Stephen Hawking, world-renowned scientist and brilliant theoretical physicist, has died at the age of 76.
As most everyone who knows his name is aware, Hawking lived with ALS for several decades. This has some personal significance for me, as my mom was recently diagnosed with the same condition. But statistically speaking, most people with ALS have a far shorter life expectancy than Hawking did.
February 20, 2018
Okay, now it's the time for talking about animals, which can be really close to your heart (pets), but some of you can really afraid of them. Are there animals which you really are afraid of? Or is there something that you love? Do you have any pets? Want to tell us about it/them?
February 19, 2018
Hi guys, I'm the newest member of the crew. My hobbies are playing computer games, watching sci-fi movies, and reading books. I do hope to get along with everyone.
February 5, 2018
So, we've finally got a trailer for the beleaguered Han Solo spin-off/prequel movie. This is it. iframe
To be entirely honest, at this point I'm not really sure what to think. By all accounts, this movie's production has been such a train wreck that I'll be amazed if anything remotely watchable comes out of it, in the end.
And we enter it in a rather unusual fashion compared to everyone else. We launched our first ever orbital satellite last week, but we don't have a government agency in charge. In fact, we have none. Instead, Rocket Lab has launched it as an independent private company with its own launchpad on land leased from the government. And, Rocket Lab is "technically" an American company, but it is managed and founded by a Kiwi, so... it counts!
We're the first country in the world to launch satellites with a company in charge rather than the government, and heralds the beginnings of private enterprises taking charge. iframe
You might notice the rocket is a little smaller than what you're used to seeing. Rocket Lab has been developing miniaturised satellites to lower costs to make it more economically viable to send them up. And while this all sounds like good news, there is some controversy. If you look out at the night sky and see a fast-moving obnoxiously bright blinking star, odds are, that's our satellite.
The company sent up a giant disco ball into orbit that reflects sunlight back to Earth. It will be the brightest object in the night sky until it re-enters atmosphere in about 9 months. Astronomers took exception to this since light pollution is a major problem for them, and there are fears that the commercialisation of space will threaten further scientific efforts because of the rising threat of space junk.
EDIT: We didn't launch just one satellite into orbit. Our rocket delivered three, of which the biggest was... the flashing disco ball.
Funnily enough, our original attempt to put up a satellite last year, with the rocket "It's a Test" failed, while our most recent launch by "Still Testing" was flawless. You didn't read those names wrong, by the way.
After a few years of Warhammer, Creative Assembly is returning to historical war games... kinda.
I say "kinda," because while Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is based on real events in China, the story of it was written by a Ming author who wrote over a thousand years after the fact and heavily romanticised events. The novel is one of the four great works of literature of Chinese culture, and it is insanely popular in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and other East Asian nations. It is China's equivalent to the Iliad, or to Shakespeare in that many of the quotes from the novel have become popular sayings in China. iframe China is both salivating over this, and wondering why THEY aren't making this game.
I'm not very knowledgeable about the time and place set in the game. What I do know, is that the game is set during the destruction of the Han Dynasty and the division of China into three rival "Kingdoms" who compete for supremacy. I say "Kingdoms," because all three rulers crowned themselves Emperor and claimed the Mandate to rule China, which lead to roughly sixty years of endemic fighting until the Jin Dynasty reunified the country. The period is marked as one of the bloodiest in Chinese history, and gave rise to some of Chinese culture's most memorable and unique personalities. I suspect "hero units" are going to be a thing, which may stretch the historical authenticity, but the problem is because it's been so heavily romanticised it's impossible to discern fact from fiction.
In spite of that, I'm actually glad we're finally getting some games set in China. It's a breath of fresh air, and it's a period of history largely unknown in the West. We could use a bit more exposure, since China's become a major force in the world once more.
Wow. 2017 was pretty surreal, wasn't it?
Well, it's over now, so...Happy New Year, and stuff.
Sorry for not being more festive, I'm trying to recover from a really nasty bout of illness.
Let's go with something slightly different
, this year...
Also, I'm still mad at Photobucket.
Loki showed me this new trailer for Kojima's highly anticipated upcoming post-Konami creation, starring Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen. None of the trailers so far have even hinted as to what the actual gameplay will entail, but as for the concept and cinematics, well...Kojima has always known how to make an impression, that much is certain. iframe
given us an official trailer...and I won't say it's the trailer to end all trailers, but it is damn good. iframe
This week has been filled with nothing but tragedy
. Tom died of cardiac arrest on 2 October in Santa Monica, aged 66. I'm sure I don't need to explain who Tom Petty was, or how influential his work was in the rock scene. He's most famous generally for "Free Fallin'," but I think we've heard that song a thousand times already. Besides, I always found the angrier, more defiant "Refugee" spoke to me more. iframe
So last night in Las Vegas
, a worthless piece of shit by the name of Stephen Craig Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada
got himself set up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, and proceeded to turn the city into his own private artillery range.
This bastard killed 58 people
before finally turning his weapon on the target he should have started with (himself), and over 500 others
The motive for the massacre so far remains unclear, but it's only been a few hours. ISIS has already jumped up to claim responsibility
, but it's way too early to know if there's actually anything to that, or if they're just being their usual jackass selves.
NZ Election 2017
September 24, 2017
Well, here's another opportunity to explain how Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) works in practice. I feel like every other time I've explained it, I keep leaving you with more questions than answers. Hopefully, I'll be more successful this time.
After five weeks of campaigning, it's almost over. The centre-right National Party has taken the most votes at 46%
(58 seats), centre-left Labour has taken 35.8%
(45 seats), populist NZ First got 7.5%
(9 seats), left wing Greens took 5.8%
(7 seats), right wing ACT got a pathetic 0.5%
(1 seat), the left-leaning newcoming Opportunities Party got 2.2%
(yet failed to win a seat), and the indigenous-rights focused Maori Party are facing extinction at 1.1%
So what does all of this mean? In a country like the US or the UK, you'd think the answer would be obvious. National won, right? They did
win the most votes. A lot of Kiwis feel the same way, with their minds still stuck in the days of first-past-the-post. But under MMP, it isn't that simple.
In most other democracies, this would be considered a hung parliament, meaning no single party has gained a majority of the vote. National has a lot of votes, but they still only have 46%, meaning the majority of Kiwis voted against them. And we haven't counted votes from overseas yet, or from late enrollments, which tend to favour the left, so we can probably expect National to lose a seat or two in the coming days. But even if National's vote percentage remains the same, you cannot legitimately make a new Parliament with less than 50% of the vote (60 seats).
In MMP-style democracies, hung parliaments are not
unusual, they are the norm
. The idea is to have the big parties bargain with the small parties to add their seats together into coalitions so that they can
make a new Parliament in a way so that voters are more fairly represented by their MPs. For instance, in the previous election National made a deal with ACT, United Future (UF) and the Maori Party. But in the latest election the centrist UF was obliterated, and will probably never be seen again. The Maori Party has similarly been banished into the political wilderness, as its voter base considers the party tainted by its association with National - in its glory years, the party was aligned with Labour and has similar votes to what NZ First has now, and the base has never forgiven the party leadership's snub by turning to the right.
Right now, National's only real ally is ACT, probably the party that is the closest equivalent to US Republicans in NZ. And they have clung on by the skin of their teeth. They've won their traditional stronghold in Epsom, but that's only one measly seat, not enough for National to form a government. Were it not for Epsom, they too would have been lost in the wilderness like the rest of National's allies.
Looking at the left, National has more votes than all of them combined. Labour has rebouded after a last-minute leadership change under Jacinda Ardern, while the Greens slumped greatly after former co-leader Matiria Turei admitted to benefit fraud in the 1990s. The Opportunities Party, despite winning more than four times the vote than ACT, didn't gain a seat because it failed to win an electorate like ACT did in Epsom, and failed to win 5% of the vote, which is the threshold needed for a party without an electorate to win a seat in Parliament. It's a noticable flaw of our current system.
Looking back, Jacinda had an uphill battle, since her predecessors ran the Labour Party into the ground before she took over just a couple of months ago. Back then, the party was polling at around 23%, so the fact she's managed to get back so high up in such a short amount of time is pretty amazing. Still, Labour and their traditional Green allies do not have enough votes on their own to challenge National.
Which leaves NZ First. On the political spectrum, they tend to be right-leaning, but their leader Winston Peters is famously unpredictable and has swung left and right and all over the place. In other words, he's a born opportunist looking for which leading party will give him the better deal. Both Labour and National desperately want his seats, because he has enough to either give National a comfortable 67 seat majority, or Labour-Green a slim majority of 61 seats. In either case, you'd have a legit government. In the last election Winston sided with Labour, but he's formed coalitions with National in the past. Right now, he has the role of Kingmaker, or Queenmaker in Labour's case. Winston reportedly hates
that description of his role right now.
It could be days or even weeks before the rest of the votes are in and Winston's made up his mind. If you read what the media's saying about the election, you'd think National has won. Do NOT think that. New Zealand doesn't use first-past-the-post, we use MMP which focuses on building coalitions in order to gain a fairer representation of our population. It aint over 'till the fat lady sings. Or until Winston stops humming and hawing.
This has long been rumored, and now there is confirmation.
What has not
yet been confirmed is whether or not Ewan McGregor will return to portray not-quite-Old Ben in a movie set between Episode III and IV. But that will justifiably be nearly every fan's expectation, especially in light of his voice-only cameo in Episode VII, and the fact that he's been telling everyone and their brother (possibly extending to random strangers on the street) how much he'd love to do another Star Wars movie, for years.
Finally, it's more than just my own opinion that seeing McGregor return as (not-quite) Old Ben would unquestionably be one of the absolute coolest things imaginable. I'm often inclined in many cases to downplay the impact the casting of a single actor is likely to have on a movie, but this is definitely an exception to that.
By now I'm sure everyone is aware of the political chaos currently engulfing the US, which exploded last weekend at a horrific event in Charlottesville, North Carolina
, where "Antifa" activists clashed with neo-Nazi demonstrators and a white supremacist asshole ran over a bunch of people with his car, murdering a woman. Since then, President Trump's muddled, half-hearted response and his dubious ties to the so-called "alt-right" have been topics of continual media focus, and Antifa has gone on a spree of increasingly indiscriminate vandalism.Daily Wire
editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro has published an op-ed
which I think is both even-handed and highly accurate, attempting to explain exactly what is happening and how we really got here.
Ben Shapiro @ National Review wrote:
Antifa and the Alt-Right, Growing in Opposition to One Another
There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.
By Ben Shapiro — August 15, 2017
America has cancer.
On Saturday, a crowd of alt-right white supremacists, neo-confederates, and Nazi sympathizers marched in Charlottesville, Va.; they were confronted by a large group of protesters including members of the Marxist Antifa — a group that has time and again plunged volatile situations into violence, from Sacramento to Berkeley. There’s still no certain knowledge of who began the violence, but before long, the sides had broken into the sort of brutal scrum that used to characterize Weimer-era Germany. The two sides then carried the red banner and the swastika; so did the combatants on Saturday.
Then a Nazi-sympathizing alt-right 20-year-old Ohioan plowed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19. The president of the United States promptly failed egregiously to condemn alt-right racism; instead, he opted for a milquetoast statement condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”
The Left leapt into action, declaring Trump’s statement utterly insufficient — which, of course, it was. But they then went further, declaring that Antifa was entirely innocent, despite Antifa’s launching into violence against pro-Trump marchers in Seattle over the weekend, as they have in Sacramento and Berkeley; berating New York Times journalist Sheryl Gay Stolberg for having the temerity to report that “the hard left seemed as hate-filled as the alt-right”; and suggesting that all conservatives were, at root, sympathizers with the Nazi-friendly alt-right.
And so here we stand: On the one side, a racist, identity-politics Left dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate beneficiaries of privilege and therefore must be excised from political power; on the other side, a reactionary, racist, identity-politics alt-right dedicated to the proposition that white people are innate victims of the social-justice class and therefore must regain political power through race-group solidarity.
None of this is new, of course. The Left has engaged in identity politics since the 1960s and engaged in heavy violence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The white-supremacist movement has been with us since the founding of the republic. But both movements had been steadily shrinking until the last few years.
Now they’re growing. And they’re largely growing in opposition to one another. In fact, the growth of each side reinforces the growth of the other: The mainstream Left, convinced that the enemies of social-justice warriors are all alt-right Nazis, winks and nods at left-wing violence; the right, convinced that its SJW enemies are focused on racial polarization, embraces the alt-right as a form of resistance. Antifa becomes merely a radical adjunct to traditional Democratic-party politics; the alt-right becomes merely a useful tool for scurrilous Republican politicians and media figures.
Three factors led to this self-reinforcing growth loop.
First, increasing political polarization.
President Obama allowed the politics of racial fragmentation to fester on his watch; he repeatedly trafficked in broad generalities about American racism. Obama focused incessantly on the specter of white bigotry: “the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives,” embedded in our collective DNA. In response, an identity politics began creepily infusing the Right, with some white people embracing the mold cast upon them by the Left, creating a soft racial solidarity in backlash. This, of course, only strengthened the Left’s views of white privilege, which in turn strengthened the Right’s views of white victimhood.
The second factor was media malfeasance.
Left-wing media — and “objective” media — saw an advantage in highlighting the antics of racists such as Richard Spencer and David Duke. Focusing on the racist alt-right allowed the media to draw the convenient conclusion that the alt-right was a growing force in Republican politics that had to be fought through support for Democrats. Meanwhile, the media cast a blind eye toward Antifa’s violent Weimer-style rioting in Sacramento and Berkeley.
In response, right-wing media began tut-tutting the alt-right as victims of Antifa and focused exclusively on Antifa as a nefarious force; they also responded to the Left’s disgusting attempts to lump in the Right with the alt-right by accepting a broader, false definition of the alt-right that could include traditional conservatism. They even bought into the shameful rebranding of the alt-right as defenders of Western civilization by shills such as Milo Yiannopoulos. That rebranding provided a convenient way of fighting the Left: “If the Left is calling us alt-right, that’s just because they hate that we stand for Western civilization!”
Finally, there’s political convenience.
Obama’s repeated references to American racism weren’t his only sin. He repeatedly shunned opportunities to tamp down leftist racial radicalism. He made excuses for riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. He used the shooting of Dallas police officers by a radical black activist as an opportunity to lecture Americans about the evils of racist policing. He knew that his political support came in large measure from SJWs, and he cultivated them.
Meanwhile, on the right, Trump did the same. During the campaign, he ignored opportunity after opportunity to break with the alt-right. He refused to condemn the KKK on national television; he refused to condemn his supporters’ sending anti-Semitic messages to journalists; he hired as his campaign strategist Steve Bannon, a man who openly celebrated turning Breitbart into a “platform for the alt-right.” Trump saw the alt-right as convenient allies, his meme-making “deplorable” friends on the Internet. They reveled in both his unwillingness to condemn them and his willingness to share their work.
And so here we are. The mainstream Left has been increasingly suckered into walking hand-in-hand with the SJWs while ignoring the most egregious activities of Antifa; the mainstream Right has been increasingly seduced into footsie with alt-right associates while feigning ignorance at the alt-right itself.
That’s why Charlottesville matters: not only because we saw destruction and terror, but because if all Americans of good conscience won’t do some soul-searching and move to excise the evil in their midst, that evil will metastasize. There is a cancer in the body politic. We must cut it out, or be destroyed.
—Ben Shapiro is the editor in chief of the Daily Wire.