing a suit and tie?

As the charm of the show tends to wane, there’s little left to keep the viewer interested. But I have to say, if there were a season five, I’d have watched it.

Sometimes I hate myself.

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The Little Guy #traffic #travel #psychology

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A while back, a Reddit post from three years ago began circulating again. It referenced that when the poster, and apparently everyone else, were little, they imagined a little guy that ran along fences, power lines, etc. while on a road trip. I did so as well, but my guy did something else that neither the tweet, nor the replies, discussed. My guy was a risk taker.

Passing Zones

On a long road, in addition to zones where no one may pass, lane dividers will occasionally create three zones in succession: 1.) one where only one side can pass, 2.) another where both sides can pass, and 3.) a third where only the other side can pass. In case it isn’t clear, I’ve edited an image I found to describe what I’m talking about, which I’m sure you’ve all encounters.

I’ve never seen lane dividing lines printed this way.

I’ve ridden across the country on many occasions and never seen the three zones painted in this order. I’ve always seen them in the order I presented them — 1, 2, then 3 — with no interrupting “nobody gets to pass” zone. YMMV, I guess, but my little guy always had to deal with them in this order.

My Little Guy’s Game

This is the additional game my little guy had to play. Like a passing car, he couldn’t switch lanes unless he had dashed lines. He’d switch from my lane to the other lane when he had the dashed lines on my side, then see how long he could last before switching back to my lane. The goal, as you might expect, was to make it all the way to the third passing zone, switching back to my lane at the last possible moment. However, if he got caught in the other lane because he couldn’t even make it to the second zone, he was killed. I also recall several instances where he’d bounce back and forth between lanes in the second zone. That was perfectly legal under the rules of the game.

My decision of when to move him over was dependent on how heavy traffic was and visibility. I had many instances where his ability to last was disappointing but remember only a couple where he died. Whenever that happened, I shivered.

Are any of you this crazy?

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Playback Speed Controls #media #streaming #Netflix #Hulu #Paramout #Disney

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Google chrome is my browser of choice, and it has several plug-ins that allow you to control the playback speed of certain streaming services, which are Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu for me. Netflix requires no such plug-in because it has the feature built into its platform. Apple TV is my only platform that doesn’t have an associated Chrome plug-in, though I get the impression that, like Netflix, its proprietary streaming software includes it. I wouldn’t know because I’m a PC guy. MACs are for people that to use computers without knowing how to use computers.

PC users are so cool.

Enough insults. My observation is that the speed at which TV shows and movies are presented is too slow for me. I often use 1.25x speed when watching a show even if I’m not in a hurry to get through it (though sometimes I bump it to 1.5x). My mind wanders if I watch them at normal speeds, and there are some shows that I would never have finished if it weren’t for being able to watch them at a higher speed. Maybe I have undiagnosed ADD. I don’t know. I’m not going to diagnose myself.

I don’t have this problem with my Paramount+ shows, which right now are Star Trek: Lower Decks and the new Beavis and Butthead. I have no idea if there’s a plug-in for Paramount+ because I have yet to need one. I also haven’t had the need to use the plug-in for Disney+. I’ve watched all the MCU and Star Wars series that have come out and not once noticed a problem with their pace. Maybe those shows are just better written. Or maybe I’m weird (maybe?!), and these plug-ins exist because people’s time to watch shows are limited.

Could be both.

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Your US Level (Whatever That Means) #home #geography #USA

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A couple of weeks ago, a website tool started circulating social media. It produces a map of where you’ve lived, where you’ve stayed, where you’ve visited, etc. You can read the legend.

The question everyone asks is, “What’s the difference between stayed here and visited here?” My answer is that stayed here requires an overnight stay, whereas visited here requires that you went there to visit a particular place for the day, then returned home at the end of the day/evening. For example, I went to Wisconsin twice: Once for a day of paintball, and the second time to visit Lake Geneva, home of Dungeons & Dragons. When I was finished, I went home to Chicago. Likewise, I attended a bull riding competition in La Cruces, NM while visiting El Paso. Once the event was over, I went back to El Paso. The bull riding event was more entertaining than I expected, but there was an aspect to it that was even more interesting. That’s a story for another day.

For the record, stopped here means I stopped to use a rest area or eat, and passed here means I drove through without stopping. In no event am I including layovers at airports or flyovers on a commercial flight from one place to another. Otherwise, I could say that I passed here with one of the Dakotas, Wyoming and/or Montana, and Idaho when I flew between Minneapolis and Seattle. I don’t think that should add to my score.

I seem to have a higher score than most of my social media contacts, but the highest I’ve seen is 191. That guy’s been everywhere. My mission remains to stay (here) at the four purple places.

And for the record. . . .

Someone on Facebook asked me, “Why Germany but not Austria?” For the most part, I have no touristy reason for picking one country over the other. I’ve never been overseas. In fact, I’ve never been outside the continental United States except for Juarez (twice), Montreal, and Vancouver. My family tree has four distinct branches: German, Irish, Italian, and Scottish. All but the Italian portion has a nonnegligible amount of Dutch in it. Hence, I chose those five countries. I added Iceland because I hear it’s incredible.

What’s your score?

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Our Personalities and Our Criticism of Games @Linnaeus #DnD #RPG #4e #5e

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A couple of weeks ago, after I had already queued up about 13 posts for publication over the next two weeks, I ran into this tweet.

I thought it was interesting, especially because at least half of it applies to me. As I said yesterday, my professional life is filled with attention to detail. It’s also filled with conflict — not fist fights or public shaming, but disagreements over large amounts of money. In addition to that, my childhood was filled with conflict — not disagreements over large amounts of money, but fist fights and public shaming. I don’t want any of that in my gaming (which, by the way, explains why I’d much rather play cooperative games than adversarial ones, or at least team games rather than “everyone for themselves” ones).

Well, not exactly. I want my characters to have disagreements (of both types). What I don’t want is for players to disagree to the level that it creates unnecessary stress. Modern gaming seems to have far too many arguments among players and GMs. GMs want to enforce rules, and players want to “win D&D.” While I’m more than happy to admit that my childhood instincts are often to blame for this, I’m not just talking about conflicts involving me. I see this in others as well, meaning it’s not all my fault. Conventions aren’t brawls, but if you’re looking for it, you see how frustrated we get with each other. Many gamers tend to keep it to themselves, but a careful observer can spot it, and a good GM avoids it.

That’s why I’m looking forward to revisiting 1st Edition D&D (“1e”). There are a few mechanics that remove some of the tension that I’ve experienced. For example, before a group of unsuspecting PCs open a door to a room, the unsuspecting goblins inside are going about their business, moving from one side of the room to the other to stack boxes or whatever. Where they’re all standing at the very moment the PCs open the door is a matter of random chance, and in 1e, it’s understandably determined by a die roll such that the distance between the parties when the encounter starts is random. That makes things even more interesting. Note well that 1e does this without removing player agency. The player’s character sheet has, for example, ability scores that modify the rolls. Moreover, I say “unsuspecting” to make the point that in some cases the players do suspect danger and can act through role-play that adjusts these circumstances. To me, that’s ideal, however . . . .

This places me in a paradox. I don’t want to have to remember lots of rules, but I want lots of rules to avoid conflicts. I’ve often noted that one of the primary decisions game designers face is deciding whether an aspect of the game is determined by the role of the die or a discussion with the GM. I’ve also noted that the opinions expressed on this blog are sometimes unfair to game designers. Maybe I just don’t know what I want. But I’ll say this: When in doubt, force a roll. First, that’s why we’re all here: to roll dice. Second, as I noted above, forcing a roll doesn’t remove player agency. The luck of the roll is modified by the build of the character. Players are still making their impact known. They’re just forced into a position of having to accept that roll based on a rule known, and applied fairly, to all involved.

Returning to the point of this post, I understand that some of you will disagree with my general point even if you agree with my specific example. That’s fine. You have different personalities, so different things bug you, but that’s a subjective standard, not an objective one. It’s an opinion, not a fundamental truth of game theory. I think that’s what Linnaeus was saying, and if so, I agree. This is about our personalities, and that’s no small point. In a sense, edition wars are culture wars. When we complain about the choices made by the game designer, we’re indirectly attacking those that prefer those choices. I thought the mantra was supposed to be “first and foremost, games are about having fun.” Just have fun, and let others do the same.

I did not expect this post to tie into the stupidity of edition warring, but I don’t regret it.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to, nor endorsed, the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Sociological Watch: Don’t Look Up @Netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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Netflix released a film called Don’t Look Up. The story employs tons of exaggeration in addressing how people resist bad news that affects their way of life, though it’s clearly referencing once issue specifically too heavy for this goofy blog. Instead, I want to focus on an aspect to the script that seems to be lost on many people.

As you may know, I have an undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Maryland (Go Terps!), as well as a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law (Go . . . Scarlet Hawks?). Both fields suffer from the same disease: We don’t know how to communicate well with non-experts. As issues become more complex, they become not only harder to grasp for the uninformed, but also, to be blunt, more boring. This renders the task of communication herculean.

Take for example my first and second RPG copyright posts, which addressed a specific topic. As I’ve explained, my analytics tell me that the first post received 18,952 hits to date (as of 12/30/2021). The second post? Only 1,158. The second post is 2/3 of the argument. That means that people read the first post and then 94% of them gave up (note: this is bad math), missing out on most of what I was trying to say. This was so even though the first post included a caveat that I was nowhere near finished with my argument.

Would it have been better for me to have made a shorter, easier-to-digest, and more direct argument? I don’t think so Despite my disclaimer at the end of the first post, I had a non-negligible number people viciously (i.e., with personal insults) criticizing my first post for making incomplete arguments. These were apologists of WotC (and perhaps RPGs in general) that just didn’t like the consequences of what I was saying, so they were going to criticize me anyway. Knowing that I wouldn’t be publishing the second post for a week, that gave them one week to discredit me. I’m not sure if it worked. Did people not read the second post because of a successful campaign to stop it, or did people just get bored? I suspect it’s far more the latter, but both are important phenomena for this discussion, and in other situations, the balance may be different. By the way, I reread the second post while writing this one, and even my eyes were glazing over.

This leads us to science. Scientists run into the same problem, but probably even worse because of the math inherent in their work. As a physics student, I studied areas of math that many people haven’t even heard of, and many of the issues scientists face today can only be understood in terms of math. Scientists try to simplify using analogies, but analogies by their nature will always be incomplete, giving each critic an opening to cast doubt on the science. (“How can a cat be simultaneously dead and alive? This guy’s a quack!”)

Politically connected scientists face additional pressure. Again, I don’t want to get caught up in politics here, so I’ll just say that many scientists depend on financing from politicians, and politicians need to keep their bases happy. When the truth is ugly, very few people want to hear it, and this cascades down to the scientists who must control the tone and content of their statements.

Scientists also face their own social inadequacies. I can’t speak to the modern generation, but going through the physics program, I can assure you that there wasn’t a lot of social skill on display. The stereotypes are valid. Nerds are generally not social butterflies. That makes it difficult for us to communicate even if we’re discussing the price of apples.

Don’t Look Up did a great job of showcasing this difficulty. Going back to attorneys, in legal writing we’re taught to start each paragraph or section with the conclusion, and then back it up with supporting arguments. The scientists in Don’t Look Up should have used that technique. Notice in the talk show scenes how long it took the scientists to make their point. They presented their supporting arguments first. Why? Because they knew some asshole was waiting in the wings to say, “That’s an assertion without an argument! He’s not backing it up!” Well, yeah, not yet. Let them finish. But by failing to start with the statement (spoiler alert!), “A planet-killing asteroid is coming to Earth in six months,” it gave the talk-show hosts the opportunity to interrupt and turn the interview into a farce. By the time the conclusion was stated, it made the scientists look like lunatics to the few people that were still paying attention.

Sometimes you need to lead with the conclusion, and sometimes you need to lead with the supporting material. It’s often difficult to tell those two situations apart, but when your audience is the entire world, maybe you should just get to the point.

Even this post was probably too long.

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Good Watch: The Mind Explained on @Netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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A while back, I talked about Brain Games on Disney+. It’s a great show, but there’s so much science behind how our brains work that close to 10 seasons can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Netflix’s The Mind Explained is a much more focused show — only two seasons so far — that’s a more manageable discussion of anxiety, focus, memory, and other aspects of neuroscience. The human brain is weird (some more than others), and this show does a good job of explaining that. It also targeted a specific issue that hits home for me. You may have a similar experience.

If you watch the episode on focus, maybe you can handle Brain Games. 🙂

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My Fellow Middle Child #psychology #BirthOrder #MiddleChild

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Note: Despite the use of the hashtag, I know nothing about psychology, other than I have deep-rooted issues. But this is a fun blog!

Earlier this week, I was really busy at work. Actually, nowadays it’d be easier to just tell you when I’m not busy. Anyhoo, my coworker, Clarissa comes in to dump more work on me, and it comes up that I’m going to have to skip lunch. She offers to heat up my soup for me. Instantly, I’m suspicious. As the archetype of a middle child, I’m thinking, “What is she up to? No one ever does anything for me. Or themselves. I always have to do other people’s work for them too. If I don’t do something, it doesn’t get done, and disaster follows. Certainly, no one makes me lunch.”

NO FREE LUNCH FOR YOU !!!! - Soup Nazi from Seinfeld | Make a Meme
For some reason, WordPress won’t let me shrink this image. Or center text underneath an image.

Now, when I say, “I’m thinking,” I mean, “I say right to her face.” Because that’s what I do. I’m a straightforward, middle child. I have a filter; I just refuse to use it. Well, it turns out that she’s a middle child as well, which is why she instantly assumed it was her responsibility to make my lunch.

So, Clarissa took care of me, and then I informed her that I’d be thanking one of our coworkers — some oldest child — for doing such a great job with my soup. Those assholes always get credit for our work.

No sense in giving her credit. Change is scary, so I want to keep things familiar for her.

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