Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paying to play your game - over and over again

I recently got myself an Xbox 360 and have gotten to play it a total of 2 times so far. But I've thoroughly enjoyed it, starting with Ghost Recon 2, and a few Live Arcade demos. After playing the demo of Forza 2, it's on my list right after Gears of War.

But I just read this article that describes how Microsoft is joining with Massive to deploy ads in their games to generate extra revenue.

Massive, acquired by software maker Microsoft Corp. last year, said Wednesday it would begin serving dynamic ads to five new EA games — "Madden," plus "Nascar 08," "NHL 08" and "Skate" for Microsoft's Xbox 360, and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08" for Xbox and PCs running Microsoft's Windows operating system.

I had heard that this idea was being kicked around but I didn't know it was actually going to grow into something so sinister. This is total crap. Why should I pay $30-$65 for a game only to be bombarded by advertising while I'm playing it? It seems to take advantage of your consumers and I'm guessing this will generate more ill will towards Massive and Microsoft than generate sales dollars. I've been on the fence about buying Madden '08 but now I'm worried that I'll have to spend time watch ads between plays.

But it also makes me wonder, what if they offered a discount for a version of a game that contained ads, or you could opt to pay the full price for an ad-free version? How much of a discount would you require for having an ad-laden game? Half price? Free? Imagine if you could download full versions of games over Live with the gotcha that you have to watch ads every so often. Would people do it?

I just saw another article about how advertisers have been dumping millions into Second Life but people are abandoning the game in droves. Maybe they don't like being force fed advertising, even if the game is "free"? I think there might be a lesson to be learned here...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Martha's Vineyard

Lisa and I took a trip to Martha's Vineyard to celebrate one year of dating. Click the picture below to see the entire album!

Capricorn house

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

This week I have read about several new ideas for energy production that seem like they could be real breakthroughs.

This first one is about an Australian inventor who has developed a wind turbine that is small and safe enough to use on your average suburban rooftop. It looks like 3 airplane wings in the shape of a cylinder. At only $700 (Aus) for each unit, one could conceivably power a home for the price of a used car.

Aussie wind turbine

(includes video)

This next one is a similar idea by a Chicago inventor, but uses a helical scoop that is both efficient and silent. It can be placed vertically or horizonatally, although the former is usually more efficient. At $15,000, one could power a small home for the equivalent of a new/slightly-used car; however, they are currently a bit too large to fit on most homes without being an eyesore.

Chicago wind turbine

(includes video)

Or, you can follow the adventures of this savvy African man, who built his own wind mill from scratch to power his home in Malawi.

Most Americans are trained by our culture to be consumers. We buy nearly everything we need, and trade our time and efforts for money to buy more things to consume. Most Americans can't even begin to comprehend the lifestyle of providing for one's own basic needs. Because we are never taught that we can even do so, the option is rarely considered, especially when it is so much easier to take the easy road and write a check or swipe a debit card. There will be some of you who might read the blog above and think, "Oh, that poor family in Africa. How dreadful." But that young man has more gumption than many of us, simply because gumption and motivation are his most powerful assets.

I think the inventions and innovations of recent years are beginning to open the eyes of Americans to the possibility that we can be self-reliant again. It's one thing to talk about freeing our nation from foreign oil, but an equally important step is to free yourself from the local power grid. Currently, about 69% of the nation's electricity is generated by coal, oil, and gas. You can see the statistics for your local region here:

In the not too-distant future, all cars may become electric, and home power generation will extend to your vehicles as well. But the sad fact of all of this is that homes and cars are not the biggest consumers of electricity (even if all cars were electric), and neither are they the biggest sources of pollution. Industry takes the lead on both power consumption and air pollution. And since most power generation also pollutes, it's a huge double-whammy! Reducing power consumption at the consumer level is a good and necessary step, but it is only a small first step towards replacing current systems with clean energy.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Danno Simpson

Springfield version of me

At the risk of sounding like a shill, you can create your own Simpson's avatar!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thoughts on Immgration Reform

Yesterday I watched last Sunday's episode of Meet the Press. Watching this show regularly is probably one of the most "adult" things I do. I really enjoy it for several reasons: Tim Russert is just awesome, he has a way of getting to the heart of issues without appearing partisan; it's probably the only news show where you can get national news straight from the people who are making it - no other show can boast such an extensive and powerful guest list; I actually care about national politics but I hate the extreme views of other news stations.

This week focused on the issue of Immigration reform. You can read a transcript here.

My first thought was that I thought both Rep. Gutierrez and Pat Buchanan were both guilty of committing the sin of red herring arguments to make an emotional appeal rather than a logical one. Buchanan is just "loco" when he characterizes a significant portion of illegals as murderers, rapists, and knocked-up single moms. But Gutierrez is no better for responding in kind by saying that illegals are good people and part of the fabric of our society, even comparing them to the founding generations of our country (who weren't illegal aliens). I'm sick to death of this tactic, because we can all agree that having immigration is a good thing for America. But there is a big difference between legal and illegal immigration.

I don't have time to pick apart their arguments in detail, but they both make the same mistake, like many Americans, of trying to fix the wrong thing. People think that illegal immigration is the problem, but it is only the symptom of the bigger problem: our broken legal immigration system. Instead of trying to come up with a better system for making it tenable for the right people to enter our country, we instead focus on trying to clean up the mess our broken immigration system has created. When failed bureaucracy makes it easier for people to enter the country illegally, then who can blame them?

I have real issues with the current reform bill. It not only smacks of amnesty, it fails to address the issue of fixing legal immigration. It will also encourage people to bypass the legal immigration system, because it is much easier to sneak in, then pay a fine, than it is to follow the rules. Also, what incentive do we offer illegals to come out of the shadows? The carrot of forgiveness isn't so enticing when it costs you money and the possibility of deportation. I'm sure even if the bill passes, I doubt that the majority of illegals will take advantage of it. It's just easier to remain as they are.

Another common argument (which Gutierrez mentions)is that illegals will often do jobs that Americans won't do. This is neither truthful, nor is it a healthy thing even if it was true. First, illegals will often take jobs for less pay, simply because they have no opportunities because of their legal status. To complain is to lose work. This causes the going rate for low-skilled workers to drop. It's just simple supply and demand. The supply of jobs is constant, but the demand from workers is going up and thus employers are able to pay less and less. The outcome is a slave class of workers who will do jobs that no American would do for such low pay, pay that is at or below minimum wages. In addition, these workers reap the benefits of tax dollars, such as schools for their children and other public works, without paying taxes. It's a parasitic relationship American businesses are willing to embrace because of the short term economic gains, but in the long term both illegals and Americans suffer.

Natalie Grace

It's been way too long since I've blogged anything, so I thought I would end the drought by showing off pictures of my newest "niece", Natalie Grace!


(Click the picture to see the entire album!)

These pictures were taken when she was only 9 days old, and I'm really happy with how they turned out.