Monday, July 27, 2009

The Victim-Blaming Impulse

Excellent post from Amanda on abusive police. Especially this passage:
Victim blamers are often also telling a story about how they personally will never be...arrested unfairly for doing something totally legal. To blame Gates for being stupid is to say, "I would never get arrested for breaking into my house, because I have the sort of self-preservation instincts that this man is clearly missing." People enjoy the illusion of having more mastery of the world than they do, because it makes them feel safe, but it also contributes to an atmosphere where victim-blaming can flourish, particularly in situations that are loaded with racial or gender politics.
I think this is hugely significant. And also tragic, because it's a reaction basically rooted in the recognition of just how horrible it would be to find oneself in a victim's situation, i.e., empathy. Ideally we'd be able to channel that initial identification with the victim toward something more constructive.

Cyclones @ Yankees

Well we finally made it to the Ballpark at St George on Staten Island, which was as awesome as advertised. The seats along the third base side have the best views of the harbor. Crazy thunderstorms prompted two separate rain delays, neither of which were called when it was actually raining...very bush league, guys.

Great game, though. The Yankees came back against an early Cyclones lead, but couldn't quite overcome the Brooklyn powerhouse. Wish it hadn't run so long that the ferries were on their hourly schedule by the end, but what can you do.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Barcode Question

You know when you buy tickets to something, or check in for a flight, online, and they send you an Url you can click on to print your tickets out at home? And then you bring in the ticket and they scan the barcode? The tickets are full page deals, which seems like such a waste: can I print 2- or 4-to-a-page and still have them scan?

May try a few mini tickets in Staten Island just to check.

Setup Error

I have been working on this stupid bug like all week: one of my programs would occaisionally pop up a window entitled "Setup Error," with the contents "Failed to load resources from resource file. Please check your Setup" and then disappear when the window was dismissed: no exceptions to catch, no other clue as to what might be wrong.

It's evidently a symptom that can arise under several different circumstances: I found several people who saw it when causing an infinite recursion, or when running an application on a machine with certain third-party anti-virus software installed. I didn't find anything that sounded like my circumstances, so I record them here in hopes that frustrated searchers might be helped along.

My setup and architecture were as follows:

  • .NET Framework 1.1;
  • One UI event handler hides the main form and creates another form, displayed in its own Get/Translate/Dispatch message loop until it's closed;
  • The new form creates a System.Windows.Forms timer;
  • At which point, certain calls (the two I found were System.Threading.Thread.Start() and the overloaded System.Xml.XmlDocument.Load() that takes a URI string; the one taking a TextReader worked fine) cause the "Setup Error" when made from the timer elapsed event handler.
Also, the "Setup Error" only occurred when running a Release build, either from Windows or from Visual Studio "Without Debugging."

I'm still not sure exactly what I was doing wrong, or whether I was encountering a bug in the framework. I refactored the code to get rid of my inner message loop and it seems to have fixed things, so I assume that the implementation of the forms timer somehow relies on its only being maintained by the built-in message loop...but in such a way that causes only certain other methods to fail? It's a mystery.

Please Save Us from the Liberals

Some of the commentary around the Skip Gates arrest regarding how much benefit of the doubt to give the police officer has been pretty absurd. But Bob Somerby's hints towards police apologia are positively risible:
Gates is wealthy, affluent—famous, influential. Officer Crowley quite plainly is not—which forms part of a famous old American story.
As if Gates had demanded "do you know who I am?" of a surly counter clerk at Au Bon Pain, rather than the armed officer of the law standing in his foyer.

Teasing his upcoming Friday post, Somerby opts for verbal irony:
Guess what, kids? Upper-class people, of whatever race, often have trouble respecting working-class people.
And cops "often have trouble" acknowledging the rights of (let alone respecting) anybody without a badge. And I will grant in a heartbeat that we wouldn't have heard word one about this injustice had the victim not been a Harvard professor, but that's an argument for more scrutiny of law enforcement, not less.

And then this:
(Persistently, this has harmed progressive interests.)
Again, this is part of the teaser for Somerby's Friday post, so I can't really say exactly how his argument for this point will go. But from the content of this post, it sure looks like it might be along the lines of clueless limousine liberals who don't have time for the concerns of the working class. Which is normally the kind of nonsense that Somerby is so good at taking apart, so it's especially annoying to see inklings of it here.

A reminder: Democrats, and liberals, do great with the working class. It's those of the suburban middle class who like to defend their Republican voting habits by claiming that progressives are out-of-touch elitist snobs; the voters who seek out "safe neighborhoods" with "good schools" and worry about "personal responsibility," and vote Republican because John Kerry looks French. Those people are out of Democrats' reach, for what should be obvious reasons.

One set of people that liberals could do better with are those on the left who see things like Democrats turning a blind eye towards police thuggery as a reason to vote third-party or stay home. Somerby is an all likelihood correct that "progressive interests" don't have anything to do with resisting abuse of authority; to which I say, to hell with progressive interests, and to hell with liberals who side with the bullying cop over the rich professor because it will play in Peoria.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Having not been to a Cyclones game (yet!) this summer...

...I have no idea whether, or in what capacity, the team may have made use of Jay-Z's "Brooklyn (Go Hard)", but now that I'm thinking about it, it seems like an ideal stadium chant.

Of course immediately you run into the problem of, with the "Brooklyn, we go hard" chant and then "Brooklyn" spelled out over it, is doing that as a group in an audience setting really something that is rhythmically within the grasp of your average baseball fan?

And then of course I realized that minor league baseball was probably not the sport for which Jay-Z intended the song to function as a cheer, and I looked up the lyrics and he even mentions how he's going to "bring the Nets" in a verse of the song.

So I'm an idiot basically, but also I hope they've been playing the song at KeySpan.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Capitalist Solution to Health Care: More Money for Capitalsts

The apologists for capitalism really are beyond parody.

I will quibble with digby's implication that this has anything to do with a misplaced faith in markets per se; there's nothing inherently absurd about insurance insurance (and it sort of exists in, e.g., auto policies that include coverage for collisions with uninsured drivers), and if there were sufficient demand for those kinds of policies then insurance companies would offer them.

That's not good enough for the likes of Cato, however, who aren't happy unless the very maximum amount of wealth is being extracted from the populace and funneled into corporate coffers. The crisis of the medically at-risk being insufficiently covered by rapacious insurance companies becomes the opportunity for those selfsame insurers to squeeze out one more drop of blood. Such is the nature of capitalism: markets are a means to an end, but it is the end—the continued ascendancy of the capitalist class—that is paramount, and when markets aren't getting the job done they are dropped to the side without a second thought.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Afternoon on the Internet

I have a recurring idea that it would be sweet to make some sort of 2D platform type game but with really awesome character animation, like if not actually rotoscoped then approaching rotoscope-caliber.

Sometimes I even start trying to animate a walk cycle before I remember that making awesome character animation is actually really difficult, and if you can pull it off then it is pretty much enough to carry a hit game. I have literally wanted to do something along these lines since I was making crappy games on the Mac using Ingemar's Sprite Animation Toolkit. And it haunts me yet!

The latest incarnation of this lunacy was an idea I had, while walking the dog, that there should be a game where the player is a dog, but only it's animated totally awesome and you can sit down and gallop and stuff and it looks like the movements of an actual dog, albeit 2D and lo-res. Amazing right!

And actually there is a game where you're a dog, but it's 3D and for the Playstation Deuce and the character animation is not even that good. (No disrespect, the animators did a great job, but it looks like they didn't use motion capture, so it's both not quite realistic and damned impressive that it looks as realistic as it does.)

And thus did I find myself searching for visual references regarding the canine walk cycle, which led me to this link, and damn. That page is huge! And loaded with diagrams! And very heavily footnoted!

And then I scrolt up to the top of the page and it was chapter ninety-one! Of what?!? A textbook with the best cover graphic ever.

If only Netflix had been around during college

Just remembering all those all-night bull sessions spent debating which Meatballs sequel was most Lynchian.

Netflix recommendations window suggesting that 'Meatballs 4' and season one of 'Coach' are similar to 'Eraserhead'

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Personal Virtue as a Poor Substitute for Political Change

Via the Just Seeds blog, a great article summing up the flaws inherent in the personal virtue model of social change.

Not a new idea by any means, but one that I've always found interesting and thought-provoking. I've always liked Noam Chomsky's succinct rejoinder along these lines:
Q: [H]ow can you justify living a bourgeois life and driving a nice car?

A: ... When I go to visit peasants in southern Colombia, they don't want me to give up my car. They want me to help them.
Just so. It's an obvious point, but so easy to lose track of in our culture, even once you're aware of the dynamic at work.

And it really is a distraction, as teeth-gnashing over one's contribution to gentrification, for example, ends up being "white guilt" of the most pointless sort: you either waste your time twisting yourself into knots, trying to explain how you're actually not part of the problem; or you shrug your shoulders and resign yourself to being an irredeemable oppressor, and thus liberated from any responsibility to change the system.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dog Walk Conversation

"How much did you pay for that dog?"

"He's from a shelter, so nothing."

"What's his name, German shepherd?"

"Uh, it's Prancy."

"Okay, Fancy. Don't bite me."

"Oh, he doesn't bite."

"Yes he does."

Calorie Labeling

Ezra has an anecdote about how a restaurant labeling its menu items with calorie counts would have changed his lunch order. At the Mets game Saturdy we noticed that the roving food vendors now wear buttons advertising the calorie counts of their wares. It was a welcome bit of information, and did lead one of our number away from the fallacious "not sure if I could eat a whole hot dog, maybe just a soft pretzel" line of thinking.

The game, by the way, was great, and we all had a blast on our first visits to Citi Field. Santana was amazing, and though for the most of the game he didn't leave the rest of the Mets defense with much to do (probably a good thing), we did get to see a double play in the latter innings. And though rain threatened from about the seventh inning stretch on, it held off until we were on the way home.